Welcome back to another week of Left of Midnight! I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this is the latest posting in the LOM novel offerings! I trust you’ve been following along and enjoying the tale as they’ve been put up. The novel itself should be available by this fall I just don’t know when exactly yet. I’m still working on section three and I believe I’ll have all the edits done by the end of summer. That’s the plan, anyhow.
Therefore, in the interim, feel free to read these entries and see for yourself how the rough draft of this novel is going to play out. I’ll make an announcement when the novel is available for purchase on my personal author’s site.
Without further ado, the newest offering of Left of Midnight.
HE PACED THE apartment in great agitation. Ever since Avery had left, he’d been feeling a deeper anxiety that he couldn’t quite explain. The darkness was fiercer here. Deeper somehow. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he was feeling a dread so intense that he just wanted to jump out of the window and be done with everything already. He didn’t trust Avery’s new friend and he certainly didn’t trust the council they’d just spoken to about getting them anywhere near away from the island. In fact, he felt that it was all one big elaborate trap and he and Avery were the worms on the end of the hook. A trap for what, he couldn’t say though.
Shōtō continued pacing the floor of his common room. He glanced out the window every time he neared it and then turned back towards the wall up the stairs across from him. The hallway connecting the two apartments led to the only entrance to the place and that was also a concern. He’d been in his bedroom trying to meditate when Avery had emerged from his own room and started yelling out his name. He hadn’t answered because he didn’t want to talk to the man while he was still enamored with the lady with the horns. That should’ve been an obvious warning sign, Shōtō figured, but Avery was the kind of man who let his groin guide him. Of course, maybe all Americans were like that, he thought. It wasn’t like he knew too many of them.
After about half an hour or so, Shōtō had given up on meditating. The shadows of the bedroom closed in and called out his name again. The last thing he wanted was to allow them to claim his soul. That he would not accept. Not this time.
He paced and grumbled, his eyes darting to every corner. He could see the shadows trying to enlarge everywhere. All of them had those blue eyes in the dark. All of them were chanting his name in a symphony. Oh, he couldn’t hear the songs they made out loud, but he could sense them. In his mind he saw the monsters smiling and singing a tune of horrible seduction.
“No… no… go away!”
Spittle flew from his mouth as he drew his arms in close to his chest and bent forward a few degrees trying to hunch away from the creatures clamoring for his energy, for his mind.
“Whatever it is you think you can take, you can’t have it!” Shōtō spat out and paced faster and harder.
His eyes took in every nook and every corner, edge, bookshelf, and doorway. He’d closed the one to the bedroom knowing that they were clawing at the walls and the floors trying to get at him. Sure, he could leave the apartment, get lost somewhere out in the city as he was certain Avery was doing right that moment. However, he wasn’t nearly so foolish. If there was anything he knew for certain, when the enemies came for you in the dark, you hid where you knew they couldn’t find you. And never left that spot, otherwise they were merely driving you out into the open.
There was a buzz halfway down the connecting corridor and he heard something open up. He paused mid-pace and stared up towards the shadowy hall.
Oh, it’s lit up alright. But the shadows are still there. The shadows are waiting… Something burred and then there was silence. Shōtō waited for a long moment before taking a hesitant step towards the hall. The panel to the delivery chute stood open and a tray pushed out halfway from the interior. Upon said tray there was a box. And it glowed. Blue.
“Oh, no, no,” Shōtō mumbled and started pacing once more. “No, you don’t! You can’t fool me! You can’t trick me, shadows! You can’t fool me Biel… Biel…” he stammered trying to find the name he wanted to say. It was at the edge of his consciousness. Somehow, it was right there trying to pry away his mental blocks. “Biel… Bile! Bile! You vile creature! You monster! Bastard! Biel Zhe Bor! Begone!”
He came back towards the stairs and leaned over to stare down the hall. The tray was still there. Just hanging halfway out of the withdrawn panel unveiling the service delivery tube just within. The box still gave off its unearthly blue glow.
He started pacing once more. “Why won’t you leave me alone!? Why won’t you return to the depths of that horrific abode you call home!? I don’t want to be your minion! I’m not a follower of such a cause!”
After another minute, he hurried back up to the top of the stairs and down the hallway towards the glowing box. He fully intended to pick it up and smash it upon the floor. However, as he reached for the device, a panel on its top opened and a person came into existence above the box. The person was small and golden in color. Translucent yet somehow solid. He was maybe seven inches tall as he hovered above the box’s surface smiling pleasantly at Shōtō.
There was something else about him that caused Shōtō to pause and take a hesitant step back. He was one of those horned creatures Avery had grown so fascinated by.
“Greetings, master Shōtō,” the being began and lifted a hand out of his golden robe sleeves to give a slight wave. “I am Minister Seleton of the Sheonden Primacy. I’ve been tasked with delivering this message to you and hope it finds you well.”
