Back at the homestead, Raymond was in the living room in front of a large computer screen, having a lively conversation with someone.
He sat upright, thin glasses on his face, giving him a distinguished look as he stroked his short beard. He was in the middle of instructing a young girl, about the age of nine, and they were chatting about the history of the solar system.
Her name was Emillie, Raymond’s granddaughter. At this time, she was off world on Oonossa, the neighboring forest planet, studying at a private school.
“Yes, correct,” he continued in the middle of a thought, “now, who is the largest military force in the galaxy?”
“The Twin Empire!” Emillie answered proudly. She had straight, but messy blonde hair and was wearing very clean bright purple pajamas.
“That’s right. But what is their given name?”
“Oh, oh..” she staggered, “And-da-deck-on?” She slumped with embarrassment. “I know this!”
“It’s alright!” He laughed. “Andacon, An-Da-Con. Simple, just three beats.”
“Right, I know!”
“Okay. Now here’s an easy one,” he turned a page in his notebook.
“No more easy ones! This test is tomorrow, Bamp!” He laughed again at the affectionate nick name, given to him long ago during her early years.
“Well, I’m going to ask it anyway,” he straightened his glasses, “who is the crown of the solar system?”
“Oh! Lord Arasi!” Her finger shot up as she grinned.
“What?” She demanded.
“It is the Monto’Ac Royal Families, of course. Not a person!”
“Well, why did you phrase it that way!”
“What ever do you mean?”
“You said ‘who’ like it was a person.”
“That didn’t confuse you before.”
“Ugh!” She grunted and rolled onto her back, notebook flying in the air.
“Don’t be upset, you’ll be asked questions like that. What if you had answered that way on the test?” She rolled back to her normal position and glared at him.
“I wouldn’t have answered that way on the test!” She declared. He laughed again.
“You’ll do just fine tomorrow!” He snapped his notebook shut.
“How do you know?”
“Because you are as clever as an artamock bird, that’s why,” he sat up and looked closer at the screen. “You’re even smarter then me I think.” She smiled. “And your Mother.” He added.
“I’m telling her you said that!” She teased.
“You would never.”
She pondered for a moment, then shot a look at him.
“One more question before bed!” She exclaimed.
“Okay, okay,” he rubbed his beard, “name all the systems as fast as you can. Go!”
She gasped quickly and sat up straight, her fingers now being used for rapid counting.
“...Albion, Corinna, Massa-massa...” She staggered again.
“Masardis!” He finished.
“Don’t interrupt me! Masardis, Caratunk, Andacon, Monto’Ac, and of course our capitol, Augusta!”
“And it’s three planets would be?” He tilted his head.
“Lintu, Oonossa and Eniam, of course!” She jumped.
“Of course!” He returned. “And where do we live?”
She said nothing this time, insulted by the question. Instead she simply gave him a blank expression which said everything.
“Goodnight, Bamps!” She reached to turn off the screen.
“Goodnight, my shine! All my love.” He covered his heart.
“All of mine!” She returned with an overly cheerful tone.
Then the screen blinked to black. Raymond clicked a few buttons, then suddenly noticed something out of the corner of his eyes.
Green lights were flashing just outside the door. Green lights were never a good sign, only one division had them: Safety.
The Safety division were the protectors of civil life. While Capitol Security handled arresting, jailing and fining, Safety provided protection; assuring the well being of the community.
Raymond immediately leapt from his chair and dashed to the door. He opened it and ran outside into the chilled night.
There, in the back of a medical vehicle, was Victorian.
His beloved daughter, framed in green light, talking to safety officers. He made his way over as fast as he could, thousands of thoughts running through his mind.
“Victorian!” He yelled as he finally stopped in front of her.
“She’s okay!” One of the medics stopped him. Victorian said nothing, she seemed to be looking at the ground.
“What happened? Is she alright? Vic, are you alright?” He tried to talk to her but she was mostly unresponsive, covered in a blue blanket.
“I think she’ll tell you when the time is right,” the medic said looking between them, almost in shock himself, “she’s really out of it right now. She’s fine, but we just gave her some medication to keep her calm.”
“Take me inside.” She spoke.
Raymond and the medic glanced down at her. She was still looking down and did not seem herself. Raymond helped her up and put his arms around her. She leaned on him as they began to walk back inside.
When she was in the living room, her blanket slipped off and Raymond could see she was soaking wet from head to toe. He walked toward her.
“What in the name of the gods happened?” He reached to her and grabbed her wet hair.
She turned to him with trembling eyes, then turned in the other direction toward her baby’s room. Dove was sleeping at this time, but she swiftly darted in and scooped him out of his crib, almost without thought. He was tired, but aware and awake, making soft sounds as she held him close.
Raymond slowly approached from behind and watched her, as if he was hunting.
She touched Dove to her face, holding him and rocking him slowly.
“Vic...” Raymond finally spoke, keeping his distance.
She turned to him. Then, still holding Dove close, she walked back out of the room, past him and onto the couch in the living room. Raymond followed her out again, then stood in front of her. She was silent.
