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The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) - Literature (39) - Nairaland

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 7:01am On Mar 25
Part 12
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We walked through the red curtains, into the suite’s entertaining room, together. I led the way and Marcinus followed behind me. A heavy silence greeted our arrival. Sets of eyes turned to face us, to stare speculatively at our approach. Arexon’s face showed no emotions, but I could see the surprise on Musa’s. Fabiana just appeared puzzled. It did not know of the history I shared with Marcinus, it did not understand why seeing the both of us moving in sync was of such significance. I did not feel any particular need to inform it. So, I let it stare, and transferred my attention to the other occupants. There were two soldiers reclining on lounging beds. One of them looked familiar from my visit to the Cormeum in Damejo, the other, the other was more than just familiar. As soon as I saw it, I knew exactly who it was. It was Moat, the soldier whose identity Animaon had taken on to get to me.

I scanned the room, but the uspec I most wanted to see was missing. Where was my offspring? Had they left it alone? Surely no one would leave an uspec so young by itself. Hadn’t Arexon mentioned that Musa was usually with it? Then why was Musa here and my offspring not? I realized I was panicking, but I felt unable to stop it. This was what being a progenitor was. I would forever worry about this young uspec who was bound to me.

At first, the nudge I felt appeared so tiny that it was easy to ignore. Then I felt the nudge grow more forceful. I was suddenly filled with the odd sensation of having a warm blunt object prodding at my legs.

I turned around.

The young uspec stopped poking me when it got my attention. Its hand went down to its side, and it gazed up at me with an eye filled with adulation. I felt myself relax then. I didn’t realize till that moment, how much I had worried about what this young one thought of me. I had been afraid as soon as Arexon mentioned that my offspring was spending so much of its time with Musa. I should have known better; Musa would never tell my offspring bad things about me.

I bent, and it seemed like the most natural thing to pick it up, and carry it in my arms, as Calam had done so many times to me. The little one smiled. It was precious, that smile, a gift that somehow seemed more valuable than any other I’d received. Its little arms wrapped around my face blocking my view. I could not help it, I laughed. My laughter seemed to set off others, because the previously silent room suddenly erupted with mirth.

“Congratulations sirga!” Fabiana stated, raising its goblet towards me. I nodded in thanks, once I was able to manipulate my offspring’s arms away from my face. I put those arms around my neck instead, which made it much easier for me to see.

Musa was beaming. Its smile was so wide that I could not help but smile back. Musa would be a problem. I knew this. There were two things that had to happen before Lahooni could truly be safe again. The first, everyone in this room would agree on. But Musa would fight the second, tooth and nail. It would fight for the imps it so cherished. The imps I had to destroy. I could not permit the wrath to continue, I could not allow their plans of the invasion to grow. What if Musa got in the way?

Musa has always been loyal.

Chuspecip liked Musa. I found that intriguing, until I remembered that Chuspecip liked imps. It was the voice of caution in my head which had kept me from strangling the imp in Lastmain. It had been disgusted with me for performing the act. I nodded at Musa and then I turned to bow slightly to Arexon. I took a deep breath, and walked further into the room, closer to the center table.

This lounging room was one I remembered in detail. When I was younger, playing with Chike in this suite, I’d run around the beds, pretending that they were obstructions in a battlefield. The center table was high, it was so high that shorter imps and uspecs needed to stand on stools to be able to reach it. It was a table which had been made to Calami’s specifications. I stopped in front of it.

There were several parchment scrolls scattered about. Some of them had drawings of soldier formations, others had logistics.

“Yours?” I asked, turning to Arexon.

It nodded. “I have to return to Chiboga. Hopefully, giving the plenum Animaton will buy me enough time to train my troops further, maybe even try to sneak in more soldiers from Chiboga’s annexed ports. I’m guessing it will take them weeks before they realize that Animaton is not who they really want. By that time, we will be ready.”

“You have chosen to fight then?” I asked.

It nodded. It had to. I knew this, I also knew that it was not going to have as much time to prepare, and no time to sneak in more soldiers. But I did not say it, that would come later.

To Fabiana I said, “and here?”

“We are at a standoff.” It stated. “Chechin controls the Palace. It will not leave without you. I brought the nobles around. The Lahooni soldiers have surrounded the palace, but we are at a disadvantage. Quicksand cannot be used to teleport in without a key, and Salin controls those keys.”

I nodded, assimilating all the information. I knew Lahooni, I knew Lahooni better than I should. This was not knowledge I’d gained as an infant, it was knowledge from Chuspecip. Chuspecip’s familiarity with this port was surprising. It knew everything, every little detail. I could tell that the soldiers surrounding the Acropolis would have to be on the foot of the bridges which led in.

“How do you come and go?” I asked Fabiana.

It shook its head. “I don’t. I’ve been in this suite since the birth. Our information comes from the high one’s guards. They are the only ones that Salin and Chechin do not suspect, they can come and go at will. That is also why we’ve been able to hide you in this suite.”

My legs were walking before I even knew where they meant to go. This was Chuspecip, controlling me.

Guiding you.

I walked over to the wall, by the red curtains that led in. I placed my hand against that wall, and felt anger, pure and true, ride through me. I did not know what had caused the anger, but I felt it. I used that anger to create quicksand, against the wall. The quicksand I’d created seemed to take some of the form away from the part of the wall I was touching, turning that into liquid quicksand too. I put my hand into that quicksand, and I somehow managed to teleport only my hand. I did not even know where I’d sent my hand, but it came back holding a cyan and gold pouch.

I released the wall and it hardened, returning to its previous state. Then, I turned my back on the wall, and walked back to the group. They appeared dazed, but I did not dwell too long on that. I was dazed to. I knew what was in the pouch, now, and even where I’d gone to get it. I was starting to see the advantages to having Chuspecip in my head.

“I know that this is a lot to ask, especially when you have already given so much, sirga.” I began.

Arexon grinned. “Ask.”

“Can you send a few of your soldiers to guide the Lahooni soldiers in?” I opened the pouch and pulled out a golden token.

Fabiana gaped at it. “How did you…”

“I am the last brio.” I said in response.

Arexon chuckled. “Moat.” It called, and the soldier whose appearance was so familiar, rose from the lounging bed and approached it. It stopped in front of Arexon and saluted. “In clover. See to it.” Arexon ordered.

Moat took the golden token from my hand and left the room.

“So, what do we do now? Wait for the soldiers?” Arexon’s words were delivered with a touch of humor. It had grown used to being the one in charge, the one giving the orders.

Somehow, it wasn’t till that moment that I realized I was now the one in charge. I was the one giving orders. It was now up to me to ensure that we survived. Not just the people in the room, not just my port, but the entire existence. I had been putting the pieces in place ever since I stepped into Katsoaru and took Marcinus’ eye, but now, now I knew. I was consciously aware of what was required of me, and I was afraid.

You have no need to fear, you are mine.

How is it that words that had so vexed me before, suddenly brought me comfort? I took my attention back to the uspecs, all of which were staring at me. Even the little one in my arms, stared down expectantly at me. I smiled at it. I pulled the uspec closer, hugging it tight as I’d dreamed of being held all those years ago in the slum. Then I released it. I took it down, placing it on its feet.

“Musa.” I called to the imp.

It came quickly.

“Take it,” I said, “where we are going, it should not follow.”

Musa frowned. “I should go with you. I should be there to protect you.”

I had to hold back the urge to snap. “This is what I need.” I said instead, forcing the words to be as calm as I could make them.

It took some time, time we did not have, but the imp finally acquiesced. It nodded and took hold of my offspring’s hand. It began to pull it away, and my offspring reacted. It wrenched its hand free of Musa, and came back to my side.

“Go with Musa.” I ordered the little one.

It did not respond, it just stood there, stubbornly rooted to my side. I thought about forcing it to go, but I found that I did not have the heart to do it. What I needed to do was not particularly dangerous. It could be, if Salin was heavily guarded, but I did not think it would be. And even if it was, Chuspecip knew spectra better than anyone that lived. I could kill them all without harming my offspring. But I did not want it to see violence to that degree, when it was still so young.

It is a violent world.

I sighed. Chuspecip was right of course, it was a violent world, and it was better that the infant knew that from the start.

“Alright. But don’t say you weren’t warned.” I did not reach for its hand, but I did not push it away. “Does anyone know where Salin is?”

“Entertaining my mater in the receiving room. My apologies sirga.” Fabiana spoke.

I nodded. There was an urge to kill Fabian. I would not, not when Fabiana had been so loyal, but I could not help the urge. It had betrayed me, many times. It had betrayed the line it swore to serve.

I reached into my anger and let it out. I gave it free reign. This was me, not Chuspecip. Although, it was due to Chuspecip that I knew that I could do this. While others could not use quicksand to teleport within the Palace, the uspecs of my line could. The key was in our blood, tied to our identity. So, I let the anger I felt at Fabian’s betrayal, at Salin’s theft of my birthright, at the plenum’s occupation of my port. I let that anger out, and I watched as I made quicksand. The quicksand came easily. It did not require the flood of emotions that the okun did, it used the anger as a channel to communicate, to sense my desires, and then it acted. How could anyone have ever doubted the bond I would share with my hooni heritage?

Quicksand covered the grounds. And then it pulled us in. For the first time in my life, I was navigating the quicksand and so I knew exactly where it was taking us.

I like to think we rose from the grounds like phoenixes from ashes. Our arrival was unexpected, to say the least.

Salin was in a state of panic. It marched around the receiving room, mumbling about how something wasn’t possible. I could tell from catching stray bits of the conversation that Moat had been successful, it was already leading soldiers into the Palace. According to Salin, Chechin and its plenum guards had gone to confront them, to fight them. I could not waste time with Salin then, not when my soldiers were being attacked.

“Founder’s mercy!” Fabian gasped.

Fabian’s outburst caused Salin to stop mid-tirade. It turned around, its eyes widening as it marked our presence in the room. “But how?” it did not fully ask the question, but I knew what it meant. How could I have teleported within the palace?

“The key to using quicksand in this place is in my blood, because Lahooni belongs to me Salin.”

Salin appeared shocked. Fabian took several steps back. Foild was also there, but no one else from Fabiana’s family was present. These were the only traitors then. Foild was expected, but not Fabian. I had expected so much more from the uspec who raised Fabiana. There were also guards. The plenum guards, ten of them. They outnumbered us two to one, if you didn’t count Musa and my offspring.

We could fight them. We could fight them and beat them. But there was no time to waste.

“Guards!” Salin yelled.

They took a step forward and I reached into my pain, or rather, I gave Chuspecip leave to. It was the one who knew how to command the difficult lit okun. If I tried, I would kill everyone in the room. Not Chuspecip though. Chuspecip knew how to release the lit okun underneath the guards, so that only they convulsed, so that only they died. And as they died, they gifted me with spectral energy, more fuel for spectra.

Now the three renegade uspecs of Fabiana’s line gaped at me. I always found it so flattering, the way uspecs looked at me whenever I created lit okun. It was not a thing that many could do. In fact, I did not know any uspec to have ever been able to do it. Frosted beasts could, and some chosen uspecs could withstand it. Now, I knew that the chosen uspecs who could withstand the poisonous souls of their spectrums were the ones carrying Chuspecip’s lifeform. But not even they could create what I could.

This too I gift to you and those of your line, because you are mine.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 7:01am On Mar 25
I smiled to myself. My consciousness must have left the room for some time, because the moment I looked down, Fabiana was suddenly kneeling in front of me.

“Let me act as your champion, sirga, let me fight my senior cognate Salin for you.” It pleaded.

I almost laughed. “Get up Fabiana, neither of us are going to have the satisfaction of killing Salin.”