“Who are you!? What do you want!?” Shōtō yelled and held his hands forward and balled up as if at any moment he might strike out seeking to punch the strange man in his ethereal face. “Are your eyes to glow blue too soon? Huhn?”
“There must be a great many questions that you have, Mr. Ryūgawa. For now, though, let me just offer up an apology for the manner in which you were treated earlier,” Minister Seleton continued as if he hadn’t heard Shōtō at all. Or maybe he did and he’s feigning ignorance! Never underestimate these Oni! “Prefect Nindemus regrets the confusion when it came to your apprehension and wishes to extend an olive branch. If you will so honor him with your presence, Prefect Nindemus requests a meeting well within the confines of the Farediin Regency’s reach. You are unfamiliar with the city layout, I am sure. As such, you will find this map quite helpful.”
Minister Seleton held his right hand outward and a map displayed into the air in front of the box much in the same manner that the interface panel by the doorway showed them information about Farediin. Shōtō wasn’t impressed nor interested. It was only one more way in which these people sought to entrap him and drag him down into the pits of despair where awaited that demon calling himself Biel Zhe Bor. The greatest of the horned Oni. Shōtō was on the verge of simply batting the device off the tray when the man widened his arms and his smile broadened.
“Seven thirty tonight at the Odjemir Grand Chamber located directly center of all of Farediin. You can reach it by taking the transit system via the connection networks here,” the image on the map zoomed in on a wide chamber close to the apartment complex. It was probably fifteen minutes away by foot. The transit line showed a series of tunnels as a representation of a pill shaped vehicle lifted off and flew through the tubes towards a massive open space. The map panned back to show that this was the main interior of the volcano that the denizens called ‘Odjemir’. Shōtō frowned. “To avoid any confusion, simply remove the portal mapping log and it will display the map in the air for you anytime you need.”
The front of the box clicked open via three panels extending in different directions and then a rail zipped out holding a small ball in its central tines.
“Prefect Nindemus does hope you’ll be able to meet with him. The Odjemir Grand Chamber is one of the oldest entertainment hubs in all of Farediin. It features an opera house right at its center and there are a great many cultural histories lining its perimeter. Perhaps we can arrange for a tour for you as well once the meeting has concluded. Please, accept our apologies and come meet with us. We will make up for the confusions from before. Prefect Nindemus hopes to see you there.”
The being vanished leaving Shōtō alone with the box that was no longer glowing and the ball just sitting attached to the extended tines. He went to pick the box up and stared at the ball for a long moment. It was just a silver ball. He figured he could probably touch it and the map would reappear. But did he really want to take such a chance?
“No. No! It has to be destroyed!” he grabbed and lifted the box above his head, his face one of contorted rage and distrust. He arched his arms back preparing to toss the box to the floor as hard as possible, the ball still attached to the pointed tines reaching out of the box like a serpent’s tongue. And just as he was about to throw all of his might and anger into the act, a thought struck him and he slowly lowered the box until it was at chest level. It wasn’t a very large device. Not any longer than his forearms. And it was light. He figured it would probably smash without much effort. “But, maybe I shouldn’t. Nindemus wants to meet in person… He wants me to come to him in person…”
The shock on his visage gave way to a subtle grin, growing with every moment of opportunity he was just realizing had just been placed before him.
The lead monster himself… the one who has manipulated Avery and myself since first arriving. Who likely convinced Avery to come to this mad place… Shōtō’s body shuddered. Then his chest heaved. His neck grew taut and spittle flew from his lips. His eyes enlarged and stared out at nothing as his lips flung wide and a cackle echoed from deep in his throat. That’s right. That’s right! I can kill him! I can kill him right out! Right out in the open and no one would be able to stop me! Then who’d be laughing in whose face, tyrant!? Whose bloodline would be a joke then! Eh!?
The veins on his forehead stood out and he couldn’t help the laughter wracking his body. The idea was so perfect and there was no way Nindemus… Oh, sorry. PREFECT Nindemus… would know what was happening until it was too late.
Shōtō hugged the box to his chest and made his way carefully back to his apartment where he gently placed the box on the shelf top over the waist high collection of books that he never had any intention on reading. After he was sure it was safe and not liable to flip off of its place on the shelf, he turned back to his bedroom. There was a corner that he’d noted earlier where one could fix dinner or lunch or whatever snack whenever the urge arose. He hadn’t given it much attention before because he had no intention of staying any longer than he had to. However, now he was intent on ensuring Nindemus was no more before he left the city for good. How ever he might be able to achieve that goal in the end.
He went into his bedroom and found the alcove designed for sustenance and searched the drawers beneath and around it. There were no silverware to be found at all.