“Is Emillie safe?” She said after some time, gazing at the computer.
“Of course, we just had our lesson. She’s in bed. Vic, what-”
“Father,” she looked him in the eyes, “something extraordinary has happened to me.”
Raymond cocked his head in wonder and made his way over to the couch beside her. She gathered her words as she held her son.
“I was taken by a Skywhale,” she started. Raymond’s eyes shot open. “Taken to the depths with it. It breached...from behind me.” Tears came down her face, her words struggled to form with the shock of the situation. “I couldn’t get out of the way. It took me.” Those last words trailed into a whisper as she fearfully remembered.
“It took you?” He said in horror. She nodded.
“I was trapped. There was no way out, I was...dying,” her eyes darted around, “why didn’t I? Am I dead?”
“No, Vic! Of course not,” he could tell she was not right, “I’m right here, we’re all right here.”
He moved closer to comfort her, but she held up a wall.
“What is happening to me?” She said quietly, almost to herself.
Raymond thought for a moment as he contemplated the situation. His daughter was before him, trembling in fear and confusion, the product of a new miracle. He struggled to find the right comfort for her. Then, something hit him.
“This was no act of the gods,” he spoke calmly.
“It was no miracle.” He said again, sure of himself this time. He grabbed her by the shoulders and looked at her.
“What do you mean?”
“You are strong. That’s why you survived. Far stronger then you think.” He chose his next words carefully. “This is the Eunoia.”
“No.” She immediately replied, defiant.
“Yes. That is exactly what this is.”
“No. I can’t, can I?” She sat up even more confused.
“Vic, Eunoia is an energy that lives in all of us, you know that. It is only unlocked by the plant.” He grabbed a few dried leaves off the table. “Using this...has awakened something inside you. This proves it.”
“No,” she rose to her feet, still cradling her son.
“Yes, just like me!” He rose to meet her.
“Father! Stop with all of this!” She turned away.
He stopped and listened.
“You know I love you, you know I believe in you. But what happened to me today...” she tried to find the words. “I can’t explain it. And neither can you.”
The words cut him.
She walked with heavy feet back to Dove’s room and closed the door. Raymond placed his hands on his hips, disappointed in himself. He had always tried to find a gentler way to make her believe in the arcane powers of his special plant, but her young mind could still not wrap around the reality. Especially not at this time.
He made his way back to the large arm chair and sat down, slouching his body. He reached across to the table and picked up a long, curved pipe, sparking it to life.
He fell deep in thought as he made his own fog inside the room.
To the south, across the miles directly behind the floating city, were the rolling hills and thick forests of the gigantic mesa. It was crawling with all kinds of life: animals, insects, flora and many unidentified species. These woodlands were practically untouched. The only race allowed here were the Ascopo’s, as they had the most delicate features, lived the longest and were always at harmony with nature. Some botanists also built homes here for research, but it was rare. On occasion, it wasn’t unusual to see a Safety officer or even a member of the Capitol forces traveling though these parts, as officials always had jurisdiction over any land controlled by the government.
Charles loved to abuse these rules, and had for many years tried to change them. He believed as long as people were truly in touch with nature, they should be allowed inside this beautiful sanctuary to learn, grow and appreciate it. Sure, there were guided tours, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to open the world up to this place. However, with so much city being built and population booming, it simply wasn’t a good idea to invite so many people in. Nature had to be very carefully maintained, and he did agree with that.
So for now, he enjoyed the forest alone, always dressing as humble as he could. Soft, plain long sleeved shirts and silk pants were usually the preferred outfit. No swords, no weapons, no bad energy. He loved the huge trees and limbs for physical and martial arts training. He gained wisdom from the hills, mountains and running water. He ran with wild animals. He learned from the many plants and other organic materiel that he found. This is where he and Raymond, together as brothers, discovered the Eunoia plant. In fact it grew wild here, in a variety of different colors. The natives of the forest had always used it medicinally, by chewing, smoking, or using it as incense, but it had never gained any mainstream attention. It was quite secret. Both he and Raymond liked it that way.
As Charles made his way up an overgrown path, lush with green trees, bright flowers and sparkling pollen, he came upon an old, broken house in the middle of a small clearing. It had been grown over for many years, with thick trees running through the middle and roots and vines seeming to tie it together. Moss covered the roof, birds danced on the perch, rainwater dripped. One single door way could still be used, though the wooden door that once hung there was long gone.
Charles stepped up to the structure and looked it over longingly.
This was his old house; the family house. Charles and Raymond’s parents had lived here long before they were born, preferring the solitary, humble life that the forest brought them. Both were botanists and rare flower collectors, who spent most of their time hiking through the wilderness, looking for new species. They actually fell in love while observing the same flowers, on some distant island long ago. Real romance found only once a life time, and from that always comes good family.
Charles had always imagined it would be a mystery to his parents, how both their children became servants of the Capitol. They couldn’t be in more opposite directions.
