Greetings and salutations, faithful reader! Welcome back to another offering of Left of Midnight! The newest novel being worked on in my repertoire! These are the next two micro-chapters and I certainly appreciate your coming back to check out another of my written works! Not much to say on this other than I hope you’re enjoying this work in progress.
Anyhow, come back next week for another entry in this story and read to you again soon!
DARK ENERGY SWIRLED in the depths of a great Void. It was the equivalent of a whirlpool in the middle of the ocean. One colored a deeper blue than the rest of the water swirling in on itself around the vortex seeking the deepest depths. The foamy surf being kicked up a purplish pus streaking around that vortex in fury. except here those purple streaks formed a swirling vortex into the blackest black anyone had ever seen. And it the midst of that vortex, in the midst of that black hole through existence, the outlines of people kneeling. As if worshipping that great Void that grew ever blacker, ever darker towards its center.
As if it were the absence of… everything.
No life, no light, no structure, no peace.
The very epitome of nothingness.
‘…can’t just continue sitting around doing nothing…’
It was a voice. Coming from somewhere nearby. Not so near that it overrode that Void. That Void that knew his name.
‘You know he’s waiting for you here, Aurite. You know that you can do nothing to stop us now. As such, why fight the inevitable, Aurite? Why listen to all that the Messenger posited or that the Seer shared? It’s irrelevant. We are existence. You have seen it for yourself.’
Blue eyes in the night. More and more turn towards him. Look deep into his soul. They are the eyes of the kneelers. Those whose purple outlines have little form save for the blackness of their souls—
‘Avery! Are you listening?’
The dark Void began dissipating. As if it were never there to begin with. It gave way to the gray blackness of the underside of one’s eyelids when just awakening from a deep sleep. Only, he realized with sudden resolve, he wasn’t in a deep sleep. He’d been staring out of a window. A long window overlooking the depths of Farediin Prime.
He blinked away the vision. Before him, the form of Er’ra Zel materialized as his vision cleared. She was knelt before him, her hand gently on his face. He continued blinking trying to focus on where he was.
They’re trying to sway me. They’re here and Shōtō is in the deepest trouble.
“Are you okay? You’re pale. You need to lay down.”
Avery shook his head finally clearing his mind and let loose a groaning sigh in the process. He leaned back into the coach he sat upon, his head light and his mind still swirling.
They reached out to me. No, he did. Biel Zhe Bor. He’s stronger now. More defiant. I have to find Shōtō.
“No, you need to lay down.”
“I’m fine,” Avery took both her hands into his and looked deep into her eyes of ocean blue. “It was… it’s hard to explain. I was listening I really was.”
“What’s going on with you?”
Avery clenched his eyes briefly, willing away the darkness still clawing at his mind. He was more awake now, more aware. Yet, he could still feel the dark things brewing deep in the earthen crust below them all. They were at the center of Farediin. Or as near center as he felt they were ever able to exist. Trapped. But, not for long…
He let his eyelids open slower now. Let his focus become Er’ra Zel and Er’ra Zel alone. Pushed back the remaining vestiges of the cords of Midnight stretching out towards him. Their anger palpable in the air as he severed the tendons still striving to pull him deeper into the abode with them as they fell away into the Void once more. Finally, his mind was his own again, and it no longer felt like he was going to fall out of his seat face down into the floor. His dizziness and nausea sank away.
“I can feel them brewing,” Avery said, taking in deep breathes. “You were speaking of them. Of Nindemus and his soldiers. The fear of the council that he’s looking to seize control of Farediin. How Sendima wants you to cover all of the avenues of potential conflict and mitigate through diplomacy.”
Er’ra Zel smiled and leaned forward onto her knees, allowing her body to rest more comfortably between his thighs and placed her elbows on the tops of his knees. “It’s nice to know that you’ve been listening after all.”
Avery smiled. “I’ll always listen to you. In this case, however, it was while you were speaking that they came for me. Tried to… I don’t know… pull me down into their abyss.”
“Avery, I swear, you’d better not be saying what it sounds like you’re saying…”
“Midnight is here, Zella. I can feel them growing stronger. And Shōtō is in their grasps. He’s in trouble and we have to get him out of there. Get him out of the grips of Nindemus and the horde of maliciousness he’s about to unleash on Farediin.”
She shook her head, the weariness heavy in her eyes. “Midnight is only a story, Avery. A story mothers tell their children to behave. I know I’ve told you the myth. I know I’ve shared with you the fear that all rhe’toran hold in their hearts. But that’s all it is. Myth.”
