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The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) - Literature (8) - Nairaland

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Rynne: 3:47pm On Jun 14, 2019
@ obehiD,when humans die they become imp in the spectral world, what do uspecs become or where do they go when they die?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:31am On Jun 15, 2019
@cassbeat thank you!!

@decoderdgenius Your suspicions are not too far off the mark wink. Thank you!

@HotB thanks so much!

@tunjilomo Yay, you remembered that part of the story from the pits!

@Mielekcezylil thanks!!!

@Fazemood I wish that there was a blushing emoji on nairaland, because ***insert blushing emoji here*** grin Thank you so much! I really appreciate that!

@spixytinxy Thank you! I'm so glad you understand the parts I tried to shed light on grin. This update is definitely longer

@Tuhndhay thank you! Hurry and catch up! wink

@Peaceyw Yes oh, Musa has certainly been through a lot.

@Taniaa You just started reading it two days ago and you're already in Volume 3! Wow, shocked I'm doing my happy dance here! Please, keep enjoying cheesy

@Rynne I like where your mind is going! So, the short answer to that is that uspecs simply cease to exist after they die. So, they're death is real death, there's no life after for them. The reason for this is the long answer, which basically boils down to humans are special. Why that is is not really going to be covered in this book. That's part of the marked world creation story, so that's going to be in the next book, the Reckoning.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:33am On Jun 15, 2019
Part 8
--------

Musa stopped speaking. The silence that followed the conclusion of its tale was almost deafening. It took a while for the implications of the story to hit me. It took some time, for Musa’s tale to combine with Gerangi’s, but once it did, I felt like laughing. I turned around then, my gaze traveling over the empty area to the first sign of vegetation and the uspec I expected to see hiding behind it. I suddenly expected Gerangi to leap out from behind the nearest tree and laugh, as if this had all been one big joke. Perhaps the place it had taken me to had some sort of pansophy in it, something to make it appear as if Gerangi had died, when in reality it hadn’t. There had to be a reason behind all of this, there had to be. I could not believe that this was a coincidence, coincidences such as this did not happen.

Maybe Musa was lying to me. Maybe it somehow knew what Gerangi had said I was, and was trying to use that knowledge to change my view of it. My gaze turned slowly then to rest on the object of my thoughts. Musa sat still, with its head bent downwards so that it peered into the bowl. Its hand held onto the wooden spoon, and it twirled the spoon around in the bowl. It did not appear to be mindful of my presence, it was as if, in telling its tale, it had retreated so far into its mind that even now that the tale was done, it could not escape the feelings associated with the memory. Almost as if in confirmation of my thoughts, Musa sniffled. It sniffled and then I saw the tears running down its bent face.

Emotions such as those could not be faked.

So, what was the alternative? If Musa was telling the truth, then perhaps Gerangi had lied to me. It seemed like too much of a coincidence that this imp, this slave who had served all of the Kaisers of Lahooni, would suddenly stumble upon my path. Me, who Gerangi had said was the offspring of imperial ones. Gerangi’s words from the day in the pits returned to me.

“Your progenitors were both imperial ones. One was a first and only imperial, the single offspring of the Kaiser of Lahooni, while the other was a second imperial, the second offspring of the Kaiser of Hakute. You have a lineage irira, you are of the line of Kaisers. Both of your progenitors died in bringing you into the world and so you were given to your hooni sire, the progenitor of your progenitor, the Kaiser of Lahooni.”

Calam, my mind provided the name of my supposed sire. No, I shook my head, it was impossible, Gerangi must have lied. Gerangi was obviously no friend of mine. I hadn’t stopped to dwell on its words from the strange place, the place with the cyan fog. I recalled it telling me that I would die, that it had brought me to my death. No, Gerangi was no friend of mine. It must have lied to me then, I was just a de trop irira, just a nothing uspec from the slums. And meeting Musa, the pious slave who had served Kaisers, well, that was just a coincidence. I did not yet know if I appreciated the amount of knowledge which it would have gained from its previous service, but it belonged to me now, and I would have to live with it.

Musa’s sniffling took my attention away from my thoughts. I looked at the imp and found that I was not as irritated as I usually was around others who cried. What was it about this imp that affected me so strangely? Perhaps it was the loyalty in those tears. This was an imp who had not shed a single tear when it had been whipped by its previous master. It had taken the pain in silence, but now it wept for masters that it had served willingly and loved as family. Could such a slave truly exist?

“Where is the pond?” I demanded.

Musa jumped. It was so startled by my voice that I worried it would turn over the food in its bowl. Hurriedly, Musa wiped the tears away from its face with the back of its arm.

“Forgive me master.” It said, its head rising slightly, even though its empty sockets stayed below my line of sight.

I sighed. Where was the usual desire to scold weaklings who cried? I shook my head, finding my own reactions exasperating. “I do not like tears.” I said simply to the imp. “I do not want to see them again.”

The imp’s head rose, and its eyebrows lifted. It looked at me and I was suddenly assaulted with guilt at my last command, solely based off the look on its face. I refused to rescind the order, I would not let a slave dictate my words or deeds.

Musa nodded. “Forgive me master.” It said, after a prolonged silence. Its eyelids lowered, given off the impression that it was looking downwards. “It will not happen again.”

My answering nod was curt. “Where is the pond?” I repeated my earlier question.

Immediately, Musa sprung to its feet. It placed its bowl of food on the black tarp before saying, “I will lead you there master.”

“No need.” I replied, rising to my feet. “Just point me in the right direction and I will find it myself. You stay here and finish your meal. When I return we will leave.”

The imp looked surprised. “Surely you will need my assistance to wash your back, between your ailerons, and polish your feathers?”

I shook my head, and rose an eyebrow, waiting for the imp to reply to my earlier question. Musa’s head bent down, and its shoulders sagged. It looked as if it took my rejection as a personal failing on its part. Suddenly, I was filled with an insane desire to take my order back and allow it to assist me. That desire annoyed me. Again, I was tempted to go against my own wishes for a slave. “Do you need a beating to loosen your tongue?” I spat out harshly. As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted them. This imp was different. I had known it from the moment I felt its pain, and now, after hearing its story and the amount of loyalty it had shown to its Kaiser masters, I knew just how unique it was.

I sighed, shaking my head at the imp who had now dropped to its knees, its head still bent. “Just tell me where the pond is and do as I asked.”

The imp nodded, its head still bent. It lifted its right arm, and pointed its finger behind it, and to the right. “Behind those shrubs master.”

I left in the direction it had pointed at. For a moment I wondered if perhaps this was the same pond that I had swam and found jejas in the night before. I thought that was unlikely though, that pond had been much further off. I was tempted to look back, and see if Musa was still on its knees, but I resisted the urge. Instead I walked towards the yellow shrubs, my feelings a mix between irritation, and puzzlement at how much I cared about the imp’s feelings. It was a most unnatural thing.

Years later I asked the Kaiser why it had chosen me, and it said that it had been drawn to me. Its exact words were, ‘you called to me, as if I’d known you in a different life.’

Those words from Musa’s story rose in my mind as if in answer to my confused thoughts, ‘you called to me, as if I’d known you in a different life.’ Was that how I felt? I could certainly remember the familiarity of the imp’s face and name. I had seen it in that dream. I had awoken after taken the swamp-imp’s eyes, without any recollection of the details of the dream, but with a name and vague memories of the face which accompanied it. Then the next day I had seen the imp. It was as if meeting Musa wasn’t a coincidence, any more than the bag of money which I had found by the tree.

It wasn’t till I thought of the money that I realized I had left the black bag behind, with Musa. Every instinct I had honed in the pits told me to go back and get the bag before the imp stole it. But deeper, and more compelling than those instincts built on years of distrust, was an inane feeling that I could trust Musa. I had been drawn to the imp, just like the first Kaiser of Lahooni. And now I trusted this imp more than I had ever trusted anyone else. I cared more for its feelings than I had ever cared for another. Those things were not natural, they were not Nebud, but still I could not help feeling them. I could not help feeling the rightness of my union with Musa.

“We were led to believe that you died along with your sire, but we were obviously misinformed.”

Those words, those had been the words that Gerangi spoke, the conclusion to it telling me that I was descended of the imperial ones of Lahooni and Hakute. What reason did Gerangi have to lie to me? None. And Musa’s story? Musa had specifically called Gerangi by name, that had to confirm Gerangi’s tale that it had been there when I was born. If neither Gerangi or Musa were lying, then what did that mean? Something happened. Something must have happened between my birth and when I was sent to the slums, something neither Musa nor Gerangi knew about.

I looked up to find that I had reached the pond. It was a small pond hidden directly behind the yellow shrubs which bordered the empty land we had slept on. The liquid in it was not nearly the clearest I had seen, but it was much cleaner than that in the slum.

I walked into the pond and let myself swim once I got to a level too deep for me to walk. The pond was not wide enough for me to swim more than three strokes before reaching the other side, but it was enough to wash the sludge off, which was really all I needed. I spent much more time than I would have if I wasn’t worrying about Musa. I wanted to give it time to eat its meal before I returned. Again, I felt that instant reaction of irritation for my care for an imp. But then I remembered its tears.

If I accepted that neither Musa nor Gerangi were lying, then I had to accept that I was the offspring of Calami, the master Musa had wept for. I exhaled and took another lap in the small pool. What did any of this mean for me? Perhaps it meant that I’d had a sire who loved me. One who named me heir even though I was irira. I suddenly felt a brief pang of grief for the sire I had lost. It was a stirring that was short-lived, but one whose existence I could not deny. Still, I couldn’t determine what any of this meant. Was there a deeper meaning behind the revelations?

I walked out of the pond, and began the short hike back to Musa. Musa. It couldn’t be a coincidence that I met it. But how were such events manipulated? I was suddenly made achingly aware of the time I had lost. I had hit my head against a hard object in a room with green sludge and had woken up in a swamp surrounded by trees and a murky okun. Someone must have moved me. Had the person who moved me specifically led me to an area where I would find the imp? Had this person purposefully reunited an uspec of my line with the slave who had served that line since its inception? And if it had, what was its purpose? And what did any of this mean for my immediate future?

‘Katsoaru.’

The prompting of my mind seemed like an answer. Katsoaru. It was where I belonged, it was the next phase of my journey. I had to get there. Perhaps that was where the answer was. Maybe this Marcinus person somehow had the answer. I recalled Gerangi’s pansophy, the way that it had put its thoughts in my head, and then I remembered Maxad and its warning which had kept repeating in my head. This was pansophy then, this desire to go to Katsoaru and take Marcinus’s eye. It was pansophy, it had to be. I had no choice but to follow the voice in my head and put the pieces of the puzzle together. The answer would be in Katsoaru, I convinced myself as I returned to the imp.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 4:34am On Jun 15, 2019
“Master.” Musa greeted. It spoke with a hesitation that I had not heard it use before. I nodded in response and looked at the area. I noted that the black tarp and the wooden bowls and spoons had already been removed. The only items on the ground were the sack bag and my black satchel bag. I picked the satchel bag up and let the strap rest on my right shoulder.

