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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 9:37pm On Apr 13, 2019|
I never expected this.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:24pm On Apr 14, 2019|
More more more ( I scream while kicking the air)
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Nobody: 10:38pm On Apr 14, 2019|
I've missed this thread.
Brb to modify when I'm done with the updates.
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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:25am On Apr 17, 2019|
@Peaceyw haha, I'm glad to see that I can surprise you!
@Fazemood lol, more has arrived, enjoy!
@MhisTahrah yes please do. hope you enjoy them
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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:26am On Apr 17, 2019|
Guards with long swords hanging from their belts lined the room. Four of them stood directly behind Fajahromo and the others stood close to the walls. There were two identical imps standing in front of the wall behind Fajahromo. They wore long flowing skirts which covered their legs, but nothing to cover their chests. A long table was in the center of the room and there were several chairs placed around it. White light sources were situated in the top corners of the room, and a smaller table stood to the side, with a tray on it. There were two cups on the tray and a large decanter.
Fajahromo stood in the center of the room.
It had its hands on its hips, standing with its legs spread. The robe it wore covered the top half of its chest and flowed freely from its neck, held securely by the jeweled fastenings in the front. There were holes at the back of the robe, for its ailerons. It still wore the garment which covered its top half, or rather, covered the iron spikes on its top half, hiding the fact that it was an irira.
“My friend!” Fajahromo greeted, walking towards me.
Suddenly, I was pulled back in time. It was nine years ago, and I was lying on a bed in its house and telling it all about my life in the slums.
Fajahromo’s hands clapped onto my upper arm. It arched its head up, and its eyes caught mine. It held my gaze, its smile never wavering. Although I was now taller than it was, I couldn’t help feeling smaller in some way. Maybe it was because of the guards that stood around the room, or maybe it was the fully-filled eye-sockets, or maybe it was just the air of wealth and power which seemed to radiate off it. I did not know the cause, just that I didn’t like it.
Still, I could not help being awed at the sight of an uspec with all of its outer eye-sockets filled. I had never seen such before, never amongst the crowds of spectators who came to watch the matches. Fajahromo having all its eyes meant that it now had all the understandings of the different spectrums. It had the full range of magic I had dreamed of as de trop in the slums.
Fajahromo’s hands dropped. “Leave us.” It commanded, never breaking eye contact with me.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched the guards leave the room. Fajahromo turned then and nodded at a shadow lurking in a corner of the room. The shadow walked forward, and I remembered it. It was the imp, Kyrie, the slave that had served me in Fajahromo’s house. The imp walked towards the curtain. It lay its hand on the curtain and a fog appeared, filling the space between the walls and behind the curtain.
Once the fog had fully formed, Fajahromo said, “we may talk freely now.” Then its eyes turned back to study me and it smiled. There was praise in the look it gave me, and for a second, I found myself soaking up the approval in its eyes like a starving pet being fed its favorite meal.
I shook my head and reminded myself of how much I hated Fajahromo.
Fajahromo pointed to a chair by the table and said, “sit my friend, we must catch up.” Then it turned around and walked to the smaller table with the tray.
I walked to the large table in the center of the room and pulled out one of the chairs. The chair had sturdy arm rests and a base for sitting. I sat on it and waited.
Fajahromo picked up both of the glasses on the tray, holding them in one hand, while it carried the decanter in the other. It brought them to me, and I couldn’t help wondering why it would do any work at all, when it had three slaves standing around in the room.
Fajahromo placed one of the glasses in front of me and another in front of the chair to my right. Then it poured a bit of a dark purple liquid into both cups. It put the decanter down, sat and picked up its cup. It held the cup up in a silent toast to me.
Seconds rolled by as I simply stared at the uspec, wondering if it really expected me to sit and drink with it as if nothing had happened. As if it hadn’t abandoned me in the pits. And as the seconds went by, I became aware of a subtle change in the atmosphere of the room. The imps seemed to have frozen. Kyrie stood behind its master and it appeared to be standing so still it could not have been breathing. I turned my gaze down to Fajahromo and was surprised by the change in its face. It was so slight, I may have been imagining it, but Fajahromo appeared hostile. It still had its smile on its face, but its previously friendly gaze was gone. I reached out with my anger towards it and I wasn’t surprised to find a small flame of anger starting to burn in it.
I flirted with the idea of simply killing it right then and there. But it had the understandings of the five spectrums, one of which allowed an uspec to take a life without moving. I remembered the events of the morning and the way Maxad had been forced to appear against me in the arena, and knew that my choices were limited. So, I picked up the cup and held it up, accepting the toast.
Kyrie exhaled and the two identical imps in the back moved a little, but Fajahromo’s concealed hostility did not wane. Now, when it smiled at me, I felt chilled by the anger I could feel lurking beneath the surface. It sipped its drink slowly, its eyes never leaving mine. I held its gaze and something in the way its eyes never wavered even as it drank shook me. I suddenly felt as if I had been trapped in a dangerous game, one in which Fajahromo knew all the rules.
I looked away, and Fajahromo’s anger left, as if it had been exhausted. I realized then that it had been pushing for the upper hand and by looking away, I had given it to it. Angrily, I shoved the edge of the cup between my lips and took a heavy gulp of the wine.
I had to fight back the urge to wretch. It was strong wine, much stronger than anything I had ever had before. It burnt my throat as it made its way down, but I did not let my reactions to the drink show. I gave myself time to calm and then I turned my attention back to Fajahromo.
It still had that smile on its face, but its eyes held a note of curiosity. I hated the instant relief I felt from knowing that its hostility towards me had gone.
“My friend, I am happy to see you.” Its central eye twinkled as if it truly meant what it said. “But you are much grown, my friend, much grown indeed. Alas, the entire port screams for you! You have done well my friend.”
“Gratitude sirga.” The response was automatic. And I regretted it as soon as I said it. Kyrie gasped behind its master, and the smile left Fajahromo’s face. Its jaw clenched tightly, and it glared at me as if I had insulted it.
“Domina, you cannot refer to my master as sirga.” The imp Kyrie said. I turned my gaze to the imp and frowned, wondering why it had mentioned the honorific ‘sirga’ as if it were an insult.
“My master is now the grand, Fajahromo, sovereign of the first burg in the second metropolis of Hakute, and first majestic in the line of the Dukes of the second metropolis of Hakute. You must refer to it as grand one.”
My gaze turned to Fajahromo and I watched it stare at me. Its anger began to rise as I remained silent, and it grew with each second that I did not speak. Cold eyes met mine and we were trapped in another game. For a few moments I allowed myself to believe in the fantasy of defying Fajahromo. I had faced a variety of foes in the arena and I had learnt all about hand to hand combat from them, but this, the duel of looks I exchanged with Fajahromo, was a type of combat I was untrained for. I had killed the best fighters in the pits, but I somehow found myself incapable of facing the danger I could sense from this uspec.
“Apologies grand one.” I said, finally, “I did not know.”
Fajahromo’s jaw ticked. It remained silent and in its silence the imps froze. It simply stared at me, its eyes observing me until it relaxed its jaw and took another slow sip of the wine in its cup. It put the cup down, but it did not smile.
“I own the pits now.” It said. “We must maintain the charade of the pits belonging to the order of Procreation, and so the magistrate remains the figure head. But the magistrate belongs to me.” It stopped speaking, and in the silence I wondered how an uspec could own a magistrate, the head pious one of an order.
It sighed. “Don’t oppose me Nebud.” It warned. “It will not end well for you.”
I froze in my seat and my eye searched Fajahromo’s. It simply stared back at me, its unsmiling face regarding me with the complete confidence of a superior addressing an inferior. It did not balk, it just waited as if it new that I would come to see things the way it did.
Then it stood. It turned its back to me, and my mouth hung open as I stared at the first fully filled ailerons I had ever seen. It was dazzling. The ailerons looked like wings, like beautiful wings covered in cyan feathers. There was none of the green skin on its ailerons showing, not even a tiny patch. For its feathers to have grown like this, it must have used a great deal of spectral magic. I swallowed nervously.
“Much has changed in my life Nebud. Domax and Raban are gone. Domax was killed on my progenitor’s orders when it appeared several days after you came to the pits, driven insane with a madness no one could diagnose. It was a mercy killing.” I gulped when I heard of the noble one’s fate. I had driven it insane, I had polluted its anger. “I killed Raban myself. Unfortunately, there was no place for the fool in the world I plan to build. All my siblings are dead. I killed them all and now I am the only offspring my progenitor has. I am its heir, I will be the next Duke of this metropolis. And then, after I kill the Kaiser, I will become Custodian of the spectral port of Hakute. I am not of the line of Kaisers and so I cannot be Kaiser. Not yet at least, but all that will change soon.”
Then it turned and its eyes met mine.
I could not look away.
“I will build a port for iriras like us. A place that our kind can call home. You have exceeded my expectations Nebud; you have made me proud. So, when I am Kaiser, I will make you a Duke. All I ask of you, old friend, is loyalty. Serve me well and you will be amply rewarded. I swear it by the founder.”
I gulped. There was no doubt in my mind that Fajahromo was capable of all the things it said. Finally, I understood the menace I had sensed in Fajahromo the first time we met. I had known that it was capable of murder, but I had underestimated its thirst for power.
“What do you require of me grand one?” I asked.
Fajahromo smiled. “Obedience.” It sunk back into its seat and picked up the cup. It took another sip of the wine before continuing. “From now on, I am your patron. There are tasks I will need you to perform, things that I need done here.” It rose its hand in the air, and motioned with its fingers for one of the imps standing in the back of the room. The imp walked forward. It stopped behind me and, on Fajahromo’s nod, attached a cloth to my neck.
My hand sprung up to the material, ready to rip it off, but Fajahromo’s words stopped me.
“Irira is dead.” Fajahromo warned. “From now on you are Nebud, a plain kute serving as a warden in the pits. You must keep that cloth on to hide your scales.”
I brought my hand down and Fajahromo’s smile widened. “My progenitor requires that I become a progenitor, but before that can happen, there are certain things I need you to do.”
“What things grand one?”
It took a sip of wine. “You will know in due time my friend.” It promised. “You may go.” It said, dismissing me.
I stood up from my seat and walked towards the curtains all the while wondering where my hatred and pride had gone. What was it about Fajahromo that I found so frightening?
I stopped. Kyrie walked away from its master towards the fog covering the curtains.
“You have learnt well Nebud, and I am truly impressed by your fights and your kills. But remember that there are much easier ways to kill an uspec.” It paused as if in deliberation. “Or perhaps you already know this. Are you kun, Nebud?”
