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The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) - Literature (35) - Nairaland

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 12:42pm On Feb 11

Obehid what about me na u should have named the bear Ayshow naaaa

grin grin
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:05am On Feb 12
@olite93 thank you, although the last update was one of the longer ones I've posted

@eROCK247 thanks, I agree, Nebud should hear Musa out..maybe it will

@Fazemood I told you I was naming a character after you wink

@Tuhndhay You are right about the secret keeping on both sides...Nebud should think about it

@ayshow6102 lol ayshow is a strange name for a bear though, hahaha

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:14am On Feb 12
Part 23

Can a presence be felt? Surely, I thought, it must be possible, because I felt Musa’s presence like a foul odor clinging stubbornly to me. I felt its presence trailing behind me as I made the slow march towards the Mausoleum. How badly I wished for a portal. I was starving. I’d refused to eat the food the imps served me, and now my stomach ached as a result. Not that I would change a thing if I had to redo it. For all I knew, there’d been poison in that seemingly innocuous meal. I couldn’t help dreaming of a bath. A nice bath in a large cleaning room with okun ponds containing bath salts. If only the closest portal wasn’t behind the gates of Cormeum. I wasn’t foolish enough to risk returning. There were bound to be more portals in the Terminal vacuous chamber, but the walk to the entrance of that chamber was just as far as that to the border of the Mausoleum.

Of course, I could ride Marc. That was what I would have done if it was just me and Musa. Perhaps I would get lucky and ride too fast for Musa to keep up. From what I knew, it didn’t have siphoned spectra, but seeing as it was a liar, I could not count on anything I thought I knew about the imp. It was a moot point anyway, I had an uspec guest, and it would be rude to ride while it walked beside me. We could ride together, but I was not keen on having one with pansophy at my back. Though I had no proof of the uspec’s ability to use that magic, I did not doubt it. All the uspec guards entrusted with guarding the permafrost elders had pansophy.

It was as if the uspec could sense that it had become the subject of my thoughts, because it turned to face me then. Its lips quirked in a smile and it bowed slightly to me. “Where do we go, sirga?” it asked.

“I am Nebud.” I replied. “And we go to Lahooni.” I shook my head. “I go to Lahooni, you are free to go wherever you please.” It was odd to say those words and feel bound by them as I had not in Nefastu. But I was bound by them. I could feel the return of that weight in my head, I could feel it there reminding me that I belonged to it, that I had to go to Lahooni. It had been absent in Nefastu, and I wished I knew why.

The uspec gaped at me. Then it threw up its hands and exploded with a cry of jubilation. The display drew the attention of uspecs riding in a hail canoe past us. Fabiana did not seem to mind though.

“I knew the moment you started talking that you were godsent, the answer to my prayers, a blessing from Chuspecip. But now, now I know for certain. How else would you come to be going to the very same place I seek? Lahooni is the land of my birth sirga. It is the land I have ached so desperately for.”

“What a coincidence.” I smiled back at the uspec’s joy-filled face.

“No coincidence, sirga, Chuspecip’s blessing.”

I gritted my teeth. I was being accompanied by an Uspecipyte, a staunch one by the sound of it. Did this uspec not know that it was in the middle of a Kuworyte port? Did it not know that there were those who would slaughter it for the faith it showed?

“Tiyoseriwosin, sirga?” Fabiana asked.

I glared at it. In all the time that I had heard the question asked, I had never heard it asked as Fabiana did. The question was not asked as a test, or an accusation. It was not asked with glee or fear, only a calm acceptance. I was with a religious uspec, one who actually wanted to know what god I served so that it may better understand me. I could tell, simply from the way it asked the question. Whatever answer I gave would please it, except, perhaps, for the answer I was going to give. I felt no need to lie.

“I serve no god, unless and until it is expedient to do so. Then I am Uspecipyte or Kuworyte, whichever keeps me alive.” I replied. The words came out harsh and callous.

But Fabiana smiled as if thrilled by my answer. “An unbeliever. Have no fear, Chuspecip cares for us all.”

So many rants came to my mind. Rants about Chuspecip’s weakness. The founder. The great founder that I had been taught to revere in the slums, to fear even. That founder, the supposed greatest uspec to ever live, the only immortal uspec, was being chased by the plenum. It was nothing, it had no power. I thought of my own desperate prayer to Chuspecip. I had prayed in the moment that Musa had been bitten by the samu, prayed that Chuspecip would let it live. I had sworn everything to Chuspecip if it granted my prayer. I laughed at myself now. Musa lived but I would care just as little if it was dead. At least, if it was gone, sapped, it would not now be trailing me.

“How did you come to serve the imps in Permafrost?” The words were cold and unfriendly, and cast in an accusing tone. This uspec had saved me. It had been the only one willing to defy the elders and announce to the room that Musa lived. Not even Monica, who’d seemed so desperate to help me, had been willing to do that much. I blamed my callousness on my own feelings. My feelings on Chuspecip, our weak founder, allowing the plenum to overpower it, allowing the imps to pollute Nefastu and make it grounds that another existence could invade through. And then there was Musa, and the betrayal that I felt whenever I thought of it. I did not want it with me, I did not want it anywhere near me, but I could not force it to leave.

For a few seconds I contemplated making a detour to the Terminal Vacuous Chamber and buying a whip. If I was mean to it, if I hurt it, it would leave. It had to. I could drive it away with pain. It had no fear of me. I thought of the imps that I had hurt in the past. The pain I had caused, I had done with my own hands. Not Musa though, I wouldn’t touch one with pansophy. It would have to be a whip. Or maybe my cutlass. Maybe I could just cut its head off. That would send it back to its people. So why didn’t I? I could trick it into thinking I had forgiven it, so that it would reveal itself, then I could behead it.

Even with my hurt, I could not. I could not do that to Musa. Maybe that was what I hated most, that the imp had gained such a hold on me that I could not lash out at it, as I could at any other. I hated it, I hated it for the feelings it inspired in me, for the trust we’d shared which was now gone, for the truths I knew. I hated it more than I’d hated anything else. More even than I hated Fajahromo. But I could kill Fajahromo. Musa I could not bring myself to hurt. And that made me hate it even more.

“Sirga?” Fabiana stood on the other side of Marc. It was leaning close now and staring at me with worry in its eyes and features.

I had to blink to bring the world back into focus. “Why will you not call me Nebud?”

The uspec smiled at me. “It does not feel like I ought to.”

“Because I wear these banneret cloths?” I asked. In that, I probably gave myself away. I should have said, because I am a banneret, but I was drawn, mentally exhausted, and tired of lies.

It shook its head. “I don’t know why sirga, I just see something in you. An aura around you. I do not know how, but I can tell that you are the greatest uspec that I have ever met.”

Its words made me frown. The greatest uspec it had ever met? I almost laughed at that. It must not have met a great many uspecs. I’d not met that many uspecs, but I had already met several who were greater than I was. Marcinus, for one. Maraci, its progenitor. And then there was Arexon. I think that if I had to pick, I would say that Arexon was the greatest uspec I had ever met. There was no one like Arexon, no fighter greater, no magician more skilled. That was the definition of greatness. Not me. Arexon at least was smart to feel nothing for imps. What kindness it did to them, it did for the sake of the uspecs they were bound to. Not me, what I did for Musa, I did solely for the imp’s sake. More fool I.

And then it hit me. Fabiana said that it was from Lahooni. As soon as I remembered this, I coughed loudly. Could it sense who I was? Could it see the blood of my line in my veins? Would all uspecs in Lahooni be able to see it as soon as I entered? I had thought of Lahooni as nothing but an assignment from the moment that the voice in my head named it. Now I remembered what else it was. I remembered that by right, it belonged to the heir to Lahooni, to Calam’s heir, Calami’s offspring. Cala. Nebud. Would I ever be able to reconcile both? The uspec I was and the uspec I was born to be?

I turned to Fabiana. “You never did tell me how you came to be in Permafrost.”

Fabiana chuckled. “I began telling you, sirga, but your mind drifted. I will start again.”

And it did.

Its tale was not one I had expected. It was born noble in Lahooni, not just any noble, but a majestic, like Fajahromo. Fabiana was the first offspring of the great Fabian, duke of the first metropolis of Lahooni. It outranked me, in the role I claimed to be. So why did it keep calling me sirga? Salin, was Fabian’s younger sibling. While Fabian and its other siblings had clung to Chuspecip and the Uspecipyte ways, Salin had broken off, and joined the plenum. Salin was Custodian now, and Fabiana’s progenitor, Fabian, was forced to serve it. Things had been strange in Lahooni when Fabiana left. There was no march of soldiers on the streets, but any uspec heard insulting the plenum, or Salin, was sure to be found dead the next day. To the rest of the world, Lahooni was still an Uspecipyte port, but to those within, it walked a tight line. All knew that the inquisition would come. When the plenum had conquered every other Uspecipyte port, and had no more use for the charade of Lahooni as Uspecipyte, then it would purge the port of all Uspecipytes. It was not so far off, Fabiana thought. But there would be a great many dead, because the blood lines of Lahooni were deeply rooted to Chuspecip. They could no more claim to be Kuworyte than they could claim to be imps. It was just not them. They had served Calam’s line for too long.

I learnt from Fabiana that Calam had been adored. It had learned from its progenitor that the nobles would have gladly given their lives to save Calam’s. But none of them had known the treachery being planned within their port. They had grown confident in their security, and so they had not seen the plenum corrupting uspecs like Salin. The nobles had let their guards down, allowing the plenum to create a band of Lahooni nobles loyal to them. By the time the nobles realized the extent of their mistake, it was too late, Calam and its heir were dead, and Salin was the Custodian of Lahooni. The plenum took a strong hold of the port and killed any protesters. There had been no inquisition as of yet, the plenum still allowed the nobles to remain Uspecipyte because it gave a modicum of truth to the lie that Lahooni was still an Uspecipyte port. Fabiana was sure that there was more, ways that the plenum used this against other Uspecipyte ports, but it could not say how.

“You say they mourned Calam’s heir, but from what I’ve heard, Calam’s heir was an irira who the nobles refused to have lead them.” I asked.

Fabiana sighed. “The nobles, my own mater included, are set in their ways. They did not much object to the irira itself, as our Lord and Master, Chuspecip, is itself irira, it is the allegiances. Our irira was a kun, an irirakun, with emotions, another thing to take solace in. But the fact that it was kun, also meant that it could not be clear who had the right to claim it as offspring. Calami’s offspring was also the offspring of a Hakute imperial. It was connected to both lines. If Calami had lived, then the offspring would have belonged solely to Calami. It did not, and so the offspring’s heritage was mixed, of two royal lines. Who could say that the Kaiser of Hakute would not seek to claim our heir? Who could say that our heir would not favor its kute lines? And Hakute is Kuworyte, as it has always been. An uspec torn between two spectrums, between two religions, that is what the heir was. That is why the nobles were not so keen to take it. Calam could have had another offspring, a pure hooni uspec, that is what the nobles wanted. Calam refused and the nobles were offended. But they would have come around, even Calam must have known that. No Lahooni noble could have resisted Calam for long. Calam would have raised its heir with loyalty to Lahooni alone, with love for Chuspecip, with worship of the Uspecipyte ways. Calam would have raised an heir every Lahooni uspec would be proud to bow to. My mater told me that. But the nobles had to protest, they just had to. Do you understand?”