“Shall I carry that for you master?” Musa asked. It is funny how you only notice the presence of a thing once it is gone. In our previous conversations, I had not taken note of the enthusiasm with which Musa had made offers of its service. Now that the enthusiasm was gone, and all that remained was a perfunctory offer, I noted its loss. Suddenly, I was desperate to get the old Musa back. But what was I to say? I did not know, and I realized that I should not need to. If the imp chose to sulk, I would let it. As long as it performed its tasks, and did as it was told, what business of it was mine if it chose to speak without animation?

“No need.” Was my belated response. “You mentioned you knew the way to Katsoaru?” I prompted.

“Yes master.” It replied. “The entrances and exits to all ports are connected through the inter-port trail.”

Again, I took note of the somber tone and ignored it. “Lead the way.” I ordered.

It rose its head so that its gaze met mine. Even its show of shock was subdued. “You want me to walk in front of you master?” Its voice trembled slightly, as if it was afraid to say the words.

I suddenly felt like a monster, and the thought irritated me. What had I done to the imp? I had simply asked it to follow basic instructions. And for that this sullen behavior? I sighed, shaking my head at my own rise of anger. “Yes.” I snapped at the imp.

It bowed its head and turned around. Then, it picked up the sack and began walking.

We walked together in silence.

It led me down the empty sludge land. We must have walked for hours before I caught a glimpse of the first sign of an outhouse. I suddenly remembered Musa’s prompting the night before, to walk a little further to find a place to rest for the night. I had thought that the walk would be a few minutes, not a few hours! Had it really been that desperate not to sleep in sludge? The thought was confounding. Why would a beaten imp prefer to walk for hours just to rest on a bed, when it could rest right where it stood and be surrounded by the comfort of the sludge? It made no sense to me.

We continued walking, our silent travel leading us closer to the tent Musa had referred to the night before. Musa stopped walking and stood by a wooden post which had been erected in the road. It wasn’t until it stopped moving that I became aware of the difference in the ground on which I now walked. I had been so lost in my own thoughts that I had completely missed the transition we’d made from the sludge to the foam. The wooden post had an iron ring extending from it. Strips of brown cloth hung from that iron ring. Surrounding the bottom of the pole, there was a puddle of pink liquid. This was the smallest okun that I had ever seen. The liquid was about as clean as the pond I had cleaned in earlier.

Musa took off a strip of cloth from the iron pole and knelt by the puddle, with its head bowed. It took me a while to realize what it was doing. Once I did, I walked over to the kneeling imp and rose my right leg. Musa dipped the cloth into the liquid in the puddle, wrung it out, and then used the moist cloth to clean off the sludge from my foot. It turned to rinse the sludge off the cloth and into the puddle, before turning back to await my second leg. I rose the leg up and it cleaned that leg too. After doing that, Musa rinsed the cloth more thoroughly before wringing it out. It stood with the cloth and draped it back over the iron ring. Then, it bent to pick up its sack bag and silently continued walking.

Now that the sludge road had given way to the more comfortable ground, I expected to see more uspecs, but there was still no one in sight. I was shocked to see that the tent Musa had referred to was actually a hovel. The hovel was large. Like the hovels in my slum, this one was made of wood and baked sludge. But its material composition marked the end of its familiarity to the hovels I had grown up surrounded by. This hovel was magnificent. It was double the size of the largest hovel in that slum, and had a smooth finish which showed that much work had gone into constructing it. If a hovel this magnificent was the ‘tent’ for travelers which Musa had referred to, then I could not even begin to imagine what a great house would look like.

Suddenly, my curiosity was reborn. I remembered the desire that had filled me at the sight of the uspecs flying into my slum. I remembered imagining how big the world had to be outside my slum and how eager I was to discover it. Now, I realized, I just had my first real view of a dwelling outside my slum, and it was shocking.

I did not stop to examine the interior of the hovel, I did not even pause to take a closer look. The glimpse I got of it was enough. I would examine better places, I decided, bigger dwellings beautifully decorated and artfully designed.

And so, with a parting gaze, I bid farewell to the hovel, a dwelling of my past, and turned around to the path in front of me, excited to see the dwellings which awaited me.

Musa stood with a blank expression on its face, watching me. I realized then that, even though I had not stopped to examine it, I had slowed down considerably. My pace had become slow enough that Musa had noticed it and stopped. It was not then as unaware of me as its new apathetic bearing made it appear to be. That thought made me smile.

I nodded at Musa and the imp bowed and turned around. Still, holding stubbornly to its silence, it continued its walking. It dawned on me then, that this silence may not be such a strange thing. Perhaps silence was customary between an imp and its master. Perhaps the imp only spoke when it needed to, and remained silent every other time. But I could not accept that, not with this imp. Though why I would think I knew this imp well enough to make that judgement baffled me. I shook my head, vexed by the mental effort I had again assigned to worrying about my slave.

I took my attention to my surroundings then.

“Where are all the people?” I inquired casually.

Musa stopped walking and turned to face me. “Uspecs don’t live this close to the slum border master. My old master only lived so close because it was a passing trader, its business took it to the slums.”

“There’s no need to stop walking. It was only a simple question.”

“I would never dare to speak to master with my back turned.” The imp’s voice was flat. I had never thought of myself as particularly perceptive, especially when it came to noting slight variants in another’s tone. Still, I was all too aware of the lack of inflections in Musa’s voice as it spoke.

“I do not mind.” I replied without much thought.

“You do not?” I heard a spark of life in Musa’s voice as it asked the question. “Master…” it cut itself off, and then it looked down. Its feet began to move. I could sense its distress from the way it fidgeted.

With a sigh I ordered, “ask.”

It inhaled audibly as if needing the fortification of the air it breathed to gather the courage for the question. I found the act slightly amusing. “Have you ever owned a slave before master?” it asked and then exhaled just as loudly as it had inhaled.

I shook my head. “No Musa. You are my first.”

“Oh.” It said. Suddenly, the smile returned to its face and its shoulders lifted and straightened. It was as if I was watching the life rise back in it. “Well, master,” it began, the animation now so evident in its voice, I found myself smiling, “I think perhaps, if you would like me to talk while we walked, and you would like me to lead the way, then perhaps we should walk together, and not with you behind me. You may not mind if I spoke with my back to you, but others might, and they will judge you for it.”

What a strange thing to say, I pondered. “Why would I care what others think of me?”

“You wear the cloth of a banneret master, it is a position that many envy. They will watch you for it, and judge you for it, and if they see the opportunity, they will question it.”

I could not help but notice the imp’s phrasing. It had said, ‘I wear the cloth of a banneret’, as opposed to, ‘I am a banneret’. Was I overthinking it, or did this imp perhaps know that I was not what the cloth proclaimed me to be? I chose to ignore the doubts and simply nodded at the imp, accepting its words. I walked forward, and the imp began walking once I was beside it.

“Where do you hail from master?” the imp asked.

My eyes narrowed at the imp. “Why do the uspecs not live close to the borders?” I asked instead, choosing not to answer its question.

There was nothing in the imp’s tone when it replied to state that it thought anything of my choice of topic. “Commoners don’t like to be so close to the slums, master, so that they are not mistaken for de trop.” My jaw clenched at the imp’s words, but it continued speaking, oblivious to my reaction. “Plus, with the kutes, they like to be close to large okuns. In the first metropolis, the main hamlets are built around the okun.”

I nodded, and we fell back into silence. I could feel Musa’s reticence to ask any other questions or open a new topic. Its reticence no doubt stemmed from my refusal to answer its previous question. I decided that I was more than okay with this silence. It was different than the previous silence, with Musa walking sullenly ahead of me. Now, even though it wasn’t speaking, it had the animated bearing that I had come, in our short time together, to associate with the imp.

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 7:56am On Jun 15, 2019
Till wednesday, then. Obehid, I have some questions. Does the spectral existence and others overlap the standard existence? Being an imp or a wraith, is it the same for the marked and the unmarked?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 2:13pm On Jun 16, 2019
Thumb up miss or Mrs. cool
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:33am On Jun 17, 2019
@tunjilomo yes, all the existences overlap. So that's why when we see Hakute or Lahooni in this spectral existence tale, it's introduced as the part that coincides with a specific part of the human world. And, the names if you look closely, are actually derived from human state names. So, Hakute coincides with the Port Harcourt area (harcourt, ha+kute(spectral existence spectrum that lives there)), Lahooni (La+hooni) coincides with Lagos which was stated in the previous book {in-between}. Your second question is much more complicated, and if I'm being honest, not one that has been fully fleshed out. So, in short, no the afterlife is not the same for the marked and the unmarked. We haven't seen this in the spectral existence in this book, because this book is set before the emergence of the marked (which Nebud says in the start). I don't want to spoil the future books, but I'll say this, the marked and unmarked in general still become imps and wraiths, but we'll see later that they are treated differently, because they have something unique to offer the other existences. Hope I answered your questions well enough!

@Fazemood thank you mister or Mr. grin
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 10:29pm On Jun 17, 2019
I am speechless once again, I don't even know what to comment about. But I will like you to explain who is a banneret
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 1:01am On Jun 19, 2019
Peaceyw:
I am speechless once again, I don't even know what to comment about. But I will like you to explain who is a banneret

Yay! I'm always happy when I can make you speechless grin So, the banneret is a type of noble. They are nobles that have been granted that position for guarding uspecs of the line of Kaisers
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 1:06am On Jun 19, 2019
Part 9
--------

It was night before I got my first look at the main hamlet. Off in the distance, lit by a dazzling display of colorful lights, the hamlet sat like a beacon calling to me after a long voyage. We were too far away to see the contours and plains of the dwellings which made up the hamlet, but I could see the glow of light, like a halo rising from it. I yearned to move closer and truly observe this place.

We had come to the end of the empty land on which we’d been walking for the majority of the day. Now we stood at the bank, where the land met the okun. Musa placed its sack bag on the ground by my feet and turned to face me.

“I will get an open top canoe master.” It said, and then remained where it stood, as if waiting for some acknowledgement from me. With a somewhat puzzled frown on my face, I tuned to the imp and nodded. It bowed and then it left.

I stayed as I was, with my head bent to the side, tracking Musa’s departure. It walked quickly by the bank, moving further and further away from me. Eventually, it disappeared, moving behind the shrubs which bordered the path. With Musa gone, hidden by the vegetation, my mind recalled the question it had asked before it left and the way it had waited for a response. Was this what it meant to be an owner then? To be forever bound to another’s care. I sighed, watching and waiting for the imp’s return. It wasn’t till I saw the pointed tip of the open top canoe emerge from behind the shrubs, that I allowed myself relax. I realized then that I had been worried. But worried about what, I could not say. No, I decided, I did not much care for this business of owning slaves.