However, the want for serving the Capitol came from the promise of the Solar Warden. They were to be tasked with exploring new regions outside of the known solar system. Much like their parents, discovering new things every day. This was the pull that drew the brothers into service; they wanted to explore the galaxy. To fight for it. But instead, the Capitol lied.
These thoughts flowed through Charles like the breeze, as he stood by the decrepit structure.
Just then, he heard a sound from above him and glanced up.
A small woman with pure white skin was making her way out of the tree and down onto the roof. She wore a simple earth-tone tunic dress, with vines and flower petals hanging from her arms. Charles smiled as her dark features and decorative body paint came into view. His own body paint, which she had done last night, was now faded and smudged.
“Caithya!” He called out. She looked back at him.
“Who else?” He shrugged.
“A soldier, that’s who.” She gave a cold look.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I see the sun panthers are finally out.” He gestured to several black cats, with large, puffy tails and huge ears laying in the sunny grass.
“Yes! Isn’t it beautiful?” She beamed. “They’re only here for a few weeks though.”
“We’ll have to take some photos.”
“What are you doing over there?” She asked. “Just staring at the house?” She made her way across the roof and stood in front of him. “We need to find you something more interesting to do out here.”
“I have something.”
“What’s that?” She snapped. He looked back sarcastically.
“You.” He replied dryly. She huffed and jumped down into the house through a hole in the roof. Charles walked slowly through the door and inside the dark room.
Caithya made her way to the center of the house and placed a number of flowers on a moss bed. The moss bed was illuminated by sunlight for several hours a day, so she would collect many rare flowers and place them around the bed to regrow new species.
Although she looked Charles’ age, Caithya was actually 111 years old. She was an Ascopo from a nearby territory, and now she was the new caretaker of the house. She had met Charles about five years ago while he was on patrol. At the time, she had already taken up residence in the house and was quite surprised to find him there one day, snooping around. But Charles never minded the situation, so they quickly became friends. Yes, this was his parent’s old house, but she treated it always with respect and love. She even redecorated it with the forest itself, and now it was something new. It was something he truly appreciated and enjoyed.
As she placed the flowers, she looked him up and down.
“You’ve been in battle,” she remarked, “you look like walking death again.”
“Of course I have,” he sat down on an old stump, “that’s all I do now, don’t you know?”
“Have you finally come to run away?” She smiled, he returned one.
“Listen. I hate to be that person, but...it’s time for you to go.” He looked at her serious for a moment. “I’m here because I have to ask you to leave. In the name of the Capitol.”
The tone was just enough to make her panic slightly. He let out a hardy laugh.
“I hate you, why do you act like that!” She protested and jumped to her feet.
“I’m sorry, your reactions are truly entertaining.” He stifled his giggling.
“You are always playing tricks on me!” She walked over to a small stream flowing through the floor, filling a jug.
“It’s the last one.”
“This I have heard many times.” They smiled at each other again. She sat back down by the flower bed and began to water them.
“Find anything good today?” He asked leaning forward.
“I always do,” she answered. “In fact I can’t remember the last time I have had a bad day. It’s strange,” she rose to her feet, “there is so much chaos outside, but the forest seems to be full of life. New life. There are more birds and insects. Flowers off all kinds bloom everywhere.”
“I saw it,” Charles agreed, “as I came up the path, the pollen was glistening in the sun. I’m sure I heard a chiming sound coming from it.” She turned to him.
“So you see it too? You feel it?” She asked eagerly. He thought for moment.
“Yes. But what is it?” He wondered. She smiled.
“Life. Life of all kinds, shapes and forms. Constantly evolving around us. It’s happening all the time. But,” she gazed out the window, “something is changing.”
“Everything...” Her voice was pale. Charles was confused.
“It’s just a natural process of the forest.” He said.
“This is what worries me.” She turned to him again. “It is like...a tree in the winter. It grows beautiful before the leaves disappear.”
Those words hit Charles like a light in the dark.
“That’s true. But why wouldn’t it be natural?” He asked, a bit concerned. She considered the notion.
“I’ve been around much longer then you have.”
“That’s right, 111 last spring!” He remarked with pride.
“You keep reminding me!”
“Be proud of your age, it’s who you are.”
“Modern society thinks different.”
“Be thankful you’re not part of it then.” He lifted himself to his feet. “This place is far more beautiful. Let’s enjoy it.” She sighed to herself.
He walked around the room, looking at the many objects and trinkets still left behind from years past. Caithya let the weight on her mind vanish for now.
“I really do love what you have done,” he continued, “my parents would have loved this house. In fact, I’m sure they would have moved out if they could see how it would become.”
He looked all around, then down, over at an old shelf with broken pictures. Some were photos of him, others of the family.
“They were never here much anyway.” His gaze turned to stone. Caithya was silent for moment.
“They are in the Creator’s kingdom now.” She said softly. Charles turned to her and slowly nodded.
“I used to think that.”
“What do you think now?” She asked.
Charles thought and fiddled with a device on the table.