The question caught me off guard. “I don’t know what you mean grand one.” I lied. Although I did not know what kun meant, I had heard the word enough times now to have my suspicions.
Fajahromo sighed. “Do you have emotions?” It asked.
For a second it was as if my heart stopped beating. I froze and Maxad’s words came to the front of my mind. “You are kun. I should have known. Keep your emotions from it.” I had not trusted Maxad in life, so I did not know why I would trust it in death, but I found myself unable to ignore its warnings.
“Don’t all uspecs have emotions grand one?” I tried to ask as innocently as I could.
There was silence, I kept my back to it as I waited. And then it laughed. “You are as you always were my friend.” It said, and I could not tell what it meant by the words. “Farewell, till we next meet.”
Kyrie puts its hand on the fog wall and the fog disappeared, I rushed through the curtains walking as quickly as I could to get away from Fajahromo. “It is not your friend. It will turn on you just as it turned on its own line. When you are no longer useful you will find yourself where I am, begging an enemy for death.” Maxad’s words haunted me.
I walked to clear my mind.
I was reeling. Reeling from the power that I had felt Fajahromo wield like a sharp knife. Reeling from the words it had said and the heinous crimes it had carelessly confessed to me. Reeling from my own reactions to the uspec. Thoughts plagued my mind as I replayed the events of this day. I did not know how so much could change in the span of a single day. I almost craved the simplicity of my fights in the pits. It seemed preferable to the tangled web Fajahromo spun.
I kept walking until I found myself standing in a familiar pathway, in front of a fog covered cell. I could not remember how I had gotten here. I did not know what pathways I had walked down or how those pathways diverged.
I sunk to the ground in front of Gerangi’s cell and whispered, “Pious one.” There was no response. “Pious one.” I called out louder.
There was a grunt and then a hoarse voice called out, “Who is it?”
“A friend.” I replied.
Gerangi did not respond. “Irira?” it asked.
“Yes.” I said. And then, because I could think of nothing else to add, I said, “I have been made a warden, I no longer fight in the pits.” It wasn’t until the words came out of my mouth that I realized why I had come here, and what I had come searching for. I wondered if the pious one would remember the promise it made to me, and when it didn’t answer, I prompted, “Pious one.”
“I am Gerangi.” Its voice was hard. “I am no longer pious, I am just Gerangi.” There was so much bitterness in that voice that I sought to console it.
“Your progenitors were both imperial ones. One was a first and only imperial, the single offspring of the Kaiser of Lahooni, while the other was a second imperial, the second offspring of the Kaiser of Hakute. You have a lineage irira, you are of the line of Kaisers. Both of your progenitors died in bringing you into the world and so you were given to your hooni sire, the progenitor of your progenitor, the Kaiser of Lahooni. We were led to believe that you died along with your sire, but we were obviously misinformed. You have what you came for irira. Now leave me.”
I did not know what to say. I had a lineage, I belonged to a line, a family. And not just any, but two of the greatest ones. But I was still de trop. Having a line didn’t change that. It simply showed what I could have been if my sire hadn’t abandoned me. But it had. De trops were not created from orphans, they were created from unwanted ones. If I was sent to the slum, it was because my sire hadn’t wanted me. What good was the knowledge of family if it only exposed all I had missed out on?
“I don’t care about my lineage.” I said. “That is not why I came here. I came for you pious one. What happened? How did you come to be here?”
Gerangi sighed. “I was imprisoned by the one who released you. Now leave me!” It snapped.
“Nebud?” A voice called out from behind me.
I jumped to my feet and looked down to the source of the voice. I found the warden who’d taken me to Fajahromo.
“Come Nebud.” It instructed.
I was just about to start moving when I heard Gerangi’s voice. It was so low. “Do not trust it, my friend. Fajahromo put a dagger in Takabat’s back even though Takabat loved Fajahromo above all others. There is no one Fajahromo won’t kill to get to the top. But be wise. Fajahromo is now one of the most powerful uspecs in Hakute. You cannot afford to cross it. You may have emotions, but Fajahromo has spectra, it can kill you with the fogs.”
I didn’t move, I simply waited to see if Gerangi would say any more. I did not fully understand the words, but I could guess at what spectra was. I had seen the eyes on Fajahromo’s face, had seen them all filled, which meant that it had the understandings of the different spectrums. I had never had a name given to this form of magic, but I guessed that was what spectra was. What else could it be? My waiting paid off when Gerangi spoke again.
“Fajahromo owns the pits now. It is no longer safe for you or for me. If you find a way to get me out of this cell, I will lead us both out of this place.”
Then it was silent.
“Gratitude pious one.” I said, and I actually meant it. In a choice between Gerangi and Fajahromo, I knew which I would pick.
I had to get Gerangi out of the cell.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 10:58am On Apr 20, 2019|
Obehid today is Saturday oo...
1 Like 1 Share
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:39pm On Apr 20, 2019|
A week passed in which I did nothing but dwell on the task I had promised to perform for Gerangi. All I had to show for my efforts were wasted thoughts, as I was still yet to come up with a way to remove the fog and release Gerangi from its cell. I had only seen the fog cleared once, and it had been by the imp in the expensive coat. I could not think of a single distinctive feature on the imp. I did not remember what it looked like, what color of skin it had, what length of hair, what body structure and size. All I remembered was that it had been dressed in the same set of clothes as the other fighters underneath its expensive coat, and that its name was Xavier. Beyond that, I was at a complete loss.
I hadn’t seen any of the fighting imps since the day of my last fight.
Now I had complete access to all parts of the pits, save the areas reserved for the pious ones. I had walked the entire place, learning pathways and checking behind every room with curtains to find the imps. All to no avail. I could honestly say that I was starting to despair.
I heard a loud laughter come from the table to my left and I turned sharply, wondering if the uspec was out of its mind. Then I remembered that I was no longer a fighter, and no longer sharing meals with the fighters. The wardens ate much differently than we had.
The wardens’ eating room had six circular tables scattered around a round room. Unlike the long benches the fighters had, the wardens had fine stools around each table. The food was not gruel, it varied by day. I had been there for a week and each meal I’d had was different. After nine years of eating gruel, I found it hard to swallow the much finer platters the wardens enjoyed. The meals were on plates instead of in bowls and they usually consisted of hard meals which could be picked up and eaten with the fingers, instead of scooped up with stale bread.
But the most troubling, or at least the hardest thing to acclimate to was the noise. There was so much noise. The wardens congregated in little groups and sat and chatted while they ate. They laughed riotously and teased each other. After the first day, when a few wardens had walked over to my table and tried, without much success, to strike up a conversation with me, I’d been left alone to enjoy my meals in peace. At least as much of it as one could find amidst the discussions going on around me.
I had expected the deference I’d been shown by the new wardens to wane, or at least to be restricted to the ones who’d already treated me to it, but I’d been wrong. All of these new wardens approached me and spoke to me with much more respect than I had ever been treated to. I could tell from the way they looked at me when I walked by that they were in awe of me. Despite the cloth I wore to hide my scales, they knew I was irira, and it seemed to raise their estimation of me.
The curtains to the room were pulled open and a begetter walked in. A heavy silence fell upon the room as the begetter stood in front of the curtain. The begetter had a small frame. It had all of its eye sockets formed and two of them filled. It stood with its legs apart, and surveyed the room. Then its eyes met mine and its mouth opened. It took a step back. Then it shook its head, clenched its jaw, as if preparing itself, and then it approached me. Its eyes filled with derision as it came closer. And I smiled. This was the reaction I was used to.
Standing close, I could tell that there was something different about the fraise that this one wore. While the other fraise I’d seen extended all the way over the shoulders, to the upper chest, this one was more like the cloth I wore, it only covered the neck. But it had the official markings of the order of Procreation and so I assumed this uspec was another begetter.
“Iri…” The words were cut short. The pious one shook its head, as if catching itself before the slip, and then its eyes grew even harder, as it spat out my name. “Nebud.”
I didn’t reply, I simply took my gaze up to the pious one’s face.
Its jaw clenched even harder, as it extended its arm, and placed a folded piece of paper on the table. “From Fajahromo, your patron. It is unopened.” The pious one spat out the curt words.
I took my gaze from its face to the paper on the table and then back to its face. “I cannot read.” I stated simply.
The pious one gasped. Its head drew back as if I had insulted it and then its eyes narrowed at me. It glared at me and I felt its anger. It would have been an easy thing to exhaust it, but I wasn’t in the mood for easy. I stood up instead.
The pious one’s eyes bulged as it was forced to move backwards to create space for me. It arched its head to stare up at me, and the anger waned. It swallowed nervously and then took another step back. Without breaking the pious one’s gaze, I reached for the paper on the table and handed it back. “Perhaps you can tell me what it says.” I said.
The pious one’s hands were shaking when it took the folded paper from me. It looked down at the paper and then up at me. I took a step towards it and it retreated, walking all the way into the next table. The pious one tripped, falling over an unoccupied stool. The room remained silent as it fumbled around, before pushing itself up to its feet. It cleared its throat, and then ran its hand over the fraise it wore, as if to remind itself that it was there, and take courage from it.
It looked down at the sheet of paper. I watched as its eyes scanned over the sheet, then it folded it and held it off to the side. Then its shoulders squared, and it rose its head up, but its eyes never met mine. “Your patron requests that you take charge of an uspec. That you attend its arrival and teach it how to fight.”
Take charge of an uspec? When Fajahromo had told me it would require things of me, I had thought it meant to use me as an assassin, I never thought it would use me like this. What was Fajahromo planning, and what use had I as a caretaker? “What uspec?”
“Come with me.” The pious one turned around and it began walking, leading me away from the room and the gaping wardens.
I felt the brush of a hard object against my thighs and I almost froze, until I remembered the baton dangling from the belt on my waist. It was the only sign of my status as warden in the pits. I had not been given regular assignments like the other wardens. I did not have times to patrol the fighters’ living areas or to escort fighters to the arena. I had simply spent the last week roaming around at will. I tended to stay away from the fighters’ quarters as they all knew me as irira and it was disconcerting to be amongst them without being one of them. Though I did go back on occasion to sit on my old bed and puzzle at the comfort it brought me.
