Welcome back to another exciting entry into my new novel, Left of Midnight! If you’ve been following along, you know that I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this story is still technically in its rough draft stage. So there will be alterations to the narrative by the time of release (which I’m hoping will be sometime in the early fall. I’m not entirely certain at this juncture). I hope when the time comes you’ll all jump on over to my author’s page and check it out! I leave links at the end of this posting that will take you there and to one of my works already published.
I hope you’re enjoying this tale so I won’t keep you from it any longer! Let’s get right back into the story and I’ll read to you again next week!
REGENT SENDIMA WALKED down the hallway and into his bedroom. His quarters were located deep within the compound of the Regency Governmental Complex. He’d been regent for some ten years or so and the job was lately getting harder than he’d ever expected. Between rumors of Midnight cropping up or the arising of the True Word Covenant, to even playing host to two soldiers from the outside world, there was just no end to the problems he was facing over the last year and a half. All of it, of course, seemed to be centering around that tyrannical never do weller Nindemus. If only he had never been made Prefect of Shoenden. It wasn’t something he’d done, of course. But rather it was a matter that his predecessor had bestowed upon the man. Why he’d felt that was necessary was beyond him. That it had happened, naturally made it his problem.
Blasted Nindemus. Why hadn’t he just died out near the Praxus Dr’ium and left the rest of us out of his need for power? Holding him in check is proving the most challenging of prospects.
Sendima stopped before the mirror behind his dresser and sat down with a hard ‘oof’. He was tired and angry. Though he rarely allowed his anger to show through to others who were watching this nightmare play out. Of course, he could still rely on the other regents to assist him in sussing out just how to handle Nindemus proper. Maybe anyhow.
The truth was, he wasn’t certain. Nindemus had absolute control of all of Shoenden. After Prefect Del’torus had died, Nindemus filled in his role. It had been an honor of transferal that was one of Shoenden’s longest held traditions. Yet, Nindemus was one of those soldiers who lacked imagination and only saw power as a means to an end. When the transferal of that power was occurring, Sendima was arguing in the council how a new and more vibrant voice was required to ensure that the balance was maintained. That the influence of the Farediin Council was managed and continued unabated.
Few, though, understood the gravity of the situation. And so, Nindemus was confirmed as Prefect of Shoenden. Forever being a thorn in Sendima’s side.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I don’t want to understand it. Why did he bring those two into our throes? What is his game plan? Sendima stared at his reflection in the mirror looking deep into his own eyes. Somehow the American and the Nihonjin are players in his sick game. I can’t see what it is though. I can’t see it, Magistrate! You left me with all of this power, all of this responsibility, yet there are matters at hand I’m just unable to contend with! Please, Magistrate! Please! Help me! Send me your word, your aura, your mantra, your… reasoning. I… I just don’t know how to deal with this matter at all… He’s challenging the council. Again. And I fear he’ll be successful this time around. Whereas Midnight should be a thing of mythology… what if it isn’t? What if the True Word’s reach is something that cannot be held back?
Sendima sighed deeply. The truth was, he didn’t know. And wasn’t prepared. Nindemus had a plot at hand, that much was assured. What that plot was, however, wasn’t something easily seen. What was clear, though, was that something had to be done to ensure to the continued existence of Farediin. That meant a direct challenge to Nindemus himself. A means to keep the man at bay until an actual solution could be found.
Er’ra Zel. She can prove a foil against him. And I know just the trick… He got up with a smile and moved towards his bedroom. A good night’s rest was what was needed. And the morrow would show him a more authoritative measure than was currently at hand.
“AND LO DID Biel Zhe Bor bring him up, show him the truth in the light. His soul was no longer his, he had discovered. It belonged to the wealthy, and the elite. To the powerful, and the foul. The lies that they told poor Chunlida had caused him to walk the wrong path. To follow the path of greed, lust, and betrayal. And Biel Zhe Bor saw in this young man fear, confusion, anger, and regret. He reached into Chunlida’s heart and filled it with the True Word. And did Chunlida rise to his feet and praise Biel Zhe Bor?”
The question was rhetorical, of course, Avery realized as the throng of peoples gathered around the raised dais along the boardwalk at the end of the park all lifted their hands into the air and screamed in unison: “Yes!”
“He did indeed! He rose to his feet and gave praise for he was finally whole again! Made useful again! Given hope again! And this pleased Biel Zhe Bor! Who here is confused, and alone, afraid of what the world might unleash next?”