“Even after all you’ve told me?” Avery asked gently, holding her eyes with his own understanding gaze. She let her eyes look towards his lap.
“…That was… a trauma. Not… Not Midnight.”
He released her one hand and brought his own to her chin to lift her sight back towards his face. “A trauma brought on by those demons. And Biel Zhe Bor is ready to return. Shōtō is in his grasp.”
“Shōtō is off exploring on his own. Perhaps he’s in Shoenden. Perhaps he’s in some other province of Farediin. You’re jumping to conclusions. He’s a full grown man capable of making his own decisions. Not a child requiring adult supervision. You’re making too much out of his not being here. Stop worry—”
“Shōtō is important, Zella. Very important. I think his role is similar to my own. We have this connection to the worlds around us. Born to serve in our own ways. But service to our world is our duty,” Avery said offering up a wary grin. “Besides, if I were to leave him alone to face whatever Nindemus’ nefarious plans are, well, I’d just be as bad as—”
Er’ra Zel kissed his hand still holding the one and made to stand up. “How about we go out for a little while? Get our minds off of all of this for a bit?”
Avery watched her stroll away from him and towards the chair across from the couch. There, she grabbed a shawl she’d been wearing earlier and wrapped it back around her shoulders. There was a deep tension there and he became aware of just how much all the talk of Midnight and the Voija was affecting her. He frowned. Perhaps it was best to give her a moment’s reprieve. With everything transpiring with regards to Shoenden, the whole of city defenses resting on her shoulders (Sendima’s insistence that she assume charge of matters Nindemus had only until recently handled), the very fact that all of Farediin seemed to be on a razor’s edge of chaos, he really supposed he couldn’t fault her for feeling overwhelmed.
“Okay,” he relented as Er’ra Zel walked towards him with a smile on her lips and a hand reaching out towards him.
“Come on. I need some fresh air and some fun in my heart.”
“Is that so?” Avery returned her smile and took her hand, allowing her to gently guide him back to his feet. “If it’s fresh air and some fun you’re looking for, then we should catch a shuttle to the beaches. It’s a little stuffy inside the cities themselves, y’know.”
“Now that does sound wonderful. However, I was thinking more along the lines of the Phailien Promenade. They have a festival that I’ve been meaning to attend for a little while now.”
“They always have a festival going on.”
“I know! That’s what makes it so great!” She laughed and held onto his hand as they swayed together towards her front door. “You can simply lose yourself in the cultures and wares and entertainment of so many other unique species of the galaxy! It’s sublime.”
“Uh huhn. I think it’d be a better idea to hit the beach and get some sun. But, you know, that’s just me talking out my ass because I’ve been a subterranean weremole for weeks now.”
“Pffft. Don’t be a killjoy!”
“Don’t say I didn’t offer,” Avery chuckled as they exited the apartment and made their way down towards the pavilions full of the denizens of the city states.
THE PAVILIONS WERE mostly empty, it turned out. Er’ra Zel guided Avery through the deserted avenues and empty stalls of merchants with vacant eyes. Those who were there, watched them walk by in what could only be described as mild surprise, only to then turn away and enter the backrooms of their shops closing the doors behind them. Er’ra Zel frowned.
No, this is supposed to be our own time to enjoy. It shouldn’t be happening this way…
Yet, there was little she could do to still the dread brewing inside of her. It started with her stomach, worked its way up to her chest. Before she knew it, her head was light and her mind drifting away from reality. She was there, no doubt about that, but everything that made her, her, was somewhere else. Hovering about in existence like some phantom haunting an old and vacant house.
“I seem to remember this place being… livelier before…” Avery said, breaking the silence hanging in the air like the executioner’s axe ready to fall.
She sighed, looking around. A few denizens were about. Yet, upon seeing them, quickly darted into the entrances of previously well visited outlets. Outlets that were now abandoned for the most part and looking like the skeletal remains of those structures still remaining in M’turo Chasm. Only these were freshly abandoned. The weight of decades yet to bring them to complete ruin. It sent chills up Er’ra Zel’s spine.
“I don’t know what’s going on…” she said. “But it’s got me depressed. I just wanted to enjoy myself a little. Just… a little.”
“Yeah. It does suck. I wanted you to enjoy yourself as well.”
She looked over her shoulder at Avery. He was busy looking around at all the empty stalls, entertainment venues, and observation walks where the gathered participants once mingled. Now, all of those places were as quiet as the grave.