My new cell was much superior to the old one. In fact, it was more of a room than a cell, having much more luxuries. My head turned to the right, as I looked in the direction of the pathway leading to the rooms, before we walked passed that hallway. My room had a much larger bed. It had a soft layer on top of it, which I suppose was meant to make it more comfortable. After nine years of sleeping on hard wood, the softness felt strange to me. Perhaps that was what I owed my sleepless nights to. The room also had a small side table with two stools around it. There was an empty box off to the side of the room. That box contained more cloths like the one Fajahromo’s slave had put around my neck, and an extra baton. The room also had a bucket in it, which the imps always kept half filled with warm, scented, pink liquid, and several cloths hanging from a long pole. Compared to my old cell which only had a hard, tiny bed, my new space was palatial.
My steps slowed as I noted that the pious one was taking me beyond the edge of the parts of the pits I had access to. There was a wall of dark black fog which served as a barrier to the other parts of the pits. I had been told by the warden who’d given me the tour of the wardens’ quarters and all the connections between the wardens’ space, the fighters’ space, the fog cells, and the arena, that beyond the black fog was the pious ones’ quarters.
So now I watched with awe as the pious one put its hand into the dark fog. The fog went away, revealing the restricted parts of the pits.
Now this felt like walking into another world.
The first thing I noted was that there was no sludge. I walked into the pious ones’ quarters and the ground formed beneath my feet, cradling it the way it had so long ago. This was the first time in nine years that my feet was not on sludge. There were two stools by either end of the open space the fog had once occupied. An imp sat on each stool and an additional imp stood beside it. These imps were clothed. They wore long tunics that flowed seamlessly over their bodies and had empty eyes and streaked skin. I stared at them wondering if one of them could be Xavier, the imp who’d controlled the fogs.
The pious one walked to one end of the wall and placed its hand on it. The fog formed back. Then the pious one walked over to the imps. It rose its legs and the imps cleaned them, wiping off the sludge from the other parts of the pits. I followed the pious ones lead and had the sludge cleaned from my feet.
The pious one snapped its fingers imperiously and a standing imp walked over to it. The imp handed the pious one something and, before I could take note of what it was, the pious one put its hand against the wall. The previously solid wall softened, allowing the pious one to put its hand into it. Then the pious one pulled its hand out and the wall firmed. Then it stood, waiting.
I took my attention to study the rest of the room. We were in an empty space with light sources hanging from the ceiling and three walls of fog in front of us. One of those was a dark shade of red and large, taking up most of the area, the other two were grey and much smaller in size.
The red fog lightened, turning it from an opaque barrier to a translucent one. An uspec walked out of it, and the fog darkened, returning it to its previous opacity. This uspec had on the full fraise with the markings showing it was a begetter. It had five filled outer eyes, and was much taller than any other pious one I had ever seen. It walked towards me and I could see that we were of the same height. In bulk though, I had it beat.
Its eyes studied me. There was an air of somberness surrounding it. It did not look on me with scorn, it simply studied me, and then it turned to the pious one that had led me there. Its previously serene face changed as it frowned. The other pious one looked down, guiltily.
“Apologies Nebud, the letter was supposed to reach you unopened.”
The pious one which had led me there, looked up at the other and said, “it could not read, elder, it asked me to read it.”
Elder. Finally, the different fraise made sense to me. The one who had brought me here was a novice, it was a devout in training, not yet a pious.
The pious one turned to face me. Its features, while still severe, relaxed a little as it stared at me. “Is this true?” it asked. I heard the novice inhale sharply as if in outrage and I had to struggle to keep from mirroring its sentiments. I was nonplussed by the fact that a pious one would ask me for confirmation against one training in its order.
I shrugged and then nodded.
The pious one nodded in acceptance. “Return to your studies novice.” It commanded. The novice glared at me and then it walked into the dark red fog. The fog turned translucent as the novice walked through it.
“Come with me Nebud.” The pious one said, taking my attention away from the fog. It led me to one of the smaller black fogs and then it put its hand into it. The fog went away, and we walked through. I couldn’t help wondering what the difference was between when the fog remained translucent and allowed the pious ones pass, and when it was completely removed allowing anyone through.
The new room had even more fogs. To the left there was a small slot in the wall which was covered with a red fog, and to the right, most of the wall was a grey fog.
“Your patron desires that you have access to that room, and so you will.” The pious one stated, briskly. It jerked its head towards the large wall of grey fog as it spoke. Then it turned to the left and put its hand into the red fog, saying, “You will not have access to this room.” The fog went away, and we walked in.
The room we walked into was a strange one. We stood on a raised platform, looking down at what looked like a mine of some sort. It was a large room with nothing but potholes of varying sizes and filled with thick liquids of varying colors. Imps milled around, putting objects of some form or another into the potholes and pulling them out, then carrying them into places hidden underneath the platform.
“Give me your baton.” The pious one ordered.
I turned to face it and just stood, staring, as if I did not understand the command. The pious one simply stared back, and even as the seconds grew into minutes, it did not get angry. It only pointed at my baton and opened its palm. I took the baton off and handed it to the pious one. It wasn’t as if I actually needed the baton to kill it, I thought as the pious one grabbed onto the baton. There was a moment when both of ours hands where on the baton, and I felt a sort of connection with the pious one. It scoffed as if it had heard my thoughts on how I could kill it, and then I released the baton and whatever bond we may have shared was gone.
The pious one eyed me with speculation and then it turned around and handed the baton to an imp who’d been standing behind it. I was shocked to see the sudden appearance of the imp and even more shocked to see its sudden disappearance. The ground underneath it gave way, turning from foam to quicksand, and the imp was pulled into it.
“I will not bother introducing myself to you as I hope, by the founder’s grace, to never lay eyes on you again.” The pious one’s words shocked me. I turned to find it staring at me with hard eyes. While it did not look derisively at me, I could tell then that it was not pleased with me, not even in the slightest. It put its hand behind its back and continued speaking. “Allowing you into this sacred place,” it paused, “everything your patron wants is repugnant. You are a sacrilege Nebud, but I suppose that is not your fault.”
There was something about the factual way in which the pious one spoke that I found amusing. I knew it was not a humorous discussion, but I could not help the mocking smile that formed on my lips. How I hated the pious ones. “I suppose not.” I replied.
The pious one sighed. “Forgive me Nebud, I am not usually so…curt. But you must imagine that it is unnatural, unholy, for any one uspec to own the birthplace of Hakute. This place belongs to the founder, but the magistrate is a…” the pious one cut itself off. “That does not concern you. All that concerns you is this.” The imp reappeared, rising from the ground. It had my baton with it, and although the baton looked the same, I suspected that there was something different about it. The imp handed the baton back to the pious one and the pious one studied it, shook its head, and then handed it back to me.
“This is your key.” It said after I took the baton. “Stick it into the fog before you enter, and the fog will turn translucent if you are allowed in. Be warned, once you stick the baton into the fog, the fog turns from an innocuous solid wall into a weapon. If the fog does not turn translucent, do not walk in, or it will kill you. Never walk in with another person. To the rooms you do have access, the fog will only grant passage to one. If more walk in, it will kill all. Do you understand?”
“Good. Your patron has assigned a charge to you. It will be born today, and your patron desires that you…attend its birth. It is a sacrilege for any but the pious ones to enter into that sacred place.” The pious one’s jaw clenched, and I could sense its anger. But then the anger went away, so unnaturally quickly that I was shocked. The anger had only existed for a second and then it had gone, as if it had been exhausted. I looked at the pious one and it looked at me with knowing eyes. It looked as if it new I had searched its emotions and it knew what I was capable of. Then it smiled smugly at me. “Don’t bother playing your games on me, I am too well trained.”
Too well trained for what? I thought to ask. Was there a way to be trained against emotions? How would that be possible? Did that mean that this pious one also had emotions? Could I train myself to not be susceptible to any external control on my emotions? I had too many questions and enough sense to know that I couldn’t voice them if I didn’t want it getting back to Fajahromo. So, I frowned with confusion and asked, “what games?”
It smirked at me as if it knew I was lying, and then shook its head. “Come.” It ordered and I followed, wondering about how much I did not know about the emotions I could control.
We walked out through the entryways, back to the center room with the three fogs. Then it steered me towards the other black fog.
“One more thing.” It said, and then it turned and looked me squarely in the eye. “The key only works for the fogs here. It would be futile to try using it on a fog cell in the other quarters.” Then it said, “Use it now.” And gestured towards the dark fog.
As I put my baton into the fog, I thought on the pious one’s words. It had made a point of telling me that the key would not work on fog cells. Why would it tell me that unless it knew that I’d been to visit Gerangi that one time? Was there a message in the warning I’d been given? Maybe it wasn’t a warning at all.
The fog turned translucent and I walked in. The pious one walked in after me. It gestured towards the right were smaller grey fogs lined the right wall of the room. “You have access to those. Your ward will be living in one of them.”
I tried to pay attention to what the pious one was saying, but I could not take my eyes away from the orange hue emanating from the dark alley I saw ahead of me. The orange reminded me of the dots which had been part of my life in the slums. Everyday in the slums had been spent mostly outdoors. The orange dots which illuminated our days had become as common place as the red clouds that filled the nights. They had seemed so mundane that I had ignored them, taking them for granted. But after spending nine years without the natural lighting of the dots or the clouds, I felt drawn to the orange hue.
“To the hatch.” The pious one said, as it led the way towards the space ahead, and the orange hue which emanated from it.
It wasn’t until we got much closer that it dawned on me what I was about to witness. I was about to learn how an uspec was born. The mystery of our birth was to be revealed to me. My eyes widened as I stepped into the orange light.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 7:05am On Apr 21, 2019|
Beautiful write up as usual. Happy Resurrection day to everyone.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by EkopSparoAyara(m): 1:06pm On Apr 21, 2019|
My man their.... I see you...Thanks for the mention.
I am with you..
1 Like 2 Shares
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 9:52pm On Apr 21, 2019|
Happy Easter, dearest Obehid. Beautiful updates you have been giving us. Well done. More ink to your pen.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by spixytinxy(f): 6:47am On Apr 23, 2019|
Wow, it bn a while, the book has gotten to the interesting part. More ink to ur pen at obehid
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:40am On Apr 24, 2019|
@Fazemood Thank you!!! Happy resurrection day to you too (in arrears that is)
@tunjilomo Thank you! Happy Easter in arrears...well, Easter is a season so it is still valid
@spixytinxy it has been a while, nice to see you back! I'm happy you think we've gotten to the interesting part ***insert dancing emoji***
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:42am On Apr 24, 2019|
The air grew colder the closer we got to the orange light, but the chill was tempered by the clammy fogs which drifted towards us.