But Musa was bound to me. It did not know it, but it had belonged to my ancestors. I had watched it weep for them. With a sigh of resignation, I accepted my role as its owner. However, there would be no other. It would not be my responsible to care for another imp. No, those wishes had been the longings of a naïve uspec. Now I knew better.

As the canoe drew closer, I realized that there were two imps in it. One sat at the middle of the canoe. With both paddles in hand, it controlled the canoe, propelling it forward through the pink liquid. Musa sat at the stern, in the front of the canoe. The closer they got, the more aware I became of the intricacies of this canoe. It was painted a dark shade of grey, and had markings carved onto its exterior. From the bits of memory I could pull together from my voyage from the pits, I did not think that this canoe was as large as the one Gerangi and I had travelled in. It was obvious though, that this one was of a much finer quality.

The canoe came to a stop in the okun a few paces from me. Both imps emerged from the canoe. Musa jumped out first, coming immediately to reclaim its sack bag and stand by my side. The other imp’s dismount was slower, and much more thorough. The imp kept a hand on the side of the canoe as it disembarked, and pulled the canoe with it, closer to the edge of the foam ground. I could not help but notice how the canoe was suddenly held fast when the imp shoved the stem into the solid bank. Then it walked out of the shore and came to stand before me on the solid bank. The imp was naked. It had streaked skin and empty eye-sockets.

It bowed. “Greetings domina, I am a Lastmain runner.”

With a frown, I turned to Musa. “Lastmain?”

“Main hamlet in the last burg master. The natives call it Lastmain.”

I nodded and took my attention back to the bowed imp. “If it pleases you domina, I will take you to the docks.” The imp said.

Musa spoke up then. Its voice was a little hesitant, as if it wasn’t certain about the wisdom of broaching the subject of which it spoke. “She says that the journey to the docks will cost half a piece of merit master.” She, it was a word that I had heard before. Though I wasn’t sure what it meant, I knew that it was often used to refer to imps. While I mused on the meaning of this strange word, Musa spoke on. “Forgive me master, I had intended to find an empty canoe, but there were none that I could see on this side of the okun. Those canoes are free to use. Maybe I just didn’t search long enough. She says that all the empty canoes are back on the other side of the okun, by the hamlet, but she may be lying for the business…”

“I am not lying.” The other imp snapped. The snarl in its voice pulled my attention from my own thoughts and my passive listening. “You beggar, how dare you call me a liar? A passing trader’s imp insulting a Lastmain runner, I will have you whipped in the city. Foolish, disrespectful, little thief.” The imp ended its tirade with a sound I had never heard before, but it resembled one that an animal would make.

It had been a long time since I had felt the rush of anger that usually came with being insulted by an imp. Suddenly it filled me, coursing through my veins with the blood flowing in me, leaving a path of scalding heat in its wake. I lashed out with my right hand, and grabbed the imp around the throat. It was shorter than Musa, and thus, much shorter than I was. I lifted the imp up, squeezing its throat as I rose it to a level with my face. I wanted to hurt this imp, I wanted it to feel pain. Its eyelids pulled back and its eyebrows rose, giving an expression of fear. Its hands reached up to mine and it tried to pry my fingers loose. The effort was almost amusing in its futility.

“Master.” Musa’s voice was like a splash of cold liquid, pulling me out of the fog of rage.

With a clearer mind, I turned back to the imp in my hand. It wasn’t till I was no longer basking in the energy of my own anger, that I remembered the familiarity of it. Now that it was gone, I was suddenly left with the chilling feeling of a being a stranger in my own skin, with the anger being nothing but a glimpse at the person I had once been. The stranger that I had become was disgusted by my behavior. I knew that I was a weakling. By my actions I had revealed myself as something despicable, an abomination which would hurt a thing which could not defend itself.

I let go of the imp and took a step back. My head was throbbing, it throbbed so painfully that I had to put my head in my hands and massage my temples with my fingers. It took a while, but I finally got the pain to ebb. I looked up then to find the naked imp staring warily at me, and my own slave looking at me with horror on its face.

I sighed and jerked my head towards the canoe. “I will pay.” I said simply.

“Thank you domina.” The imp said, as if it was used to that sort of treatment from uspecs. It recovered quickly from its earlier shock and ran back towards the canoe.

I waited for a moment for Musa to say something, anything, but it remained as it was. The look of horror faded from its face and in its place rose an appearance of calm acceptance. It kept its head bowed as I walked past it, and then it followed mutely behind me. I climbed into the canoe. Instead of the wooden bottom which I had expected, the interior of the canoe was lined with fur. It had three seats. One in the middle for the paddler, one in the front and one at the back. The last seat was wide enough to sit two uspecs my size, definitely wide enough for Musa and me. I sat at the back of the canoe and Musa sat at the front.

The runner pushed the stem of the canoe free of the lock of the shore-ground. Before the canoe could move too far away, it jumped back into the canoe, and took its seat in the middle. Then it began to paddle, steering the canoe away from the empty path we had spent the whole day walking on, to the city of lights I could only glimpse from the bank.

The canoe moved in the okun. The okun was gentle, it did not have any of the waves which was rumored to cause a panic to travelers. The liquid in the okun did move lightly, causing the canoe to rock a little as we moved, but I found the rocking motion somewhat lulling. It drew me into myself, forcing me to dwell on my actions and a new emotion which had risen in me. It was such a novel feeling, irking in the unsavory traces which it left, that it took me some time to identify it.

We travelled in silence for an hour, and in that silence, I recalled Musa’s tone when it had mentioned money. It must have thought me incapable of paying half a merit, that must have been why it had begun its rambling talk, words which provoked a reaction from the other imp. I pulled the black satchel bag onto my lap and scanned it in more depth for its contents. I pulled out three sachet bags and found that they had different colorings. One of those sachets had swirls of gold embroidered on it, another one had swirls of silver, and the last had no embroidery. It did not take long for me to make the connection between the markings on the bag and the pieces within them. I pulled on the strings of the sachet with the silver embroidery and took out a piece of merit, Then I drew the strings, closing the sachet. It occurred to me then that I had better take out some time to examine my new found wealth and count just how much money I had.

As I closed the satchel bag, my gaze rose to the back of Musa’s head. Throughout the journey, it had not turned around once to look at me. Not only did it bother me that I cared, my awareness that I was somehow at fault, infuriated me.

Suddenly, the thought of selling the imp became unbelievably appealing.

The imp made me feel things that I did not want to feel. It awoke new urges, made me feel that loathsome emotion that was still unnamed. In some ways, I felt like the slave and the imp the master, it could manipulate my emotions so well. Was it using pansophy on me? That had to be it. The imp had used pansophy on me, that was why I acted so strangely. The imp had to go. I decided then that I would sell it the first chance I got.

As soon as I made that decision, Musa turned around. The look it gave me was so prescient I felt chilled at the thought. It was as if Musa knew exactly what I had been thinking. Its head bent and it shoulders sagged, but it turned back around.

Guilt.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 1:07am On Jun 19, 2019
Finally, the emotion had a name. Guilt. I should have known, this was the second time this imp made me feel the emotion. Yes, I thought, I had to sell it. I did not care that it had served my family, I did not care that it had wept for my progenitors. I did not want an imp that would dare use pansophy to manipulate me. No, it was not worth it. An imp like Musa, one who had been a pious slave and had such training in pansophy, would sell for a piece of worth, at least.

I had been so entrenched in my own thoughts that I did not notice how close we had gotten to the docks, until the canoe stopped right in front of a docking post. That was when I became aware of my surroundings. The sounds of revelry filled my ears. I imagined that what I heard was the high notes of famous singers and musicians entertaining nobles, the animated chatter of young uspecs enjoying the best of their youth, and possibly the soft murmurs of a family sharing tales before going to bed. In my mind all the sounds, separated and became things of note and significance. But in reality, it was all one big cacophony of sound. It was, however, the loudest sounds that I had ever heard.

My heart quickened with excitement. My first view of a main hamlet, it was exhilarating. I took my time climbing out of the slightly swaying canoe and onto the wooden plankway of the docks. With my side eye, I could clearly see Musa climbing out as well. I waited until the imp was standing by me on the wooden platform before turning back around to look at the runner. I stretched out my hand, offering the piece of merit to the imp.

It looked startled. “Apologies domina, but I do not have three quarters of a piece of merit for change.” It stated, with a shaky voice.

“Keep it.” I stated distractedly. As the imp runner’s face lit up with a bright smile, I kept my face straight, pretending that I was unaware and unaffected by its joy. I told myself that I was Nebud, and that the imp’s happiness did nothing to wash away the stain of guilt I felt at my earlier treatment of it. And why should I feel guilt? It was an imp after all. But I knew it was wrong, I had known throughout the journey that it was wrong, I had known as soon as my anger faded and I became aware of the imp’s suffering.

I refused to say it, to form the thought into words in my head, and so I pushed down the gentle prodding, the warning that something was not quite as it should be within me. I ignored it. This was what was. I was what I was. Had I been something different before? No, I shook my head at myself, just thinking of all this brought the familiar ache in my head, as if I was trying to separate myself into two different beings.

“Thank you domina.” Kneeling in its canoe, the imp bowed so deeply I thought its head would touch the fur lining of the bottom of the vessel.

“It is your due.” I stated simply, and then I turned back around.

Musa stood beside me. It remained silent, but I could tell that my show of generosity had done nothing to change whatever new feelings my treatment of the runner had awakened in it. I convinced myself that I did not care. I was not going to be leaving this hamlet with this imp, so what did I care if it did not approve. It was what I deserved anyway, for being foolish enough to take a slave with pansophy.

I turned my attention back to the hamlet bristling with life in front of me. I began walking, drawn forward by the sounds I heard and the uspecs I saw. Through my side eyes I saw the high wooden walls to the left and right of the docks. The walls were taller than triple the height of any giant I had ever seen. I wanted to examine these walls. As I moved closer towards them, I also moved closer to the uspecs I saw off in the distance and the sounds I heard.

A group of short uspecs ran towards me. There were four of them. If I had to guess I would say that they were barely past their youth, probably as old as I was when I left the slum. The uspecs were all thin, the signs of uspecs not acquainted with physical exertions. All of their faces were smooth, they had not yet formed any outer eyes.

“Salutations my friend!” The first of them to arrive called. The other three pulled closer, circling us. Musa moved much closer towards me. It was now so close that the strands of its hair brushed against my arm. Its head moved quickly from side to side, looking at the uspecs that had surrounded us. It appeared scared. The thought of anyone being scared of these four youths was so ludicrous I found myself smiling.

“No friend of yours.” A voice called out from behind me. If I strained my side eyes, I could catch signs of the one standing behind me. I decided that it was not worth the effort. “It’s a noble, you fool.” All four uspecs snickered.

“Forgive me.” The one in front bowed with a flourish. “Salutations noble one. From where do you hale?”

“Move.” I tried to think of what a noble would say and that was the best I could do.