Er’ra Zel looked towards the ceiling where the smooth surface occasionally gave way to a stalactite here and there. For the most part, though, the lighting gave it an ominous glow. A perfect lid to the coffin they were now walking within. The frown on her face grew deeper as they moved along the empty streets of the festival promenades. The time displays declared it to be just after noon. The peak operating time of all the mercantile pavilions and entertainment venues.
It was all completely deserted. Not a soul to be found.
This is the closest fairgrounds to Shoenden… Gods, what if Nindemus has already pushed his way into Farediin? This numbing thought put all of her senses on high alert. If Nindemus had somehow staged an insurgency in the lower levels of the city and not even the local security forces had reported it, then they were all in more trouble than they thought. Nonsense! Zel, you’ve got forces at every exit into and out of Shoenden! There is no way an armed force of Cre’nomanor managed to breach Farediin defenses!
“Hey! Slow down, Zella! I don’t have long legs like you!”
Er’ra Zel stopped mid-pace and turned on him so fast he raised his hands up as if she were about to punch him. This drew her up short and her eyebrows shot up.
“What? What are you talking about?”
Avery cast off a confused and worried expression. “Really? You’re walking like you have a mission. I thought this was just a day in the park. A relaxation sort of thing. Yeah, I know, everybody seems to have also taken the day off and gone home. But, I’m having trouble keeping pace with you.”
Er’ra Zel dropped her gaze to the ground. It was true, she realized, they were already past the historical collections exhibits. She’d been rushing through towards the west end exits to make her way towards D’lintra Park. The caves had been calling her. No, they were calling me… Oh, by the Gods! It’s impossible!
She turned away from Avery and continued at her previous pace. Now it was more important than ever to get there. Whatever had happened to everyone was a result of whatever machinations had been put into play at the park. She felt it in her gut as clearly as she would’ve felt a jab of a blade to her shoulder.
“Mind sharing with the class?” Avery spouted as he hurried behind her.
Her shawl trailed out in a waving arch behind her as her gait grew longer and the urgency grew greater. “They’re here.”
“Who’s here? Nindemus? You think he managed to get into the city? How could he have managed that with all of your troops all over the place?”
“I don’t know. But I’m going to find out!”
They hurried along the promenades and the circuitous routes leading to the park on the far side of the lower levels. As they approached the park entryway via a long drilled out tunnel, they started hearing speaking and preaching. Words carried out through the depths of the mountain and they grew ever more distinct the closer they came to D’lintra Park.
“…and they came from the depths of the Great Range. Having once been outcast, but now freed from their prisons. They brought the word down. The word granted them by the Godhand. This word was the True Word. And it would free nations…”
“I know that voice,” Avery said picking up his pace. “It’s Shōtō!”
“Don’t get ahead of us, Avery. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But if there’s a force out there, we have to be cautious in how we play our next moves.”
Avery furrowed his brow and grumbled. “If it is Shōtō, we have to save him.”
“And what makes you think he’d even need saving, Avery?”
Avery looked to her as she came to a stop in the middle of the corridor. “Because Shōtō practices the way of Shinto. The recognition of the kami, the spirits that guide us through this world. Not so different from shamanism, honestly. This whole idea of a Godhand, or whatever, flies in the face of all that he holds dear. It would be an embarrassment to his ancestors.”
“I’m not really a religious person myself. All of it baffles me.”
“He’s more into philosophy and meditation than religious belief. Which is what makes this so odd. So unlike Shōtō.”
Er’ra Zel shook her head. “You don’t even know it’s him. So, let’s just get a quick peek and then find somewhere else to get a little relaxation. Maybe that beach is a good idea after all.”
Avery said nothing more as they hurried along the corridor and towards D’lintra Park. There was only the chanting voice of the preacher coming out of that region. The light streaming in seemed brighter than it had from the last time he was in the park. The corridor widened and got ever brighter as they exited out into the broad parkway overlooking the sloping hills reaching down towards the waterfront and the docks beyond the few merchant stalls, visitor center, picnic benches under the massive shelter in the center of the park, and scattered trees along the tops of the hills rolling out of sight to the far side of the park.
“Down there,” Er’ra Zel said pointing out towards a wide boardwalk at the nearest shoreside festival ground.
Avery followed her gaze and saw a gathering of some hundred people or so standing at the edge of the boardwalk staring out towards where it hung out over the water’s edge. At the edge, and standing on a pedestal with his arms held out wide, was Shōtō.
“Damn…” Er’ra Zel said in response.