It seemed shocked. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Foild’s quiet departure. It was trying to escape. The only reason it still drew breath was because of Fabiana. I created a circle of lit okun around it. It stopped moving, instantly, as if it was frozen to the spot. With that taken care of, I turned to face Marcinus. I pulled my cutlass out of my belt and gave it to the uspec. I knew that I could never make up for the loss of its progenitor, but I could give it this, a fair fight against Salin. As long as Salin did not touch Marcinus, it could not use pansophy on it, and I could ensure that no spectra was used to tip the scales.

Marcinus took the cutlass from me and approached Salin.

Salin unsheathed its sword. I had expected it to try other things, maybe even try to use spectra. It did not. It was already dead, perhaps it knew that. Marcinus advanced and Salin countered its blow. Salin took time to prepare for the next blow, but Marcinus was already attacking again. I’d forgotten how good of a fighter Marcinus was. Its skill with a sword was uncanny. None, not even Arexon, had the grace with a sword that Marcinus did. What Arexon lacked in grace it made up for with brute strength. Unfortunately, Marcinus was not in the mood for playing. The battle should have lasted longer, it should have been drawn out. I would have drawn it out, but Marcinus did not. It got close to Salin, sliced at the hand holding its sword, which forced Salin to release the weapon, then it swiveled. Marcinus swiveled, holding its cutlass out. As it turned back to face Salin, it struck the cutlass out, and lanced Salin in the chest. Marcinus pulled the cutlass out, giving Salin the space to fall to its knees. Then it brough the cutlass down again, hard. This time, it cut through the top of Salin’s head, lodging the cutlass in the uspec’s brain. When it pulled the cutlass out, there was blood and brain matter on the blade.

Marcinus fell to its knees by Salin’s corpse.

The room was silent. It was silent as Marcinus sobbed.

The silence was broken when Moat walked in. Two familiar uspecs came running in behind it. They were Fabiana’s siblings. Both of them held bloodstained swords, both had blood and gore allover their bodies. Their presence reminded me of the other war.

“Mater!” the older one yelled, as it ran towards its progenitor.

I stopped the younger one when it made to follow. “Where is the fighting?”

It stared at me. Its eyes moved from me, to Fabiana and then to Salin’s corpse, and Marcinus kneeling beside it. Then it saw Foild, standing within a circle of lit okun, and it smiled. This was the uspec who’d greeted Fabiana with a hug. It had even hugged me. Fabinna, I believe.

It bowed to me. It was a neck bow, the expected greeting of a majestic to an imperial. This uspec was acknowledging my status. “In the court, imperial one.” It said in reply.

Imperial one. It was what I was, but it was the first time anyone had ever referred to me as such. I was the Lahooni imperial. I had to shake the daze off, to force myself to walk out of the Kaiser’s receiving room, back through the walkway which I knew had a detour to the library, all the way to the other end. As soon as I pushed the curtains aside, I heard the battle sounds.

I turned to Fabiana. “Who commands our soldiers?”

“Fabin,” it replied, “my younger.”

I searched for the uspec. It did not take too long to find it. The uspec was standing beside its progenitor. I still hadn’t decided what to do about Fabian. It was the duke of the first metropolis of my port. I could not have an uspec I did not trust in that position. But I could not kill it, not when its offspring were so loyal. I shook myself, now was not the time to dwell on politics.

Fabin left its progenitor’s side and came to me. It bowed, the same way its younger offspring had bowed to me. “If it please you, I command the soldiers, imperial one.”

“Wait for my cue, then tell them to stand down.”

“Stand down?” It appeared shocked.

“Yes.” I turned to Musa. “Keep my offspring back. Do not let it come into that room until the battle has subsided.” This time, thankfully, Musa did not try to argue with me. The little one had clung to my side through it all, now it had to leave. Again, it stubbornly tried to cling to me, but this time, force was necessary. I plucked the stubborn little sprite of the floor and placed it in Musa’s waiting arms. As soon as I turned around, the uspec began to wail. The curtains were drawn and so the uspecs wailing could be heard. It drew attention to us. I pulled out my dagger and stabbed the first uspec that tried to bring the battle to us.

“Silence.” I snapped at my offspring. I had not meant to snap, and as soon as I did, I regretted it. But the uspec was silenced. I stroked its smooth cheek with the back of my hand, before nodding to the uspecs. I walked out of the curtains, they followed behind me.

The battle was in full rage when we walked in. The Monachooni guards wore black cloths which made it easy to tell them apart from ours, in cyan. I could have created enough lit okun to kill them all, but something held me back. That was not the way Chuspecip wanted me to approach this. I turned instead to look for Chechin. As soon as I found it, I teleported myself to it. It was surrounded by a personal guard of plenum warriors. These ones I killed. I used my dagger on two, and lit okun on the other four. That lit okun got Chechin’s attention.

“Irira.” It spat at me.

I smiled back at it. It tried to use fogs to kill me, but I destroyed the fogs like the little nuisances they were. “Tell your soldiers to stand down.” I just barely said the word before I saw a neck scale flying at me. I could clearly see who’d thrown it. It was Fabinna. And there I was thinking the uspec could be trusted. But the scale missed me, by a little bit. I was just deciding to deal with it later, when I heard a loud thump behind me. I turned and found that the uspec, Fabinna, had thrown the scale to save me. A plenum guard had been aiming for my back. I nodded at the uspec, it bowed to me.

“Tell your soldiers to stand down, or I will kill them all.”

Chechin scuffed.

I turned around. There were about twenty plenum soldiers fighting close to me. I let the pain out then. Small pools of lit okun formed underneath them. They died. All twenty of them, at once. The Lahooni soldiers they’d been fighting gaped in shock at each other.

“No one can create lit okun to counter mine. Tell your soldiers to stop, or they will die.”

Chechin swallowed.

I waited.

Then, it whistled. “Monachooni, halt!” it ordered. That order confused the plenum guards enough that Lahooni soldiers could take advantage of them. Several plenum guards were slaughtered in the ensuing case. I turned to find Fabin staring at me. I gave it the order, and it delivered a similar message. It took some time, but the soldiers were finally made to lower their weapons.

“Great one,” I began, speaking formerly to Chechin, “it is time for you to leave.”

It glared at me.

“Is this a war you really want to be fighting? Are you willing to die under the orders of iriras you so hate? You’ve seen the truth, you saw your senior cognate, you understand now, why the plenum Kaisers garb themselves as they do. What will you do with this information? Swallow your pride and continue to serve them.”

“I do not bow to iriras.” It spat out.

“But you do. You’ve been bowing to them all your life.” Chechin said nothing, it just fumed, but I knew the seed had already been planted. That was all that was required of me for now. I just had to plant the seed. “Leave,” I ordered, “while I am still patient enough to let you do so. The plenum is no longer welcome in my port.”

I could teleport them, but that would be a waste of spectral energy. They had legs and spectra of their own, they could take care of it.

Chechin was outnumbered, it knew this, it was no fool.

“I will leave.” It stated. “But you are the last brio, the plenum will be back for you.”

I grinned. “I expect nothing less.”

It glared at me one last time before giving the order to retreat. It summoned its soldiers to it, and then it began to march out of the room. I nodded at Fabin and tilted my head in the direction of the plenum soldiers.

“Any plenum affiliate that remains in this port will be slaughtered tonight. I can promise you that.”

It was a final warning, just incase Chechin decided to do anything stupid. But I knew it would not. I knew that it would leave, and I knew that it would want to take as many of its guards as it could, especially since it had already lost so many. Chechin had just found out that the plenum was founded on a lie, I had no doubt that it was going to do part of my job for me. That was the only reason it was leaving this port alive, and with such a large contingent of troops. Fabin followed with a contingent of its own.

Fabiana stopped by me. “What if they try to attack Fabin once they are out of sight?”

I could not be in two places at once. “They will not.” I replied.

My answer did not seem to calm Fabiana much. Especially not when the Lahooni soldiers, understanding their victory, began to taunt the plenum guards with the Uspecipyte fight song. They sang loudly, jeering the plenum guards as they walked. This was their victory, and they meant to take it. They’d spent too long under the yoke of the plenum. Fabiana was right, there was no point in wasting valuable Lahooni life just so that I could conserve spectral magic, especially not when the magic was so easy to drain with the okun. I reached into myself and let Chuspecip wield my anger. I was not nearly skilled enough to teleport such a large group of people. Even with Chuspecip, it took almost all the spectral magic I had in me. But it did it. It teleported the soldiers to the middle of the commune road.

I walked over to Fabin and handed it another token that had been in the pouch. This one was made of the same color as my ring. I handed the token over to Fabin, giving it instructions as to when to use it. I was certain to tell the uspec to stay out of sight on the commune road, to hide in the opaque fogs to the edge of the road. It was only to drop the token into the fogs if it appeared that Chechin and its guards weren’t leaving. I didn’t tell it what it would do, on the off chance that Fabin was thirsty for revenge. I needed Chechin to leave my port alive. Fabin took the token with a bow. Then I sent it after the plenum, to the commune road.

“Gratitude.” Fabiana said. I nodded.

Then, I raised a hand to silence the soldiers. “The war has only just started,” I said, in a loud carrying voice, “there is much that we must do to prepare for what is to come.”

“Who are you to think that you can command us?” this was an older uspec. It was in its prime. It wasn’t till I observed this uspec, that I noted that some of the soldiers were noble. The uniforms they wore had sleeves to shield their arms. And so it had been hard to make out the bulge of armbands beneath it. Now, staring at this uspec, I could clearly make out the bulges. I counted four, on each arm. A duke then. Its thoughts seemed to be shared because many concurred. Interesting, I’d thought they’d come fighting for me.

Fabiana made to speak, I shook my head, stopping it.

“I am Cala, offspring of Calami, claimed heir of Calam. I am the rightful leader of Lahooni.”

There were murmurs, several murmurs, much more murmurs than I’d expected. Why had I thought that they would just believe me, that they would take me at my word? I’d spent too much time around Fabiana and its line.

“Jukien,” the voice that spoke was unexpected. Fabian addressed the duke that questioned me. “It is as it says. I have seen it with my own eyes, Jukien, this is Calam’s heir. This is the last brio.”

“Perhaps I am not so easily convinced.” Jukien stated. I turned my gaze from Fabian, whose support of me came as a shock, back to the duke.

“I have proof. Calam left me a ring, incontrovertible evidence that I am its heir.” I did not actually know what the ring was, or really where it was, but I’d thought I wouldn’t need it. I could use quicksand to teleport within palace, something that no one else could do. I decided to point that fact out to the doubting duke.

“Perhaps that is a gift of the last brio.” Jukien countered.

I stared amazed at this uspec. It was willing to believe that I was the last brio, but not that I was the heir to Lahooni. As if the two were mutually exclusive. Perhaps I could just kill it.

That is no way to win a people, or to lead them.

It was right of course, I could not just kill all dissenters. If I did, I would be following in the steps of Sophila and the plenum. I had to aspire to better uspecs, like Arexon. I had to be a leader that they would want to follow.

“Fine.” I nodded to Jukien. “I will bring the proof. I will find the ring.”

Jukien nodded back. “Then you will have the right to command us.”

I scoffed at it. “I will not command you then, but I will ask for your help. This is not a favor for me, but for Chuspecip, for the founder you swore to serve. Will you hear it?”

Jukien hesitated, but then it nodded. “You are the last brio, we will hear you.”

Was this politics? Jukien’s refusal to accept that I was Calam’s heir. Did it perhaps think to usurp my port as Salin had?

Be patient.

I took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “I know where the founder is, and I know how to save it, but to do this, I need your bravery. I need Lahooni to fight, one more time.”

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by eROCK247(m): 7:25am On Mar 25
obehiD still no update? What's happening?
BTW I'm guessing you're Esan from your name.

