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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:38am On Jun 05|
The meeting was set to take place in the Kaiser’s receiving room, the room where I’d met Checha the last time I’d been in this port. Now Jukien sat on the raised platform, on a backless throne with two smaller thrones beside it. The uspecs who’d trailed it yesterday, the ones who’d called it their progenitor, sat on smaller thrones on each side of it. I stared at the three of them and remembered the last member of that family. Juke. Jukien had not even asked after its own offspring. It must have gotten news that Juke was dead, but if it did, I couldn’t imagine how. Maybe Fabiana. Fabiana was the only uspec in my honoraria who would have thought to send a missive to Jukien. I stared at Jukien and tried to see it as Juke’s progenitor. Arrogance was etched into the uspec’s features. It stared aloofly into space, with its hands placed on the armrests of its throne. Its carriage was noble. It sat straight up, not slouching in any way.
I looked around the room. There were some familiar faces from the night before, some of the nobles I’d seen in the court. They were watching me, but when my gaze caught theirs they either looked away, or stared coldly at me. Their reactions to me made it clear that they were on Jukien’s side. Where these the nobles who were in league with Darlin’s attack in the Isle of Brio?
No one stood behind us.
Matiu and Gamble stood on either side of me and Matina stood beside its older sibling.
One of Jukien’s offspring stood. That motion was enough to silence the murmurs from the noble onlookers.
“We are here today to finally put an end to these rumors of Calam’s heir’s survival.” It announced.
The nobles nodded and murmured their assent. I found the wording of the announcement very telling. Before the uspec could speak any further, another voice interrupted.
Fabiana strolled past the crowd of uspecs. It wore four golden armbands on its arms, the signs of a duke. It looked like it had returned to its family home and cleaned properly. Now it looked every bit the highborn noble it was. An unfamiliar young pious one trailed behind it. That pious one appeared to be of an age with Juke. It was skinny, like Matina, but it also had all of its outer eyes formed and filled. Its neck was covered with the pious fraise but its ailerons showed a good covering with cyan feathers. For the uspec to be this well developed when it did not have the bulk of a fighter, then it had to be quite skilled in magic.
Fabiana stopped in front of the raised dais. “This is a hearing to either prove or disprove a noble’s claim to the throne. Until the claim is disproved, great one, you have no right to sit on the throne.”
Jukien’s jaw ticked at Fabiana’s deliberate use of ‘great one’ the title of a duke, instead of the Kaiser it was claiming to be.
A charged silence greeted Fabiana’s words.
“You dare stand against me?” Jukien spat the question out at Fabiana.
Fabiana stared levelly at it. “This is a truth-seeking mission. Until the truth is revealed no one has the right to sit on that throne, least of all you.”
“It was I who saved this port!” Jukien screamed. “It was I leading the Lahooni troops to battle while you cowered on the inter-port trail. It was I fighting and loosing valuable soldiers and friends, your own progenitor included. Do not speak to me about rights! The fact that this port remains is thanks to me.”
“And the fact that this existence remains under uspec control is thanks to the imperial Nebud. Should it now lay claim to the entire spectral existence because it saved it?”
Murmurs rose and spread across the room like a wild inferno. It was amusing to watch Jukien’s jaw tick. Its hands clenched into fists resting on the arms of its throne, and it stared daggers at Fabiana. If rage alone could kill, Fabiana would be dead.
A plump uspec with pudgy limps and a round belly walked forward. It wore a light cloak, and had footwear covering the soles of its feet. This uspec had four armbands on its arms. It was a duke.
“Do you have proof of this claim, great one?” The fat duke asked Fabiana. It was short, its head only reached Fabiana’s shoulders.
“I have spent the early morning walking around Lahooni and visiting with you nobles.” Fabiana turned its back on Jukien, and turned to face the rest of the room. “Will any one of you pretend that you have not heard the tale of how the plenum was defeated? Will any of you claim that you did not witness the green fog storm that took the plenum soldiers from Lahooni? Can any of you say that you are not aware of the founder’s return? Will any of you insult me or your own lines by telling such a lie?”
The nobles looked to the ground, suddenly unable to meet Fabiana’s gaze. They murmured but I could not hear the words they said.
“Well, the great Jukien’s own offspring have born witness to the fact that the imperial Nebud is the last brio. And every one of you knows that it was the last brio who returned Chuspecip to this existence. And it was Chuspecip, not our great Jukien, who ended the war with the plenum and saved Lahooni.” Fabiana paused. It walked amongst the nobles and spoke with the grace of an orator. Its voice boomed when it ought to and then lowered when that seemed most able to take its point across. “If your argument with the imperial Nebud is that it abandoned you for five years, then you should know that it took five years for the imperial Nebud to return Chuspecip to this port.” It walked between nobles forcing them to look into its eyes as it spoke. Fabiana touched a two-band noble on its shoulder and then slapped one on its back. They both lifted their gazes and bowed to it. “If your argument is that the imperial Nebud went to Chiboga to give aid to the might Arexon before returning to Lahooni, then you should be aware of the fact that the plenum was close to siding with the wrath of Sada. Many of you may not know this, but the plenum was not the only danger we faced. While we uspecs fought amongst ourselves, the resistance group of imps, who call themselves the wrath of Sada, they joined forces with other existences and had begun the process of invading us.”
Astonished gasps filled the room. Murmurs rose but the murmurs where silenced when Fabiana spoke again. The further away it moved from me, the more I realized that there was something strange about its voice. Even when it was on the other side of the room, I could hear it as clearly and loudly as I had when it stood closer to me.
“If the plenum had joined forces with the wrath, we would have been bowing to imps right at this moment. The imperial Nebud went to Chiboga because Chiboga was where the bulk of the plenum’s forces where. If it had come to Lahooni instead, the bulk of the plenum’s forces would have joined with the wrath. The imperial Nebud fought until the founder came to finish the fight for us all. Then the imperial Nebud went to Permafrost, the imp headquarters, and put an end to the wrath of Sada and to the invasion, permanently!”
Fabiana’s voice boomed at the last part and nobles in the room cheered. A young one whooped. Many incredulous gazes turned to me.
“I have spoken with the founder. It is the mighty Chacip, the first Kaiser of Lahooni.”
The incredulous gazes widened.
“I have seen this with my own eyes. We all have seen the might Chacip’s appearance, we had seen replicas of it. Well I have seen it in the flesh, and I have seen it be a form of the founder. And I have heard the founder claim the imperial Nebud as an uspec of its own line. In the face of all of this evidence, who would dare question the imperial Nebud’s claim to this port?”
“We are Lahooni!” Fabiana boomed. “From our first breaths we have been told that we are special for it, greater for it, and we have never known why. Now we know. We are a port that the founder made with its own hands. A port that the founder claimed its own. The founder was our first Kaiser and it left a line of its brio as our Kaisers, a line of its own blood. Made from its very self. We are Lahooni, and now we truly know what that means!”
More uspecs cheered.
“The founder itself claimed the imperial Nebud as being of its line. Who can gainsay the founder?”
Matina burst into applause. I did not think it was a conscious decision the clapping just came and I was surprised to see it picked up by a few. But not many, not nearly enough.
Jukien cleared its throat. “These are all claims, Fabiana, nothing but claims. We all know your devotion to the last brio. Really, no one can blame you if it has turned you into a liar for its cause.”
“Perhaps we should allow the imperial one to present its proof of its hereditary.” The fat duke who’d walked up to Fabiana spoke up. It eyed me speculatively as if it was taking my measure, deciding how much to bet on me. “While it does, I agree with the great Fabiana, it is not right for you to keep your claim to the throne. You should step down.”
The room descended into chaos. Some swore hotly that I had no claim and that Jukien was Kaiser, but they were in the minority. The majority actually agreed with the duke. I’d thought that they were all implicit in Jukien’s crimes against me, but if they were, they would not be so easily swayed. I was suddenly very grateful that I had listened to Fabiana and refrained from killing the lot of them.
Jukien rose and stepped down from the dais, its offspring trailing behind it. It glared at me as it walked past and then stopped on the other side of the new duke who’d spoken up.
The duke turned to me. “I am the great undead, Prima, duke of the fifth metropolis of Lahooni. We will hear your claim, last brio.”
It irked me how they were all so eager to accept that I was the last brio but not that I was Calam’s heir. Did they really not know that the two were not mutually exclusive? All eyes turned to me. I became the focus of the group of nobles. I reached for the ring in my belt and pulled it out. I rose that ring up, the dazzling blend of gold, red, and cyan shimmering in the soft glow of the room’s light.
“This is the ring that Calam left to me,” I announced. My voice did not sound nearly as good as Fabiana’s.
Jukien snorted. “It is a ring, we all see that, but how does it claim you are who you say you are?”
I gritted my teeth. Jukien smiled. The duke, Prima, the one who’d spoken up for me frowned and then shook its head. Its shoulders slumped as if it had just come to the conclusion that it bet on the wrong person. My summations proved correct when it turned to face Jukien and sniveled, “I was wrong, forgive me.” The nobles seemed to share Prima’s supplication to Jukien.
I looked at the ring, taking the time to study it, amid the murmurs of dissent. The ring had an inscription on the inner band. “Tahg nihm.” I read the inscription out loud.
“Minhat baghadit ghat mihn.”
The response came from an uspec who seemed as surprised to say the words as I was to hear them.
Jukien scoffed. “What is this new foolery? Won’t you and the uspecs of your line desist from this path before you destroy yourselves?” Jukien barked the question at Fabiana who stood beside the pious one who’d spoken after I read the inscription aloud.
I realized, belatedly, that the pious one was Fib. Fabiana’s youngest sibling. It turned to stare at Jukien. “The pious are above petty squabbles of politics and greedy, power-hungry, noble machinations.” It turned its attention to me. “My name is Fib,” it said, “you may not…”
I shook my head. “I remember you. Fabiana’s younger.” Would this be a loyal younger like Binna or was it a traitor like Fabin?
It nodded. “I am now of the order of adjudication, and I was recently initiated into Lahooni’s cult of the unsaid. The words you spoke are a calling cry to the cult. May I see the ring?”
I looked skeptically at the young uspec. Then I lay the ring in its hands. As soon as the ring touched its flesh, it began convulsing. It shook vigorously, as my offspring used to, and white froth bubbled in its mouth.
Nobles’ eyes widened.
“Surely you all see that this is some ploy between Fabiana’s line and the imposter!” Jukien spat out. “A secret cult of pious nobles? Nonsense!”
Unfortunately for Jukien, the nobles attention was fixed on the convulsing uspec. When Fib finally stopped convulsing, it was trembling. Films of sweat coated its body. It took a step forward, stumbled and fell to the ground. The ring rolled to my feet. I bent and picked it up.
“The code is too complex,” Fib said, panting, “I cannot understand it.” It shook its head. “I cannot understand it.”
Jukien let out a long, irritated, sigh. “How long are we going to let this farce go on?”
The duke Prima who’d spoken up in my favor before, now stood, completely at a loss. Its gaze turned from Fib to Jukien, then to Fabiana and me. It shook its head, shrugged and withdrew.
