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The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) - Literature (10) - Nairaland

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:33am On Jul 06, 2019
Part 2
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We fell into a routine on the trail. Each day began with a two-hour sword spar. I soon came to realize just how good Musa was with the blade. When it fought, its body flowed in a graceful manner that reminded me of the imps who had slaughtered the guards in the pits. There was a beauty to its movement, one that was starkly contrasted by my clumsiness. I learned very quickly, that pugilism was very different from sword-skill. There was footwork to learn and tactics to consider. By the end of the two-hour bout, I found myself dripping with sweat, panting from the exertions, yet ready to begin the day of walking ahead of us. We decided that we could maximize on our time by having two large sit-down meals, and one walking one. So, we had the first meal of the day after the sword training. Then, we packed up, what little we had unpacked, and began our walk for the day. We woke at the time of the morning when the red illumination from the clouds was untainted by the orange from the daylight dots. Then we walked until orange light streamed in through the walls of clouds, adding its color to the ever-present gleam of the red rays. When the light from the orange dots reached its peak, we pulled out dried cakes and munched on them while we walked. We continued our journey until the orange glow receded, the red threatening to overpower it. That was when we would go into the closest resting place and withdraw for the night. While we walked, Musa maintained a constant stream of words in the soaru tongue. And so, I learnt this new tongue for hours every day, and when we retired for the night, I learnt to write in the common tongue. The first three hours in the dwelling off the trail, was spent on my lessons on reading and writing in the common tongue. We had dinner after that, then ended the day with an hour-long sword spar. After all that, I found that I was asleep within minutes of my ailerons hitting the bed.

Three weeks into our journey, I broke the routine that we had come to rely on. It was an hour into my writing time, and I was reproducing a message which Musa had written on another sheet of paper. It was a simple message. It was one so simple in fact, that I had already mastered it. And so, as I sat, staring at the message I had completed in record time, I was suddenly made aware of a sound which I had not heard since we’d left the resort. It was the sound of running okun.

Drawn to it, I rose up from my stool, and walked towards the source of the sound. Our temporary dwelling was just the same as all the others. It was a house made completely of baked sludge. There were curtain barriers delineating each of the rooms in the dwelling. And in each room, there were beds with soft covering, but even these soft coverings were made of sludge. Musa had informed me that it was all sludge, just sludge with varying degrees of ‘form’. A larger curtain blocked the main entrance to the dwelling. I walked out through that entrance and turned to find an astonishing feat of magic.

Musa stood by a brown hollow rod extruding from the inner wall of the sludge fence which surrounded our compound. There was a narrow channel on the ground by Musa’s feet, and that channel led to the small okun reservoir behind the dwelling. Over the last weeks, I had simply emerged from my lessons to find the reservoir filled up. The small okun well had been filled and so I had thought that it was just one more mystery surrounding these sludge houses erected by form cards. Now, I knew different.

The well was not deep enough for a cleaning, and so I filled one of the sludge buckets with the pink liquid and wiped myself clean using one of the cloths Musa had had the foresight to purchase before the journey. As it was the same well we drew our drinking and cooking liquid from, we were careful to discard the liquid in other parts of the compound.

Musa’s head snapped up. “Master.” It said, sounding surprised. “What are you doing here? You should be working on your common tongue.”

“I finished.” I stated. “What is that?” I asked, staring at the short pipe sticking out of the fence.

“A faucet master.” Musa replied. Apparently, the contraption was more complicated than I thought, because Musa was able to twist the front part of it, and by that action, make the liquid stop running out of the pipe.

“Pansophy?” I asked, assuming that this, like every other marvel I had seen, was the result of pansophy.

“The okun is given extra motion and thought, and the faucet is made of two pipes put together. Spikes poke out of the outer rim of the inner pipe, and there are matching holes on the insides of the outer pipe. When the holes match up with the spikes, the thought in the okun knows to switch states. So, if the liquid was stagnant in the pipe, it moves forward and flows out, and if it was flowing, it becomes stagnant, and halts in the pipe.”

“Did the Kaisers of Lahooni design this too?” I asked.

“In some ways, I suppose. They began discoveries like this, they showed how pansophy could be used to such ends, and they advocated for the creation of the order of Fabrication, whose job it is to create designs such as this.”

My fingers rose of their own accord, to stroke the outer surface of the faucet. “I want to know more.” I heard myself say the words, before I had fully processed my own desires. I had spoken in a somber tone, one that I thought would be too low for the imp to hear.

“Master?” It called out, asking with its tone for clarification.

Taking my fingers off the pipe, I stood to my full height and turned to stare down at the imp, whose head immediately tilted back so that its empty eye sockets met my eyes. “I want to know more.” I said the words louder this time, and with more certainty.

Musa frowned. “Know more about what?” It turned to stare speculatively at the pipes. “About the faucet?” It asked.

I shook my head. “Pansophy.” I replied.

“Master,” Musa began in a placating tone which I had come to associate with denial.

I rose my hand up in the air, cutting it off. “I want to know Musa,” even I could hear the pleading note in my voice.

Musa sighed. “You are supposed to be learning the common tongue.” It scolded.

With a smirk, I crossed my arms over my chest and bent, leaning my upper arm against the sludge wall behind me. “I finished.” I stated calmly, observing the imp.

“Well then we can move onto something more challenging. The sooner we get done with teaching you how to read, the faster we can get to you actually putting that knowledge into practice. There are so many tomes it would be advisable for you to read before we reach Katsoaru.”

“We have plenty time for that.”

“Not if you keep on dismissing your lessons.”

“This is the first lesson that I have ‘dismissed’.”

“Master…”

“Oh, I am? That’s good to know. I had begun to think that I had only imagined myself as master and you as slave.” I interrupted it.

Musa shook its head, and then it shrugged. “As you wish.”

“Good.” I pushed myself off the wall and walked back into the dwelling. Musa was at my heel when I walked through the curtained entrance and went to sit on my stool. The imp picked up the piece of paper on my table. I tried to stifle my irritation as I watched it examine my written words carefully.

“Musa.” I warned, as the imp took much more time than was necessary, going over the simple message.

With a heavy sigh, the imp placed the piece of paper back onto the table, saying, “it will do.”

I scoffed. “Sit and talk.” I ordered, jutting my chin towards the stool on the other side of the table.

“Very well master.” It replied. Musa sat down on the stool. “Pansophy is a big topic master, I don’t know if I can tell you everything there is to know about it, in one night.”

“Just tell me as much as you can.”

Musa nodded. “At the beginning of the study of pansophy is one fundamental knowledge, and that is lifeforces. Pansophy is the control of lifeforces. With pansophy, a person can transfer lifeforces. That is very important master, pansophy is the transfer of lifeforces. It cannot be used to create lifeforces where none exist, and it cannot put a lifeforce into a host, without taking it from somewhere else. For example.” It stopped speaking and picked up the piece of paper which I had written my message on. “Let’s start with form. Form is a lifeforce which exists in everything that is solid. Take the piece of paper for example, it has form.” It flapped the paper as it spoke, before placing it back on the table. “Now, if I wanted to take that form away, I could.” As soon as it was done saying that, the white paper turned into white goo with black streaks.

I stared speechlessly at it, my eyes bulging.

“Now, what you will not see, is where the form has gone. Remember, lifeforces must be transferred, and so by taking the form from the paper, I had to put it somewhere. In this case, I put it in myself, and since it was such a small, flimsy, piece of paper, taking that much form in, did not have much of an effect on me. But if I had taken all the form from something that has much of it…”

“Like the form card?” I guessed.

Musa smiled. “Yes.” It nodded, “Like the form card. If I had taken all the form from the form card, I would not be able to move, I would become like a statue. I will still have motion, which is the lifeforce which allows me to move, but the form will dominate the motion, robbing it of its power. That is the very first lesson that novices are taught. Pansophy is a transfer of lifeforces, not a creation or destruction. That which is needed must come from somewhere, and that which is not, must be given to something else.” After saying that, Musa placed the tip of its finger onto the white goo, and it turned back into paper.

“Is it really so effortless?” I asked.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 3:34am On Jul 06, 2019
“No master, not at all. It is effortless for me, because I have had it for millennia. But pious ones spend their entire lives struggling to master the transfer of specific types of lifeforces. No single pious one can master all the lifeforces. It is impossible.”

“How many are there?”

“Too many for me to list all now, but I will try to list the common ones. There is form, which I just showed you. It gives everything that possesses it structure. If all of your form where to be taken, you will turn into goo, just like the paper had.”

“Are you trying to scare me?” I smirked at the imp.

It wasn’t smiling when it replied. “Pansophy is scary master, it scares me.”

I scoffed. “What do you have to be afraid of? Imps cannot die.”

“No,” it shook its head, “we can’t. But have you ever wondered why there aren’t more imps in this existence? Think about it. For millennia, thousands of years, umanis have been dying and coming here. How is it that this existence is not overrun by imps?”

I frowned, suddenly realizing the merit of that question. “How is it?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper, as I found myself pulled in by the web the imp’s words spun.

“Pansophy. The pious ones use some of us as a source of lifeforces. There are only two naturally occurring sources which have all the lifeforces: uspecs and imps. It is illegal to do to an uspec what they do to the imps.” It trailed off.

“What do they do to the imps?”

Musa remained silent.

“What?” I demanded, suddenly feeling as if I had to know.

“When an umani bound for the spectral existence dies, it awakes in a fugue world. The world it wakes in resembles the world it left. It sees the living umanis, watches them, but the umanis cannot see it. Though it lives in the spectral existence, its eyes see the standard. It is essentially blind to the true world it inhabits. Imagine that. Imagine being in a room, surrounded by ten uspecs all clamoring for a chance to take your eyes, you hear the sounds, you hear them, but you don’t see them. What you see is an umani family sitting to have dinner. You see their lips moving, but you cannot hear them speak. Instead you hear voices speaking in a strange language. And when the uspecs reach you, when they wrap their hands around your throat, you feel them, even though you can’t see them. The loss of the eyes become a blessing. You lose your sight, and so now you are aware of this lack. You do not see the world you left and hear the one you are in. All you have is darkness. If you’re lucky, the uspecs who find you and take your eyes, do what they are required by law to. They take you to the pious ones. And if you are lucky the pious ones decide that you will make a good slave and they give you sight, then they either keep you, or they sell you. If you are lucky.”

“And if you are not?”

Musa exhaled. “If you are not, the uspecs take your eyes and leave you blind. That is not necessarily the worst fate. I have met blind imps, but they are few. Eventually, most eyeless imps are taken to the pious. And if you are unlucky and the pious decide that you do not have the temperament to serve, well, then you are sapped.”

“Sapped?”