The mocking smile on the uspec’s face faded. Its center eye darted to stare at its friends, and then the smile returned. “We’re just trying to help you noble one. The field is unsafe at this time of night, so many unsavory characters. Perhaps we can lead you to the safer part of Lastmain, the places for uspecs of your ilk.”

“Move out of my way.” I stated again.

“There’s no need to be unfriendly.” An uspec off to my right, reached for my bag. I grabbed the uspec’s hand and broke it. The uspec fell to the floor groaning loudly in pain. “My arm!” it cried.

Suddenly, the three uspecs left standing appeared in front of me, with daggers in both their hands.

“It’ll need a healer for that arm.” One of the uspecs said. “Just give us five pieces of merit, and you can be on your way, noble one.”

“You do not want to do this.” I warned, my heartbeat racing. I realized how much I had missed a good fight. Three armed against me, that seemed like it would be a decent enough exercise.

“We do.” Another uspec replied.

I turned to face Musa. I took off the satchel bag which had my fortune in it, and gave it to Musa. “Hold this for me.” I instructed.

“Master, perhaps you could pay them instead. They are local touts, they could hurt you.” I almost laughed at the concern I heard in Musa’s voice. Did it really think that three youths, barely as tall as it was, could hurt me? I simply waited until Musa took the bag.

Then I walked towards them. The first one ran towards me. I slammed my head against that ones head, knocked the daggers out of its hands and gave it a blow which sent it sprawling to the ground. The other two took a step back.

“Do you know what a banneret is?” I asked mildly, walking towards them. “A banneret is a noble trained to protect the line of Kaisers. I have killed so many touts in my lifetime, I have simply lost count.” I took another step towards them. The uspecs dropped their daggers, turned around and fled. I watched with my side eyes as the ones who I’d knocked to the ground, limped away, running after their friends.

Musa walked back to my side. I reached for the black bag on its shoulder and took it back from it, placing it on my shoulder, then I continued walking. I pretended not to see the look of awe on Musa’s face.

It was obvious when we reached the end of the docks. The dock had been floored with the same soft brown foamy ground as the path we had walked on. This new place however, the place which I gazed at, had an okun ground. It reminded me of the arena in the pits. There was a slight wooden protrusion, demarcating the okun floored region from the docks. That protrusion kept the pink liquid on the other side from flowing into the docks.

“What is this?” I asked.

Musa was quick to fill in the details. “This is ‘the field’ the touts were talking about. It’s where the commoners live. The tall walls,” it gestured towards the walls that I had been drawn to. The corner of the walls started from right where the docks merged with the okun we had travelled on. “they fence the hamlet in and separate the different living areas in the hamlet. They separate the commoners from the wealthy merchants and the nobles. I’ve heard that the walls are actually made up of two distinct walls with deadly okun trapped in between. They say that the liquid in the walls are like the fogs, that they will kill you if you go in.”

I turned to stare at Musa and then I smiled. I nodded at the imp and walked over the protrusion into ‘the field’. As soon as I stepped onto the okun floor, I let my gaze travel around the area, truly examining it for the first time. My first impression was that it was too packed.

Light sources hung from the other side of the walls. The sources gave off a red light the same shade as that of the clouds, but brighter. From further off, the brightness of the light had made it appear different in color, but now, standing closer, I could tell that it wasn’t.

The place was packed with dwellings. The closeness of the dwelling places made the walking paths between them narrow, too narrow for an uspec to sleep on. I thought we would have to go back to the docks to sleep for the night. And then a curtain was pulled open and two drunken uspecs stumbled out of a dwelling with a sign at the top. That was when I remembered the existence of inns. I had been told so many tales of inns, the food they provided, the stories which accompanied them, but I had never thought that I would have cause to stay in one. I smiled as I began walking deeper into the field, searching out my first inn.

As I walked, I saw a few uspecs walk past me. They stopped to stare each time, their shocked center gazes moving to the cloth on my neck. Some of them bowed, mumbling greetings as they walked by, others simply looked away. Whatever the reaction, the uspecs gave me and Musa a wide berth, moving as far away from us as they could get.

The dwellings all appeared to be the same or very similarly designed, at least from the outside.

There were rows and rows of buildings all painted in different colors. It was hard to tell where one dwelling began and another ended. The only clue to that was in the curtains marking the entrances to the different places. I don’t know how long we walked for. I found myself absorbed in the different curtains, the lightings, the presence of so many uspecs and dwellings, that I simply walked on and on, just staring at each new sight and running my hands over the walls of the buildings. Finally, a strong waft of pastries drifted out of a dwelling, then the curtain parted, allowing an uspec to walk out. The uspec’s center eye was so nearly closed, I wasn’t surprised when it almost walked into me. I simply moved aside and cleared the way for the uspec to drop to the floor. It pushed itself up and began walking again.

Shaking my head, I took my gaze from the uspec to the inn it had walked out of. Drawn by the inviting smell of the pastries, I pushed the curtain aside, and walked into the inn.

2 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Dathypebruv(m): 1:28am On Jun 19, 2019
Madd oh,Update !!!! shocked
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 4:46pm On Jun 19, 2019
grin Nebud is becoming more human uspec.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 7:47pm On Jun 19, 2019
Hmmm. Nebud I like the new you seems like we are having a different uspec this time around. He is considerate of how others feel, and also feels guilt. Anyway Obehid that is not why we are here. We want action and the end of Fajarhomo. That dude has some explanation to do before we end him.

And also, I am missing Osazele embarassed cry

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 10:15pm On Jun 20, 2019
@Dathypebruv hehe, thank you. Update coming Saturday morning

@tunjilomo lol, Nebud is really becoming more human uspec grin

@Fazemood HAHAHAHAHAHAHA That's too funny! Lol at that's not why we're here. Action is coming but it might be a slow build to get there. Fajahromo definitely has some explaining to do. And I miss Osezele tooooo cry cry cry...actually, that's not true, I talk with her at least once a week, so I'm not missing her too much grin. But, I am missing writing her story. This story definitely looks like it's going to take a lot longer than I thought, but now that I'm in it, I have to do it justice. And I can't write both stories at the same time. I've tried that before, and I always end up leaving one story behind, so I decided not to even start a new story while I'm writing another one. We're going to have to wait to see Osezele again...but sha, I really can't wait to share all the things that Osezele has been whispering into my ear grin

2 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 11:24pm On Jun 21, 2019
obehiD:


@Fazemood HAHAHAHAHAHAHA That's too funny! Lol at that's not why we're here. Action is coming but it might be a slow build to get there. Fajahromo definitely has some explaining to do. And I miss Osezele tooooo cry cry cry...actually, that's not true, I talk with her at least once a week, so I'm not missing her too much grin. But, I am missing writing her story. This story definitely looks like it's going to take a lot longer than I thought, but now that I'm in it, I have to do it justice. And I can't write both stories at the same time. I've tried that before, and I always end up leaving one story behind, so I decided not to even start a new story while I'm writing another one. We're going to have to wait to see Osezele again...but sha, I really can't wait to share all the things that Osezele has been whispering into my ear grin
Ah! Really? How is she? And How about Nisa? Hope he is running the pack as a true leader is expected to? I can't wait to read all Osazele has been whispering in your head grin. Please do say my hellos to both of them. Okay? smiley
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by phoenixchap: 2:21am On Jun 22, 2019
ObehiD hi
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:26am On Jun 22, 2019
@Fazemood Chai, thanks for asking oh, they are both doing well! The pack is trying to get their bearing now that the quintise magic is gone, so Nosa is still trying to find his place as a leader. Yes oh, the gist that Osezele has been giving me ehn! I just want to scream it out, but I have to wait. Lol! I've told them you said hello oh, they say that they can't wait to share their stories with you again, and they're so happy that you are thinking of them. They said I should thank you! grin

@phoenixchap hey! Long time no see! Where have you been? We've missed you cheesy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:27am On Jun 22, 2019
Part 10
---------

As soon as I stepped into the inn, silence befell the room. The silence was heavy in its arrival. It was not a gradual change which began by a hushed whisper offered by a single person calling for silence, and then growing slowly into an eventual lack of sound. No, it was an immediate response, dramatic in its alacrity. Ignoring the faces which had now turned to mark my entrance, I moved further into the room, the soles of my feet brushing against the hard ground.

There looked to be about ten tables in the room. Each table was long and rectangular, with benches on either side of it. Those tables looked like they could comfortably sit twelve uspecs of my size, six on each bench. In front of the room, there was a stage with an imp seated behind a large instrument which I suspected to be the source of the musical notes which I had heard undertones of from outside the inn. To the right of that stage, there was a large set of thick curtains.

Slowly, aware of the silence around me and the uspecs watching me with pensive gazes, I let my eyes roam around the walls in the room. The walls were painted black. There were markings of different sorts on the walls. The wall to the right of the room had short marks which I could tell were words, but the words held no meaning to me. The walls to the left however had drawings on them, those drawings were of different types of food. One look at the drawing of a square cake had me salivating for the pastries whose pleasant smell permeated the room. Behind me, there were stairs to the right. I assumed those stairs led to a higher level with rooms which I could rent for the night.

I let my gaze move from a study of the room, to the uspecs who had become quiet the moment I walked in. Four of the tables were filled, two of them seemed to have uspecs sitting closer together than I thought was comfortable. A scattering of uspecs took up three more tables, leaving only three empty. One quick glance at each of the uspecs told me that they were all commoners. None of them had any outer eyes filled, but they all had some of those sockets formed. I could also tell from the parts of their bodies that were visible, that most of them were involved in some level of physically tasking work. None had as much bulk as I did, but some of them came close.

With my perusal of the room and the people in it complete, I walked towards the empty table closest to me, and sat. I knew that the conversations would continue after the shock of my appearance faded and so I simply waited. It didn’t take long before whispered words turned into louder conversations and the riotous tones of so many different people trying to be heard filled the room. I allowed myself to relax then.

That was when I noticed that Musa was not with me.

Immediately, I lurched to my feet and turned towards the door. Musa stood in front of me. It had been standing behind me, I realized. “Sit,” I ordered with a snap, wondering why the imp waited to be given the most basic instructions. I thought about how much effort it would take to educate this imp to change that behavior, and then I realized I had no reason to worry about such things. The imp would not be with me for much longer.

Musa was visibly uncomfortable as it moved to the other side of the table and gingerly eased itself onto the bench. I noticed then that the conversations in the room had partially halted. Again, the uspecs stared at me, and again I ignored them. This time, the silence was not as complete as it had been when I walked in, there were still a few uspecs speaking. But the sounds were low enough that I could distinctly made out the sound of the imp on the stage pushing its chair backwards, before standing up and walking off the stage. The imp went behind the curtains in the front of the room.

The imp’s departure seemed to be the spark needed to reignite the conversations. As soon as it left, the attentions, which had shifted from me, to the imp, returned to the conversations at hand.