I shook my head. I did not understand at all. “If Calami won, the uspec would still have been kute, still have been undesirable. So, it did not matter that it was irira, did it?”

Fabiana shrugged. “Politics. An irirakun, raised by Calam, trained by Calam, the nobles would have served. At least it would have had neck scales. A pure kute? I suppose, but it would have been harder for the nobles to stomach.”

I took my mind off that. It did not matter what would have happened if Calami hadn’t died in the hatch. “You are the first offspring of a duke, does that make you heir?”

It nodded. “Heir to the first metropolis of Lahooni.”

I should call you sirga.” I teased, and didn’t realize I was jesting with it, until the words came out.

Fabiana laughed. “Please don’t. I cannot do it. I have three siblings, and for our sakes, mater bows and scrapes to its younger sibling Salin. It jumps at the plenum’s orders and does what they command. I am more Uspecipyte than mater, more than anyone else in my line. If I inherit, I will be the destruction of my line, because I will never claim a religion I don’t believe in. I will never bow to the plenum over Chuspecip. Never.”

“Even if Chuspecip is gone?”

Fabiana rose pained eyes to mine. “Never. I am already prepared to die for my faith, sirga. It is a death that my time in Permafrost forced me to escape.”

“If you are so loyal to Chuspecip, how could you serve Sada?”

“I have never served any god save Chuspecip, and I have never claimed to.” Fabiana’s jaw had clenched. It loosened it then. “I was only a few months past my second birthday when Calam died. In the years before its death, it ordered all those of noble lines to send their offspring to the pious, to be tested for the ability to hold pansophy. It wanted all that were able to own the magic. I was one of the few who passed. Pansophy may run strong in the line of Kaisers, but it does not in the noble lines. Commoners are much more likely to have it. This is an equalizer, I think, Chuspecip’s way of given power to those not born to it. For some reason, the ability for pansophy ran strong in me. They even likened me to Animaton, Calam’s own apprentice. My line was honored, and I was sent for training by the pious. It was Calam’s rule that all nobles who were to be trained by the pious be trained by the order of Adjudication, our warrior priests. That way our training encompassed more than just pansophy, we were taught to fight too.

Calami itself would come to our order and fight with the pious and the nobles being trained. It was only my honor to fight with Calami once, on my second birthday. It was a gift from mater. Calami beat me soundly, of course it did, I barely knew how to hold a sword, but it said that I had potential and that it would train with me again, when I was older and stronger. It died before it could keep that promise.

Then five years ago, the magistrate of my order sent me to serve a two-year charity tour in Damejo. The charity tour is a requirement, a repayment of Chuspecip’s kindness to those less fortunate. I was sent to protect a Procreation base in a poor burg, and see that the rule of law was obeyed. I was not a pious, or even a novice, as my training had been that of a noble, not that of a pious, but it was close enough that I could still help. That is where the wrath of Sada found me. They had an arrangement with begetters there, using them to gift pansophy to those the wrath willed to own the magic. I tried to fight them off and found myself struck from behind. I woke in Permafrost.

My choices were, serve them, or die. I was weak then. They did not ask me to serve Sada, only to serve the imps. To train others in pansophy and fighting. It was not as much as they asked of others, and I was not yet willing to die for my pride. I justified it by saying that I was not serving any god but my own, and that in my own way, I was doing my charity tour, helping to protect imps who’d run away from cruel masters. It took years before they asked to siphon my spectra, before they taught me to withstand Nefastu’s curse. Then I was made a guard of one of their great elders. I learnt of the invasion then. They told me Chuspecip was dead, and that the plenum had won. Would I rather serve the plenum, the people that killed my god, or would I serve them? I was weak, and I wanted to live. I accepted their lies about Chuspecip, and in so doing, I betrayed my god. I never served Sada, never prayed to it. But I also stopped praying to Chuspecip. I withdrew into myself, and there was no light. Till one day I overheard a piece of gossip, that Chuspecip was not dead, that the plenum needed to destroy the last brio to destroy Chuspecip. And as of yet, the plenum has been unable to find it. I almost killed myself that day. The truth of my circumstances came to me, I had allowed myself to desert my god. But then I thought of how I would make it better. I thought of how I would find a way out, how I would dedicate my life to searching for the last brio. How I would protect it. That gave me life, a reason to live. No matter how hard I tried to gain their trust, they never gave me the key, they never allowed me to use my quicksand to leave.”
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:15am On Feb 12
That was news to me. So, there was a key associated with the quicksand that allowed teleportation out of Permafrost?

“Years passed and I prayed incessantly to Chuspecip. I prayed for salvation, for forgiveness, for a chance to redeem myself, but there was no hope. Then you came, and I just knew that you were my way out. I knew that I had to help you, I just knew it.”

I was bemused. What was I to say to a tale like that?

Then Fabiana laughed. “Now look, we are out and where are you headed, if not the very same place I sought to return to. Chuspecip is a powerful god, and if I fail in my mission, I will gladly die than live in a world where the plenum or Sada rules. You see why I cannot inherit?”

I nodded. I did see, I did understand. But I did not like what I saw, I did not like what I understood. Still, I could not help it, I liked this uspec, in the same uncomplicated way that I had liked Yakubo the first time we met.

Then we were there.

The Mausoleum loomed in front of us. I could clearly make out the main hall where I’d first seen Fajahromo, and then the stacks. The tall stacks rising proudly behind it. My room vault was in the tallest of those, the mansion. How much time had passed since I’d been in that room-vault? How I’d run out of it desperate to save Musa’s life. The thought annoyed me. I found myself marching towards the first portal I could find.

“Surely sirga,” Fabiana sounded both amused and alarmed, “you don’t mean to take the bear with you into the mausoleum?”

I frowned at it, and then I burst out laughing. “Would that be frowned on?” My gaze landed on the imps standing in front of the curtains that led to the portals. Those imps stared at Marc with wide sockets which told me that it would indeed be frowned on if I tried to take the animal within. My poor Marc. I did not want to leave it.

“Leave it with me sirga.” Fabiana said. “I will wait here for your return.”

Could I trust it? Of course, I knew I could. I didn’t know how, or why I was so convinced. I mean, the uspec could have made up its whole life’s tale, but why would it go through the effort for an uspec, a banneret it did not know? The only mark I had against this uspec was the fact that it was a majestic and it chose to call me sirga. I was obviously younger and lower ranked, so why would it affix me with the honorific? Unless it could sense that I was the heir. I stared at it, but nothing showed in those open eyes.

I nodded. “Beware, Marc’s tusks have had a taste for uspec blood.” I bent to lay my forehead against the bear, and then I whispered into its big ears that it was to kill Fabiana if the uspec tried to run away with it. I knew Fabiana wouldn’t and I knew Marc couldn’t understand me. I said it anyway and felt much better. “Gratitude.”

Fabiana smiled in return. I turned and made my way towards the portals. As I walked, I felt Musa’s silent, invisible, presence behind me every step of the way. I did not like it. I walked through curtains an imp held open for me, and stepped into a pool of quicksand. It sensed the key in me, sucked me in, and teleported me to the top floor of the mansion.

I walked to my room vault, placed my hand on the hard fog, and almost cried in relief when the room opened to me. I couldn’t say what it was, but there was something about being back here. It was as if the room solidified the notion that I had won, that I had come to Damejo, gotten my eye, and was leaving with my life intact. Yakubo had not been so fortunate though. All for Musa, whose presence I could still feel.

“Show yourself!” I snapped, once the fog hardened.

There was a pause, a moment or two when nothing happened. Then the imp revealed itself. It was standing by the door, in its fine black and white robe which declared it as the firstborn.

An awful rage took over me. I felt the hilt of my cutlass in my hand before I even knew that I meant to draw the sword. Then I was standing in front of Musa, the sharp end of my blade pressed against its neck. The imp did not flinch. Its head was bowed, as if in acceptance. Of course, it had nothing to worry about. It was immortal, I could cut off its head a million times and it would feel nothing but the pain of the loss, and the blindness. The rage left me, and I was left with a sense of sorrow so profound it hurt just to stare at the imp.

I returned my cutlass to its sheath and went about my business. There really wasn’t much to do. I hadn’t disturbed the coffer too much. The key was still in my belt. Just the thought of that key reminded me of how Musa had worn it. It had always worn the key to the coffer around its neck. And I had never had any reason to doubt it, I had never suspected that it was capable of lying to me.

“WHY!” I yelled. I didn’t think I was actually asking Musa a question, but when it didn’t reply I whirled around. “Why!” I asked in a more civilized tone.

Musa walked forward. It stopped a few paces in front of me and rose its head up to stare at me. “I could ask you the same thing.” It stated sadly.

I almost slapped it. Almost. “What is that supposed to mean?” I asked in a low voice.

“You are the heir to Lahooni. You are Calami’s offspring, you are the one that I have been searching for, and you knew it. You knew it! All the time I spent with you, all the time I spent talking to you about the heir I so desperately wanted to find. Why did you not tell me that it was you?” I heard the anger in Musa’s voice, the hurt, and I almost laughed.

“I bet you would have loved to know. How hard it must have been not knowing where your next funds for the upkeep of Permafrost would come from.” I stared down at it. “How did you find out? You finally used pansophy on me during our walk over, didn’t you? I’m only surprised you didn’t do it sooner.”

“I have never used pansophy to siphon your thoughts or memories, and I never will. I told you that. I found out from Fajahromo. I heard what it said. I followed you to Takabat’s room vault. I waited for some time after you left, and then I followed you. I heard Fajahromo’s tale. I should have known. It was always there, staring me in the face. You are an irirakun, just like the heir. You are of the same spectrums as the heir, and your feathers. No one but those of the line of the Kaisers of Lahooni have feathers like that. That was why I stopped in shock the first time I saw it. But I could not make the connection, I could not see how you could be the heir. Why didn’t you just tell me? Why?”

For a moment I felt shamed and saddened from the pain I heard so clearly in Musa’s voice. Then my resolve hardened. “I suppose for the same reason you felt the need to lie to me about the wrath, and about your true relationship to my line.”

“You hate imps and you hated Xavier. If I’d told you the truth, you would have sent me away. I did not know why then, but I knew that I did not want to leave you. Of course, it makes sense now, the bond I feel to you. All of a sudden, it all makes sense.”

“Why did you lie about my line?”

“I have never lied about your line. Why would I?”

“You are all lies Musa. Why didn’t you tell me that the only reason you stayed with my line was to steal from them? Your Permafrost elders told me everything, how you used the wealth of my line to build permafrost. Or do you deny it?”

Musa’s jaw clenched. It shook its head. “I do not.”

Three words had never been harder to hear.

“Yes, your line had wealth to spare and I used it to build a place for imps who had nowhere else to go. But I never stole! The first time I interacted with the imps in Nefastu, it was under the orders of a Kaiser in your line, the first Kaiser. It saw the imps, saw them shivering and freezing in the cold, starving, and their torment never ended because they could not die. Then it sent me to them, to find out why they were there. The tales of what their uspec masters had done to them! The tales of sufferings. Of whippings for no reason, of cutting off parts of their bodies simply because they knew they could not die. One stood in front of me, without a head, without arms, without feet. The cruelty! I went back and I told my master. It told me to bring them with me, to bring them with me to serve its line. I went back to the imps but they refused. They would not serve another uspec no matter how much I vouched for it. They did not know if they could trust me. I told my master that and it understood. It gave me pouches of worth and told me to help them. It gave me the money, so that I could make their lives better. And I did. My link to Permafrost was never a secret from the uspecs of your line. The first Kaiser had it written into tenets that it passed on, tenets that said that part of its wealth was to go to building and keeping Permafrost running well. Every Kaiser after knew of this and they did not begrudge me the wealth. They knew they would not miss it and that the imps needed it more than they did. Why do you think I never left, why I was content to remain a slave? I have never met kinder or more noble people. They asked for nothing in return, they just gave. If I could have told the imps, I saved, the truth, I would have. But their distrust for uspecs was so great that the first time I mentioned the food and provisions I brought came from uspecs, they refused to touch it. I laughed it off then, as a joke, and told them I’d stolen it. That was the only way they’d take the help.”