So if the plenum succeeds in destroying Chuspecip they'll make the invasion easier. Destroying Chuspecip will be in the interest of the Umanis
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by RealLordZeus(m): 12:24pm On Mar 25
All hail, Obehid!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by IntellectLord(m): 1:18pm On Mar 25
[color=#550000][/color] Geez,, I love this feeling,, can't keep my cool ,,
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 2:21pm On Mar 25
Obehid, you are fantastically good. Please, how near are we to the end of this awesome piece.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 5:55pm On Mar 25
At the moment when Nebud was worried about how to command it's group, I too was worried. Shamelessly I too felt calm after chuspecip words
you have no need to fear, you are mine.

I felt sudden relief, I just realised that I am subconsciously concerned about Nebud's success. Hahaha.

This is good. Salon is dead, the plenum army losing this battle. There is still a war to win. I wish Nebud great success.

Thanks for the update Obehid. Loving it truly.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 5:51am On Mar 27
@eROCK247 Yes, I'm half Esan. And you're right, if the plenum does succeed then the invasion will be easier, but just to be clear, destroying chuspecip is in the interest of the imps not really of the umanis. The umanis are just living their care free lives in the standard existence.

@RealLordZeus Thank you, thank you, much appreciated grin

@IntellectLord I'm glad you're excited, much more exciting things coming soon

@tunjilomo Thank you! It's so awesome that you already want it to end Okay oh. We're about to start the last volume. I'm planning to be done with writing and posting around June (hopefully, if I don't get too busy with other stuff)

@Fazemood LOL! Yay, it's taken some time but you're finally feeling with Nebud. I'm happy cheesy There is indeed still a war to win. Thanks for reading and enjoying it!

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Rynne: 11:26am On Mar 27
@,ObehiD there is covid 19 lockdown across the country,won't you bless us with more regular updates maybe thrice a week? We just sitting at home looking at different things, I really wish I would be able to read your stories more regularly to keep me busy...just my opinion though...
Thanks I really appreciate you.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Skywalker909(m): 9:49pm On Mar 27
finally i can comment..
no more ghost reading....
BTW miss obehiD, i have some questions..
1.since chuspecsip in truly a god,does that mean the kuwor is also?
2.if yes,then it should have lifeforms somewhere..
3.it (the kuwor)will propably be manipulating another uspec just as chusp is doing....
anticipating tomorrows update sha..
Great work ma'am.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:16am On Mar 28
@Rynne I'm sorry, I wish I had enough written/had the time to write enough to post that frequently. I really appreciate that you want to read more of my works I just wish I had the time to write more frequently. When/if that changes I will definitely post more frequently!

@Skywalker909 welcome from the shadows former ghost reader! cheesy It really depends on what you call a god. But the Kuwor is very certainly a god, whether or not Chuspecip is one too, well that is a matter of opinion (thus the Kuworytes vs the Uspecipytes). But the Kuwor is the overall creator of this marked world, and the creator of the Chus so it is certainly a god. But the Kuwor is very different from Chuspecip, it doesn't operate the same. I shouldn't say this not to spoil anything, but I will say that the Kuwor does not deign to lower itself to the squabbles of lower beings (though there are exceptions...but that's all I'll say for now). Thank you for reading!

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by olite93: 2:20am On Mar 28
This is a war btw the kuwor vs chuspecip... The true god vs the founder... Who wins? What is the reason 4 the war? Is chuapecip trying to outwit d kuwor its father...
For other chus to interfere e.g churaya and chumani....
Very interesting story....
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by olite93: 2:25am On Mar 28
obehiD:
@Rynne I'm sorry, I wish I had enough written/had the time to write enough to post that frequently. I really appreciate that you want to read more of my works I just wish I had the time to write more frequently. When/if that changes I will definitely post more frequently!

@Skywalker909 welcome from the shadows former ghost reader! cheesy It really depends on what you call a god. But the Kuwor is very certainly a god, whether or not Chuspecip is one too, well that is a matter of opinion (thus the Kuworytes vs the Uspecipytes). But the Kuwor is the overall creator of this marked world, and the creator of the Chus so it is certainly a god. But the Kuwor is very different from Chuspecip, it doesn't operate the same. I shouldn't say this not to spoil anything, but I will say that the Kuwor does not deign to lower itself to the squabbles of lower beings (though there are exceptions...but that's all I'll say for now). Thank you for reading!

It must retaliate chusepcips insolence...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:27am On Mar 28
============
VOLUME NINE
============

Part 1
---------

-----------------------------
On the Inter-port Trail
-----------------------------

I jumped off Marc’s back and turned to examine the scene which greeted my return.

It was really always the same whenever I was gone for more than a few days, away from the well-meaning, yet awfully stifling, eyes of my honoraria. I’d been gone for three days this time. Who knew that three days could feel so long? On one hand, it had felt good to be on my own, on the other hand, I sighed, I had missed my offspring. It was a month old now and it was still yet to speak. I feared that each day I was away could be the day the little one decided to release its first string of intelligible sound.

Things had not gone exactly as I’d expected. I’d thought to be out of the inter-port trail long before now, but then I could not have predicted Chechin’s decisions. On the bright side, there were advantages to the forced delay.

I combed my hand through Marc’s thick fur, watching out of the corner of my eyes as the guards in my honoraria, upon sighting me, burst into action. There were only forty-eight of them in the large compound Arexon and I owned, but it felt strange to know that those forty-eight lives were sworn to me.

A month with them, and it still felt odd. The uspecs in my honoraria were all offspring of Lahooni nobles. They’d all willingly chosen to leave their homes and accompany me on my mission to return the founder to its rightful place. I had not asked for them, and I had been unable to refuse their aid. I was still coming to terms with what it meant to be an acknowledged imperial. Of course Jukien and its ilk refused to acknowledge me until I proved myself with Calam’s ring, but their offspring listened to Fabiana. Once Fabiana acknowledged me, the uspecs of our generation did as well. A hundred of them left their lines and swore themselves to my service. Two of them had died keeping their oaths. They’d died to save my life. I tried not to ponder too deeply on the uspec who’d put itself between my chest and a sword. I could still remember the smile that had filled its face when it died in my arms. This was what it meant to be imperial.

I forced myself out of the dire thoughts as the first of my honoraria raced towards me. Juke was its name, last offspring of the duke Jukien who’d refused to acknowledge me as heir to Lahooni. The uspec was thirteen years old, the youngest amongst my honoraria, really the youngest uspec in the entire compound. It was so young it had just one single cyan scale on its neck, one outer eye socket formed and filled, and bare ailerons. My eyes caught on the three golden armbands it wore on each arm. The presence of that gold reminded me that I was not just served by uspecs but by nobles. How strange my world had become.

“Welcome sirga,” Juke bowed in greeting when it reached me.

Marc trumpeted and wrapped its trunk around Juke. My bear liked the young uspec, and from the way the uspec chuckled and stroked Marc’s fur, it was obvious it returned the bear’s feelings.

‘Sirga.’ When we’d begun our little expedition, the line between my noble honoraria and Arexon’s soldiers had been perfectly clear. It had been more than just the difference in the hooni and boga features. My honoraria had spoken different, looked different. They’d all called me ‘imperial one’ then. Now the line between them was blurred and the honoraria called me ‘sirga’ as Arexon’s guards did. A month living together would do that to uspecs.

Juke extricated itself from Marc’s embrace right as more uspecs poured in. It was an uspec with silver earrings who took Marc away, after saluting me.

“Welcome sirga,” Binna greeted.

I turned to the uspec and nodded. It was funny how little of a similarity I had seen between Fabiana and its sibling the first time we’d met. Now that Fabiana was gone and its two-time younger was all I had to remind me of it, I started seeing Fabiana in Fabinna.

I took off my coat, glad to be free of the constriction. The coat covered the entire length of my body and had a heard guard attached to the collar. It was necessary to hide my identity from all the wandering eyes scouring for even the slightest news of my whereabouts. We’d done a good job keeping the plenum distracted, but they’d still gotten duplicates of my appearance to as many people as they could. There was a large bounty on my head, three hundred pieces of worth to be exact, a halcyon’s epic. I had lost two of my honoraria in a fight that broke out when a rowdy group of uspecs sought to take me to the plenum.

I’d barely taken the coat off before Juke artfully plucked it from my hands and draped it over its arm. It looked up at me as one would stare at a hero. I had done nothing to merit such worship, but the uspec was in awe of me. It had been from the moment it snuck out of its progenitor’s dwelling to join my honoraria. I had tried to send the uspec back but Fabiana had pleaded on its behalf.

“How was your journey sirga? Eventful?” Juke asked.

I smiled at the uspec and nodded. “Very.”

It grinned. “I bet it is a tale of gore and glory sirga. I can’t wait to hear it! Musa has told me of all your exploits, from your battles in Katsoaru, to your escapades with the high Arexon, to the travails of Nefastu…” the young uspec chattered away.

I took my attention from Juke’s excited recounts of my life to the compound where we housed a hundred of Arexon’s soldiers, forty-eight of my honoraria, myself, Arexon, Marcinus, and Musa.

It was a large compound. It had cost a fortune to purchase the required form cards to build a place such as this on the inter-port trail. But it’d had to be done. The ground was uninspiring hard sludge, as all of the resting places were. Every building, every structure, in the compound was made of sludge with varying degrees of form. It was almost exactly like the place I’d stayed in during my first trip on the inter-port trail. Back then it had just been Musa and I travelling together, neither one of us having any idea where our path was leading. The voice in my head, which had started out as an enemy, was now turned into our salvation. Chuspecip, I still felt it, but we were now of such singular purpose that it barely made itself known.

We walked through the empty patches between rows of outhouses. The soldiers and the bulk of my honoraria slept in those outhouses. The hard-sludge outhouses formed a perimeter around the much larger dwelling in the middle. Arexon, Marcinus, and I shared that dwelling with Musa, my offspring and a few of my honoraria as well as the highest ranking of Arexon’s soldiers. Musa was the only imp we had with us. It was odd to think of Musa and not immediately feel the rage of its betrayal as I once had before. Things were not the same between us, I feared they would never be, but we had reached a new equilibrium. As Marcinus and I had reached a new equilibrium. And Fabiana…I was so tired of all the losses.

I eyed the small pond longingly as I made my way towards the entrance to our dwelling. It had cost so much more to be able to purchase form cards that came with the design and thought to keep a pond filled. We still had to revert to the faucet for clean okun for drinking and cooking. My stomach grumbled.

“Any news from Fabiana?” I asked, cutting Juke off in the middle of what I assumed was an imitation of my fight against Checha. This was the honoraria’s favorite story. I could not for the life of me imagine what Fabiana had told them about that fight because whenever they spoke of it, there was reverence in their tone. They did not know how close I had come to dying. How much blood I had gifted to the hatch. They did not know the pains I had taken. If they knew, they would not look up to me as much as they did.

Binna shook its head. It was the only one who shared my sorrow about Fabiana’s disappearance. “Still no word, sirga.”

Ah! I barely refused the urge to scream. Fabiana! What a fool. What a righteous fool! What would I do if the uspec never returned? Fabiana was part of our deception. It had taken my appearance, and now it led a hundred soldiers, fifty of my honoraria and fifty of Arexon’s soldiers, on a march towards Chiboga. The plan was for Fabiana to distract the plenum guards around Chiboga in time for the mission I’d completed to bear fruit. That mission, the one I had just returned from, had involved delivering a missive to ensure that if troops from Aboga could make it through to the plenum guard around Chiboga, then they would be snuck into Chiboga. Arexon needed those extra troops if it was to stand even the slightest chance of beating the plenum. Fabiana was supposed to send word every day. Two weeks had passed since we’d last heard from it. I hated to think of what its silence meant.

“Where is my offspring?”

“In its room sirga,” Binna replied.

I nodded. I was barely through the curtains into the dwelling when Moat, one of Arexon’s inner circle stopped me. It saluted, its right-hand crossing over its chest. I saluted back. “In clover,” I ordered. “What is it?”

“General Arexon requests your presence in its office.”

