*This is a work in progress/preview*
A long, looming shadow lay across the land. Half the city of Portland was cast in darkness, as if the sun was sleeping behind a mountain. The giant Twin Empire tharentula creating the absence of light was motionless, it’s body towering into the sky alongside the floating skyscrapers.
Raymond’s short, flowing cape flashed behind him as he briskly made his way through the eclipsed city. As he raised his eyes to the sky, still luminous with green light, the surrounding crowds mimicked him, stunned and bewildered by the sudden events. He could just barley make out the tharentula wranglers, perched atop the heads of the creatures like haggard birds on iron rods, likely awaiting orders from Imperia Wreth himself.
Raymond was hastily on his way to find Hister, feeling responsible for this overabundant situation that could cause unnecessary chaos. And yet, his thoughts continued to betray him. He could not help but feeling an energy of excitement coursing through him; a power beyond his consciousness pulling his very thoughts and actions. Surely this display of power would capture the Judge’s attention. This would force them to change. Charles would be proud, he thought to himself. Peace through strength was his way.
As Raymond neared the center of the lower city, near ground level, the Capitol building finally came into view. Built tens of thousands of years ago by Gluskabe and his followers, the ancient Capitol building sat in the air like a spider in the middle of it’s web, surrounded by symmetrical legs of bridges from all directions. It was, of course, dome shaped with circular angles, adhering with original Monto’Ac architecture. Molded of hard grey granite, with archways and spires carved into the borders. It was free of vegetation and protected by deprecated statues that observed every soul that passed. The Capitol building itself was in reality one of the first temples to be built by the colonists, celebrating the creation of the capital system, Augusta. In the ancient language, the word ‘tapisco’ referred to gold, the most valuable metal in the solar system, and associated heavily with the Creators. When the common language was introduced, they discovered the letters of that word could be rearranged to spell another important word: Capitol. Hence, the building would come to represent both the capital system of Augusta and the element of gold. This place was so ancient, it’s construction began before the Andacon system had been formed into the powerful Twin Empire, and had barley been remodeled aside from needed repairs.
Raymond could see the age on the rounded edges as he drew closer, tearing cracks into the surface like weathered, wrinkled fissures in time. When he came to the obelisks and stone pillars guarding the arched entrance to the structure, the distracting white robes of Hister appeared just ahead of him. He turned a corner onto the entrance walkway and lengthened his stride to catch up. As he approached from behind, he noticed Hister was accompanied by two Watchers; floating statues resembling sarcophagi armed with an arsenal of weapons. Serpa was walking ahead of him, a free hand drifting by the gun on his thigh, as if anticipating Raymond’s approach. He wore a short, sleeveless robe of crimson and gold, with a light armored chest piece featuring a graceful white dragon. Seeing all of this made Raymond slightly concerned. It was quite unusual to see Hister as such after decades of traveling alone.
“Hister!” Raymond called out.
Serpa and the two watchers stopped and turned immediately, readying their weapons with metallic pings and clicks. Hister spun around and smiled, pleased to see his friend again.
“Raymond! Come.” Hister answered, brushing past the watchers and extending his thin arm. He noticed Raymond’s distress as he came to a rest in front of him. “What ever is the matter with you?” He asked, taking full notice of the green glow in Raymond’s eyes.
“What is the matter?” Raymond tilted his body and gestured toward the sky. “This is a question best answered by you.”
“You are surprised by my actions?”
“To say the least.”
“There is nothing to fear, my friend.” He grabbed Raymond’s shoulder.
“Tell that to the thousands of citizens about to start panicking in the streets.” Raymond pointed back at the city. “Hister, I expected to see a security force. One battle ship was all you needed. This is madness!” He protested.
“This is my security.” Hister assured. “I have asked for their assistance for only the time being. This operation is crucial.” He gazed out over the city below them. “The rebellion will soon escalate into a full war if we allow the chaos to spread. The Twin Empire has arrived to display force.”
“And then?” Raymond awaited further explanation.
Hister glared at him for a moment. “Then, the Twin Empire will set up bases to assure this violence does not spread.”
“Hister, that is simply more control, but under another command.”
“It is under our command, Raymond. Ours!” Hister spat the last word.
Raymond studied Hister’s face. He could see the troubled child he was so long ago, starkly transforming his figure into a twisted storm. Still, he found himself strangely complacent, almost as if a feeling that should be guiding him away from this was absent. His words fell empty. He trusted his friend.