“Forgive me master.” Musa said then. Its voice was barely above a whisper which made it even harder to hear it in the rowdy room. What an annoying phrase I thought as I eyed the imp. Immediately, I thought to lecture on it on sitting when I did, but thought better of it. Why waste the effort? Instead, I simply nodded distractedly and took my gaze back to the curtains the imp had left through.

“Master,” Musa’s voice was shaky.

“Speak up.” I replied.

“Forgive me master.” Its voice was only slightly higher. Its head turned to look around the room, before returning to face me. “Why did you pick this place master?”

I frowned at the imp. “It is an inn is it not?”

The imp’s answering nod was reluctant.

“We need a place to stay for the night. Tomorrow we continue.”

“Yes master, but why here?”

“What is wrong with this inn?” I snapped, impatiently at the imp.

“It is…” Musa’s voice shook. It turned to its right, as if sizing up the uspecs sitting in the table beside ours, and then placed its hand on the table. Then it moved closer towards me. “This is not a very safe place master, there are better inns in the field.”

It took me a moment to interpret the tone of the imp’s voice and the look on its face as signs of fear. It stunned me that the imp would be so timid. An imp that had dared to use pansophy on me was afraid of a roomful of uspecs? I scoffed. “Are you always so scared?” I asked flatly.

The imp drew itself up, its shoulders rising higher. “I know how to defend myself master, but as a slave, I am not allowed to.”

I smiled. “Are you a great fighter then?” I teased.

“I could be.” The imp’s words were said with no inflection. It was a statement of fact I realized as I stared at the imp. It truly believed that it was a great fighter. I almost burst out laughing. I suddenly had the urge to spar with this imp. I wondered how many seconds it would last in a fight against me. I shook my head instead, chiding myself for the foolish thought.

I couldn’t help chuckling though. “Have you been here before?” I asked, changing the subject.

The imp shook its head. “My previous master would never come to a place like this.” It replied in a tone which made it seem like its previous master would never come here because it was smart enough to know better. It was the first time that I felt like this imp was willfully insulting me.

I rose my hand. It wasn’t till my hand was in the air, moving steadily towards the imp’s face, that I realized what I’d meant to do. I paused, my hand freezing in the air as I contemplated. As soon as I paused, the spark of anger went away. I pulled my hand back to its spot on the table and simply stared at the imp. I did not know what showed in my face, but the imp quickly became contrite.

“I am sorry.” Musa apologized. I noticed that it did not bow its head, its eyelids simply covered its sockets partially, given the impression of it looking downwards. “Please forgive me master.”

I just shook my head. The fact that I had not beaten the imp was the only evidence I needed to prove that this imp had used pansophy on me. It had used its magic to make me more susceptible to it. There had been no doubts before, so I simply accepted this as yet another sign that I was right to sell the imp. The imp’s eyelids rose and it stared at me. There was no mistaking the look of grief which contorted its face. Again, I got the airy feeling that this imp was aware of my intentions.

It started speaking. Considering my line of thought, I wasn’t sure what I expected the imp to say, but it certainly wasn’t, “why was master asking?”

“What?”

“You asked if I had been here before master, I just wanted to know why you asked, if you wish to tell me.”

I only deliberated for a moment, before shrugging and answering its question. “I was going to ask if there was any meal that you would recommend.”

It turned towards the wall on the right, the one with the words I couldn’t read, and said, “I cannot recommend anything from personal experience, but the bill of fare is written on the wall.”

“The what?” I asked.

“The bill of fare, the menu master, the list of the meals that the establishment serves. It is written in the common tongue master.” It explained, tilting its head to the left.

I turned again to face the wall to my right and was suddenly made aware of my own ignorance. Never had I thought of how much my lack of learning would hamper me. I knew there was a common tongue. I remembered once asking the passing trader what the signs in its books meant. The trader had laughed saying that it was the common tongue. It had said even the lowest commoner knew the common tongue. I had asked it to teach me and it had refused, saying that de trop were too slow to understand such things. I had not thought much of it then, but I realized now that it had been an insult, a way in which the trader, a commoner, had asserted its dominance over me, a de trop.

“What does it say?” I asked the imp. I kept my voice stern, banishing the weakness of the lack of knowledge I felt, from my voice.

The imp frowned as if confused. “What does it say master?” it repeated my question as if it knew that it could not have heard me correctly.

I nodded.

“Oh.” The imp eyelids pulled all the way up, giving the impression of widened eyes. It shook itself then, and turned to face the wall. It took some time, reading the words on the wall, I guessed, before it turned back to me. “They have some pies master. They have pies filled with different types of jejas.”

I shook my head. “Not jeja.” I ordered. “What of their pastries?”

“The pastries are cheaper master. They have a sweet dough, they call fried honey balls, and fruit cakes. They also have soft buns and different types of bread.”

“Soft buns.” I replied with a smile. From the first time I had watched a trader eat it, I had wanted to try it myself. “What of their meals? Anything without jejas?”

“There is a sea serpent soup which comes with a roll made out of bean and cassava flour.”

I nodded at the imp, that would have to do. Although I knew that there were different types of jejas, some of which I had never tasted, I did not want to risk eating one I hated. I decided to chance the sea serpent instead. Sea serpent meat was said to be tough, not as succulent as jeja. For an uspec who grew up on jeja though, I was more than ready for the adventure.

Soft musical notes drifted into the room. It was a marvel that I could hear the music over the raucous uspecs. My attention shifted to the imp who had just returned to the stage. I wished for silence then, so that I could fully hear the sounds of the instrument that the imp played, but my wishes were not to be granted.

“Greetings domina.” A voice called from my left. I turned to find an imp with streaked skin and empty eye sockets staring down at me. It wore a simple tunic which reached halfway down its thighs. “What shall I get for you to eat domina?”

“The sea serpent soup and whatever roll accompanies it. Also, four sweet buns, a fruit cake and a pitcher of fruit wine.”

“What wine domina? We have purple, yellow, and tinted wine.”

“Purple.” I replied.

“Very well.” The imp bowed slightly. “The sea serpent soup will take about fifteen minutes to prepare, but I can bring out the buns and the cake now. Would that please you domina?”

I nodded.

“Very well. That would be four pieces of value for the buns, two pieces for the fruit cake, twenty pieces for the sea serpent soup, and five pieces for the pitcher of wine. A total of thirty-one pieces of value for the meal domina.”

I nodded without pause.

The imp sounded extremely excited as it said. “I will be back domina.”

“Wait.” I ordered. “Do you have an empty room I can rent for the night?”

“You want to rent a room here domina?” the imp’s voice was filled with shock. I nodded. “Well…” the imp dragged the single word out, “then we have the perfect room domina. For a quarter piece of merit, you can rent the room and have a full meal tonight and in the morning. Does that please you domina?”

Giving all the wealth I possessed, a quarter piece of merit was insubstantial. I nodded impatiently, ready for the food to come.

The imp bowed. It began walking away when I realized that I had forgotten something. “Wait.” I stopped it again. Then I turned to Musa. “What will you eat?”

I heard the shocked gasp of the imp standing beside me. “We have slave meals which your imp can eat in the kitchen after it is done serving you for the night domina.”

I shook my head at the imp. “It will eat with me. What will you eat Musa?”

“We do not serve imps at the table domina, it is not done.” The outraged imp replied.

I stood up then. The top of the imp’s head barely reached above my stomach. It tilted its head back to stare up at me. “Are you questioning my orders?” I asked in a deceptively calm voice.

The imp shook its head. “No domina, forgive me. If it is your will for your imp to eat with you, then we will bring the slave meal to it at the table.”

I sat back down and placed my arms on the table. “You will feed my imp whatever my imp orders.”

I turned back to face Musa and raised an eyebrow.

“Jeja pie.” It stated with a stutter.

“Very well.” The imp said, before scurrying off.

“Thank you master.” Musa said, staring down at its hands on the table.

“While you are mine you will eat as you please.” I replied offhandedly.

“While I am yours.” It replied, or at least that was what I thought I heard. I chose to ignore the words as the serving imp hurried back with a pitcher of the wine I had selected and a single wooden cup.

The imp placed the cup on the table and poured some of the wine into it, then it placed the pitcher back on the table.

“Bring another cup.” I ordered.

The imp startled. “Yes domina.” It replied after it recovered from its shock. Then it turned around, hurried behind the curtains and returned with another wooden cup.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:27am On Jun 22, 2019
“Thank you.” Musa said to the imp, taking the cup from its hands. As Musa poured some of the wine into its cup, I pulled my wine filled cup closer and took a sip of the purple drink. I smiled, thinking it was almost as I remembered from Fajahromo’s dwelling. I confessed that the wine was not as tasty as the wine Fajahromo had served, but it was adequate. I took a hearty gulp before placing the cup back on the table.

The server imp returned shortly after, carrying a long thick wooden tray. On that tray there were four shallow rectangular pans, each of those pans containing a loaf of sweet bun cut into slices. With a bow, the imp placed the tray on the table. I reached for one of the pans and pulled it off the tray. I had already eaten half the loaf before I noted that imp was watching me eat. With an irritated sigh, a picked up one of the pans and placed it on the table in front of it. The imp smiled, I could tell that it was about to thank me and so I gave it a look which I hoped expressed how much I did not wish for it to offer me platitudes. The imp must have understood my look, because it reached for a slice of its bun and started eating.

“To the irira!” A loud voice called from the table to my left. The voice was slurred when it spoke, but the name had belonged to me for so long that as soon as I heard it, I understood it for what it was. Immediately, my head snapped to my left and my gaze darted to the uspec who had made the cheer. It was standing, swaying lightly on its feet as it held its wooden cup up in the air. “It was an abomination, but by the founder, I swear it could fight!”

“Shut up!” An uspec yelled back from across the room.

The drunken uspec would not be quieted. “Ever since the irira was killed, the founder be praised, the fights in the pits have grown boring, and so predictable. I mourn for the irira! I give my wine to its memory!” After saying that the uspec turned its cup over, emptying the contents of its cup onto the table it shared with six other uspecs. The uspec sitting next to it jumped to its feet.

“Look what you’ve done, you drunken fool!” the uspec snapped.

“More wine!” the drunk uspec yelled louder. “More wine!” it screamed. “I am mourning! More wine imp! Where is the imp? More wine!!!”

“I said shut up!” The uspec across the room yelled again.

The imp playing the musical instrument stopped and the server imp ran out from behind the curtain, with a large pitcher. It hurried towards the uspec calling for it. The other uspec who had yelled for the uspec to shut up, grabbed the imp by the arm and hit it with a clenched fist across its face. “No more wine for the fool!” the uspec snapped, taking the pitcher from the imp. “Put the cost of this wine on our drunk friend.” It snapped. The other uspecs on its table laughed.

“Hey you!” the drunk uspec screamed. “Dontan, give me my wine. Hey you, imp, bring my wine. Dontan!” It tried to climb out from behind its bench. Instead it tripped over the bench and fell on its face. It stayed like that, sprawled out on the floor, with the front of its body resting against the ground. One of its legs was on the ground, the other was on the bench. The uspec standing by it, lifted its leg from the bench and let it fall on the ground to lay with the rest of its body. Then it sat back down.