I scoffed to myself. Arexon did not request anything. I ached for my offspring. It had been three whole days since I’d last seen it. When an uspec was as young as mine, three days was a long time to be away from it. I turned my head slightly and stared at the sludge walkway which led to the suite I shared with my offspring. Arexon’s suite were on the opposite end. I could keep Arexon waiting, at least for a little while, just long enough to embrace my offspring. No, it would be rude, and after everything Arexon had done for me, I owed it more than that. I swiveled my head and turned back to face the soldier. I nodded in gratitude and turned to follow the walkway that led to Arexon’s suite.

“Do you think we will ever see the majestic Fabiana again, sirga?” It was Juke who asked the question.

I put my hand on Binna’s shoulder and squeezed. It was hard to believe that it had only been a month ago that Fabiana had introduced me to its family and I had been wary of touching them. Now I placed my hand on Binna’s shoulder and squeezed without giving it much thought. I comforted the uspec as I would have comforted its elder sibling.

Binna turned to stare at me. “Is there nothing that you can tell us to aid? Fabiana mentioned that with the last brio you can…” it trailed off, “forgive my impertinence, imperial one.” It looked down and bowed its head.

I was imperial one now, and noble uspecs looked to gain my favor. Again, I was left to ponder on how strange my world had become. I released my hold on the uspec. “It is harder to feel Chuspecip’s lifeforms on the inter-port trail,” I said. It was partly true. The other part was a secret I was set on keeping from everyone, even Fabiana’s well meaning sibling. I was not yet willing to let anyone know that Chuspecip was getting weaker. I could feel its hold on me slipping. With each day we wasted on the inter-port trail, the Founder’s strength waned. No one wanted to hear this truth and so I refrained from saying it.

Binna nodded, but my words had done nothing to console it. I wished that there was more I could do. But I could not feel the lifeforms. I just could not feel them. We were running out of time to save Chuspecip, but there was still so much that needed to be put in place before we could even attempt the journey.

Two soldiers stood at attention in front of Arexon’s office. As soon as they saw me, they saluted. I pulled the curtain aside and walked into the office.

Arexon was seated on a highchair behind a large sludge desk. The desk was littered with parchment. Off to the side of the office there was a sludge table with a rough map sketched onto it. It was Arexon’s war map. The uspec had arranged little figurines around the area to show the deployment of the plenum’s troops. I glanced at that map and flinched at the thousands of plenum soldiers camped around Lahooni. It was all part of the plan, but I could not help my shiver of apprehension.

“Master!” Musa’s cheerful voice pulled Arexon’s focus from the furious scribbling it was doing on a parchment scroll.

These days Musa spent more time with Arexon than it did with me. It was part of the new equilibrium our relationship had settled into. I nodded in greeting at the imp before turning my gaze to Arexon. For all the worrying and strategizing it did, it was not much changed. It was still all bulk and raw power.

“Salutations sirga.” I greeted with a neck bow.

Arexon nodded at me. “Salutations. You have returned.” It stated.

I chuckled. “Yes sirga, and I mean to see my offspring, clean in the pond, and eat a freshly cooked meal, in that order.”

“Is that your way of telling me that I am intruding on your homecoming plans?” Arexon drawled.

Only Arexon could make a question sound like a threat and a teasing all at the same time. There was a time when Arexon’s imperious tone would have abraded me, but I was long past that now. Arexon had sacrificed more than its life for me, on more than one occasion. It had earned the respect it demanded.

“Of course not, sirga.” I turned my back on the uspec and walked towards its snack table. The long table held several fruits, pastries, dried meats, and wine decanters with wooden cups. Every uspec in our compound knew that Arexon’s office was always open to them.

Juke ran past me and picked up a decanter filled with my favorite type of wine. It poured the wine into a wooden cup and rushed to present the filled cup of wine to me. The young uspec was so eager to please. I took the cup from it and nodded my thanks. It bowed and prepared a cup of Arexon’s favorite wine for the uspec.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:28am On Mar 28
Arexon took the cup from the young uspec’s eager hand. “Gratitude young majestic,” Arexon said.

“Gra-gratitude high one.” Juke’s voice shook.

It rushed back to stand behind me as I gulped down my wine. “Do you mind if I make a roll? Three days of grain and hard-dried meat has left me quite famished.” I asked Arexon as soon as my cup was empty.

Arexon jutted its chin towards the table in assent.

“Sweet buns and nama meat?” Juke asked, rushing forward before I could even attempt to make my own sandwich.

I smiled at the young uspec and nodded. “Gratitude.” Then I walked over to Arexon and sat on the sludge chair on the opposite side of its desk. Musa’s head was in a tome, it pored through the pages, its eyelids fluctuating over its empty eye sockets as it read.

“We finally received a response from Manus.” Arexon stated without preamble. It jerked its head towards a scroll on the far side of its desk.

I looked at the scroll still in its lavender tube. “What does it say?”

“Manus is too smart to leave a summons such as this unprotected. It is addressed to Marcinus and it will require Marcinus’ identity to open it.”

“Oh.” Katsoaru, another part of Chuspecip’s plan. We needed them all, we needed all of the ports if we were going to stand a chance against the plenum. I knew that Chechin had seen Marcinus with us. It would no doubt have reported to the plenum that Arexon, Marcinus and I had acted as one to free Lahooni from the plenum’s hold.

If only Chechin had acted as we’d expected. Its hatred for iriras had appeared so strong, much too strong to go on serving them.

Over thirty percent of the plenum’s forces were Monachooni uspecs. If Chechin broke away from them, those troops would leave to. That was what I had expected when I sent Chechin running from Lahooni. But instead of running home, the uspec had run back to the plenum, which meant the plenum was still much too strong in soldiers.

Juke placed a wooden plate on the desk and another filled cup of wine. I nodded absentmindedly at it, before tearing into the roll it had made. The ratio of nama meat to sweet bun was perfect. I thought with the succulent food in my mouth. My gaze moved over to Arexon’s war map.

We’d planned our exit perfectly. And with the help of the uspecs loyal to us in Lahooni, the plenum had to be roughly eighty percent sure that I was still in Lahooni. But then, Fabianna had donned my appearance and gone on its walkabout to keep the plenum from being a hundred percent sure. I’d also gone on a tour myself, with Marcinus, back when Marcinus was still sane. With me on one side of the inter-port trail, Fabianna, appearing as me, on another, and strong rumors of my presence in Lahooni, the plenum could not be sure where I was. They’d sent sixty percent of their forces to retake Lahooni. Ten percent of those forces had died when they tried to march on the commune road.

I’d been right the first time I walked on that commune road. There was smog sand buried underneath it. I gave Fabin, Fabiana’s younger, the token to dissolve the hard quicksand and drop the uspecs into the smog sand below. It was like the lit okun, but for hoonis. Everyone not of the hooni spectrum who the smog sand touched would die instantly. Those of the hooni spectrum that lived and made it through to the other side were immediately cut down by the Lahooni army headed by Jukien. The reports we received from Lahooni showed that the plenum was using pious makers to build a bridge. They were building a bridge out of non-pansophic metals. Once the bridge was complete, Lahooni would be overrun. The plenum was losing a lot of soldiers to that bridge, but once it was done…Lahooni would fall. We had to divide the plenum soldiers before that could happen.

“Where is Marcinus?” I knew the answer, but I had to ask. We needed Marcinus to put pressure on Manus, to make its sibling paranoid. Manus had to believe that Marcinus would return to Katsoaru with an army. The more paranoid Manus became, the more of the plenum’s forces that would be taken from Lahooni and Chiboga to Katsoaru. There was still no war in Chiboga. The plenum had sent a missive to Arexon, ordering its return to face them. Arexon had handed Animaton over to Chechin, so it still remained to be seen if the plenum knew Animaton was not the pious one they wanted. Their last missive to Arexon had simply stated that it was to return to Chiboga. They knew Arexon was on the inter-port trail, they just didn’t know where.

“Where do you think?” Arexon replied, in answer to my earlier question about Marcinus’ whereabouts.

I sighed. I’d hoped Marcinus’ bad habit would have stopped before I returned. Now, I realized that was just wishful thinking on my part. No matter how out of control Marcinus became I could not bring myself to judge it. It was my fault after all that Marcinus had sunk to the dregs. “Where did it get the money?” I snapped.

Arexon’s cool gaze cut through me.

I looked away. I felt old, much older than my actual age. Every time I looked at Marcinus it felt as if my heart was breaking. What happened to the young imperial from Katsoaru, the one that had forced me to see it as a friend despite myself? I had ruined that imperial and Marcinus had become an uspec I could not recognize.

I took a swig of my wine.

“So, how did you find my patron?” Arexon asked.

I turned my focus back to the uspec. “The great Auxa sends its greetings. It was very receptive to your offer.”

Arexon grinned. “I thought it might be. And the troop mobilization from Aboga to Chiboga?”

“Progressing.”

Arexon sighed. It stood up and marched over to its war map. I found myself following it.

“The problem,” Arexon said, “is that even with all the Chiboga annexed troops in Aboga, we still don’t have enough to bear the brunt of the plenum’s war.”

“With all due respect, high one, you are not bearing the brunt, Lahooni is.” Binna spoke up. I’d forgotten that the uspec was with us.

Arexon stared blankly at it. Its brows furrowed and then it shook its head. “Of course majestic, but how long will that last?”

It was a sore topic. All of the uspecs in my honoraria had family in Lahooni. Binna and Fabiana had come with me, but their siblings Fabin and Fib remained with their progenitor Fabian. If Lahooni fell, I did not think the plenum would show mercy to the nobles who helped me escape.

“The bridge will be built. The plenum will build the bridge into Lahooni if they have to do it on the corpses of their dead soldiers. Once that bridge is built, Chiboga will bear the brunt of the war, and I just don’t have the soldiers to win.”

“You don’t need to win, high one, you just need to hold the plenum off till the imperial Nebud is able to return Chuspecip to its rightful place.”

“Yes,” Arexon’s eyes caught and held mine, “I always forget that part.”

My honoraria believed fully in my mission as the last brio, but Arexon did not share their faith. It did not think that Chuspecip was still alive, and it did not think that Chuspecip had the power to save our existence. I had to look away from Arexon’s piercing stare. Chuspecip was weak. It was too weak.

I turned my gaze back to the war map. The bulk of the plenum’s soldiers was around Lahooni. Twenty-five percent, which was still a large number, surrounded Chiboga. Ten percent was in Hakute and the last five percent wandered the inter-port trail for signs of us.

“Why does the plenum have so many troops around Hakute?” Juke asked.

“The Isle of Brio.” I replied distractedly. The plenum had too many troops. The only way that we stood even the slightest chance of victory was if Chechin broke off from the plenum. Over thirty percent of the plenum’s troops would return to Monachooni with it. But it had been a whole month since Chechin found out about Checha being an irira. If it had not broken from the plenum yet, it was not likely to.

“Go and see your offspring Nebud,” Arexon advised, “staring at the map will only drive you crazy.”

“We need to find Fabiana.” I ignored Arexon’s advice. “Fabiana’s contingent is the only distraction that will give the Aboga troops enough time to reach the great Auxa. Without the reinforcements from Aboga, Chiboga will fall, and it’ll fall quickly. If Chiboga falls quickly, Lahooni will fall quickly, and vice versa. The plenum must be divided.”

Arexon shook its head. “Once the plenum’s bridge into Lahooni is complete, it’ll take at most twenty percent of their troops to defeat Lahooni.”

“You underestimate our forces high one,” Binna said.

“Stop being so prickly,” Arexon snapped, “this is war and war is about facts not hope.”

“It is not hope that makes me defend my port’s troops, it is skill. If you doubt the skill of Lahooni blade, I will be more than happy to show you our mettle.” As it spoke Binna wrapped its hand around the hilt of its sword and made to pull the weapon out.

