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Anyhow, if you’ve been following along, you are probably already familiar with where the tale is going and where it’s been. I hope you’ve been having fun and enjoying the whole work so far. There isn’t a whole lot to say in regards to this, so I’ll just let you get to it. Read to you again soon!
PRUSH’E PACED IMPATIENTLY. It’d been three days since arriving back home. She’d expected to be admonished for her foolishness and turned away. Instead, her mother had cried and embraced her deeply. She and Kendle were welcomed inside without hesitation. After spending some time explaining where she’d been for the last three years and laying out what had occurred in Shoenden, her parents had agreed that informing the council as soon as possible was the most logical next step.
Now, three days later, and no word had been received. No answer had picked up those calls. After numerous attempts to reach Adjudicant Er’ra Zel and the council, the other end was always simply silence. It had her panicked. And she didn’t like panicked. Every day they waited was one more day Shōtō was left in the grasp of Nindemus. And the gods only knew what he and his were doing to her beloved.
“It really doesn’t do any good to keep walking circles the way you’re doing, dear,” her mother entered the family room where she was making her fiftieth, sixtieth, maybe even seventieth circuit around the long coffee table. “If you keep at it, I’m afraid you’re going to leave a white trail in our nice carpet.”
Her mother sat a tray on the table. On it were two cups. One for her and one for Prush’e. Her mother took one of the cups and sat down in the recliner, pulling a woolen shawl tighter around her shoulders and clasping it at her breast.
“I don’t know what else to do, mom,” Prush’e sighed and took up the other cup for herself. She sat down on the couch and took a sip. The contents were a robust tea, sweet in the aftertaste. She let the hot liquid slide down her throat and was immediately appeased. A small smile slid across her face as she let a blink linger for a long moment and then opened her eyes to look to her mother and continue her thoughts. “It’s been too many days. We should have been able to reach someone by now. Yet, no one is answering. Which must imply Prefect Nindemus is making his insurgency into Farediin. I don’t know… maybe it’s too late. But… I can’t leave Shōtō behind! Even if we manage to escape this island, I have to find Shōtō!”
Her mother leaned forward and sat her cup on the tabletop. “Forgive me, daughter, but, are you not an adjutant in the Shoenden Ministry’s services?”
“I’m not going back there. I can’t—”
Her mother shook her head and smiled. “No, I don’t mean that. I never want you returning to those people. Clearly, they don’t respect you. And they don’t even respect their own. No, I mean you were taught a decorum, were you not? A way to handle yourself in times of crisis. Well, I can’t think of a greater crisis than the one we’re dealing with now. Communications are obviously down. You know for a fact that time is limited when it comes to Nindemus’ machinations. Certainly, he’s made some sort of move by now. However, it can’t be for all of Farediin lest we all have experienced by now and be under that madman’s yoke. What does your gut tell you to do?”
Prush’e frowned and stared straight ahead towards a wall where pictures of herself as a child shifted in the various interactive picture frames her parents loved to keep in the family room. All in all, the room was lit under a warm yellow light that gave off a reddish hue bathing the room in a manner that was both homey and nostalgic for long ago times.
“My training would say I should have stayed true to the prefect and taken Shōtō back to him when demanded,” she cast her glance towards her mother who was waiting patiently for her to continue. “My gut tells me that I’ve delayed long enough. That I need to seek an audience with the council now. Before it truly is too late. Right now, there’ll be a movement in the lower quarters of Farediin. He’ll start small. Expand. Convince the people that he’s the right ruler that they need in trying times. If the council won’t listen, or is otherwise unable to, then I need to find out where Adjudicant Er’ra Zel is holed up. I… I have to grab Kendle, mom.”
Prush’e stood up after placing her cup on the tabletop. Her mother joined suit and took a step towards her.
“I know you do. Duties such as yours are not easy. I would never have acquiesced to such a life, had you asked me years ago,” she smiled as she placed her hands on her daughter’s shoulders. “However, I’m proud to see how you’ve discovered yourself. I’m proud of the woman you’ve become. And you would never have disappointed me, dear. Never. You were always welcome here. And I’m sorry you ever felt such isolation in your life.”
Prush’e smiled and pursed her lips trying to keep the tears out of her eyes. “It was never your fault, mom. I guess I just had that good old teenage angst. It never takes you to the places you think it will.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s grown you into a fine young lady.”
“Thank you. And I love you. You and dad both. Right now, we have to go. I think time is shorter than it was before.”
Her mother nodded and drew her in close for a hug. “Of that, I have no doubt. You take care of yourself. Come back home in one piece, if you don’t mind.”
“I plan on having a plus one when I do.”
“And we’ll welcome him with open arms as well, Prush’e.”
They withdrew from the embrace and smiled once more to one another. Prush’e hurried into the next room, the kitchen, where Kendle and her father were putting together a jigsaw puzzle. They both looked up as she entered.
“It’s time to go, Kendle.”
