Alrighty then! We have come to the final two micro-chapters of Left of Midnight Section Two! We’re now moving into the final section of the rough draft of my new novel! Very soon, the third section will be made available. I don’t know if it will be within a few weeks or within the next month, but it is coming. So, stay tuned.
Now, I hope you’ll enjoy this week’s post and I’ll read to you all again soon!
THE PROMENADE WAS full of people as Shōtō walked the boardwalks looking around. The people looked happy at least, he figured. But there was something sinister underlying the whole of the festivities. The actors staging their plays were dressed in their roles as ancient players in stories he’d never heard before, the vendors eagerly hocked their wares to any who would be apt to purchase them, and the aura was bright in the atmosphere. Like any festival he’d grown up attending from time to time (when his mother was invited of course) yet expressing the sort of foreign differences that made an individual feel just a tad out of place and homesick for those venues that only one’s own people could put on.
Even giving him over to the thought that this was just the local custom put on by said foreign entities he’d never encountered before, there was something too alien about it all. The stone ceiling high above might have been part of that sensation. Brightly lit under a yellow white light, the chiseled surfaces above gave way to squarish drops in the ceiling that looked as if a building or two had been dropped from above and they’d sunken into the ground leaving indications of where they sat high above in another part of the underground. There were maybe half a dozen of these extensions from the ceiling at various intervals running for hundreds of feet above the festival grounds ringing half of the great underground lake (and unlike M’turo Chasm, there was no waterfall. Instead, the water was as still as death).
And there was a smell that he couldn’t quite place. Farediin, above when he was there still plotting Nindemus’ death (When did that change? What spell has he put over me?), the smell there was one of prehistoric springs intermingled with salty minerals and the tang of freshly minted metals. There, in Shoenden, the smell had grown more primitive. Not quite sweaty, but full of a dry muskiness that suggested rot somewhere. Perhaps a little bit of rust. Yet, by the lake, there was an acrid scent. The scent of stagnant water and fear. Nearly sulphuric, in fact. The foul mixture is just below the mind. He couldn’t help but focus on it as it gripped his mind reminding him of before they had been captured. He remembered smelling it before, when he and Avery were on the verge of ripping each other apart.
Then those shadows in the dark attacked.
Shōtō raised a hand to his forehead and rubbed his temple. There’s something here… it doesn’t want me remembering. Doesn’t want me pushing back against its influence. What are you? He furrowed his brows and clenched his eyes, the sounds of the festival grew louder as he stood there, people flowing around him as if he were just a post to be avoided and ignored. I was right, we should have returned to the campsite!
The gentle voice pulled him out of his revelry and the noises of the festival subsided to a low roar. Shōtō dropped his hand and looked to his side. A hand was on his shoulder and he found Prush’e staring at him with all the concern in the world. And just like that, all of the doubt had vanished and that feeling of joy had returned. Simply looking into her sparkling, concerned eyes restored something within himself that had almost vanished for good, he suspected. But now, he was glad it had gone away. It almost made him the panicking man that he’d been before. Prush’e deserved better than that, he felt.
“Are you okay?” she asked gently rubbing his shoulder.
“Yes. I just… I think I just felt overwhelmed for a moment. I’m not used to all of this activity.”
“Yeah… I imagine it would be a bit much…”
She looked around then, as if realizing where they were. He frowned then and said, “I thought you’d be a few hours?”
“It was supposed to be,” she said still not meeting his eyes, her own darting from spot to spot looking for what, he couldn’t say. Then her hand gripped his right arm tightly as she pulled in close to him, her face closing in on his own, her gaze full of fear and urgency. He could smell the fresh greens and cereal on her breath she’d eaten that morning. It was almost minty. “I have to get you out of the city. Now. Somewhere safe. Where you can’t be found.”
“What are you talking about? I thought we were going to take in a movie? Study more on the True Word’s guidance?”
She shook her head vehemently and pulled a vial out of a pocket in her long flowing shirt, the one with the blue and white designs that reminded him so much of ancient dragons. “Prefect Nindemus wants me to give you this. To infuse you with it.”
“What is it?”