“Stop.” The pious one ordered, suddenly.
I froze as the fog encircled me. The fog was like the ones I had experienced in my slum, hot and sticky, but unlike those, this fog felt as if it had a life in it, something driving it to move in towards me and pull at me. As the fog moved closer, sucking the air away and making it harder for me to breathe, I remembered the noble one who’d taken me to Fajahromo. I remembered when it had used the fogs to threaten me. That experience had felt a lot similar to this.
The fog kept moving inwards and I suddenly felt lightheaded. I opened my mouth, desperate for air, but there was none. I could feel myself go weak as the life was drained out of me, and I had an awful suspicion that this was what the pious one had planned. It had brought me here to kill me with the fogs, not for me to witness a birth.
But then the fog swirled around my baton, tightening around it as it had around me. The fog pulled back and I could breathe. I inhaled, taking deep breaths as I rushed to fill my deprived lungs.
“Now we go.” The pious one said, moving forward.
I glared at the back of the pious one’s head, wondering why it hadn’t warned me. It didn’t mind warning me about the fog cells, which I hadn’t asked its interference on, but this it had left me in the dark on.
The fogs remained, but the life I had felt in them was gone. Now they were just as they’d been in my village, present, but harmless. I walked through them, fighting off the disconcerting feeling of the juxtaposition of the heat with the cold.
Streams of red light became visible as we drew closer to the hatch. I cast my gaze upwards, but I could not see the source of the light. I expected to see the red clouds which had lit our nights in the slum. Instead I saw a thick wall of red fog. The fog extended upwards, going much higher than my eye could see. The red fog grew into darkness the further up it went. Unlike the nearly transparent fogs which had greeted us, this fog was completely opaque.
The pious one kept walking, going into the fog and so I followed. Unlike the pious one, I was repelled by the fog. I walked towards it, and found it to be a hard wall which I could not enter.
The pious one continued unobstructed. It was swallowed by the opaque fog, and disappeared from sight.
I heard footsteps and so I swerved, remembering my training in the arena. Two new uspecs came into sight. There were hands behind each of them, hands that seemed to steer them towards the thick wall of fog, but as soon as the uspecs became visible, the green hands disappeared.
I recognized both of them. They were both fighters from the pits. One of them was a giant like Juwara, with long cyan spikes covering its chest and back. Those spikes showed that it was of the boga spectrum. The other was shorter. I could not be sure from the distance, but I imagined that it would be about my height. The top of the uspec’s head reached midway to the giant’s chest. It wasn’t built as big as the giant, but it had lean muscles, the type that were good for running, I thought, the corners of my lips tipping up. I knew the smaller uspec had little chances of survival, so running wouldn’t really help it in a fight against the giant. The smaller uspec was of the soaru spectrum. It had tentacles coming out of its waist and moving all the way down to the ground, covering its legs like a skirt.
The lower parts of the wall of fog lightened, becoming translucent. A few paces above the giant’s head, the fog remained opaque.
My mouth hung open as I stared at the sight which had been hidden behind the opaque fogs. There was a pool in the center of the space. A large okun with clear and beautiful pink liquid. Quicksand surrounded the okun, extending from the edges of the pool all the way to the base of the wall of fog. There was more fog above the ground, but the fog was light, nearly transparent, like the ones which had greeted us. And further upwards I saw a combination of red clouds and orange dots. They joined and intertwined in a way that created a strange color of light which rendered the entire scene with a surreal level of splendor. And through it all, thick drops of white pellets fell. The pellets seemed to disappear into the pink or brown in the ground once it touched the floor, but while it dropped in the air, it was beautiful. I had never seen it before, but I knew this was the hail of which’s existence I had doubted.
My thoughts were halted by the pious one. It cleared its throat and then it closed its eyes and bowed its head. Solemnly, it intoned,
“Two as it was in the days of the firsts,
two duel for life, thus two duel for births.
Of you both the founder has chosen,
to make one progenitor, and the other reposing.
And that which survive shall become undead,
to lead a young as it too was led.
And that which is gone forever the offer,
forever exists in what is left to the other.”
Then it lifted its head and gestured with its hands. I turned towards the two uspec fighters and found four imps approaching them. I was shocked at the sight of these imps. I did not know that imps could be so tall. The imps that walked in were all giants themselves. They were taller than the giant uspec, taller, I think, than Juwara had been. The imps wore plain tunics and carried thick coats. They dressed the uspecs in these coats, lining the holes in the coats to match up with the uspecs’ ailerons and hands. Then they fastened the buttons. With this done, the imps retreated and were gone from sight, leaving fully clothed uspecs with nothing but their ailerons, hands, and heads exposed.
Then the pious one stepped aside and the uspecs walked in through the translucent fogs.
They must have been coached, must have been instructed as to why they were there and what was expected of them, because as soon as they walked in, they began to fight. It was as if the calm which had existed while they stood outside the hatch had been a façade. The smaller one walked through the thick outer fogs first. It didn’t wait for the full emergence of the giant before it threw the first punch, aiming at the giant’s head. The giant took the blow easily and then moved its head down, slamming it into the smaller one’s head. That one retreated, stumbling backwards as it tried to get its bearing.
The giant reached out with its large hands for its opponent, but the smaller one was faster. It bent, dodging the giant’s grip and then it reached out with its tentacles. Two of the smaller uspec’s tentacles slapped the giant’s hand away and four swept out. Those tentacles wrapped around the giant’s legs, fixing onto them with the suckers, and then pulled. The giant rocked on its feet, but the smaller uspec did not have the strength to fell the giant.
The rest was almost predictable.
The giant lifted one of its legs and used the tentacles latched onto it, to pull the smaller uspec forward. The uspec immediately released the giant, but it was too late, the smaller one was already within hold of the giant. The giant grabbed onto the smaller uspec by its upper arms, lifted it off the ground and brought it close to its chest. Without stopping, the giant shoved its chest against the smaller uspec’s, digging its iron spikes into the uspec’s body.
The giant pulled back and I could see each of the holes that the spikes had formed in the uspec’s body. Blood flowed freely from each wound. The giant let the smaller uspec fall to the ground, and then it grabbed onto its neck and pulled it back up. The giant smashed the uspec’s head against its chest, sending its spikes through its head. One of those spikes drove into the smaller one’s central eye.
As the dead uspec dropped to the ground, the pious one sighed. It walked out of the outer fog and the fog became opaque again. I watched with mild curiosity as the pious one approached me. It stopped in front of me.
“I had heard that the other fighter was one of the best in the pits. Truly.” It said as though it were apologizing. Something about the pious one’s contrite tone warned me that there was something off, something coming that I may not like. “Truly.” It said again. “I had hoped it would do some damage, that is…I had promised that…” it stopped and stood straight. Its eyes met mine and it stared at me with an openness I did not expect. “I apologize, truly, you were meant to finish it, not fight it.”
I frowned, completely puzzled by the pious one’s words.
It must have been able to read my confusion because it said, “your patron wants a kun. That is why you are here, to attend its birth.” When the confused expression on my face did not change, it frowned. “Did your patron not explain it in the note it sent you?” When I continued to stare puzzled at it, it sighed in exasperation. “You are to fight Nebud. You are to fight that giant and ensure that an irirakun is produced, one of the boga and soaru spectrum.”
“I do not understand.”
The pious one threw its hands in the air in frustration. “Is it not enough that I must partake in this, that I must make a mockery of the single most sacred duty of my order? Is it not enough? Now I must lay our secrets bare to you before you do your job? No! I will not! Your patron orders that you kill the giant. Do it or do not do it, that is between you and Fajahromo.”
I was shocked to hear the pious one shout. It had appeared so serene, but now I knew how much of its appearance had been a mask put on for my benefit. It was only when it begun shouting that I could feel its anger. But before I could take it, the pious one stopped talking and it somehow made its anger go away. I suspected then that it hadn’t simply exhausted it, as I’d thought before, but hidden it. Somehow, the pious one knew how to hide its anger from me.
It turned around and walked back in the direction it had come. It walked into the red fog and it became translucent again. I could see the giant standing still, as if it was expecting something, and I could see the corpse of the dead uspec it had killed.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:44am On Apr 24, 2019|
I walked towards the fog. I stopped outside of it and, for a second, I thought of what role I had to play in all of this? I contemplated the hatch, and the birth I had thought I had come to watch, and wondered what it all meant. I knew from the pious one’s spoken words that two were meant to fight for the birth, but I did not know exactly what that meant. And if two were meant to fight, then why was I being added? Hadn’t two already fought? But then I looked at the giant, its chest full of spikes, and the uspec it had just killed and for the first time since I stopped fighting in the pits, my heart pounded. My heart drummed with the steady rhythm of an expert anticipating an indulgence in its field of expertise. I was a fighter, what did I care about the games Fajahromo played? The giant was a challenge, and as my eyes darted over the blood-stained spikes, I realized it was a challenge I was eager to face.
I walked into the fogs.
Something came over me. The fogs wafted towards me, moving into me, permeating into my body. It was as if the fogs could communicate with me, as if they could affect me, toying with my emotions in the same way as I had done to others. When I walked out of the fogs and into the hatch, the only thought on my mind was murder. I did not know why I felt as I did, only that I did and that I had to kill my opponent. In the back of my mind I registered the feeling of the cold pellets, the hail falling from the sky and raining onto my bare skin. I felt the chill, but was instantly warmed by the fogs that drifted around me. The juxtaposition was not missed on me, but my mind was so focused on the fight that the surroundings did not thrill me as they should have.
The giant walked towards me and I could feel the tremor of the ground underneath me as it approached. It stepped onto the corpse, crushing what was left of the head as it came closer. I waited until it was a few paces away before I pulled out two large scales from my neck.
The giant reached out with its hands to grab me, and I evaded, bending over so that my head was at a level with its waist. I swiped, lashing out with both of my hands, and cut straight lines into the giant’s legs. The giant let out a wild cry. Its legs rose instantly as it tried to kick me. I simply swerved around it and repeated my actions at the back of its legs. I had fought bogas before, so I knew the trick to evading their chest spikes was to stay low. If they were weak, you could escape once they caught you, but for this giant, I knew my best chances lay in completely avoiding its grasp.
Swipe after swipe, I cut across the back of the giant’s legs, setting a crisscross of cuts across its legs. Then I stood straight and put all of my strength into my leg as I stomped on the back of its knees, over the wounds I’d made there. The giant let out a feral cry and then it fell to its knees.