“Drained of all your lifeforces. This is the difference between an uspec and an imp. Uspecs can be fully drained. Not all lifeforces are pansophic, that is, not all lifeforces can be transferred by pansophy. The lifeforces which are controlled by the other forms of magic, spectra and emotions, cannot be transferred with pansophy. But the yielders, the pious ones who perform the sapping, they have spectra and pansophy, and so they have access to all the lifeforces which are not pansophic, but are controlled by spectra, the most important of which is life. Now, if life is taken from an uspec, then the uspec dies. That is because all of the uspecs lifeforces can be transferred out. But it is different for imps. A sliver of our lifeforces cling to us. And so we cannot be killed, because a sliver of life remains within us, a sliver of the lifeforce which cannot be removed. So, when an imp is sapped, every bit of the lifeforces which can be taken from the imp is taken. Every single bit. When an imp is sapped, all that remains of it, is a tiny piece, a subatomic part that is left locked in a box. A part so tiny it cannot be seen, one that contains nothing but a sliver of each lifeforce. Our lifeforces grow back. And so, eventually, the life will grow into more. Eventually, the sliver of thought will grow into a mind which can reason again. But it takes thousands of years for that growth to complete. Sapped imps are monitored by the pious ones of the order of annihilation, the yielders. They make sure that the imp never recovers. Once the imp is grown large enough to sap again, the process is repeated.”

A chill ran up my spine from the imp’s dark words. Sapping. I was suddenly very grateful that I was an uspec. I could never be sapped. If anyone tried to take all of my lifeforces, well then I would just die, and that was better than spending a thousand years with a weakened mind.

I felt the table shake lightly. My gaze lowered to Musa’s trembling hands resting on the table. I put my hands over the imps. “I will never let that happen to you.” I swore.

Musa looked up at me. There was a sadness in its face that I could not understand. It smiled and bowed its head. “Thank you.” It replied. It didn’t say anything else, but I suddenly felt as if the air was thick with the imp’s unspoken doubts. What could I do if a pious one tried to sap Musa? I was suddenly aware of just how little power I had. The more I learnt about pansophy, the more I discovered about the pious ones power and how little I knew.

“Motion.” Musa said.

“What?” My head jerked up, my gaze snapping back onto Musa’s face.

“I was listing the lifeforces. Motion. It allows us to walk, to move our hands, uspecs to fly. Without motion, a person is paralyzed. Sight allows us to see, without it we are blind. Thought, is the lifeforce which controls the workings of our mind, it is were we do our active learning, and if it is taken away, we become unable to think. Memory is where we store our learned knowledge. Appearance defines what we look like, what the world sees us as. If all of your appearance is taken away, you become invisible. Con…”

“Not all imps with eyes cannot see the spectral existence.” I said suddenly, cutting the imp off.

“Master?”

“You said that imps with eyes live in the spectral existence but see the standard. But the first imp I met had eyes, and could see the spectral existence.”

“Some imps are special.” It replied shrugging. “It all depends on who an imp is first taken to. Some uspecs want the imps to keep their eyes. Never pious ones though, that is usually done by nobles. If the noble has enough wealth or influence, then it can have sight given to the imp. In that case, the imp will be able to see both worlds, the spectral and the standard. I don’t know why an imp would want that; I have heard that it takes a very long time before the imp is able to adjust to seeing both realities.”

“Do all imps with magic have pansophy then? Is that the siphoned magic?”

Musa laughed. “No. The pious keep a very close count of imps that have pansophy. It is not a gift that they like to give out. Siphoned magic is different. When the pious give imps without eyes sight, they also give us the ability to siphon our master’s magic. The master decides the amount of magic that the imp can take. If an imp tries to take to much, the master can cut it off completely. Not many masters choose to share their magic with imps. Sometimes, imps are linked to pious ones, so that they can siphon pansophy from the pious ones. It is necessary for a lot of the magic that keeps the ports running. Like turning the sludge ground to hardened clouds. For an uspec to do that, the uspec would have to have pansophy, and the pious are very selfish with that particular form of magic.”

“I can imagine.” I stated drily.

“Master?”

“Yes?”

“Perhaps we can return to the lessons for today? If memory serves, there is a common area about a month’s walk away from here. If we’ve advanced far enough in our lessons by then, then perhaps we could stop for a day and try out your knowledge of the soaru tongue with any soaru uspecs we might run across there.”

I nodded, my anticipation growing as I recalled the knowledge I had gained from the thought drop. The thought drop, now I truly understood what it was. It was someone’s thoughts stored in an edible capsule. How was it fair that the pious and the Kaisers were in sole possession of magic like this? “Last question.” I said, before acquiescing to Musa’s plea that we continue our lesson.

Smiling, Musa nodded.

“Can lifeforces be put into anything? In the resort you said that pansophy was a contact magic, that you had to be in direct contact with me for you to use it one me?”

Musa nodded. “Yes master, I have to touch you to use it on you. I also said that I could use the magic if we both touched a pansophy conduit.”

“Yes,” I nodded, remembering that. “What is that?”

“A pansophy conduit is a pansophic metal. It is a lot more common now than it once was. Pansophic metals are the only naturally occurring things which can host all of the pansophic lifeforces which exist. Pious ones who carry weapons, usually have the weapons made out of pansophic metals. All nobles know about pansophy, but few know that pansophic metals can be used as a conduit to transfer lifeforces. Nobles tend to be shy of people touching them, because of pansophy. Pious ones use the metal to get around this.”

“So, only metals?”

“Only one specific type of metal. Though, the last I heard, pious ones are now doing their best to make sure that traces of that metal occur in regular materials.”

“Of course they are.” Why didn’t that surprise me?

Musa smiled. “You must be careful around the pious master. Once they get into your head, there’s no telling what they’ll leave behind.”

Something about Musa’s words made a chill run up my spine. I was suddenly aware of how stupid I had been. Maxad, Gerangi, even the pious healer from the pits. They had all been in my head. Had any of them left something behind?

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 10:08am On Jul 06, 2019
Wow learnt about pansophy today just as u said.. But this update no belleful person..... Wednesday come quickly...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 12:22pm On Jul 06, 2019
Nebud is just so naive, he can easily be manipulated. Good thing musa is loyal to him or else he could have been was if musa expose him as an irira.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 8:32pm On Jul 06, 2019
Pansophy...hmm. So Far from the easy magic I thought it is. I clearly see that possessing that gift is dangerous to the bearer if mishandled.
Obehid educate us more wink
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Tuhndhay(m): 2:54am On Jul 07, 2019
Now I know why you're keeping us in suspense...... The Kute eye with Emotion with Pansophy with Fighting Skills issa bomb......

I need a Musa seriously. Please, Obehid do you have a Musa around you that you can lend me to help me advance in life.

I sense something, you just dropped the hint and am going to be waiting on it in the subsequent chapters..... Dear Obehid, please go soft on our Nebud or whosoever crosses his path.

Now, am beginning to hear whispers in my head saying "Jí má sún"..... Kamora, and don't let me say it now but if it happened I will drop tears oooooooooo.

Keep up the good work Sis. You are one hell of a bad-ass writer.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by enamored1: 4:10am On Jul 07, 2019
So is it possible that one of the pious ones, probably he had come in contact with earlier put this instruction to go to Katsoaru in his head?

You said pansophy is a transfer of life forces, the imps which are being drained of theirs, where do they siphon them to? I'm sure they can't ‘absorb’ them, or can they?

So my thoughts on pansophy - it's bittersweet. It would be dangerous to live in a world where some select few are the custodians of such dangerous ability. However, if you had pansophy, you be boss o.

It's been long we heard about Fajahromo o. What's he doing now sef?

Wonderful update by the way, more imagination to your brain.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Tuhndhay(m): 6:49am On Jul 08, 2019
I think something terrible must have happened to Musa to make it utter that statement "pansophy scares me" or probably it has seen lots of sorrows over the millenia that has grieved its heart..
Imagine if the head of the yielders is a dictator
I mean with the sapping, I guess one can live forever......

What if Nebud decides to raid the storehouse where they keep the sapped lifeforces, won't that be amazing

If one manages to sap a pious and let's say a Kaiser together .... Will the person inherit the magics.....
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:01am On Jul 09, 2019
@cassbeat hahaha, just one more day away cheesy

@Peaceyw It's not really Nebud's fault that it doesn't know all these things. The majority of uspecs wouldn't either. But it is a good thing that Musa is loyal smiley

@Fazemood Yes, pansophy is definitely not an easy magic. Pansophy will definitely be explained in more detail as we go further. We'll see more examples of it being used in action as we keep going grin

@Tuhndhay Actually yes, the combination of all of those would be amazing to see in a fighter. To be honest though, we're probably not going to see that with Nebud because it doesn't have pansophy and as we've learned, pansophy is not easy to get. HAHAHA! I need a Musa in my life too. You're beginning to hear whispers in your head too? This is serious grin. It is very possible that something bad happened to Musa when it was being trained on pansophy, I mean, it scares me too...it also excites me sha, I would love to have pansophy. The way the spectral existence is structured prevents that from happening (head of yielders being a dictator). The pious ones have power but not that much power. And uspecs, in this time, cannot live forever, because... anyway, just know there are checks and balances and they can't live forever. So, only lifeforces can be controlled with pansophy, and lifeforces are not magic. So if someone sapped an uspec they could get its lifeforces but not its magic

@enamored1 It is possible...but I won't say anything else. No, they can't absorb the lifeforces, they transfer them to materials that can store them. Like the form card for example, it's just a card that has a lot of form stored in it. So the pansophy cache would be filled with materials like that, containing different lifeforces. Definitely, pansophy is one scary magic. If you have it and you're good at it, well, you can walk around without fear, but if you don't have it...that's when you have to start being worried about everyone around you because you don't know who has it and who doesn't. Our old friend Fajahromo, I'm sure it is back in Hakute doing what it usually does. We won't see Fajahromo for some time, but trust me, Nebud will not forget Fajahromo. That one's day is coming.

2 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 6:29pm On Jul 09, 2019
ERM.. Quick question
What happens to an imp if the uspec it is siphoning magic from dies ?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:27am On Jul 10, 2019
popeshemoo:
ERM.. Quick question
What happens to an imp if the uspec it is siphoning magic from dies ?

Nothing too bad, the imp just loses the magic, so it can no longer siphon from the dead uspec, and so it has no one to siphon from unless it finds another uspec willing to let it
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:27am On Jul 10, 2019
Part 3
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For the first time in two months, I felt clean. My feathers were polished, my skin scoured clean by the salts in the public okun. Unlike the resort, the cleaning spot in the common area did not have multiple ponds. It had only one pond, one half filled with cleaning salts, the other filled with a pure okun to rinse it off. That combined with Musa’s polishing, made me feel like a brand new person. It was interesting how I had gone so many years without knowing the pleasantness of cleanliness, now that I had discovered it, well, I was already looking forward to the next common area. No doubt that would be another two months away.

“Why did you not join me in the pond?” I asked the imp walking beside me.

Musa scoffed. “With the uspecs? It’s not allowed master. Besides, I do not like being naked in public.”

The imp’s words confused me. It did not like being unclothed? I knew that a number of imps wore clothes, but I had seen far more naked imps than I had seen clothed ones. What did Musa find so unappealing about it? I was just about to ask that, when I felt Musa grab unto my upper arm.

Frowning, I bent my head to stare down at it. “What is wrong?”

A group of uspecs walked by Musa, one of them shoved it aside roughly. “Apologies domina.” Musa said to the passing uspec. I watched it as it walked with its group towards the inn I had been headed for.

“Can you read what is on the board master?” Musa asked.