“Something that will make you docile and easier to guide towards the inner chambers of the sanctum wherein awaits… the down…”
Shōtō felt his brows narrow as his own eyes looked around the promenade. The people flowing around them had thinned out noticeably. He knew there was something about Nindemus he couldn’t trust. So, why did he allow himself such a weakness? Why? Then he looked down to Prush’e and his will reasserted itself. He knew why. At first, it’d just been morbid curiosity. Perhaps a means to lure Nindemus into a false sense of security. After all, he’d been surrounded by his soldiers in the Odjemir Great Hall and his own survival had been limited at best. But if he came to where Nindemus roosted, made him feel like he was settling in with his own treacherous machinations, then perhaps he could get him alone and deliver the final fatal blow and escape unharmed. However, that moment had never came and then he’d met Prush’e, and things had changed. For the better, he figured. Even if it was part of Nindemus’ plans. Still, she didn’t know the man as intimately as he did. The monster had tortured him after all.
“This place, the down, what is it?”
“I don’t know. It’s where the Godhand’s most sacred relic lies, I believe. The Master never shared that with me. He allows only his most favored acolytes below into that place. It… frightens me, Shōtō. Every time I walk anywhere near it, there is this intense dread clawing at my mind and I can’t bear to be there any longer than I must be. And I don’t want him taking you there! Please! He expects me to bring you to him now! We have to leave! But it can’t be by the front gates.”
“No?” Shōtō looked down to her and knew already what she was going to say. They were trapped. Something was happening up in Farediin and Nindemus needed to hedge his bets, he figured. And he’d become part of those plans, unfortunately. His time to put a blade into Nindemus’ back had come to an end. He’d squandered too much time. Even so, if he got out of this, he’d be able to share with Avery, and his precious girlfriend, what the True Word was really about, and maybe even be able to reveal the location of the so called Godhand making so much trouble for the cities above and beyond.
“No. He’s ordered them locked for some reason. Something about someone looking around too much and has attracted the attention of a certain councilor.”
“Er’ra Zel…” Shōtō nodded looking around once more.
There was danger in the air and he felt a certainty that the future was about to imprison him again. It didn’t really bother him all that much, now that he thought about it. However, what would happen to Prush’e as a result worried him more. If Er’ra Zel were being blocked out of Shoenden, then Nindemus was definitely up to something. It was now his responsibility to discover what.
“I guess. I don’t know. There is a network of caverns out beyond the old quarters. Nobody hardly goes into them without it being a dare. At least, that’s what some of my colleagues who grew up around there told me. We can maybe hide out there until the doors are reopened, and then escape into Farediin.”
Shōtō gripped her shoulders, then, and looked deep into her eyes. “That’s an excellent idea, Prush’e. And you need to make for those caverns now. Go and hide and stay away. That way, you can’t get mixed up with what Nindemus wants to do to me next.”
“No, no, no!” her eyes wide with fear, begging him to reconsider and come with her right that moment. “We have time to leave! I won’t let him take you! I love you!”
Shōtō gently took her wrists into his hands and he kissed the fists she’d made. He looked into her eyes again and said, “There is no leaving the city now, Prush’e. Nindemus only wants me, though. You’ll be nothing to him. But you have to leave now, before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what, acolyte?”
Shōtō let his gaze fall on the Cre’nomanor standing not far from them. His hand on his right hip’s weapon harness. He narrowed his eyes at the newcomer. Prush’e, on the other hand, was so shocked she practically squawked.
“No! Why are you here? Nindemus told me to get him!”
The newcomer cocked a brow. “You mean, Master Nindemus told you to come fetch him? Yes, he did. And we were sent to assure that you complied with that request.”
Shōtō saw that the promenade pavilions were clearing out fast and that they were surrounded by four of the Cre’nomanor, a dozen soldiers of the Shoenden military, and one avian looking fellow who he swore was named Kantle Brenn or something to that effect. He looked to Prush’e’s wrists he was still holding. Saw that the vial was gripped in her left hand but not as tightly as it had been. He ran his hand up her wrist, took the vial into his own palm. She didn’t resist. He stepped away from her and looked to those surrounding them now seeing that a dozen soldiers from the Shoenden reserves had joined the fun as well. The promenades were now deserted of any life and it was silent, save for the tonal exchanges leaving each of their mouths. This was a disturbing effect for Shōtō. He felt that the lake beyond should at least be lapping under some sort of current. It was unnatural. It was…
Everyone paused, exchanged quick glances, and stared at him. “What do you mean?”