What an intriguing tale. “Am I supposed to believe that?”

Musa’s lips shook. “You are not what your ancestors were.”

I took a step back, shocked by the effect those few softly spoken words had on me. I turned around immediately. I did not want the imp to see that it had hurt me with those words. Of course, by now I knew that I was no Calam. I did not have its wisdom. And neither was I Calami. All who spoke of Calami did it with reverence, as if it had been an honor just to know it. I wondered how people spoke of me. I thought of Marcinus, of the broken uspec I’d left behind. I thought of Yakubo, the uspec who’d died for me. What did I ever do to earn loyalty of the kind they’d shown me?

I walked over to the coffer and bent to pick up the tag, the one the coffer was bound by memory too. I looked around the room. I had nothing else here, all my belongings where in that coffer or on me. I could not forestall it anymore, I turned to face Musa.

“If there is anything you would like to take with you, take it now.” I pulled the key out of my belt and tossed it onto the top of the hard fog covering the coffer. “This is where our journey ends.”

“I am sorry, I should not have said what I did. I was hurt that you would think that I would lie about something like that, and I lashed out. You are not what they were, but it is not your fault. Each Kaiser before you was raised knowing their place in society. They were taught, educated, but most of all, they were loved. Loved by their progenitor and sire, loved by the nobles who bowed to them, and loved by the imps who served them. If they were kind to imps, it is because that was the only life they knew. None of them had to live the life you had. I am sorry.”

“I do not care. I cannot have you with me anymore Musa. I don’t trust you.”

“Then I will earn back your trust. I swear master, I never stole from your line. I would never. I am no thief. Every happiness I’ve had in this lifetime, I’ve had from the uspecs of your line. They were family to me. I would never steal from them. They all knew of my link to Permafrost, and they gave willingly. I swear it.”

Something about Musa’s words raised a memory from Aurelion. It was the memory of Aaliyah’s tale. Chike and Calami had been taking Monica to Permafrost. And Monica had confirmed this. Calami had to have known of Permafrost then, and it must have found nothing wrong in taking an imp to it. Calami was linked to Permafrost. If Musa had been stealing to fund Permafrost, it would never have allowed Calami to learn about Permafrost. At least, I didn’t think so. Or was I just trying to make excuses for Musa. Did I want the imp with me that badly?

“And the invasion?” I asked. “Did Calam give its blessing for that? Because I doubt Calam would have, not when it created the samu for the purpose of defending uspecs from being overrun by imps.”

“Master Calam created the samu?” Musa was shocked.

“Yes.” I nodded. “Animaon told me that. You remember Animaon, the one you lied to me about knowing.”

Musa sighed. “Samu, Musa, it all makes sense now. It must have made me the cure. It named it after me. So like Master Calam. It would never make a poison without an antidote. No wonder the samu didn’t finish me. As soon as they gave me growth, I just pushed it out, like a fever. I could do the same for all imps bitten. Master Calam knew that it could trust me, that I would never try to harm uspecs.”

“But the invasion does just that, doesn’t it?” I almost cursed my sire then. Why did it make an imp have the cure? Now Musa would know how to cure others, and if the invasion happened, then any imp bitten could be cured. But how many imps could Musa cure? But what if the cure could be taught to others? I would make a better Samu. I swore it to myself. I would create a Samu that no imp could cure. Only I would have the cure.

“The invasion was only meant to create a world where imps and uspecs could live together. It was never my intention for imps to seek to control uspecs. I wanted equality, it is all I want. I did not tell master Calam, and you can fault me for that. I would have told it in time, I was never good at keeping secrets from it. But I didn’t know how to explain. And I’d only made the decision to allow the invasion a few months before master Calam was killed. I don’t want uspecs to bow to imps, but I don’t want imps bowing to uspecs either. Is that so wrong?”

“This existence belongs to us.” I snapped.

“But we didn’t ask to be brought here.” Musa replied. “We didn’t ask for this, it’s not our fault. We don’t deserve to be treated the way some of your kind treat us.”

I was tired of arguing, tired of trading words. “It is time for you to leave.”

“I cannot.”

“Go, Musa!”

“I will only remove my appearance and follow you. I swore to serve your line, it is an oath I mean to keep. You have so many enemies master. At least let me guide you till you return to power. When you reclaim your inheritance, if you wish to dismiss me, I will go. I swear it. But not till then. Please.”

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Madosky112(m): 3:04am On Feb 12
Musa. Samu,,, seems me and nebud think alike, already planning to create another weapon but musa is saying the truth . Obehid thanks
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by eROCK247(m): 6:46am On Feb 12
Well, no one can fault Musa now. If everything he is saying is true, he didn't do any wrong. Nebud should allow him to stay and continue teaching it. Musa can teach it pansophy right? It still has a lot to learn.

Calami gave birth to Calam who gave birth to Cala...what will Cala's offspring be called? Cal?

Saturdays and Wednesdays are slow to come by sha.

Good job obehiD...as always.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by ayshow6102(m): 6:39pm On Feb 14
Thanks for the update obehid please inform nehud to meet me in the laboratory so that we should create a viper that is capable of sapping imps to their sub-atoms because musa will clearly choose his kind against loyalty to nehud when the occasion arrises
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by dragonstar14: 7:36am On Feb 15
Good morning I hope there's no problem this morning
It seems the update is unusually late
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 9:39am On Feb 15
Rushed in here to see no update what happened obehid
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 10:06am On Feb 15
Obehid, the updates have been superb, I have been offline for this time. But the wonders I have read this morning since my last read have been superb, I must admit. With Musa and all.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cherriex(f): 10:12am On Feb 15
Weldon Obehid,the updates have been superb, thanks.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Madosky112(m): 11:37am On Feb 15
Still no update,hope all is well
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by ayshow6102(m): 11:45am On Feb 15
Seems obehid is still doing val

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:42pm On Feb 15
@Madosky112 yeah, I'm glad you got that name twist grin

@eROCK247 Actually Calam gave birth to Calami, so Cala can add more letters to the name for its offspring

@ayshow6102 it's really a viper for sapping imps

Sorry for the late update everyone. It's here finally!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:42pm On Feb 15
(A Spectral existence word which represents one of the five spectrums in the spectral existence. This word refers to the people of this spectrum, that is the uspecs of the Hooni spectrum who have neck scales as their distinctive feature. The uspecs in the Hooni spectrum are sometimes called quicksand people as they are so tightly bound to the quicksand in the spectral existence. As such, hooni eyes give an uspec the magic of quicksand, which allows them to use quicksand to teleport. The uspecs in the Hooni spectrum are bound to the anger emotion.)

Part 1
The First Metropolis of Lahooni (the spectral port which coincides with Lagos State, Nigeria)

Light fogs drifted towards me, embracing me with their warmth. I felt that warmth seeping into me. I breathed it in and let it fill me. It was an experience, the acceptance of fog. Never had I felt life about me as much as I did in that moment. The fogs suddenly seemed like old friends, desperate to whisper to me, to share suppressed memories. And I knew, without a shred of doubt, that if I was of the boga spectrum, with the ability to understand the fogs and the fear they spoke through, I would hear it, just as clearly as I heard the pain in lit okun. The sensations were odd, but I welcomed them. I especially welcomed the heat. It felt unbelievably good to be free of the constant chill of Damejo’s hail. Now I walked bare, without the hindrance of cloaks and footwear.

The ground underneath my feet was solid. It was not the soft embrace of clouds with form, or even the sticky wonder of sludge, it was just as it was, a hard ground that was somehow solid enough to walk on but not so sturdy that it gave any sort of discomfort. Its color was a telling shade of light brown, a brown so light that it could come from only one place.


And as that realization filled me, as it dawned on me that I was walking on hardened quicksand, I felt a burst of anger, and froze in my tracks.

I waited. Exactly what I waited for I could not say, surely not the anger, but I could not get myself to move. There was life in the quicksand. Of course all the souls of the spectrums had life, but this was life that was eager to share with me. It was not the okun which held itself away from me until I gifted it with my pain. It was a soul willing to give first.

A small smile crept onto my lips as a sudden thought filled and echoed within my mind.

I was home.

The fogs did not immediately burst into song to highlight this fact, neither did the quicksand send forth another generous wave of anger. Nothing shared life with me, nothing spoke to me, but I felt it nonetheless. I felt this port in my bones. I felt it in my soul, wherever my true essence lay. This was my home. At that moment I remembered the tale that Fabiana had told, of the uspecs who’d been worried that an irirakun’s loyalties would be divided between two ports. How wrong they’d been. I’d spent my entire life in Hakute, but I had never felt in Hakute what I felt here, in Lahooni.

The Lahooni hangar had led us to the trail we now walked on. It was obvious that this road had not been designed to be remarkable, yet there was a quiet beauty to it. The ground was nothing more than hardened quicksand, but the quicksand had been hardened to the perfect blend between comfort and sturdiness. And while the fogs were the same fogs as everywhere else in the existence, they were light and floated freely. They did not cling clammily to one, and they were not so thick that they could not be seen through. It was late in the day, around the time when the daylight dots began to mix with the red clouds, yet this mixture of celestial lights was somehow done in a way that rendered the time of day far more beautiful than the pure orange that came before and the red that was soon to follow. This, I decided, was well done. I wondered if the rest of the port would hold the same level of fascination.

“What do you think of my port, sirga?” Fabiana asked.

Sometime during our journey on the inter-port trail, the uspec’s adamant use of ‘sirga’ had turned from an honorific, to something of a nickname. We had spent long days on the trail, much longer than was necessary as the both of us could fly, but it was time well spent. I had thoroughly enjoyed Fabiana’s company. I did not know what it was that I found so endearing about the uspec, but I liked it, I liked it a lot.

“It is beautiful majestic.” I said in reply. ‘Majestic’ was my reply to Fabiana’s ‘sirga’. To the both of us, it was a special type of fun. Of course many who overheard could not understand why I called an uspec without a single golden armband majestic, but then they did not know Fabiana.

“And what do you think Musa?” Fabiana turned its beaming face to the imp standing beside it.

Sometime over the trip, Fabiana had made itself our mediator. Musa would not leave and there was nothing I could do to change the imp’s mind. My treacherous mind chose that moment to remind me how glad I’d been when the imp revealed itself on the inter-port trail. How I’d lagged behind, spending days on a trip that should have taken hours, simply because I could not feel the imp’s presence. How could I want it to leave so desperately, but feel relieved when it chose to stay? I still was not sure that I could trust the imp.

“It is very beautiful Fabiana.” Musa replied.

They had a different relationship, my friend and my imp. Fabiana insisted that Musa call it by its name. The uspec said that it would feel strange for the firstborn, whose picture it had spent so much time gazing at, to call it domina. I did not understand how an uspec could spend years forced to serve imps and still feel charitably towards the imp who had created the place that had held it captive.