I stifled my irritation at its desire to turn this into a learning opportunity. With a sigh, I turned to the board fixed to a post several paces in front of the inn. The inn, like every other structure on the inter-port trail, was made out of baked sludge. It had the curtains, and in front of the curtains, there were two uspecs standing, both of them had swords hanging from belts on their waists. They both had a warrior’s bearing. They had height and bulk, and outer sockets partially filled. The intriguing thing about them, was that they also had fraise around their necks. I could tell from those cloths that they were pious, but I was too far away to see what order they belonged to. Pious guards? I had never seen such before.

As the group of uspecs drew closer to the inn, I recalled Musa’s question. With narrowed eyes, I could read the word, but it was one that held no meaning to me. R-A-B-U. I spelled the letters out to myself. “Rabu?” I guessed at a pronunciation. “What does it mean?” I asked after Musa nodded.

“Tiyoseriwosin?” The loud call from one of the pious guards in front of the inn, cut off Musa’s response. The reply from the uspec in the groups was too faint for me to hear. The guard nodded and said, “stay to the right.” It’s voice booming.

I turned back to Musa, a tingle of nervousness climbing up my spine at the question the guard had asked. “What does it mean?” I repeated.

“Rabu means divided, segregated master.”

“Segregated?” I repeated its words, my confusion growing. “Separating what? Separating uspecs by spectrum?”

“Separating uspecs by faction. It is the chasm master. Most ports now purely belong to one of the two factions. The chasm has grown so bad now that belonging to the wrong faction in the wrong port is a death sentence. The inter-port trail is different. It is run by the pious, and all places run by the pious must remain neutral, above the chasm. So, Rabu inns have the uspecs divided by factions. One faction stays on one side of the room and the other, on the other side.”

Neutral, above the chasm. There was something shockingly familiar about those words. And the state that Musa described, the one with people separated into two groups, reminded me a lot of the pits. A death sentence to belong to the wrong faction, I suddenly had a chilling feeling that I had seen this in action before. Like when I had arrived at that first docks and seen an uspec’s head cut off because it had answered the question, ‘Tiyoseriwosin?’ wrongly. “What are the factions?” I demanded, my voice now a whisper.

“Uspecipyte and Kuworyte.” Musa replied, its voice having lowered to match mine.

I cleared my throat, standing straighter, as if the act itself could force away the fear I felt. “What do they mean? What are these factions?” My voice had returned to the normal tone.

“Not now master.” Musa replied, looking around warily. “Not here.”

I nodded. “Very well. But if those inns are protected by the pious, as you say, then there is no harm in being part of either faction in there, now is there?”

“What faction would you choose?”

“Uspecipyte.” The word just came out. I did not know what it meant, but I remembered the song from the pits, the one that linked being irira with the ‘uspecipyte’ faction.

Musa’s lips twitched. “And what if you were to go into a Kuworyte port? The Rabu inns are divided, but each uspec in the room can see the others clearly. No one would dare kill on the inter-port trail, not when the pious are in charge of safety, but after we leave the trail. What happens if a Kuworyte sees you seated with the Uspecipytes, and you run into that uspec in a Kuworyte port? It’ll kill you master. It’ll kill you, and in this current climate, the kill would be justified.”

I nodded, acknowledging the wisdom in Musa’s words. “What if I refuse to claim a faction?”

“The only thing worse than belonging to the wrong faction, is not belonging to any faction at all. The pious themselves will kill you for that.”

I sighed. “So, what do we do?”

“We leave this place and go to a resting place instead. We don’t need other uspecs to test out your soaru tongue. We can just continue as we have been doing.”

“No.” I shook my head. Not only had I been looking forward to trying out my new knowledge with people who wouldn’t be so mindful of my skill set, I was salivating for a fresh meal. “I want the food, Musa. I need a break from your cooking.”

Musa inhaled sharply. “Well then, master, maybe you can try cooking from now on.” It replied, its tone sounding affronted.

I stared at the imp with a smile on my face. “I am not insulting your cooking Musa, you are quite good, with what you have. I’m just tired of dried fruits and dried meats. I want something fresh.” I turned away from the imp, to stare in the direction of the other inn. There were just two inns in each common area, I knew that from the thought drop I had taken. There was a market, which had been the first place we’d visited, a cleaning area, which we’d gone to next, and two inns. The second inn appeared to be free of any boards posted in front of it. “Why don’t we go there?” I tipped my head towards the other inn.

“Master, that inn is not Rabu.” Musa replied.

I nodded. “That is the point is it not?”

“It is more dangerous, master. Fights break out in inns like that all the time.”

“Perfect.” I said, my heart pounding at the thought of a fight. While it was true that I fought with Musa everyday, I was starting to miss the exhilaration of fighting with my fists. The sword-spars went a long way to suppress my desire for action, but a good inn fight? Now that was something I could get behind. It would be like the pits all over again.

“What is it?” I turned to the mumbling imp trudging along beside me.

“Nothing master, just don’t say you weren’t warned. Like in the inn on Lastmain, you remember that don’t you master? I had a bad feeling then too, and you remember what happened don’t you master? Fresh food is not worth the risk.”

“Well, seeing as I am master, and you are slave, I think I’ll decide what risks are worth taking.”

Musa just shook its head. “Of course you will master.”

I ignored it, choosing instead to increase my pace. Now that I was so close to the inn, I could almost taste the freshly baked pastries and the succulent fresh meals. I paid no attention to the imp shaking its head and muttering beside me.

I pushed the curtains aside, once we got to the inn, and walked in through the entrance. Unlike the last time I had walked into an inn, this time there was no silence to mark my entrance. The conversations continued. The inn was a lot larger than the last one I had been in, but unlike the last one, it had no stairs, no higher level but the one I stood in. There were a large number of tables in the room, and a variety of uspecs occupying them.

Walking along the trail, I had become used to the sight of several uspecs all from different spectrums. The pits had prepared me for that. In the pits the fighters had all been of different spectrums. I was the only fighter in the pits who’d had a tail. Now, there were more kute uspecs, with tails, but there were also uspecs with other features in the inn. There were boga uspecs who had iron spikes covering their chests and backs. The sight of the spikes reminded me of Fajahromo, the irira like me, the one that had forced me to procreate and then stolen my offspring from me, the one I tried hard not to think of. There were also mejo uspecs who had the horns on their heads. Those horns reminded me of my slum, of Junte, the friend who’d turned to my persecutor at the first sign of my neck scales. The horns also reminded me of Killman, the second upsec I had killed in the pits. My survey of the room also revealed a scattering of hooni uspecs, ones with scales on their necks, like the ones that I used the banneret neckcloth to hide. But as far as I could see, there were no soaru uspecs. Soaru uspecs had the tentacles which fell from their waists and extended to the floor like a skirt covering their legs. I acknowledged that it would be hardest to see those features while they sat, but from the quick study I had done, there were none in the room.

That defeated the purpose of coming to a common area to practice the soaru tongue with a soaru uspec. It was good that that wasn’t my only reason for coming here then, I thought with a smile on my face.

Only two tables were empty. One of those tables was at the back of the room, farthest from the entrance, the other was closer to the entrance. Previous experience in inns told me that it was smarter to stay closer to the exit. And so I walked towards the empty table by the curtains.

I sat on one bench, and Musa sat on the bench opposite mine. It looked nervously around the room, before its gaze came back to rest on my face. “There are no soarus here.” It stated. It spoke slowly now, as it shifted from the kute tongue to the soaru tongue.

I nodded. “Why soaru?” I asked, choosing to speak in the soaru tongue as Musa did.

“That is why we are here. We might as well practice it.” It replied. It spoke very slowly, and it was careful to use words that it knew I was familiar with. That was one of the many reasons why I wanted to listen to the conversation by native speakers. Ones that would not be so careful around me. But in their absence, I capitulated, accepting that this was as good a time as any to practice the tongue.

“There is no need to be so sour. We are here now, we might as well enjoy it.” I stated.

It wasn’t till I waited moments for a reply that did not come, that I thought to study Musa. It sat frozen, its gaze fixated on something behind me. I turned to the object of its stare and watched five pious ones walk into the room. They all had the same markings on the fraise around their necks. I could tell from the difficulty I was having with placing those markings, that they did not belong to one of the more common orders. As the pious ones walked by our table, I noticed that they all had tentacles, they were all of the soaru spectrum. The last pious one to walk by us, stopped beside our table and pointedly stared at Musa. With my side eye, I watched Musa move in on itself, shrinking back, away from the pious one’s gaze. I had never seen Musa that terrified.

I cleared my throat, annoyed at the pious one’s daring. Slowly, it took its gaze from Musa, and turned to face me. Its eyes moved from the silver neckcloth around my neck to the sheath covering my tail.

“Salutations banneret.” It greeted in the soaru tongue.

I was almost tempted to ignore it, but then I thought better of that course of action. Instead I nodded. “Salutations pious one.” I replied, grateful that the words, ‘pious’, and ‘one’, were the same in all tongues.

It cast one last withering look at my imp, before continuing on its way. Musa watched the pious one until it seated, and then it exhaled, but I could still sense its fear.

“What is it?” I demanded. “Why are you so scared?”

“They are yielders.” It whispered in reply. “Pious ones of the order of annihilation.”

Ah, I thought, finally understanding Musa’s fears. They were the ones who sapped imps, the ones who drained them of all the lifeforces they could take.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 5:28am On Jul 10, 2019
“Salutations banneret!” A buoyant voice called out from behind me. The voice spoke the soaru tongue. I turned around to find a soaru uspec with a belt around its waist and one golden band around each of its arms.

I bowed to the uspec. “Salutations noble one.” I replied.

“May I share your table?” it asked, pointing at the bench I sat on. I was just about to reply, when it proceeded to sit without waiting for a response. It sat comfortably and then turned to smile at me. I was suddenly filled with distrust, no good had ever come to me from an uspec who smiled. “It is good to hear the soaru tongue.” It said.

One glance at Musa, showed that it was not comfortable.

“I am happy to share my table noble one.” I replied.

“Very good.” It replied with the smile on its face. It wasn’t till that moment that I realized just how young the noble was. It turned its back to me, and I saw its scantily filled ailerons. It rose its skinny hand in the air, and a much bigger and much older looking uspec walked towards our table.

Musa’s level of discomfort doubled at the sight of the uspec. I could not blame the imp, this uspec did not look friendly. It also had one golden band on its arm. It sat on my table, and then proceeded to glare at me, as if I was the one intruding. I was almost tempted to punch the noble uspec in its face. While the younger noble sitting by me had only one of its outer eyes filled, the older one seated by Musa had three.

“I do not share tables with imps.” The older noble spat out. “Send it away.” It directed the order to the younger noble.

That one simply smiled. “Our banneret friend was gracious enough to share its table. Let us not make demands.” The younger one turned to smile and then nod at me. It then turned to Musa, and even smiled at the imp. It was a thing I had never seen done before.

The older noble’s scowl deepened. “Away!” it snapped at Musa.

Musa flinched. It jumped up, rose from its bench, and came over to stand behind me.

“This is my table.” I spat the words out through clenched teeth. “My imp eats with me.”

The older noble put its hand flat on the table making as if to push itself up. The younger one stretched out its hand to stop it. That one turned to me and chuckled. With a smile it said, “What you mean to say is, ‘my imp eats with me’, not ‘my imp and I ate’.”