The lead lizardman spoke. Shōtō didn’t even bother giving him the dignity of figuring out what his name was. In fact, he didn’t care what any of them called themselves anymore.
“This place! These walls! Once, they might have been sacred. Oh, I’ve read the histories of Shoenden,” Shōtō let a broad smile cross his face. It was full of malice and spite. “It was named for a great hero of the Anunnaki race. A Lord that all followed. One of the greatest Anu’s to ever wear the crown and hold the throne. But that was before he fell to the evil within those depths you now hold in such esteem.”
“What are you talking about?” the feathered creature spoke, looking taken aback.
“Nothing. He’s spouting nonsense to save his own hide,” the lead Cre’nomanor spoke. Now, Shōtō recalled. These were the other four adjutants that Prush’e worked with. These were the personal security detail of Master Nindemus himself. “Give yourself over to us, Shōtōsan. Do so, and you might be given leave to beg for forgiveness for profaning the Lord’s name.”
Shōtō laughed. “It’s all of you who really know, isn’t it? Just the lizard boy club. Any actual aliens shall not apply. Oh, you’ll let them serve. But they’ll never be permitted to know that the darkness thrives deep within the earth of Odjemir. If so, they’d know that it was really Midnight, isn’t it? Or, what do they really call themselves? Yes, the Voija.”
“Enough of your prattling!” the leader pulled his gunlike weapon.
“Arviden! Please! No! Let us—”
“You’ve done enough, Prush’e. You were supposed to inject him with the serum and let us take him willingly. Now, there will be a fight.”
“No, there won’t,” Shōtō said and dropped the serum to the ground. He stepped on the vial, crushing it beneath his boot. Though it looked made of metal, it folded easily and turned into a flat plate, the liquid within squirting out without restraint. “I will come with you willingly. Without this foul chemical you think you need. Only, you will spare Prush’e. If you go back on that word, then there will be a fight. And, as more of a soldier than you, I promise it will be a fight you will not win.”
“There’s over a dozen of us here and—”
“Yes, you should have brought more,” Shōtō glanced around and let his malice slip away.
Only the grin of the knowing remained. Perhaps it was bluster. Numbers were always a means of skewing a battle one way over another. Sure, a person could have the most advanced gun known to man. But several dozen determined commoners with stones would still win the day. Of course, he was banking on them not knowing that little detail.
The avian fellow had yet to draw his gun. In fact, he seemed stunned and unable to move, his eyes fixated on their leader, Arviden. Arviden looked around, sharing the most intense glances with his fellow Cre’nomanors and then back to Shōtō.
“Very well. On all of our honors, I will not see Prush’e harmed. We will guide her from this city and banish her for her crimes against Shoenden.”
“Crimes? What crimes?” Shōtō scoffed. “Because she didn’t want to prick her lover with some juice that warped his mind? Maybe you can give her more of a benefit than that. After all, you lot are supposed to be her closest friends. Her fellow adjutants.”
“Shōtō… please, don’t…”
Prush’e laid her hands on his chest as Arviden frowned and replaced his weapon. This seemed to placate the gathered soldiers who lowered their own weapons but didn’t put them away. Soldiers were always ready to give a fight. Even if it were a losing proposition. That was something Shōtō knew all too well. And now it was time for him to take the only option remaining and go there with purpose. Because, if he didn’t, he thought he might try to make a break for it with Prush’e. Of course, even that impulse was fleeting. He knew what he had to do deep in his heart. He raised his hands behind her head and drew her in close. His mouth found hers and the tenderness of her lips filled him with a courage that he didn’t even know he had. Their tongues met and the tangy sweetness of her saliva filled his mouth. Together they melded and became as one and he felt her shiver in his arms. When they drew apart, he smiled and ran his right hand across her moist cheek. Her eyes sparkled for the tears within them.
“Don’t worry, it’ll be alright. What’s the feathered guy’s name?”
“Huhn?” she seemed surprised by his words and shook her head but didn’t let her eyes leave his as he cradled her in his arms. “You mean Kendle?”