“I think of nothing. Nothing but the present.” He turned to her again and smiled. Caithya returned a bashful, but wise expression.
The forest outside was luminous and alive. The sun beating on the fertile land, the flowers swaying, the insects dancing in the shine. All was at peace.
As the sun set over the forest mesa, Charles dashed through the trees, the orange and purple sky gleaming through the branches. He swung from limb to limb, stopping at times to balance on branches. Kicking, striking, jumping, using whatever was around him to train his body for hours.
He flipped from huge rocks, landing in stone valleys, then bounded back up the sides, grabbing onto roots and trees until he finally reached the top again. He cycled through the motions of his martial arts training underneath waterfalls, becoming one with the flow stream, building his muscle beneath the pounding torrent. He slashed at falling leaves while winding gracefully down small paths and brooks. He caught sparrows in mid air, pinning their wings back and letting them go again.
At last, when his body ached, he would find a good rock ledge and sit for some time.
From a small pouch, he removed dried Eunoia leaves and glass orb with an extended mouthpiece. He would light the leaves with a small coal placed inside the orb, then slowly breath in the wisps of smoke. His mind was let go, harvesting his thoughts for what seemed like years.
This was his way to the gods. To the universe.
Sometimes, the trees beside him would bow their branches toward him, as if hands reaching toward a warm fire. His energy was strong.
To harness the power of Eunoia is to use the force and wisdom of the planets. Long ago, ancient elders and shamans discovered a path to the stars through the mind. It was this very plant that unlocked the threshold. In some cases, depending on the plant, the compounds within would allow you to travel great distances by only moving the soul. One could even learn to manifest the energies of the planet, like gravity, and use it themselves. However, it’s most common effect was a meditative state, allowing you to gather universal information. Wisdom and physical power connected.
This was the great secret yet to be discovered.
If warriors could learn to use this plant and live in harmony with it, they could be unstoppable. Not only because of their arcane strength, but because of the wisdom learned by opening their minds to the universe. It was the perfect tool for soldiers exploring the galaxy, for if one was to understand it, one must become in touch with it. This was a passion sparked by Raymond, and now continued with Charles. And it was powerful indeed.
It was Raymond’s idea to implement the plant into the martial arts training of Solar Warden. He wanted to create new styles that involved meditation, focus and control. But this was not the way of their world. So they continued on their own, shunned by their masters.
After his meditation time, Caithya would often climb up a tree where she could see his spot from a safe distance. He sat always in front of a patch of dead forest with no life or living trees, just a wasteland of dead, mangled wood. It amazed her every time to see him rise to his feet, out stretch his hands, and watch the trees blow over like a bomb had gone off.
But he never destroyed them. He always leveled them, then pulled them right back into place, rerooting and restoring them.
This was Charles. Peace through strength.
The next day, Charles was still gone from the homestead. Victorian was spending time with Dove and talking to her daughter Emillie about the school test on the big screen in the living room. Raymond watched them from the kitchen and sipped his tea. Victorian remained reluctant to talk about anything, so he would quietly wait for her to come to him. For now, he could crack a smile at the laughter coming from the children.
Soon, he made his way out of the house and down streets that stretched over the sky. He was on his way to run some daily errands and possibly find Charles. As always, he was distracted by the streets, filled with pedestrians and sellers, with all kinds of noise and commotion.
From corner to corner, the thin, bridge-like streets had all kind of tents--small and big--lined in rows. Behind them were multi-colored tapestries hanging from five story stone buildings, unmovable and hovering over the shoreline far below. Strange looking creatures and tall robots wandered behind the ally ways. Kids and small animals dashed around in the sunshine.
They were mostly humans, but all from different factions, divisions, religions and tribes from around the solar system.
A few big, meaty men with heavy scars from Oonossa searched through wares at an outside shop. Pine boughs hung from their back, deals for a trade. The sellers screaming an alien language back and forth.
Across from them, a small gathering of desert tribesman from Lintu puffed a huge waterpipe with ten different chambers and tubes. Feathers and dust falling around them.
The local Animosh, with their hairy muzzled faces, brooding at the passing crowds in the tea shops. Intoxicating smells wafting around them.
All kinds of vendors and booths would set up every day. Entertainment, food, singers, dancers, even people who used forms of arcane power to juggle or balance, all with spectacular displays of light. It was pure eye candy and Raymond never grew tired.
But today, something else was on his mind. Charles needed to return at once.
He did often disappear, but circumstances had changed and it was time to come home to be with the family. He picked up a small device from his hip and spoke into it.
“Charles, when you get this come home. Now.” It beeped once and he placed it back on his belt. He then turned and started to walk off across the street, when something stopped him. A familiar face in the crowd.
Across the pandemonium, he saw a face he had forgotten long ago, but remembered as though they had parted yesterday. He made his way along the side of the street and finally came to an arched opening in the side of the wall, which lead into an area for eating and lounging.
“...Hister?” Raymond said as he approached.