One by one, hands went up. Avery stood along a railing along an overlook only barely looking down onto the boardwalk which itself hung over the largest, most frequented portion of the lakeside. Here, there were long stretches of beaches and grassy parks reaching out until it touched the cavernous parkway back into Farediin itself. He leaned against the railing and sighed, a frown creasing his previously pleased person. He was interested to note that many of the more non-interested people in this sudden expression of religious ideology merely scoffed and moved along to whatever daily routine or recreational activity they had in mind. But the two dozen others listening with ravish attention seemed just a little bit scary to behold.
“The humans are waging war again. Only this war seems to be the war to end all wars. And the pain, and the hate, and the grievance, and the sorrow that they bring with them has affected us all,” the robed man on the dais (which was relatively small, comparatively to all the other raised structures in the area—it was little more than an actual soapbox, Avery mused) walked back and forth across the five by five foot wooden structure looking each and every attendant in the eyes. Avery was almost enthralled himself. The manner in which the man was speaking… well, it had this heavy, all-encompassing feel to it. Like a wave of sound caressing one’s body and every word the man spoke could be heard clearly all across the park space. No sound system, no amphitheater to carry the melodious note to its intended audience. No, this man spoke so deeply that you couldn’t help but think he was a voice of authority. And that very fact frightened Avery more and more. “And what does our own government do about it? Nothing. Why? Because they fear the humans. Why, I’ve even heard word that they’ve allowed humans into our very cities! Into our homes! How long before these humans are trying to sway you to abandon everything you hold dear and accept their rule? Is this something that you want?”
“No!” the people cried out and alarm rose in Avery’s gut.
I… should really get the fuck out of Dodge… this could become really bad, really fast…
Avery jumped back from the railing nearly three feet and raised his hands up while giving a shriek of surprise. “I didn’t do it!”
Er’ra Zel let her lips give a shocked smile and she dropped one hand out of the air and back to her side. She’d been attempting to touch his shoulder.
“Wow. Not the response I was expecting.”
Avery placed a hand over his chest and looked around. Thankfully, nobody else heard, or cared if they did, his terrified shout. In fact, those held enraptured by the man on the dais didn’t seem to notice anything beyond what he was saying. Their attention held so firmly, one could probably run up on them, throw firecrackers into their midst, and they’d simply allow their bare feet to be blown to shreds. Just so long as they could continue to hear about the wonderful world this Biel Zhe Bor fellow had waiting for them in whatever afterlife the man was preaching.
“Sorry—I—sorry,” Avery stammered trying to get his heartrate under control. “That—preacher… was just talking about how humans have been let into the city and I was just thinking, heh, that could be bad if suddenly everyone rioted against us. And—”
“Okay. Okay,” Er’ra Zel approached him and this time did put a hand on his left shoulder. Her gaze fell onto the man on the dais who was now preaching about the release that the True Word would bring once all of the human world was purged from the surface beyond. Her brows furrowed and, if Avery didn’t know any better, he was certain she had it in mind to murder the fellow. “Let’s go somewhere else. Feel like taking a walk?”
She looked to him then, the rage in her eyes subsiding and only compassion remained. He was immediately settled and at peace and nodded as he stared into her crystalline blue eyes.
“I’m willing and able whenever you are.”
“Great! Come on then. Let’s get away from this…” she looked back as they started to walk away once more, “shit show.”
“You know, I’d never imagine you having it within you to express… uhm… colorful metaphors.”
Er’ra Zel laughed. It was gentle and sighing as she turned her back on the True Word preacher. “Oh, Avery, I’m sure most people have it in them to express ‘colorful metaphors’ when the need arises.”
Avery chuckled. “So, you don’t seem very happy with that guy. Just what is this whole ‘True Word’ thing, anyway?”
Er’ra Zel went quiet for a long moment. She ran her left arm around his right elbow and said nothing as they walked and she guided him across the parkway and towards the other side of the lake where it bended around the various piers and observation decks. Avery watched her for a moment and then let his eyes wander across the quiet lake with its many waterfowl flying here and there, fishes leaping at irregular intervals, and the fresh smells of lake water lingering in the air.
“It’s not a subject I want to get into here. Many people are already aware of the growing movement, but few know what is truly at its heart,” Er’ra Zel said and nodded towards a dock just down the hill they’d crested. “Feel up to a boat ride?”
“Ooooo, a boat ride. Where are you taking us, mysterious lady?”
“To a place few know about and fewer still speak of.”
“Could you be any vaguer?”
She twisted her head to her left and stared straight into his eyes. They were nearly nose to nose and a twitter had grabbed ahold of his heart. He tried not to let it show but her smile suggested there wasn’t a secret he could hold she couldn’t discover. And, if he was honest with himself, he didn’t mind that fact one bit.