“Imp!” that uspec called out. “Come and clean up this fool’s wine.”

The server imp ran out with a cloth. Peace seemed to have returned to the room as the conversations continued. A keen sense of disappointment filled me; I would never know what tale had been circulated about my death in the pits.

“Maybe you should have the meal delivered to your room master. I don’t have a good feeling about this place.” Musa’s worried voice called out imploringly to me.

I shook my head at the imp. I returned my empty pan to the tray and picked up another pan of the sliced bun. Then I refilled my cup with more of the fruit wine, and waited to see if anyone else in the room would satisfy my curiosity.

I was not left waiting long.

“I was there during its first fight.” Another voice called out from the same table as the drunk imp. This voice was more tempered. “I watched it. You should have seen the rage. It went against a giant, almost double its size, killed it, and then went after an imp. Everyone knows that the irira hates imps, but I have never seen hatred for imps go that far. It grabbed an imp at random from the crowd, and it scooped out each of its eyes. Then it cut off the imp’s tongue. It would have cut its ears too if the pit guards hadn’t stopped it.” The speaker’s voice was filled with awe.

“My progenitor took me to watch it fight in its seventh year. It was the biggest uspec I had ever seen. In that fight, the irira was pitted against ten uspecs, ten! Damn me if it didn’t kill them all, one after the other. There has never been a greater fighter in the pits, and there will probably never be another.” There was sorrow in its voice.

The same uspec who had called for silence scuffed loudly into the silent room. “Great fighter.” It spat on the floor. “Great fighter my ass! It was taken out by a noble. Fajahromo the great! Now there is a great fighter! A noble kute uspec, not a de trop irira. Fajahromo the great has killed other fighters in the pits since then. Now that is an uspec to watch.” The uspecs in its table cheered it.

I didn’t realize I was shaking until Musa’s worried voice said, “master? Master you are shaking.”

But the rage I felt could not be so easily calmed. Fajahromo! Fajahromo had spread the rumor that it killed me! It had soiled my fighting career in the pits by pretending that it had destroyed me. As if it could! “Fajahromo is nothing but a coward!” I spat the words out uncaringly. I would go back to the pits, I swore, back to face Fajahromo. How dare it lie so heinously! How dare it? It would die for this, it would. I would go back to the pits…

‘Katsoaru.’

The voice rose in me, pushing all thoughts of revenge to the back of my mind. All of the anger I had felt washed away, leaving me empty.

The room had grown quiet. Each occupant stared at me. I could not imagine why I had suddenly become a subject of interest. I turned to face Musa and the look of fear on its face was worse than any it had previously displayed.

One of the uspecs on the table of the drunk broke the silence. “Do you know Fajahromo, noble one?” the uspec inquired. “I have always thought it sketchy how Fajahromo claimed to have killed the irira outside the pits. But since then it has killed a number of great fighters in the pits, so I came to believe it. Is it false?”

I felt each eye fixed on me like a weight. Those eyes peered, digging into me, searching for the truth.

“What line of Kaisers do you defend, banneret?” another uspec asked.

“We should go master.” Musa whispered. Its voice was too low for anyone else to hear. I shook my head. I could salvage this.

I knew that I could not remain silent. “The Kaiser of Hakute.” I replied confidently.

Hushed tones filled with awe rose, filling the room with a different timbre of sound. I could start to see the respect fill their eyes as their gazes turned away, as if they were afraid of offending a noble as great as I claimed to be. A smile crept onto my lips as I thought of a perfect revenge. I could not go back to the pits, not yet at least, but I could set these people straight. I could tell them that Fajahromo could never defeat me in a fair fight.

“Please master, please, let us leave. Please.” I heard the despair in Musa’s voice and ignored it. This was my chance to get my own revenge on Fajahromo. How could I let it pass?

“You do not wear the sigil of the line of the Kaisers of Hakute.” A voice rose from the back of the room. “I worked in the Kaiser’s palace for years. I know the sigil, that is not what you wear. Who are you?”

The voices in the room grew louder, as the respect they had once accorded to me, morphed into doubt.

“We must leave master.” Musa’s voice was firmer now.

“I can take them.” I replied.

“There are over forty uspecs in the room master. No single uspec could take them all.” It replied.

“Who do you serve, imposter?” A voice yelled out.

“Why are you here?”

“Tiyoseriwosin?” A commanding voice from the back of the room barked out the question and everyone else fell silent. This question could not be avoided. I could tell from the faces which had now turned to face me, that this was one question they all wanted an answer to. For the second time that night, I was made aware of my own ignorance. I did not know what the question meant. I had heard it many times, but I was still clueless. I did not know what the right answer to that question was, but I remembered that uspecs had been slaughtered for giving the wrong one. I reached for their emotions then. I thought, if I yanked their angers and put it all in one of them, they would be distracted by trying to hold that uspec down. They had to be feeling anger I thought, but when I reached for their emotions, I found no anger. They were waiting. Perhaps the anger would come after I answered, if I answered wrongly. But what if anger did not come? I had no idea what the question meant. Anger was not the only reason that uspecs killed, I’d learnt that in the pits. No, I couldn’t risk it.

Musa was right.

The imp must have been studying me closely, because it was standing before I was. I jumped to my feet and ran towards the exit. My retreat startled the uspecs, giving me enough time to reach the curtains before they could react. But I heard the sounds of benches hitting the ground as soon as I got to the curtains. I turned in time to see the entire room of uspecs moving towards me.

I ran out of the inn.

Musa stopped behind me. It placed its hands on the curtains and I watched them firm up. I watched the flapping material harden, and then turn into a solid object.

I gaped at the imp. “What did you do?” I demanded.

“I gave it form master, I made it solid, with pansophy.” The imp replied. “We do not have time. They will come out through the kitchen exit master. We must go.”

I remained at that spot, my baffled eyes travelling from the imp to the curtains which it had turned into a solid barrier.

“There it is!” A loud voice called out from above me.

“Master!” Musa yelled.

It began running and I followed behind it. I did not turn around when I heard what was obviously the sound of uspec’s jumping down from higher floors onto the okun ground of the narrow paths. I just ran. I let the imp lead, trusting that it would direct us to safety. It wasn’t long before I could hear the loud sounds of many feet running behind us.

“Uspecipyte!” An angry voice called out behind me.

“Uspecipyte!” Another stated, joining the chant.

It wasn’t long before the word was being sung, chanted repeatedly by the mob chasing us. From the sounds of feet I could hear, it sounded like the mob was growing in size. The fear I felt propelled me, making me run even faster. Musa was obviously on the same page, because it ran surprisingly fast. Faster than I had thought it could with its short legs.

It led us down winded roads, taking us to the left and then to the right, probably attempting to lose the mob. I soon realized that the tactic was flawed because of the loud cries of the mob following us. The loud cries woke up even sleeping homes, bringing heads sticking out of curtains. Those heads eagerly pointed the angry mob in our direction.

“We can’t lose them!” I yelled at Musa.

“I know master!” it yelled back. “I am taking us somewhere they cannot follow.”

I simply trusted its words and kept running in its wake. The longer we ran, the more hopeful I became that the mob would get tired and return to their homes. I was disappointed in that course. They followed us all the way.

Finally, we reached an open area not as congested with dwellings as the areas we’d just left. Musa slowed as we got to this place. I was about to ask it if it was crazy. How could this be a good hiding spot? Then I noticed the walls. We had reached some sort of boundary. Unlike the previous high walls I had seen, these were not continuous, there were gaps in them. I ran towards a hole in the wall and stopped short when I saw that the hole was blocked with opaque red fog.

After the pits, I knew better than to walk into it.

I turned back around, my eyes wide as I heard the sounds of the mob drawing closer. My heart pounded with the realization that we were trapped between a wall and an angry mob.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 6:36am On Jun 22, 2019
Ohh, why now, Obehid. It was just getting interesting, and... >: I wonder when Nebud is finally going to learn. Pansophy is really cool, and it feels a lot like the witch powers. I just don't know which is more powerful.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by RealLordZeus(m): 7:05am On Jun 22, 2019
Wow! This is superb
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Rynne: 11:04am On Jun 22, 2019
ObehiD pls I can't wait for these updates ooo,can you just finish this book so I can buy and read it,because the suspence is just too much oooo lipsrsealed : embarassed
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by phoenixchap: 1:36pm On Jun 22, 2019
ObehiD good work you're still keeping it real, you have never dissapointed me neither have u fallen short one bit kudos.

obehiD:
@Fazemood Chai, thanks for asking oh, they are both doing well! The pack is trying to get their bearing now that the quintise magic is gone, so Nosa is still trying to find his place as a leader. Yes oh, the gist that Osezele has been giving me ehn! I just want to scream it out, but I have to wait. Lol! I've told them you said hello oh, they say that they can't wait to share their stories with you again, and they're so happy that you are thinking of them. They said I should thank you! grin

@phoenixchap hey! Long time no see! Where have you been? We've missed you cheesy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 5:06pm On Jun 22, 2019
Great! So much suspense. I like this chase Obehid but please educate our friend, he is falling hands cool
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 12:40am On Jun 24, 2019
@tunjilomo haha it was just getting interesting? I didn't know oh cheesy You just said pansophy feels like witchcraft!? I have to go away now and start crying cry cry cry After all the work I did to make pansophy so coool cry cry cry lol. No, i haven't really gone that much into pansophy yet, but more on pansophy is coming up next. I was actually just thinking like a few days ago which I would rather have. Like, if I could have any human mark or spectral existence magic, which would I choose? Let's just say I couldn't choose, but yes, pansophy is really cool...it's actually my favorite magic in this book, so I can't wait to show you just how cool it is. Maybe then you'll stop comparing it to witch powers sad wink grin

@RealLordZeus Wow! Thanks for saying that, really means a lot cheesy

@Rynne Yay! I'm so happy! I just got my first request to buy this book. I think I'm going to take a screenshot of your comment and save it somewhere special grin The truth is that, there were many times after I just started writing and posting this story, when I thought that it was just too crazy or impossible to understand. So to hear you say this really means a lot to me, thank you cheesy. And I'm sorry to say this, but I'm doing my best to make sure that you have many many many more 'too much suspense' moments wink

@phoenixchap Thank you, really means a lot coming from you. I have to keep it real now, anytime I even think of falling short, I remember your first comment, when you said your biggest worry was that I wouldn't finish the story. That was over a year and about three stories ago, and you're still following, so thank you smiley

@Fazemood thank you, I have to keep the suspense coming. I wish every chapter could end on a cliffhanger, but they can't, so, I put them where I can make them...(I don't even think that makes any sense lol, but I'm sure you get it cheesy). Yes oh, Nebud is falling hands, it has to get educated soon, let's just hope that Nebud is smart enough to come to that realization

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 6:30am On Jun 24, 2019
Tiyoserinwosin?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Tuhndhay(m): 4:40pm On Jun 25, 2019
Am not feeling this soft version of Nebud, clearly it seems Musa is exploiting the naive side of Nebud, I love the part about you trying to explain in details some parts but Nebud still has a lot to learn judging from all am seeing.