“Last name Brenn?”
“Close enough,” Shōtō grinned and looked towards the gathered adjutants who were waiting for the lovey dovey stuff to end. Arviden had his arms crossed. But good old Mr. Bryinn was dancing on two feet trying to decide what to make of everything. “Kendle Brenee…”
“Bryinn,” Prush’e chuckled and laid her head on his chest.
“Whatever,” Shōtō chuckled in return and then yelled out, “Kendle!”
He almost didn’t hear the response. However, the other three adjutants stared daggers towards the birdman.
“I’m holding you responsible for Prush’e’s safe return to Farediin.”
“Stop acting like some nervous whelp,” Arviden grumbled shaking his head and looking to Shōtō. “What, you don’t trust us to guide her out?”
“No. I do not. However, if you want to send one or two of the other adjutants to make sure they make it out of Shoenden alright, that’s fine. However, you on the other hand, you will be the one to take me to Nindemus.”
“That has already been decided, human!” Arviden cocked his head at the two other Adjutants. “You two, take Mr. Bryinn and Ms. J’hollen back into Farediin. Use the lower corridors exit. I doubt her majesty will have brought any soldiers to that one to force open as of yet.”
“But, sir, Master Nindemus requested—”
Arviden cut off the one younger looking Cre’nomanor and waved a dismissive hand. “The Master requested Shōtōsan be retrieved. He doesn’t care what happens to the young rhe’toran.”
Shōtō let go of Prush’e, who was hesitant and resistant to the idea. “It’ll be okay. Go now. Go before they have a chance to change their mind.”
“I always have a chance to change my mind, Shōtōsan,” Arviden spat.
“Then you always have a chance to change your mind about the whole Shōtōsan crap! ‘San’ is an honorific attached to the names of the respected! You have no honor nor respect! I do not want to hear my name falling from your lips! So, call me human!”
“Very well, human,” the disdain in Arviden’s voice grew deeper as he motioned towards Prush’e. “As your boyfriend says, our patience is running thin. Go with Kendle now and be out of our sights forever. In fact, you seem rather hesitant over all of this, Bryinn. Maybe you should make sure she makes it all the way into Fareddin and far from Shoenden forever, yes?”
“I am an adjutant just as you, Arviden! You do not make these sorts of decisions!”
Arviden glared at Kendle, “Whatever. Just get going.”
Prush’e spared one last forlorn look with Shōtō before being guided away by the three adjutants. Arviden walked towards Shōtō and gave his reptilian grin.
“Are you sure you’re coming without a fight?”
He laughed at the young man’s brevity. “You looking for a fight? I believe Nindemus would be rather sore at you if you don’t bring me to him in one piece.”
Arviden scowled. “How about I put some cuffs on those dangerous hands of yours?”
“You truly believe that’s what Master wants? I’m coming along willingly, but, if you insist,” he held his wrists together towards Arviden who took an unbidden step backwards and scoffed.
“Enough of your antics. Get moving.”
Shōtō nodded and took the lead as the group followed behind them. The soldiers taking up flanking positions just in case he intended to run. But there was a certainty in the air that everyone knew what would happen next.
“Don’t want me leading, … human?”
“No need. I know exactly where we are going. I was almost there before. Answering the call of the ancient dead,” he walked with purpose, as if he was leading an army towards the corridor of war. “Don’t you know what awaits? From here on out, we’re the harbingers of a new world order. The one that will rule this entire section of the solar system and spread outward into the rest of the galaxy like a cancer unchecked and incurable. It is the Voija.”
Arviden paused only momentarily, as if he’d been gut punched by some reality he was unaware of until now. “I… don’t know what you’re talking about. There is only the Godhand awaiting you down in the Sanctuary of Sheogan.”
Shōtō laughed and threw his head back as they walked. “Yes! The namesake of all of this irrational mess! I only hope Nindemus doesn’t punish you the way Sheogan did his subjects in ages past!”
“Keep walking and keep your trap shut.”
Shōtō did as commanded, the smile never leaving his face. Arviden, however, looked like he was beginning to have significant doubts.