“I am still yet to hear a claim.” Jukien was winning, and it knew it. The nobles agreed with it. It all appeared too convenient. Fib was Fabiana’s sibling, and Fabiana was very obviously on my side. Fib could not be trusted. But what was that convulsion. “Is there any one here who believes that this imposter is Calam’s heir?” There was a threatening tone in Jukien’s voice.
Fabiana cleared its throat.
“We are all very aware of your feelings on the subject, Fabiana, you need not say more.” Jukien cut Fabiana off.
“Anyone beside Fabiana and them,” Jukien jerked its fingers dismissively towards the rest of my honoraria.
I looked around the room but none of the nobles spoke up. None sided with me. I reached for my lit okun.
“Of course, you do not want the imperial Nebud to take its rightful place on the throne. If I had tried, twice, to unsuccessfully kill the uspec, I wouldn’t want it being my Kaiser either.” The voice that spoke was dripping with sarcasm and it was familiar. Very vaguely familiar, but familiar nonetheless.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:39am On Jun 05|
A space was cleared and Cantonia waltzed through it. It came to the front of the room, eyed Jukien dismissively and walked to me. It knelt on one knee in front of me. Then it stood up and whispered into my ear, “the next time you give me a mission how about you actually allow me to finish it before you go charging in and mess everything up. You should have reached out to me before you stepped into the palace.”
Cantonia pulled back and there was no trace of its criticism on its smiling face.
It turned to Fib and extended a hand towards the uspec. Then it pulled Fib to its feet.
“There is a very clear solution, isn’t there? Let us find other pious ones in this cult of the unsaid and see if they can decipher the message in the ring.”
Jukien glared at Cantonia. “I would be careful if I were you,” it warned.
“I was just about to give you the same advice.” Cantonia replied. “Quickly now, Fib,” Cantonia ordered, “fetch your elders.”
“No. This has gone on long enough!” Jukien snapped.
“Of course it hasn’t,” Cantonia retorted, “I only just arrived. If this is all a farce then you have nothing to worry about do you, Jukien? Surely you agree with me Prima. After all that the mighty Calam did for the uspecs in this room, after the oaths of loyalty you all swore. Could you really stomach stealing the throne from its heir?”
“No one is stealing anything!” Prima stuttered.
“Exactly. I am happy to see we agree on this. Jukien, give Fib the key. You don’t want anyone thinking you have ulterior motives in denying the information on Calam’s ring.”
“If it is Calam’s ring.”
“Only one way to find out.” Cantonia teased.
Jukien looked around. The nobles eyed the ring in my hand, Cantonia and then Fib. But no one said anything else. It scoffed and said, “no. I’ve had too much of my time wasted already.”
The nobles began to murmur.
“We have had many failings in the years since our Kaiser was killed, but I do not think that disloyalty to our Kaiser’s line has ever been one of them. If we allow Jukien to usurp the throne, as it so obviously wishes to do, then we would have failed in every aspect as Lahooni nobles.” Cantonia’s words fanned the flames. “When your offspring was poisoned, Prima, did the mighty Calam shrug and then give up? Did it not lock itself in its lab for days until it found a cure?” Cantonia turned to another uspec. “And you, Kinta, when your line was so thoroughly framed for a crime it had not committed, when every single uspec in this room believed in your guilt, did the mighty Calam give into what was easy and expedient? Or did it ignore all others, burying itself in discovery and research until it found a way to exonerate you?” Cantonia turned to face the room. “If this ring indeed has a message, what does it take from any of us to listen to it? Jukien has already usurped the throne, if you stay silent in the face of its injustice, you will be siding with a traitor. Are we all traitors now? Did the plenum remove all traces of the honor and nobility of Lahooni?”
The nobles’ murmurs grew to a fever-pitch.
Prima nodded. “You are right, noble Cantonia, we must investigate this thoroughly.” Then it turned to Jukien. “You have sworn to us together, and in private, of your love of the mighty Calam’s line. You have sworn that you are no Salin to usurp a throne. We gave you our allegiance because you swore to us that the last brio seeks to usurp Lahooni as Salin did. I know that you believe this Jukien. I know that if the last brio is truly Calam’s heir, then you would eagerly step down. We all know of your honor. Let us examine this claim thoroughly. I could not live with myself if I denied Calam’s heir its throne, and I know that you could not either.”
The nobles murmured agreement to Prima’s words.
Cantonia smirked at Jukien. “Well?” It asked. “Will you give Fib the key? Or will you show all of these nobles what I already know? That you are a traitor, a liar and a usurper?”
Jukien’s gaze on Cantonia turned cold. “You just ended your future in this port Cantonia.” It turned its back on the uspec, missing the eyeroll that Cantonia gave it. “I acquiesce to your requests.” It stated, then it very reluctantly pulled out a pouch from its belt, took two golden pieces from it, and gave Fib the tokens. The keys to teleporting within the palace.
“Run along Fib.” Cantonia smiled widely, seemingly at ease in the tense room.
A pool of quicksand formed underneath Fib.
Jukien glared at Cantonia, but it said nothing. I wondered what it was thinking. One thing was clear though, using magic to get my way would not have gone over well. The uspecs in this room, Jukien included, had their outer eyes filled. They had spectra. But not even Jukien, when it was at its angriest, had tried to use any form of magic. I knew fighting. When people quarreled, they fought, and the stronger uspec won. This politics was different. It was obvious though that using magic would have confirmed what Jukien had told the nobles, that I was a usurper, an invader. Fabiana had been right.
Fib returned moments later with a group of much older uspecs. Three were past their prime, two appeared soon to be. The oldest one slumped and had to make use of a cane to move around. They all wore the fraise of the pious, but they appeared to be of different orders.
Fib pointed at the ring I held and the oldest one extended its hand for it. I relinquished the ring.
These uspecs did not convulse as Fib had. They held onto each other and muttered words in a language I could not understand. I looked around the room. Jukien’s eyebrows were pulled together. Its hands clenched and then unclenched. It watched the pious ones. Other uspecs watched the pious ones as they hurdled over the ring, speaking their indecipherable tongue. Finally, the pious ones broke apart and the oldest one turned towards me. It was bent over, with wrinkled skin and a neck that had three scales precariously hanging on.
“Sit.” It ordered.
I frowned at it, but I did as it asked. I sat on the edge of the dais. It nodded at the two youngest in their group and they both approached me. I watched warily and did not feel panic until I saw their daggers.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.
“Be silent and let them work. The truth of it will come out soon.” The oldest pious one scolded me.
I clenched my jaw. I could fight them, but this was my only chance at peacefully reclaiming my port. Even though they bore daggers that they rose to my neck. I trusted Calam. Calam had left a message in a ring that could only be deciphered by these uspecs. My sire would not have done anything to endanger me. So, I gritted my teeth and sat still while they peeled of two of the scales on the front of my neck. Then they rose their daggers and I remained calm when the metal edge dug into my skin. They went from the top down and peeled off a sliver of my skin.
“My god!” The oldest pious one exclaimed when the two stepped back.
Jukien’s eyes widened. “A trick!” it snapped.
The old pious one glared at Jukien. “How can that be a trick?”
“Appearance! Pansophy!” Jukien fired back.
“If the uspec planned to use appearance then why go through the trouble of summoning us? It could have peeled its skin off itself. We would countenance no trick, no deception with pansophy could fool them,” it tipped its chin towards the pious ones who’d peeled of my skin. “Do you question the words of the magistrate of the order of adjudication?”
The old pious one’s words were greeted with a heavy silence.
“Do you dare, Jukien?” Cantonia teased, its mouth quirked in a mocking grin. Jukien appeared very uncomfortable. I tore my gaze away from the uspec.
I still had no idea what they were talking about. It felt odd. I was in no pain, even though a layer of my skin had been peeled off.
“What is it?” I asked.
“The veins in your neck are formed into the sigil of your line, mighty one.” It was Prima who spoke. The fact that it had called me mighty one, said it all. “Forgive me,” its voice shook, “forgive me for doubting you.”
I exhaled lightly in relief.
Quicksand appeared underneath Jukien and its offspring. I made my own quicksand and felt the founder’s strength in the magic. A loud bang filled the room. The quicksand went away. Jukien would not be escaping. It glared at me.
“Mighty one,” the duke Prima called out, “last of the line of the rightful Kaiser’s of Lahooni.” It went on one knee in front of me and bowed.
Its supplication spurred everyone else. They all knelt. One after the other. Even the pious ones. Everyone in the room knelt and bowed to me. Everyone except for Jukien and its offspring.
“Rise.” I said.
And they did, they all did.
They rose and their gazes were fixed on me. I poked at my neck, but the skin had grown back. It was strange. I picked up my scales and lanced them back into my neck. The uspecs stared at me, expecting a speech. They had claimed me now, I was their Kaiser.
Green fog filled the room.
Uspecs gasped. Whispers of ‘the founder’ wove around. Jukien’s eyes widened. It showed fear for the first time that day. It trembled.
I felt a tightening around my arms. I looked down and saw green fog hands attaching golden armbands to my arm. If Chuspecip had done this earlier, no one would have questioned my claim to my own port.
It is better this way. They bowed to you of their own free will without intimidation from me. This is the right way.
When the green fog receded, there were five golden armbands on both of my arms and four on Jukien’s. I made quicksand underneath Jukien and its offspring. I sent them to the gaol, the prison Checha had locked me in my first time in Lahooni, and teleported the pouch of keys elsewhere. Then I took one look at the uspecs and formed quicksand underneath myself and my honoraria.
I teleported us to the royal suites. My rooms now. Finally, it was all mine. I felt no joy.
“Do you have the names of all the uspecs working with Jukien?” I asked Cantonia.
“We need evidence of their guilt too.” Fabiana said.
“I will get it.” Cantonia promised.
I nodded, suddenly feeling so unbelievably weary. The fight had left me. I’d won, now the energy was gone, puffed out like fumes. It was all finally over. I wanted more than anything to be able to share this moment with my Nebula. And Juke. It would have pained Juke to see its progenitor against me. Still, I wanted it back. And Marcinus. I wanted them all back, here with me to see my victory. Now that the fight was over, it took all of my energy just to remain standing.
I turned to Gamble. Then I picked up the pouch I’d teleported from Jukien’s grasp. I had sent the pouch of golden keys here, while I sent it to the gaol. I gave those keys to Gamble. “Find all the others that Jukien took. I don’t want anyone I don’t trust having access to this castle.”
It bowed. “Yes, mighty one.”
Mighty one. I was the Kaiser now. Crowned by Chuspecip, claimed by the founder for all the nobles to see.
I turned to Matina. “Find Chike and the others. They are free, make sure they remember it.”
Matina bowed. “Yes, mighty one.”
“Majestic,” it had been a long time since I’d called Fabiana by this nickname. Too long.
“See to the nobles. I am sure they have questions and worries and I’m…” I broke off. “I need some time.”
“Of course, mighty one.”
I made some more quicksand and teleported myself to a place that I knew it would take them a great deal of time to find. It was a little room hidden underground, beneath my sire’s lab. It had gone there whenever it wanted to be alone. I sighed when I remembered that Chike knew of it. There was nothing I could do about that.