Arexon’s eyes narrowed at the sound of the weapon being drawn. “If you pull your sword on me, you’d better be ready to use it.”

It was all getting out of hand. Binna pulled its sword out of its scabbard before I could stop the foolish uspec. I reached out to hold it back, but it evaded my grasp and advanced on Arexon.

Arexon looked more irritated than anything else. It pulled its sword out of its sheath and parried with Binna. It was ridiculous to watch. Binna was young, it was still an uspec growing. It had no bulk. I knew from parrying with it that it was adequate with a blade, but adequate was not nearly enough to go up against Arexon. Arexon struck its blade against Binna’s with so much force that the sword dropped from the uspec’s hand. Binna’s eyes widened as Arexon brought the sharp end of its blade down towards the uspec’s neck. A few inches away, Arexon tilted its sword so that the flat side struck Binna’s side.

Binna fell from the blow.

I raced to the other side of the table. “Was that really necessary?” I asked Arexon, after I made sure Binna was alright. The uspec was foolish to think it could go up against Arexon and win, but it was bleeding. Arexon had cut into its side with the sharp end of its sword when it struck it.

I looked at Binna’s face. The uspec was in pain, but it did not show it. It did not flinch when I prodded at its wounds. And when I stretched out a hand to help it up it grasped my hand and pulled itself to its feet. It had the makings of a great fighter. Tough and foolhardy. I patted it on the shoulder.

“Go and see your offspring Nebud.” Arexon ordered.

This time I was annoyed by the curt way it dismissed me. I turned to glare at it, but its focus was back on its maps. I shook my head and walked out of its office.

“Master!” Musa called after us.

I stopped and turned to face the imp.

“Don’t take it to heart, domina Arexon is under a lot of pressure.”

I smiled sadly at the imp. How the times had changed what we had. Now it was explaining away Arexon’s behavior. As if I could ever hold anything against Arexon. “How are you?” I asked.

“Very well, master, very well.”

I nodded. “Good. You take good care of Arexon,” I did not add any comments about how it had once taken care of me. The imp seemed about to say something, but I sent it back to Arexon before it could speak. I didn’t wait to see if it would obey, I turned around and headed back to my suite.

I longed to clap eyes on my offspring.

Maybe it will be so overjoyed to see me that it will speak the way it hadn’t in the month since its birth. Its lack of speech troubled me. I hated to think of my first offspring, but at times all I could do was compare them. The first had been bigger, this one was smaller. The first one had spoken in a week; this one hadn’t spoken in a month. I shook my head, chastising myself. It would take as much time as it took for the young uspec to speak, and when it did speak, I would be proud, whatever its first words were.

I passed by a number of Arexon’s soldiers and my honoraria on my way to my suite.

“The high Arexon is a great fighter.” Binna grudgingly praised.

I wished Binna hadn’t said that. Right on cue Juke began chattering, “did you see the way it disarmed you? A single blow Binna, and your blade was out. Swipe, cling, ding, blade gone. Amazing! Pater did not know that noble uspecs could fight like that. ‘Stand tall, a swordfight is a dance not an attack’. Pater should see the high one fight and it will know that a swordfight is an attack. I must train under the high one. Will you speak with the high Arexon on my behalf sirga?”

I wondered if I had ever been so young. I knew that I had certainly never been so chatty.

“You should be asking to train with our imperial, not the high Arexon. Our imperial beat the mighty Checha, our imperial can defeat anyone.”

“Of course I want to train with our imperial, but I would also like to train with the high Arexon. One can never acquire too much information. You know Binna, it was your sibling, the majestic Fabiana, that postulated the dichotomy between the standard tutorials in a noble’s sparring education and…”

Juke went on with its rambling. I realized, as I listened to the young uspec speak that I had become quite fond of it. I had become fond of all of them. They were my responsibility, the honoraria. Still, it came as a relief when I reached my offspring’s room and the young uspec finally stopped talking. I had a huge grin on my face as I pulled the curtains aside. My offspring always ran to greet me whenever I returned from a trip.

I walked into its room and braced myself for the impact.

None came.

The room was empty.

“Nebula!” I screamed my offspring’s name out at the top of my lungs. I was frozen with terror as my frantic eyes took in the state of the empty room.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 12:54pm On Mar 28
Ha obehid pls dont let anything bad happen to Nebula.... Thanks for the update
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:59am On Apr 01
cassbeat:
Ha obehid pls dont let anything bad happen to Nebula.... Thanks for the update

Thank you for reading grin and let's see what happened to Nebula...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 5:00am On Apr 01
Part 2
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“Ula!” Juke screamed. “Ula!” It ran into the room and crawled under the bed in search of the little one.

My heart raced. Did the plenum get my offspring? Did they find Nebula? Was there a traitor in our camp? Had the traitor delivered my offspring over to the plenum? There was no more effective way to force my surrender. I would give my life and more if it meant that my offspring could be free.

I stomped into the room and upended the tiny sludge desk off to the side. “Nebula!” I roared. It was nowhere. I ran blindly through my suite. I searched my room. I could hear the sound of objects shattering as I cast them against a wall. It was not in my room. I raced out of my room and tore through the rest of the dwelling shoving aside uspecs who were in my way. Several loud cries followed me. I smelled the blood of an uspec I’d shoved too hard against a wall. I could not stop. I could not.

I ran out of the dwelling.

There were uspecs behind me, several calling out to me. I could not hear them, not in my state of panic. Where could it be? I’d warned my offspring never to leave the compound without an escort. Musa was usually with it, when it was not ensconced with Arexon planning battle strategies. My offspring was smart, too smart to go wandering by itself.

I flew from one outhouse to another. None of them had the uspec I searched for. I could not think. Where would it go? Nowhere. Unless it was stolen. The plenum. I would crush them. I would kill them all. I would spill their blood until the entire existence was coated with it. If they’d caused me this pain, if they’d taken my offspring from me, I would destroy them.

“Nebud!” A hard hand clamped onto my upper arms and shook.

I shoved at the uspec but it would not budge. Its shaking just got more vigorous. It shook me till it felt as if my brain was rattling against the confines of my skull. It wasn’t till that moment that I allowed its jarring to break into my frazzled thoughts. I blinked, awareness slowly returning as I stared into Arexon’s scowling face.

“Nebud, calm yourself. Listen.” It ordered.

Listen to what? “Nebula is gone. I can’t find it Arexon,” I did not think I’d ever called the uspec by its name before, but in that moment, I was too distraught to care. How could this happen? I swore to myself that I would cause pain to the ones responsible for this.

Arexon’s scowl eased away. “Listen to Moat.” It jerked its head to the side, and with its hands clamped on my arms, I had no choice but to focus on the direction it was gesturing me towards.

I turned to stare at the soldier.

It stood at attention. It looked uncertainly at Arexon. Arexon nodded and the soldier turned its focus to me. “Sirga,” it began nervously, “one of the soldiers said it saw your offspring leave with the imperial Marcinus. It said it was a common enough occurrence that it did not think to stop the little one.”

Common enough occurrence? My offspring chasing Marcinus on its perverted trips to the dregs. Was the guard insane? “What guard?” I demanded, my hand flying to my cutlass. I would cut off that guard’s head. I would cut off its head and when I found Marcinus… “what guard!” I snapped at the soldier.

It stood at attention, but its gaze did not meet mine. If it would not tell me the name of the guard, then I would meet out the guard’s punishment on its own head. I pulled out my cutlass and swung it on a straight arc towards the uspec’s neck.

The soldier didn’t flinch.

“Stop this!” Arexon snapped. It deflected the swing of my cutlass with its dagger. If I was in a better frame of mind, I would have appreciated the speed with which Arexon pulled out its dagger and put it in position. Then again, if I was in a better frame of mind, I wouldn’t have tried to take off Moat’s head. Luckily, I was sane enough to realize that fighting with Arexon was not in my best interest. Besides, I had an offspring to fetch. I brought my cutlass down and stuck it back into its sheath. Then, I forced myself to breathe and calm. My heart was pumping hard.

“The lust den?” I spat the words out through clenched teeth. I already knew it to be true, that was Marcinus’ addiction after all. It lived in the dregs, and sometimes it gambled, but mostly it gorged itself on lust. How it all came full circle. It was Manus, Marcinus’ sibling who’d first introduced me to the drugging bliss of lust. At least Manus had been smart enough to get the lust pure, from the writhing of the imps. Marcinus got its lust from vapors. It was polluted lust and it left fools like Marcinus longing for more. And Marcinus had dragged my offspring into that filth. Polluted lust! I would kill it.

“Yes sirga,” the soldier, Moat, confirmed my thoughts.

I made to turn when Arexon restrained me. My mood was so foul that I came close to cutting Arexon’s hand off.

“Think!” It snapped. “Send your honoraria to fetch the young uspec, instead of going yourself.” Its words were whispered low, low enough that only the uspecs standing closest to us could hear.

I wrenched my arm free of Arexon’s hold. “I respect you sirga, but if you try to stop me again I will cut off your hand.”

Arexon scoffed. It shook its head, its fingers rising to massage its temple. “Then at least have the good sense to cover yourself and take several bottles of the emetic with you.” Arexon’s eyes roved over me in a way that made me feel small and somehow lacking. Then it turned its back on me and said to Moat, “on my orders, bar the imperial Nebud from leaving if it is not properly garbed.” Then it marched away before I could yell at it to rescind its orders. It shook its head and muttered as it left. I heard several ramblings of ‘idiot’ in all the spectral tongues and a few umani ones.

Arexon’s soldiers outnumbered my honoraria two to one, and they fought better than the average noble in my honoraria. The soldiers respected me, but they would never disobey an order from Arexon.

I sighed.

“Fetch my coat Juke.” I ordered. I could not see the uspec, but it was very rarely ever far from me. “Bring a case of the emetic with you.”

“Right away sirga!” Juke called out.

“I will prepare the bears sirga. Will an escort of four be sufficient?” Binna asked.

I glared at the uspec. Four, was it insane? One bear riding on the inter-port trail was already a stirring sight. Four would cause a commotion. “No bears.” I snapped. “We will fly.”

Binna frowned. “But my ailerons are not yet covered enough for flight sirga.”

“Then you will not be accompanying me.” I growled. I did not need an escort. I was Nebud! I had never required an escort before. I was quite capable of killing on my own. In fact, in the mood I was in, I welcomed the chance to kill quite a large number of uspecs on my own. Perhaps I could slaughter all the uspecs in the lust den Marcinus had taken my offspring too. After I slaughtered Marcinus. What would drive Marcinus to take my one month old to a lust den? I knew that it had lost its mind, but I did not think that Marcinus had become quite so unstable. To take my own offspring…I would wring its neck.

“Please sirga, I am ready, let me go with you.”

It was so stifling, to be surrounded by uspecs all eager to please, to prove themselves to me. When had I become the uspec that was worshipped? The moment Fabiana convinced them all that I was Calami’s offspring. I knew it. I had lived it for weeks, still it felt strange.

Leadership was not quite what I had expected it to be. “My desire to fly is no reflection on your skill Binna. I need to see my offspring safe and flying is the safest way to get there.”

The uspec looked ready to argue. It took one look at my face, and whatever it saw there made it reconsider. It bowed its head formally to me. “As you please imperial one.”

Juke returned at that moment. It ran up to me and extended its arm with my jacket draped over it. I took the jacket from the young uspec’s arm and forced myself into it. Then I snapped the case open and stared at the rows of blue vials. Before Marcinus and its disgusting habit, I’d had no need to keep these vials in stock. Now we wasted money on the purgatives because the fool could not keep itself from crawling to lust dens. I had forgiven its habit, even taken some of the blame for it. But then it got my offspring involved. It was still so young and so fragile. The last thing it needed was to imbibe polluted lust.

I pulled out three of the vials and tossed them into my belt.