As if suddenly desperate to announce its presence, Marc trumpeted. Drawn by cords of shared humor, the three of us turned to each other and laughed. My eyes met Musa’s empty socket while both of our faces were still contorted in laughter, and we froze. It was the first time since the samu bite that either of us had smiled at each other. I looked away, the laughter quickly fading from my lips.

Our previous bout of gaiety instantly fell into awkward silence.

I turned my mind to other things.

According to Fabiana, the road we walked on was called the commune. It was specifically designed with hardened quicksand to forbid the use of hooni magic for teleportation. The Kaisers of this port, my own line, I added as an afterthought, had designed this road to be walked. Fabiana, the devout believer that it was, was certain they did this so that all who walked into the port could fill the founder’s presence. It was the first thing Fabiana had asked when we stepped on it. “Do you feel the presence?” I burst out laughing of course, and Fabiana chuckled, now used to my pagan ways. But it did not miss the chance to scold me for my lack of faith, and to my surprise, I let it, and enjoyed it a little, although I would never admit that to Fabiana.

As I looked down on the empty road, the long street filled with nothing but vast lands of perfectly hardened quicksand and drifting fog, I was certain this was done for protection. The hangar to Lahooni was not as secure as I would have expected it to be. There were no thought bubbles as those in Katsoaru, and no soldiers like Chiboga. Few questions were asked, and all were let in. I wondered if this was done to give a sense of security, to show that the Kaisers of Lahooni were so secure in their power that they would invite their enemies in. If that was the case, then I was certain this ‘commune’ road had been designed to hide soldiers. Though the fog was light down the middle of the road, it got the thicker closer to the boundaries. Thick enough to hide battalions of soldiers.

And hardened quicksand. If I was in charge of the security, I would make sure that there was a layer of smog sand, the hooni equivalent to lit okun, underneath the hardened quicksand, so that I could drop my enemies into it. That would be a great defense. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I became inexplicably certain that there was indeed a vast pool of smog sand beneath my feet.

“I expected more soldiers.” I stated offhandedly.

“What’s the point? The plenum knows they have us, and they don’t really care to protect us. If Lahooni is invaded they’d happily see us fall. I think they’ve just about given up on finding Calam’s wealth.” Fabiana said the last part with a burst of pride. In the face of its pride, I could not help but feel pride at my sire’s cunning too.

“Calam was smart, was it not?” I longed then for the chance to have known my sire.

“It was a genius sirga, a true genius.” Fabiana replied wistfully.

I was wistful to. I turned my head then, just slightly, to the side. Why did I do it? Perhaps I’d known that Musa would be looking at me, studying me, with that pitying expression on its face. I suddenly felt unbelievably vulnerable. Glaring at the imp, for the feelings it raised in me, I turned my focus back to Fabiana.

“Surely we’ve communed enough with the road.”

Fabiana laughed. “The end is just a little bit further.”

Knowing Fabiana, a little bit further was more likely to mean a few more hours than a few more minutes. But there was nothing else to do, but walk. There were others with us, uspecs making the long walk both ways. Lahooni was special in this regard, it was the only port that did not have a portal that led to the hangar. All that wished to go had to pass through this same road. There were no stops along the way to make the journey more bearable. No kiosks selling sweetmeats or chilled drinks. No resting places with lounging beds for entertaining.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:43pm On Feb 15
I eyed the uspecs we shared the road with. Most of them were hooni. They wore the scales on their necks proudly, with their chins inched up in proud defiance. They were a proud people, the hoonis. I could tell. It could have been that I only saw what I wished to, but I saw it nonetheless. A kute tail caught my eye, but it did not hold my attention for long. Not when there was a scene forming.

It started as a whisper, a lone voice spitting out a caustic slur. It was not a word, nothing intelligible at least, the sound I heard could only be likened to a string of consonants strung together in no particular order. But after that one slur was cast, many answered. They began to pool closer towards me.

Instinctively my hand went to the hilt of my cutlass. I could not think of what I had done to cause these people, my people, harm, but whatever it was, I found myself hesitating, unwilling to harm them in response. Still they continued to pull towards me. Their hands rising in the air as they let out the caustic slur.

I felt their anger. I felt the spirit of it, and it was strong. It was stronger than anything that I had ever felt. These people brimmed with anger of a kind I could not describe. Indignation. I felt that in their anger, a lot of that. But there was also pain. There is anger that is a result of pain, and as one with the gift of both emotions, I am able to sense that anger keenly, and I felt it. I felt a twinge in that pain, the one that birthed the anger. It was the kind of pain I’d associate with grief over one wrongfully killed. The anger they felt was spurned from that. It was an anger they all felt.

Then, just before a lean hooni uspec came close enough that I’d feel the need to protect myself, another sound broke in. It was the sound of a horn, one of the sounds pre-programmed into landlocked canoes.

Fabiana let out the slur now.

“What is it?” I asked, my hand lifting from my cutlass now that I realized I was not the target of this collective rage.

Fabiana sighed, and I felt its anger leave, just as quickly as if it had been exhausted by one with the magic of emotions. “Disrespectful fools.”

“Hair of horns and a chest of iron,” it was a chant that started slowly, just as the shouts of the caustic slur had begun.

The answering, “Irira!” though, that was louder than anything I’d expected to here.

“Neck of scales and a skirt of tails, irira!
Not one but all, not weak but strong.
Say you, Tiyoseriwosin? Say I USPECIPYTE!”

Then suddenly, the canoe went up in flames, and the surrounding crowd erupted into a cheer of approval. The canoe had been one of the expensive ones, canoes with top coverings to shield its occupants from view. Now that covering came down as the uspecs tried to jump out of the burning vehicle. I was close enough to see that the canoe had only room for one within it, and one to steer it. The hooni uspecs surrounding it, reached within the flames to pull out the passenger.

It was tossed onto the floor a few paces in front of Marc’s front paws.

“Set the beast on it!” A voice shouted.

Immediately, hands reached for my bear, trying to control it, to get it to stump on the uspec. That uspec was trying desperately to crawl away, but the angry mob that had formed behind it prevented its escape. It stared with wide eyes at my bear. Wails sounded from the burning canoe. A quick glance at it showed that no one had bothered to pull the driver out.

Out of nowhere, hail appeared in the air to surround the burning canoe. It took some time, but whoever controlled the hail was able to use it to reverse the mejo magic that must have been used to start the inferno.

Marc trumpeted, pulling itself free from uspecs who’d reached for it. It rose onto its hind paws, and the uspec who’d been pulled out of the canoe was pushed forward, right where Marc could trample it when it set its foot back to the ground.

I leapt forward just as Marc began to descend. I was just barely able to pull the uspec away before it became the victim of Marc’s angst. Of course if Marc was to cause such harm to an uspec, the bear would be put down, and I could not let that happen.

The angry mob did not appreciate my interference.

Now their anger was solely focused on me.

“Stop!” I yelled at them. “I do not want to harm you!” I had never warned others, but these were hooni uspecs in Lahooni, something about spilling their blood on this road felt like profanity.

“Halt my friends!” Fabiana moved forward then. “In the name of our founder Chuspecip, and our lost Kaiser Calam, in whose memory you seek to cause harm, I implore you to stop.”

Fabiana’s words seemed to have caught them unawares because they stopped. Their anger was not abated, but they did not seem inclined to harm one of their own. I found that oddly ingratiating. Fabiana bent to a squat in front of the fallen uspec and extended its hand.

The uspec glared at Fabiana. “I despise Uspecipytes!” It spat out.

I groaned just as the mob’s anger rose to new heights. I would have to do something. I could exhaust their emotions, but I did not think that everyone would survive that single burst of anger. If I did not exhaust the emotions, then I would have to transfer it. To whom would I transfer such a wealth of emotions?

“Peace my friends.” Fabiana called out. “Peace. We are better than this, better than them. We who are recipients of the founder’s love, we who are inhabitants of its greatest gift to this port, we are better than this anger. We are Lahooni!” Fabiana yelled, and as it spoke, I felt the anger begin to ebb. “I say let the rest of the world fight. I say let the rest of the world squabble over petty jests. I say let the rest of the world kill themselves in uspecs name. We who are the founder’s best, we will not sink to their level. We who are the founder’s best, the inhabitants of its greatest gift to this port, we will rise above. We will not slaughter on sacred grounds, on the last place in Lahooni that the imperial Calami’s feet touched. We are Lahooni. We are better than the rest.”

There was silence. The uspec who’d been the target of the mobs rage rose slowly then, its eyes casting warily about it. Then, after zooming around without a target, the uspec turned its glare on Fabiana. “Who are you?” it asked.

Standing, it was easy to compare both uspecs. The uspec who’d been assaulted was hooni. It wore a light cyan robe with slits on the arms which showed it had four golden armbands on. It was either an imperial, or a duke. Still, with no armband on, Fabiana outshone the other. It was taller, bulkier and more composed. They both had all of their outer eyes filled, but neither seemed inclined to use magic just then.

“I am Lahooni.” Fabiana replied, its words filled with a fierce pride that led to an eruption of cheers from the mob. Gone was the anger I’d felt from them. Fabiana rose its hand and silence fell over them. “I am Lahooni,” it repeated, “and this is sacred grounds. No one rides a canoe on it. All who traverse it must do so on foot. That is the will of the line of Kaisers who built this road.”

“And why should the plenum be concerned with the will of dead Kaisers?” The uspec chose that moment to raise its hand. There, on one of its fingers, was the cyan ring of an uspec dedicated to the plenum.

The anger in the mob began to rise just as the whispers grew. Fabiana walked towards the uspec.

“Are you a fool?” it scolded. “While it may be known by the upper class uspecs that this port belongs to the plenum, I assure you, there are many commoners who believe in the lie you’ve sold. They are firmly Uspecipyte, and they will love nothing more than to kill you. Is it your will to die?”

The uspec seemed about to reply and then it shut its mouth. It snapped its fingers and the driver who’d been steering its canoe ran to its side. They both made to leave, but the mob stopped them.

“Let them go.” Fabiana’s voice was soft, but firm. “There will be no bloodshed here today.”

The mob seemed disinclined to obey, but after a few silent grumblings, they made a way for the plenum uspec and its driver. The Lahooni mob sang the Uspecipyte fight song as the uspec walked amongst them, and I found myself humming it under my breath. What an interesting display. And how well Fabiana had talked them down.

Fabiana did not seem as entertained by the events as I’d been. As soon as the mob cleared, it began walking faster than it had walked before. When before we’d been strolling, it’s pace now was more akin to sprinting. It was a brisk walk, I decided.

“Why the haste?” I asked.

“I would feel better if we were safely home before the great one has a chance to go to the Acropolis and force Salin to send troops to these parts. I would much rather be welcomed by mater’s embrace than by its sibling’s fist. My senior cognate Salin is not a huge fan of mine.”

Cognate was a term that uspecs used in general to refer to blood relatives who were descended of their sire, but not of their progenitor. Blood relatives further separated were referred to as agnates. It was strange to be reminded of Fabiana’s close family tie to Salin. The usurper Salin, was actually Fabiana’s progenitor’s sibling.

“Then we’d better find a dwelling to rent quickly.” I agreed.

“Rent?” Fabiana stared at me as if I’d spoken in a different tongue. “You’ll stay with me, in my progenitor’s estate. There are too many rooms and never enough people to fill them.”