“I am still learning the soaru tongue.” I spat out.

“I almost couldn’t tell. Very good banneret.” It praised.

The older noble started talking then. It spoke so quickly that I found it hard to keep up with its words. I could only catch phrases like, ‘made noble’, and ‘born noble’, and then ‘line tied to Kaisers’.

The younger noble simply laughed. It rose its hand again, cutting the older one off. “Forgive my friend,” it said, turning to face me, “it really is very particular about customs.” Then the younger noble changed to the kute tongue. “I am Tantan.” It said. “What is your name banneret?”

I glanced at the older noble, confused by the younger’s change in tongues.

“It does not speak the kute tongue.” It reassured me.

“Nebud.” I replied.

“I hale from Arusoaru. My progenitor was a banneret, a made noble, such as yourself. My friend is…how do I say this…entitled, angry, all of the above. Its line is descended from a made noble, but it was so long ago, they don’t even remember what position the made noble held. It thinks that it should wear two golden bands instead of one, and so it acts particularly crudely to those it considers beneath it. It would be safer for your imp, and yourself, if you did not anger it.”

I stared down my nose at the arrogant young uspec. “This is my table.”

“I agree. But the golden bands around our arms say that we outrank you.”

I moved to rise.

The young noble stopped me with its words. “Nebud, listen to reason, please. I will make it up to you, I will pay for your meal, and have your imp’s meal packed away in a box. My friend and I…we have business to finish. Once I am done, you will have your table back.”

“Please master.” Musa whispered imploringly. “Please listen to the noble.”

The younger noble turned again to smile at Musa. It nodded to the imp and turned back to face me. Reluctantly, I nodded. The noble smiled widely.

“All is settled.” It said, reverting back to the soaru tongue, as it turned to face the older noble.

“What did you say?” it demanded angrily.

I glared at the older noble.

“No respect!” it yelled, pointing at me. “Where do you hale from?” It asked. “What Kaiser gave you that neckcloth?”

Musa and I had already worked out an answer to this question, but I felt no need to share it with this ungrateful uspec. I simply stared at it.

“What side do you belong to?” Its voice rose as it continued its questions.

“This is not just unnecessary, it is discourteous.” The younger noble spoke placatingly to its friend. “I must insist that you stop it.”

“Answer me!” the older noble yelled.

“Stop!” the younger noble yelled back. “Don’t…”

“Tiyoseriwosin?” It demanded. “Tiyoseriwosin?!”

The younger noble sighed. It slumped back into its bench. “Don’t answer.” It said to me, speaking now in the kute tongue. As it spoke to me, it tapped its fingers on the table. I found that odd. “Forgive me Nebud, you were not supposed to be involved in this.”

After saying the perplexing words, the younger noble stopped tapping the table and lay its hand flat, its fingers spread out.

While my gaze was focused on the younger noble, my side eyes increased my field of view, and so I could see the glint of a cyan dagger appear from my right. All of the instincts I had gained in the pits had me turning to face the older noble, my heart pounding as I prepared for the assault.

Then my eyes widened. The cyan blade was not being wielded by the noble, it was against the noble’s neck. No one held this dagger. It moved of its own accord, tearing into the older noble’s flesh. The noble’s head dropped onto the table and a pool of blood came out of it. I watched, my mind completely boggled as an invisible finger wrote the words ‘Beware the wrath of Sada’ into the blood on the table and then drew two horizontal ellipses in the blood, under the words it had written.

My mind was still reeling from the sight of a dagger floating in the air and killing an uspec in front of me, when the younger noble that had been seated beside me disappeared. I heard the sound of an object hitting the floor right after the noble disappeared. I had seen uspecs and imps leave before, I had seen them teleport out of sight. But always, there had been quicksand underneath them, quicksand to pull them in and take them away. No quicksand had appeared underneath the noble one. It had simply vanished into thin air.

I heard voices begin to rise around the room, as focusses shifted from conversations to look at the dead uspec seated on my table.

“We should go master.” I heard Musa say. “We cannot be held responsible for taking life on the inter-port trail.” I heard the panic in its voice, even as my mind continued to reel, trying to make sense of everything which I had just seen.

The pious ones rose from the table they had taken at the back of the room and turned to stare at the dead uspec. It wasn’t till their gazes turned to me, that I agreed with the imp. I stood up, pushing my bench down in the process. Musa came around to stand in front of me. It bent down, righting the bench I had toppled, and then rose.

We walked to the curtains together, an awful sense of déjà vu filling me as we left. I was starting to think that inns were a source of bad luck for me.

“Wait there!” I heard a voice yell from behind me.

“Master?” Musa turned to stare at me.

I continued walking. I walked fast, not running, but walking fast enough that we would be close to the market in a few minutes if I kept up the pace.

“Banneret, in the name of the Order of Adjudication, I command you to halt.” A deep voice called out from behind. The voice sounded louder than was possible, as if it had somehow been amplified.

“What do we do master?” Musa’s voice was breathy. It panted as it ran, trying to keep up with me.

1 Like

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 7:52am On Jul 10, 2019
obehiD:


Nothing too bad, the imp just loses the magic, so it can no longer siphon from the dead uspec, and so it has no one to siphon from unless it finds another uspec willing to let it

Does it loose its sight as well
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 8:14am On Jul 10, 2019
Nebud, the stubborn idiot. I think I have heard the word Sada before. Was it in the last book? Like in the fourth existence? Pansophy happened in that inn. Possibly appearance and sapping. My thoughts, though.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 10:02am On Jul 10, 2019
This wan na case o
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 4:40pm On Jul 10, 2019
Know I feel like it is about to get funky again *smiling wickedly* waiting for the next episode obehid
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 1:55am On Jul 12, 2019
@popeshemoo So sight is a lifeforce that is given to the imps, it is not siphoned and so it does not depend on any uspec. So yeah, the imps keep their sight forever.

@tunjilomo Hahaha, real stubborn, lol. Yes, you have, nice catch! Sada was mentioned in the last book in reference to an imp and the fourth existence. But mainly in the fourth existence. You are so right about the pansophy shocked you got exactly what happened! Please borrow Nebud your understanding grin

@cassbeat lol

@Fazemood Yes, I'm smiling wickedly too...though I don't know how funky it will get though
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD3: 4:05am On Jul 13, 2019
Part 4
-------

I stared at Musa, and then I contemplated my options. They were simple, should I stop walking, or should I simply run away? Musa’s words rose in my head, reminding me of the consequences of shedding blood on the trail. Now that I knew the power of the pious, the power that pansophy gave them, how could I not fear them getting a hold of me? One look into my head and they would find out that I was irira, that I was an abomination they were sworn to kill.

Then I recalled my lessons on religion from the slums. The rules of the pious had been drilled into our heads. We had learned all the grave sins, we had learned that it was a grave sin to ignore a pious one’s command, especially when it was made in the name of an Order. My feet stopped, even as my head told them to move faster. I found that those lessons which had been drilled into me, made it impossible for me to ignore the call of the pious. I was suddenly starting to wish that I had listened to Musa and stayed away from the inn.

The pious ones caught up to us moments after we stopped walking. Five of them, with swords hanging from belts around their waists, surrounded us. As soon as my eyes glazed over the red fraises on their necks, I knew that they were arbiters, pious ones of the Order of Adjudication. A pious one with three outer eyes stood directly in front of me. The tip of the highest horn on its head was at the same level as my chin, and so I had to stare down at it. I glanced quickly over the other arbiters surrounding me, and found that they too were much shorter than I was. That brought comfort to me. It was a ludicrous reaction. I was outnumbered by uspecs with pansophy, and the few inches of extra height I had on them calmed me. Yet, though I knew my height would not be an advantage in a battle against them, I accepted the comfort, grateful that it held the fear at bay.

The arbiter standing in front of me inclined its head backwards, and then it stretched out its hand in the direction of the inn we had just left. It did not have to speak to pass on its message. I simply turned around and walked back towards the inn.

Uspecs now stood on the short trail leading to the inn. They stared at us as we walked by them, their eyebrows raised in question. I made out a few noble ones standing apart in the crowd, their golden armbands glittering in the orange-red light. Whispers drifted towards us from the crowd of onlookers. I tried to imagine what they would say. I guessed they would be wondering what crime we had committed, probably taking bets on what the punishment would be. If there was one thing the Order of Adjudication was known for, it was their swiftness in getting to the bottom of things and dispensing appropriate punishments.

We reached the inn then.

One of the arbiters walked through first and held the curtain back for me to walk through after it. There was something slightly puzzling about that gesture of respect. My shock only increased as the arbiter bowed its head slightly as I walked past it.

“Wait there banneret.” Another arbiter stated. The words were spoken in the kute tongue, but they had a foreign tang to them, making the words sound strange, and almost indecipherable.

I nodded to the pious one, and walked back towards the table it had gestured to. It was the table to the left of the one I had been sitting on, the one with the dead uspec, whose head still lay in a pool of its blood. The uspec had died with its eyes open, and so as I sat on the bench beside the table, I could not help peering into those lifeless orbs. As if spurred by the eyes I stared at, my mind went back to the events which had preceded its death. I thought of the uspec who had sat next to me, the noble one who’d come to my table because it had heard me speaking the soaru tongue. Where had that uspec gone? And how did a dagger kill an uspec? I had seen strange things, but I had never seen a blade move in the air without a hand to guide it. Was it some sort of pansophy? My mind reeled with questions.

Bits of soaru words floated into my mind, breaking my fixation on the dead uspec, and pulling my attention to the other side of the room.

I noticed then that there were at least twenty pious ones in the room, about fifteen of them appeared to be arbiters. I couldn’t help wondering where these pious ones had come from. Had they been there when we walked in? I noticed the group of yielders who’d been in the inn at the time of the murder. They were the ones speaking soaru in hushed tones. I tried to listen in on their conversation, but the only word I could pick up was ‘plenum’. Plenum? What did the plenum have to do with this?

Time passed in a haze as one after the other, the uspecs who had witnessed the murder were questioned. The arbiters asked the questions of the others who had been in the inn at the time. They were scattered all around the room, listening to depictions of the murder told in different tongues. I watched as the uspecs, after recounting all they could, were permitted to leave. The room thinned until the only people left were the yielders who had been sitting at the back of the room, the arbiters, and myself and Musa.

The yielders walked towards the front of the room then. They all had the tentacles of uspecs of the soaru spectrum. They were tentacles which the dead noble also had. Only a handful of the arbiters had those tentacles. I noted that the majority of the arbiters in the room had iron spikes jutting out of their chests and backs.

“The body?” a yielder asked in soaru.

“Will remain until all accounts are taken.” An arbiter replied.

I was suddenly grateful for the saoru tongue which I had spent the last two months learning. I was just beginning to praise what I believed to be an ‘expert’ knowledge of the tongue, when the yielders began arguing with the arbiters. Now, they spoke so quickly and with such a thick accent that I completely gave up on trying to keep up with the conversation.