“Hister, I am sorry, I cannot understand.” Raymond uttered. Hister sighed and gathered his thoughts, deciding he had been too forward and uninformative with his plans.
“Raymond,” Hister began quietly, “I apologize for my sudden, chaotic actions. But the system will hold together. Trust this. And while it does, i will see the Judges personally to solidify our situation.”
“Even the Judges do not know of your actions?!” Raymond was shocked.
“They know now.” Hister replied with a cold breath. He then turned away and continued down the cobblestone passage toward the arched entrance. “I will see you at dinner tonight, my friend. Await my message.” He finished.
Raymond remained silent, watching him amble into the complex alongside his protectors. Serpa lingered behind for a brief moment, holding Raymond’s stare, then followed his master inside. The light encircling his eyes was as fierce as his beating heart. His fingers trembled as they ran across his beard and through his long, peppered hair. Thoughts and actions once dreamed were now a form of reality. Fear and the unknown had woken from a great slumber.
Suddenly a voice called out from behind him.
“Ray!” It was Mighty, jogging down a side section of the bridge.
“Mighty? What is it?” Raymond said hurrying to his side.
“What in the god’s names is happening?” He demanded.
Raymond looked between the entrance to the building and the wide expanse of the city, sorting and organizing his thoughts. “Nothing that concerns you, my friend.” He patted his shoulder with a weak smile. “Nothing to fear.”
“Are you sure?” Mighty inquired with a concerned expression.
“I am.” Raymond smiled. “But a warning to you: I fear the events we have always spoken of will escalate soon.”
“This is terrible!” Mighty protested. “We must leave!”
“On the contrary, i believe it may bring our tide of change at last.” Raymond’s smile was bigger than expected. He could feel Mighty recoil a bit, unsure of his friend’s thoughts. Something in him was evolving before his eyes. “Do not fear, my friend! Just stay safe.” He gave Mighty a hearty shake of both his shoulders, then broke away from him and briskly marched back down the path into the city. Mighty turned his body slowly and observed his companion carefully. Something in the air was ill.
Atop the grand Capitol building sat a smaller dome, laced with glass panels and ornate thin columns. Inside this atrium was a consolidated complex of control stations, computer screens and bright rooms, centered around a vast table in the middle of the room. This was the command center for the UOD, or the ‘Union of Defense.’ The UOD was comprised of several different branches of military divisions from all three planets in the capital system. Spanning race and creed, this branch accepted all and was precise in delivering results, however small. Dedicated servants of the Capitol, they remained true to their cause of shielding and protecting the system, though they were forever dwarfed by the Twin Empire. Even so, they believed themselves to be part of a greater cause. This idea stemmed from the leader of the UOD, a figure called Untoc.
Untoc was a Menatona; a race of dragon-like beings the size of human men. They lived their entire lives encased in monolithic stone structures, and grew organically in and through the stone. The Menatona were the second longest living beings in the solar system, reaching ages of three or four hundred years old. Because of this, they were revered for their infinite knowledge and wisdom, passed down through the long years, ancestors and ancient times. They had sharp, progressive minds, but were also fierce realists, balancing their hearts and minds. Over many years in service to the Capitol, they became the most desired race to oversee operations such as mining, space exploration and the military. In just a few short years, Untoc had climbed his way through the ranks, proving to be a mind unmatched by any in the service. His battle plans, defense tactics and knowledge of ancient conflict created the most versatile military force the capital system had ever seen.
On this day, Untoc stood proudly over his war table, now officially Praetor of the UOD. His thick, rectangular stone body loomed over a wide table, displaying the positions of ships from both the Twin Empire and Capitol forces. A huge, sharp hand resembling an eagle talon protruded from his stone body, waving over the digital field before him. His reptilian eyes shifted, scanning every inch of the board in his mind.
Praetor Untoc was surrounded by a handful of Capitol emissaries and ambassadors, all fussing and bickering with themselves over the current situation. Their straight, black uniforms with white trim made them appear funerary.
“There! There’s another one!” One of the emissaries shouted, pointing down at the board.
“Another battle cruiser?” The man next to him asked.
“I’m not sure...” He replied helplessly, then looked to Untoc. “Is this not an invasion, Sire?”
Untoc did not acknowledge him or meet his gaze, keeping focus on the situation before him.
“I am convinced.” A female ambassador chimed in. “I don’t care what any of you say or think. This has been long overdue.”
“How can you think that? We have been forever loyal.”
“It has little to do with that.” Untoc finally spoke. His voice was rhythmic and craggy.