I walked over to the bed and collapsed on it. Exhausted. Now that the rage that fueled me to defeat Jukien was gone, I found myself drowning in the despair of loss again. Nebula’s face swum in my vision. I groaned and screamed heedless of the loud, aching, sounds, because there was no one around to hear my grief.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by doctorexcel(m): 7:29am On Jun 05|
Thank you for this update
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Smooth278(m): 8:04am On Jun 05|
Kai ObehiD ehn ... So much sufferhead for Nebud.
Meanwhile I thought the person Nebud sent to the port was Darlin or something like that. Who’s this Cantonia or am I mixing things up
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Dathypebruv(m): 8:45am On Jun 05|
Smooth278:Cantonia was the one who revealed Jukien's plot to Nebud at the island of tge last brio initially nebud didn't trust him so he sent him back to lahooni to further verify...
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 9:33am On Jun 05|
Thanks for the update obehid
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 7:14pm On Jun 05|
So much pain, still I am glad nebud has gotten it's port and throne back.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Skywalker909(m): 9:12pm On Jun 05|
thanks for this update ma'am. I believe there will be no more losses for Nebud....
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Smooth278(m): 9:48pm On Jun 05|
Thanks, too many things Dey for head
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:11am On Jun 06|
I wondered which uspec in my line had designed this room. Had it been Calam’s or had Calam simply discovered it and made use of it? It was a simple room, much too simple for a Kaiser. Everything in the room was of the best quality, but it was sparsely furnished. There was a bed, a bed with a hard quicksand frame and luxurious hard cloud foam. There were no holes for ailerons needed because of how comfortable the foam covering was. The bed was large enough to take two uspecs my size. There was a desk beside the bed. Every time I looked at that desk I saw Nebula. I saw it as it should have been, as I had been with Calam, in the few days I had gotten to spend with it. The desk was made of hard fog and the chair behind it was a simple three-legged fog stool with foam cushioning and armrests. The desk was empty. My coffer was also in the room, but only because it was chained to me with the tag in the belt I’d taken off. The belt now lay beside me on the bed. That was all the room contained. No okun. Holes built into the top corner of the room allowed for ventilation and a constant draft of drifting fogs. It also provided lighting to the room.
I tracked the passage of time through the light that streamed in through the hole.
It was still day, with the orange dots lighting the room, when an imp skulked in. I was not asleep, I hadn’t been able to sleep a wink. My gaze caught on the audacious imp.
It was not Chike.
The imp froze. Its gaze turned towards me, without ever actually landing on me. Its look was slightly off. It was small, an imp whose umani life would have ended as a child, just as Musa’s had. It wore a cream shirt and leather trousers. It was a male. I wondered if the imp had a female imp like Halima. I despised them. The imp still had eyes in its sockets.
“Didn’t you hear me?” I barked.
The imp’s eyes filled with what I could only imagine were tears. I had not touched it, but it was crying.
“I was told to bring you some food.” Its voice shook and tears fell from its eyes. The high pitch of its voice said that it was even younger than Musa had been when it died. I was startled because the imp spoke in the umani common tongue.
“I do not want it. Now leave.”
The imp stared as if it could not understand me. I had to repeat my words in the common umani tongue.
Its legs shook. “Have I displeased you already?”
I groaned. What did this imp want from me? What did they all want from me?
“Have you heard of Qatamejo?” I asked.
The imp’s whimpers stopped. It shook its head.
“Are you newly dead?”
It nodded. “It’s been one week.”
“Do you want to be free?” I asked it.
I turned around. “Go to Qatamejo. Tell all the imps. Go to Qatamejo and leave me in peace.”
The whimpers lasted for minutes and then it ended when the imp’s shuffled feet said it had left. An imp still with its eyes. I tried to remember what Musa had told me about that but I found that I did not care enough to exert myself. I just stared at the walls. It was over. After years of fighting, fighting in the pits, fighting for the eyes, fighting against the plenum. It was finally over and I had nothing but emptiness to show for it. I ached.
“You should not have frightened that poor child.” It was another imp. I could tell from the tone of its voice. It was an imp who was not Chike, but it spoke in the hooni tongue.
The imp moved further into the room. I heard clanking sounds. I gritted my teeth and forced myself to turn. The imp was familiar. It was one from the Isle of Brio. A plump female imp who’d chosen to remain with me instead of going to Qatamejo with Musa. It was a fool. It had come in carrying a tray, the same tray that the imp with eyes had brought in. It placed that tray on the desk. The imp was better dressed than it had been in the Isle of Brio. It wore a yellow shirt and had some sort of cloth tied around its waist, made from a matching material as its shirt. It was no skirt I’d ever seen. It wore earrings now. The imp sat on the bed beside me.
“What are you doing?” Was it insane?
“Shh,” it said.
“I have hurt imps for saying much less to me. You are free. Get out of my sight before I change my mind.”
For a second it froze and then it seemed to be forcing itself to relax. “You are scary,” it said, “but Chike told us that your bark is worse than your bite. It said that underneath you are like Calami, and Calami was,” the imp broke off and sniffed, “Calami was the gentlest soul.”
“I am not my progenitor and if Chike told you otherwise, it lied.” My voice had gentled. Why? Because of the catch in the imp’s voice when it had spoken of Calami. Musa had wept when it spoke of my line. That hadn’t stopped the imp from betraying me.
“I had Caleb make your progenitor’s favorite meal.” The imp spoke softly.
I looked at the tray, but it was covered. Was this some ploy of the imp’s? Did it know that curiosity would force me to go searching out the food?
“Caleb was also one of us, one of the imps that returned with you. Me, Chike, Caleb, Asha, Simon and Rita. Caleb was Calam’s head cook. I managed the imps in the palace. Asha and Simon assisted Calam in its lab. Both of them have pansophy.” It giggled. “I think those two only came with us because of their love for that lab. Mad scientists.” It laughed. “Rita was a bath-maid, with magical hands. It can massage all your worries away.”
The imp finally stopped talking. I should have ordered it to leave. I wanted to. But there was something I wanted to know more. “Why did you come back with me?”
“Lahooni is our home. If you are half as good to us as your ancestors were, we will be happy. We do not mind you completely ignoring us, that is also acceptable.”
It was teasing me. I did not laugh. “You are free.”
It shrugged. “What is freedom in a world were imps are slaves?”
“Not anymore,” I stated, “you were there, you heard Chuspecip’s proclamation.”
It scoffed. “One port. For all the imps in this existence. No single port, no matter how rich, can hold all the imps in this existence. Besides, I am free now. As long as I remain with you, I will continue to be free. Unless you change your mind as you threatened to before.” Its empty eye sockets bore into my face. “Will you?” it asked.
I shook my head. “You all brought joy to my offspring’s life.” I did not know how deep my grief was. As soon as I said the words, tears filled my eyes. I tried to hold them back, but I blinked, and they fell. In front of an imp.
“Ula was special.” It said. “Just like you were when you were just born. So, filled with life and so much raw strength and power. It brought joy to us. It was just as you had been, just as you had been Cala. Laughing, playing with everyone.” the imp cried. It joined me in my tears. “If we could go back in time we would have kept a better eye out. We would not have let it leave. It had never tried to sneak out before. I am so sorry Cala.” It sniffled.
I managed to force my tears under control. I sat up in the bed and leaned against the wall behind me. The imp still cried. It wept into its shirt for my offspring. My little Nebula.
“It was not your fault.” I said.
“It feels like it.” It replied. “It feels like it was all our faults. I don’t know how the other imps could leave you, but I could not, not after you lost Ula. I could not.”
“Nebula was perfect, wasn’t it?”
The imp smiled at me. It wiped at its face but tears still fell from its eyes. “Better than you,” it teased. I actually found myself chuckling. “It would have outshone you.”
“I wanted it to.”
It nodded. “I know.”
I looked at the imp and I found the words pouring from my mouth. “I don’t know how to go on without it. Everything reminds me of Nebula. Everything.”
“I lost a child too, as an umani, my only daughter. She was all I had. I drank poison after she died.”
I understood. “I tried to kill myself. I couldn’t do it.”
“No parent should outlive their child. It is not natural.”
I stared at the imp. “Did you find your child when you came here?”
It shook its head. “I searched. Your ancestor found me right after I died. Master Chamin, fifth descendant of Chacip. That one was the absolute worst of your line.” It shook its head, but it had a fond smile on its face. Something about that smile made me smile too. “Lust, it imbibed it. In secret, away from Musa’s judging eyes. It was an imperial when it found me, a child itself. It would travel to visit friends with liberal progenitors and imbibe in lust with them. It found me on one of those lust trips and for some reason it chose to keep me. It said that it liked that I did not judge it. It was high and I had no idea what it meant. If I had known I would have judged it. Lust is the worst type of exploitation of our kind. Master Chamin,” it sucked its tongue against the roof of its mouth, releasing a clucking sound. “Reprobate. But it somehow understood my grief. It traveled to ports with me, it told its progenitor it was going on official diplomatic ventures, but it was all so I could find my child. After its progenitor died, and it became Kaiser, it learnt of your line’s bond to Chuspecip and asked Chuspecip to search for my child for me. My child did not come here after it died.”
“Tell me more.” I said, when the imp stopped talking.
It smiled. “Master Chamin was my bond. Did you know that the uspecs of your line tend to have that one imp they bonded with?”
I shook my head.
It nodded. “For Calami, it was Chike. For Calam it was Rita. Chamin was mine. Even young Ula had formed its bond with Halima.”
“Musa was mine then.”
It shook its head. “Musa was never yours. The bond I shared with Chamin, I could not lie to it, and it could not lie to me. I could not leave it, I could never leave it. Besides, Musa was always bonded with Chacip. Your imp is yours, it will never have been bonded with anyone else, and it could never leave you.”
“I cannot feel that way for another imp.” I said. “Not after Musa’s betrayal.”
“Another reason why I could not go with Musa.”
I gaped at the imp.
Its jaw clenched. “Musa saved the people who killed our sweet Ula.” It shook its head. “Musa will find things difficult with Halima from now on. You just wait and see. Halima loved Ula more than any of us, and we all loved Ula, you just wait and see.”
I could not believe in this bond that the imp imagined between Nebula and Halima.
“Halima spoke up for Musa against Chuspecip.” I reminded the imp.
“They have loved each other for centuries. I did not say that the love will stop, it will just be very difficult. You just wait and see. Musa should have asked for imps to be free and then it should have gone to that icy hellhole and killed the imps who killed Nebula. Not all the imps in the wrath, but the ones guilty. Musa was a fool.”
Musa was a fool. I thought of Nebula and grief flooded me. It shocked me to see that the grief was not as it had been. My chest tightened but I could still breathe. I could still live. The second realization rocked me. I could still live. I had smiled with this imp, and for a little while, I had known levity.
“I have never heard of imps and uspecs bonding.”
“Your line is special. Musa told us that Chacip told it that it carried it into this existence, in its own arms. That forged their bond. Maybe that changed your line.”
I frowned. “I do not want to bond with an imp.”