It bent to the floor, supporting itself with its left hand, while reaching out for me with its right. I kicked the left hand away, removing its support, and the giant fell, its face sinking into the quicksand. It pulled its hands out, desperate to push itself back to its feet. I bent to a squat by its head and dug one of my scales into the back of its scalp. It howled in pain, and its hands thrashed forward. I knelt on one of those hands, ignoring the shaking as it tried to pull its hand free. While the other hand came up in the air, moving towards me, I used both of my scales to cut a deep line in the back of the uspec’s neck.
The arm underneath me stopped moving. I stood up and watched as the blood gushed out of the back of the giant’s neck. It bled from all of the cuts I had given it, but I could still see its feet twitching. It wasn’t dead. I reached for the giant’s shoulder’s careful of the spikes on its chest, and turned it over. Its eye was opened, but it stared off into space. I tipped the giant’s head upward and then I put both scales in one hand, lined up to cut evenly together, and I tore through its neck, severing its veins.
The giant twitched a few more times and then it stopped. It was dead. Out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed that figures were approaching. I could make out the shapes of uspecs. I turned to watch them, as I put my scales back into my neck. These were my favorite. They were the biggest I had, and if I discarded them, new ones would have to grow. So, instead, I dug them into my own neck, cutting myself slightly as I forced the scales in. I could already feel the skin form around them and by the time the uspecs got to the outer fog, the scales had reattached to my neck.
The red fog turned opaque before I could clearly make out any distinctive features on the bodies of the approaching uspecs. Then green hands came out, poking through the fog. Then they rescinded.
Suddenly the entire place was dark. The red clouds and the lighting they’d provided was gone, the fogs had cleared, the hail stopped falling and the orange dots no longer streamed down orange rays. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of emptiness as the darkness enveloped me. I could make nothing out. As far as I was concerned, I had been swallowed up by a void. Then the ground underneath me turned from the sticky sturdiness of the quicksand I had fought on, to a liquid substance, similar in some regards to the shallow okun in the arena, but different in a manner I could not place.
A bright green glow emerged from the liquid in the ground. The glow took over, lighting the hatch as the dots and cloud once had. The green glow grew from the ground, moving higher, and revealing the loss of the features I had awed at. Now there was nothing in the hatch but the luminous green liquid covering the ground. Even the corpses were gone.
The center of the liquid bubbled, and I stared with a wide eye, dazed by the sight which greeted me. A red head emerged from the bubbling liquid. As the red head continued to rise, a face became visible. The face was completely covered in red. I could make out the outline of a nose poking out from the face, but the red covered the other facial features. It continued to rise, emerging as a red uspec from the bubbling liquid. It came all the way out and I could see the red covered ailerons, which sprouted from its back. It was small, an uspec young. I realized then that I had just witnessed a birth and I could not look away, I could not take my attention from the uspec.
I felt a bond to this uspec, a connection unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was small and it looked weak and I was filled with an overwhelming urge to protect it, to kill for it, and if need be, to die for it. It was as if it owned a part of me that I had not known existed. I looked at the little red uspec as its covered head moved from side to side, and I knew, I knew down in the deepest recesses of my being that it came from me. It was mine.
The uspec moved and then it tripped, falling into the green liquid. I sprung forward, moving towards it to help it up, and I was immediately held back. The thick red fog of the outer wall surrounded me. It enveloped me, pulling me in, regardless of my struggles. It sucked me into itself, and just before it pushed me out, I saw two novices walk into the hatch and pick the little uspec up. They helped it to its feet and began to wipe off the red which covered it. They cleaned it with their own hands, washing away the red and revealing the true green skin of the uspec.
And it made me sick to watch.
I was not sure why, but I was filled with a sense of injustice, as if the novices were robbing me of something that I was entitled to. But before I could do anything, before I could scream or lash out, the red surrounded me, and then pulled me back, spitting me out of the hatch.
I found myself on the outside staring at a wall of opaque red fog. I could not see a thing. I could not see the rest of the young uspec’s body, I could not see the little eye I knew would be revealed, or the small hands that should have reached out to me, or the little feet that it had tripped on.
I was possessed with grief. A deep sorrow took root in me as I stared achingly at the red fog. Then I ran towards it. I reached the wall, and the pain of the hard surface making contact with my body registered to me on some level, but it could not overshadow the grief, the sadness which accompanied knowing that I had lost a part of me. And so, like a mindless creature, I continued to run into the wall of red fog, hoping to break through it by sheer force of will. I slammed against it, over and over again. A part of me knew that the fog would not respond as I willed. But perhaps I continued in the hopes that the pain I felt would overshadow the sorrow.
Eventually, I sunk to my knees, fatigued. I knelt by the wall of fog and simply stared at it. I thought that the novices would have to clear the fog, that they would have to bring the new uspec out. That would be my chance, I thought, my chance to take back that which belonged to me. I don’t know how long I knelt there, but the sorrow never ceased, and the fog never cleared.
Somehow, I found the strength to get off my knees. I found the fortitude to ignore the sudden sadness which had taken over me, the sorrow of knowing a loss I could not begin to describe, and walk. I must have spent most of the time pacing. I must have walked in circles, learning new areas in the pious ones’ quarters and then retracing routes in the pits that I had visited early. I don’t know how long I walked, or how I found my way out of the pious ones’ suites, but I knew where I ended up.
I found myself back in front of Gerangi’s cell.
I did not contemplate the warning the pious one had given me. I did not stop to wonder if perhaps it really had been a warning and not a clue of some sort. I was too wretched, too desolate to care much for myself as I put the end of my baton into the fog which covered the cell. I did not even wait to see if the fog would turn translucent, signaling that I was indeed allowed to enter this room. I simply walked into the fog and let it do with me as it willed. There was too much grief in my heart to care about my own life. What point was there to life if something so precious could be stolen from me?
“Who is it?” Gerangi’s startled voice filled the small cell.
Emotions coursed through me as I walked through to the other side of the fog unharmed. I could not tell if any one of the emotions I felt was relief that I had survived the fog. I moved, completely unaware of my surroundings. I found the closest wall to rest my back against, and then I simply dropped, sinking to the sludge ground. My head rested against the hard wall behind me, and my eye closed.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 4:56pm On Apr 26, 2019|
Baby girl wherevis today's update na?
Or have you gone for Nebud's omugwo?�
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Moyenii(f): 11:25pm On Apr 26, 2019|
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:44am On Apr 27, 2019|
This got me laughing HARD! LOL!!!! It's not only omugwo hahaha
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:44am On Apr 27, 2019|
as in...lol! too funny
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:47am On Apr 27, 2019|
It wasn’t sleep. I did not feel as one who’d just woken from a peaceful respite. I felt as though I had simply distanced myself from consciousness and had now returned to it. In Gerangi’s cell.
My eye blinked slowly as I became aware of my surroundings. I recognized the sludge ground on which I sat, and the familiarity of the wooden bed in front of me reminded me of the cell I had lived in not so long ago. I let my gaze rise till I got to the uspec lying calmly on its bed, observing me with a look of mild curiosity.
Gerangi’s eye widened when it noticed that I was staring back at it. It remained as it was, sprawled in a reclining position on the hard surface of the bed. I had my first chance to study it since the night it had been brought here. Its outer eye-sockets were empty. A few were pure green, the green of sockets which had never been filled, and the rest had streaks of white, signs of sockets that had been robbed of their eyes.
I imagined the grief Gerangi must have felt at the loss of its eyes, and I felt an answering grief within me. It had subsided, the sorrow was not as engulfing as it had been after the birth, but it was still there. It was still a potent force within me, one that I was not yet ready to face.
My gaze flickered to the fog barring entrance to the cell and I could not help wondering why my baton had worked. I had suspected it would when the pious one specifically went out of its way to mention that the key would not work for these cells, but I did not know why I would be given a key that worked. And if the pious one had known it would work, why hadn’t it simply said so? My mind darted back to the events of the past week, starting from the slaughter of the wardens, to fighting Maxad in the arena, and now to this, this gut-wrenching sense of loss I felt. What was all of this for?
Gerangi cleared its throat.
I took my gaze back to meet its and for a moment, or two, we both stared at each other. There was no exchange of words, no questions or demands, simply a companionable silence, as the pious one’s eye roamed over my body, taking me in. I studied it myself, noticing a few bruises on its face and belly. Apart from that, it appeared fine. A voice in my head informed me that I could quest out with my pain and find out how much pain Gerangi was in, but the sadness I felt was too draining to spare much energy for communicating with lifeforces and examining pain.
“What ails you my friend?” Gerangi asked, breaking the silence.
I was silent. The memory was still too clear, the feelings still so raw, that I feared what would happen if I attempted to speak of it. And for seconds I found the silence to be an acceptable alternative to the grief I knew would pour out of me if I confessed my loss. But then Gerangi remained quiet, simply waiting. It stared levelly at me. It had risen slightly now, risen so that it was supporting its lying frame with an elbow propped up on the head of the bed. There must have been something in my face, something that spoke of the sorrow I felt, because Gerangi’s passive face, morphed into one of concern and then one of pity.
It pushed itself up, straightening from the relaxed way it had been lying, and sat. Crossing its arms over its thighs, it bent forward so that its face was closer to mine and then it said, “my friend”, in a consoling tone, as if, through some means I could not imagine, it could understand the ache I felt.
The tone was my undoing. I found myself talking. I spoke slowly at first, starting from the conversation with Fajahromo after I had killed Maxad. Those words were easier to share. I went on talking. I found myself stretching out my recounting of the mundane events. Like the different room I now inhabited which despite its comforts, brought me no peace. I shared my thoughts of the dining room, and the friendly atmosphere which accompanied the wardens’ meals. I must have made an offhand joke, because Gerangi’s lips quirked in a half smile. When I could no longer talk about the richness of the curtains which draped certain rooms, or the slightly sturdier ground which I believed to exist underneath the sludge in the wardens’ quarters, I had to move on to my tale of the day.
Once I started with the novice who’d walked into the dining room and summoned me, I found myself tripping over the retelling. I rushed through the events of the day, hoping to alleviate the suffering by glazing over the details. And for a while it worked. I talked about the pious ones’ quarters and I noticed on some level the changes which came over Gerangi as I spoke. I noticed that its jaw had clenched tightly and that its hands had balled into fists. I noticed that it had frozen, and no longer nodded in the gentle way it had done while I spoke of the earlier parts. I imagined the pain it must feel to hear me talk of quarters it must have once lived in, to hear my journey into a life which had been stolen from it. But it did not stop me from speaking and so I went on.