I shook my head. “I couldn’t impose…”

“Nonsense.” It cut me off, sounding every bit the majestic, “you wouldn’t be imposing. I’m afraid I have to insist on it sirga. After everything that you’ve done for me, you have to allow me to make it up to you. Besides, my progenitor’s estate has large lands and great dens for housing animals. Marc will be in good company.”

I wanted to refuse, but the idea of Marc having a den to stay in with other smoke bears, proved too compelling. Besides, I was not yet willing to part with Fabiana’s company. I thought of all that awaited me in my own port. There was Checha and the eye I’d come here to steal. My chances of surviving that endeavor seemed so miniscule, that I was rather eager to put it off. Why couldn’t I just enjoy this new friendship with an uspec who felt in some ways, more my equal, than any other uspec I’d known?

“Okay.” I gave in, smiling.

I was home and in the company of a friend, what more could I ask for? My eyes, off their own will, made their way to the side, where Musa walked, its head bent, its shoulders slumped, and its hands crossed behind its back. I felt a pang of regret, and a sudden unwavering urge to reach out to the imp and comfort it. I pushed that feeling away and turned back to Fabiana.

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 8:28pm On Feb 15
Thanks for the update obehid
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by doctorexcel(m): 9:07pm On Feb 15
Intrigue and fun-filled as usual
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 10:35pm On Feb 15
Obehid, thanks for this beautiful piece.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Madosky112(m): 4:43pm On Feb 17
Thanks boss, lovely update
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 1:58am On Feb 18
@cassbeat thanks for reading grin

@doctorexcel thank you, thank you cheesy

@tunjilomo thank you for reading and happy valentines to you too smiley

@Madosky112 hehehe, thanks for reading
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by eROCK247(m): 4:36pm On Feb 18
obehiD thanks for the updates. They were captivating as always.

I had my traditional marriage last Saturday and the wedding will hold this Saturday. Bless me with lengthy and plenty updates so I can settle down and read on Monday please.

Thanks in anticipation.

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:17am On Feb 19
obehiD thanks for the updates. They were captivating as always.

I had my traditional marriage last Saturday and the wedding will hold this Saturday. Bless me with lengthy and plenty updates so I can settle down and read on Monday please.

Thanks in anticipation.

WOWWW! Congratulations!!! Well wishing you all the best, and there will be some new updates for you when you're ready to read cheesy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:25am On Feb 19
Part 2

As soon as we crossed the boundary out of the commune road, Fabiana used the magic of the hooni eye to create a large pool of quicksand underneath us. The quicksand drew us in, and spat us out, on a quicksand trail at the foot of large, imposing, hard fog gates. The gates appeared to have been infused with lighting, as those from the clouds. They gave off streams of brilliant cyan light, light so bright it was almost blinding to stare at the source. I stared though, unable to keep my eyes from scanning each gradient of light in the hard fog gates. I had been in Chiboga and so the sight of hard fog displayed as ostentatiously as this, was not new. Yet, there was something different about this, something slightly more vibrant. Perhaps it was simply the fact that it was in Lahooni. Everything in this port appeared more alive to me.

Fabiana stared wistfully at the gates. Its lips seemed to be frozen in indecision, between a smile of relief and a frown of exertion. It took the uspec time to make up its mind, but once it did, the corners of its mouth tipped upwards, and a dazzling smile filled its face.

It turned to me, and for a moment, I was certain that I could see tears brimming in its eyes. “I am home.” It proclaimed, as if it had been hiding doubts all throughout our journey as to the certainty of its arrival. Then it bowed to me, a slight neck bow that seemed wrong after the easy friendship that had developed between us. “Gratitude sirga.” It said. “Gratitude.”

“Stop it majestic.” I forced lightness into my tone. “Unless you want me to start bowing and thanking you. We both know that I would not be here without your help. I am in your debt.”

“Nonsense.” Fabiana snapped back. Its mood had shifted, the seriousness of the previous moment was gone, a fact which brought me immense pleasure. I smiled, my carefree smile matching that on Fabiana’s face. Then it shrugged, chuckling as it said, “then we are in each other’s debt.”

That was a compromise I could live with. I nodded. Fabiana turned back around. It took a deep breath, as if steeling itself for a battle, then it placed the flat of its left palm against the smooth surface of the hard fog gates. As soon as Fabiana’s hand touched the solid wall, the cyan light went away. Suddenly, we were facing a wall so profoundly dark, it was as if I was discovering the color black for the first time. And then a sound filled the air, like the sound of a string instrument, plucked by one with great skill. The black gates were suddenly lit by a brilliant white light, and the fog softened and disappeared.

“Home.” Fabiana let the word out with its breath, intoning it as if in solemn prayer.

The sublimated fog revealed yet another quicksand trail. This one was much shorter than the commune road. I could already see where the brown trail terminated in a bush of shrubs and fruit trees.

Fabiana took a step along the trail and I followed behind the uspec. We’d only walked a few paces in, when three imps appeared from behind rustling leaves. These imps were eyeless. They had on simple green tunics which left only parts of their arms and legs exposed. On sighting us, one of the imps stopped short. Its mouth hung open, and then it let out a loud scream, and ran forward. The other two ran behind it.

“Master Fabiana!” The first imp to arrive exclaimed. “Master, is that truly you?”

Fabiana grinned at the imp. “I believe so. Do I look different Yemi?”

The imp shook its head. It had its palms over its mouth as it continued to stare bemused at Fabiana. The two who’d followed behind appeared younger. Of course, I could not say how long they’d spent in our existence, but I could tell that their umani lives ended before the one in the front.

“Yemi?” one of them asked, its gaze roving uncertainly over us.

“Oh! My manners!” the imp Yemi yelled, chiding itself. “See to the bear.” It turned to one of the imps. That one came towards me. I watched with narrowed eyes as the imp reached out tentatively. It waited for a few seconds like that, with its hand stretched out a few inches in front of the bear’s nose, but not touching. Then, it revealed another hand, and placed that hand by Marc’s mouth.

Marc trumpeted, its large trunk flying upward as it blasted the air with the shrill sound. The imp did not appear daunted, it remained as it was, offering my bear a blue fruit. It took some time, but the imp was able to cajole Marc into accepting the treat. Then, as Marc ate, it stroked the bear’s fur.

“Come, domina.” The imp Yemi, called, “leave your bear with Kate, it’s our pet whisperer.”

I stroked Marc’s fur, muttering reassurances to the bear. I knew that it would be fine, this was Fabiana’s home after all, but I could not fight the need to pet it.

“Come sirga,” Fabiana said, “the okun awaits us.”

I nodded then, running my hand through the bear’s fur one last time, before I released it.

By the time I was willing to part with the bear’s company, Fabiana and the imps of its household were already ahead of me. Musa had waited, I noted, although I didn’t remark on it. I followed silently behind Fabiana, only partially listening to the imp’s excited words about the changes that had been made in the years that it had been gone. I turned around a few times, to make sure that the imp was treating my bear well. Marc appeared okay.

We were led deeper into the bushes. The shrubs were well maintained, cut into even patterns that were quite pleasant to the eye. It was obvious that someone cared much for the vegetations, or perhaps it was simply care for the aesthetic appeal of the decorations.

“All of them?” Fabiana’s roared question pulled my mind back to the present.

For a second I feared that something terrible had happened. I could tell from the rigid set of the uspec’s shoulders that it had received news that it did not like. But when it turned to face me, it had a wary smile on its face.

“I’m afraid we must fly if we have any intention of having a proper bath before we are besieged by my family.” It said the words with a kind of affection that I envied. This uspec had a family it loved.

I nodded. If I was going to meet the family of the duke of the first metropolis of my port, I intended to do it clean. My port. I shook the thought away before I could dwell on just how right the words felt now that I was here.

“Yemi can show Musa to your rooms.”

I reached for the coffer tag and handed it over to Musa. It was the first time that we’d had any sort of interaction since we left Damejo. I noticed the lines of worry on Musa’s face, the unhappiness etched there. And, despite my wishes to the contrary, I felt pained by it. Even now, after everything that had happened, I still wanted it to be happy. I snatched my hand back, once Musa collected the tag. Its lips parted, as if it meant to speak. I turned away, denying it the chance to do so.

By the time my exchange with Musa was complete, Fabiana already hovered in the air above me. I let my wings flap, giving them the freedom they’d been craving ever since Nefastu.

“It feels good to fly.” Fabiana stated, giving voice to my thoughts.

“Very good.” I agreed.

And then we were off. We rose far enough in the sky that we could see the entire estate sprawled beneath us, but not so high that we got anywhere close to the clouds. It felt good. The last time I’d flown had been on the inter-port trail, on the way to Damejo. While that had been an experience, it was nothing compared to flying in open sky. Our wings flapped and we let them carry us away in companionable silence. Fabiana’s thoughts seemed focus on something else, its family perhaps, so I let my gaze fall to the marvelous dwelling below us. I had never seen anything quite like it. I wondered if perhaps this what the Lahooni palace looked like. There were arches, beams sharpened to fine edges, rails that wound all around the outer walls of the dwelling, and all of it, appeared to be built on a large pool of quicksand.

Fabiana began the descent and I followed. The closer we got to the roof, the more I was able to see of it. This part of the roof was different from the others. It appeared to be made of hard fog. Fabiana tilted itself, turning to a standing position as it made for its landing. As soon as its feet touched the fog, the fog drifted away. Then the uspec tilted back around and dove headfirst into the beckoning okun underneath us. I followed Fabiana’s lead and was greatly rewarded. There was nothing quite like diving into a nice warm okun.

I landed with a splash, and proceeded to swim two full laps, before I had the good sense to climb out of the pond and remove my dripping belt. As soon as I did though, I burst into laughter. Fabiana, seeing the mess I’d made of the belt laughed too.

“That impatient?” It teased.

“I could have done better.” I replied.

We both laughed some more then.

“I will dry that out, domina.” An imp, dressed in the same green tunic, appeared. It waited for me to take off the belt, before collecting it. It was a testament to my trust of Fabiana that I did not even think of the ramifications of being long without my weapons.

“So many new imps.” Fabiana mused.

“Not all master.” A deep voice called out from behind us.


I turned around in time to see two naked imps standing in front of us. I could tell from their features that they were both males. One of them was bulky, it had the muscles of a fighter, the other was not. It was the skinny one that smiled at Fabiana.

“Where have you been master? Five years and you appear out of nowhere, dropping in from the sky?”

Fabiana chuckled. “Not now Kev, please not now.” The uspec was leaning against the high walls of the pond. “Be a dear and keep watch. No one comes in. I need at least a few minutes of silence before they descend on me.”

The imp frowned at Fabiana. “You have been gone a long-time master, long enough for us to demand answers.”

I found the imp’s tone curious. It appeared to truly believe that it could demand answers from the uspec.

Fabiana groaned. “I know Kev, I know. But please, keep watch. I just want a few minutes to get clean. No steams or massages, just a swim. Tell them I’ll be out shortly. Please.”

The imp sighed. “As you wish master. Now, I will have to delay my bath, and unlike you, I actually have work to do.”

Fabiana laughed. “We will catch up Kev, I promise.”

“Oh I know we will,” the imp stated as it made its way to the curtain-entrance.