The figure in front of him nodded slowly, then came fully into the sun light. He was dressed in all white, flowing robes, with a matching head dress that draped behind his head. Less ornamental then a king or royal figure, but still enough to draw attention in a place so worn in.
“It is I.” He said with a thin smile.
Fearatu Hister was a member of the Monto’Ac Royal families, the crown of the solar system and the ambassadors to the gods. Hister’s family was once one of the most prominent in the line of Royal families, being nine in total. However, in the Monto’Ac system, it is believed that any child born with a defect, either physical or mental, must immediately be destroyed. Imperfection is not tolerated, especially in the Royal families. Tragically, when Hister was born, he fell victim to a physical defect and would become the first child in royal history to do so. A hand like a claw was his mark. Hard as stone and sharp as coral in some areas.
The families feuded for years over what to do. Hister was not initially killed because of his linage, so something else had to be done to compensate. Finally, the grand council, made up of the Monto’Ac Princes, decided that a proper punishment would be to banish Hister and his family to the burial moons of Kew’As. These three identical black moons were located just outside the Royal system, almost on the outskirts. As the name suggested, this is where the system buried their dead.
Although a morbid fate, Hister actually found it to be quite a beautiful childhood for a long while. He spent most of his days wandering through the gardens, reading his favorite books, catching flies, or playing games with himself. The moons were unique because of a special soil, found only in that location, that reacted with the bodies of the Monto’Ac people. This soil would produce massive, colorful gardens of fertile plants and huge flowers, ranging in all size. Some could even be seen from space. They covered the surface of all three moons, making them a true wonder to behold. It was long believed in the Monto’Ac religion that the flowers were so beautiful only because of their bodies. Of course, no outsides are allowed to be buried there as a result.
However, it was not so beautiful for Hister’s mother and father, the new caretakers, who had their own punishments to deal with. Being banished to a burial moon to watch over the dead was only their fate. Their lives were far worse. Hister’s father had killed himself long before they moved to the moons, shamed by the loss of his nobel position and ruined family. This action, by law, lead the council to order his mother to slowly commit suicide herself, by ingesting a plant laced with a poison for many years until her body slowly deteriorated and withered. Before she finally breathed her last breath, Hister was to place her hardened body in a ceremonial archway along the catacombs. She still sits to this day, overgrown by the plants that killed her.
All of this, done in the name of the Monto’Ac religion. It was simply ceremony. But it was not how a normal member of the Royal family grew up. It was torture.
Raymond met Hister a few years after his mother’s death, while attending a school for scholars and swordsmen at the age of sixteen. Hister was often bullied for his defect and ease of entry to the school because of his Royal status. Raymond quickly befriended him, defending him and becoming his confidant through those years.
Today, Hister had become older, hopefully wiser and bit more grey, just like Raymond.
He stood before his old friend with a winning smile, happy to see that all is well. The Monto’Ac had heart-shaped faces and heads, and with Hister’s middle age catching up, Raymond could see the wrinkles all the more clearly on his defined bone structure. He looked gaunt and pale, his eyes sunken. His energy though, was very promising.
“Fearatu Hister! It is you!” Raymond drew him in for a close embrace.
“I had hoped I’d be able to draw you over with just a glance.” His voice was rich, deep and elegant.
“How could I forget that face! That head makes you look so old now!” He laughed. Hister returned a hearty, happy grumble.
“This is strange. Never seen you with grey hair before.” Hister held his shoulder.
“It has not become grey yet, my friend. I still attain much of my youth.” Raymond replied patting his chest.
“I see, I see,”
“So, what brings you here today of all days? All the way from the crown?”
“Yes, indeed,” he paused for a moment to look at his friend. “I’ve come to speak with you about something. Very important.”
“Important?” Raymond scoffed. “Already? Hister, you’ve not been here for a moment, let’s relax first.”
He led him inside to the small eatery. “Come inside, we’ll have a drink!”
The inside of the small cafe was very dim lit, with red and blue light. At the back there was a small bar with organic ornamentation all around, with mirrors that danced reflections on the ceilings and stone walls.
They sat down at a raised, empty booth that was near the back and settled in.
“You know,” Raymond started, “it’s been such a long time since I’ve heard from you, I was beginning to think you didn’t receive my letters.”
“I have,” Hister nodded. “However, I was hesitant to come see you in person. Last we met, our friendship had gone a bit astray.”
“Oh forget it,” Raymond waved his hand, “that’s in the past. It was politics anyway. I’ve sense left that world.”
Two drinks were set on the table. Raymond took a big gulp from one, staining his beard, then passed the other.
“Have you?” Hister slowly lifted his drink. “That’s good to hear. And how is the family?”
“We’re doing great, just trying to take it day by day, as always.”
“And your Victorian?”
“Wonderful. Strong, independent, beautiful. I’m proud...” His voice trailed.
“What is it?” Hister grew concerned. Raymond thought for a moment.
“Not sure,” he answered, “things feel like they’re changing. How should I put it...” He glanced around.