It laughed. “Will you eat now?”
I stared at it.
“If you finish your food, I will show you a secret compartment in this room.”
I eyed it.
“Master Chamin built this room. It came here for its lust trips.”
“Lust trips that you disapproved of.”
It shrugged. “I had to find a way to be okay with it. There are some imps who do not mind being watched when they are being intimate together, exhibitionists.” Its mouth twisted with distaste. “I made sure that master Chamin found those ones and that it treated them well. Never too much lust, and only when they were willing.” Its mouth twisted and being as intimately aware of grief as I was, I could easily identify the emotion in the imp. Then it smiled at me, a sorrow-twisted smile, and stood up. “Eat your food Cala.”
I glared at it, but it just chuckled and shook its head.
“How do you imps get around the palace without the keys?”
“There are doors in the walls. The imps that belonged to your line have the key in our identity. We can open them.” It proved this by touching a portion of the quicksand wall, and the wall went away, exposing a dimly lit tunnel behind it.
“What of the imps that belonged to Salin and Jukien?”
It shook its head. “Only your line has the key and only your line can give it to us. It cannot be taken away. You are safe Cala.”
Why wasn’t I annoyed with the way the imp kept calling me Cala? “I am not afraid.”
It smiled. “Of course not. Eat your food and you’ll get your treat.”
It began walking into the tunnel. “Wait.” I called out.
“You didn’t tell me your name.” It had told me the names of every other imp who’d accompanied me back.
“Joy.” It said. It walked into the dimly lit tunnel and the quicksand wall reformed behind it.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:12am On Jun 06|
“Gratitude Joy,” I said to the empty room. Then I stood up and walked over to the desk. There was a small, corked, bottle of fruit wine, resting on the tray. I stood it up and uncorked it. It was not fermented. I removed the covering from the tray and looked at the food inside of it. My stomach churned at the pleasant aroma. I had no idea what it was. I saw some sort of grains, longer grains than I had ever seen, and fatter too. There was a creamy sauce over the grains with an assortment of nama meat cubes. Sautéed vegetables graced a corner of the platter. There was a bowl of an unknown pastry dessert also on the tray. I took a bite of the food and for the first time in days, it had flavor. It tasted like food. Nebula would have loved it. My chest tightened. Juke would have loved it too. I thought of the meal the three of us had shared together. Juke had been like an older sibling to Nebula and as an offspring to me. I’d lost them both. My chest tightened, but after a while it eased.
Tears are a solace for the living not for the dead. I think that my way of honoring Binna is better.
Juke’s words came back to me then. Juke had died fighting for me, fighting for the imperial it believed in. And Nebula, my precious Nebula had died in this war against the wrath. How could I honor them? As soon as I thought on it, the answers came to me and I forced them away. Both ways made my stomach turn. Nebula had loved the imps in the Isle of Brio. I did not know if I believed in any special bond between imps and uspecs, but it had loved Halima. I was the Kaiser of four ports now, four powerful ports. I could destroy Qatamejo. I could allow them the sovereignty Chuspecip gave, but I could ensure that no other ports did business with them. I could make sure they suffered. The imps in the wrath who’d killed my offspring were there. It was what they deserved for killing my offspring. I could make sure that their port failed. I wanted them to suffer. But Halima was also there. Halima who’d cared for my offspring. How would Nebula want me to honor it? I knew. I had despised the imp, but Nebula had loved it. I had seen them play. I could not deny the joy that the imps in the Isle of Brio had brought to my offspring. Honoring Nebula’s memory would not be easy. I could never forgive those imps, but the founder’s promise kept me from avenging my own offspring’s death. I wanted to punish Qatamejo, to make sure the port failed. But that would punish the imps Nebula had loved too.
My throat tightened.
I would never go to Qatamejo’s aid. Never. But I would not influence other ports against it. It hurt me, it hurt me so much, but it was how I would honor my offspring. I would allow the imp it had cared for to live free. I would allow Qatamejo to be whatever Musa could make it. I would not interfere.
I groaned. Chuspecip was back in my head. There was no green fog in the room.
I do not need green fog to reach you.
I stopped eating.
Do you still despise me?
I do not know.
You should know that the imps responsible for your offspring’s death have been sapped.
What? Had it not given its word to Musa that no harm would come to the Permafrost imps?
My exact words were, “Any uspec who tries to harm any of the imps in Permafrost will die by my will.” Any uspec. I know Musa’s heart, I always have. I knew its lover’s bond and read the sincerity of its heart in the green fog. I knew that it would do the right thing. Joy was right, Halima’s bond with Nebula would not allow it to see the ones who killed it free. It guided Musa in the right direction. It showed Musa that it had to punish them. Musa ordered the imps sapped. It punished the guilty and let the rest go free.
I clenched my jaw. What of the imps who’d killed Marcinus? What of the imps who’d spat at me?
What of the imps you sapped to gain entry into Permafrost? What of the imps you’ve bullied and beaten? Nebula was innocent, it did not deserve to die as it did. Justice has been done.
Justice has been done. A little knot in my chest eased. It was not much, but it had been done. How did Chuspecip know all of this? Had it not cut its bond with Musa?
It is still my existence, I watch. Besides, I must see Qatamejo established. I must enforce the oaths I swore to see all imps who wish to go there sent there.
You cannot sever your bond with Musa. It had not said it, but I heard it in its defensive tone. It was watching over that port. It would protect them. It loved imps. I thought of Nebula and I felt grief, but the tightening in my chest was like a twinge. Chuspecip did not answer my question. I picked up my fork and continued eating. The food tasted good, better than it had before. The imps who’d killed my offspring had been sapped. I smiled. Halima’s bond with Nebula. That made me frown. Chuspecip could not leave Musa, even after it had warned Musa it would. Musa had followed me, served me, done everything to bring Chuspecip back. That bond between them was real. Musa had never been mine, it had always belonged to Chuspecip. Somehow, that knowledge eased some of the betrayal, but it did not take the sting of it away. I could never forgive Musa.
Why could honoring the dead not be easier? There was only one thing I could think of that would honor Juke, one thing on par with the love and devotion it had shown me. It made my stomach twist and it removed the taste from the food I swallowed. I would not dwell on it until the time came to see it done. I ate heartily. I was still grieved, I doubted that would ever go, but I felt lighter. Juke had been right, it felt good to honor the dead. This felt better than tears. I was doing something hard for me, to please them. I sacrificed for them.
The dessert was sweet but not too sweet. Nebula would have liked it sweeter, with more nectar. The thought twisted my stomach, but it did not knock me down as it would have before. I cleared the platter and then drank all of the wine in the bottle. Then I stood up and paced the little room. My mind was churning with the things I had to do. Where was this secret compartment anyway? Curse that imp Joy for putting the thought in my mind. I made quicksand and teleported myself to the lab.
Two imps sat together between shelves of things I could not even begin to guess at. As soon as I entered, they both jerked around. I’d teleported right beside them. They were two from the Isle of Brio.
“Asha and Simon,” I guessed. Joy had told me of the imps who’d assisted Calam here.
They both nodded. There was a female and a male. “How can we help you, master?”
“I am not your master anymore,” I said as I looked around the lab, “I freed you.”
“What should we call you then?” the other imp asked.
I shrugged. “What are you two doing?”
“Getting reacquainted with our research journals. We were in the middle of experiments before…” it broke off.
“I want to learn all of this.” I said. I did not even know I wanted to until I said the words. I would make a new samu. This one would have no cure save for me.
They both beamed at me as if I’d told them they’d won a prize. “Of course, sirga. We will send you books. It is best to start with books. Two hours in the morning. Then we will plan some experiments. Starter experiments.”
“You will like them sirga.”
I nodded absentmindedly. “Not right now, I have other things to see to first.”
One of the imps, the male one, frowned. “You should start reading at least, a researcher reads a lot, sirga, and we cannot afford to let your education slip. There is so much you do not know.”
“Of course. Send the books to my room.”
“Which room?” the female asked. “The one under the lab, or your royal suites?”
“So, you will be returning to the world then.”
“Your nobles are loitering the public parts of the palace eager to catch a glimpse of their new Kaiser.”
I glared at the imps and made quicksand. I teleported myself back to the hideout underneath the lab.
There was an imp behind my desk. Imps everywhere!
“Did I not tell you about Qatamejo?”
The imp jumped back when it heard me. It was the newly dead one, the one with eyes. Its head rose. I heard it mutter, ‘Joy said don’t be timid’ underneath its breath. It nodded. “I want to stay, master.”
Why did all these imps want to stay with me? I shook my head and turned my back on the imp. They had Qatamejo, wasn’t the whole point of Qatamejo that they could be free? I freed them in the Isle of Brio, yet they stuck to me. Now even this one wouldn’t leave.
“How old were you when you died?”
One year younger than Musa. But Musa had lived in the spectral existence for millennia. This one was newly dead. My teeth gritted at the thought of the imp. I pushed it out my mind.
The imp started singing.
I turned around. “What are you doing?”
It stopped. “Singing, master.”
“Get out of here.”
It picked up the tray and scurried away.
A hole was cut out of the quicksand wall before the imp reached it and there was an unfamiliar imp standing there. It bowed to me and then took the little one by the hand, guiding it down the tunnel. I frowned, thinking that strange, but I didn’t remark on it.
I walked back to the bed, sat on it, and waited for the imp Joy to return. I told myself that it was important to learn the locations of the hidden compartments, but the truth was that I was hiding from the nobles. I did not know how to be Kaiser. I’d almost started it by drowning them all in lit okun. I would have been an invader. What if I made a mistake, acted like a commoner instead of the uspec of the line they expected? I crashed into the bed and moments later I was asleep.
I woke from one of the most restful slumbers I’d had since I lost my offspring. My heart tightened at the thought of Nebula. There were imps sitting on the bed when I woke. Three imps.
The youngest one seemed to notice me first. Its gaze never quite locked on me. It pulled at Joy’s shirt and pointed in my direction, but its finger was off. Chike was the last to turn.
I sat up.
“I’m surprised my honoraria aren’t here.”
Chike smiled at me. “I thought you wanted to be alone, so I didn’t tell them where you are, master.”
“You are free Chike.”
“I know master.”
I shook my head. “They didn’t insist?”
“The noble Cantonia threatened to have me whipped. I reminded it that I was free, master.”
I smiled. “Gratitude.” I turned my attention to the youngest imp, the newly dead one with the eyes. It looked at me, but it wasn’t really looking at me. Its gaze was off. “You can’t see me, can you?”
It shook its head.
“In the first days our hearing is very good, remarkably so, but while we keep our umani eyes, we can only see the umani world. You must decide what to do with it master. It is…” Chike’s voice trailed off, “not comfortable to live as it does.”
“Then fix it.”
“If you have its eyes removed it will see the spectral existence.”
“Then do it.”
The young imp whimpered.
“It wants to keep its eyes.” Joy said.
When did imp problems become my problems? “Is there a way that this can be done?”
Chike nodded. “Instead of removing its eyes the pious ones can give it sight. It will be able to see both worlds and with time it can switch between which one it sees.”