I did not know how long the argument in soaru lasted, but it ended when a new pious one walked into the room. The first thing I noted about the pious one was the cyan ring on its finger. It took me back to the day in the pits when I had been sent to kill a member of the plenum for Fajahromo. I remembered the cyan rings which they’d worn, and I remembered the pious ones who’d worn the ring. This pious one did not look particularly familiar, but I had not gotten a good enough look at any of the pious ones that day to be able to tell if it had been among them. The pious one had all of its eyes filled. It walked with an air of command, and so I wasn’t surprised when the arguing uspecs stopped speaking, turning instead to bow at the newcomer.

“Magistrate.” One of the arbiters called out in greeting.

Magistrate, the word echoed in my head. I had never seen a magistrate before. The magistrate’s eyes scanned the room and stopped to stare at me. At that moment, I wished I knew more about etiquette. As a noble, did I outrank a magistrate, or did the magistrate outrank me? I decided that a magistrate had to outrank a banneret, so I stood and bowed to the magistrate. “Salutations most pious one.” I greeted in the soaru tongue, before straightening.

The magistrate nodded. “Salutations banneret.” It replied in the kute tongue. “Please, sit.” It said, gesturing back towards the bench.

I sat.

The magistrate’s gaze went to Musa, and I was suddenly very aware of its presence standing beside me.

“The imp?” the magistrate asked, its gaze now turned back to the arbiters.

“Belongs to the banneret sirga.”

“And it is here because?”

“It was here during the murder sirga.”

The magistrate made a sound which I could not quite decipher, before walking to stand by the table with the dead noble. “Reynard.” The magistrate said.

“Yes sirga.” One of the yielders replied. “We were to meet with it. It said it had business to discuss before meeting us.”

“It’s patron will not be pleased.” The magistrate turned to stare at me. “What was the purpose of your meeting?” it demanded.

I shook my head. “The meeting was not with me.”

“Who then?” it barked the question out.

I shrugged. “Another noble. My table was the least occupied and so it asked to share it.” So far I had managed to keep my voice calm. I was not shaking. I even tried to stare down at the magistrate a little, as I expected any other noble would.

“Did you know this other noble?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Then why did it choose your table?”

“It said it was drawn to the saoru tongue I spoke.”

“I see.” The magistrate’s eyes narrowed. It was a most memorable event, the sight of a magistrate staring down at me with all seven of its eyes narrowed. “And do you often make a point of speaking to yourself?”

“What?”

“You said it was drawn to the soaru tongue you spoke! But that is a lie, isn’t it? Weren’t you in fact in league with the noble? Were you not friends? Did you not plan this murder together?”

I stared straight into the magistrate’s narrowed eyes and said, “No. I was speaking the soaru tongue with my imp. The noble heard us and it came to sit at my table. I have never seen either of the nobles before today.”

The magistrate’s jaw clenched. It took a step towards me, then it stretched out its hand. Musa fidgeted beside me. I found that fidgeting strange. It had been standing still, trying desperately, I assumed, to make its presence forgotten. Now it fidgeted. The magistrate’s hand was almost on my shoulder before I realized what Musa was doing. I jumped to my feet immediately, and stared down at the magistrate.

“Please do not touch me.” I stated calmly.

The magistrate smirked. “You are innocent, are you not?”

“Yes I am.”

“Then you will not mind me seeing for myself, now would you?”

“I mind. I am a banneret, do not think that you can play me for a fool. You have no right to search through my mind.” I said the words with all the confidence I could muster, all the while hoping that they were true. I was alone, the only none pious in a room filled with pious ones. I had no idea what they could or could not do by law.

It happened in a flash.

For a moment after I’d spoken back to the magistrate, it simply stared at me. I’d taken advantage of my height then, and remained standing so that the magistrate would be forced to stare up at me. Seconds ticked away in which we did nothing but hold each other’s gaze. Then it lashed out with its hand.

And grabbed a hold of Musa’s shoulder.

Musa dropped to its knees.

I took one step towards my imp in the magistrate’s hand, and was suddenly stopped by swords crossed in front of me, halting my progress. I just barely remembered what Musa had said about the pious making weapons out of pansophic metals, before I made the foolish mistake of putting my hands on their blades. Luckily, I recalled the words in time and kept myself as far away from those swords as I could.

“That is my slave.” I spat the words out through clenched teeth.

“All imps are subject to the pious.” An arbiter replied. “If you have nothing to hide banneret, then the magistrate will find nothing wanting in your slave’s mind.”

I had to fight the urge to place my hand on the hilt of my cutlass. I knew that the moment I did that, the pious ones will become aware of my intentions to fight and they would prepare to fight back. I just had to be fast, I had to wait till the exact moment when the magistrate would give the order to kill me, and then I would strike out. I thought about Musa and all the secrets it held in its mind. My secrets, the truth of who I was. The secrets of my ancestors. Even the secret of itself as a formerly trained pious slave.

I sighed, resigning myself to the fight that was soon to come.

Looking around the room, I counted twenty-one of them, including the magistrate. I had never fought against that many uspecs. And they had spectra, I reminded myself. I had spectra too, but by the eyes on their faces, I knew that they had more magic than I did. I had emotions; the thought rose in my head. But I had to have anger to transfer to them. I needed anger and pain, and enough of it to make a difference.

The magistrate took its hand off Musa and then it turned to face me. I stared at Musa, wishing for the connection which we had felt in the past, the one which allowed us to read into each other’s heads at odd moments. Musa did not turn to stare at me, it just remained as it was, kneeling with the back of its head to me. Only the magistrate’s eyes were on me. I wondered what he was waiting for.

“What is your epic banneret?” the magistrate asked.

This was the question. The one that Musa and I had hammered over. I had learnt it first in kute and then memorized it in soaru. It was the soaru version I said then, as our conversation thus far had been in the saoru tongue. “I hale from the forgotten kingdom of Murekute. I was born a commoner and enlisted in the port guard at the age of twelve. When I was twenty the Kaiser held a competition for all its guards. It was a pugilistic bout, and the reward for winning was the honor of guarding the mighty one. I served the Kaiser for the next five years. Early this year, when the war between Murekute and Mugakute reached its peak, the Kaiser taxed me with coming here, to Hakute to ask for aid from the Kaiser of this port. It made me banneret as a reward for my service and sent me on my way. I learnt as soon as I reached Hakute that Mugakute won the war, and annexed my port, making it a forgotten kingdom.”

The magistrate remained silent long after I was done speaking. It searched me with its eyes as if by watching me, it could make me slip up in my tale and confess the truth of my crime. I stared back at it, unflinching.

“That is not quite how your imp recalls it.” The magistrate stated, each word coming out of its mouth in a slow drawl.

I remained silent, every bit of control I had directed towards keeping myself calm. My heart pounded, as the magistrate continued to stare at me. The other pious ones were beginning to sense that something was wrong too. I watched the arbiters, the ones with swords on their belts, grip the hilts of those swords firmly, as if preparing to pull them out at the magistrate’s say.

The magistrate cleared its throat.

Then it smiled.

“Your imp’s mind is filled with tales of heroic measures and many injuries sustained serving your Kaiser. It even has you beating giants double your size during your pugilistic bouts.” It bowed slightly to me then.

It took a while for me to hear the magistrate’s words through the pounding in my ears. Then, I spent even more time trying to decipher them. I did not know how it was possible, but according to the magistrate, Musa’s mind did not reveal anything incriminating. How?

I forced a smile onto my face and bowed back to the magistrate.

It turned around. I exhaled in relief as the magistrate walked towards the curtain. A smile formed on my face as I realized that the worst was now finally behind me.

Then the magistrate stopped with its hand on the curtain. “Oh,” it said, turning back around to face me.

I knew then that its words before had been part of a performance to make me drop my guard. How could I have been so stupid as to think that it hadn’t seen the truth in Musa’s head? It was obvious from the way the magistrate stared at me now, that it knew. It knew, and it was about to give the order to have me killed.

“Did you get any details from the noble who came to sit at your table? Did it tell you its name or where it haled from, or where it was going? Any information you give us could be very helpful in finding it.”

My heart was still pounding when I shook my head. “All it said to me was that it had business to conduct with the other noble.”

The magistrate nodded. “Gratitude.” It said, before walking out of the inn.

My vision blurred after the magistrate left. I had seen my death happen so many times, and in so many different ways, that I could not believe that the magistrate had not seen it too. I was so relieved, I almost collapsed against the table. The only thing that kept me standing straight, was the knowledge that the other pious ones in the room still watched.

“You are free to go banneret.” An arbiter said. “Gratitude banneret.”

Somehow, I managed to make my legs move. I walked out of the inn. The light was pure red now, a sign that the day had past, and it was night. I had never been more grateful to see the clouds’ light. Musa and I walked together in silence. We walked through the markets with the sellers still out hawking their wares. We walked out, back onto the inter-port trail, and still we remained silent.

Neither of us spoke in the hour that it took us to find the nearest resting place, and then put a form card into the sludge and have the dwelling erect around us. It wasn’t till the dwelling was built, that I exhaled loudly.

Musa turned to smile at me.

“How?” I asked it. “How did the magistrate not see the truth in your mind?”

“The first thing we learn in pansophy is to manipulate our internal lifeforces. It was easy to hide the thoughts and memories I did not want it to see, and fill my head with the ones I wanted. I have been doing this for a long-time master, too long for an uspec to best me at it.”

I laughed. Musa joined me, and we just laughed. We stood there, an imp and an uspec, bent over, laughing.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD3: 4:05am On Jul 13, 2019
Part 5
-------

“Have you really never heard of the chasm master?” Musa asked, breaking the silence which had permeated the room, clinging to the air like a foul smell.

The moment we’d reached the relative safety of the dwelling, having escaped from the pious ones with our secrets and lives in tact, we had burst into laughter. The joy, arriving on the heel of the roller coaster of emotions which had washed through my body as I underwent the magistrate’s inquisition, burst out of me. It was uncontrollable, an insane reaction to the events of the day. But it was the only reaction my frazzled mind had deemed appropriate.

And so the laughter fizzled out of me. I laughed despite the lack of hilarity in the danger we had faced, and found that I could do nothing but laugh. As soon as the laughter ended though, I was made aware of just how close I had come to losing my life. The questions sprung up in my mind then, filling my head with their alarming implications. The laughter died, and the room was filled with silence. That silence, the one which followed the prolonged term of deranged laughter, became poignant. It stood out in stark contrast to the riot in my head, the clamor of unanswered questions clashing against themselves. What if the magistrate had had intimate knowledge of Murakute? What if any of the arbiters had demanded I take off my neckcloth? What if I had accidentally brushed against any of the pansophic metal in the weapons the arbiters brandished? What if it was my mind, not Musa’s, which the magistrate had insisted on checking?

I watched as Musa’s countenance changed, its mirth as dead as mine had become. Its brows furrowed as it stared aimlessly into the room. Then, it took down the sack bags it carried and began to prepare our meal. Its features calmed as it performed the mundane tasks. It brought out the wooden bowls we ate from and placed them on the table. Then it went outside, and moments later, I heard the sound of liquid falling. I knew then that it had gone to the faucet to fill the shallow okun pond. With each trivial act it performed, I saw it calm, and I envied that calm. I found myself watching the imp, for no other reason than that forcing my mind to follow the imp, kept it from bugging me with questions which I preferred not to consider.