“I can see things are not so wonderful down here in the Capitol city.” Hister replied. He pushed himself forward. “I was hesitant to take a simple walk because of the street violence.”
“Where are your guards?” Raymond asked.
“Guards?” Hister laughed. “Do you witness any?” He gestured with his spindly arms. “There have been none for many suns.” He took a drink.
“They don’t even guard you now?”
“Hardly. I imagine they hope I will simply become as the dead.” He pondered his own situation.
“I just can’t believe it,” Raymond hung his head. “After all you have been through- all they put you through. You and your family have paid your debts to the families and to the crown. It’s shameful to see you waste away on some graveyard!”
“I’m glad you still find me a brilliant mind.” Hister smirked.
“Absolutely I do!” They smiled together again. “And we need those here, right now. They call it the Capitol,” Raymond snorted. “It is hardly a Capitol. Do you remember that name comes from the ancient word ‘tapisco?’ They simply rearranged the letters to retain the original meaning: gold! Can you imagine? Gold. We don’t act like gold anymore.” He leaned back and took a long sip from his drink.
“I feel like we’re in school together again.” Hister laughed.
“And it’s not just that,” Raymond continued, more serious. Hister perked up. “Something seems to be happening.”
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure. I feel an energy.” He was wary. Hister listened closely.
“In me, in the world. In Vic too.” Raymond stopped himself as Hister tilted his head. “Listen to me, I sound ridiculous.” He slumped.
“Of course you don’t. Go on.” Hister assured him.
“She had an encounter with a Skywhale yesterday.” Raymond stated more abruptly then he expected.
“And...survived?” Hister asked.
“That is truly incredible.”
“Maybe not so incredible. Maybe it’s common.” Raymond’s eyes were in the distance.
Hister sat back and let the words sink in. He knew exactly what Raymond was talking about.
“Eunoia,” Hister softly replied. “You mean Eunoia.”
“Yes. I believe it now. I thought it was just me.”
“I told you,” Hister became more alert, almost squirming to get a point across. “The power of plants over the planets! The true powers of the solar system lie in the roots, not in the stars. This is exactly what I’m trying to prove.” His hand bumped the table.
“I believe it.” Raymond nodded.
“Why do you think the Twin Empire uses my moons exclusively?” Hister boasted. “They will trade with no one else. They pride and preen themselves, because it is their only worth besides war. Think of it, two planets worth of people, the largest planets in the system, subservient to flowers. Why not call the flowers gods?”
Hister took a big swig of his drink, as if toasting to the idea.
This was true. The Andacon Empire, or “Twin” as they were known commonly, had been dealing with Hister and his moons for decades. The Anadacons pride themselves on beauty, being humanoids made from crystal and light. The liquids obtained from some of Hister’s rare flowers were used to clean, polish, and keep their crystal structures healthy. It was also used in food, medicines and even building structures; a very valuable asset. Hister and his moons were the key to their lives.
“I will always drink to that.” Raymond honored the notion with his own swig. But he was still in thought. Hister noticed.
“You seem troubled. This is my cause for celebration”
“At the moment, I’m not sure if it is mine.” Raymond sounded lost. Hister sat forward.
“Raymond,” he said carefully, “I hope you do not hold anger toward me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Think of it,” he put his drink down, “I was the very one who turned you to rare plants. You must hold me some responsible for this trouble you find yourself in.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Fearatu. It was my mother and father who turned me to rare plants.”
“Ah, but it was I who led you toward Eunoia itself.” He corrected. Raymond agreed.
“Even so,” Raymond continued, “you are, and always have been a true friend,” he reached out and grabbed his boney shoulder. “Something I greatly need at this time.”
“This is good news.” Hister remarked with a gleam. Raymond observed as Hister started to gather more words.
“Now it seems as if you have something on your mind, friend.” Raymond said leaning toward his friend.
“Of course I do,” Hister began, “Have you forgotten, I have something to discuss with you!” Raymond laughed.
“Oh yes, of course, pardon me.”
Hister found his words, then slowly presented his next thoughts.
“Raymond, you are right in so many ways,” his eyes sparkled in the reflecting mirrors, “but you do not yet know it. Eunoia is just one of possibly millions of species just like it. Not just in this solar system, but perhaps the entire galaxy. This was part of what you were suppose to do, correct? With Solar Warden.” He gestured Raymond to answer.
“Yes,” Raymond grunted, “until they melted us down into toy soldiers.”
“Poetic, but tragic none the less.” Hister braved a smile. “These plants should be researched, not shunned. And that is precisely what I do.”
Raymond sat up. He had been waiting for Hister to say these very words for ages. Raymond knew if only someone somewhere could begin research, the time for change would truly begin.
“You did it?” Raymond asked with excitement. “You created the labs?”
“Of course I did. What do think I do on those moons- watch the dead?” Hister straightened himself slowly. “I discovered long ago, that all of my flowers held within them some kind of power. Mysterious, wondrous, spectacles of the soil. All different, ever growing, changing and evolving,” Raymond could almost see what he was describing. “I gave to them, a new home. Or should I say, they created it themselves.”