I looked at the young imp hiding behind Joy. Then I turned my gaze to the older imp and I realized what it was doing. “You think I’m going to bond with this imp, don’t you?”
Joy smiled unapologetically. “You will bond with one eventually, why not this one?”
I should have told them to leave me. Why didn’t I? Something was happening to me and I blamed it on this damned quicksand castle. When had I become so lenient with imps? No, I shook my head, it wasn’t all imps. It was these ones. The imps who’d raised my offspring on the inter-port trail. My chest tightened at the thought of Nebula. I wondered if it would ever be possible to think of my offspring without feeling this pain. My gaze returned to the imps. The imps who’d chosen me over Musa and returned to Lahooni with me. These imps were worth leniency. The newly dead could be tolerated, I supposed. “What do you need to get it done?” I asked Chike.
“It costs two pieces of merit and we’ll need an uspec to accompany us.”
I sighed. Two pieces of merit. It was Chike and Joy making this request. Why not? It was not as if I did not have money to spare. I pulled two pieces of merit from my belt and gave it to Chike. “Ask Matina to go with you.”
The imp with eyes gasped. “It said yes,” it muttered to Joy, as if I couldn’t hear it.
Joy smiled. “I told you.”
“Thank you, master!” the imp with eyes smiled at me. I glared at it, but I knew it could not see me. Chike led it out. So, I turned my glare on Joy. It did not seem to mind.
It jerked its head to the desk. “I brought you breakfast.” It said, rising from the bed. I watched as it walked to a section of the wall beside my bed. It placed its hand on the wall and the wall turned into curtains. “I am the only imp with the key, but you and your line have it. Master Chamin gave me the key for the days it was too lazy to get up from the bed and rifle through itself.” Its words were reproachful, but it smiled as it said them.
I rose slowly and walked over to the curtains. I pulled the curtains aside and saw another tunnel. This one was lined with walls of shelves and the shelves were stacked with tomes.
“There are a few thousand pieces of worth at the end of the tunnel. That is the reserves that your line hides in the palace.”
I knew where the other reserves were, in a green room in the Isle of Brio. I turned to the imp. “Gratitude.”
It smiled. “You should eat. Reading is hungry work.” It whistled as it walked out of the room.
I walked into the tunnel. There were tomes, stacks and stacks of them. I pulled one out and had to blow off the dust on it. It was the epic of the second Kaiser of my line, Chacip’s offspring. I sat in the tight tunnel, underneath maroon lights, and read.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:13am On Jun 06|
The curtain to the hidden tunnel shook. I heard murmurs coming from within it. Three imps were inside, cleaning it out. Three who’d come with me from the Isle of Brio, Chike, Joy and Rita. With the exception of the imp with the eyes, only the imps from the Isle of Brio had come into this room in the week that I’d kept myself holed up here. The imps from the Isle of Brio had passed Chuspecip’s test, whatever test that was, and it had let them stay with me. I had not really taken the time to think of how trustworthy they must have been for the founder to leave them with me instead of sending them to Qatamejo.
I flipped the page.
I was seated behind my desk, bent over one of Calam’s tomes. It was the last in a series of instructional tomes it had left behind. These tomes expressed Calam’s ideals on leadership. It expounded on what it meant to be ruler of a port, to be the final authority. I liked reading them. They drew me closer to my sire, told me off its mind. There were no tomes from my progenitor in the hidden tunnel, only Kaisers had left their works there. My progenitor had died as an imperial. Just as my offspring had. The tightening that always accompanied thoughts of Nebula came on me, but it faded with time.
I pored over the pages with the eagerness of a ravenous beast suddenly let loose on a Kaiser’s feast. I wanted to know more about the uspecs of my line, the ones who’d come before me. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to know. The imps helped with that, they all had tales to tell of my ancestors, funny ones. It was odd how used to their company I’d gotten in the days I’d kept myself isolated from uspecs. They’d been with me on the inter-port trail, during my journeys to and from the Isle of brio, and on the Isle of brio, but I’d never really known them. I flipped through another page, my eyes darting over the black marks on the cream parchment. The parchment was well preserved, expensive paper made to withstand the ravages of time.
A soft thud followed a muffled whine.
I took my focus from my tome to the imp chasing after its bouncing marble. The imp with eyes. Its name was Mark. It sounded like Marc, the name of the bear I’d lost in Permafrost. Named after a friend who I’d also lost to the imps in the wrath. This Mark had so much suppressed energy. It was a child, thirteen, but it acted as my offspring had at five. Joy told me that uspecs grew faster than umanis. Umanis took years before they could make sensible speech, while uspecs took days. Umanis took years before they could walk properly, while uspecs were born on their feet, walking from the moment of birth. Umani aging was strange. The imp finally caught its marble and then it turned around. It had a huge grin on its face. The imp was almost always irritating, but that grin, that wide smile with mirth bubbling in its eyes. It reminded me of Juke in ways that made my heart stop.
“Sorry, master.” It ran back to its little stool by my desk. It didn’t sit, it stood and bent its head close to the tome I was reading. It couldn’t read the common tongue yet. It still spoke in the umani tongue, the common one I understood. I grabbed it loosely by the curly hair currently obstructing my view of the tome, and lifted its head up and out of my way. “What does it say?” it asked me.
I shook my head at the imp, released its hair and turned my focus back to the tome. The imp dropped to its stool and then continued playing with its marble.
“Do you want more candied fruits, master?” It picked up a bowl from the tray on the side of my desk and held it out.
I shook my head.
The imp couldn’t eat quietly. It made annoying sucking sounds when it tossed a piece of candied fruit into its mouth. Why was I enduring this little imp’s annoying presence? The imp had eyes, and streak-less skin. It did not look like an imp. It looked like an umani and I did not immediately distrust umanis as I did imps. It was imps who’d insulted me, imps who’d taken everything from me. Umanis seemed different in a way. Mark also had that eagerness to please and the big grin. Things that reminded me so much of how Juke had been when it was younger, on the inter-port trail.
It sucked noisily on another piece of fruit and whistled as it tossed its marble into the air.
“Why don’t you go somewhere else?”
It smiled at me. “Joy said that if I stay around you that we will become very good friends and that I will never have to be afraid of you.”
I took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Joy. I found it hard now to yell at that imp. Not after it had cried with me over my offspring. It had helped me to find release at a time when nothing could pull me out of the darkness of grief. I resumed my reading and got completely lost in the pages. Reading absorbed me, it could make me deaf to sounds and sights around me. Time flew when I read, morning turned to evening and I had to remind myself to get up and walk about. I knew it was the same for Calam, it had said so in its tomes. Had I learnt this from watching my sire read?
My gaze snapped up. The orange light streaming in showed that it was still day. Chike stood in front of my desk. Joy sat on the bed behind it and the imp Rita stood beside Mark on its little stool.
“What is it, Chike?”
“The nobles need to see you, master, your honoraria especially. They are getting worried. With everything they’ve done for you, I don’t think they deserve it.”
I quirked an eyebrow. “Are you scolding me Chike?”
It shook its head and replied with a smile, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
It was right of course. I’d only planned to stay here for a day at most. Once I’d seen that tunnel though, it had been easy to allow myself to get lost in the tomes.
“We can bring the tomes up to your suites if you would like Cala.” Joy said.
I should have forced the imp to stop calling me that by now. Every time I glared at it, it just shook its head and laughed. Imps.
“No, leave them here.” I rose up from my seat and looked down at the desk. Then I turned my gaze to Chike. “Ask my honoraria to wait for me in the Kaiser’s lounge. I will meet them there.”
“We will have food waiting for you. You haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and they may not have either.” Joy said.
“Maybe you should clean first, sirga.” This voice was an imp I rarely heard. Its voice was low, and it had a quiver in it. Rita.
I nodded again. Imps all around me, but I did not mind. These imps, Joy and Chike, I did not mind their company. Even if Joy stubbornly called me Cala, when no one else dared. I reached for my quicksand.
“Can I accompany you, sirga?” the imp Rita picked at its fingers as it spoke.
I frowned. Why?
“Rita is itching to see you properly cleaned. It says that you look like you need a good massage, Cala, and your ailerons do need to be polished. There is nothing we can do about your chest…” Joy paused, purposely ignoring my frown, “unless you will allow Asha to use pansophy to fix it?”
I shook my head.
It sighed. “Well, you need to present yourself as the Kaiser, not,” it jerked its chin distastefully at my body, “whatever this is.”
Chike let out a strangled laugh.
I eyed Joy. “Sometimes you really do go too far.”
It shrugged. “You know I’m right.” Its tone turned serious. “It is what Calam and Calami would have wanted for you, Cala.”
“I will have your blades polished, master,” Chike rushed in, awkwardly, as if it feared my response. “What shall we do about your coffer?”
I made quicksand and teleported us all out of the hideout. I took us to the entertaining room in Calam’s suites. My suites now, the royal suites.
“Wow!” Mark exclaimed.
The room really was extravagant. No wonder Calam had preferred its lab. I knew that this room fed more to the tastes of the uspecs in my line like Chamin. This palace was different from others I’d seen in that the Kaiser’s and imperial’s suites were altogether in the royal suites. There was no separation for our family. Nebula should have been with me running around this room the way that Mark did now. I choked on my pain.
“I can take the coffer to your storage room master and unpack it.” Chike said.
I nodded. “The key and tag are in the belt.”
“Come Mark.” Chike picked up the belt and the coffer followed after it. It was not until they left, the coffer trailing behind them, that I realized I had not even batted an eye at being separated from my weapons.
“I will go and see to your meal, and I will deliver your message to your honoraria.” Joy left.
I turned my back on the entertaining room and walked down painted quicksand grounds. The light here was a mellow mix of yellow and red. “Where have my honoraria been staying?” I asked the imp who silently trailed me.
“The noble Gamble has been staying in the court. The others, the nobles Matina and Matiu and the great Fabiana, stay in the duke’s dwelling in the Acropolis.”
I nodded. It felt good to walk. I had spent too much time cooped up in the hideout. My brain felt better for it, and my mood was certainly lighter, but my legs did not thank me. I would need to spar. A good session with Chike would leave me feeling a lot better. I walked into the suite’s cleaning room and drew up short.
It was better than anything I could have imagined. For hooni uspecs, this much okun was unbelievable. The entire room was built on okun. I walked in and stepped into shallow okun. It was shallow enough that only my feet were submerged in it. The massage beds and tables and desks were erected on the shallow okun. Then there were ponds, at least five of the largest ponds I had ever seen. One had fog suspended above it, thick fog. That would be the one with the bathing salts. There was a pond that was just okun, okun without bathing salts or scented stones. Then there was a canal that ran around the edge of the room with falling okun, coursing into it. A kute Kaiser could not have built a better cleaning room. It was magnificent and it was the largest cleaning room I had ever seen.
I smiled and then flapped my ailerons. I rose, flew to the pond with the fog and dove in. The bathing salts burnt my skin, but I luxuriated in the feel of them. I swam. One pond after the other, until it was time for the massage.