“What do you mean?” The man inquired anxiously.
Just then, metallic doors behind them flew open. From the void beyond, a tall man with white hair, dressed in a formal silk, green surcoat strode inside and approached the table.
“Praetor Untoc!” He exclaimed.
All who were gathered around the table swung themselves around to greet the new arrival formally. All except for Untoc.
The man was Vicer Mercer. Vicer was a title held only by the most powerful members of the Capitol, of which there were few, working directly under and speaking for the Judges. They were the voices of the not only the Capitol, but also acted as independent leaders of the specific countries they represented. On Eniam, there were only three different countries, all separated by thousands of miles of ocean. Ban’Gor was to the west of Ogunquit, and Orono to the far south at the bottom of the planet. The Vicers were proud men, but unfortunately had no understanding of the real world, and were often ridiculed for keeping Judges in power. Merca, unfortunately, was the unbridled arrogant leader of Ogunquit.
He brashly stepped up to the table, ready to begin a fight. “Untoc. Tell me what is going on immediately.” He demanded. Untoc lifted his serpentine head, a long protruding beak that curved down to the floor nearly clipped Merca’s nose. He stared at him for a moment.
“Vicer Mercer, step away from this table until you have calmed.” Untoc replied stoically.
“Do not order me in the middle of an invasion!” Merca’s voice cracked. “If needed, we must prepare for a war on our shoreline.”
Untoc shook his head. “This will not be necessary. Hold all orders.”
“Hold all orders?” Merca repeated. “My men stand ready outside with a legion of security forces.”
“Displays of power are not the answer today, Vicer.”
“The Twin Empire certainly thinks so. And we will respond.”
One of the ambassadors edged into the conversation. “Vicer, with all respect, this may not be an invasion. We should not act so hastily.”
Merca turned to him angrily. “I do not remember your name. And if I do not remember your name, I do not remember your opinion. Keep your tongue sealed in these halls when we are here. ” He motioned to Untoc.
But Untoc agreed. “The boy is right, Vicer. It is you who should remain silent in this moment.”
“Dare speak to me like that again.” He scolded.
Untoc ignored him. “My thoughts tell me there is more here then meets the eyes. Forces remain hidden in shadows which we cannot see.”
“What does that mean?” He snarled.
“Patience?!” Mercer flailed his arms in distaste. “Brilliant. We will burn then.”
“Correct your thoughts, Mercer. The servants of the gods did not come to destroy us. The true threat lies within the walls of our great city.”
“Even more reason to take action.” His temper was childish. “We must eradicate them all!”
“Go then.” Untoc’s stone body shifted, angling toward Mercer to gain a better view. “Eradicate all the evil. And where will you begin? With yourself?” Mercer was silent. “Where will you go?” Untoc asked again. Mercer held his gaze, but offered no answers. The ambassadors and emissaries nervously studied both figures. After a long pause in argument, Mercer turned away in a huff.
“I am preparing my men regardless.” He promised. “I will await orders from the Judges, not from you.” The metallic doors slammed shut as they watched him exit.
Untoc’s round, white eyes fell back onto the wide table. He sighed heavily and centered his thoughts once more. The remaining council around him was afraid to say anything else.
“Praetor Untoc.” A young officer called coming to his side. “We have just received word Lord Hister has arrived.”
“Fearatu Hister?” Another officer exclaimed in amazement. “He has been reinstated?”
Untoc bowed his head in acknowledgment, then returned to his work. “Set more security forces at ground level.” He said quietly. “Two more divisions at the Capitol border, four more by the shoreline. Contact Safety, place them on standby for all areas.” The men nodded optimistically and began scuffling around to various work stations, barking orders to the workers and reviewing new information. “And so the veil of the enemy lifts.” Untoc spoke under his breath.
Two days had passed since the Twin Empire arrived on Eniam. The gigantic tharentula that once ominously loomed over the city’s shoreline was now gone, called back to the Wrangler’s homestead once again. In it’s place, many of the battleships that accompanied the great beast had remained behind to act as temporary garrisons, providing protection and keen eyes. Watchers lined the walls of state buildings and Capitol complexes, scaring children as they glided around corners silently.