Obehid I appreciate the fact that you are keeping to the regular updates and all perhaps you could mix the suspense more with a bit of drama and guessing.... I join in clamoring for it to be released into a book also.......

Lastly I ran across Osezele today, she is getting fat from lack of action and Nosa is seeking tutor on the art of romance, I hope he doesn't get too corrupt before he comes back

Lastly some members of the pack(sorry can't give the names) have been spotted for weeks now visiting the Gym regularly, don't know why but I hope it's what am thinking Lami looks good on bum short I must say, lost her contact, can you forward it to me.

GLAD AM BACK NOW
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:45am On Jun 26, 2019
@popeshemoo shocked angry You can't ask that oh, you will get someone killed for giving the wrong answer wink

@Tuhndhay Haha, it's like you're sharing Nebud's mind. Nebud also blames Musa for its soft side. I'm trying oh, I'm trying to put drama in. With each chapter I'm trying to mix between describing the new things that Nebud is uncovering but also adding some elements of drama. I guess I'll have to count on you to let me know how I'm doing on the drama and guessing front grin
You ran across Osezele? Where did you see her? They're actually on midterm break now, so, maybe you saw her in Benin. Although, she mentioned that she might be going to Lagos to visit Tolani, so you may have seen her there too. Ahh, Nosa, well, I don't even know what he's up to during this break, but I think he definitely has a certain tri-marked warlock on his mind wink. You saw members of the pack in the gym? Hmm...I wonder what they are doing there too. What were you thinking they were doing there? Maybe I have to go and talk to Nosa, and see if he knows what they are up to. That last one about Lami...I didn't hear you oh, ah, do you want Victor to come for you? LOL! I'm glad you're back too cheesy

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:52am On Jun 26, 2019
Part 11
---------

Everything seemed to slow.

It could have been my imagination, but I suddenly became aware of every minute detail of the environment I inhabited. I was aware of the red transparent fog surrounding me. I felt the slight stickiness against my flesh, felt the teasing touch of its warmth seeping in through my skin. The ground underneath me suddenly seemed more remarkable, more deserving of a study of its fine details. Was the okun slightly cooler than others I had walked in? Did the soft malleable sludge underneath the red liquid feel a little harder? A drop of liquid trailed down the side of my face. I felt more moisture on my skin. There was wetness on my back, on the empty skin between my ailerons. I refused to accept that I was sweating, that I was afraid.

My ears pricked, choosing that moment to record the angry chant of the mob as their voices grew louder, marking their determined approach. The area we stood in was the largest empty space I had seen since stepping into the field. The closest buildings were at least thirty feet away from us. I knew that the approaching mob was hidden by one of those buildings.

But not for too long though, I reminded myself.

“Uspecipyte!” the call grew louder. The word was yelled out so loudly, and by so many different voices, that it was only decipherable due to its familiarity. I turned my back on the empty land, back to face the gapped-wall and the opaque fogs covering those gaps. There was no escaping through those fogs. No, walking into an opaque fog without a key meant sure death, I remembered that much from the pits.

My only other option was to face the mob.

“Uspecipyte!” I tried to remember where I had heard the name. The answer reached me just as the first uspec appeared, from behind the building. It stopped for a second, pausing to look around, before its scanning eye found us, and it lunged forward.

They would be on us in seconds, I realized with a sinking heart. Was this to be my death then? Years spent fighting in the pits only to escape and meet my death at the hands of a mob. I took a deep breath, steeling myself for the coming battle. If I was to die, then I would go down fighting. I would take as many of them with me as I could.

I reached up, stretching my right arm so that my fingers could get a hold of the cloth on my neck. I was just about to rip it off, when I felt a tentative hand grab hold of my arm.

It took me a while to realize that Musa was speaking.

I shook my head, trying to clear out the loud sounds of the angry uspecs running towards us. Twenty seconds away from the look of it, maybe thirty if we were lucky.

“What is it?” I demanded, my fingers frozen on the edges of the cloth.

“Merit.” It said. It had to yell the word out to be heard over the loud sound of the angry mob.

“What?”

“For the fog master. Two pieces of merit to pay our way in. Do you have the money master?”

My brain suddenly seemed too slow to process all the stimulation. The mob was only ten seconds away now. Nine, I found myself counting down, my eyes locked on the splattering of pink liquid as the uspecs’ feet landed angrily in the okun. Eight.

“Master!” Musa yelled.

“What?” I asked. I had to prepare myself for the fight. My heart beat a steady rhythm. My mind…the shaking on my hand became even more vigorous.

“Merit master! We can pay our way in, do you have it?”

The mob had stopped in front of us. In the front lines I could see the angry faces of the uspecs from the inn. The cries of “Uspecipyte!” grew even louder, as the standing uspecs yelled, clamoring to get closer to me.

Distractedly, I took my satchel bag off my shoulder and handed it over to Musa. I remembered then that imps could not die. If I died, I could not think of anyone else I would rather own the fortune I had done nothing to gain. It seemed like such a funny thought now, knowing that I would have sold this imp if I had lived long enough to do it. Instead, I would die here, and the imp would have enough wealth to establish itself independently.

“Don’t search for another master.” I told the imp. “Take the wealth and make a life for yourself.” Then I shoved the satchel bag into the imp’s outstretched hands, and pushed it back.

I placed myself between the imp and the mob.

Ten uspecs ran towards me at once. I reached for their anger then, and it was present in droves. They burned with fury. I reached through the lifeforce in my anger and yanked all the anger I could feel around me. I transferred the wealth of emotions to a single uspec at the back of the mob, furthest away from me.

The uspecs running towards me stopped dead in their tracks. With baffled gazes, they looked at themselves and then at the uspecs behind them. I recognized their stunned expressions from my self-taught training on emotions. This was the calm before the storm, my best opportunity to attack as many of them as I could. I never knew how long the stun will last, but in that phase, it was as if the uspecs temporarily forgot what they were.

“Master!” Musa yelled.

I turned around. Why was Musa still there? Didn’t it know that it was supposed to run while it could?

“Come master.” Musa called.

It took me a while to realize that it was standing on the other side of a translucent red fog. The translucence of the fog meant that it was now safe to walk through it.

Musa had found a key!

I ran towards the translucent fog. As soon as I walked out on the other side of the fog, I turned around and saw that the fog had returned to its previous state of opacity.

“How?” I asked, bemused.

I could hear the smile in Musa’s voice as it replied. “These are the slots master. They are gates separating the commoners from the upper classes. The price of entry is a piece of merit per person.” The corners of my mouth climbed up as I turned to stare at the imp. It smiled back at me, but its smile was much more reserved than mine. “Forgive me master, I took the money from your bag.” It offered the bag back to me.

I couldn’t stop my lips from edging apart, exposing my teeth, in a smile wider than any I had shared in a very long time. “Well done.” I praised it without hesitation, before reaching to retrieve my bag from the imp.

It bowed. “Thank you master.”

I turned to take in our surroundings and was suddenly hit with a startling reality, we were no longer in the field. There were no signs to declare this fact, though if there had been I would not have been able to read them. Thankfully, no signs were needed for this. The truth was plainly evident in the difference.

And everything was different.

The ground was still made of okun, but the liquid in this okun was pure, as pure as the pink liquid which had been in Fajahromo’s dwelling. The ground underneath the okun was firm, it had the soft firmness of the padded floor of the docks, and none of the stickiness of the sludge underneath the okun in the field. The differences were also palpable in the air. The swirling fog remained, drifting around and decorating the night with its presence. Unlike the fog in the field, this one was cool. It was not as cold as the hatch which had had hail falling within it, but it was cool enough that I felt slightly chilled by it. For an uspec who had known nothing other than the warmth of natural fog, being surrounded by this coolness made me uncomfortable.

Those were the less obvious changes. The stark differences lay in the design of the place. First, the light sources hanging from the walls here emanated blue light instead of red. The streets were much wider and quieter than those in the fields. But by far, the most awing things were the dwellings.

I had no words to describe these dwellings.

The first one I saw was surrounded by a luminescent orange fog. The fog reached only half way up the full height of the building, shielding the lower floors from view, but allowing view of the higher ones. The dwelling was taller than anything I had ever imagined existed. It looked like it had at least three high-ceilinged floors. But its remarkability did not stop with its height, it extended to the actual exterior design of the building. My eyes got lost in following the arches and panels, the curling exterior staircases, the dyed-glass windows, and the intricate paintings. I could not believe that a thing like this was possible, least of all that it existed in the same world as I.

I had become so engrossed in my study of the palatial dwellings, that I did not notice the approach of the uspecs. It wasn’t till they stopped in front of me, interfering with my admiration of the ostentatious beauty surrounding me, that I became aware of them.

Two uspecs stood in front of me. They were both of a similar height. Their heads reached up to my upper chest. Black belts wound around their waists, with bulging pockets and a long sword sheath. They both had their right hands on the hilt of their swords. Besides the belt, the uspecs had nothing on. A glance at their faces showed me that they had all of their outer eye sockets formed, but none of them filled. Their feet were planted about a shoulder’s width apart. Their bearing stirred a memory from long ago, of guards flying into my slum. These guards were nowhere near as impressive as those.

“Salutations noble one.” One of the guards greeted. Its center eye darted over to my neck and then it slowly trailed over the rest of my body, before rising back to meet my eyes. Its expression was filled with doubt, as if it knew that I was not what the cloth showed me to be. I wished that it would challenge me, it had been a long time since I’d had a good fight. Though, from the lean muscles that these two bore, I doubted that they would be much of a challenge.

I nodded, in my best attempt at a noble’s gesture.

“What are you doing here noble one?”

“Doing where?” I tried to channel Gerangi at its most imperious state.

“In the block noble one, at this time of night.”

I shrugged casually. “We just arrived. Our canoe was delayed. Is that a crime?”

The guard still appeared skeptical. It turned its gaze to the slots behind us and then moved it back to stare at me. “You did not run into any troubles in the field I hope? Nobles travel during the day, and that is when the guard waits at the docks to receive them.”

“I did not know that it was your place to tell me when to travel.” I somehow managed to speak with a straight face.

“Of course not, forgive me noble one.” It said, but still it did not look convinced. I couldn’t help thinking of how much easier it would be to just kill the uspec and be on my way. I supposed a dead uspec body would be noticed easily in this fine place. “If you don’t mind me asking, where do you hale from?” it asked.

“I mind you asking.” I replied curtly. Then I decided to go on the offensive. “What is the meaning of this? Is this how nobles are treated in the last burg? Interrogated on the streets, by commoners?” I spat the last word out with as much derision as I could fake.