Kendle looked puzzled. “Go? Go where? I thought we were waiting for the council to be contacted?”
“I don’t think they will be. I think something has happened to the communications network and I believe Nindemus is intimately involved in that fact.”
“Okay. So, what’s the plan?”
Prush’e smiled. “We take the fight straight to Nindemus himself. But first, we’re going to need allies.”
PREFECT NINDEMUS SMILED. All five of the city-states of Farediin were in survival mode. With the Halik People’s Republic firmly in his grip, there was little the council could do to halt his march towards consolidating all of the other cities under his umbrella. and under the umbrella of the Godhand and the True Word. Soon, peace would be brought across all of Farediin. No longer would fear and uncertainty rein supreme. Before long, there would be reason and understanding. A consensus of compassion across the entire realm.
And, after all of that had been settled, he’d see to it that the humans received the same compassionate offer.
His smile broadened and his teeth protruded out above his lower lip in the process. Yes, he was happier than he’d been in quite some time as he stood at the window to his observation deck overlooking the streets of Shoenden prime. The downtown area had filled with his people. Legions of the Cre’nomanor crowded the central district all preaching the True Word to one another and feeling the Godhand’s reach into their souls.
A few hiccups aside, we’re making excellent progress, Nindemus mused considering the reach they were already making into Farediin Prime. Already, Barrus and the Hy’lian Confederation were experiencing a renaissance of the True Word and were coming to terms with what the Godhand had to offer them in finding true peace in their lives. This was something that could not be understated. And if my young apprentice continues to spread the word as he’s been doing, soon enough all of Farediin will come to their senses. War can be avoided and the nations will all be in position to deal with the human threat.
The door to his office buzzed its nearly silent swish and Nindemus felt his brow furrow as a result. “Master Nindemus. I’ve come with… news, m’lord.”
This sniveling fool has failed me too often. Perhaps I was wrong about his skills, after all. Nindemus turned to find Arviden Rousen standing just inside the doorway awaiting his attention. The young Cre’Namonar was proving as incompetent as he was unintelligent. And it was something he could no longer tolerate. Unless, of course, he’d demonstrated some sort of competency in the last twenty-four hours.
“Well, don’t make me ask for your report, adjutant. Simply give it.”
The young man swallowed hard and hesitated, then, “Adjutant Prush’e and Adjutant Bryinn have both fled into Farediin Prime. We lost Adjutants H’iumin and Blyte during a raid along the lower levels. We’ve since sealed those sections up and ensured proper protocols have been emplaced.”
Nindemus frowned and gave a low growl. “I’m hearing a lot of big words leave your mouth, adjutant. Are you telling me that Prush’e and Bryinn have escaped your reach? That you are now my last remaining adjutant?”
“Uhm, yes… sir…”
Nindemus approached the young man, a smile growing on his face once more. He rested his left hand on the young man’s right shoulder.
“I appreciate all that you’ve done for me, Adjutant Rousen.”
“Thank you, sir!” the young Cre’Nomanor grinned.
“However, incompetence such as yours cannot be allowed to continue.” Nindemus gripped Arviden’s throat tightly and twisted. A loud snap echoed throughout the room and the adjutant fell to the floor lifeless.
Nindemus turned away from him and walked back to his window, his arms folded behind his buttocks.
“Security,” he called into the void of his office. The door slid open and two soldiers entered. They briefly glanced down at Adjutant Rousen’s corpse then kept their focus on the prefect himself as he spoke not looking back towards them. “Remove the corpse. Burn it and send it back to his ancestors. His worth has ceased to be useful to me.”
The two soldiers knelt down to pull the body up and worked their way back out of the room as Nindemus kept his view on the cityscape beyond. The people had set up a stage and hangman’s station. A person was being escorted up towards it, all the while screaming something that just couldn’t be heard from Nindemus’ position. The people cheered and the man cried. Soon enough, he was just another body swinging from the gallows.
Oh yes. Young Shōtō is proving to be quite the benefit to the Godhand. Quite the benefit indeed.
‘You think all is said and done?’ A deep voice resonated in his mind and Nindemus raised a clawed hand to his forehead. ‘There is a movement deep in Farediin. Before we can proceed, this menace must be dealt with.’
You speak of the American pilot, Master?
‘Yes. Among others. A resistance is brewing. You must crush it. Now. Before it become a barrier to our mission. Go to Farediin Prime. End this threat.’
If only I had more specifics—
‘You have all that you need. Finish this task. Do not fail in this, Prefect. The return of the Voija is an inevitability. The Aurite must not be allowed to realize his true potential. And the Voijin is in a precarious stance. Reinforce him. Go now. Finish this so that we might rearise.’
Of course, my master.
Nindemus sighed and turned away from his window. There was much work to do and so little time in which to do it in. Particularly with regards to his last adjutant. Who had messed up too much in the grand scheme of things. In fact, there was another adjutant he realized he should pay a visit to while in the midst of his new mission. She was proving to be a thorn in his side as well. Besides, so long as she lived, Shōtō would never truly be his.