On this day, the city of Ogunquit was shaded with overcast weather once again, as if the sky was experiencing a pattern of sorrow. In the crowded streets of the upper city, Charles walked swiftly through the mazes of crowded streets and bridges, covered by his dark cloak. He passed various food stands and shops selling random goods, assaulted by the pandemonium of commerce. When he stopped to look around, he lifted his head to read a small, hand painted sign over his head. His eyes filled with beads of rain as passing pedestrians bumped into his still body. He shifted his gaze to a narrow alleyway beside him. It appeared as though it was too tight for a normal sized man to fit down, and was bordered with closed shop doors and industrial lights of all colors.
Charles adjusted the height of his head as he gingerly stepped into the passage. He could hear the noise of the crowd dissipate almost immediately, replaced by the slick sounds of his heavy boots patting the wet ground. When he was half way down the alley, he noticed that one of the shop doors was open. As he came in front of the open area, a thin, spindly man in soft pink button down shirt sat quietly, sewing a needle masterfully through a piece of fabric. Charles felt odd, but he stopped and stared for a moment. The man said nothing. He didn’t even seem to notice Charles standing before him.
With a breath of air, a tall, dark figure appeared behind the man. Charles adjusted his focus as the figure stepped into the light. It was Wassador.
“Charles.” He said with a boom. His snout and mangled whiskers quivered.
“Hello again.” Charles returned dryly.
“Come.” Wassador motioned him to follow.
Charles nodded and edged his way around the sewing man. They exited through curtains near the back, and emerged into a very wide space, with only the natural sunlight seeping in from cracks in the architecture. As they walked through the area, Charles could see the skeletons of demolished walls and rooms, ribbed with pipes for air systems and plumbing. The entire space appeared to be a void between massive city buildings, unaltered for years. It was like an empty warehouse, with blocked windows and relics of the past stuck to the floor. In the background of the darkness, a disembodied yelling voice echoed through the chambers.
This was exactly why Kloven loved it. Broken poetry.
Charles had been sent for nearly two days ago, but Kloven had not yet received word from him until just now. Charles had agreed to come and see him once more. Upon their last meeting, Charles had only briefly discussed his situation and asked far less questions then Kloven was hoping. He was burdened by family matters at the time and could not stay, but did promise to return soon. Kloven salivated over this.
When Charles and Wassador approached what seemed to be the back wall, a light appeared from one of the empty rooms. One room was filled with bright, white light, the other with a soft blue. As they drew closer, Charles could see young men and women inside the brightly lit room, surrounding a man giving a speech. The man called out scientific phrases and mathematical equations with abundant enthusiasm. His attentive audience responded with vigor.
Wassador stepped in front of the glowing blue doorway and turned toward Charles. He remained silent, only extending an arm slowly in the direction of the light. Charles examined his face briefly for any sign of distress, decided it was safe to proceed, then brushed past him and into the room.
Once inside, the first thing he noticed was the countless stacks of books, aligned in bizarre patterns all over the room. Some had pages ripped out, other had covers painted over with thick layers of oil. And there in the middle, like a mad scientist in a city of words, Kloven sat motionless in an antique arm chair, locked to a book. Charles lowered his hood and waited for Kloven to acknowledge his arrival.
“Don’t stand. Sit.” Kloven said warmly without disengaging from his pages. “I know you’re here.”
Charles nodded thoughtfully once more and made his way through the towering stacks of books, careful not to cause an avalanche.
Kloven twisted around in his chair. “Formality is lifestyle for you, isn’t it?” He studied him and grinned.
“I suppose you’re right.” Charles returned.
“It is a sin for me.” Kloven snapped his book shut and sat forward.
“I come from a different life.” Charles found an empty space on a table and lowered himself down beside Kloven.
“Of this, I am sure.” He responded. “I was beginning to think you would not come.”
“Initially, I had not planned to come back.”
“Oh? And what changed your mind.”
Charles had been wondering this himself. It was almost as if he were following some life line he could not disconnect from. A path of destiny; a feeling inside his heart. “Fear.” He finally stated.
“An excellent motivator.”
“Fear of the unknown.” Charles added.
“I understand. And now, the Twin Empire has arrived.” He looked Charles over. “What will you do now?”
“I believe the more important question is what will you do?”
“Indeed. That is why we are both here.” Kloven grinned. He sat back in his chair and tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Charles,” he began, “did you know that every ancient civilization believes in destruction before creation?”
Charles nodded. “Of course.”
“Well I do not.” He sat forward again, as if troubled with being still. “I do not believe at all. My idea is education. Education through intimidation.” He pointed his finger.
“I will not help you fight a war, Kloven.” Charles stated.