It wasn’t till I got to the hatch that I found myself stopping to swallow lumps which suddenly seemed to fill my throat. I swallowed, cleared my throat and tried to move passed the stops. It was pointless though, because the closer I got to the recounting of my fight and the young which had been born, the harder it became to swallow the lumps in my throat.
But I told it. I told it all and listened deeply to the silence that followed my last words.
Sometime during my tale of the fighting, Gerangi had relaxed. The fists it had made of its hands had gone, its jaw no longer clenched, and it moved slightly, no longer frozen in place. Had its sorrow waned? I wondered, hoping that if a loss like that which Gerangi felt had abated, then mine would too. Gerangi had lost everything. It had been a pious one, a highly ranked prelate with outer eyes filled. If Gerangi could recover, then surely, I would too. What was it I grieved for? A young that I had never spoken to, never seen its eye open? Compared to Gerangi’s my loss appeared insignificant.
“Do you fear your patron?” Gerangi asked.
The question caught me by surprise. I frowned. My immediate response was ‘no’, I feared no one. I was irira. I could kill Fajahromo, I could wrap my hand around its neck and squeeze till the life drained out of it. So why hadn’t I? I realized, sitting on the floor in front of Gerangi, that I hadn’t even tried. For all the rage that I had felt when Fajahromo abandoned me, and all my oaths to take its life, I had not made a single attempt. Why? And why had I been so quick to rush into the hatch and kill at its bidding? Of course I told myself that I had done it for the challenge, but would I have refused if it was the other uspec, the smaller, non-challenging one, who had survived?
“It is not your friend. It will turn on you just as it turned on its own line. When you are no longer useful you will find yourself where I am, begging an enemy for death.”
Maxad’s last words rose again in my head. I could not shake the words, they clung to me like a wet cloth. I hated what those words wrought in me, the power that it made me accord to Fajahromo. I hated that every time I heard the words in my head, I remembered the way Maxad had begged me for death. And I thought, if Fajahromo could reduce Maxad to that, then what difficulty would it have with me? But fear was for weaklings, it was a loathsome emotion that I could never admit to.
Gerangi was not fooled by the mask of courage I fought to construct. “Good.” It said. “That tells me that you are wise. Only a fool would not fear one as cunning as Fajarhomo.” It sighed as though releasing some deep regret with the sound. “Maxad and I were fools to underestimate the grand one.” And it was in the way it doled out the honorific, its voice dripping with scorn, that I realized the depth of hatred it felt towards Fajaromo.
My eye met Gerangi’s and it held my gaze. “Do not make our mistake.” It warned.
I swallowed and then nodded. It released my gaze and I studied its profile as its shoulders drooped and it bent even lower as if suddenly exhausted.
“Do you know why Fajahromo brought you here in the first place, why it brought you to the pits?” it asked.
I shook my head in reply.
“Do you know why it had you kill the fighter that survived in the hatch?” it asked.
Again, I shook my head.
The pitch of Gerangi’s voice increased. I did not need to quest out with my anger to feel the undercurrents of rage in its next stream of questions. “Do you know of the plenum? What of the chasm? But you must know of pansophy? No? No! Then spectra! Even illiterates know of spectra!” Each word was flung out with the biting edge of a whip, and each shake of my head only seemed to enrage it more. Until it was done and then it exhaled. I could sense the anger flow out of it and in its place rose a fierce determination. That determination was evident in the upright posture it now sat in, and the uncompromising tightening of its lips. “Then you will learn.” It said.
I could sense it was waiting for some gesture from me, an affirmative action to let it know that I understood. And I simply stared at it, wondering if it knew that I was a killer. The pious one had no outer eyes, which meant it had no magic. In this cell, I held the advantage. But Gerangi was a voice from my past. It was the one who had showed me how to learn emotions. I owed Gerangi my life and so I said, “yes, pious one.”
“Good.” It nodded approvingly. Gone were the recriminations, the disavowals of the pious honorific which it had taken such great pains to steer me away from the last time we spoke.
“Listen and pay heed to my words.” Gerangi started, and in saying those words, old religious rites that I had learned in the slums came back to the front of my mind. I pushed everything back, as I had been taught to by the traders, and my mind was almost empty. I could not rid myself of the grief so easily. The young uspec still stood, covered in red, in the back of my mind.
“There are four forms of spectral magic, but to truly understand them, you must first understand the spectrums. Five different spectrums exist in the spectral existence, and I have no doubt that you have their names on the tip of your tongue. The comprehension I speak of is much deeper than just the knowledge of their names. Each spectrum has three defining characteristics, they are: the weapon, the emotion, and the soul. The weapon of a spectrum is the distinctive feature which the uspecs in that spectrum bear. For us kutes, our distinctive feature is our tail, that is the kute weapon. The emotion of a spectrum is the emotion which exists in the spectrum’s soul, and is the emotion which the uspecs of that spectrum are most closely bound to. The kute emotion, as you well know, is pain. The last, and most important, is the soul. The soul of a spectrum is that which inundates it, that which it draws power from. There are five souls in the spectral existence: okun, quicksand, fog, hail and cloud. Each soul has the ability to manipulate a specific lifeforce if triggered by one with a key. The key to a spectrum’s soul is the eye of an uspec who belongs to that spectrum. Now that you understand the spectrums, we can proceed to the magic. Remember, there are four forms of spectral magic.
The first, emotions, is a gift of birth. Only few such as yourself, possess it. It is one which is present in irirakun, or kun as they are more commonly called, from the moment they open their eyes. A kun has an understanding of the lifeforces present in the emotions of the spectrums it belongs to. With those understandings, it can control emotions.
The second, spectra, is a gift of strength. To unlock spectra, an uspec must gain two imp eyes from imps whose umani lives began or ended in the same plane as the uspec. An uspec can further its spectra by stealing eyes from other uspecs of different spectrums. Spectra gives an understanding of the lifeforces controlled by the soul of a spectrum. With this, an hooni eye gives the ability to use quicksand to teleport, and a boga eye the ability to use the fogs to kill.
The third, pansophy, is a gift of tuition. It is a set of understandings which must be learned and are reserved for the pious.
And the fourth, route, is a gift of ascendancy. To possess route, an uspec must have all forms of all the other types of magic and then one extra piece. Only Chuspecip has route.”
In a part of me, I registered the casual way in which Gerangi, a pious one, said Chuspecip as if the name did not refer to the founder, to our deity. But I shrugged it off, as I had been taught to, when listening to a pious one speak. I had never once thought I would ever actually have cause to use the active listening I had been forced to learn in the slums, never once thinking I would actually meet a pious one…I cut myself off and focused on the pious one.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:48am On Apr 27, 2019|
“There is really only one thing to know about the different forms of spectral magic and that is that they are all understandings of lifeforces. Everything which exists is possessed by lifeforces. Everything. In an uspec there are several, in other things not so much.” The pious one tapped the bed it sat on as it said the last part. “Emotions and spectra govern the understandings of five lifeforces each. Pansophy covers the rest. With spectra, the spectrum’s soul communicates with the lifeforces, the uspec need not work for the action it seeks, it need only think what it wants done. But with emotions a kun…I do not need to teach you about emotions.”
I looked at the pious one, wondering if it expected a reply, but it did not. It just continued talking.
“An irira is very different from an irirakun. An irira is simply that, an abomination. During the birth, the hatch takes all of the features left in it and produces a new uspec from the features of the one that died. If two uspecs fight, one dies, and the other leaves a piece or part of its feature on the floor of the hatch, then the hatch swallows that part and combines it with the features of the dead uspec and an irira is born. But a kun is a full irira, an irira which is produced from the death of both fighters. When two dead uspecs are absorbed, an irirakun is born. Perhaps kun are the hatch’s way of making reparation, of giving something back for the two lives lost.” Gerangi stopped talking. It frowned, shaking its head as if scolding itself. Then it smiled apologetically.
“There was a time when neither Maxad or I knew what Fajahromo wanted with the pits. Fajahromo found iriras and brought them here. When it began, it was praised for its piety and even befriended by begetters like Maxad who approved of Fajahromo’s actions. Then Takabat, Fajahromo’s sibling, rose in the ranks of begetters and it found out how Maxad decimated the iriras Fajahromo brought, starving them to death. When Fajahromo heard of this, it was livid. The fight that ensued caused the rift between Maxad and Fajahromo.
It was perplexing. Maxad did what it did, because it believed that Fajahromo had brought the iriras to the pits to die. It thought that Fajarhomo was doing its duty by the founder. And for years we were left wondering why. Why did Fajahromo bring these uspecs here? It wasn’t till the day I was arrested that I finally understood why.
Fajahromo was looking for kuns. He didn’t care about the iriras he brought here, he simply wanted to separate the kun from the rest. That was where Takabat came in. Takabat was doing secret research using the Order’s archives to learn ways that a kun could be told apart from an irira, because, Fajahromo’s grand plan is to procreate. But Fajahromo does not want just any type of offspring, it wants a kun of all five spectrums, one that will have the power to manipulate all emotions. But the hatch only accepts two deaths at a time. Any more, and no new life is born. Which means that for a kun of five to be born, a kun of three and a kun of two, or a kun of four and an uspec, must die in the hatch.”
Gerangi paused. My heart rate had increased as it said the last part, talking about what Fajahromo wanted and how it could get it. But I still did not see what role I had to play in this.
“You are a living offer my friend. It’s actually quite genius what Fajahromo has done.” Gerangi laughed dryly. “The easiest way to make a kun of five is from a kun of four. You take two kuns of two, make sure they die in the hatch, and from their deaths a kun of four is born. Then, before the kun of four can really learn how to use its emotions, you pit it against a trained fighter who will kill it, and then have the fighter killed when it’s done. The hatch would then swallow up the uspec and the kun of four, combining them to give a kun of five.”
The words were beginning to make sense to me, but the implications, the implications of what Gerangi said were too terrible. I couldn’t allow myself to accept them, to decipher its words and find the meanings for myself.