NINDEMUS PACED ACROSS the floor to the corridor leading down into the Catacombs of the Void. It was taking too long and he didn’t like it. Something had gone wrong and he was sure of it. In fact, he was just about on the verge of sending even more troops down to the promenades when he saw a very happy looking Shōtō leading his own troops down the long corridor towards him. This did not make him happy. Why was Shōtō of all people in the lead?
That fool Adjutant Arviden Rousen came forward after the column stopped three feet from him and gave the standard salute. Nindemus had never known a greater asskisser, but he was at least a useful asskisser.
“Master Nindemus, we have brought the human as you requested.”
“Human? Why, his name is Shōtō—”
“Human will be fine from your mouth, Master,” Shōtō nodded still smiling.
Nindemus frowned and looked around. He didn’t see the young rhe’toran anywhere. “Where is Adjutant J’hollen?”
“The human refused to be brought here unless she was sent back to Farediin. I instructed Adjutants Bryinn, H’iumin, and Blyte to escort her to the upper city.”
Nindemus had an urge to strangle the young idiot right then and there, going so far as to raise a clawed fist to his face and nearly gripping himself in anger. Instead, he let his clutch loosen and then stepped forward to place that hand on the young man’s right shoulder.
“I didn’t want her going to the surface, adjutant.”
“I understand, Master,” he nodded with an obvious swallow. “However, as I said, the human wouldn’t come otherwise. In fact, he threatened ‘a fight we hadn’t been in before’. Inferred that we weren’t the soldiers he was and could easily take us all on despite being outnumbered sixteen to one.”
Nindemus smiled broadly and let his toothy maw turn into a bright expression in the gloomy underworld of the corridor. “Is that so? I’m so pleased to hear such bluster from you, Shōtōsan. I would expect nothing less from a Voijin of your caliber.” Shōtō only frowned then, causing Nindemus to smile even broader. He’d scored home his point. He turned back to Arviden and thrust a finger into his chest. “You, on the other hand, are a spineless, sniveling child unworthy of your position. If you hope to hold on to it, I suggest you go and find that treacherous wretch and those guarding her and bring her back to me. Go now, or I’ll gut you where you stand.”
“B, but, Master! Why would you even need her—” he stopped talking when Nindemus spread his four fingers on his right hand, the sharp ends of his claws ready to pierce Arviden’s abdomen on a second’s notice.
Adjutant Rousen turned tail and hurried back the way he came. Nindemus cursed himself for not having updated the communications channels throughout the lower reaches of Shoenden. He was certain that was where the idiot had instructed the other adjutants to take young Prush’e. There would be no other way out that wasn’t already being monitored by Farediin and the Adjudicant Er’ra Zel. That annoying witch who was always in his business, desperately trying to remove him from power. But, once this was done and the Voijin unleashed, there would be no holding him back.
“You do not need Prush’e!” Shōtō growled and stepped forward. “You have me and that’s all there is to it!”
Nindemus wrapped a scaly arm around Shōtō’s shoulders. Of course, Shōtō wouldn’t be able to feel those scales too deeply. He was wearing his ceremonial robes, after all. They were long and luxurious. Inlaid with golden rivulets of elegant design and colored in the most luscious red velvets. If there was one thing the humans got right, he figured, it was the feeling of velvet across the skin.
“We do have you, Shōtōsan. I won’t call you ‘human.’ Oh no. That’s too disrespectful. You are the Voijin and all the honor in our ranks is for you,” Nindemus smiled. “Besides, young Prush’e has gotten in your head. And having her nearby, would only be to all of our benefits. Yours especially. So, don’t worry about it. We have much to do now. We are almost there to meet your destiny.”
“Let’s just get this over with,” Shōtō growled as Nindemus triggered the doorway to the lift that would take them down into the recesses of the earth.
The doors opened. A tubular interior awaited them, the lift itself looking like some sort of can with a dome roof. Shōtō hesitated, no longer so sure he wanted to go through with this. However, what else was there to do? He was here now and the doors were closing. The soldiers beyond took up flanking positions around the entire entry point clearly holding orders to not let anyone by, through, or out without Nindemus being present.