“A war, but I-”
“Enough.” Charles growled. “No games. The Twin Empire has never invaded this planet, not even for small security reasons. Now they are establishing garrisons which will no doubt turn permanent.”
Kloven listened to Charles intently, but hiding a coy smile. “Charles,” he gazed into him, “what if I told you there was another way. Another path to take which would lead us away from here.”
“What do you mean?” Charles inquired with natural interest.
Kloven closed his mouth for a moment, finding the right words. “I have imagined something.”
“You have imagined something?” Charles repeated mockingly. He looked between Kloven and Wassador, who was stoically listening to the conversation. “Now you have the answers? Was his black market militia not enough?” He motioned to Wassador. Wassador’s anger boiled quickly. He stepped close to him. “Who knows how many innocent people you killed during your riots.”
“They were never my riots.” Kloven corrected.
“You joined. You lead.”
“To strengthen our resolve!” Kloven assured. “Something you know very well as a Capitol soldier.” He rose to his feet and began to search through more book stacks. “You throw stones at me, while my hands remain free of blade and pistol.”
“Your words are poison.” Charles replied sternly.
Kloven turned to him with sharp eyes. “Or perhaps the minds of my followers are.” He shot back. “Isn’t it you who believes in the free will of all? Yet you see no fault in absent minds.” He stared at Charles.
Charles could not respond. He lowered his head, feeling defeated and lost for words.
“Don’t you see, Charles?” Kloven grabbed a book and returned to the front of his chair. “Our worlds are collapsing around us.” He pushed a stack of books over. Charles flinched as they pounded the floor. “The fabric of our institutions is fraying. The only path which now makes any sense, is change.”
Charles raised his head and watched Kloven settle into his chair again. “Change?” He wondered.
“Look around you, Charles. What do you see?”
Charles glanced at a few book stacks. “Piles of books.”
“No!” Kloven yelled with a out stretched hand and stomped a foot in his direction. “You see nothing.” Charles was confused. “This is a room dedicated to no one. All of these books--these brilliant authors--saved from every library around the city.” As he walked around the stacks of books, his fingers lingered on each he could touch, drawing a line through the grimy covers. “Rescued from a life of dust, and succumbing to being eaten alive by moths. You see, Charles, no one will ever read these books, because no one ever has. These writers poured their souls into every word on these pages. And in the end, they rotted on the highest shelves, in the most forgotten corners. Only I will ever see these. And I will pass on this history.”
“As a martyr?” Charles wondered.
“As a human.” Kloven added and looked to him sadly, stepping back in front of his face. “It is time for a paradigm shift.” Kloven opened his new book and flipped through several pages. “Soon, I will tell all who follow me: We will no longer take up arms.” He arched his head back, continuing his monologue. “We will no longer create our own fire to battle the eternal hell on earth. We shall be as water. As the waves.” Kloven finally relaxed his body and sank back into his plush chair. He was pleased, as if on the precipice of a brilliant idea.
“You will not fight?” Charles asked.
“Nor will you. You will help me acquire this solution.”
“How can I?” Charles scoffed. “I am a simple soldier of the Capitol.”
Kloven straightened and leered at him. “You are the famous Captain Charles Lionheart, brother to the Commander of Solar Warden. Highly decorated. And highly investigated, for possessing a progressive mind.”
Charles shuttered at the latter statements. Obviously Kloven had heard of the Judge’s recent investigations of all members of Solar Warden. The entire division was likely to be completely disbanded, a haunting thought for Charles and his brother.
“You cannot go back to the Capitol.” Kloven finished. “That time is over.”
Charles reluctantly held his gaze. He could feel his resolve weakening. “I only want peace, Kloven.” He said softly.
Kloven sat forward. “Peace comes with a price.”
“On the contrary.” Kloven smiled. “Life.”
“I do not understand.”
“I offer them life, not death!” Kloven suddenly burst, holding his arms in the dark air.
Charles sighed heavily. “Any action you take will bring a battle.”
“Then they have brought that on themselves!” He snapped, whipping his head around. “I wish to teach! What do they wish for? More money for commerce? For wars and venoms?”
“I agree with you, I do.” Charles said reassuringly. “But I can not help.”
“Oh, but you can.” Kloven’s smile grew wide. His round glasses glinted in the blue light.
“Then tell me.” Charles was eager to understand the situation.
Kloven thought for a long moment before he spoke again. “Do you know of the wave machine?” He asked, then he closed his eyes.