“Fajahromo made you a progenitor my friend. That is why you feel as you do. There are two bonds formed in the hatch. The progenitor’s bond is formed when it stands in the hatch and watches the young being born, as you did. The offspring’s bond forms when the progenitor wipes it clean, revealing the green skin underneath, and allowing for the uspec to open its eye. The progenitor should be the first the offspring sees, and the progenitor should be the first to see the offspring. Both bonds are required for an uspec to become undead, a real parent to the offspring. But you were denied the second bond, the bond of your offspring knowing you as its progenitor. That is why you feel such grief. Your offspring was taken from you. To the young, you are just another uspec, one it has no connection with. Fear not, the grief lessens. Keep your distance from the young and overtime the ache will go. Although I doubt your patron will allow that. Fajahromo is really so cunning…”
My mind reeled. I could hear Gerangi speak in more detail as to how cunning Fajahromo is, and how smart, and how dumb they had been to underestimate it, but I could not listen anymore. “Why?” the question came out of me, as if forced from the image of the young uspec in the back of my mind. My offspring. “Why?” I asked again.
“It is genius! That’s why. Fajahromo wants a kun of five, but to do that it must make a kun of four. It has now created a kun crossbreed of sorrow and fear, your offspring, and it has one already of anger and pain, you. Why? Because you are the greatest fighter in the pits. The only way that a young, untrained uspec can kill you, is if you cannot kill it. Fajahromo has in essence killed you already. In the coming weeks, before the bond wanes, you will find yourself in the hatch, facing your offspring. And the bond you feel will confine you, it will keep you from harming it, from fighting it. But the uspec does not share your bond and so it will kill you without blinking. And then Fajahromo will send in another fighter from the pits, one with training and no bond to the young. One without fear or sorrow for the kun to manipulate. That fighter will kill your offspring and become a progenitor of a kun of four, created from the dead corpses of you and your offspring. That my friend, is Fajahromo’s cunning.”
I became afraid. The fear took over me. I had to force myself to be still, to keep from shaking. How well Fajahromo had planned it all. The detail, the way it had manipulated me. And now, now I had an offspring to protect. A young innocent uspec who existed as a result of me, and one that I was bound to. I had to protect it. There was only one thing I needed to know. “How do I stop it?”
Gerangi shrugged as if the answer should be evident. “You have two options. The first and safest for you and your offspring, is to kill Fajahromo. While Fajahromo lives, you will never be free of it. But if you cannot find a way to kill it, then find a way to release me from this cell. I will take you out of the pits and we will get as far away from Fajahromo as we can.”
“With my offspring.” I added.
“Naturally.” Gerangi said. There was something about its tone that made me suspicious.
“I will not leave here without it.” I warned.
“Of course.” Gerangi replied, but the spec of insincerity remained in its tone. I couldn’t quite tell if it was doubt I heard in its voice, or placation, as if it only agreed with me to soothe me.
I rose, pushing myself off the floor. “Gratitude pious one.” I said, then I left, walking out of the cell with a new resolve. I could still feel the grief, the sense of loss, but it was buried by the new determination I felt. I would set my offspring free from the pits or I would die trying.
I walked through paths that had somehow become familiar, knowing when to turn left and exit the fighters’ quarters, moving towards the wardens’ space. As I walked by, I got nods that bore more resemblance to bows than greetings, from wardens passing by. These wardens were actually wardens, not like me. I was…how did Gerangi put it…a living offer, set to die in the hatch. I shook that thought out of my mind and kept walking, veering off the path that would have led to my rooms and going instead to the pious ones’ quarters. I did not even hesitate when I got to the large wall of fog. I knew my key would work here and so I inserted the key, putting the baton into the fog and walked through.
It wasn’t until I was standing in the empty space, staring at the imps who stood by the door and the other walls of fog, that I realized why I had come. I had come to see my offspring.
I turned to the fog barrier the one which blocked the entryway to the hatch, and I put my baton into it. I expected entrance into this as well, and so, I did not stop to contemplate before taking a step towards it.
But I was cut short by the pain.
I turned, my head snapping to the right, and a new imp had joined the four standing there. It was an imp young. Not just any, but the imp young who had begged me to release the other imp during the slaughter of the old wardens. The imp held a small bowl filled with pink liquid, and it poured the liquid into the buckets on the ground.
“Come.” I commanded, snapping my fingers at the young. The imp stopped. It took a step back, its eyes widening as it bent its head backward to look up at my face and then it shook its head. It looked as if it would run. I didn’t give it the chance. I walked towards it and grabbed it by the arms, keeping it from moving. The bowl it had held fell to the floor, and I saw tears well up in its eyes. The tears were enough to irritate me, but the pain I felt coming from it stopped me from acting on my irritation.
There was something about the pain it felt. It was beautiful, awing. The pain seemed to vibrate with an energy that was both mesmerizing and terrible to feel. There was an innocence to the pain, one that I was not immune to. I released the imp and was shocked at the softness of my voice when I spoke to it. “I mean you no harm.” I promised.
The imp’s bottom lip went into its mouth. It looked down at the ground, sniffed, and then it nodded. It seemed to square its shoulders before looking up at me. I knelt on one knee in front of it, lowering myself so that I could look it in the eye. That brought a smile from the imp young, and I found myself smiling a little too. The pain did not fully subside, but it remained in the way my lifeforce did. Like an innate presence, one that was not an indication of the imp being in pain.
“I am looking for Xavier.” I said to the imp, my voice still soft and gentle. I did not know that I could sound like this, or why this imp made me feel as I did. But I knew the pain it carried, and I knew it had an effect on me.
“I do not know who you mean.” The imp said, and then it looked away. Its small eyes caught mine, held them, and then it looked away, as if it was trying to send me a message.
“Nebud!” A voice snapped.
I rose to my feet and found the pious one who’d brought me to the hatch standing behind me.
“What is the meaning of this?” it demanded.
I frowned. “I came to see the uspec, the one Fajahromo asked me to take charge of.” I turned to the wall of fog then and noticed that it had not cleared. It was still opaque, a sign that I did not have access and that if I had entered, I would be dead. “What is the meaning of this?” I gestured to the fog. “You told me I have access.”
The pious one sighed. “The uspec is still too young for you to train. When it is ready to learn how to fight, I will summon you. Till then, do not come back here.”
I clenched my jaw and nodded curtly. As I walked out of the pious ones’ quarters, I wondered how much of what it had told me was true. Knowing all I did now, I doubted that Fajahromo ever wanted me to teach the young uspec how to fight. I was beginning to suspect that Fajahromo would not want me to have any interaction with my offspring at all. It wouldn’t want to risk the chance of a bond forming between us.
I stormed away, my mood so foul with anger that I almost walked over the little imp. It was the feeling of its pain that stopped me. I bent to my knee again and regarded it.
“I will tell Xavier you wish to see him. If he wants to see you, he will find you. That is the best I can do domina.” The imp whispered.
I nodded and the imp ran away.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:49am On Apr 27, 2019|
I know that this is a pretty complex one, so I just want to get a feel on if anyone is with me so far, like does anyone understand this? Or is it all too crazy?
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Tuhndhay(m): 6:35am On Apr 27, 2019|
Even your thinking is complex, I meant your thought pattern so I guess that answers the first question but I do quite understand it....
ObehiD I hope you won't mind a bottle of wine in person while we talk about you and your writings.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by OluwabuqqyYOLO(m): 6:57am On Apr 27, 2019|
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by OluwabuqqyYOLO(m): 6:57am On Apr 27, 2019|
obehiD:Are you kidding me?! This is, by far, the best story I've read this year. An incomprehensible story cannot be as excellent as this is. You are very, very good, my dear.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:19am On Apr 27, 2019|
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:26am On Apr 27, 2019|
Moyenii:my sister it was taking too long naw, it seemed like she went though
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:19am On Apr 30, 2019|
@Tuhndhay Thanks for the feedback, I'm happy that it's understandable. And I never pass up an opportunity to talk about my writing lol just email me
@OluwabuqqyYOLO wow, thanks! I'm glad you like it. Honestly, it's been kind of hard to gauge how well I'm doing with getting the main points of this story across, just because of how different it is. It's good to know that I'm not doing too badly.
Thanks again for the feedback guys, I really appreciate it
Lol @Fazemood, but you're forgetting that I don't have ancestry blood, so even if I wanted to go for the omugwo, I wouldn't be able to enter the spectral existence (at least not in my umani lifetime )
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 8:22pm On Apr 30, 2019|
but your are Obehid, the creator of all things spectral. The maker of the marked and the ancestry. The curator and designer of the spectral realm, These uspecs worship you their maker the all powerful Obehid. The decider of Osazele's and her mates fates and that of Nebud's. How then can you say that you can't go for Nebud's omugwo? just say you wan do guy I will understand.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:29am On May 01, 2019|
LOL!!! This is just too funny! hahaha.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:30am On May 01, 2019|
Three days passed and there was no sign of the imp Xavier. I watched for it whenever I walked down the sludge hallways, and listened for it, when I stepped into dark corners, but it did not show up. I was beginning to wonder if it ever would, and the thoughts vexed me. It irritated me to have an imp take up so much of my thoughts. And with each delay, I found my mood towards the imp Xavier grow darker. At this point in time, as I stood in front of the heavily embroidered curtains, I wasn’t certain what I would do if Xavier ever appeared. Would I demand that it remove the fog locking Gerangi in its cell, or would I simply snap the imp’s neck? I knew snapping its neck would be futile since it could not die, but the thought of punishing the imp for its tardiness brought me comfort.
The curtains fluttered and I remembered where I was, and why I stood there. I took a deep breath and pushed the curtains aside. Then I walked into the same room I’d met Fajahromo in the last time we spoke.
Fajahromo sat on the opposite side of the long table. It had a plate filled with food in front of it. Beside the plate there was a saucer, and on that saucer a large yellow fruit and a small dagger. Its imp Kyrie stood to the right of its chair, pouring from the decanter in its hands, into the cup by Fajahromo’s plate. There were also two guards standing dutifully behind it.
Fajahromo smiled when it saw me. It leaned back, pushing away from the table and the food on it, and lifted its right arm. Bending its fingers, it gestured for me to come closer and pointed at the chair to its right.
As I walked towards it, I noticed that it was not dressed as formally as it had been the last time we spoke. It did not wear the robe with the jeweled fastenings. It only had on the upper garment which hid its chest spikes.
“Leave us.” Fajahromo ordered.
The guards left.
I stopped by the empty chair and my eye caught on the dagger in Fajahromo’s saucer. I stared at that dagger, unable to tear my eye away from it. The dagger had a black rubber grip and a long red stained cyan blade. The blade was died red along the cutting edge and had additional streams of red running across it, in a way that made it appear as if it was bloodstained. I looked at the simple dagger and imagined how easy it would be to pick it up and bury it in Fajahromo’s throat. In one single act, all of my troubles would be gone. My offspring would be safe, and I would be reunited with it. I would be able to care for it, to train it, to deepen my bond with it, and watch its with me grow. One act and Fajahromo would be dead.