And so Musa had made the preparations for the evening meal and I had watched it. When we sat to eat, I devoured the simple meal, never once thinking to complain about its austerity. Gone where the desires for fresh meat and aromatic pastries. I decided then that the inns where too dangerous to risk going into. We would not go back to those inns. No. We would go to the market to restock on the necessities, and we would go to the pond for cleaning, but not to the inns. Not anymore.

I had just made this decision, when Musa spoke up, its voice sounding loud and potent as it dispelled the heavy silence which had followed the raucous of our crazy laughter.

“Have you really never heard of the chasm master?”

I shook my head and then stared straight down at the imp. “I heard bits and pieces of it in the pits. Pious ones mentioned it offhand in conversations. Another fighter asked me that question.” I trailed off.

“Tiyoseriwosin?” Musa provided.

I nodded. “I do not understand what happened in the inn. I mean, was the uspec,” I searched my head for the name, “Tantan. Was it in on it? Had it planned to kill the other noble the whole time? Why did it choose that moment? And the things it said just before…” I shook my head, not sure that any of this was worth bringing up again.

“Why did you not tell the noble’s name?”

“What?” I asked.

“When the magistrate asked if you knew its name, or anything to help find it, you said you didn’t.”

“Did I?” I thought back on it. I had, hadn’t I? “I suppose I just did not want to give the magistrate any reason to stay longer.”

Musa nodded in understanding, as if it too had shared those same sentiments. “Maybe the noble was trying to protect you.”

“What?”

“You asked why the noble chose that moment, maybe it did not want you to have to answer the question. In the Rabu inn, the uspecs are already separated by factions and so it is pointless, but in a non-segregated inn, the question is valid. It is a question that demands an answer. Once it is asked master, everything stops until an answer is given.”

“Who would have cared how I answered?”

“You never know when the wrong answer to that question could come back to haunt you master.”

I sighed. Pushing the bowl aside, I steepled my hands together and stared at Musa, a clear sign that I was done with my meal and I meant to talk. “Well, tell me, what does all of this mean.”

“All of what master?”

“All of this. The question, the chasm. What is it? Why is it so important? Why does everyone care about the answer to that one question?” I demanded, suddenly angry about all the information that I did not have. I couldn’t help wondering why tales of this hadn’t reached the slums. The passing traders had told as many stories as they could. They talked and talked, sharing tales, and giving enlightenment. They told epics of bannerets, of adherents, of halcyons. They talked about what ports were fighting and which one was most likely to lose. They brought information of ports so far away, we cared nothing of them, but of the ghastly tales spread of death and the victories of war. When the traders talked about the forgotten kingdoms, ports which had been defeated in battle and had then been annexed into another, we devoured the story, gobbling it up as if it was life-sustaining. Why not talks of uspecs being slaughtered on the streets for giving the wrong answer to a question? Why not of a chasm which the entire world seemed to know of?

“To explain the chasm, master, we must go back to the creation, to the start. Everything began with the Kuwor. At a point, the Kuwor was the world, it was existence, it was life, intangible yet ubiquitous. It was all that was. Then, from itself, the Kuwor created the four Chu. At their inception they were close…”

“I know the creation story.” I said, cutting the imp off. Somehow, hearing the imp repeat the tale which the traders had told, grated on my nerves. I may not have been educated, but I was at least not that ignorant.

Musa nodded. “Of course master, I did not mean to imply that you did not. Well then, as you know, the four Chu eventually separated, and each created their own sphere of existence, separate from the others. Chuspecip founded the spectral existence. It took on the form of what it named ‘uspec’ pulling the name from its own. Then, using the language of the Kuwor, it created more uspecs. These uspecs eventually came to think of Chuspecip as a progenitor of sorts. They honored Chuspecip as their creator, and worshiped the Kuwor, as god, the driving force through which all things exist. As generations after generations of uspecs came to be, the distance between Chuspecip and the regular uspec grew, and the Kuwor morphed into an idea, and Chuspecip became god. These uspecs who worshipped Chuspecip as god, named themselves, ‘Uspecipytes’. But there were still others of the old faith, the ones that clung to the idea of Chuspecip as progenitor, and the Kuwor as god. Those uspecs named themselves ‘Kuworytes’. At the time though, the nomenclature did not matter, as all were united in the following of the founder, Chuspecip. It did not matter if it was ‘god’ or merely ‘progenitor’, all followed it, all bowed to its wisdom. And when the pious proclaimed that it was Chuspecip’s will that irira must die, all obeyed, all bowed to the wisdom of the founder.

Then the idea of the plenum began to grow.

I do not know how it started, how the idea of such a group came to be, but by the time the existence of the plenum became known, it was already an established group, a force plotting to wrest control of the spectral existence from the founder Chuspecip. You see, as time continued, and more and more generations of uspecs came to be, the distance between Chuspecip and the regular uspec heightened, transcending Chuspecip from ‘god’ to the higher status which the Kuwor had filled, the role of an idea, the being which no one had ever seen. To grow to the position they wanted, the plenum had to shatter that idea, they had to bring Chuspecip down to the level of uspec. They had to show that it was green just like every other uspec. That it had form, like every other, and that it could be killed, just like every other.

Somehow, the plenum found a way to shatter the ideal of Chuspecip. You see, what no one had ever known, was that Chuspecip, the founder, the Lord which had forbidden crossbreeding between spectrums, was itself a crossbreed. Chuspecip was irira.”

I gasped, my mind reeling with the implications. “But if Chuspecip is irira then…”

“Then by its own law, it was an abomination, it deserved to die. And somehow, little by little, the plenum began to chip away at it. Before it was known that Chuspecip was irira, the Uspecipyte faction dominated the Kuworyte. But as soon as the truth was revealed, Kuworytes began to dominate the Uspecipytes. The plenum pushed all their support behind the worship of the Kuwor, which according to them, had always been god. And Chuspecip, well, Chuspecip had always been an uspec, just an uspec. One with the same failings and shortcomings as any other. The only reason it had risen so high above its kind was because it was given the gift of immortality. According to the plenum, it was a gift which all uspecs could receive if Chuspecip were willing to share the language of the Kuwor.

And by their words, the plenum turned Chuspecip into a traitor, a lie, and an abomination. They made uspecs think of it as greedy, as selfish, as weak. Then, one day, the plenum revealed that they were close to killing Chuspecip. They claimed that the truth of their words would be revealed when immortality was granted to all uspecs. When uspecs tried to worship the plenum as the new gods, they refused, saying that unlike Chuspecip, they were aware of their status as uspec, and had no designs to raise themselves to god. They said the Kuwor was god.

Before this time, tales of wars between ports were few, and tales of victorious ports annexing the loser, even fewer. But then suddenly, ports begun to fight over what god they believed in. Being Uspecipyte became linked with being irira, and uspecs would fight to the death over insults of faith. Uspecipytes cried out for Chuspecip, and the plenum pointed out that if Chuspecip were really a god, it would come out and deliver its worshippers from death. The plenum said that Chuspecip was a coward, that it was hiding, and leaving its people to suffer. The more the plenum insulted Chuspecip, the more the fighting continued between the Uspecipytes and the Kuworytes, and the more the chasm grew.

Now ports fight over the faith. They orchestrate a ‘cleansing’ to make sure that every uspec in the port has the same answer to the question ‘Tiyoseriwosin’. If the Kaiser of a port declares itself as Kuworyte, it secretly accepts the authority of the plenum, and is able to keep its port. If a Kaiser declares itself as Uspecipyte, it becomes a target. The number of Uspecipyte ports are growing fewer by the day, as the chasm continues to spread.”

“The Kaiser of Lahooni was Uspecipyte wasn’t it?” I asked, suddenly feeling sick.

Musa nodded. “Master Calam was not deep into its faith. But its ancestors had always been firmly tied to Chuspecip. Lahooni was the strongest Uspecipyte port, and in the early days of the chasm, it was able to lend aid to other Uspecipyte ports under attack. My master was a thorn in the plenum’s side. They wanted Lahooni for its wealth and resources. And when master Calam claimed an irira as its heir…that was the last straw. The death of the Uspecipyte Kaiser of Lahooni marked a turning point in the war. That was when the rumors of Chuspecip’s death began to spread. When the chasm grew to astronomical heights. In the years that have followed, hundreds of Uspecipyte ports have become forgotten kingdoms.”

“Why?” I asked, spitting the question out through clenched teeth. “What does it matter what you answer when asked a question? Why do people not lie if it will save their lives?”

“It is not safe master. I have heard stories of uspecs who only whispered that they were Kuworyte in Kuworyte ports, but once they tried to claim something else in Uspecipyte ports, they were killed. No one knows how the Uspecipyte ports knew. Some say that there is a database, that somewhere names are being matched with answers, and that once an uspec gives an answer, that answer is forever linked to the uspec. Even though Kuworytes make up the majority, Uspecipyte ports still have some influence. Uspecipyte ports are now even more ruthless than Kuworyte ones. A hesitation in answering the question in an Uspecipyte port would get an uspec killed. Those ports are the ones being persecuted, they survive by being merciless and by keeping Kuworytes out.”

“And the Uspecipyte Kaisers will not bend?”

“Would you master? If your ancestry was Uspecipyte, if you had grown up on stories of how your ancestors dined with Chuspecip and swore unending fealty to it, would you so easily discard your heritage? Besides, it has grown to more than that. Kaisers can no longer just say that they are Kuworyte to survive, they must bow to the plenum, to Kaisers like them, and cleanse their ports, killing any of their own people who do not forsake Chuspecip. If you were an Uspecipyte Kaiser, what would you do? Would you give your port over to the plenum? Ports have been ruled independently since the inception of the spectral existence. The position of Kaiser was a gift bestowed by Chuspecip, and once given, the Kaiser was left in sole charge of that port. Would you, after generations of owning a port, hand the control of it over to another? Kaisers are used to being the final say in their port. There is no higher authority in a port than the Kaiser, but if the plenum succeeds, they will become the higher authority. All Kaisers would have to answer to them.”

My first thought, once the shock waned, was that they were all fools. Perhaps I had never truly been as religious as I thought, but I could not imagine a time when I would have killed over it. I would kill to save my life. I would kill to end an annoyance. But why would I kill because of an answer to a question? It still made no sense to me. None of it. Until I thought of the Kaisers. Until I thought of the plenum. The plenum I understood. I wished that I did not understand them, but my knowledge of Fajahromo ensured that I would always understand the depths that one would sink to in search of power. Fajarhomo had killed its own siblings for power, why then would the plenum not start a war which could wipe out numerous unknown uspecs for the same thing? And the Kaisers who killed to protect their ports? I understood them too, too well maybe. In fact, knowing now what I knew, I wanted to have the resources to kill the plenum. I wanted to end the life of every Kaiser in the plenum, for the sire that I had lost, and for the progenitor that had been poisoned in the hatch. Yet, I could not understand how the plenum had been able to manipulate events to get to this point. How did ordinary Kaisers go up against Chuspecip and win? “So, Chuspecip is dead?” I asked.

Musa shrugged, and then it shook its head slowly. “I don’t know master, no one does.”