Charles almost shuttered. The wave machine was one of the UOD’s secret projects, funded by the Capitol and overseen by Vicer Merca. The giant device was a curved, arch-shaped object that rose taller then the city mesa when fully operational. It was designed as a measure of defense against enemy forces to be used as a last resort. When activated, the machine produced a tidal wave as large as, and in the shape of the machine itself. The wave could then be directed to impact any area before it, acting as a massive extinguisher or eradicator.
Charles was stunned to hear this. “How in the name of the gods do you know of this?” He inquired.
Kloven did not answer right away, giving Charles time to peer in Wassador’s direction. Wassador smirked and narrowed his brow. Charles knew immediately.
“You?” Charles barked at Wassador.
“Some secrets are too valuable.” Wassador replied with a smooth, yet gruff whispered tone.
“They are indeed.” Kloven added. “And some assets, it would seem.” Charles continued to stare at Wassador. “I am trying to help you understand,” Kloven slouched again. “You are on the wrong side of history.”
“And you are a man too sure of himself.” Charles declared, his bright eyes falling on Kloven’s crazed expression. “Confidence is a fool’s liquor.”
“Wise.” Kloven returned, unwavering.
“And you are the fool.” Charles continued. “Consuming the entire city in ocean to prove your point is hardly the work of saints.”
“We are not going to consume them, Charles.” Kloven centered his back on the chair and placed his fingers together in front of him. “We are going to listen to them.” Charles was confused again. “We will listen to them scream in horror.”
“...To scare them?” Charles hoped Kloven would finish the thought.
“Exactly.” Kloven nodded humbly. “As I have tried to convey many times; I do not kill.” He said harshly. “I want to show them a new day.”
Charles suddenly began to understand. “Intimidation.” He whispered to himself.
Kloven beamed. “What happens when you put a gun to a man’s head, then save his life?”
“His life begins again.” Charles answered. It amazed Charles how much wisdom they shared, but he feared his brother’s training was being replaced by Kloven’s.
“We have our man.” Kloven declared proudly, looking to Wassador. Wassador remained still, locked onto Charles. “Now we have our chance. With all here to see our show.” Kloven raised a hand, as if offering it to Charles.
Charles remained still and thoughtful. “This is no stage, Kloven.”
“And yet, we must play our parts.” His fingers fluttered.
Charles allowed himself to think. He knew Kloven was right and agreed with so many of his ideas and beliefs. However, no guarantee was present. The wave machine could very well have the psychological effect Kloven had imagined. But it could also cause panic and war.
“We shall be as the tower that never falls,” Kloven continued, “a living monument to peace.” He jumped to his feet again and looked at the ceiling, as though he could see the sky. “We will declare in one loud voice: Enough! You must stop. You must change your ways in the name of peace.” He slowly lowered his eyes and pointed at Charles. “Or we will stop them.”
Charles held his silence, processing all of the information.
Kloven could see he was still unsure of the choices laid before him. “Charles.” He said, bending over in front of Charles’ face. “You have endless timelines unfolding before you. You must choose to act. You must choose to try. For the future.”
Charles was surprised at how sincere Kloven was acting. He had always appeared so violent and often times malicious. A brilliant mind to be sure, but consistently crazed. In this moment, Charles could feel his energy. It was unexpectedly warm and inviting. He knew then, Kloven’s intentions were true. As insane as this plan was, as insane as Kloven himself could be, Charles could no longer wallow in the shadow of his broken brother. It was his time to act.
“Tell me everything.” He said finally.
Kloven’s teeth shimmered in the darkness.
When the stars emerged once again over the floating city, the streets between the bustling complexes filled with light. Shadows of noisy people shuffled through each other, making their way to various destinations, chattering and laughing.
At the very top of a glimmering skyscraper was a decorative beam, outstretched over the endless rows of traffic below. Like an arm and hand holding an ornament, it supported a sharp, cylindrical structure made of transparent red crystal. The stout, oblong building was laced with gold trim and topped with a centerpiece of winged, dancing figures. This was the private dining hall Hister had reserved for the evening, a room normally used only by the Judges or Royal family members upon their very rare visits. To Hister, it seemed more appropriate than ever to be consuming his diner in this very location.
He sat quietly at one end of a dark wooden table, surrounded by bottles of wine and fruit, contemplating his situation. As transportation vehicles ambled by the crimson walls, their neon lights gleamed through, casting bright reflections of his face. His spindly fingers intertwining, his brow wrinkling in memory.
Only he was left, he thought. Only one Royal. One new Prince standing at the precipice of a new dawn for the Monto’Ac people.