“Fine blade is it not?” Fajahromo’s voice was calm. It broke my focus on the blade and I lifted my gaze to its. The corner of its lip was tipped up as it stared at me, all seven of its eyes taunting me. I was sure it knew what I was thinking then, and that it was daring me to do it.
I picked the dagger up and Kyrie gasped. The decanter fell noisily from its hands, filling the air with a loud thud as it made contact with the ground. The liquid spilled, and I felt drops of it fall against my skin, but I was too busy holding Fajahromo’s gaze to look away. Fajahromo’s face remained the same. It did not blink, did not look away, did not make even the slightest gesture to hint that it was afraid. It just continued to mock me with its teasing stare.
And so I bent towards it, the dagger held secure in my right hand as I approached the uspec’s neck.
“It is not your friend. It will turn on you just as it turned on its own line. When you are no longer useful you will find yourself where I am, begging an enemy for death.”
Maxad’s words rose again, unbidden in my mind. It was as if the words were haunting me. They never left my mind. And every time they came to the front of my thoughts, a fear rose in me. It was a fear that reminded me how cunning Fajahromo was. It was one which whispered of spectra, the magic in the eyes Fajahromo possessed. Then I remembered it had the fogs.
I straightened, clearing my throat as I did. Then I ran my fingers over the fine blade. I could tell from studying the texture of it that it had been made from hooni scales. I put the blade down, back onto the saucer it had rested on.
“Very fine.” I said, finally, meeting Fajahromo’s eyes. “Salutations grand one.”
Fajahromo laughed. It laughed for so long and so hard that it took all my self-control not to pick the dagger back up and shove it into its laughing mouth. With each guffaw released, I could tell that it was mocking me, showing me for a coward, teasing the fear which somehow made me weaker in this uspec’s presence. No other uspec could affect me like this.
Then Fajahromo sobered. Its eyes levelled on me as it blinked, clearing away the remnants of the taunting laugh. “Much changed but still the same, eh my friend?” it chuckled. “Sit Nebud.” It pointed to the empty chair, and this time I sat.
A few of Fajahromo’s eyes turned to regard Kyrie, while the rest remained fixed on me. “Clean that mess up.” It snapped at the imp.
Kyrie bowed and then it fell on its knees and crawled towards the spilled liquid.
I took my gaze back to Fajahromo, wondering if it would mention the blade again, or perhaps ask me what I had intended to do with it. Fajahromo didn’t. It simply picked up the blade and used it to cut into the large fruit on its saucer. Then it stabbed the pointed tip of the blade into the cut piece and offered it to me. I shook my head. Fajahromo shrugged and turned the blade away, using it to hold up the sliver of fruit as it bit into it. I sat still, watching in silence as Fajahromo ate the piece of fruit. It took slow measured bites, as it continued to study me with its eyes. Then it put the blade back on the saucer and smiled.
“You did well my friend, I am pleased with you.” It said.
I clenched my jaw and fought the urge to tell it what I thought of its pleasure. This uspec had forced me to birth an offspring and had then seen that the young was snatched away from me before it could know what I was to it. With each day, the grief I felt about that loss dampened, and I felt even more sorrow from that. It pained me to know that I could lose the bond I had with my offspring, that time and distance could steal it from me. But as much as I wanted to lash out at Fajahromo, I could not, not now, not when there was so much at stake if I failed.
“Have you heard of the plenum?” it asked.
I shook my head.
Fajahromo chuckled. “The mighty irira, but still de trop.” It teased, picking up its cup and taking a sip of the drink in it. It put the cup down before continuing to speak. “The plenum is the future. It is a body of five elected Kaisers that will one day rule over the spectral existence. Each spectrum is represented in the plenum, each spectrum gets one seat. Now, in its current state, the spectral existence is chaos. Every port is run by its own Kaiser, and every Kaiser makes up its own rules, and this was all done in the name of the founder, Chuspecip. You see my friend, Chuspecip let the uspecs believe that being a Kaiser was a gift of blood, and now anyone not of the line of Kaisers cannot rule. They must be Custodians, guarding the port until Chuspecip selects another noble line to exult to the line of Kaisers. Well no more. The founder is gone, and the plenum is rising to take its place. They will rule and I desire a vacancy in the plenum.” Fajahromo paused to take another sip of wine. “And you will get it for me.” It pronounced as it pinned me with its gaze.
I was speechless. What did Fajahromo want of me now? What it spoke of was a sacrilege. To say that Chuspecip was gone and that another could take its place was blasphemous. Chuspecip was the deity, the founder of the spectral existence. We uspecs survived by its benevolent rule. It was a kind founder, everyone knew that. But Fajahromo supported the plenum, transgressors trying to usurp the founder’s position, and it expected me to get it a vacancy. “How?” I asked.
Fajahromo looked at me as if I was an idiot, as if the question I asked was the single most stupid one it had ever heard. And then the look faded and Fajahromo smiled. “By killing one of them of course.” It said. “The plenum only meets in sacred places, and since the Kaiser of Hakute is such a big supporter, they will meet here, in the birthplace of Hakute, tomorrow. I have arranged for you to be given access to the suite where they will meet. A pious one will detain one of the Kaisers in the plenum. That will be the one I want you to kill. And you will kill it.” Fajahromo’s concluding words were not a question.
And so I did not bother pretending as if they were.
After that Fajahromo spent some more time talking about the plenum and the great plans it had to become Custodian of Hakute, and then after the plenum assumed full rule, to become Kaiser. I listened to Fajahromo’s babbling with one ear, and the words registered in a part of my mind. But the rest of my conscious thought was spared for puzzling over the escape. It was clear now that I couldn’t kill Fajahromo. It had spectra, and for some reason, I was afraid of it. Which left running. I had to get Gerangi out of its cell.
That was the only way. My entire plan hinged on an imp deciding that it wanted to see me. It was foolish, and precarious, and almost surely destined to fail. But it was all I had.
“Where is your mind?”
Fajahromo’s question pulled my attention back to the room. I shook my head. “Nowhere grand one.” I lied.
Fajahromo’s features chilled. It stared coldly at me, as if my answer had offended it, then it snapped its fingers. “You may leave my friend.” Its tone shocked me, freezing me for a few seconds, but then I did as it asked. I stood up from the chair and I walked out of the room.
I spent the next hour pacing. The first few times I went there, I told myself that I was looking for the imp young. I was convinced that I only went there to try to find the imp I had encountered and get it to send yet another message to Xavier, to impress upon the imp how urgent my business was. But the truth was I went for my offspring. I wondered how much it had learned and who taught it. Could it walk steadily without tripping as it had in the hatch? What did it look like underneath all that red? Did it smile? Was it troubled? Had it discovered its emotions already? Would the pious ones try to force the magic of emotions out of it? Had it met Fajahromo? Question after question swamped my mind, and it annoyed me that I had no response for myself.
But I kept going back. I took longer loops, taking the scenic route. It had gotten to the point that I was going from the wardens’ quarters to the pious ones’ through the fighters’ living space. It was even more ridiculous when you considered the fact that the fighters’ living space was out of the way. I would have to go back to the wardens’ space to get to the pious ones’, but I needed the physical exertion to quiet my mind, and so I didn’t question my feet.
I found myself walking along the edges of the empty space in the fighters’ quarters, where the paths to the other rooms diverted from. I only had to look down the walkway to my left to see the walls which were not really walls. The ones that had led me to the fighting on the day that Fajahromo took over the pits. Gerangi was locked in a fog cell behind that false wall.
I felt something foul.
I could only feel traces of it radiating from the cleaning room. I could not tell what it was, but I was drawn to it, and so like a beast following a scent, I hunted it. I walked down the path which led to the cleaning room, and the closer I got, the more intense the feeling grew. It wasn’t till I stopped in front of the drawn curtains that I recognized what it was. It was pain. It was pain like nothing I had ever felt before.
I felt myself growing angry just from the feeling.
I shoved the curtains aside and stomped into the room. The sight that greeted me was not particularly cruel. An uspec fighter stood in the middle of the okun pool and had an imp’s head held underneath the surface of the liquid. Normally, I would not care. I would turn around and leave the uspec to deal with the imp as it saw fit. But this was not a normal imp. It was an imp young. It had that pain that I was coming to associate with the imp young. It was a pain that, when unaroused, vibrated with a beautiful type of energy. Feeling the dormant energy of an imp young’s pain was like basking in the reveal of the greatest artist’s masterpiece. It was like experiencing a level of brilliance which mere words could not describe. But when that pain was aroused, as it was now, that beauty was molested. It was tarnished, and it felt foul.
“That’s enough!” I snapped at the uspec in the pool.
The uspec did not even look at me.
With a growl, I jumped into the pool and forced the uspec back with a blow to its head. The uspec let go of the imp and the young imp scrambled out of the pool. It knelt on the ground by the pool and it wept.
The uspec took a swing at me. I side stepped, and then grasped the uspec by the back of its neck and punched it enough times to break its nose. Then I pushed it back.
The uspec looked ready to fight back and then its hand froze in midair. “Irira.” It said my name with awe, as if I was a myth, one it couldn’t believe it was seeing. “Apologies.” It said. “I did not know it was you.”
I just shook my head at it. How could I explain that I did not even know why I stopped it? I had done much worse to insolent imps. It owed me no apologies.
I climbed out of the okun and walked towards the crying imp. Its tears did not stop and so the taint in its pain remained. I found myself dropping to my knee in front of this imp. And as I quested out with my pain to reach the imp’s, I marveled at my own actions. I was Nebud, why did I care so much for the pain of an imp young? I exhausted the imp’s pain. It screamed out, letting out a loud shrill cry, and then the weeping stopped, and the foulness was gone. The vibrant energy in the pain had returned, and it was untainted.
The imp looked up at me. “Thank you domina.” It said. And then it stood and left. I watched the imp go, trailing it with my eye. But when my eye got to the curtains, I froze. There was another imp standing there. The imp was tall and lean. It had none of its eyes and its exposed skin was streaked. I did not recognize the imp, but I recognized its coat.
It was Xavier’s.
It stood at the curtains observing me and I stayed as I was, on my knee, doubting my own luck. Had I really found Xavier?
Then the imp turned around. It turned and the bottom end of its expensive coat rubbed against the sludge ground as it made to walk away. I came back to my senses then and jumped to my feet. I ran towards the curtains, but by the time I got there the imp was gone.
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