It had to be dead, I decided then. If it wasn’t dead, then it wasn’t worthy of the faith which the Uspecipytes clung to. A god that couldn’t save its own people was no god worth fighting for. But then I thought back to the politics, the Kaisers clinging to the Uspecipyte name as a mark of their independence from the plenum. Was that all the faith they claimed was then, a mask behind which political games were played? One side using the faith to build power, the other side using the faith to keep it.

I sighed. “And, so, Tiyoseriwosin?”

“Translates directly to ‘who do you serve?’. And the answers Kuworyte, ‘I serve the Kuwor’, or Uspecipyte, ‘I serve Chuspecip’.”

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 4:07pm On Jul 13, 2019
Tiyowoserin


Me: obehidspecip

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 8:19pm On Jul 13, 2019
Finally we get to know the meaning of tiyoseriwosin. That question have been on my mind for like since the beginning.

These uspecs are like humans using religion as reason to murder and conquer. It is foolish as even the gods don't come out to proof themselves gods.

Musa is really an old experienced imp and master of knowledge.

Now if I may ask, was musa the imp who attacked Osazele in the other story? I ask because it seems like it will be a special imp after all the sacrifices it has done for it's master Nebud.
I am waiting to see how the story goes, it has so far been more explanatory.

Obehid, your imagination goes beyond normal. Always amazed by the power in your mind.

Thanks for the update
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Dathypebruv(m): 8:20pm On Jul 13, 2019
This is my mind being crazy,you fucking with us ObehiD shocked[color=#000000][/color]
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 9:21pm On Jul 13, 2019
Fazemood:
Finally we get to know the meaning of tiyoseriwosin. That question have been on my mind for like since the beginning.

These uspecs are like humans using religion as reason to murder and conquer. It is foolish as even the gods don't come out to proof themselves gods.

Musa is really an old experienced imp and master of knowledge.

Now if I may ask, was musa the imp who attacked Osazele in the other story? I ask because it seems like it will be a special imp after all the sacrifices it has done for it's master Nebud.
I am waiting to see how the story goes, it has so far been more explanatory.

Obehid, your imagination goes beyond normal. Always amazed by the power in your mind.

Thanks for the update
Nah..
I don't think that was musa.. There is no way osazele would have beaten musa in close quarters combat .
She mentioned one of osazele's classmates , a girl if I am not mistaking that was killed during Ashanti's attack in the school . that should be the imp

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by ayshow6102(m): 12:41am On Jul 14, 2019
Op you are the best it took me six hours of reading to meet up with you guys please update us soon and please can u post the links to the other series of marked so that I can Read the other stories or you can send the pdf to my mail at socket6102@gmail.com love you very much please keep the tempo going
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by decoderdgenius(m): 12:05pm On Jul 14, 2019
Nice... : grin
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 12:26pm On Jul 14, 2019
popeshemoo:

Nah..
I don't think that was musa.. There is no way osazele would have beaten musa in close quarters combat .
She mentioned one of osazele's classmates , a girl if I am not mistaking that was killed during Ashanti's attack in the school . that should be the imp
Yeah you are absolutely right. That imp was a female and osazele would never have matched up to Musa.

If not Musa, then whose imp was it? sad lipsrsealed
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:51am On Jul 15, 2019
@popeshemoo Lol, I'm blushing here grin

@Fazemood Thank you cheesy. yeah, so you and popeshemoo are right, Osezele could not kill Musa in a fight with her skill set. It was actually one of the St. Luke's students that died in the Awakening, with the commune magic. So, the In between ended with the twins saying that they are going to confront Nebud about the imp. But we haven't seen the imp yet in Nebud's life. You have to remember that this story is the story of how Nebud came to be what it is. Right now we're still in the past, nowhere near the time that the other Marked books are based in. But we may or may not see that imp Osezele fought in this book (no spoilers wink)

@Dathypebruv hahaha, that is too funny. I haven't even started messing with your mind yet wink

@popeshemoo and Fazemood yes! It was the girl in Osezele's class that was killed during the attack. Exactly!

@ayshow6102 I'm so happy you caught up. Six hours to read the whole thing? shocked Nice!!! So, I try to keep the updates regular at two updates per week. One chapter on Wednesday and the other on Saturday (both in the morning). You can read the first book set in the Marked Universe (Crimson Night) on okadabooks for free. The link is: https://okadabooks.com/book/about/Crimson_Night/25954. However, the other books in the series are not yet available. I've started the process of getting the series published, so I had to take down the last two books which I'd posted previously. I'm afraid you won't be able to read those ones until they're published. Soooo, glad that you're enjoying reading this.

@decoderdgenius thank you smiley
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by phoenixchap: 1:42pm On Jul 15, 2019
This my ObehiD u keep getting better with time like fine wine... The Chasm was a nicely crafted piece and see how u unraveled it, good job why do I get the feeling that this Nebud will really be a big trouble in the write up, I hope Katsaoura does it for him
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:01am On Jul 17, 2019
phoenixchap:
This my ObehiD u keep getting better with time like fine wine... The Chasm was a nicely crafted piece and see how u unraveled it, good job why do I get the feeling that this Nebud will really be a big trouble in the write up, I hope Katsaoura does it for him

Thank you so much!!! I'm happy you're enjoying it like fine wine wink.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:01am On Jul 17, 2019
Part 6
--------

Pictures floated in my mind as I pondered on the tale of the annexation of Aboga, another Uspecipyte port which had been turned into a forgotten kingdom by a Kuworyte port. There were still portions of the story that I found troubling. The tome which I’d read had been written by a halcyon serving the conquering Kuworyte port. It had read more like fiction than fact. There were a number of battle feats the halcyon claimed glory for, which were just impossible. Like the second battle in the tome which had been fought in the main hamlet of the last burg of the second metropolis. The halcyon claimed that it led a troop of thirty green uspecs surrounded by fog with liquid suspended in it, a flow fog. Not just that, the halcyon also claimed that there were three hundred well-seasoned Aboga fighters on the other side of the flow fog. Yet somehow, this halcyon had managed to cross a flow fog and defeat the three hundred expert fighters with its thirty raw recruits.

What rubbish! The flow fog were to boga spectrums what the lit okun was to the kute. It was the origination point for the frosted beasts, and like the lit okun, it was lethal to walk into. Yet this halcyon, a noble whose position was bought not earned, one who had never fought a day in its life before the wars in Aboga, claimed that it had walked into a flow fog and survived. Now, I had walked into a lit okun, and so I knew that it was possible to survive it, but the lit okun, like a flow fog, was selective. In all my readings, there had never been a case where a group walked in and all walked out alive. Yet this halcyon had somehow managed it. Not just that, but without any superior military tactics, it claimed to have killed three hundred expert warriors, fighting in their own terrain, with only thirty soldiers, all as green as the halcyon who commanded them. And people believed this?

A creaking sound pulled me out of my silent ruminations. I lay still, unmoving in my bed, my eyes shut as they were before I heard the sound. I waited, listening to see if I had just imagined the sounds I had heard. The creaking sound was followed by a shuffling sound, as if something was being dragged across a surface…or out of a closet. As soon as I realized that I was not alone in my room, I stretched out my hand for the dagger which I had taken to sleeping with.

I sat up, opened my eyes, and threw the dagger towards the open cupboard, all at the same time.

I hadn’t stopped to look at the target of my dagger, if not, I would have noticed my satchel bag floating in mid-air. I frowned, my confused gaze locked on the bag which now appeared to be hanging unsupported in the air, and the dagger which also seemed to be floating in the air. I blinked, wondering all of a sudden if I was imagining what I was seeing.

Seconds ticked by in which nothing happened. The cupboard door remained slightly parted, the bag rested in the air, and the dagger remained as it was, hovering in the air.

Then, with a loud clang, the dagger fell onto the floor. The strap of the satchel bag lifted up, all by itself, and then hung, as if from a support. Then the bag began moving, away from the cupboard, to the center of the room, and then towards the door.

My confusion grew, as my mind struggled to provide explanations for what I had seen.

Then the answer hit me at once. Pansophy, I thought, jumping off my bed. I pulled the cyan cutlass out of the sheath in the belt which hung from a post in the bed, and ran towards the cupboard, where the dagger was. I picked up the dagger, a cyan marvel which I had acquired four months into our travel in the trail, and ran out of my room.

“Master?” Musa called out, running out of its room. The four tier dwellings had so many rooms that I saw no need to share one with the imp. But it always slept in the room closest to mine. “What is it master?” it asked, blinking repeatedly, as if trying to get its bearing. A quick glance in its direction was enough to tell me that the imp had just woken up. Unlike me, it’d had no difficulties falling asleep.

“A thief.” I replied, whispering as I ran towards the entrance. These dwelling were like mazes of identical rooms. It had taken a whole week of sleeping in identical ones, before I was able to get to the entrance to the dwelling, from my room, in one try. With any luck, the thief would have just as much difficulty as I used to.

I got to the entrance, just in time to see my satchel bag moving in the air, by the wall. I could see the bag scraping against the wall, but I could not hear it. The thief must have taken the bag’s sound then, making any noise it would normally make inaudible.

With my left hand, I threw my dagger at the wall, aiming for the thief’s arm. A sharp intake of breath told me that I had hit my target. I grinned, running towards it. The dagger was stuck to a spot in the wall, by the bag. I assumed that was where the thief’s hand was, but as the thief was without its appearance, I could not tell exactly. A thief with pansophy. I contemplated that as I rushed to a stop in front of the wall.

I got there just in time to see the dagger being pulled out of the wall. I heard nothing coming from the thief and wondered if that was because it was enduring the pain, or because it had decided to transfer its sound from its vocal cords to another part of its body. I did not spend to much time contemplating the cause of the imp’s muteness. I struck out with my cutlass, aiming the sharp end right above the highest point of the bag strap. If the strap was hanging from the invisible thief’s shoulder, which from the way the bag rested in the air, I assumed it was, then, my target was the thief’s neck. I put a bit of force into the swinging blade. It was enough to make sure that the blade got into the thief’s neck, but not enough to cut the head clean off the shoulders. I wanted to see the thief before I killed it.

I knew that my cutlass had struck true, when the thief let out a pained cry. The dagger was no longer moving. Instead, I felt resistance on the cutlass, and saw blood on two spots in the blade. From the spilled blood now staining my cyan cutlass, I could tell that one end of the cutlass was nudged in the thief’s neck, and the thief had grabbed onto the blade on the other end. It had probably hoped that the cutlass was made out of pansophic metal.

It wasn’t. Luckily Musa had made sure of that before buying the weapon.

“Show yourself.” I ordered.

There was silence. The resistance which I had felt on the cutlass went away, as if the thief’s invisible hand had been removed. I put more pressure on the hilt, pushing the blade even deeper into the thief’s neck. “Don’t make me repeat myself.” I warned, when the silence persisted. “Right now I’m curious, in five seconds I won’t be, and your head won’t be on your body.”

“Put down your weapon, I command you in the name of the Order of Adjudication.” The thief said. There was something familiar about its voice. I frowned wondering if perhaps it was one of the arbiters which I had heard on that day, six months ago, when the noble had died, and I had been questioned.