Time to end a persistent problem. Nindemus turned away from his window and marched out the entrance to his office. I always thought it was hyperbolic rhetoric these humans speak of. But, it’s true, good help is so hard to find.
“YOU HAVE TO find some means to stage a defense, councilor,” Councilor Sendima said pacing the floor around his desk. “If we are unable to hold Prefect Nindemus back, we’re as good as lost. And there are other matters of concern as well that we must address if we are to survive these coming weeks.”
“You make it sound like we’re already on the verge of losing all of Farediin…” Er’ra Zel sighed and leaned against a wall near a bookshelf. Avery stood near her watching them both quip towards one another.
Sendima paused and glared at her. “But that’s just it, councilor. I think we might have already failed. Years ago, yes. But a failure none the less.”
“Farediin is not lost. Not yet. I refuse to let it. We just have to mobilize our defensive forces and—”
Sendima frowned. “You know as well as I that Nindemus controls the defensive forces. And they’re all loyal to him.”
“What about the Public Reaction Units? Surely, we still have a division or two ready to go at a moment’s notice?”
Sendima shook his head as he turned away from Er’ra Zel. “Those units also were, for the most part, loyal to Nindemus and retreated back into Shoenden.”
“For the most part?” Er’ra Zel furrowed her brow. “Is that to imply some remain?”
“A few dozen, give or take. Not even a regiment’s worth.”
“Well, that’s still good, isn’t it?” Avery put in as both Er’ra Zel and Sendima turned towards him.
Sendima asked, “What do you mean?”
Avery looked from one to the other. “I mean that you still have trained defense units in the city. Those not willing to follow Nindemus back to his den when he locked down Shoenden. We round those soldiers up and enlist them to help train a new defense group to hold Nindemus and his cronies at bay.”
“Do you have any idea how long it takes to train a soldier?” Er’ra Zel frowned. “We don’t have that kind of time.”
“It takes approximately seven to twelve weeks. On an accelerated pace, though, we can manage a competent enough force in three to four,” Avery said and walked to the center of the room. “Look, Nindemus has his True Word nutjobs down in the lower levels preaching the word of this Godhand or whoever. Shōtō’s even regrettably involved having been dragged into Nindemus’ madness. We evacuate those who haven’t been turned by Nindemus and lockdown Upper Farediin. Then, we post guards at every possible entrance while we continue training. He’s not going to try and invade Farediin all at once. I’d say he’s trying to convert people to his cause.”
“We can’t subjugate people’s religious ideals!” Sendima grumbled. “It is a fact of life here in Farediin that people have the right of self-expression and religious identification. You and I might not agree with the message, but it is not our duty to tell people how to worship!”
“What we saw, wasn’t worship, Sendima,” Avery countered. “That was… indoctrination. He’s turning them into… Midnight, I guess. Somehow. Bringing out their worse fears and impulses. And Nindemus wants to do that to all of Farediin!”
Er’ra Zel growled. “I’m hard pressed to disagree with Avery’s assessment, councilor. What I saw down there… brought back a lot of bad memories. Memories of M’churo Chasm. It still haunts me.”
Sendima grew reflective. “Nobody has brought up M’churo Chasm in decades. I was just a young man when we sent in our defense forces to deal with what was in that water. Still… I would need to be certain that this is what you say it is. Not just worshippers spreading the word of their god.”
“Just shut down Upper Farediin,” Avery sighed. “Post guards to ensure nobody enters from the lower levels. Right now, Nindemus is pushing to control all of the cities. This doesn’t have to be a response to a religion but rather a response to an invasive force.”
“But, if those coming to the checkpoints established are only speaking of their own religion and seeking sanctuary…” Sendima hesitated as he stared at Avery.
Avery paused as well. He knew what Sendima was asking and he had no real good answer. Instead, he said, “Tell them that there is an abundance of caution due to infiltrator’s from Shoenden. If they’d like to apply for reentry, they can go to the diplomatic office we’ll establish within the boundaries of Lower Farediin. That way, they’re not being turned away for their religion. Though, I have to warn you, this particular religion is of the most extreme variety. It will literally turn you dark.”
“This is a dangerous line of thought,” Sendima said. “Do you concur with this, adjudicant?”
Er’ra Zel nodded. “It’s the only reasonable plan, councilor. We have to do something and soon. Nindemus is on the march.”
“Very well. Do as you must. Keep me posted on your progression.”
“And… of the rest of the council?” Er’ra Zel asked.
“Let me worry about them. Just… go make your arrangements.”
Er’ra Zel and Avery both nodded and turned to exit Sendima’s office. He walked behind his desk and sat down. He stared at his desktop not daring to even let so much as a thought into his head. He was afraid it would make him change his mind about this brazen gambit of the American’s.
Here we are. At the end of another posting of Left of Midnight. Thank you again for reading and I trust you’ll be back for more later. Until then, enjoy your week!
~Timothy S Purvis
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