“I told you. I’d recognize his voice anywhere.”
“Well, then, what’s he doing here?”
“That’s a good question. How about we ask him when he’s done ruminating over religious idolatry?”
Avery cast her a quick and wry grin as Er’ra Zel pursed her lips and started walking towards the boardwalk and ended up kneeling behind a short wall surrounding a copse of thin trees with thick brush at their base. Avery knelt beside her and they both watched Shōtō speaking, his arms raising higher, his voice raising higher. All was silent save for the gentle lapping of water along the shoreline and Shōtō’s sonorous exaltations. Even the wildlife seemed to either be mesmerized by his words or had vacated the scene altogether.
The gathered crowd stood as silent as the grave. Cre’nomanor soldiers held rifles or pistols in their grips at the summit of the gathered spectators and stared at Shōtō as well. Two wandered nearer Avery and Er’ra Zel’s position but were still focused on the man spouting about the True Word and how it would save the cities from themselves.
A gentle breeze blew as Avery took it all in looking around. He wanted to get at Shōtō as soon as possible but he knew he’d need to find a moment when he wasn’t surrounding by Nindemus’ guards to pull him to the side and see how best to rescue him from the circumstances that had brought him to the underside of Farediin. Maybe, he considered, Er’ra Zel would be able to keep the troops distracted when he made his move. If he could make any move, that was. They were all too much in the open and too much could go wrong with so many people around. Of course, maybe that could be utilized to his benefit, Avery thought. If he could somehow, someway convince the crowd to move against the soldiers—
“…And, lo, the Aurite has come. He has come and listens to our words. He sees our strength and fears our ways. He seeks to stop the Godhand and prevent the True Word from getting out to the main populace…”
Huhn, that’s weird. He speaks as if he sees somebody in his way… He can’t possibly mean me. Can he? Avery furrowed his brow.
“He believes that I need to be saved, my friends. Believes that I’ve fallen under the sway of corruption. Yet, at his side, his mistress, that true whore of Babylon, seeks to corrupt him. And manipulate him. And to throw a shawl over the vestments of this body. Of our work. Yet, we will not allow them to succeed, will we? We will not let them destroy our new world!”
“No, we won’t! No, we won’t!” the amassed peoples chanted. And then they all turned towards Avery and Er’ra Zel and Avery felt a chill crawl up his spine. All of their eyes glowed a sapphire blue.
The soldiers twisted towards where they both hid and drew their weapons up into firing position.
“Yeah, I’m getting the sense it’s time to go…” Er’ra Zel said walking backwards as the people began a slow march in their direction.
Several of the soldiers rounded the copse and Er’ra Zel rushed one of them plowing her shoulder into his torso. He went flying backwards onto his back as she reached out in the same moment to pull his pistol from a holster on his hip. She triggered a switch on the gun and then raised it to take aim at the other guards quickly approaching. She fired a fast volley of exchange into the six nearest them, all the while backing up a snarl on her face.
“Avery! Don’t just stand there! Come on!”
“What about Shōtō!?” He stared up towards where Shōtō stood on the dais watching them and the actions they took transpire.
The mob slowly advanced, in no real hurry to capture them as the soldiers that were protecting them each fell before Er’ra Zel’s focused fire.
Avery felt frozen in fear. The terror clawing at him with an eager grasp. Shōtō’s eyes were also glowing that ethereal sapphire. And he was reminded of the first dream he had after crashing on the island. The dream where a Japanese pilot murdered him while up in the trees shadows lurked and waited. Pleasure immediate on their hidden visages. No, no, no, no… Shōtō, please…
Shōtō folded his arms before him at hip level, his robes flapping shut in the process. And still his glowing glare gazed deep into Avery’s soul. It felt like a luring call on his mind. Telling him to come forward and join those already at peace. Already deep into the realm of salvation. Already—
“We can’t help him!” Er’ra Zel fired twice more and placed a hand on his shoulder. His eyes met hers. “We have to leave. The council will want to know what’s happened here.”
Avery nodded and followed after her. He didn’t spare another glance back. He was too afraid that those sapphire eyes, Shōtō’s eyes, would be staring straight upon him once more.
Once more we reach the end of our reading! It goes too fast, doesn’t it? It takes days to weeks to write some of this material only to have it consumed within the hour. Oh the joys of creating a work of art! I appreciate your reading this once more and I’m honored to have you spend your time here with me. I hope you’ll be willing to do it again sometime soon! Until that time, enjoy your week.
~Timothy S Purvis
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