I contemplated discarding my tail covering but thought better of it. Besides, it was already wet. The material was one that would dry soon. I followed Fabiana’s lead and jumped back into the nice pond. I could feel the bath salts, but they were not as overwhelming as other ponds. This was no luxury cleaning room, with several ponds for several stages of cleaning. It was a simple affair, made for the purpose of cleaning and nothing more. It was the first time since I’d stepped into Lahooni, that I’d had reason to remember that I was also part Kute. It was the kute in me that craved a better pond. I dreamt of falling liquid and baths with massages and bath salts.

“Don’t worry sirga, we have better okuns in this dwelling, but none comes close to that in the Acropolis.” Fabiana spoke as it slapped its hand against the liquid surface, swimming past me. We’d taken a few more laps in silence before Fabiana said, “you should come with me to the Acropolis tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? You plan on going to the Acropolis?”

“Yes, Yemi informed me that my mater has court business and so it will remain in the Acropolis for another day or so. I cannot wait that long to see it, so I mean to surprise it tomorrow. Perhaps you would like to come with me. There is no Acropolis like ours. And there is an entire structure dedicated to baths and massages. We can start there, and then go and visit my mater after. What do you say?”

“You had me at massages.”

Fabiana’s answering laughter was cut short by the arrival of five uspecs. They burst into the cleaning room all at once. It was obvious that the imp Kev had tried to get in their way, because the imp was now being carried in the arms of the uspec who ran into the room first.

“Oh, put me down!” Kev screamed, its voice filled with mirth.

Fabiana groaned.

There was a loud, collective, intake of air, as the uspecs, all five of them, froze, their lips parted, as they stared shocked by Fabiana’s presence. The wiggling imp in the first one’s arms managed to free itself from the one carrying it. When it stood on its own feet, it joined the others in watching Fabiana.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:27am On Feb 19
Muttering, Fabiana pulled itself out of the okun. Then it stood in front of the group. It spread its legs, placed its palms on its hips, and waited for the group of uspecs to get over their shock.

The first thing I noted about this new group of uspecs was the eyes. Three of them had completely formed outer eye sockets, but none of them had those eye sockets completely filled. The ones with their sockets formed had three of them filled, two imp eyes and an uspec one, I deduced. Their cyan neck scales proclaimed them all to be of the hooni spectrum. They were unclothed, so it was clear to see that none of them were irira. All though they had no golden armbands, I had a feeling that they were Fabiana’s family, its siblings. The two youngest only had a few of their outer eye sockets formed and filled.

It was Fabiana who broke the silence. “Well,” it prompted, “are you just going to stand there gawking at me?”

Heaving a sigh of regret, I pulled myself out of the pond, and prepared for formal introductions.

It was one of the elders that spoke first. It rushed over to Fabiana and threw its arms around the uspec. Fabiana laughed then. It laughed loud and clear, a sound filled with nothing but affection. There was no malice in it as it lifted the uspec in its arms up. When it put the uspec down, it broke the embrace with a kiss on the uspec’s scalp. I had never seen uspecs embrace as such. I had seen smiles, nods of greeting, bows of salutation, but never embraces. Not even in my slum, where life had been free of the knowledge, and thusly fear, of pansophy, had uspecs shared an embrace.

“Where have you been? What happened to you? We’ve been so worried, we feared you were dead. Mater…”

Fabiana broke it off, chuckling. “There will be enough time for questions later.” It walked over to the rest of the group and embraced them, one after the other. None of the embraces were as hearty as the first had been, but there was still obvious affection in each. Then Fabiana stopped in front of one of the two younger uspecs. “How you’ve grown my precious.”

That uspec ran into its arms then, and this one, Fabiana lifted in the air. It didn’t immediately put it down as it had the other, it kept it pinned between its carrying arm and its body. “You have outer eyes.” Fabiana remarked, tracing its fingers over the uspec’s eye sockets as it spoke.

“It’s a devout now.” Another uspec chimed in.

“Devout!” Fabiana’s eyes widened. It turned from the uspec who’d gave up the piece of information, to the uspec in its arms. “Are you really?”

The young uspec nodded.

Fabiana smiled in pure delight. It pulled the uspec closer and kissed it on the scalp. “I am proud.” It said, before putting the uspec down. Then, as if it had momentarily forgotten about my presence, it swiveled to face me, and its smile grew. “Sirga!” it called out loudly. By its words, Fabiana made me the focus, all gazes turned to me. “Let me introduce you to my family.”

Fabiana put the uspec it had been carrying down and walked towards me.

“Family, this is banneret Nebud, the uspec singlehandedly responsible for saving my life.” It declared. “If not for it, I would still be thinking of ways to get myself free of the prison I found myself in.”

“Prison?” One of the uspec’s gasped the question out, its face etched with lines of worry.

Fabiana shook its head. “The tale will come later, first, be properly introduced to my savior.”

I groaned. Before I could speak up to clarify just how much mutual saving had taken place, the uspecs were already drawing closer to me. Fabiana made the introductions.

“This is Fabin, my immediate younger.” Fabiana gestured to one of the older uspecs in the group, but not the one it had hugged first.

The uspec, Fabin, came towards me. It stretched its hands out, and before I could stop it, it clamped its hands around my shoulders. Normally, I would not hesitate over doing violence to one who would dare to touch me without my permission. But this uspec smiled. Its face appeared open, and trusting, and it was Fabiana’s sibling, and so I hesitated, frozen in indecision. I looked around the room, beginning to feel the pangs of uncertainty creep into me.

Fabiana appeared by my side. “Don’t worry sirga, this is Lahooni, we do not use pansophy on nobles, without first seeking permission. To others it is an acceptable practice, to us it is a rule we would not dare break. Be free, embrace my sibling.” After saying that, Fabiana grasped my hands, and I did my best to ignore the jarring calls of ‘pansophy’ that pinged through my mind when Fabiana’s hand brushed over my ring. It placed the palms of my hands on its siblings shoulders and tightened them slightly, before releasing its hold on me. It became clear then, what I was expected to do. Despite Fabiana’s words, I was relieved when the ring showed no pansophy in the uspec I touched. I squeezed its shoulder one last time, before releasing my hold on it. It released its hold on me too, smiling somewhat uncertainly at me.

“I’m afraid, it is not our custom to be so trusting where I come from. Embraces are not things often shared amongst family, and especially not amongst strangers.” I said, by way of explanation.

Fabin accepted this. “You are in Lahooni now.” It replied, as if that in itself was all the answer I needed. The words reminded me of Fabiana’s speech on the commune road, the way that it had talked the horde of uspecs down by reminding them that they were Lahooni. I had seen a lot of different places, but I had not seen that much differences in custom. It appeared that Lahooni was a much different place than the others. This thought made me both happy and worried.

Before I could think more on the words, the uspec who’d been the first to hug Fabiana, came running into my arms. It wrapped its arms around my neck. It was tall, not as tall as I, but close to being there. It was also lean, much too lean for one with any skill in combat. I made sure my ring brushed against the uspec’s flesh and was happy when it declared a lack of pansophy. Still, I wasn’t sure what to do about the tight embrace I was held in.

The uspec released me. “Gratitude for saving my sibling’s life.” It said, its hands gripping my shoulders. I returned this form of the embrace as Fabiana had showed me, extending my arms so that they gripped the uspec’s shoulders in turn.

“It was your sibling who saved my life. I would not be here without its help.” I said in reply.

Fabiana chuckled. “We saved each other sirga, but I was in more dire need of salvation. You would have found a way without me, I cannot say the same for myself.” It cleared its throat. “This is my sibling, Fabinna, Fabin’s younger.”

The uspec Fabinna smiled before releasing me. Fabiana gestured to the younger, the one that it had carried. “That, it said, is our youngest, Fib, now a devout.” This uspec, although proclaimed as the youngest, appeared to be the most serious out of them. It stayed where it was and bowed to me. It made no move to come towards me or touch me, and I appreciated that more than I could say. I nodded, bowing in turn at the young uspec. It was devout, a pious in training, and so I already knew it had pansophy.

Fabiana turned to the last two uspecs. “These are our cognates, Foild and Folida, offspring of mater’s late two time younger, that is, Salin’s younger.”

Late, their progenitor was dead then. I stared at the family and wondered what politics lay beneath it. There seemed to be much love between them, but they were a family tied closely to the current Custodian of the port. What did that mean? Where did the fault lines lie?

“Salutations banneret.” The older one, Foild, called out in greeting. “I am the dignified Foild. Gratitude for your service to our line.”

My lips quirked a little. This was the politician. I could tell just from looking at it. I felt anger seething in it. Its anger was like an affliction, one that was constantly present. It bristled at the casual way that Fabiana had introduced it to me. I bowed to the uspec, as its higher rank demanded. “Salutations dignified one.” I greeted in response.

“If you would be so kind as to leave us, we have family matters to discuss.” Foild stated, staring pointedly at me.

Fabin’s gaze turned to the ground. Fabinna frowned at Foild, then turned to stare at Fabin. When the uspec said nothing, Fabinna shook its head and looked away. It was Fabiana who spoke up. To be frank, I was quite happy to leave. I did not understand their family, and I was too tired to try to decipher the undercurrents of politics hidden in it. All I wanted was a nice meal and a good long rest. My mission was dangerous enough without getting involved in politics.

“And since when do you speak for my family?” Fabiana asked. I had never heard the uspec sound quite so imperious.

Foild’s jaw clenched. It shook its head. “You’ve been gone for a long time cognate. Your pater may have appeared as head of the family before you left, but things are different now. Now the Kaiser, our senior cognate Salin is head of the family, and with its single offspring gravelly ill, and me being its closest intimate in our line, I am as heir to it.”

I had an instant dislike for the uspec who declared itself heir to a position that was my birthright.

Fabiana’s expression lightened. “This is good news cognate! I left thinking that Lahooni was doomed to remain in the hands of our enemies, and here I return to see that an Uspecipyte will rule this port again.”

The silence that greeted Fabiana’s words was telling. Foild’s jaw clenched. “There are no Uspecipytes in this family, cognate.”

Fabiana’s gaze hardened. It glared at Foild, but it said nothing. Its words were targeted at Fabin, its younger. “Fabin?”

The uspec could not meet its sibling’s gaze. It said nothing, it simply shook its head.

“Coward.” Fabinna spat out.

“You declared for Kuworyte too!” Fabin shot back.

“No.” Fabiana took a step back. “No.” it shook its head.

“Only because you and mater begged me to do it!” Fabinna turned to Fabiana then. “Forgive me.”

Fabiana was silent. Then it rose its head and stared at Fabinna. “What happened?”

“There was an inquisition, precious one, our senior cognate Salin summoned the family to the palace about a year ago. In the presence of itself and the plenum, we were asked to declare our faith. ‘Tiyoseriwosin’, they asked. Our senior cognate Slinna, mater’s youngest, the one who’d been closest to Salin, it declared ‘Uspecipyte’, and our senior cognate Salin had it cut down. They beheaded it, right there, in front of us. Mater begged Salin to stop, but it was adamant. We all declared Kuworyte. We had to.” Fabinna reached out its hand for Fabiana’s, but Fabiana appeared too shaken to take it.

“Not all of us.” Fib said. “I am Uspecipyte, and I will never declare otherwise.” The uspec spoke with a somber dignity which seemed apt, coming from one about to be pious.

“Easy for you to say. You are devout, protected. Even the plenum wouldn’t dare to ask the pious to declare themselves. What protection did we have?” Fabin’s voice was desperate. It turned to Fabiana. “All nobles have passed though the inquisition. Now that you are back, precious, Salin will summon you too. It will force you to declare.”