“Did you want me to try? I’m pretty good at keeping mum about stuff.”
“I don’t doubt that for a second, Zella.” Er’ra Zel drew her head back yet didn’t release his arm. Avery immediately felt guilty and looked to the ground to see that they’d come to a stop, her gaze deep upon him. “I, I’m sorry. My apologies. I was just trying to make your name easier to say. Er’ra Zel has a lot of… vigor in it.”
“I’m not upset,” she quirked a brow and he looked at her in confusion.
“Then, I don’t understand.”
“I haven’t been called Zella since I was a child. I was just curious how you decided to refer to me that way.”
“It just occurred to me.”
“Huhn,” she let go of his arm and broke off into a run towards the boat dock where four boats were moored. She looked over her shoulder briefly with a smile and laughed. “Race you to the boat!”
“What!?” Avery stood stunned for a moment as he watched the woman tear off at a pace he knew he couldn’t keep up with. “What is this, bootcamp?” He chuckled and started at a jog in no real hurry to beat her to the vessel awaiting them.
She reached there nearly a full thirty seconds ahead of him and laughed harder as he struggled to make the final distance to the dock.
“You’re such a slow poke!” she chided as he arrived and held his hand to his chest as if he were severely out of breath. “Oh, please. I saw your training regiment out on the island before you connected with your friend.”
“Where were you all watching us from?” he shook his head still breathing heavily. “And, for your information, I’m always out of breath whenever I do any sort of heavy running.”
Er’ra Zel winked at him getting into the boat. It was fairly good sized. Not unlike a fisher’s boat with a raised roost for looking out over the lake. Unlike a fisher’s boat, the roost had room for two and the boat was about twice as wide with a flat bow that curved down into the watery surface. The roost itself was padded in yellow upholstery with a backing in which to lean against. The whole vessel seemed constructed out of the same mineral they used in the fabrication of many parts of Farediin. Bronze gold. Yet lined with a copper brass that reflected light from above. She mounted the pilot’s seat (he assumed it was the pilot’s seat, anyway. He didn’t see any sort of control system there, let alone any sort of panels or motors in which to make the thing move).
“I find it disheartening you give me so little credit,” he smiled at her and got into the boat beside her. It felt a little unsettling as the craft rocked gently on the waves that they’d just made. “So, how does this thing work. I don’t see a motor.”
“Have you not noticed we do things just a tad bit different here?” A smug, rueful smile lit up her face as she ran her hand into the air before her and a projection, like the interface panels located all over the city, came into existence. “We’ll just lay in our destination and the boat will do the rest of the work.”
The vessel hummed to life and banked away from the dock and out into the middle of the lake. Water rippled around them as the boat darted across the surface making little to no noise and sending the sensation of gliding up Avery’s spine.
“Holy… shit…” he mumbled looking out over the lake.
The further out they got, the clearer the water became. The blue green depths were almost crystal clear in several spots allowing the view of several rather large and long fish to be spotted without difficulty near the bottom of the lake. He didn’t get many details of them (it’d been a little while since he’d gotten to name something new, after all) as the vessel darted over the surface and towards one of the cavern entrances beyond the edge of the lake. He looked to Er’ra Zel whom was watching him intently. He offered up a smile.
“It’s not like I haven’t been on a boat before, you know. My dad, well, stepfather, used to take me and my brother out all the time. My actual dad, well, the less said about him the better. But good old Eddie loved to go out on the lake. Had fun taking the two of us too. At least, I think he did. He always seemed like he was having fun. But I guess we didn’t really know him all that well in the end.”
“Did something happen to him?”
“He left mom and moved to Toronto. Dick.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,” Er’ra Zel’s smile dimmed and her gaze fell to her lap. Avery gripped the top of her right hand.
“Don’t be. Wasn’t trying to make you sad or anything. There were a lot of jerks where we grew up. Just get used to it after a while, you know?” she tried to smile and he cursed himself silently. Then decided to change the subject. “I’m not really great friends with Shōtō, you know. Sure, we learned to get along and survive together. But the man is a real basket case. I do like him, though. I guess you could say he’s my frenemy. Good man. Just very damaged. Lost his father when the Japs… uh… when the Japanese military decided to take on Russia for control of Mongolia and Korea. They kept Korea but only the southeastern portion of Mongolia. I don’t think Shōtō was ever able to reconcile with his father who apparently was a real hardass. His mom died in forty three, I think that’s what he said. Tough to understand a man who speaks another language. He doesn’t think I understand him, but I understand him better than he knows. After his mom went, he was drafted by the War Ministry. Funny thing about it all,” Avery laughed and stared out beyond the boat’s bow as he spoke, Er’ra Zel listening intently, “he devised a plan of surrendering to my commanders. Thought it was better to be a prisoner of us awesome Americans than, A), die in a suicide run or, B), be put to death returning home in dishonor. Goddamn, humans suck. Maybe that preacher was right. All we bring is suffering and chaos.”