“We are not commoners, we are block guards.” The other uspec spoke up for the first time. “But you are right noble one, we have no right to stop you. Please be on your way,” it said, stepping aside.

I glared at both uspecs for effect, before walking past them.

“Nobles.” I heard one of the guards mutter behind me. I could not help my answering chuckle.

“What now Musa?” I asked the imp. “I assume it is frowned on to sleep on the streets in this place. What is this place anyway?” I asked, my eyes following yet another unbelievable beautifully designed building. I could not fathom how each mansion could have a different design.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:53am On Jun 26, 2019
“It is the block master.” Musa replied. “It is where the wealthy merchants live. It connects to the high nobles’ lodges in the west and the low nobles’ keeps in the east.”

“This is not where the nobles live?” I asked, shocked.

Musa smiled. “No master,” it replied shaking its head. “The nobles’ mansions are even grander than these. The nobles so hate to mix with the commoners that they are not satisfied with just having the walls separating them. There are also dividers master, okuns separating the commoners’ field from the nobles’ lands. But no divider okun is as magnificent as the Regnant.”

“The Regnant?” I asked, listening only partially, as most of my brain was obsessed with devouring the new sights.

“It is the most beautiful okun in this burg. A wide stream with dazzling pink liquid which gives off a dim glow. It is said to have poisonous sea serpents. But even if it did not have serpents, no one would dare go into the liquid. No one enters a lit pool and lives to talk about it.”

That statement pulled my attention. “What do you mean?”

“Okuns that give off light master, they are home to the kute frosted beasts. Those okuns kill any uspecs that wander in.”

I stopped for a moment, frozen by the implications of the words. I had wandered in to a lit okun, right on the trail of a frosted beast. I shook my head, deciding that Musa’s tale had to be just that. What did an imp truly know about a kute okun? I chuckled at the tale and continued walking.

“Perhaps we can stay here for the night master, it is the finest resort in the block.”

“Resort?” I asked with a frown, my gaze stuck on a multicolored fog which encircled yet another awing dwelling. “Are there no inns?”

“Inns are for commoners master, there are no inns in the block, only resorts. We can go to a cheaper one.” It offered.

“Money is no object.” I replied distractedly.

“Then this resort would do nicely master.”

I don’t know how I had missed it. Standing on the left of the road, the resort towered over every other building in the street. In fact, it towered over every other building there. I could not guess at how many floors this dwelling housed, all I could do was stare at the giant of a dwelling.

I walked towards the entrance. There was no fog blocking the view of the lower floors of this building. A wooden partition cordoned off the okun street from the foam covered path leading to the entrance of the resort. I walked on the curved path, my eyes wide as I took in the glossy cyan finish of the exteriors. Looking at it from the outside, the dwelling appeared to be made of separate compartments of buildings joined together. Each of those buildings had a finish of cyan shards. On closer inspection, I noted that the surface of the shards resembled the outer surface of the scales on my neck. It was intimidating to think of the amount of uspec scales required to cover the entire building.

The twisted road led to a large entrance. From further away, the entrance appeared to be just the same as the other parts of the building. It took me standing close to it, to see the subtle difference; like the change in the texture of the cyan shard. At first glance, I thought it was glass and marveled at it. I had never seen a glass entry. But on closer inspection, I could tell that it was something else. It was wide and smooth, stretching wider than the width of me, and rising taller than the tallest giant I had ever seen. I drew closer, noticing the drops of darker cyan which seemed to be trapped within the large shard. I frowned, perplexed by this material I could not place.

“This is the entrance master.” Musa provided. “It is solid fog. All you need to do is put your hand against it, let it sense the life in you, and it will fade away, granting you entrance. It can only be opened by an upsec.”

Slowly, I rose my right hand, stretching the fingers wide apart. Then I placed the flat palm of my hand against the smooth surface. It was warm to the touch, much warmer than the fog which drifted around me. As soon as my hand rested flat against it, the hard surface sublimated into a transparent cyan fog.

I walked in through the fog.

It was like standing in a large cuboid air bubble surrounded by okun. I had never seen a vertical pond, but that was the closest likeness I could think of to describe the walls in the room. If an okun bed could be made to stand, that was what the walls would be. I walked towards the closest wall, desperate to solve the mystery for myself. Surely it could not be liquid, perhaps it was a trick of the eyes. Upon reaching the closest wall, I stuck my hand into it, expecting a hard surface. Instead, my hand was swallowed by the pink liquid. I pulled my hand out, staring with wide eyes and a parted mouth at my wet hand.

“What is this magic?” I asked, sending my question into the ether.

To my surprise, it replied. “It is pansophy master.” I turned sharply, shocked to see Musa standing beside me. In my moment of wonder, I had forgotten its presence. I studied its face, but I could not decipher the expressions on it. “Designs like this were made possible by my former masters, the line of the Kaisers of Lahooni. They dreamt up innovations like this, ways to use pansophy to mix lifeforces, giving life where none ever existed, and mixing form in varying degrees. Before the Kaisers of Lahooni there were no fog doors, it was them who discovered a way to mix thought and life together in fog, turning it to a door which could be opened with a key.” Musa stopped speaking. It shook its head and turned to face me. “Forgive me master,” it bowed, “I got lost in my memories.”

All I could do was shake my head at it. This was the work of my ancestry? I thought in awe. I could not imagine the level of brilliance required to dream up magic which could make sights as the one I saw possible. Solid fog doors, vertical ponds, all from the line that had loved me, the one that had claimed me despite the fact that I was irira. I felt that almost forgotten pang of sorrow at the life I could have known. I found myself wondering again, how it was that I came to live in the slum, how I went from the beloved descendant of the Kaiser of Lahooni, to de trop.

My eyes voraciously devoured the rest of the room. I looked at the light sources hanging from the ceiling and wondered if that too had been a design of my line. The light sources were four round spheres with lit okun trapped in them, hanging by chains from the ceiling. The floor was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was an okun, or it would be better to say that it had an okun trapped in it. The ground was soft, it had the same softness as the twisted path which had led to the entrance. The disconcerting element was in its transparency. I could tell that I was walking on a ground that was not the okun, but I could not see it.

“Shall we book a room master?” Musa asked, its words prompting me from my admiration of my surroundings.

I nodded, distractedly following behind Musa as it led the way to a glass table. Although, to call the sterling counter a table seemed like an injustice. There was an uspec standing on the other side of the glittering cyan counter. It wore a short sleeve on both of its arms. Extending from its shoulders, the sleeves covered about half of its upper arm. Both of those sleeves were brown in color, with marks and signs I could not read, written on them. My eyes took in the wall behind it. There were two holes in that wall, both of which were covered with thick green curtains.

“Salutations noble one!” the uspec greeted chirpily. I could not help but notice the bright excited smile on the uspec’s face. This was a thin uspec. It had all of its outer sockets formed, but only one of them filled. Not a fighter, I thought with a dismissive glance.

I nodded in response to its greeting.

“Would you like a room noble one? We offer only the best accommodations here at Pine, Lastmain’s finest resort.”

“A room for the night.” I replied.

“Very well noble one.” The smile on the uspec’s face remained. “Would you prefer a royal suite styled room, or a common resting room. The royal suites are our finest…”

“A common resting room will do.” I responded cutting off what I imagined would be a long sales pitch. “A single room is all I need. I will take the cheapest one you have.” I had no idea what rooms in a place like this would cost. Although I had wealth, I saw no need to waste it, especially not until I had determined the extent of that wealth. Again, I reminded myself of the need to quantify my fortune.

The smile on the uspec’s face only wavered slightly. “Very well noble one. The cheapest room available will cost 10 pieces of merit for a night. Three full meals are included in this price.”

I could not help but think of the price disparity. In the field were commoners lived, I had arranged for a room and fare for a quarter piece of merit. It took me a while to do the calculation, but eventually I stumbled on the difference. This resort cost forty times more than the inn. I almost gagged on the thought, it was ludicrous. Still, I found myself reaching into the satchel bag and pulling out a sachet with silver embroidery. I counted out ten pieces of merit from the sachet and placed it on the counter.

“We’ll take that room.” I stated, pushing the payment closer towards the uspec.

“Very good noble one.” The uspec snapped its fingers and two imps came out from behind the curtains to the left of us. The imps were dressed finer than most I had seen. They wore a matching set of embroidered brown uniforms. “They will show you to your room noble one. After they see to you, they will give your imp a tour of the resort. Do you find that pleasing?”

I nodded.

“Very well. Gratitude noble one, and enjoy your stay at Pine resort.” It stretched its hand to its left, pointing in the direction of the curtains opposite the ones that the imps had emerged from.

The imps led the way and I followed. One of the uniformed imps pulled the curtains aside, keeping it drawn so the rest of us could walk through. We walked into a portal room. The walls of the room had the same vertical okun as the main lobby, but I could tell where we were by the hardened quicksand in the middle of the room. By the quicksand, there was a large pothole filled with a strangely colored liquid. The sight suddenly took me back to the pits, to the day that the pious one had taken my baton and returned it as a key.

One of the imps moved, pulling me out of my memory. It walked to a bucket by the side of the entryway. In that bucket, there were swords of varying sizes and colors. It picked up a red sword and walked with it over to the pool. Then, it stuck the sword into the pool of liquid in the pothole and pulled it out. It brought the sword back to me, and I could tell, before it spoke, exactly what it was.

The imp dropped to its knees. Placing the sword on both hands, it lifted it up, offering it to me as it said, “this is a key for two domina. It will grant you access to all the common areas in the resort as well as to your room. It will only let two enter at a time. It is designed to grant entrance only to you and your imp.”

With a nod, I took the sword from the imp’s hands. As soon as I picked it up, I could tell from its weight that it was made of wood. The imp rose and the other imp led us to the quicksand in the middle of the room. Once all four of us were standing on it, the quicksand softened, and we were sucked in.

The portal took us to another part of the resort. We stood on a pathway. The flooring was the same as it had been in the lobby, but the walls were different. For as far as my eye could see, the walls were made of fog doors with a brown surface between them. We had stopped in front of one fog door in particular.

I stuck my red sword into the opaque brown fog, and it turned translucent. I was just about to walk in, when I heard Musa say, “Master, I will go with these imps and learn the resort. Shall I return with the same meal as you had chosen at the inn?”

I nodded. I walked into the fog and then turned around to hand the single wooden sword key to Musa. It took it from me with a bow. It wasn’t till that point that I realized how much of a hindrance having one key between us would be. But the imps were already walking away. I walked out of the fog, suddenly feeling the exertions of the day.

The room was dimly lit. It was too dim to really admire it. I knew that there had to be a way to fix the lighting. Then, I caught a glimpse of the bed, and decided that lighting could wait till the morning.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 6:13am On Jun 26, 2019
obehiD:
@popeshemoo shocked angry You can't ask that oh, you will get someone killed for giving the wrong answer wink]

You should run too
..because you did not answer

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