“Not if Salin does not know that it’s back. And we’re not going to tell it.” Fabinna stated.

“Of course not.” Fabin agreed.

None of their words did anything to calm Fabiana. It stared at them, as if it could no longer place them, as if it didn’t know them. Then it began to walk away. I was following it before it had the foresight to ask me along. Whatever was going on, I had no intention of being left on my own with its siblings and cognates. And I’d thought that it would be a nice escape to stay here. I might have to find a new place to stay, one free of politics, and religion. Did such a place even exist anymore?

As soon as we walked out of the curtains, Fabiana turned to me. “I must confess, this was not the homecoming I expected. I plan on getting drunk.” It confessed.

I couldn’t help smiling at that. “Do you plan on getting fed? Because I am quite famished.”

Fabiana smiled, but the smile didn’t quite reach its eyes. It nodded. “We eat, then we drink, then hopefully, we sleep and dream of a better world than this.”

I could not agree more.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by movmentish(m): 3:33am On Feb 19
What makes the hooni spectrum so special? I know as I am lahooni
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by eROCK247(m): 8:51am On Feb 19

WOWWW! Congratulations!!! Well wishing you all the best, and there will be some new updates for you when you're ready to read cheesy

Thank you so much.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by eROCK247(m): 8:54am On Feb 19
So Lahooni is now a kuworyte port?

This chasm will make it easier for the imps to take over this existence. I can't wait for the war.

Unfortunately, Nebud will fight against the imps...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 11:46am On Feb 19
This time nebud has come to change things....
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:00am On Feb 22
@movmentish It's special because of its former leaders grin

@eROCK247 yeah, that is indeed unfortunate.

@cassbeat okay, okay, we'll see...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:08am On Feb 22
Part 3

The Lahooni Acropolis.

If I had lived the life I was born to, this was the burg I would have been born in, the city I would have called home. I thought of the uspec Foild and felt a particularly nasty pang of irritation. I was not new to being spoken down to by uspecs who thought themselves my superior, but I found that there was something about Lahooni that changed things for me. From the moment I stepped onto the quicksand trail which led from the hangar to the rest of the port, I’d felt an uncanny kinship with this place. I’d felt the rightness of my blood in my bones. This was my port. The uspecs were mine, the nobles were mine, and I knew it. I knew it. I could not say how, or why this certainty took root in me now, but I felt it. Lahooni was in my blood.

As soon as I crossed the guarded gates into the Acropolis, I felt a strong urge to claim it. I wanted to flap my wings and fly to the palace so that I could proclaim myself as heir. I wanted to slit Salin’s throat, purge the plenum uspec’s of their lives, and cleanse Lahooni of the stain of them. I wanted to take what was mine. The feelings reminded me of the ring. I recalled how flashes of the ring had made me see visions of myself as Kaiser. I saw no visions, but I felt the certainty.

Checha’s eye. The voice in my head prompted, reminding me of my true purpose for returning to this port. It did not matter what I felt, my life still belonged to the voice.

I sighed, pulling myself back to the present just in time to hear Fabiana explain to Musa that the Lahooni Acropolis was the most spectacular place in the entire existence. I turned to stare at Musa as Fabiana lauded the generosity of my line. Apparently, the Kaisers had designated free settlers lots around the outskirts of the Acropolis. As long as there were vacant lots, any Lahooni commoner could claim one. Musa smiled at Fabiana and made a comment about generous uspecs. There were no signs on its face to show the knowledge it bore of the line of the Kaisers of this port. Why that would surprise me, though, I did not know. Musa was of course quite skilled at acting.

I took my gaze away and followed Fabiana into the dwelling which bordered the gates. Fabiana called it the registry. All uspecs who sought to enter into the Acropolis had to register themselves there. Fabiana explained that the entire Acropolis was built on quicksand, but that the magic of the hooni eyes could not be used here. Uspecs had to purchase tokens to teleport through the burg. It was a safety precaution, Fabiana explained. The tokens could be used to teleport to the common parts of the Acropolis, but not further in, to the reserved portions with direct access to the Palace. Although, it was quick to state that we were not to worry as it already had the special tokens which would teleport us to the dwellings reserved for the Palace noble officials.

Fabiana was talking a lot more than it usually did. I could tell from its chatter that it was nervous about the coming meeting with its mater. A conversation which it had looked forward to with longing was one that it now feared. It was disappointed with its family, but at the same time, it understood their fears, it knew why they’d forsaken Chuspecip. Still, Fabiana found the forsaking hard to bear. I had tried countless times to console the uspec, but my words never seemed right. I did not understand Fabiana’s religion, I did not understand the adamant way it clung to Chuspecip. As far as I was concerned, Chuspecip was a coward god.

The last brio. It was a thought that had the power to completely discomfit me. The last brio was part of my heritage. As Lahooni was mine to possess, so was the last brio. And the last brio was the only weapon which could destroy Chuspecip. If I had any thoughts of claiming my heritage, I had to claim the last brio. But what was I to do with it? From Fabiana’s tales, I knew that my progeny had been staunch followers of Chuspecip. If the last brio had been in their care, they had protected it. But I was different, whatever greatness they saw in Chuspecip, I did not see. If anything, Chuspecip was a burden. It was a burden to me, and a burden to uspecs like Fabiana who clung to faith in it.

I thought of the invasion then. Another thought which discomfited me.

I shook my head, turning to stare at the room instead. The dwelling we walked into was well ventilated. It had holes cut out of the walls, allowing for a circulation of fresh air through the room. The holes had been cut out of the tops of the walls, close to the ceiling, so that the air that drifted in had minimal fogs. I appreciated that little spark of ingenuity. The room had clearly marked lanes in the center, where commoners could form lines and see to purchasing tokens and registering their presence in the Acropolis. Fabiana led us to the portion of the room reserved for nobles. It was behind a large set of curtains to the left of the room.

We walked through those curtains and found several tables and stools surrounding them. Each table had a scroll in its center with a pen for writing and an uspec attendant sitting on a stool. There were also wine decanters with glass goblets adorning each table. The ground, I noted, was hard and cool, not like the foam ground of the common portion of the registry. I caught sight of smartly dressed imps standing at sporadic locations throughout the room.

Fabiana led the way towards an empty table. As soon as the uspec attendant saw us, it rose, and then bowed. Its eyes were rivetted on me, as I was the one dressed as noble. Fabiana still did not wear the golden armbands it ought to, as a majestic.

“Salutations noble one.” The uspec greeted.

I nodded at it, then sat when it gestured at the chairs. Fabiana sat to my left, Musa sat to my right.

The attendant rustled the sheets of paper in front of it, before returning its gaze to me. “Please be welcome to Lahooni, noble one. Have you been to the Acropolis before?”

I was about to say no, when Fabiana spoke up. “Yes,” it said, in a clear carrying voice, “my patron and I have been guests of the great Jukien, duke of the third metropolis of Lahooni.”

The attendant nodded, finding nothing strange in Fabiana’s interruption. “Then will you be seeking to purchase tokens for parts of the Acropolis abridged to the Palace? As you know, all nobles who seek to do this must pass through a pious screening to prove the authenticity of their noble lineage. Their imps must be screened by the pious too.”

Screened by pious? I could already feel Musa tensing beside me. The sapping of the samu was still too fresh on both of our minds. As to a noble screening? I was suddenly made to feel a warmth of pride at my lines cunning. No other port had insisted on this. What would a screening of the sort reveal for me? Would it show that I was the presumed dead heir to Lahooni?

“That will not be necessary, not today at least. All that we seek today is a trip to the massages and then the markets after. We have no desire to visit the favored lots abridged to the Palace.” Fabiana replied.

The attendant nodded. “In that case noble one, affix your name onto the parchment, your guest will sign under you, and you will be free to purchase tokens for the common lots.”

The attendant handed over a sheet of paper and a pen, and I scribbled my name onto it. As I handed the parchment over to Fabiana, I contemplated the lies that it had told about previous visits to the burg. I could not help but wonder how thorough the search would be. I found my hand inching towards my cutlass. The whole thing was over before I had any inkling to draw the weapon. The attendant asked how many tokens we’d like to purchase. I’d listened enough to Fabiana’s ramblings to know that each person had to have their own token. I decided to purchase ten. I was stunned to hear that each token cost nothing more than a tenth of a piece of value. I was starting to understand why my line had been so beloved by the commoners. At the hangar we had been granted entrance for free, and now, in the Acropolis, teleportation tokens were sold at a pittance. For some reason, as we rose and made our way out of the registry, I found myself recalling Musa’s words. The imp had talked about my line’s wealth, saying that they’d had too much of it to begrudge Musa taking some of it to help the imps in Permafrost.

We walked out the curtains separating the nobles’ tables from the commoners’ lanes. How had they accumulated so much wealth? Calam had worked. I knew as much from the conversations I’d heard about its innovations. It had created things, and it had sold those things. Calam’s innovations had made much wealth for this port. Now that wealth was missing, and there were many who would stop at nothing to find it.

The fogs drifted by us once we made our way out through the exit of the registry. Musa had taken the bag of tokens, so we each reached to it to pick a piece.

“Think only of the ponds.” Fabiana instructed, as we dropped the tokens onto the quicksand ground. As soon as the token touched the hardened sand, it softened and pulled us in.

Then it deposited us in front of a tall structure at least three stories high. Imp attendants stood in front of the curtains which led into it. By the structure there was a sign which declared the dwelling as a public cleaning room.

“Greetings dominas.” The imps bowed. They pulled the curtains aside and loud noises came out of the room. I took one look at this room and decided that I had no desire to clean here. I had never seen more crowded ponds. There were several of them that I could see. At least six different ponds, each one larger than any pond I’d ever seen, and each one packed with uspecs of all ages. There were so many young ones. Young uspecs played around, splashing pink liquid at themselves. There were older uspecs too, but these ones did not seem to mind the congestion.

Fabiana chuckled. “You need not look so terrified,” it whispered into my ear, “these are the free ponds. There are portals to the sides which will lead us to the more expensive ones. Come on, this is my treat, sirga.”

I was relieved by Fabiana’s words. “How do they clean packed so tightly together?”

“Some of the ponds have bath salts. A simple dunk in an okun with bath salts is all that is needed for cleaning. It only seems bad to you because you are kute, you enjoy swimming.”

Fabiana smiled as it led us to a set of curtains. I could tell from the relaxed set of its shoulders that it was no longer thinking of the coming confrontation with its progenitor. At the curtains, attendants charged Fabiana twenty pieces of value for each patron. Fabiana had a belt on now. It pulled out a pouch and handed it over to the imp.

The imp’s eyebrows rose. “This is sixty pieces.” It said. I was shocked that it could tell the amount simply by lifting it.

“Yes, I’m paying for our imp too. Is that a problem?” Fabiana replied.

“Not at all.” The imp was quick to reply.

It drew the curtains open and we walked into a portal room. This one already had the pools of quicksand formed within it. We walked into those pools and were teleported to the most splendid cleaning room that I had ever seen. I could not help the smile of contentment that came over my features. This was the kind of cleaning room I hoped to build when it finally came time for me to settle. It reminded me of the cleaning room in the Hakute Lastmain. It had a large canal with falling liquid pelting into it. There were several ponds in the middle, and several beds scattered around the room.