“Yes. Like a flame, Raymond,” Hister’s eyes flashed. “They manifested. Feeding on the dead. New flowers every cycle.” His face was suddenly flush with color, as if reflecting his own flowers.
“Amazing,” Raymond was truly impressed.
“But some flowers, are rare beyond imagination. Now they are truly special. For within them, lies the power to the stars.”
“You found more Eunoia.” Raymond’s hands clasped together.
“No, Raymond,” Hister stared at him, “I have found the Eunoia.”
Raymond thought for a quick moment, recalling his wisdom. Then a feeling came over him. He took in his breath.
“A mother plant?”
Hister reached into his pocket and pulled out a very small, round glass tube. Inside was a tiny, black flower, resembling a rose.
“No bigger then the tip of my small finger,” Hister said, “but holding the wisdom of the ancient spirits.” Raymond was lost, his eyes could not be removed from the prize in Hister’s thin fingers.
“Lost to all current knowledge. We discovered it very recently, growing on the tombs of the old Wiroans. Fitting.” He spun the glass, shinning in the dim lights. “We imagine it was never discovered because it was never looked for. The tombs are forbidden, even to us.”
“How did you get there?” Raymond wondered.
“We traveled there.”
“But the laws and restrictions?” Hister almost laughed at him.
“The crown has already cast away my family, and I with them.” He declared. “We shall remain separated forever. It is only I who will carry on this line. And I who shall end it.” Hister was as still as a statue.
“Hister...” Raymond uttered.
“This is my motivation, don’t you see?” He sat up close to Raymond. “You know as I do. These plants are the key to the future.” Raymond was quiet for a moment.
“I know,” he lifted his head.
“Now it is time to show the world.” Hister’s voice became dark.
“But how?” Raymond asked. “The Monto’Ac families will not comply. They have never allowed open research like this. It can’t be done.”
“That remains the problem.” Hister replied woefully. “But not just there, trouble spreads wide.” Raymond nodded in agreement. “I see it, even now as I come here. Riots and protests in the streets, blood and steel. Rage, power, violence, anger. Everything seems to fall. And what of the Judges?”
“I happen to have seen them just a few days ago,” Raymond grinned. Hister already knew the answer.
“What else? They won’t listen.” Raymond tried to stop himself from slumping. “I even requested an extended audience with them after my sentence so I could talk. But nothing, deaf ears again. It’s like talking to black space.”
“Well, something must be done.” Hister said without thought.
“I agree. It’s about time. We need real change. Results.” Raymond took another swig from his drink.
“Then let us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let us move forward. What is stopping us?”
“Many things, Hister. You know that.”
“But something must happen, Raymond, don’t you see?!” His hand pounded the table again, the drinks shaking. “No one will come. No one will take action. It must start with one. Or two.” He gazed at Raymond, hoping for some reaction. Raymond thought for a long moment, beginning to realize this was a very serious conversation.
“Hister,” Raymond began, “what you are suggesting could be considered an act of war.”
“No,” Hister said calmly. “It is no different then the riots on the streets. In fact, that is a perfect place to start.”
“The gods, Hister,” Raymond was actually worried now. “Are you suggesting we form an alliance with something like the Power Chord? Join them in battle?”
“Of course not,” Hister remained still. “I talk of us. The Power Chord is led by teenagers, striving for political attention by screaming and stabbing at each other. They change nothing but the news stories.”
“It’s much more than that, Hister.” Raymond corrected. “Kloven was once a great political mind before he was a crazed cult leader. He may be insane, but they say a fine line exists between them after all.”
“So I hear.” Hister was almost uninterested.
“I’m do not jest, my friend, Kloven is proof of that.” Raymond continued. “I dare not defend, but, his attacks are precise and well planned. His crowd of followers is growing daily, and very passionate about his cause.” He paused as if realizing something. “He may leave more of an impact then we think.”
“Is that why he remains in power and untouched?” Hister inquired. “I still don’t understand it.”
“Not many do, that’s the problem. It’s complicated.”
“Go on.” Hister was interested now. Raymond took a breath.
“Kloven is protected because he’s doing nothing wrong. He simply creates plays and productions. Poetic readings and gatherings. If his fan base is rioting, there’s noting the Capitol can do. They can’t touch him. So they take his men, when they can find any.” Raymond was making himself heavy with his own words. “People don’t realize he’s brainwashing them through his poetry. The performance is the danger.”
“Yes, I understand,” Hister seemed fascinated. “A gun directs the hand, but words will always stay the mind.”
Before Raymond could speak again, Hister sat closer, as if to pull him out of his trance.
“Raymond,” his voice was low, “your world is crumbing around you. What will you do?”
Raymond’s mind raced again, contemplating the many implications.
“I cannot, Hister.” He said finally. “We are not the Power Chord. I have a family, you have royal attachments. It is insanity.” He pushed his drink away.
“Your existence is insanity.”