“If it please you sirga, I will accompany you.” Moat.

I wanted to refuse. I did not need an escort, I never had. But things were different now. Everyone on the inter-port trail was aware of the bounty on my head. It was too large of an amount not to have tongues wagging. I nodded sharply at the uspec, right as I gave my ailerons leave to flap.

Moat was not the only one who followed me. Six of them did. I could tell from the golden bands on their arms that four of them were nobles in my honoraria, the other two were Arexon’s soldiers. We darted through the sky with singular purpose. The dregs was not so far from our compound on the inter-port trail. We’d tried moving further away, hoping that the distance would cool Marcinus’ longing, but the further we went the more the uspec seemed to crave it. It was my fault that it had descended into lust, but my guilt would not stop me from killing it for taking my offspring with it.

We dropped down from the sky. I landed first, with enough time to turn around and stare at the other uspecs’ landing. Something in the enlarging of the greens dots reminded me of the day in my slum, years ago, when I was staring at the rare sight of uspecs descending and wondering if I would ever meet great uspecs. I wished I’d known then who I was. Now the greatest uspec that had ever existed relied on me to save it. Chuspecip’s life was in my hand. The thought terrified me.

I turned around and walked towards the lust den.

“Down the emetic,” I ordered, as I reached for one of the blue vials in my belt. I uncorked the vial and imbibed its contents. The blue drops made their way through my throat. I hated the taste, and I hated the feeling of the lust when we walked into the white fumes that filled the room.

Thanks to Marcinus, I’d been to much more of these dens than I’d ever wanted to. They all looked the same. A flat room with cheap lounging beads cramped together. Metal bowls hung from posts in the wall, the sources of the white fumes that filled the room. Anyone who’d had pure lust could immediately tell the difference. There was just something wrong with the polluted version. The bliss was perverse, the ecstasy somehow stunted. The climax always left the uspecs slavering for more. It was disgusting to hear their moans. Each bed was packed full. The uspecs were stuck together like jejas in a can. They all groaned together, their eyes pulled apart in ecstasy. I could hear some of them climax while others appeared to just be getting started.

“Fifty pieces of value per head, noble one.” Two bulky guards stopped me before I could go further into the room. Fifty pieces of value to enter. Uspecs threw away fifty pieces of value on this filth. I had to admit that I had never despised lust, not until Marcinus fell slave to it.

Normally I would pay the guards their money, but I was in too foul of a mood. “Out of my way.” I snapped.

One of the guards made the fatal mistake of laying a hand on me. I pulled out my dagger and slit the uspec’s throat. It fell to the floor with blood gushing out of the wound on its neck. I looked from my blood-stained dagger to the second guard. It gulped and then stepped out of the way. A wise decision.

Unfortunately, the emetic was not a blocker. It would take away the effects of lust if imbibed after breathing in the fumes, but it did not keep an uspec from feeling the effects of the lust if imbibed before, it just slowed it down. I found that I was too enraged to give much thought to the twisted pleasure of the polluted lust.

I marched through the rows of beds, kicking away mangy legs and sturdy stools. My escort moved apart. We’d been through this so many times with Marcinus that they knew to divide. The sooner we were out, the better. The uspecs I kicked fixed me with bent grins. One of them plopped its head back, on the bed it shared with two other uspecs, and smiled a crooked smile. It moaned and its eyelids fluttered. Fajahromo’s features flashed in the uspec’s face. If I had not heard Moat’s voice at that instant, I would have stabbed my dagger into the uspec’s center eye.

“Sirga!”

My head reared up. The ecstasy was starting to get to me. I loathed Marcinus for bringing me to this.

I walked doggedly towards Moat. It took some time for me to make my way around the cluttered room. When I finally reached it, I was relieved to find my offspring in one piece. My relief quickly went away when I found it clamped between two strange uspecs. Its head was bent at an odd angle and its tiny green lips were pulled back revealing white teeth. It drooled. A line of spittle came out from the corner of its mouth. It had a grin of pure ecstasy on its face.

Marcinus was not even with it. Moat found Marcinus on the other side of the room. It had left my offspring alone, between two strange uspecs. I could not have been more enraged. The sight of my offspring broke my heart. I picked the little one up, cradling it in my arms as I walked out of the room.

The moment my offspring was out of the fume-filled room, it let out a gruesome shriek. The little one flapped around in my arms. Its arms flew and its hands lashed out at my face. It scraped at the skin underneath my head guard. It took me a long time to realize that it was fighting because it wished to return to the lust.

Marcinus’ growl pulled my attention back. It took two of my uspecs to restrain it. It was fighting even worse than my offspring. It threw itself back against one, knocked itself free and grabbed a sword from the other. The uspec, the second of Arexon’s soldiers who’d accompanied us, tried to reassure Marcinus, but Marcinus was so lust-crazed that it drove a sword through the soldier’s neck.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 5:00am On Apr 01
“Enough!” I yelled. I’d had enough of Marcinus’ foolishness. Enough. I handed my offspring to an uspec in my honoraria and reached for my cutlass. I parried with Marcinus.

The uspec was good. Even under the influence of lust, even with its mind crazy, it fought with enough skill to exert me. The curtain to the lust den flapped open, and Marcinus shivered. It was that shiver, that distraction, which gave me the opening to disarm the uspec. I knocked the sword out of its hand. Marcinus threw itself blindly at my blade, in its mad desire to go back into the lust den. I pulled my cutlass back in the nick of time, if not, Marcinus would have been dead like the soldier it had killed. I sheathed my cutlass, grabbed a hold of the uspec and sent it sprawling with a hard blow to the head. With Marcinus subdued, the uspecs could get a hold of it and carry it with them in the air. Two more carried the corpse. I took hold of my still thrashing offspring, and darted into the sky, ignoring the eyes that turned to stare up at us.

I looked at the soldier’s corpse and knew that I should have killed Marcinus. I should have let it run into my blade. Even as enraged as I was, I had still sought to save it from itself. Would the guilt I felt over the uspec ever wane? It had sunk to this because it could not deal with the loss of its progenitor. It blamed me for that loss, as it blamed itself. Lust helped it forget. I knew that, but it had taken my offspring, the offspring that still thrashed in my arms in its desire to return to the lust den. What was I to do with it? If Arexon gave me the chance. Arexon did not take kindly to people killing its soldiers. And it was such a meaningless death.

I was tired.

We made our descent into the compound. As soon as we landed, the soldiers gathered around the corpse.

“Take Marcinus back to its suite and keep it from leaving.” I ordered the uspecs in my honoraria who’d carried Marcinus back. They bowed and then made to follow my orders. I would deal with Marcinus, but I had to see to my offspring first.

The little one fought me each step of the way. Its neck bent at several odd angles as it thrashed, pushing out with its limbs against my hold. It jerked in my arms. It was still drooling. It looked insane. I had only ever seen one insane uspec before. Raban. It came as a shock to me that I could still remember its name. It had been Fajahromo’s friend, an offspring of the Kaiser of Hakute. That insane uspec was dead but I could see flashes of it in my own offspring staring up at me. Its tongue darted out of its mouth and it flicked it across its lips. Then it laughed hysterically.

“Sirga!”

“Master!”

Juke and Musa both waited in my offspring’s room.

“Welcome sirga,” Binna was righting furniture that I had thrown about.

I could not speak to them, not when there were sobs in my throat. My offspring was still laughing. It thrashed against me, its tongue darted out of its mouth, and it laughed. I placed it down on its bed and it immediately jumped up and tried to shove me out of its way. Its laughter turned into whimpers. That tongue still darted out of its mouth. It fought so forcefully I would have been proud if it was not lust it was fighting for.

I panicked and struck it.

The room suddenly grew silent.

My offspring was too small to take the slap I’d dealt it without falling. It was still conscious, but it appeared dazed. It did not laugh, but it still stuck its tongue out of its mouth. I reached for another bottle of the blue vial and pulled it out of my belt. I held my offspring’s head in my left hand as I forced the blue liquid down its throat with my right.

It heaved, but it drank the liquid and moments later, it went on its knees and retched onto the hard sludge ground. The vomit was a brownish-blue. It was panting when at long last it stopped heaving.

The room was still silent.

My offspring sat and gazed up at me. Unshed tears filled its single center eye. It had never before had cause to fear me. Now it did not look at me with love, but with fear. I’d struck it.

“Why?!” I growled at the little uspec.

It inched back away from me, but it did not say anything. It still did not speak. If it could even speak. I remembered Moat’s words then. The guard had said that my offspring leaving with Marcinus was a common enough occurrence. What did that mean? How many times had my offspring been to the lust den without my knowing? How many times had it inhaled the polluted lust? Was that why it still did not speak? Images of its tongue darting out of its mouth filled my head. My mind replayed the sound of its hysterical laughter. Then I thought of Raban again. I was going to kill Marcinus.

“Never again!” I yelled. “You will never, ever, accompany Marcinus anywhere, ever again. Do you understand me?” I roared.

The tears fell from my little Nebula’s eye. It whimpered.

“Answer me!” I snapped.

It nodded. Even that was odd. Once it started nodding, it did not stop. Its head jerked up and down as if it was having spasms. I took a step towards it, to do what exactly, I was not sure, but the little uspec pulled away from me. It hugged its legs to its body all the while its nodding continued.

Juke knelt beside it. “I did not know sirga, we did not know that it was going out with the imperial Marcinus, we would never have, I mean, I would never have, I mean, I am sorry sirga. I will never let it out of my sight again. I swear.”

Nebula just continued to nod. My offspring, driven insane by polluted lust. I was pushed well beyond the point of rage. Unfortunately, there was no one in the room that I could take my anger out on.

I stormed out of Nebula’s room. I heard footsteps behind me. Binna, I guessed. It silently trailed me. I marched down one walkway, veered into another, and just kept going, until I was staring into the crestfallen faces of two uspecs wearing single golden armbands. My honoraria. They knew better than to get in my way. As soon as I approached them, they bowed and stepped away.

I stalked into Marcinus’ room. It was seated on its bed with its head in its hands. As soon as I stepped in, it rose its head and stared blankly at me. It was over the worst of the lust, but I could tell from the blankness in its stare that there was still some of it in its system.

I punched the uspec. It felt good to hear the sound of my fist slamming into its face.

“How could you?” I screamed. “How could you allow my offspring to accompany you on your depraved trips?”

Marcinus laughed. It lay half sprawled on its bed and it laughed. “It all comes full circle. You destroyed me is it not fitting that I destroy you?” It laughed. Its shoulders shook as if it was telling some great joke.

I looked at its empty eye socket. I had made it shun, I had made it into the thing it now despised. I knew Marcinus enough to know that it was the lust responsible for the words it had spoken, but that did not quell my rage.

Marcinus kept laughing.

I knew I had to kill it then. I forced the contents of the blue vial down its throat and waited for it to heave the last of the lust out of its system. This was were polluted lust differed from pure lust. Pure lust would be gone, it would burn itself out, but polluted lust affected the brain, it remained there. I thought of my offspring, of its tongue darting out of its mouth, of its spastic head nods.

I pulled my cutlass out of my belt.

Marcinus looked sane enough when it turned to face me. The immediate effects of the lust were gone, but the longing would remain.

“I will not fight you,” its voice was steady. The lust was gone. No more hysterical laughter. Not like my offspring though. My offspring’s brain was too fragile to shake off the effects of lust the way Marcinus did.

“Then you will die!” I yelled at it.

The rest passed in a blind fury. After Marcinus realized that I had every intention of killing it, it reached for its sword.

It was good, which only made it worse. Marcinus was still the most gifted fencer that I had ever seen. How could one with so much skill and discipline allow itself to descend to this?

We parried for a long time. I don’t know how long it lasted. It could have been mere seconds, or it could have been hours. Our blades clashed. I struck to kill and Marcinus struck to deflect my blows. It was still better with a blade than I was, but I fought with pure rage. I don’t know if that made me better or worse.