“I am not sure that I can do this.” Musa’s widened sockets and shaky voice pulled me back to the imp. I’d forgotten its abhorrence for nudity.

“Are there private ponds?” I asked Fabiana.

The uspec frowned at me. “Yes, but there are no massages, and they are expensive. Why bother?”

“How much?”

“Fifty pieces of value at least.”

I pulled out a piece of merit from my belt and handed it over to the imp. Then I walked away, shaking my head at myself. How could I have doubted my lines generosity with Musa when I could not stop myself from seeing to its every whim? Was it my job to care for the imp’s tender sensibilities? It had scarred skin just as I had scarred skin, but I did not let that stunt me. I fumed. How could the imp manipulate me so easily?

I made my way across ponds and sat on the first empty bed I found. It wasn’t till I was sitting on it, that I allowed myself to turn back to make sure Musa was okay. Musa was being led by another imp to a private pond, screened off by heavy curtains. I took off my belt and placed it on the foot of my bed, where I could see it when I lay down. Then I lay, and waited. It was not long till an imp appeared to see to me. The imp scrubbed at my feathers. It felt good. I allowed my mind to go blank as my body succumbed to the imp’s ministrations. My feathers were cleaned, and my body massaged. I could not say how much time passed with me on that bed, but when it was over, I felt a great deal more relaxed. It was the first time that I had ever been massaged. I could definitely see the draw.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:09am On Feb 22
“The massage is wasted on me in this state.” Fabiana mused. “I’m too tightly wound. It would have been better if I saw mater first.”

I turned to face the uspec and shrugged. “Then we will return after your meeting with your progenitor.”

Fabiana burst out laughing. “You are quite sensible sirga.”

I smiled, rather agreeing with the uspec’s words. Fabiana organized imps into locking our belts in safes. When I questioned the security, Fabiana looked at me and said, “this is Lahooni,” as if those simple words should clear all my misgivings.

They did not, but I liked the confidence with which Fabiana uttered them.

We started in a heated pond filled with baths salts. Fabiana and I made a game out of racing to the end of it. As used to baths salts as I had gotten, this pool still stung. I beat Fabiana to the end, of course, I was half kute after all. Then we climbed out of the pond and flew over to the next one. It was a rinsing pond. Fabiana made a show of rising high in the air and then diving into the pond. I followed the uspec’s lead, laughing as I landed into the cool pool. We were not alone in the pond, but the few other uspecs there looked at us with little interest.

It was not until I dodged a scented bar Fabiana threw at my head, and then proceeded to throw one back at the uspec, that I realized I was doing what I had watched the younger uspecs in the public ponds do. I was playing. I had never played before. Never with Marcinus. My relationship with Marcinus had been polluted by the fact that I was sent to take its eye. I had come to that port to harm it and I’d known from the moment I met it. And Arexon, I thought then of my other uspec friend. Arexon had been somehow more than a peer. From the start, Arexon had been more. The setting of Chiboga had made it impossible to form a carefree bond with any uspec there, even Yakubo, who’d been more my equal.

But here, this was different. Fabiana had appeared out of nowhere. I had not gone searching for it. Finding Fabiana had been a surprise, a pleasant one. I had no expectations of this uspec. There was nothing I needed of it, and nothing it needed of me. The fact that we remained together was simply a testament to how much we enjoyed each other’s company. It was a thought that made me a smile. Still, I could not help the small pang of sorrow I felt as I remembered Marcinus. Marcinus and I could have been like this. It was the first uspec I called friend. If only I hadn’t been there to take its eye. If only Manus hadn’t been bent on taking its life.

We finished off in an almost hail-cold chilled pond. I let the cool liquid quench my thoughts. Whatever had happened with Marcinus was in the past now. I would never be free of my guilt, but that guilt was useless. I’d done what I had to do to save Marcinus’ life. I’d taken its eye and it had got to keep its life.

Fabiana threw a towel at my head, and the force of the wound cloth hitting my exposed skin, had the effect of knocking the sad thoughts right out of my mind. I smiled at the uspec, and then proceeded to unwind the towel. I scrubbed myself down hard, my gaze trailing over to the canal with the falling liquid. We had not had time to swim in that, but I knew Fabiana was eager to get the meeting with its progenitor out of the way. We would return later, and then we could spend the entire day in the ponds if we desired.

Musa was waiting by the exit, with our belts, when we arrived. Its sockets met my eyes and it moved to speak, but I shook my head, cutting it off.

We departed the ponds in silence. My mind was light. The whisper of Marcinus’ name still prodded my conscience, but I pushed it down. A glance at Fabiana showed that it too had much on its mind. Unlike the ghosts that poked at me, Fabiana’s demons were yet to be met. It still had to confront its progenitor.

I placed a hand on the uspec’s shoulders and squeezed. “It will be fine.” I said reassuringly. This was an uspec with pansophy, the familiar warning sounded in my head. But I knew Fabiana, the uspec was not the kind to use pansophy on another without permission. It was Lahooni after all. I scoffed at my own thoughts. A few more days with Fabiana and I would be spouting the same nonsense.

“Gratitude sirga.” It replied. “I suppose there is no point delaying the inevitable.”

I shook my head. It sighed. “Then we should go.” Fabiana reached within its belt and pulled out three black tokens with cyan markings engraved on them.

“These have thought of mater’s dwelling already imbued in them, so it makes no difference what you think of as you drop them. It will take us there regardless.” It laughed drily then, as if its words were meant as a joke.

Musa and I took the tokens from the uspec and dropped them onto the hardened quicksand ground. The ground pulled us in, sending us to our final location. We arrived in the receiving room of a richly furnished dwelling. An imp sat on a couch by a wall of hard fog. Its attention had been on a tome before we appeared. It startled when it saw us.

Its eyelids pulled over its eye sockets giving them a narrowed look. “Master Fabiana? Is that you?”

Fabiana smiled and then nodded. “I am here to see my mater.”

The imp recovered quickly. “Of course master.” It reached for a wooden sword hanging from the couch, and then it placed that sword into the hard fog. The fog softened, granting us entrance into the room.

The entertaining room revealed was a large one. There were at least twenty lounging beds arranged like the petals of a flower, around an open carpeted patch in the center. Stools and tables were fixed to different spots between the beds.

“If you wouldn’t mind waiting here sirga, I will find my mater and speak to it first. Then I will introduce you.”

I smirked at it. “Of course majestic.” I replied.

“Make yourself at home.” Fabiana stated as it walked in the directions of curtains to the left. There were several curtains and I was certain each one led to another part of the dwelling. I walked over to the nearest lounging bed and sat on it.

Musa remained standing. It stared at me, watching me in a way that made it clear that it was trying to hide the fact that I was the subject of its gaze.

Musa. I shook my head at it. We had not spoken since we left Damejo. Fabiana had always been around. Even the night before, we’d shared a room, shared a bed even. Fabiana had been too drunk to return to its room. And so I had not even had to worry about any silent awkwardness between Musa and I. Why had I agreed to bring Musa along today? The imp was adamant in its protection. Now that it knew my true heritage, it would not let me go anywhere without it. It was determined to protect me. Just as it had protected me in Damejo, when it got bitten by the samu. The thought rose warring feelings within me.

“You know,” I stated conversationally, “it is not Permafrost that I can’t forgive you for.”

“No?” Musa’s voice had the mild undertones of cautious hope. It drew closer and perched uncomfortably on the lounging bed beside me.

“I was angry about the lies, but that was not unforgiveable. Being here, in Lahooni, I can see what my line built. They were generous Musa, too generous to begrudge one such as you whatever you wished. I know that. And I understand why you lied to me. But I do not understand the invasion you’ve planned, and I cannot forgive it.”

Musa sighed. “It was not meant to be what the elders have made it. I only wanted equality master, only a world where all imps could be as happy as I was. I did not think that the imps I built permafrost for would turn around and seek to master uspecs.”

As happy as I was. The words stuck to me. The imp was no longer happy then. Life with me had not proven to be the joy it had been with the others of my line. And why that should affect me as it did, I could not say. But it affected me. I cleared my throat. “You cannot unleash a demon and then expect it to be tame.”

Musa shrugged. “Perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part.” It paused. “Why did you lie to me?”

“I never lied to you.”

Musa’s lips drew in a mocking smile. “Why did you keep it a secret then? Do you not trust me?”

“It was not about trust.” I leaned forward, my gaze turning to the painted ground underneath our feet. “I was not ready to be whatever it is you would want of me. I was not ready to be your precious heir. I am still not ready. I told you before that there is a voice in my head, a voice that guides me. Until the voice is gone, my life belongs to it. It sets my course, and I follow. I can do nothing else.”

Musa frowned. “A voice? I do not understand.”

It had truly not been listening to me when I’d told it in Chiboga of the voice in my head. Its mind had been too focused on finding its heir. Now that I was that heir the problem of my voice was suddenly of interest to it. My lips parted as I prepared to speak, but my words were halted as a two-band noble marched into the room, accompanied by two bannerets.

The noble’s gaze fixed on me. For a second, I forgot that I was playing the part of banneret. But when a frown began to form on the noble’s face, I remembered. I rose then, and bowed to the noble. “Salutations noble one.” I greeted.

Its eyes rolled over me. The noble and bannerets each had four outer eyes on their face. It seemed shocked by the extent of the eyes filling my face and then by the mangled flesh on my chest. When at long last it was able to find its tongue, it asked, “where is the majestic?”

“The majestic?” I asked in reply, alarm bells sounding in my head. No one was supposed to know about Fabiana’s presence here.

The noble looked away. “By the command of the high Salin, custodian of Lahooni, I command the presence of the majestic Fabiana” Its raised voice boomed throughout the open space.

Only moments later, Fabiana came out of a set of curtains. An unknown uspec followed it. I could tell from its aged appearance, and the four golden armbands on its arms, that it was the great Fabian, Fabiana’s progenitor.

As soon as Fabian stood in the room, all of us bowed. The bannerets and I curtsied, while the noble bowed at the waist.

“Well,” Fabian demanded, “what is the meaning of this?”

The noble rose. “I have been sent by the high Salin, to bring its junior cognate to its presence.”

Fabian frowned. “I am only just seeing my offspring. Surely Salin can wait a day?”

The noble shook its head. “The high one has ordered the majestic Fabiana’s presence immediately. It gave me this summons to deliver.”

The noble pulled out a scroll tube and handed it to Fabian. I watched Fabiana’s face as Fabian’s eyes rolled over the scroll. A variety of emotions crossed through Fabian’s face, the foremost of which was anger. I could feel that anger now.

“What is it mater?” Fabiana asked.

Fabian sighed. “My sibling is intrigued by your sudden reappearance. It demands our presence in the Palace to educate it as to your whereabouts.”

Fabiana frowned. “Is that all?”

Fabian shook its head. It looked defeated. “It mentions that the mighty Checha’s presence in the Palace makes this an opportune time for you to fully rejoin the family.”

Checha. My mind rung with the name.

“Fully rejoin the family?” Fabiana asked. “It means to put me to the inquisition in the presence of one of the five Kaisers that form the plenum.”

Fabian nodded.

Fabiana appeared resigned. “Then we must not keep my senior cognate waiting.”

“I will come with you.” I heard myself speaking before I even had time to process the words. Checha was there. My break, the time I had hoped to take for myself before pursuing the demands of the voice, was now over. It was time to see this Checha and begin to formulate a plan on how best to take its eye.


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