I slumped onto a massage bed. As soon as Rita’s hands touched my skin, I sighed. It really did have magic fingers. It must have spent at least an hour massaging me and polishing my ailerons. It polished my neck scales to, and buffed my tail. Then it rose and I saw satisfaction in its face. I dove into another pond.
Imps. These ones, the ones from the isle of brio, they cared for me. I’d learnt a lot about my ancestors from the tomes I’d read. They had cared for these imps, they’d mentioned them by name in their dairies. These imps had not just been servants, but confidantes. Calam spoke of Rita in its diaries of burdens that the imp lessened. It spoke with fondness of Chike and Calami. I thought of the nobles as I kept swimming. Cantonia had guilted them into listening to me, but it was able to because of my line. My line had left people behind who followed me out of loyalty and love for them. They were followed out of respect, not fear, and not duty. Alone, in the pond, swimming so hard that my breath came in short busts, I admitted my fears. I was scared that I would let them down, that I would destroy the legacy they’d built.
I climbed out of the pool and walked over to the canal. I swam a few laps around the cleaning room, before stepping out.
“There is dry fog in there, sirga,” it pointed at a set of curtains.
I nodded and walked into it. The fog was dry and hot. As soon as I walked in, the drops of okun on my skin dried off.
I walked out of the cleaning room, feeling like a new uspec. Chike stood with Mark in front of curtains beside the cleaning room. This was a dressing room. I remembered it vaguely. I did not remember all the accessories the room had. My coffer was underneath shelves. There were weapons here, so many different types of weapons, and this wasn’t even the palace armory. There were belts too, all golden belts. Some were metal meshes, some were short leather, some were so wide they were almost like the imp skirts. At the back of the room, there were sets of curtains. I turned around, and walked out of the room, I did not need weapons to speak with my honoraria.
I heard the footsteps behind me. “Are they in the lounge?”
“Yes master,” Chike replied.
I walked into the Kaiser’s lounge.
The room was as I remembered it from the night that Jukien had forced us to spend here, but it somehow appeared better. There was a large table in the center, which had not been there before. Large platters of food were set out on that center table and the uspecs in my honoraria sprawled on lounging beds teasing each other and laughing while they picked at their food. Joy sat on a lounging bed with Gamble and it said something to the uspec that made it laugh. It ate from its platter. Asha and Simon, who I still did not know which was which, sat together on a lounging bed beside Fabiana. They ate from the same platter. Matina said something that made Matiu snort and Gamble laugh. I realized then, that my honoraria had become more than just the uspecs who’d fought with me, it was the imps too. Chike who’d followed me into battle in Chiboga, and the other ones, the ones who’d stayed with my offspring while I was gone and gave it love and happiness that I had never been able to dream of as a child. I felt an ache when I saw this and remembered the meal I’d walked into in the Isle of brio, under the canopy tree. We’d had Juke and Nebula then. My chest tightened.
“Sirga!” Gamble was the first to see me.
As soon as it called out the honorific, all the conversation died down. The uspecs and imps stood and stared at me. The silence after the previous gaiety felt wrong.
Fabiana bowed. “Mighty one,” it greeted. I shook my head at it.
“Stop it, majestic,” I scolded.
“It is great one now, master,” Chike reminded me.
I walked into the room, and three imps followed me. Mark appeared completely at a loss. We were speaking in the hooni tongue.
“Please sit down,” I said to them. “This feels very awkward.”
“You’ll have to get used to it, mighty one.” Cantonia said. It sounded dour. I eyed it.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:13am On Jun 06|
“What have I done wrong now, Cantonia?” I asked as I filled my platter. The food smelled very good. I lounged on a bed between Matiu and Fabiana. Cantonia was opposite me, beside Gamble. Chike and Rita filled their platters and found lounging beds. I tossed a piece of fried sky fowl into my mouth.
“You abandoned your port,”
“It did not abandon its port,” Fabiana snapped at Cantonia. Those two did not like each other.
“That is what the nobles are saying,” Cantonia retorted.
I shook my head. “I needed time Cantonia.”
It muttered underneath its breath. I focused on my food.
“We’ve cleared the royal suites of all uspecs who aren’t in this room.” Gamble said. “And I found all the keys that Jukien had in its possession. It did not give those keys to nobles easily.”
“We’ll have to make permanent keys for you all.” I said. The golden tokens Jukien had were spent with each journey. My honoraria needed their own keys to teleport within the suite.
Cantonia cleared its throat. “I have the evidence, mighty one. Since you were nowhere to be found, I took the liberty of arranging a trial for all the guilty parties. They were found guilty, of course, and are awaiting sentencing at your pleasure.” I ignored the gibes in Cantonia’s words.
“Eleven nobles. Jukien, its two offspring, a majestic of a burg under its control, and the entire line of the dukes of the third metropolis.”
I frowned. “I expected more.”
“Many died in the war, sirga,” Gamble said.
“What should their punishment be?” I asked.
My nobles gaped at me. This was something I’d learnt from Calam’s tomes. It never considered sentencing in a vacuum. It sought the advice of nobles who thought differently. Calam was soft, it admitted it, it did not like to execute its subjects. So, it would seek advice from nobles who were not as soft as it was. I was different. Fabiana balanced me out, it was soft where I was not. And Cantonia knew politics, it would think of political implications which I was not yet well-versed in. I wished for Juke. Juke had been the best combination of all of us. Political, caring, but also unyielding when it had to be. It was supposed to have been the advisor I counted on most.
Cantonia recovered from its shock first. “Death.” It said.
I turned to Fabiana. “What do you think?”
“Fabin’s name would have been on that list if it wasn’t my sibling,” Fabiana said, “I find it hard to sentence others who committed a similar crime.”
“Of the eleven nobles, how many of them are older than Fabin?” I asked.
“Seven. Jukien’s offspring and two of the line of the third duke, are either of an age with or younger than Fabin.”
“The four young ones will go free, but they will lose their titles and lands. They are commoners now. Execute six of the seven.”
“Leave Jukien in prison.”
Gamble sat up. “But Jukien was the mastermind.”
I nodded, glancing down at my platter. “What is the best way to honor the dead?”
No one answered.
“Juke told me once that the best way to honor the dead was to find what they cared for most and see it brought to life. Juke cared for its progenitor, and for Juke, I will let Jukien live. It will spend the rest of its life in the gaol.”
Cantonia appeared flabbergasted. I turned to Gamble. “Do you agree?” Gamble was Juke’s best friend amongst my honoraria.
Tears filled its eyes. It nodded. I smiled. “I have three ports that need custodians, uspecs I can trust. I want to give them to you three.”
“Which three?” Fabiana asked, its eyes narrowing at me.
“You, majestic, Matiu and Cantonia.”
Cantonia was stunned. “Me?”
I nodded. “Yes, you. You’ve proved yourself to me Cantonia.”
It stuttered. “I don’t know what to say. Gratitude, mighty one. I will not let you down.”
“You will take one of Juke’s siblings with you, Cantonia. For Juke, I will give them a chance to reclaim their honor and their title. If the uspec serves you well, you may promote it as you see fit.”
“You will take the other one, Matiu.”
Matiu cleared its throat. “I am just a one-band noble, sirga, what do I know about being custodian of a port?”
“What do I know about being Kaiser?” I asked.
“Sirga, I am grateful, I really am,” Fabiana said, “but I cannot accept. I cannot leave you.”
I sighed. I’d thought Fabiana would react this way. Honestly though, I was happy that it wished to stay. I needed Fabiana. I turned to Gamble. “It looks like the port is yours then.”
Gamble choked on a bun.
“Gratitude, but I must turn you down, sirga. I have no desire to be so high and lofty. I do not wish to be a custodian.”
I turned to Matina. “Well, Matina, that leaves you. Will you turn me down too?”
It stared at me. “You want me to be the Custodian of one of your ports?”
“But I am an artist.”
I chuckled. “Make the port an artistic hub then.” I said. “Take some of your line with you, make them dukes and let them advice you. You will not be alone.”
It frowned. “I always dreamt of making a small burg into an artistic haven.”
“Yes!” I ceased on that. “Do it to a port!” I was starting to see the beauty in art, at least the way Matina did it.
“What if I fail?”
“We will always be able to rely on each other, Matina,” Fabiana said, “none of us will let the other fail. If you need our aid, we are only an inter-port trail away.”
Matina smiled. “I would like the challenge, sirga. Gratitude.”
I turned to Gamble. “If a port is too much then how about a metropolis?”
“You want to make me a duke?”
I nodded. “I cannot think of anyone better suited to take over Juke’s line’s metropolis.”
It bowed. “I am honored, sirga.”
“Majestic, you will have to find me a new duke for the third metropolis.”
Fabiana nodded. “I will find you a loyal noble.”
The conversation was lighter as we finished off the rest of our meal. My honoraria would be breaking up. Three would be custodians of the plenum ports the founder had left in my care. They would have the highest authority in their ports and answer only to me. Gamble was a duke now and Fabiana was as it was before. It would not accept my promotion. I was grateful. Fabiana’s support and advice would be invaluable to me as I tried to live up to the legacy of my line. I rose.
“Where are you going sirga?” Gamble asked, it jumped to its feet. “I will accompany you.”
I shook my head. “I will go alone, just me and Chike. I will be back soon, then I will face the nobles and let them see that I have not abandoned them.”
Gamble reluctantly lay back down on its lounging bed right as Chike stood. We left the lounge together.
“What will I give you, Chike? I have given you your freedom, but you seem determined to stay. What do you want?”
It matched my stride. “Just let me stay with you and spar with you, that’s all I’ve ever wanted master.”
“Jukien and Salin have left their traces in this palace. I want to put you in charge of this place, Chike, I need you to rid these halls of all that aren’t loyal to me.”
“Of course, master, I will happily get rid of Jukien and Salin’s imps.”
We walked into the dressing room and I went to the coffer. I opened it with the key that had been left hanging from a pole above it. I pulled out the hard fog box which contained Juke’s scales. I took out one of those scales and wrapped it in leather.
I turned back to Chike with the scale in my hand. “I wasn’t talking about the imps. That I believe was Joy’s job and can still be if it wants it. I want you in charge of everyone that works in this palace Chike, imps, uspec servants, uspec guards, no one should be allowed to walk these halls if you don’t trust them.”
It gaped at me. “But I am an imp.”
I smiled. I’d accused Arexon of going eccentric but I was going eccentric too, putting an imp in charge of uspecs. But I trusted Chike, and all the uspecs I trusted already had jobs that they had to see to. This palace was important to me, I would not allow uspecs I did not trust to run it simply because they were uspecs.
“Will you do this for me?”
“Of course, master.”
I nodded then I made quicksand underneath myself and teleported myself to a hard fog prison.
Jukien lay on the small cot in the prison I’d once inhabited. As soon as it saw me, it jumped to its feet. We stood so close that a single swipe of the cyan scale in my hand could end its life.
“I will be moving you to a bigger room.” I said without preamble. “You will spend the rest of your life locked in that prison cell, but I will make sure you have all that you desire. Your offspring are free, forgiven of their crimes. I am sending them both to the plenum ports that are now annexed to Lahooni. If they serve their new custodians well, they will be promoted and may one day call themselves nobles again. You will be allowed to write to them and they to you.”