When he was younger, it was a terrifying thought, but now it warmed him like a fire. His vision of true peace and prosperity was becoming a reality. Soon, all would see his wisdom.
Then, with a crack and squeak, the door at the opposite end opened. Raymond stepped inside and looked around for Hister, distracted by the food and decoration. As it was a more formal occasion, he was sure to adorn his classic attire; an ornamental silk shirt. The dark blue, shiny material covered almost his entire body, with two long pieces draping down his front and back. It was etched with the images of ancient symbols and animals, hand stitched by traditional shops. Around his neck, he wore a black scarf with one thick, long end to act as a short cape, hanging over one shoulder. As always, it was attached to him with his silver lion head crest, arched with thin draping silver chains, representing his family line, Lionheart.
“He returns at last.” Hister said rising to his feet.
“Hister,” Raymond replied, “this is certainly too much for a dinner.” He continued to take notice of the extravagant fixtures and expensive food items.
“This is how I live now.” He glided to Raymond’s side and smiled. “This is how we live.”
Raymond looked down at Hister’s robes, which he now realized were brand new. The aged white fabric, worm by many years of travel, had been replaced with shimmering layers of pearl cloth and diamond beads. In the center of his chest hung two gold rings. The Prince’s rings.
“The rings!” Raymond exclaimed.
“Yes, my friend. I have been reinstated.” He motioned Raymond to sit down, then walked back to his seat. “In fact, I am the council itself.”
Raymond sat down in amazement. “This is fantastic news, Hister!” He glowed. “Do you mean to say you have finally attained your family throne again?”
“Indeed I have.” He ran his fingers across the gold rings. “Now you will see the change you desire.” He rose a wine glass to Raymond. Raymond poured himself a glass and did the same. The two men shared a moment of gleeful silence as they downed the contents.
“How is Victorian these days?” Hister asked, dabbing a stain of wine from his thin lips.
“Better now,” Raymond replied, “but I do wish we did not have this situation to deal with.” He thought of something. “It has been troubling me. I wonder if I did this.”
“Of course not,” Hister dismissed, “regardless of your situation, the Twin Empire was coming eventually.” He assured. “Even so, I am happy I could assist you, my friend.”
Raymond agreed. “Indeed. But when did this all happen? Why so sudden?” Raymond inquired energetically, pointing to Hister’s new jewelry and robes.
“Because it is time.” Hister replied nobly. “I told you, didn’t I? Retribution and justice would be swift.”
“You have taken control of the council as well?” Hister nodded. “But how?”
“I made it so.” He answered with prowess.
Raymond was speechless. Of all things, he did not expect Hister’s actions to be so precise and sudden. After a lifetime cast away on the burial moons, he had not only been reinstated to the thrones, but was also dictating the council. Something was not right. “Forgive me, but I do not understand this. The Royal council had practically sentenced you to death, with no hope of return. This cannot be.”
Hister took deep breath. “The Princes would not see. They would not listen. They would not progress.” He stopped for a moment, reflecting on his actions. “I created ways for them to open their ears.”
“You speak of them in past tense.” Raymond noticed.
“Haven’t I always?” Hister tried to shift his tone to coy.
“I have not noticed.” Raymond answered with a chilled voice.
Hister decided to progress the conversation. “Do you know why I called you here tonight?”
“Your news, I would imagine.”
“Not simply.” He smirked and sat up straight. “Raymond, you are my dearest friend.”
Raymond nodded once. “Thank you, Hister. That truly does mean very much to me. I too value your friendship. I always have.”
Hister’s eyes fell to the table, overcome with fond memories. “I often think of our days in school together. Do you remember?”
“Only vague memories,” Raymond relaxed in his chair, “we were so young.”
“We were.” Hister looked up, still lost in deep thought. “And yet, here we sit as old men. Still together. Still strong.”
“And that is exactly why I have given you my greatest gift.” Hister gestured to his old friend.
“Your wisdom?” Raymond joked.
Hister stifled a smile. “Your new life.”
Raymond’s expression displayed bewilderment. “How is that?”
Hister gently leaned forward and placed his fingers at the bottom of his neck. “What you have around your neck at this very moment, is the sun itself.”
“This?” Raymond lifted the chain around his neck, revealing the small glass vile with the tiny black flower.
“Yes.” Hister’s smile finally surfaced. “Tell me, what do you truly know of eunoia?”