I was almost fooled, and perhaps, six months ago, before I had started reading my tomes, I would have been. A month after the run-in with the pious ones in that inn, Musa had declared me literate enough to educate myself on the finer points of society by reading tomes. I had started with the smaller ones, and found that I was thirsty for the knowledge. In the early days, I had especially loved the ones with pictures. Now, I read tomes containing the epics of made nobles. I learned the tales of courage and daring that preceded the appointing of some of the greatest bannerets. I learned the feats of brilliance which had led to the designation of some of the smartest adherents. And I learned the amounts of wealth merchants had paid to have their status lifted from commoner to halcyon, the last type of made noble. In all these tomes, I had come across offhand references made from the pious of the order of adjudication. And in all of the outcalls which arbiters made, they always began with the same words, ‘in the name of the Order of Adjudication…’, the order was always named before the command, not after it.

This thief was no arbiter.

I smirked at the thief. Although, since it was without its appearance, I could not see its face, I knew that it could see mine. “Nice try.” I mocked. “Reveal yourself, imposter, or lose your head.” Then I pushed the cutlass deeper into the thief’s neck for emphasis.

The tremor was so slight, it shocked me that I had caught it. But I had, and so I could tell that the thief had taken a step forward. I took a step back and moved the cutlass so far into its neck that half of the blade was now stained with blood. The blood dripped from the blade onto the floor of the dwelling.

“Take another step towards me and I’ll cut.” I would not let this thief close enough to touch me, and then use its pansophy on me.

The thief sighed. “I did not bring my appearance with me, so even if I wanted to comply with your demands, I could not.”

“Too bad.” I replied, deciding that I had run out of patience. I pushed the cutlass in, preparing to cut the head off, take my bag, and return to my bed to get what little sleep I could.

“Wait!” the thief yelled.

Bit by bit, the thief’s form was revealed. My first shock was seeing that the thief was actually an imp, not an uspec as I had thought. My second shock, I thought with a scowl on my face, was that I knew this imp.

“Xavier.”

The imp’s empty eye-sockets widened. Its eyebrows pulled together in shock, its left blood-stained hand scratching its forehead. Its other hand was pinned to the wall by the cyan dagger I’d thrown. I hadn’t even noticed the blood dripping from that dagger onto the floor.

“Irira.” The imp’s voice was filled with shock. I pushed the cutlass even deeper into its neck until it said, “Nebud.” Even that, I did not appreciate. But knowing this imp, and the aversion it had to the title ‘domina’, I knew it would rather lose its head than call me that. “My god!” it exclaimed. “What…How…” its words trailed off, and a friendly smile lit its face. “It is good to see you my friend.”

A spark of anger ignited in me at hearing the imp’s words. I was so angry that I almost missed the look which it had given to my imp. Something about that look, left me with the odd feeling that this was not the first time that both imps had met. “I am no friend of yours.” I spat the words out. “Why are you here?”

The smile on Xavier’s face fell away. It cleared its throat. “I am here for Tantan’s appearance.” It replied solemnly, all of its previous joviality now gone.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD(f): 2:02am On Jul 17, 2019
“What?”

“Six months ago, you were in an inn with two nobles, one of those nobles died.” I nodded. “Well, Tantan is the one who was seated beside you, the one that died was Reynard.”

I shrugged, remembering the occurrence. Even the names seemed vaguely familiar. “What does any of that have to do with me?” With a frown I added, “or with you.”

“Tantan, the noble from the inn, is a friend of the wrath. Reynard, on the other hand, is an enemy. It is skilled in spectra, and so Tantan helped us lure Reynard into the inter-port trail, the one place in the spectral existence where spectra does not work. It was built to give the ultimate power to the pious, the ones with pansophy. We just used that to our advantage. After I killed Reynard, I had to make sure that Tantan was not caught and questioned, so I took its appearance and transferred it to a lifelike doll of it, making it easier for Tantan to escape. I thought I had the doll in my hand. But, in the shock of the escape, I must have dropped it. It has taken me a long time, but I have gone back and checked with every single person who could have come across the doll, none of them have it. You are the last.”

“Why would I help you?” I asked. “Why would I help an uspec who teams up with imps against its own kind?”

“Don’t you remember anything from that day? The murder was not meant to happen in that inn. Tantan was meant to negotiate for Reynard to come to a more discreet location, but it gave off the sign for me to kill Reynard in that inn, because it did not want you to answer the question that Reynard asked. That is the kind of person Tantan is, it cares for all, imps and uspecs alike.”

“It did not care for the uspec it helped you kill.”

“Reynard was not a good person.” I shrugged, showing how little I cared for the imp’s predicament. Xavier sighed. “Tantan saved you from having to publicly declare a side in this war. It did you a favor, I am only asking that you return its kindness.” Xavier pleaded.

I exhaled, relaxing my grip on the hilt of the cutlass, but not pulling it out. “I did not see any doll.” I stated. “I do not have this Tantan’s appearance.”

“Please Nebud. Without its appearance Tantan cannot return to its life.”

I glared at the imp. “I just told you that I do not have it. Are you calling me a liar?”

Xavier’s head drooped slightly, almost making it appear as if it was bowing to me. Knowing the imp, I knew that was not the case. “No Nebud, I am not.” Its head rose back up. Staring into my center eye it said, “but I need to make sure. For the sake of the history we share, for your offspring we both cared for, please, let me make sure.”

‘For your offspring we both cared for’

A hot wave of anger coursed through me, rocking me with its virulence. I was furious. I was enraged that Xavier would dare bring up the offspring that I had lost, the one that Fajahromo had taken from me.

“Put the bag down and get out of my dwelling, before I decide that your head would look better on the floor than it does on your neck.” I growled, somehow managing to keep the words audible despite my anger.

“Let me touch you, let me into your memory. Just one glimpse into your head. That’s all I ask for. Please. I have been in your head before, we both know it.”

I could not believe the gall of the imp!

“You owe me!” it spat the words out, as if it had read my mind and knew that I planned to sever its head from its body. “I saved your life Nebud. If it wasn’t for me, you would still be in the pits of Hakute. No, actually, you would have died in the pits of Hakute. You owe me.”

“I owe you nothing.” I snapped. “We had a bargain. You set me free and in exchange I freed you of the polluted emotions which plagued you. We both held up our end of the deal. No one received any favors.” I stopped to inhale and then I stated coldly, “drop the bag, and get out of my dwelling. I will not say it again.”

Xavier’s mouth opened.

I pushed the cutlass even deeper into its neck. I knew imps could not die, a fact that was made even more evident by the amount of blood which now pooled on the ground by the imp’s feet. But I also now knew, that when the imp’s were given sight, the pious ones ensured that the sight stayed in their eye sockets. If they lost their head, they would go blind. They would have to wait for their head to grow back and then find away to gain more sight, in order to see. Not a delightful prospect.

It took a deep breath and then it exhaled. “Okay.” It acquiesced.

I took the cutlass out of its neck, and moved back, far away that it could take the bag off, but not so far that I wouldn’t have the cutlass back on it, if it tried to run away with my wealth.

I watched the imp as it bent to pull the dagger out of its hand. It dropped the dagger onto the floor and then, with its bleeding right hand, it took my satchel bag off. It extended the bag to me.

I pointed with my cutlass to a spot on the floor which wasn’t filled with imp blood.

Xavier smiled. “I had to try.” It said, referring to the fact that if it had gotten me to take the bag from it, it would have been able to touch me, which was why I had refused. The imp dropped the bag on its left, away from the entrance. “You have changed Nebud.” After saying the words, its gaze drifted to Musa again, as if it knew that Musa was somehow responsible for this change. Again, I had that tingling feeling that it knew my imp. “Not for the better,” it said, as it took a step towards the curtained entrance, “but also not for the worst.” Then it slipped behind the curtain and it was gone.

I brought my cutlass down and turned to face Musa. It quickly averted its gaze, its eye sockets turning from me to the bag on the floor. “You had an offspring?” it asked, its voice filled with pity.

“No.” I replied.

Musa’s head turned, its gaze snapping back to me.

“How do you know Xavier?” I demanded.

Musa’s eyelids dropped, partially covering the sockets. “It is a member of the wrath.”

“The wrath?” I asked flatly, hoping that the imp could tell from my tone that I was in no mood for equivocation.

“Yes master. The wrath of Sada, it is an imp resistance group.”

“Resisting what?”

I heard the shock in its voice as it replied, “slavery master.”

“Again, how do you know Xavier?”

Musa’s shoulders sagged. “He tried to recruit me for the wrath. They like to get imps with pansophy. Their main aim is to revive all the sapped imps by giving them a boost of growth. They have a growth cache, so they have been successful in the past, in helping sapped imps, but they need imps with pansophy, and experience in fighting and strategy, to help break into yielder camps and get the sapped imps out.”

“Why aren’t you with them?” I asked carefully. “Why would you not help your own kind?”

“They came to me when I served the Kaisers of Lahooni. The Kaisers were my family, I thought of them as my own kind.”

“And now?”

Musa looked at me, but it did not respond. A little voice in my head told me to prod it, I wanted to hear it say that it would choose me over the imps, just as it had done for my ancestors. “The wrath of Sada.” I said instead, committing the name to memory. “What is Sada?”

“The god of the fourth existence. The imps choose that god as our own.”

I understood why imps would not want to serve Chuspecip, but, “what of the god of the umanis? The god you served in your previous life?”

“We choose to serve the one god that is yet to fail us.”

Musa’s words, and the tone in which it had proclaimed them, was disconcerting. It considered being sent to this existence a betrayal by its god? I looked at the imp’s face and decided not to press the matter. “We should go back to bed.” I stated instead.

“I’ll clean up the blood and your weapons first master.”

I shook my head. “They can wait till the morning.”

“It’s easier while it’s still wet.” Musa pushed.

I shrugged. “Do as you will. I am going back to bed.” I walked over to the wall, picked up my bloodstained dagger, and then I placed the strap of the satchel bag on my shoulder. I walked back towards my room, feeling more exhausted than I’d been before Xavier had broken in.

I still couldn’t believe it. Of all the imps in the spectral existence, it had to be Xavier. I should have cut off the imp’s head, I thought, as I walked into my room.

I placed my cutlass and dagger on the bed, and prepared to climb onto it, when I heard a tentative call of “master” from the door. I turned back around, my eyebrow raised up in question.

Musa walked into the room. It had its hands behind its back. I could sense its hesitation, before it pulled its hands out from behind it, revealing a green figurine. It extended its hand, offering the object to me.

“What is it?” I asked, a frown forming on my face as I picked it up. It did not take me long to figure it out for myself.

Tantan’s appearance.

The figurine was an exact replica of the uspec, down to the furrows on its body. It was more real than any painting could be.

“Tantan’s appearance.” Musa confessed. “I found it on the floor and took it.”

Anger boiled in me as I turned my stunned gaze from the imp to the doll in my hand.

Musa rushed to explain. “It was only insurance master. I thought, if we had the appearance, and were questioned by the pious, then we could bargain the uspec’s appearance for our safety.” It fell silent then. It’s head dropped. “I should have told you. Please forgive me.”

My hand formed into a fist around the doll.

“Musa.” I said, once I felt calm enough to speak.

“Yes master.” It replied, its head still bent in a bow.

“Don’t ever keep anything like this from me again. Do you understand me?”

“Yes master.”

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