“Blast it! How do you use this thing!” he reached for the interface pad in the middle of the counter and felt a connection zip through his head. He immediately withdrew his hand. A panel on the wall opened up and a plate of fresh roe and rice slid out. Shōtō stared at it for a long moment, his head tilted to one side. Then he reached out and touched the rice. It was warm and sticky.
Did I want this? Now that I think about it… I actually do. But I need something to eat it with… He reached his hand out again and once more the panel opened depositing a pair of chopsticks and one large bladed instrument. He found himself staring once more and then a smile creased his face.
Yes. Of course. So convenient of these devils. You expect me not to eat it, don’t you? Figuring you out for the poisonous vile creatures that you are? Shōtō grinned and took the chopsticks and steak knife. Rest assured, I will eat this. I’ve got the time. And once I’ve gotten through this and regained my bearings, I’m going to cleave open one maniacal spawn of hatred.
Shōtō held the knife up and looked at his reflection in its surface. Then he placed it on the counter top and went to work putting down his brief meal. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. But now that he was devouring the contents on the plate, he thought he might go back for seconds. He stood right where he was readying himself for what came next.
URUDII WAS LIVELY this time of day. Er’ra Zel didn’t spend much time in the area but she’d come from time to time when she had the spare time. Mostly, she just liked resting on the beach beyond the seaside observational grounds. And though she was pressed for time, she was half tempted to pay it a visit. Right after speaking with Trillian.
Er’ra Zel exited the lift and walked along a walkway overlooking the suburb of Urudii. This section of city wasn’t as massive as so many others and had the benefit of not having to overlook a deep pit into the earth. In fact, it was laid out as concisely as any other city block located in any other city anywhere else across the planet. She hurried along the overlook reach until she came to a rampway leading down into the suburb proper and continued onward towards the residential sector where she would find Trillian’s home. Now that she thought about it, she actually hadn’t seen him in a few weeks. It was odd. Generally, the man was involved in every aspect of the council and adjudicants’ business dealings. Recently, however, he seemed to have been disappearing into whatever shadows he’d been keeping himself busy within.
Denizens of Urudii busied themselves going about their own affairs in all of the districts. Some were frequenting the stores located along long, stacked streets where shops and residences sat atop one another and rose up some three, four, sometimes even five levels tall. She passed by these areas cursing herself for not thinking about grabbing one of the transit cabs that linked up to the beach overlooks. She supposed she was simply distracted. By Avery and Shōtō, and Nindemus—who was no less the bastard than he’d always been.
Stop focusing so much on that. Focus on what has been keeping Trillian away from his job. Er’ra Zel furrowed her brows and picked up her pace. The last thing she was going to do was be behind on whatever it was that was dividing Farediin from itself. Somehow, she had a thought in her mind that Nindemus was responsible for much of the city’s problems. She couldn’t say what it was, but the fact that the notion of the mythology of Midnight kept cropping up, was enough to make her believe that he was subtly manipulating people behind the scenes. Whatever it was he was after, she was hellbent on keeping him from making his name more than just an afterthought in the history books.
She hurried along Durus Avenue and up towards Pavilion Point which led up towards the rampways rising up through the beachfront entrances that prevented the waters from falling down upon the inner city. Trillian lived just up the hill from where she walked and it was a tough climb as she panted pushing herself forward and cursing herself ever more for not simply hailing a cab. Within half an hour, she found herself in front of Trillian’s doorway and buzzed for an audience. There was nothing for a long moment leaving her time to cast her gaze up the large building rising up some four floors above the inclined level of the hill leading back down into the depths of Urudii prime. She was almost tempted to leave when the front doorway slid open. Answering, a young woman of telorvian descent.
“Hello? Is there something I can do for you, ma’am?”
“Yes,” Er’ra Zel said focusing completely on the young woman. “You can go and fetch Minister Trillian. He’s been absent from council affairs for several weeks now. And I’ve been informed that he was quick to exit our last informal meeting.”
“Minister Trillian isn’t here, Ms…?”
“Adjudicant Er’ra Zel. He was supposed to bear witness to… you know what, just tell me where he is.”
“It’s alright, Em’rika. Let her in.”
The young woman looked behind her and then hesitantly opened the doorway for Er’ra Zel allowing her entrance. Er’ra Zel entered and looked around. The first floor was replete with furnishings and statuettes. The lavish environment showed chandeliers and large dining room tables full of dinettes, silverware, and ornate glassware set in the middle of it all. All of it in tones of bronze, copper, gold, oak, and silver inlays. Trillian De’stelerlai stood before Er’ra Zel looking every bit the host but also put out in the process.
“Adjudicant. What do I have the pleasure of your honorable presence over?”
“Is there somewhere we can speak in private?”
“But, of course. Follow me.”