The lift droned downward for what felt like a minute before opening up onto a large cavernous path leading down further into the depths. Shōtō allowed himself to be guided down this long pathway, the walls rising high above and connecting via a stalactite strewn ceiling (there were knobs of stone here and there where once a stalagmite had grown but had long since been cleaved away). The entire walk, Shōtō noted how much brighter it got as they traipsed down the slick surface, somehow not losing their balance and sliding the rest of the way down. At the base of the long path, they entered a large cavern. In this room, stalagmites rose up along the edges of the cavern walls forming almost the appearance of bars.
So, I truly am a prisoner. One way or another. A prisoner of whatever this is’s wrath. The hate pouring off of it is unbearable. The fear it instills… untenable… He raised a hand to his forehead trying to diminish the bright light coming from a crop of stone so large it took up most of the room and came out of the ceiling. There were several robed figures gathered around underneath the great stone structure that looked like a crystal the size of a tugboat. Can’t look directly at it… If I do, I’ll surely go blind…
‘Shōtō Ryūgawa…’ a voice boomed and all of the robed figures knelt. And with them, Nindemus knelt too. Only he, Shōtō Ryūgawa, remained standing with his hand above his eyes trying not to be blinded. And then the light dimmed and all there was to see was a black void. So black that not even light seemed to escape its embrace. The kneeling figures became bluish outlined silhouettes. Not bright. Not clear. Just inferences of beings who were, are, or were going to be. Shōtō dropped his hand and stared into the deep recesses of this swirling void. And it was swirling. Not to such a degree that the human eye could actually see it. But it was swirling, Shōtō had no doubts about that. ‘At last, the Voijin has returned to us. At last, our resurrection is at hand…’
“You’ll find no resurrection from me, spirit!” Shōtō spat defiantly. “I’ve seen your darkness for what it is! I will not allow it to sully my homeland as well!”
A thrumming laughter rattled the very foundations of the rocky environment surrounding him. The kneeling beings showed no sign of recognizing this happening and went on kneeling, heads down staring into the Earth. Their blue tinted bodies now a deep purple like an afterimage after catching a brief glance of the sun or a bright light source.
‘No, dear Shōtōsan. Your spirit is of ours. Your life granted by the Infinities themselves,’ the voice continued and Shōtō found himself being drawn deeper into the swirling depths of the Void before him. He tried to turn away. But its power was too strong, too determined and full of need. ‘We have awaited your arrival for over an age… the last King was thwarted, his life driven short and our slumber grew longer. Now, now is the time. The age of destruction is upon us. The lavish hate of those of your kind on the cusp of delivering us the final ingredient to awaken our long slumber. You are the catalyst and you must strike down that most egregious of foes… the one who stands between us and the world above… between you and absolute peace…’
Shōtō felt his pain dissolving, his sorrow vanishing, his despair becoming nothing. Even the love he had so recently experienced seemed a distant and foggy memory.
“W, what must I do?”
‘Only sing our words. Sing our words and he will come to you.’
“W, who will come to me?”
Shōtō’s mind became a blank void and every concern disappeared into the dark, like a phantom pain or a wispy nightmare. Gone, like an old imaginary friend, once one is old enough to realize such creatures do not exist. Not really. They’re just figments of the imagination. So long as you just let yourself be, they could no longer harm you.
‘The Aurite. Our most hated foes…’
“I know no Aurite…”
‘You do. And you know him well…’
“W, what do you want me to do with him? This Aurite?”
‘…Destroy him. Make him your friend once more and then draw that blade you meant for Master Nindemus… and drive it deep into his back…’
“As you command…
“…Biel Zhe Bor…”
So ends the second section of Left of Midnight. I hope to have Section Three up sooner rather than later. Stay tuned regardless so that you will know one way or another. In the interim, why not check in on Fridays for my Story Time With Tim postings? Those should be going up until the end of the year. Also, I’m looking into posting up my novel Mass Effect 3 Reimagined. I wrote it for my wife one year after the horrific ending to the original Mass Effect 3. Neither of us were happy with it.
Yet, even so, there will still be much more to come. So, hang around, check back soon, and as always thanks for reading! I’ll see you all again shortly!
~Timothy S Purvis
While you’re here, why not check out my author’s page over on Amazon? I think I have a lot of quality work available there. I always appreciate your supporting the cause! Just click on my name and the link will take you there straightaway. –> Timothy S Purvis
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