Once I was done delivering the sentencing, I waited. Jukien glared at me. “Do you expect me to be grateful?” it spat out.
I just eyed it calmly. “No.” I bent and placed the leather on the bed. Then I unwrapped it, revealing Juke’s neck scale. ‘That belonged to Juke,” I said, “it would want you to have it.”
Jukien didn’t move. It didn’t show any signs that it had heard me, it didn’t even so much as glance at the neck scale. I shook my head and teleported out of the prison cell.
I had sent myself back to the dressing room but found myself in a bubble floating over my palace instead.
Chuspecip in Chacip’s form stood beside me.
I looked down through the clear material beneath me. It showed me a splendid view of my palace and of the entire Acropolis. I saw the surrounding metropolis. I saw Lahooni, my port.
Chuspecip cleared its throat. “The other existences tried to invade mine.”
I turned to it. I did not know what I was expected to say. I already knew of this invasion. I was the one who’d stopped it, at great personal cost to myself.
“They were not just in league with the wrath of Sada, but with the plenum. The plenum gave them the locations of our portals into the standard existence and in exchange they told the plenum how to get rid of me, starting with trapping me in the standard existence.” It sighed. “I cannot let it stand. If I do, they will try again. I thought our separation would have been the end of the fighting, after all this time, they still seek to take what is mine. Churaya. Chuhisadan. The supreme and the fourth.”
I gritted my teeth. That was the first time I’d ever heard the name of the fourth Chu. I knew of Chumani and Churaya but no one ever seemed to know the last ones name. I felt there was something important to this, the fact that the Chu tied with Sada had managed to keep its name hidden.
“I will have to take back my portals from them, no matter the hindrances.” Chuspecip said.
I still wasn’t sure I understood where this was going.
It turned to face me. “If they try to stop me, I will fight. I must, if not it will be perceived as weakness. It could mean a war like nothing the joint existences have ever seen before. A great all-out war between our existences. I have to show them that I am not weak, that they cannot just take what is mine, or they will find other ways to try again.”
I nodded. I agreed. “But we are just recovering from our own war. Do we even have enough uspecs?”
“I will make more. Many more to replace the ones who died in the plenum’s war.” Its gaze fixed on me. “That is not why I came to see you.” The hardness eased from its eyes and I knew it would bring up Nebula. “The plenum Kaiser that led the invasion in Lahooni still lives.”
I gasped. “Are you sending me on another mission to bring it down?”
Chuspecip chuckled. “No, I kept it alive for you. It is locked away in one of the prison cells in your gaol.”
I frowned. “I do not understand.”
“It will be your next offer, for when you are ready to procreate again.”
I glared at Chuspecip. “Nebula cannot be replaced!” I spat the words at it.
Chuspecip sighed. “Of course not. Does that mean that you never want to have another offspring?” It stared directly at me. “If you do not, that is your choice, but if you do, know that the offspring I will give you will be the most powerful to ever exist. The plenum Kaiser is an irirakun of all five, which means that your offspring will be a kun of all five too. I will give it my lifeform, right from the moment of its birth, stronger than that which is in you. Do you know what that means?”
I shook my head.
“That means it will have route, Nebud. My lifeform combined with all the other types of magic, will give it route. No uspec has ever had route without siphoning it from me. Your offspring will be the greatest uspec to ever have existed. If you decide to procreate again, that is.”
I clenched my fists. Green fogs surrounded me before I could respond. I was teleported back to the dressing room, where Chike stood, waiting for me. I decided to push Chuspecip’s words out of my head. I walked over to a belt-rack and picked one of the golden belts. I wrapped it around my waist and shoved my cutlass and dagger into it.
Chike pulled aside the curtains, revealing a reflective surface. I stared at my reflection. I looked older than the last time I’d seen myself. I was an uspec in my prime now, with five golden armbands on each of my arms. I looked like a Kaiser. I made quicksand and teleported myself to the court.
I took a deep breath, steeled myself to face the nobles, and then I pulled the curtains aside.
A horn blew. I could not see the horn or even the uspec who declared,
“The mighty undead, Nebud, the Kaiser of Lahooni.”
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:14am On Jun 06|
Part 27 aka The End
That was how you came to be Calane born into a short respite between the wars. You were the founder’s gift to me. It has been millennia now since all of this happened, yet I miss your sibling as often as I think about it. There is closure with Nebula though. I know what happened to it, I know how I lost it. But not you. That is what grieves me the most. I do not know where you are, and I write this in hopes that you are still in the spectral existence as Cantonia told me you were fourteen years ago.
It took me a year after Nebula’s death before I could take Chuspecip up on its offer. Sometimes I was hard to you Calane, because I knew the power that you had in you and I knew the war that was coming. We had twelve years together, only twelve, before the great war. Before you were snatched away from my arms. The great war ended and the kuwor created the marked in retaliation for our encroachment on the umani world. Umani soldiers to protect their existence. It gave us immortality. At the time there were many who praised the Kuwor for its gift, but now those same uspecs curse it. We cannot procreate, we no longer have new life. Not even Chuspecip could counteract the kuwor’s wish on this. But Churaya found a way. That cursed Chu, it found a way around the Kuwor’s mandate. Now we all want what Churaya created, the ancestry. The fourth existence got one, one umani from that ancestry, one umani through which they can now procreate. There are many in this existence who have sided with InCoSeM for a chance to gain an umani of the ancestry. For our existence, where new life is tied with death, those ancestry umanis could be the end to our immortality. There are many uspecs who crave such an end. Thousands of years is a long time to live. The Kaisers in league with InCoSeM plead with me to join them. I do not care for umani schemes and squabbles, I do not care to be a part of it. But I do care to get you back.
Perhaps now that you know my story you can understand better why I sent you to the pits of Hakute when I did. There was strength in you Calane, you reached your prime before any uspec ought to. You reached your prime before you’d turned ten. You had strength, but you also had weaknesses. You could fight but you could not take a life. You needed to be stronger, to be tougher, and that was why I sent you to the pits. I wonder if you could ever forgive me for this…I wonder so much now. I made mistakes but I did my best. I wanted you to be strong enough to protect yourself. I had to make sure that you did not end up like your siblings, gone too young. But despite my best efforts, the supreme existence, they took you from me. During the great war they stole you away. Perhaps it is my curse to never know the full love of my own flesh and blood. A few bitter days with my first offspring. Five years with my second. Then twelve years with my last, you, Calane.
I must be cursed.
But you live, Cantonia assures me of this. Cantonia says that you were sighted fourteen years ago in Hakute. I wish that the founder could confirm, but it has grown distant. It has been a thousand years since it last spoke to me. I go to the Isle of Brio but I cannot find it. I know it exists because the route it allowed me siphon from it still flares strong within me. But it is distant, away from me.
The supreme existence took you from me, I’ve always known that much, but I’ve never known where or what they did to you. Thousands of years and there was no clue, nothing. I wandered the standard existence in search of you, to no avail. If only I could reach the supreme existence and question the uras who took you from me.
I believe that you were indeed here. The memories I’ve seen from the uspecs who saw you attest to that.
I’d begun to lose hope that I would ever see you again until Mark found the imp. Mark found the female imp, newly dead in Hakute, where you’d last been seen. It was wandering about in a strange pink attire it called its school uniform. It knew details about you Calane, and it said it had seen you, and so I took it in, and at Mark’s insistence, I made it my osin. I let it siphon magic from me and Chike trained it to fight. The imp, my osin, it told me what happened to you. It told me of how you’d finally fought your way free of your ura captives and had used their magic to create a portal. The portals are all dead now, all save for the one that only you and I can walk through, those of Chuspecip’s line. My osin told me that you walked through that portal and you came back here. It said that its own mother helped you return. I read it in the imp’s memories. It had no pansophy, it could not have been lying. Its mother helped you when you were in the standard existence, its mother helped you find your way back. My osin told me that you went into hiding when you returned to the spectral existence, that you feared the uras where coming after you. Why did you not come to me, precious one? Did you think that I could not protect you? Who has more power in this existence than I do? Who could pose a threat against me? But you stay in hiding, my osin told me. It said that the magic you fear is one forged by the ancestry, by one umani ancestry girl in particular. It did not know the girl’s name and so I sent it with the power and the means to find out who this girl is.
Now my osin is dead.
It is impossible. They keep arguing with me. Fabiana, Chike, Mark, they tell me that it is impossible, that an imp cannot be killed. But they do not share the link that I do. I gave it my magic to siphon. If it had only been sapped, I would still feel it, and I would be able to restore it. It is an easy thing for me to restore a sapped imp, trivial. This osin Mark found, the one you were in contact with, the one I sent to find out the name of the umani girl who dared to keep you, my offspring, locked in fear. The osin is dead. I cannot feel it. It is gone. And that is my confirmation that the umani ancestry girl I seek does indeed have the magic that you fear. To kill my osin, the umani ancestry girl had to have come into the spectral existence. That would not be possible without ancestry magic of an order that has never been seen. It is the same magic that allowed the umanis I hear now to have entered my existence and then my port. Ancestry magic. These ones, the umanis attacking my uspecs and causing them to cry in pain. The umanis fighting my guards. I hear the clashing of swords and I imagine how easy it will be to end them. Route is especially good for this. But I chose to write this to you before I embark on the journey, I must go on now. I must find the umani ancestry girl whose magic killed my osin and whose magic keeps you trapped, and I must end its life.
“Master,” Mark’s soft voice pulled me out of my writing.
I blinked. With route it was always so easy to write, to transfer years of memories into pages in far less time than handwriting took. Now I stared at the marks on the parchment. I stood from my desk in my office and turned to face the imp whose cries of alarm had pulled me from my writing. I looked at the imp, with its eyes and its innocent face. Thousands of years had passed since I first met it in my hideout underneath my sire’s lab. Joy had been right, the blasted imp, it had known that Mark and I would bond.
“What is it?”
“It is just one umani, master, the green eyed umani is just one person.” Its voice was steady. I had long since trained away its shivering. This imp was a fighter now, it could be a merciless killer when I required it. It was also the only imp I allowed to siphon my siphoned route.
This information was baffling. “One imp tearing through all my guards.” I glanced at the belt around Mark’s waist and the swords in it. “I was going to intercede but now I think I will not. If my guards are weak enough to be hacked to pieces by a single umani, then they deserve their pain. It is not as if they can be killed.”
The imp frowned. “Master, you said an umani killed your osin. If an umani can kill your osin, then an umani can kill your imps and uspecs.”
I shook my head. “If it could, they would be dead already. The umani is only leaving them decapitated. This is a different umani from the one we are searching for. Let the umani come, I am waiting for it.”
Mark stared evenly at me. “It will be me who has to heal them all, won’t it?”
I smirked at it. “Stop complaining.” I infused growth and hearing into my ears, and I could hear the swords clashing. Could it really be just one umani causing so much damage? I could hear some of my best guards crying out. This was what happened when an uspec could not die, they grew lazy in their fighting. How else could a single umani tear through them?