Trillian walked towards a stairway in the next room that was flush against a dividing wall between the dining room and commons facility. She followed him as the young woman Em’rika shuttered and locked the front doorway. Er’ra Zel tried not to let this fact annoy her or set any sort of fear up her spine. But it was a difficult endeavor nonetheless.
They reached the fourth floor landing of his immense mansion and he walked towards a counter bearing all manners of alcoholic beverages and treats to whet the appetite.
“Is there something specific I can pour for you, lady Er’ra Zel?”
“No. You can start by explaining to me why it is you feel you no longer have to make an appearance before the council. Also… have you abandoned our alliance to counter Nindemus? I must know.”
Trillian chuckled and poured an amber liquid into a shallow cup and then proceeded to turn towards Er’ra Zel and handed her the glass. Er’ra Zel took it hesitantly and took a sip. It was a sweet liquor reminiscent of some sort of rum mixed with wine.
“You know, you and your… allies, as they are, seem to think that this city will survive simply by being pleasant and free of any sort of conflict,” Trillian sipped on his drink and walked around the small table at the center of the room. “The truth is, conflict has already reached our shores. I don’t know what comes next. I truly don’t. But what I do know is that the humans on the surface are not interested in what’s best for us. They seek only to conquer and destroy. And through all of this, you wish to challenge Nindemus to the right of strength for the lower cities.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Trillian,” Er’ra Zel closed her eyes briefly, and exhaled dramatically. “Nindemus is trying to use this conflict of humanity as an excuse to take over all of the cities and claim them for himself.”
“Know this for a fact, do you?”
“I know that he has something to do with the True Word movement running rampant across the lower levels of Farediin. I don’t know what he’s planning to do with it, but I know it is not in the best interest of you or me or anyone else.”
“I don’t want to be in the middle of what is about to come next. I don’t know what Nindemus is planning. However, I do know that those who profess their allegiances to the True Word will find favor with Shoenden and its masters.” Trillian sighed and placed his glass on the tabletop before him. “Look, Er’ra Zel, I’m not looking to get into the shit with you or him or even Regent Sendima. All I know is that I want to keep my head down until all of this blows over.”
“What does Nindemus plan to do? What does he want with those soldiers? Trillian, talk to me! Help me stop whatever it is Nindemus is planning!”
“I don’t know anything. I only know that you and he are in over your heads and trying to bring the rest of us down with you. Hell, Midnight is almost prepared to rise up and lay misery across all of our world.”
Er’ra Zel scoffed and turned towards the window overlooking the plaza below. “Midnight. Always with Midnight. The myth that won’t stay in the annals of history.”
“You would do well not to dismiss it out of hand, adjudicant. Midnight is as real as you or I and it is housed deep within Shoenden, ready to reclaim what was taken from it.”
Er’ra Zel sighed. “Are you saying that you won’t be helping us any further?”
“Adjudicant, I won’t be involved in politics as usual from here on out,” he frowned and crossed his arms. “Unless Regent Sendima has something to say about it. Look, something menacing is transpiring in Shoenden and Nindemus is right in front of it. Whatever it happens to be, I no longer wish to be a part of it. You and the regency can make the determination of how to proceed moving forward. As of now, I’m on vacation until further notice.”
Er’ra Zel turned on him. “Fine. Know anyone who can fill your shoes during all of this chaos?”
“My recommendation, Adjudicant Er’ra Zel? Walk away. Hunker down. Stay out of the way of what comes next. You’ll be better off in the long run.”
Er’ra Zel stepped forward and pointed a long finger towards him. “I will never abandon my duties. And I will never abandon our people.”
“Which people would that be?” his eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed.
“Everyone who calls our cities home. That’s who. You would do well to grow a spine and serve the public that emplaced you into your role to begin with.”
Er’ra Zel didn’t wait for an answer. She turned away and marched back downstairs. She left the mansion behind her and walked back down the hill in a huff. She didn’t stop until she was at the curvature leading upwards and into a cul-de-sac halfway up another hill. She paused and thought over everything she’d already learned.
Nindemus is definitely up to something. And somehow Trillian is involved. Yet, what is there to do about it? She cast her gaze up towards the windowed view looking out at the ocean seaside. You know what, I deserve a little breather. I’m going to get a few hours in on the beach, then just go meet up with Avery. Whatever Nindemus wants with him and Shōtō, maybe he’ll be able to cast some light upon the issue.
She turned away from the cul-de-sac and headed towards the beachhead hoping to drive away the myriad of uncertainties caressing her mind.
And we’ve come to the end of another posting on Left of Midnight! Man, these weeks go so freaking fast, don’t they? We’re already over a month into the new year and it feels like the year is flying already! Alright, I hope you had fun with this particular set of Micro-Chapters and I’ll read to you again next week! See you then!
~Timothy S Purvis
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