Every word Hister spoke was like a punch in the chest. Raymond knew he was speaking truth.
“Hister,” Raymond straightened himself, “what you’re talking about is a paradigm shift. That could result in a solar war.”
“The gods of these planets created a perfect solar system,” Hister was already in thought, “one of their vision. Now, the gods are lost, except the ones we create and put in power. Their vision has vanished. You know this, you see it every day. This is what I have come to realize over my many years, stranded in the darkness with the dead.”
“What have you realized?”
Hister narrowed his eyes like dagger points and stared into Raymond.
“No god would allow me to be.” He whispered. Raymond seriously considered that thought.
“No god would cause a war.” Raymond returned.
“Then I must overthrow god.”
The words seemed to silence everything. Hister glared at Raymond, as if he were a king himself.
Raymond let out a slow breath and took a long sip from his drink. Hister no longer appeared as an old friend, but a new one.
“I feel as though I need time to think, Hister,” he said. “This conversation has lost me.”
“I understand.” Hister relaxed himself.
“And yet,” Raymond had more to say, “it has also enlightened me. As I always find in your company.” He managed a smile and started to leave. “It was good to see you again.”
“I am glad.” Hister was still quiet. “Raymond,” Hister stopped him from going. “Come to the moons. Soon. I want you to see everything for yourself.”
“Of course, I would be honored. Take care, old friend.” His dark red sash puffed in the wind as he neared the door.
“I will send for you.” Hister’s lips grew thin again.
Raymond nodded and gave a small wave as he walked back into the busy alley.
Hister remained in the watery, red and blue light for some time. The mirrors still reflecting in his eyes as he thought, deep in memory and plans for the future. Raymond was a true friend, a real friend. Perhaps the only one he ever had. Now, their friendship had become everything to him once more. It was time for loyalty and action.
In the pink and orange sky of the industrial district, Kloven’s body sat outside on his stage, bathed in the lights of the dying sun. Half his body was in shadow as he sat in his chair, arched back with his head hanging off the back. Sometimes he acted like a puppet just because he could, even when no one was watching. He called it: ‘acting like the world sees.’
He sat up, moved his body around, then continued to read his book of poems, greyed with ash prints. His finger slid up the bridge of his nose and adjusted his large glasses, eyes flickering as he read the words.
Behind him, someone approached. A large, looming figure. His steps thumping.
“Kloven,” A booming voice called from the darkness behind.
“Wassador,” Kloven said without looking back, continuing to read. “Did you know, there is only one planet in our solar system that is unaware of the outside world. Imagine that. Being surrounded with intelligent life. Life that could completely alter your world. Like swimming in an ocean of teeth with invisible islands. One sense lost and all will vanish.”
Wassador said nothing, he only twitched his brows and rustled his thick whiskers.
“What do you think about that, my friend?” Kloven turned to him, then rose to his feet, snapping the book shut.
“It is the way of things.” Wassador returned after a moment, his voice deep and unassuming.
“Truth. It is the way of things.” Kloven stood before him and placed a hand on Wassador’s massive, broad chest. It made him look like a child standing beneath a bear.
“Time flows and we with it. Like waves we are. Ever rolling. Always as eternal.” He began to walk away, arms at the sky. “But are we fate as well? Does this little world tell us all has been decided? This is the real riddle.”
“Kloven,” Wassador said again, possibly trying to stop another poetic monologue. Kloven slowly turned to him as if his feet had wheels. He stared for much longer then Wassador was expecting, almost causing him to ask another question. Then he stood up straight and walked back toward him, pushing his glasses into his face again.
“Yes, I’m sorry my friend, what is it?” He stopped in front of him and awaited his answer.
“Time begins to run thin.” Wassador said with slight concern. Kloven’s eyes grew sharp, he tilted his head in immediate thought.
“Yes. Yes it does.”
“When is the time for action?” Wassador asked.
“The action has already begun,” he walked away once more, moving to the center of his stage. “And now, the players move to their positions. Change is in the very air we breath. Every single being on this planet can sense the smoke. Fire is on the horizon.” Wassador looked to him with intense eyes. “And we shall be the wave that sends them back into the planet’s womb.” He whispered to himself, but Wassador could still hear him.
Kloven then stood for a moment, lost in his own thoughts, letting the wind blow through him, gazing out over the colors in the sky.
“Bring me everyone,” he faced Wassador. “Bring them all to the stage tomorrow. I have more to write and far more to tell.”
He brushed past Wassador giving him a pat on the back, then disappeared into the depths of the dark industrial lairs.
Wassador stood for a moment, pondering his last words, letting the sun sink into his eyes. He then turned, and followed Kloven down into the shadows.
The many colors of the Power Chord fluttered over the industrial site. Banners and flags, tapestries and brightly painted structures waving with the wind. Below, small camp fires burned black smoke, wisping into the clouds.
The world was silent and beautiful. It was the great calm before the oncoming storm. Although only the roots of the earth could feel it, a new movement had begun.
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