“As much as my mother and father left behind.” Raymond studied the vile, twirling it between his fingers. “Their research was thorough, but I am certain more mysteries will continue to be unlocked over decades.”
“Indeed that is true. I have read the journals and remember them well.” Hister commented.
Raymond continued his thought. “They spoke of eunoia as an energy which exists within the body’s energy. It is unlocked only by specific elements in the plant. When the eunoia energy is awoken, a human can then access the energies of the planet...” his voice trailed off as the memory of his father became vibrant in his mind. Then he snapped back into reality, looking to Hister. “I’m reading directly from my father, of course.”
“Not just the planet, Raymond.” Hister corrected. “The universe.”
“What do you mean?”
Hister paused for a moment of happy reverence. “Our research is complete.” He stated.
Raymond’s shock returned. “How is that possible? Main stream research has only begun.”
“Mainstream research?” Hister mocked. “They are but children.” He leaned his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands. “Would you like to know what you have around your neck?”
“You have told me. It is the first eunoia.”
“The first, and the most powerful.” Hister added thoughtfully. “To this day, we have discovered no others like it.”
Raymond shook his head. “How can that be? Surely it cannot be a single flower.”
“A single flower.” Hister repeated.
Raymond now examined the vile as though it were a rare jewel. A priceless artifact. He was afraid to touch it. “Impossible.”
“But most important,“Hister continued, “it helped us to understand the complexities of all other species. The compounds of this plant finally completed our research.”
“And what is the conclusion?” Raymond inquired.
Hister paused again to gather his words. “Energies of the universe.” Raymond bobbed his head cautiously, trying to understand. “It was long believed one could only unlock the powers of a single planet. Now, we understand it is literally limitless.”
Raymond placed the vile carefully down his shirt and held it close to his heart. “Are you saying this ability has no apex?”
“Exactly.” Hister pointed to him proudly. “A leveling effect is missing from the structure of the elements.”
“This would mean...” Raymond began.
“If one were to continue to harness this power, your abilities would become limitless themselves.” Hister finished his thought.
“But Hister,” Raymond could not shake his disbelief, “you talk of acquiring the force of the sun. Of the stars.” Hister remained quiet, a regal expression drawn across his gaunt face. Raymond’s head spun. “These are the powers of the gods.”
“The new gods of man.” Hister declared. Raymond remember their bizarre conversation on the moons. How Hister had suggested they could become the living gods of a new age. New kings, born to lead the people of the solar system to peace everlasting. “Raymond,” he continued, “do you not value the journey of wisdom?”
“Of course I do. It is my greatest passion.”
“And what lies at the end of all wisdom?”
Raymond pondered the difficult question. “The mind of god.” He stated.
Hister fell quiet and eased back into his chair, placing both his hands on the arm rests. He was already emanating this idea. “I will not stop until I reach it.” He almost whispered.
Raymond contemplated the situation before him. Yet again, he was unsure of his friend’s true intentions. “I must be honest with you, Hister. I fear this direction.”
Hister quietly rose to his feet again and placed a hand thoughtfully on his chin. “This has the power to change.”
“It has the power to destroy.” Raymond added.
Hister shifted his head to view Raymond’s trembling eyes. “As all things in the fabric of space and time. You know this.”
“I know it is important to keep balance, not shift the scales.” Raymond dropped his head.
Hister walked toward Raymond slowly, keeping his eyes fixed to him. “The Capitol has shifted the scales.” He came in front of Raymond. “The Princes. The Judges. Not you!” He leaned over and placed his bony hand on Raymond’s chest. “You are retaking control of a destiny robbed.” He grabbed Raymond’s chin and held his face up.
Raymond calculated his deep gaze. “You talk of human life as though you already control it. As if it is but a passing dream to control freely.”
Hister smiled and glanced down at a silver ring on his finger. Suddenly, a very small flap swung open from the center stone. A drop of liquid slid out and fell through the air, landing on the porous cap of Raymond’s eunoia vile.
The tiny black flower shifted in the soil. A thin, green haze built up inside the glass, then seeped out and up, into Raymond’s nose.
“Humans are like candles.” Hister replied, turning and walking back to his seat. “To light would be to destroy, yet it would remove the very existence and purpose of the object.” He glided into his chair and narrowed his hollow eyes. “You must find your light, Raymond.”
Raymond fumbled his words. His mouth struggled to form sounds. “I know...I...I understand.” It was as if another voice spoke for him.
Hister smiled coyly. “You must help me reclaim this land in the name of the gods.”
ACT II/III: Out This Winter!
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