An imp head emerged from my quicksand ground. Chike’s alarmed face froze on me. “You are letting the umani tear through us.”
I frowned at it. “Did you leave the fight to come here and berate my leadership skills?”
It shook its head. “I received a message from an umani named Ashanti. The umani sent an imp to us.”
“A commune.” I said. Commune killers could see into our world. Commune magic did come from the spectral existence after all, it only made sense, that when they took a life with that magic, granting us an imp in the process, they gained the ability to see select imps in our world. They thought they could see all of our existence, but they only saw what we allowed them to see. The imps they saw were imps sent specifically to be seen by umani communes. “What does this Ashanti commune have to say?”
“It sent greetings to you. Apparently your osin enlisted Ashanti’s aid in seeking out the name of the umani ancestry girl who’s threatening Calane.”
“And,” I asked, impatiently.
“And your osin found the umani girl. It was about to return to you with knowledge of the girl’s name but the umani ancestry girl chased it into this existence and slaughtered it before it could return to you. You were right master, the umani ancestry magic killed it.”
My jaw clenched. “What imp delivered the message?”
“One of Cantonia’s.”
If it came from Cantonia, I knew I could trust it. “Does this Ashanti commune know the umani ancestry girl’s name?”
Chike nodded. “Osezele Omorodion. That is the name of the ancestry girl who killed your osin and whose magic keeps Calane away.”
I turned my attention back to my writing to my offspring and I added one more line.
I am coming for you, Calane. Perhaps when you read this, we will be together. Finally.
Then I took my focus back to Chike. “Where is this umani girl?”
“In a school called St. Luke’s in Port Harcourt, the umani town that coincides with Hakute.”
“Then I am going to St. Luke’s.”
“Master!” Both imps called at the same time. “We are being attacked!”
“Attacked.” I spat the word out. “If, with route, you cannot end the umani who’s brought this chaos on us, then you deserve whatever it does to you.” I said to Mark. Mark could take care of the umani attacking, my priority was following Calane’s trail. I had to kill the ancestry umani girl, I had to get my offspring back.
“I do not know why I stay with you,” Mark replied, exasperated.
I grinned. “You are always free to go to Qatamejo.”
Both imps shuddered. It turned out that Qatamejo had not needed any help from me to fail. Too many imps packed in a single port. From what I’d heard, the port was rife with criminal activity, and there was only one place in the entire port that was safe. The Acropolis. I pushed thoughts of that cursed port from my mind. Qatamejo may have failed as the perfect imp oasis, but it had changed the position of imps forever in the spectral existence. Now there were many ports where slavery had been abolished, ports like Chiboga. All an imp had to do to be free was request to go to one of them. Even now, Chuspecip’s oath to Musa, even when the founder could not be felt, it still punished uspecs who tried to hold back imps who requested access to ports where they could be free.
“Do you really fear that you cannot face the umani?” I asked Mark.
It rolled its eyes. Mark was the only imp I owned who still had eyes. But Mark was also the only imp I trusted with route. I trusted Chike and the others, but it took an entirely different kind of trust to give an imp the kind of power I gave Mark. Its route was siphoned from me, but route was so powerful that it could easily be used against me, even when it was siphoned from me.
“That is not the point, master,” it stated prissily.
I chuckled. “Do not kill the umani, Mark, capture it. I am dying to hear what madness drove it to come for me.”
“Can I at least go and face it now? Or must I still wait till it reaches here?”
I made quicksand underneath myself. “Do whatever you please, Mark. You usually do.” With route I could teleport between ports without the inconvenience of the inter-port trail. It was tricky and hard to master the magic. It had taken me close to a hundred years to be able to teleport between ports. But I’d learnt. I took myself to the Isle of Brio, to the only portal left between our existence and the standard existence. I would find that umani, Osezele Omorodion, and then I would kill it.
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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:25am On Jun 06|
And that is IT. This LONG story is over. I just want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for coming along on this journey with me. I'm not going to lie, this has been the hardest story for me to write and honestly for me to post, but I'm happy that I made it to the end and I'm grateful to you all for the comments that kept me going when my insecurities and self doubt kicked in. Again, thank you all!
And for those interested in what comes next. Nebud and a number of the characters that we've met in this story are not gone. In fact, this is only the start for them. The attack on Nebud's palace is part of the prologue for the next book in the marked series (White Sight the Reckoning, the last book in the white sight trilogy). In the Reckoning we will be returning to the human world so the attack will be from the POV of the human(s) attacking. We'll see how that goes then.
I've had a few questions on the great war that led to the creation of the marked. During the writing of this book I decided more formally on the structure of the books, and so we will be going into that great war in the next fantasy story set which will be set in the fourth existence. We'll basically be picking up from where we left off here with Chuspecip trying to regain control of its portals. The last fantasy story (outside the marked series but set in the marked universe) will be in the supreme existence. That story will pick up from after the great war and go up to the creation of the ancestry. That will in part be Calane's story.
Now that this is done, I'm going to take a break from writing on NL. I have to work on preparing White Sight the Awakening for the official publication, and once that's done, I'll start writing the Reckoning. I think that this might be my last marked story on Nairaland...I feel like it's time to move the series off NL and focus on seriously publishing it, and all that, but I haven't made any final decisions on that yet...
Again, thanks so much for reading and supporting! I really appreciate it.
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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by OluwabuqqyYOLO(m): 6:47am On Jun 06|
Wow. This is the most beautiful story I've read on NL. It is the first story I've followed to its completion. Wow.
I have never read something so perfect and I find myself obsessively intrigued by the runnings of your mind. I imagine your soul as clockwork with such elaborate machineries that could each pass for an entire port.
This is a story I don't think I'll ever forget. I'm sorry for getting emotional, really. But you've outdone the writers I admire and, as such, are revered in my mind.
In fact, before this new system of updating, Wednesdays and Saturdays were for this story. Before I'd do anything with my phone, I made sure I read your updates. And when you switched to all week, I realized I was so much happier than I'd been in a very long while. Now, this has ended and I can't begin to understand what I'll be turning to. Can you believe there were nights I didn't sleep just so I could read your updates as soon as you dropped them? Wow!
I am once again terribly sorry for the publisher for letting you down. I'm 100% sure his or her reasons are baseless although I don't know any. Your story has done a lot to and for me and I wish I knew how to return the favor. Please, whatever help you may need, I'll gladly offer if capable.
Thank you very much for sharing this mind-blowing elixir with me. You, Obehi Dibua, have reached a legendary status in my head.
Now, may I implore you to complete the next book in the series as soon as possible? I honestly can't wait to read through everything.
PS: Please know I'm not merely being effusive with words. I used to be a writer and therefore find it difficult to be impressed with stories. I have never praised a story this much but The Marked deserves more.
And yes! It's time to move it off NL. I totally support the movement.
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|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Askech(m): 7:34am On Jun 06|
Pls so far I have only read the crimson night and then this book. How can I get my hands on the other books in the series like white sight?... I am ready to pay for them if need be
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Askech(m): 7:37am On Jun 06|
You are not alone bros. I always set my alarms to wake me up by 2am every Wednesday and Saturday so that I could read the updates immediately they were released. It's a pity that the story has ended, I wonder what I will be doing with my self every morning now
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by lukfame(m): 7:41am On Jun 06|
Thank you Obehid for this beautiful story. You are just too good.. more ink to your pen. Can't wait for your next story. You can monetize your books, I'm sure we wouldn't mind buying them.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by annayawchee: 7:55am On Jun 06|
It was captivating from the start to the end...
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 8:47am On Jun 06|
And our chuliterature delivers yet again ...
Wonderful work obehid..
Please do not take too much time oo.. there is probably nothing else to do on NL when you go
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 8:51am On Jun 06|
Wow. I am... Amazed.
Every story comes to an end, and I am sure if I had to read everything here at a go. I will never drop it till I reach its end.
It would have been too great to do that.
Nebud is a great character with an amazing personality to enjoy the ride with.
And I thank you Obehi for giving me Nebud.
Your books need to be brought to a larger audience, as I find it unique in its own right and I am sure many more people will agree with me.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 8:58am On Jun 06|
Obehid, are you making your crimson sight book into a prequel?
I remember that the reckoning was to be the fourth book.
'tis a wonder even the marked do not know their job. I don't know who to root for any longer, the ancestry or InCoSem.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Smooth278(m): 9:46am On Jun 06|
Hip hip hip
Nice ending ObehiD, must say I enjoyed the ride all the way despite the occasional emotional bumps and rollercoasters. Looking forward to seeing you published and successful... God bless
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 10:00am On Jun 06|
Obehid you are the best writer ever to me, I'm just short of words to say but please indulge me when you start the next series.... I'll just go back and start from the beginning cos this novella is too interesting to let go...
As I said in all this Nebud suffers the most..
Thanks Obehid.... Welldone
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by kelsmic: 11:34am On Jun 06|
Again, thanks so much for reading and supporting! I really appreciate it.[/quote]
Awesome. Awesome Job all the way!
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Dathypebruv(m): 11:53am On Jun 06|
ObehiD nevr disappoints....
Now time to see my precious Osezele
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by doctorexcel(m): 12:30pm On Jun 06|
This is more than just a book. It is a pure inspiration from God. I am seriously wow by your logic and writing. Thanks for sharing this with us. Love you
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Rynne: 4:21pm On Jun 06|
Hmmmm! First I want to thank you sincerely for this very beautiful work of art, I appreciate this work of yours and the dedication you showed,I wish you success going forward with all your works. Please do let us know how we can access your future works outside NL....God bless you ObehiD..
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Rynne: 4:36pm On Jun 06|
.....one more thing ObehiD.... Pls dont allow Nebud to lay his filthy hands on Omorodion Osazele... Pls
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 6:59pm On Jun 06|
It ended well Obehid. I am glad you did this for us, it has been exciting and educating following you and I hope to keep seeing more of your works. Nebud's part of the spectral story explained more than Osazele's part did about the spectral existence and now, I am fully aware of the different existence and the power struggles between them.
Nebud is so powerful and has attained power beyond that of its predecessors save for chuspecip. It is now the mighty undead.
I can't wait for the publication of the extra book. I know it will be more than the rest you have written so far. Like I have said earlier, if I had so much money, I would sponsor you book and make a movie from it. It will be Epic, just like 'Lords Of The Rings' .
The battle between Osazele and Mighty Undead Nebud will be great to watch, but before that we read first. .
I am glad that I met you because not only have your story been too good, I have acquired knowledge and enhanced my understanding of some vocabularies too. I am grateful
Take the required rest and comeback bigger and better. I am always with you.
Thank you and God bless.
|Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Tuhndhay(m): 7:38am On Jun 07|
Obehid.... This was one good ride with you all the way,
You started the story and finished it for everyone here. Wow, you certainly have left an impression with your writing style and prowess.
A personal request, please and please on the next series whenever you want to release them, wherever you decide to release them, kindly let me know so I can be a part of the journey.
I doff my hat. For the break,(Rest well and come back better) It is needed and let me drop my pin for you so you can make your ice-cream expenses on it...
Thanks for the ride
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