“Separate them.”

As soon as the cool order was given, hands clamped onto my arms, pulling me back. Marcinus did not fight against its restraints, I did.

“Unhand me!” I snapped.

The soldiers released me. I made to attack Marcinus but Arexon intercepted. It blocked my path.

“Sheath your cutlass,” Arexon ordered.

“The days of you ordering me about are long past.” I snapped back at it. I was enraged. Marcinus had turned my offspring insane. It had allowed its lust dependency to mar my offspring. I thought of Nebula rising in the hatch, the way it had slid its hand into mine, the way it had clung trustingly to me. That child was gone, and it was Marcinus’ fault. “Step out of my way Arexon, or I will run you through.”

Sound of swords being drawn echoed through the room. I looked around. There were several of my honoraria with their swords drawn ready to defend me, and several of Arexon’s soldiers with their swords drawn to defend their general. My honoraria would fight to the death in my name, and Arexon’s soldiers would do the same.

Arexon stared calmly at me. “This is not the way Nebud. You told me we need Marcinus for this crazy plan of yours to work, now you want to kill it. It took the life of one of my soldiers, yet you don’t see me fighting it, do you? This is not the way.”

What did I care about plans when my offspring was suffering? Marcinus was a blight. There had to be another way. I took a step towards Arexon and drew the rounded edge of my cutlass closer to its neck. “Step out of my way.”

Arexon did not flinch but its soldiers drew nearer.

If Arexon would not move, I would move it. Marcinus had to pay for what it had done to my offspring. Someone had to pay!

“Sirga!”

My gaze turned to the door.

“Ula is asking for you sirga,” Juke called out, “will you come to it?”

My offspring was asking for me? That meant that it was speaking. I was buoyed by hope.

All thoughts of Marcinus and vengeance fled my mind.

Perhaps my offspring was not as damaged as I’d once feared. I nodded at Juke, then I placed my cutlass back into its sheath and rushed after the young uspec. I heard Arexon give orders that Marcinus was not to be allowed to leave its suite. No more lust dens. I heard Marcinus’ screech, but I did not care. The corners of my lips pulled up in a smile. My offspring had asked for me. I realized that walking wasn’t getting me there fast enough. I stopped walking and began running, overtaking Juke at some point. I was so happy, I even patted the young uspec’s scalp as I ran past it. Nebula was finally speaking! And it had asked for me.

I ran into its room.

My offspring was asleep. I had missed its bout of speech. No worry, I would speak to it when it woke up.

“Master?”

I found Musa in a corner, sweeping up shattered fragments. “Nebula spoke,” I whispered with excitement, forcing my voice to stay low. I was so happy I wanted to leap with joy.

Musa appeared shocked. It shook its head. “It didn’t say a word Master, it just fell asleep after it stopped crying, not too long after you left the room.”

What? “But…” A little squeaking sound drew my attention to the curtain leading into Nebula’s room. Juke was standing there, its guilt plainly written on its face.

It ran out of the room before I could get my hands on it.

I thought Juke was smart enough to keep running. Maybe I would only have chased it for a little bit. But the little fool was standing in my office when I walked into it.

“You lied to me.” I wasn’t exactly sure what I was feeling.

“You, you, you looked like you were going to challenge the high Arexon, sirga, I was trying to save your life!” It shrieked and dodged my blow. “I’m sorry.” It dodged another half-serious blow. “Forgive me imperial one!” It yelped when I finally managed to grab hold of its scrawny arm.

“You lied to me.” I couldn’t believe it. The uspec was so small I could snap it like a twig. It had dared lie to me.

“For your own good sirga.” It tipped its chin up and stared square into my eyes. I heard the fear in its quivering voice as it said, “if you must beat me, then I will take my punishment like a soldier.” Then it closed its eyes and waited.

I rapped my knuckles on its head until it opened its eyes. “For my own good, eh?”

It gulped nervously and then nodded. “Yes sirga.”

“And you know my own good better than I do?” I asked in a calm tone.

Its eyes widened, then narrowed as if in serious thought. “Not often sirga, but sometimes.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. The effrontery! From such a small thing. I released my hold on its arm. I hadn’t realized how tightly I’d held it. There were imprints of my fingers on its green skin. It took a step back and smiled at me. Its outer eye was close to the bottom of its face so when it smiled so widely, the corner of its lip came close to touching its outer eye.

The uspec had big ears that it was still yet to grow into. I grabbed one of those ears and twisted till tears filled its eyes. “Never do that again,” I warned, then I released my hold and sent it to get my supper with a slap to the back of its head.

Once Juke was gone, I sunk into the highchair behind my desk and pondered what to do about Marcinus. I groaned when I thought of how I’d challenged Arexon. And Nebula, my innocent offspring who was caught up in all of this? Killing Marcinus would not undo what had already been done to it. As much as I hated to admit it, Arexon was right. We needed Marcinus to get Chuspecip.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by dragonstar14: 5:03am On Apr 01
Wow obehiD you never fail to impress me top notch skills
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by MZrapper(f): 5:04am On Apr 01
dragonstar14:
Wow obehiD you never fail to impress me top notch skills
So you don read everything now now?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 8:20am On Apr 01
Dope.updaTe as always....
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by dragonstar14: 11:52am On Apr 01
MZrapper:

So you don read everything now now?
yeah
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by ayshow6102(m): 12:30pm On Apr 01
Thanks for the update obehid, Marcinus is acting childish now how dare he harm my God child tell him to prepare for war against me dat he would feel the full wrath of my panasophy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by HotB: 2:28pm On Apr 01
Nebud need to be cured of his selfishness and rashness.
Gratitude ObehiD!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by doctorexcel(m): 7:29pm On Apr 01
Nice update but when will nebud be heal of his irrational bout of madness. He need to start acting like an imperial and not a slum "agbero"
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 10:21am On Apr 02
Don't know if I should laugh or cry at this episode, Marcinus went too far with it's stupidity and Juke insane funny action made me laugh. It saved a situation from getting out of hand that was good. As for Marcinus, it has been foolish and it has gone too far. Whatever reason its still in that camp, I hope Nebud get it over with and get that uspec far from it and it's offspring.

Nice updat Obehid.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Smooth278(m): 5:27pm On Apr 02
Haaaa, why must Nebud's offspring suffer...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 1:46am On Apr 04
@dragonstar14 thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it cheesy

@cassbeat thaNk yOu as always... grin

@ayshow6102 thanks for reading, I don't know if I would say that Marcinus is acting childish, it's just having a really hard time...hopefully it gets better soon. But yeah, he shouldn't have taken Nebula there or let it follow...chai small child...anyway we will see. But wait, you've learnt pansophy now? Please how? I'm asking for a friend (Nebud)

@HotB I don't know oh, I think in this case Nebud's reaction is natural. It's worried about its offspring

@doctorexcel na real agbero, lol. Was it irrational though, its offspring was in danger. But I agree though, it does need to learn how to act like an imperial

@Fazemood Lol, as in, I felt the same way oh! First with Marcinus and Nebud. Mschew, Marcinus went extra tooo far. Hopefully it doesn't cause any more damage wink As for little Juke, that's my new friend, lol.

@Smooth278 I agree oh, why must the innocent always suffer ehn? So unfair!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:09am On Apr 04
Part 3
--------


“We should have more slaves sirga.”

Cantonia was one of those nobles who thought it was a cruel and unusual punishment to have to fend for themselves. I’d made it clear from the start that I did not plan to buy or hire helpers for our little escapade. My identity was such a precious secret that I could only allow the most trustworthy people to be around me. Musa was the only imp I fully trusted…well, at least the only one I fully trusted with the secret of my identity. Uspecs like Cantonia, who hated to tend to themselves, had wisely elected to remain in Lahooni with their wealth and their slaves. It baffled me that the spoilt two-band noble had insisted on coming along. According to Fabiana, I owed the pleasure of its company to its ambitions. Cantonia was a wellborn noble, vaguely tied to the line of the sovereigns of a poor burg. If Fabiana was right, then Cantonia intended to make itself invaluable to me. It had done a rather uninspiring job of it so far.

“I’m bored. If we had more slaves, they could entertain us.” The uspec was one of many nobles sprawled out on a lounging bed in the large entertaining room in our dwelling.

I, unfortunately, lay on a lounging bed only two beds away from the uspec. I tried to keep my focus on the tome I flipped through. With any luck I would find more information of the ties between an infant’s brain and polluted lust. Five days had passed since I’d found my offspring in a lust den, and in those five days, it had continued to spasm. The spasms came at intervals, in jerking heads, or flapping limbs, and only lasted for a few minutes, but it was worrisome. I did not like it one bit.

“Ah, Musa! Come here imp!”

I lifted my gaze from my tome, turning it first to Cantonia who was sprawled out leisurely, its arms and legs hanging off the sides of its bed, to Musa who appeared to be rushing through the entertaining room with large tomes in its hands. It was no doubt on its way to Arexon.

“Leave it be,” I ordered.

Cantonia turned to stare at me, its lazy mouth flapping open like a jeja. “Of course, sirga, apologies.”

I turned my gaze back to the tome. It did not say anything about polluted lust! Why was it that tomes that spoke on infant brain ailments said nothing of lust and those on lust said nothing on infant brains? I sighed. The two were not supposed to be mixed. If not for Marcinus, I would not have had to learn how dreadfully they go together. I felt a sudden urge to have Marcinus’ head underneath my feet. I would stomp on it till its brain came leaking out of its nostrils.

“Sirga,” Binna called out. It lay on a bed beside mine. As soon as it called my name, I gave it my full attention. “Do you subscribe to the annihilates or the adjudicates theory of sparring?”

My gaze flickered to the large tome that it flipped through. My lips tipped upwards. This was another strange thing about my nobles. They read to learn about fighting. Reading could teach a lot, but I was not convinced that it could make a warrior out of an uspec. When it came to swordfight, I believed fully in learning by doing. Which was why we sparred three times a day, every day. Luckily, not all of my nobles were soft like Cantonia. There were at least sixty of them that were quite good, good enough to go up against Arexon’s soldiers. About thirty-five of them were average, like Binna. And the last five were soft ones like Cantonia, and young ones like Juke. Juke, at least, had found purpose. Cantonia did nothing more than whine. The foolish uspec had Fabiana and Binna’s lessons in politics to thank for the fact that it was not already dead. According to them, Cantonia was well liked amongst the higher echelons of Lahooni nobles and murdering the uspec could hinder my efforts to take back control of my port. I groaned. I already despised politics. When I was back at the helm of Lahooni, foolish uspecs like Cantonia would lose their tongues if they wagged it close enough for me to hear.

“Sirga?” Binna’s prompting pulled my attention back to it.

“What is the difference?”

Juke sat on the ground a few paces in front of me. It was playing with wooden figurines with my offspring. At least Nebula was calm now, it had been hours since its last spasm. As soon as Juke heard my question its head snapped up.

“Annihilates believe in fighting to kill while adjudicates believe in fighting to win.” Juke provided the answer. The young uspec had kept its oath and had remained by my offspring’s side since I returned it from the lust den. It only lefts its side when Nebula was asleep.

I smiled at the young one. “Which theory do you think is superior?”

Juke became pensive. It was always jarring how quickly it went from joviality to severity.

“Surely, it must be the adjudicates.” Cantonia cut in unsought. “One must always fight to win, but not necessarily fight to die.”

“I disagree.” The voice that broke into our little discourse was weathered. This was one of the oldest and most respected nobles in my honoraria. Darlin, it was a dignified one, the second offspring of an old sovereign. It bowed to me and I nodded back at it. Darlin was easily the best fighter in my honoraria. It was the one I sparred most with. Its bulk was large enough to rival mine, and we were of a height. The uspec picked up a blue fruit from a bowl and filled a cup with green wine.

“Only a fool fights to win,” Darlin said, “I fight to kill. Give me the annihilates way and I’ll beat you with it any day, any time.”

“You could hop on one foot and you would still beat Cantonia any day, any time,” Binna teased.

I roared with laughter.

“You jest, majestic, I am not quite that deplorable. Shall I prove it to you?” Cantonia had a smile on its face as it spoke, but there was something sly about the uspec. It reminded me of Manus, and any uspec who reminded me of Manus was one I instantly distrusted.

I could not let them spar. Cantonia had pansophy, perhaps that was one of the reasons why I disliked it. Its blade was made of the same metal as most of the blades of the uspecs in my honoraria. It was pansophy conduit, metal that allowed lifeforces to be transferred though it. Losing Cantonia would be no great loss, but I could not countenance losing Binna. It was Fabiana’s sibling. I would have to kill Cantonia if it caused Binna pain.

“I say we should all subscribe to the Fabricates theory!” Juke spoke up before either Cantonia or Binna could dwell on the challenge issued. “Let us fight as if in creation of an epic. Fight like legends I say!”

The uspecs laughed, diffusing whatever tension had been created when Cantonia challenged Binna.

Darlin had made its way to the inner hub of the arrangement of our lounging beds. “You would say that, wouldn’t you, young majestic,” it teased, patting Juke on the head before it collapsed onto an empty bed.

“Do you have dreams of being the subject of epic tales, young majestic?” Cantonia’s sweet voice was prickly, slightly mocking. I glared at it.

“I will take whatever glory I can find,” Juke stated, sharply.

I relaxed into my bed and rolled my eyes. Ranks and ranks and ranks. The hierarchy of my nobility was confusing. As the last offspring of a duke with several older offspring, Juke was most likely to remain a majestic for the rest of its life, never to inherit from its progenitor. Darlin, on the other hand, was the second offspring of a sovereign and so it was more likely to inherit. If it did inherit, it would become a sovereign, and sovereigns outranked majestics. But Cantonia was the offspring of a noble without lands, it would never be more than a two-band noble, which meant that Juke would always outrank it. I wished that ruling did not require me to know so much about each noble line, inheritance status of the offspring, and the politics in each line. I was still learning, still reading tomes to familiarize myself with the large port I was determined to claim.

“As you must. As we all must. And seeing as we have the honor of forming the imperial Nebud’s honoraria, I say there is much glory in store for us all.” Darlin ended its little speech by lifting its wooden cup in the air. The nobles cheered and silence returned to the room.

I turned my focus back to the tome I read and did my best to ignore Cantonia’s mutterings about boredom. Of course, it was too much to hope that Cantonia would stay quiet for long.

“Moat!” It called out. “Come, join us Moat, and entertain us with your epics. Perhaps our young majestic Juke could learn a thing or two to aid in its desire for glory. Come! Commoners normally make such tedious company, but you are always a valued exception.”

I had to resist the urge to hurl my dagger at Cantonia’s throat.

“Sirga?” Moat saluted and then requested permission to join.

I nodded at it, giving it the required permission. I found my gaze turning to my offspring. It sat on the ground in front of Juke, playing with a wooden carving of a bear. I thought the bear bore an uncanny resemblance to Marc. It held the wooden carving of a snow jackal in its other hand and then clashed the bear against the jackal. The bear won and the jackal was sent back to the ground.

I smiled.

My offspring’s gaze rose to meet mine. As soon as it saw my eyes locked on it, its single eye widened, and it squealed with joy. It let out an unintelligible string of words. Nebula still could not talk, but it no longer looked on me with fear. Its fear of me had only lasted that single afternoon, yet I was still wary every time our eyes met. Nebula sprang to its feet and hurled the wooden bear in the air.

At first, I thought it was having another attack of spasms, then I saw that its hand dropped as soon as it was done throwing the artifact.

To my utter astonishment, the wooden bear landed in my open palm, without me making any moves to catch it. I stared with wide eyes at my offspring.

“The mighty Nebula!” Darlin cheered. “Barely a month old and already throwing truer than Cantonia.”

Everyone laughed.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:09am On Apr 04
My offspring, now the center of attention, let out a few more high-pitched sounds. Then it ran over to me and climbed onto my lounging bed. It fell flat against me, ribbing my chest with its chin. I watched as it crawled on my body to retrieve the wooden figurine it had thrown. Darlin was right, my offspring had a bright future. If it ever spoke. If its spasms stopped. If it was able to recover from the afflictions of the polluted lust. Afflictions I was still yet to identify.

Before my mind could go on another jaunt of worrying about my offspring’s prolonged exposure to polluted lust, a howl of pain filled the room.

My head snapped to the right. It was Binna. Its hand came off its side, stained with blood. Someone had stabbed it. But who and how and why? I heard another howl and the answer came instantly.

“Pansophy!” I screamed.

I jumped to my feet and pulled my cutlass out of my sheath. We were being attacked by people without appearance. Pious ones, most likely sent by the plenum. When had we gotten sloppy? Perhaps I’d been recognized when I went to the lust den. But the uspecs in the den had been so out of their mind there was no way any of them would remember seeing me. Perhaps onlookers outside. It had taken a great deal of time for us to subdue Marcinus, and an uspec had been killed in the process, that kind of thing tended to draw notice.

I swung my cutlass uselessly in the air, swiveling and keeping my offspring behind me at all times.

Many more cries of pain filled the air. I heard the sound of swords clashing and felt resistance against my own sword. We were fighting something we could not see, and we were losing. Several of my noble honoraria fell.

“Sound the alarm Juke!” I yelled as I continued to swing my cutlass into the air. My cutlass caught on something. I pushed harder and realized that it was bone my cutlass was stuck on. It took me a second to pull the cutlass back, but it was a second I did not have. The time I’d spent in predictable motion gave our attackers enough time to touch me.

I felt the brush of skin against mine and was instantly frozen to the spot. I heard the alarm, but it was already too late. They’d taken my motion. Death was soon to follow. I could not even protect my offspring. Something made contact with the backs of my feet and I fell. I landed on hard sludge ground. My eyes were frozen open, I did not have the motion to move my eyelids.

I could see the terrified look on my offspring’s face, and I felt powerless in a way that I never had before. This was worst than just standing the risk of losing my life, it was my offspring’s life in danger. I was its mater, it was my job to protect it. I would die without even hearing my offspring speak.

The plenum had finally caught up with me. I would not die alone. Chuspecip, still soundless in my head, would die with me. I was the only chance it had at returning to this existence.

“Flare the appearance identifiers!” The order came from a voice I could not recognize, but as soon as the order was given, pink droplets populated the room, like precipitation in a humid soaru port. In the blink of an eye, shapes became visible, pink shapes. It was as if the aerosols clung to those shapes. There were three bent over me. I saw a dagger in one’s hand.

Several things happened at the same time.

I heard Arexon yell, “release the samus.”

At the same time that a foreign voice said, in the one umani tongue I understood, “cease drogher by mother’s wishes!”

Drogher? Why did that word sound so familiar? Mother’s wishes? Samu? I could see with my open eyes that the form of the pink aerosols revealed an uspec and two imps. Uspecs and imps? Not the plenum.

“Samu!” I heard a voice hiss in the umani tongue.

The forms around me moved closer. I was still immobilized, unable to do anything but watch as the pink dagger came closer to my neck. Then Musa was standing beside me. It wielded a sword and knocked the dagger out of my would-be attacker’s hands.

There was a gasp.

“But, firstborn,” an imp said in the umani tongue, “mother…”

That was as far as the imp got before Musa cut it off. Musa spoke in a harsh umani tongue that I could not understand. Its head and eyelid movements showed that it had looked at me for a brief moment. I didn’t want to believe it, but I had a very strong suspicion that Musa had changed tongues to keep me from understanding what it said.

At this point, I had heard and seen enough to know that I was being attacked by the Wrath of Sada. They were the only ones who would call my imp ‘firstborn’, and they were the only ones who spoke of ‘mother.’ The wrath! Not the plenum, but the wrath. How dare they? Rage boiled in me.

I heard the pink uspec snap at the imps.

Appearance identifiers. That’s what the soldier had called the pink droplets. It was what clung to the forms of the ones who’d had their appearances removed with pansophy. And so this pink uspec was one of the uspecs who betrayed its own kind to serve the wrath, one of their servants. Though, there was something about the way it spoke to them.

Then the uspec’s pink hand struck my imp across the face.

Several screeching and affronted voices filled the room. They must have seen it as a great insult for an uspec, even one who was with them, to strike their firstborn. I heard calls of ‘drogher’ several times. That was the only familiar sound I could pick out in the harsh tongue. But where had I heard that drogher before? It sounded so familiar. Musa’s brown hand struck out and fixed on the uspec who’d struck it. Moment later the uspec condensed to pink goo on the ground. Musa had taken its form.

More screeching and arguments in the harsh umani tongue. I could do nothing but watch. After a great deal of time had passed, the pink, droplet-covered, forms began to retreat.

“But we are afflicted firstborn,” I heard a voice reverting from the harsh umani tongue to the one I was familiar with. “The samu bite. If you do not come with us most of us will die before we reach Permafrost.”

Musa continued to speak in the harsh umani tongue, which I could not understand, and I hated it for doing so. It was deliberate of course. It knew that I would not understand its words, which meant that it was saying something it did not want me to hear. If it was being completely honorable, then why would it hide its words from me? It had prompted them to change to the harsh tongue. Why if not to cover more treachery?

“But you must firstborn, you are our only hope, the only cure! Return with us, we need your help. We will die if you do not come with us.” This voice was also in the umani tongue I understood.

Musa spoke in the harsh tongue. It shook its head.

“We will retreat, you order us to leave and so we go. The last brio will live. We cannot say the same for those of us that were bitten. They will be reduced to their last bit before we reach Permafrost. We only ask you to come with us far enough to heal them. Then you may return if you please.” This was also said in the umani tongue I could hear.

Musa replied in the harsh tongue.

“You choose one of their kind over your own people?”

Musa was silent.

“Then I spit on you and I renounce you. The elders will hear of your decision. All of Permafrost will hear of your disloyalty.”

“I spit on you and I renounce you.” One after the other I heard the voices saying the same thing in the umani tongue Musa had taught me. “I spit on you and I renounce you.” Musa did not move. Its head was turned to a spot I could not see, no doubt staring at the retreating forms of our attackers.

“Sirga.” I saw Juke’s head above me.

Musa appeared by my side. Its empty eye sockets did not meet my eyes. It placed its hands on me and moments later I leapt to my feet, my motion returned.

I could not help but stare at Musa. Its head was bent, its gaze averted from mine. I was one of two uspecs in the room who understood the umani tongue. Arexon was the only other one who could have heard what the voices said. Musa had refused to go with its own people to remain with me.

“You took the firstborn’s loyalty!” It all happened so quickly. One moment I was staring at Musa, with my back turned to the assailant, the next my offspring was laughing hysterically.

It took my brain a while to piece it all together.

I remembered seeing my offspring’s hand rise, out of the corner of my eye. It was after I heard the cry. It turned out that the cry had come from an imp, rushing towards me with a sword in its hand. It had appeared poised to run me through, before my offspring threw a dagger at the imp’s neck.

It was my dagger.

When had Nebula taken it?

It didn’t matter, because Nebula was having a fit. It laughed hysterically while tears streamed from its center eye. Its entire body jerked, and its tongue came darting out of its mouth just as it had when it was under the influence of lust. I reached for it, but before I could get a hold of it, Nebula tripped and fell back against the bed behind it. The back of its skull slammed against a sharp edge of the bed, and it slumped to the ground, still having spasms.

Blood seeped from the back of its head, and white froth pooled in its mouth. It was convulsing. Its spasming body jerked uncontrollably.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 8:33am On Apr 04
Damn...... Obehid what are u doing to Nebula

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