Er’ra Zel shook her head. “He’s not right. And your kind do not ‘suck’. Bit volatile from time to time, but you have your bright spots.”
“I don’t know, Zella, I don’t know…”
She glanced over at him. “Avery, you have to believe in the potential of your species. Human beings have the ability to move beyond their instincts and become just like any other spacefaring civilization. They can make their world a better place. And you can help them accomplish that, you know?”
Avery turned his gaze upon her hesitantly. Then met her eyes with a mournful look. “I wish I could really believe that. But I’ve been in the thick of it. I’ve seen us at our worst…”
“And I’ve seen you at your best. The Colosseum in Rome, the great pyramids in Giza, the architectural splendor of the Mediterranean… your arts and cultures. So many powerful words of wisdom throughout the ages…”
“And how much of that has been recent? Hmm? There’s a lot of cynicism going around and not a whole lot of arts and crafts being posited. In fact, conquering new worlds seems to be the modern mantra.”
Er’ra Zel frowned. “I do believe the First Nations Confederacy, those you call Outlanders, would beg to differ.”
“I’m sure a lot of people would. Doesn’t make it untrue.”
“Oh Avery,” she sighed and the boat maneuvered into the cavern and down a long winding river. Here, the crevice in the mountainside rose as high as a six-story building and it came to a point high above. Where the two stone walls collided, formed a zigging and zagging feature following the river all the way down its twisting bends. “The True Word is a cult. Up until now, it’s been confined to Shoenden and the eastern trade city of Caranus. To see one of their preachers up here and in our midst, is disheartening. I had hoped Nindemus wouldn’t be so cruel as to spread his brand of rage up here. I suppose I was wrong. And maybe that’s what Trillian was trying to tell me.”
“What’s all of this now?”
Er’ra Zel looked at him and sighed. “When we reach our destination, I’m going to tell you the myth of Midnight.”
Avery felt a cold chill run up his spine. “Did you say, Midnight?”
“Come on, Avery. You were discussing it before the council earlier.”
“Right. But you said Midnight is a myth…”
“But, I’ve been dreaming of something called Biel Zhe Bor for months. And so has Shōtō. He’s about mad in the head over it and thinks we need to get out of the city. Like now.”
She looked a little pale just then as she shook her head. “It’s just a bunch of stories told by parents to keep their children in line.”
“Then how do we know who Biel Zhe Bor is? Well, of him anyway. How can I have been having nightmares of some guy called Neti who lived in Urudiin? Oh, and that there’s, coincidentally mind you, a subsection of the city called Urudii? And that, somehow, there was this need to get to a tower out in the middle of nowhere to stop the gods from waging war because the city was being destroyed!”
“I…” Er’ra Zel’s mouth dropped and she looked more shocked than she had any right to be. “That’s a lot to take in. I, I think we should just get to where we’re going and try to take it easy a little. Just a little.”
“You trying to convince me of that? Or yourself?”
“Maybe a little bit of both.”
Avery sighed and looked ahead as the boat skimmed close to a wall reaching out into the river and zoomed around the bend. “Okay. But I don’t think we can ignore this for long. Something’s happening and I don’t think the governing council is prepared for it.”
“You might be right… but I have no idea what to do about it…”
“We go and have a one on one chat with Nindemus.”
“Hah!” she slapped her thigh. “And what do you think that’ll accomplish? Nindemus is a scaly bastard who never tells the truth.”
“Shōtō thinks that about you. Only, with horns. So, I guess, a horny… bitch?
They looked at one another for a long moment before a smile creased both of their faces and they started laughing uncontrollably. The little boat continued its course deeper into the twisting network of caverns.
Once more we reach the end of the offering of this novel this week. Just another week to go and the next few micro-chapters will be up as well! Also, drop by on Friday mornings for my Story Time With Tim series where I offer up some other writings I’ve done over the years. Thanks for giving me your time and I hope to see you again soon!
~Timothy S Purvis
Since you’re here, why not hit up my author’s page over on Amazon? I have a myriad of works up there and I tend to post at least a few things every few months or so. Left of Midnight will be up hopefully this year. As such, you can just follow my page and check back for updates! Simply click on my name here and the link will take you there straightaway–> Timothy S Purvis
Also, here is one of my books released over the last couple years: