That blasted journal entry. She had us all fooled. She wanted us to play along with a separate plan on Balmora’s trans, but this. She could have gotten herself killed, playing us like that. To go so far, to move the hand of an entire planet by forcing us and them to lash out against her. She’s brilliant in her own way. To Corianada the whole council of the Fiws…by the suns…Journal of Honfu.
Place: Frindar Flats
Planet: Chima, Colga Galaxy
Upon the desert plains of Chima could be heard drums beat and echoing hisses from the dunes. The cool evening breeze carried the smell of drift fires. The plan was working perfectly. She had taken each individual of the group aside on Balmora’s trans and told them their part to play. She had Balmora take Togoya back to the capital. She needed for him to not interfere with her plans. Due to his loyalty to her, he would just get in the way. They were each held to secrecy to facilitate appropriate reactions when the need arose. Fake acting would just give them away. It was going to be a hard road, and, unbeknownst to them, she was going to turn them against her. They all knew that Symone’s main goal in the end was to take down the emperor…but getting there, why were they at the Fiws? They were skipping over a set of clues and just heading right into the desert.
Now, how to get to the caves? I know that the Chac live in those places, but how? The desert is so inhospitable, and the farthest reaches of Chima where the Fiws are found most frequently received the least amount of rain in the wet season and the geology was not hospitable for underground river sources. We have to get into one of those places. If everything is to go to plan we have to find an occupied Fiws and get sent to see Sabole and Nick the Swift.
The group had set up camp in the dunes about three hundred miles from the capital and nearest town. They had another forty or so zines before they hit the next set of rocks. These were smaller in size and so they would not be used by the Chac. The rocks are like icebergs. They go way underground and they also become larger than they are at the top. They might still house the Chac. Okay I absolutely despise sand and the little animals that seem to love it. Symone groaned to herself as she tried to get a small kidiger out of her tent without being stung.
She laid out an empty dairy on her pack table and began to scribble. She knew the Ipty brothers, particularly Honfu, could not resist finding out more about Symone’s plan. She knew the three brothers had already shared with each other what she had told each of them to do for her plan. She was going to use this to her advantage. She was counting on Honfu to sneak in and find the dairy and pass it around the camp.
This has been an abhorrent, long journey. Kail was a bit too rough for the plan, but it seemed to have bought us time, and won the Elivik over to my side. He sympathizes with me. Maybe uncle was right. The Ravenspy network wasn’t keeping enough tabs on McAlister. Once we get all the coins, I’ll turn him, this group, and those coins over. They’ve even bought that I’m the lost empress and that my brother is actually being held by uncle as leverage…such simple creatures.This is what she wrote in her diary as bait for the Ipty.
She heard a rustling near her tent. It was time to set the trap. She sucked in her breath and bid the suns a quick question as to if she knew what she was doing. She left the diary open to what she had just written, grabbed her desert cloak, and ducked out of her tent. She made her way to the latrine, slowing down slightly to be certain that it was one of the Ipty brothers that had scurried into her tent.
She lay in her tent through that coming day and listed to the quite buzz in the other tents. She pretended to sleep, but she knew that word had reached the rest of the group. She could hear them plotting with one another as to how to get rid of her. It was all she could do not to sigh with relief when she heard the whisper she had been waiting for. It was Fado who suggested they make for Nick the Swift’s Fiws. They would turn her over to the Chac. Nick’s brother Subole was the leader of the Chac en masse and he could call to council the leaders of all the Fiws and bring down judgment upon her. They thought they might even be able to use her as leverage to bring down the emperor.
The team traveled in the night to keep cool and to conserve water. They slept in the shade of the rocks during the day. They continued in this fashion for many days until they finally reach some of the largest rocks that they had passed during the nights that they had been traveling. They would house over five hundred thousand to one million people.
“That is where we are headed. Nick the Swift is considered the leader of the group that lives in those rocks. The rock connects too many of the others by tunnels under the sand around us and so that means that there could be even more people than we think,” Fado told the group at large. His eyes tracked over to Wain. Wain nodded to Fado. They believed that Symone did not know a thing. They had agreed, after Honfu had told them about the journal entry in Symone’s diary, that they needed to pretend that they were sticking to her plan. They needed her to be cooperative and non-suspicious. Solomon seemed to be taking it the hardest though. He had thought that there was something shared between them. He needed to figure out what to make of the Corianada, the pact that held him bound to her, she bound to him.
“It is Nick the Swift’s shelter. Subole should be there to call forward a council of the Fiws elders. He will be able to help us get ahold of those coins,” Symone told them.
“And you know that how?” Rew asked.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Symone said with an inward smile.
Wain had watched this play out. He had a growing loathing for Symone, the traitor, and he seemed to be dragging everyone else along with him. He had been played and now he was stuck in the middle of the badlands with this female. He pounced on her, hissing, “You’ll tell us now, spy.”
No one had noticed this play, other than Rew, Fado and Solomon. The rest were walking on ahead of them. Rew stood there stunned for a few seconds – their cover was blown, then continued walking, trying to pretend it had not happened. Solomon was fighting with himself. She was no longer trustworthy, he was still trying to find away to let her go. He had to get her out of his system. This had to be the way to get rid of his problem. This will solve the situation. This will be the end of this. She’ll never forgive me for this.
“You’re a blasted fool for coming here,” the man said. “You came here alone or with friends?” the man asked. He analyzed the woman closely. She did not cower before his immense stature. If he turned to his left he could see the group cowering in the shadows of the cliff.
“I am alone sir. Those to the left of you are my friends no longer,” Symone answered the man without so much as a nod in the groups general direction.
How the group and Symone came to be there was time consuming. The group had bound Symone’s hands to inhibit her escape. They had followed the cliff trail of the southwestern Fiws to the rim of the crater in front of the entrance to the Fiws. The cliffs of the crater were carved out to accommodate seating. Penen had been sent up to the crater shortly before the group’s arrival to announce their presence. “Show your rebel scales or risk immediate death!” shouted a man from one of the holes in the cliff face to the right of us. Symone looked at the group. Wain just glared at her and snickered. She was getting what she deserved, being handed over to the Chac. The man reached out for her shirt. She hissed at him and tried to retreat. He caught the hem and ripped it from bottom to shoulder.
Symone could hear the gasps of the group echo through the basin. Her scales flashed in the moonlight. The encircled her waist and rose all the way up to cover her shoulders and down her forearms. The man gave a hand signal, several men jumped down from the edge of the basin, and the team was pushed forward into the light.
“Symone?” Solomon asked her in a panicked whisper as they were forced into a tight mass. She looked at him coolly. “You and your friends don’t trust me. I don’t blame you, but you joined them. You, out of everyone here! I trusted you with something important. I thought that I loved you, now I know for a fact,” She told him. Solomon caught his breath, hoping for her answer, thinking to himself, she loves me, she thought she loved me. She could be lying though, after all, that journal entry. “I know now, I hate you, you lying scoundrel. I thought that you loved me, I guess I should stop thinking huh? I’m now giving you a chance to see what untrustworthy is while still keeping your skins intact,” she spat at him.
He looked at her for a moment, shocked. He couldn’t believe what he had just been told. His hope, that of denial and acceptance had just been crushed into oblivion. She, who is she? I want to believe her, so badly do I want to believe her.
“I see that we have a little quarrel on our hands.” The man said with a stomach rumbling laugh.
“And you are Nick the Swift. This is not a small quarrel. This quarrel is quite large to tell you the truth,” Symone turned back to the man.
“Come, we will take you all inside and we will settle matters like civilized people. Your rebel scales will save your…people…for now,” Nick said, glancing from her shirt of black rebel scales to the men at her side that had been overtaken by his men.
They were seated on cushions on the floor of a large stone hall. Gauzy curtains blew lightly in the cool night air. The small spheres of light in the sconces on the walls that were scattered about the room gave off a soft glow that dimly lit the room. It was a plain room that had little furnishings. The humming of human life could be heard through the walls of the room.
“So what is the deal with you guys?” Nick asked, coming through the curtain in the doorway, and sitting down on one of the cushions that littered the floor. “I hear tell from that little Ipty boy that she’s a Ravenspy, the Black Cobra of the emperor?” he asked. Wain shrugged, not quite sure what to tell the big man. Penen nodded his head. Honfu came forward to Nick and placed a dairy in his hand. Symone rose from her cushion, “My journal!”
“Sit down!” commanded Wain as he pushed her back onto her cushion. Nick looked from the Ipty to the woman, confused. He opened it to the first new entry and scanned over it. He grunted after the end of the passage. “Now, explain how this works if she is not the lost empress. She has a set of scales, which is obvious,” he said, indicating her torn shirt where black scales peaked beneath it.
“She wears the scales of legend, and they aren’t implants – we saw a rebel dragon plant those on her,” said Otly, still trying to side with Symone.
“Every queen that comes to throne wears the scales of one legend or another,” Symone whispered under her breath.
“She is a spy for the emperor, she’s admitted that much to us” Solomon added. She gave Solomon a sharp glance while everyone else just stared at him. This was the first time that he had openly done something against her. They had been trying to figure out why he had been so guarded with her, but he had not provided any clues.
“Is this true?” Nick asked. She nodded. “Is there any way to prove it?” he asked Wain.
“Not that I know of,” admitted Wain.
“I do,” Solomon stated. He was hurt that she had held back such a horrid secret from him. He thought that she had some feeling for him, but how could a person with such a monstrous background possibly show any form of true love. They can only show an empty shell, for there is nothing left in them to love with. He thought to himself.
“What?” Nick asked him.
“Remove the scales on the back of her right shoulder. The symbol of the Ravenspy is tattooed upon her back. There will be your proof,” Solomon answered pensively. His stomach tightened and his throat burned. If he had just put the dots together earlier, he could have saved this team so much time. His hand came to settle on the handle of the knife he had kept on his belt since the night that he had entered into the Corianada.
“How are they removed?” questioned Penen, staring at Isis with an awkward mix of revulsion and curiosity.
“Pliers and a lot of pulling,” Solomon answered between clenched teeth.
“You’re not,” Isis said in horror. Solomon glared at her, anger boiling deep inside of him. He looked at her large, scared green eyes and saw the sorrow in them that had haunted his dreams for weeks. His stomach knotted as he listened to Nick call for the guards. His hand tightened around the grip of the knife. At least this way, she would be held at trial. There was the possibility they would let her off alive. With the pact, there would be no such luck.
Solomon had watched it all, his heart in his stomach. He, with the rest of the group, watched in silence as guards rushed into the already crowded room and attacked the woman. She never struggled. She never looked away from Solomon. She never said a word about the pact. The guards circled her, one big brute of a giant Elivik put her in a fast choke hold, dwarfing her. The group knew from the time they had spent in her company that she could easily evade such a motion, even in such a crowd. The simple knowledge of such an in-action made more of an impact on them then had she obliterated the entire gathering. Another guard bound her. She winced when a knot was pinched too tight into her skin. The guard took it for struggle and quickly aimed a resounding kick to the breast bone. Solomon heard the thud of her limp body crumple to the ground. He felt sick.
The guards dragged her limp body down several tunnels until they reached the lower levels of the Fiws. There were pit cells everywhere on the two hundred foot chamber. Most of the cells were no more than five feet wide and twenty feet deep. To Solomon’s horror the guards pushed Isis into one of the cells, letting her drop to the gravel floor. The heavy thud echoed in his mind. The group stood before the cell, staring down at the bleak black depth that hid the body. Otly stood behind Fado, trying hard not to look sick. Penen was resting against his brothers, his back to the cell. Otly glared at Wain under silent brows.
“Come, we shall talk of these matters later. For now, let’s see that you get some food and a soft bed,” Nick invited with a glistening white smile. The men and guards followed him out of the chamber and to the mess chamber where several large creatures were being roasted over open fires. They were seated comfortably at the head table and served by the dancing maids that entertained the Fiws gatherings in the evenings.
Dancers weaved in and out of the crowd to the tinkling tambourines and thrumming drums of the instrumentalists. The humans of the group found women to bed with that night while the aliens went off to tell stories to the children. Solomon and Fado sat before one of the cook fires, still trying to eat. It had been quite a feast, but neither of them had been able to bear the smell of food enough to consume it.
“That knife you keep at your side, I’ve never seen you use it. It is a pact seal, isn’t it? What have you done?” Fado accused the Canto before leaving for a bed. Solomon stared emptily at the massive chamber.
Night had set in and the second moon had risen. Solomon and the group were seating themselves in the outdoor stadium as Isis was led out in manacles and placed on a sand platform two or three inches rose from the ground. Her cuffed hands were chained to a ring in front of her and her ankle chains were looped through a ring in between her feet. Her clothes had been replaced with an old dirty shift. Her hair was tangled, and she had mud caked to her cheek.
Thunder boomed in the night sky as lightning zinged from cloud to cloud. The judge of the court, Nick’s brother, came to the hearing stand and took his seat. Many of the other members of the Fiws sat down in the stadium to watch this amazing trial. The people of the Fiws rarely ever had trials, once in every ten years if they were lucky, and this one was rare indeed. The woman before them was the King’s top spy.
“We gather here as the Chac council in the trial of one Isis, spy of the Emperor of the Colga Galaxy and traitor to the people of said galaxy. We, as the Chac, feel it our responsibility to mitigate just punishment, if we find you guilty, for the pain and humiliation you have caused the community at large. Isis, you are being tried for conspiring with the Emperor and spying upon the Chac. Do you deny this?” Subole, Nick’s brother, asked the woman chained in the middle of the stadium.
On her knees, her hair falling around her face like a halo, her eyes flashing emerald and steel, she responded clearly, “no, sir.” The crowd grew quiet. Solomon could audibly hear Otly swallow.
“Do you deny being a Ravenspy?” Subole questioned.
“No, sir,” she answered again. She never moved to elaborate. She never moved to deny anything, to save herself from what she knew was coming. Solomon sat pensively watching. His mouth had gone dry. That pact made so long ago…it had to go so far?
Shouts echoed out across the stadium. “How can you prove such a thing?” “Why is she here?” “Kill her!” “Get rid of her!” Subole sat back until the stadium was silent once more. A cricket chirped in the silence, and then went silent as thunder boomed once more.
“We must see for ourselves if you truly are a Ravenspy, Isis. We have been informed under oath that you bear the crest of the Ravenspy. Before this council we shall prove said claim,” Subole said as he motioned two men to come up. He didn’t look pleased in what he had to do. He had watched her throughout the last four days and nights to see if she really was wholly evil. She had shown extreme respect to everyone she encountered, but the one thing that he had noticed was whenever she encountered anyone from the group she had come from she would look at them with betrayal in her eyes and a sad smile on her face. She seemed to have lost her soul and become completely abandoned. She hadn’t eaten in the four days. He understood her clearer then most. It was an effort to control her stomach and activate her pain system quickly in an effort to pass out and escape into a blissful faint quickly. Interrogation was not easy under such circumstances. He had seen such tactics used by his own men when captured by the King’s army.
Subole tasted revulsion in his mouth at what he had to do. He had heard about pulling scales once before, from a century ago when revolts were taking place in the capital and the empress had been caught by rebels. For everyone to know truly if Isis was the renegade queen or one of the king’s crafty spies he would have to show the council just who she really was. She had forced their hands, a mental Corianada at their necks, for if she truly was the renegade queen, through this experience she would be able to force the council to join her side. If she was solely a spy sent into the ranks by her uncle, and she had given herself willingly to them, she might be condemned to death by the council, but that would force the Fiws into a dangerous position by drawing the Emperor’s wrath. “Your scales are to be removed so that we can see the tattoo on your back, as Solomon has said that you have. If you are found to be a spy among us, the council shall pass judgment as to how to handle you from that point on,” Subole motioned for the men to begin.
One man came up behind Isis. A sadistic brute, he caught her hair up and pulled her till her back arched, but she never cried out. Solomon jumped, a muscle twitched in his jaw, he watched as they pushed her down and got ready to remove the scales from her right shoulder. Isis captured Solomon’s eyes, keeping them locked through the turmoil to come. Thunder boomed and lightning lit up the stadium like morning as rain started pouring down.
The man with the pliers began with a scale at the top of her shoulder, giving it a stiff yank. It did not give for an instant and then, with a crackling rip, it came loose in the pliers’ maw. Isis let out a shriek that paralyzed the world. “Traitor!” she screamed. She heaved in gulps of air. She spat out blood from her bitten tongue. The guard with the pliers flipped the scale into the dust at Isis’s hands. He had moved to a new scale and begun pulling it out. With every scale that fell out, another scream, less loud than the last, escaped her.
Solomon watched, pain and shame awash upon his face. Why did I do it? What was I trying to prove. Was I getting back at her, why? Could there have been another, easier way? He watched as a blood red tear stained her cheek. “Stop it, stop it!” Solomon screamed above the roar of the crowd and rain. Otly pulled him back to his seat, his knuckles white. Solomon’s hand settled over the Elivik’s. The Elivik’s hands were shaking.
“This must be done, Solomon,” Rew whispered hoarsely. The man’s hands were clenched in the sleeves of his coat that he had laid on his lap at the beginning of the trial. He had never gotten close to the girl, but if everything was to work, this must be done. His chest was constricting.
“No, no, this must stop, Rew, it must. She’ll…she’s in pain, has she ever betrayed us?” Solomon asked Rew. Rew shook his head, still confused at what Solomon was getting at. They were following along, like asked, this Canto was going to ruin everything! Solomon finally escaped Otly’s grasp and rushed down from the stadium seats to the platform where Symone was chained. Symone had finally reached a point of numbed pain. She looked at the Canto in disbelief that he would come to her. “Stop it now!” Solomon yelled at the man with the pliers, seething rage burning in his eyes. The man backed away from the woman with the scales.
Solomon knelt before her. Scales littered the floor around the girl. Blood trickled down her shoulder and dripped from chest and midsection. She was shaking. Rain poured down from the heavens in a torrential flood. The stadium had gone silent. The black raven showed out as an ugly black splotch when the lightning lit up the stadium once more. Symone stared into Solomon’s eyes for a full minute. A raindrop ran down her nose and dropped off the tip. Anger drew her face into a scowl. “You bloody cowardice traitor,” she spat at him. “I trusted you! And what did you do? Sold me to the jacksparn, that’s what,” fire burned in her eyes before they dimmed and she lost consciousness. That tattoo was going to be the death of her, if they could just get the manacles off, maybe he could make a desperate plea. She had said that everything would be alright. She had played her part to the very end.
“Get her out of these things, Subole,” Solomon yelled as he rolled Isis over into his lap. Subole stood from his seat, uncertain what to do. Honfu unfurled his wings and glided down into the stadium next to Solomon. Soon both Penen and Gotre arrived next to him.
“Poor girl,” Gotre whispered as he bent down next her. He looked at the tattoo on her back and gasped. The crown on the Raven’s foot had a blue sapphire inked into it. Honfu and Penen looked at it, both bewildered.
“What is it ,Gotre?” Patched asked him when he had finally made it to the muddy stadium floor. He stared at what the Ipty was pointing out. The blue sapphire sparked in the next lightning bolt.
“She’s the daughter of the first emperor. She’s supposed to be dead though,” Gotre answered in disbelief, loudly enough for the rest of the crowd to hear. She had said this plan would work, but to have gone this far…? What they had done was unforgivable.
“How do you know this?” Solomon asked him anxiously, now that he knew the journal had been bait to get the group to play their part correctly, he had to keep up pretenses to not lose the Fiws leaders’ attention. He wiped a strand of hair from the girl’s face, smearing a red tear across her fair skin. He watched as the rain sploshed down and caused the smear to run down her cheek. His hands were visibly shaking. He did not know if it was because of the terror of watching her sacrifice so much to prove a point, or that she may honestly have had a point to prove.
Gotre looked at the inked stone once more. The journal was wrong. Symone had deceived them, played them. She had used the journal as bait. She had forced the hand of the group and the hand of the Fiws of Chima. She had shed her blood from her pulled scales as a silent Corianada. “This sapphire jewel was placed upon her at birth, to symbolize her royalty. When her father died and her uncle came to rule, he had the symbol of the Ravenspy placed upon her at the age of twelve. She has been training in it ever since. The man who tattooed the Raven on her back must have been killed for what he did, for no other Ravenspy has the crown on the middle toe, or the sapphire in it,” Gotre answered Solomon.
“She’s the true heir to the throne of the Colga Galaxy,” Honfu whispered. He stood over the Canto and the woman, his wings, and his brothers’ shielded them from the pouring onslaught.
What have I done to you, angel? You, you are the heir to the throne, and I thought myself good enough, no, better than your love. What must you have suffered through these several years of hard trial? Can you forgive me, my love? Solomon ran his hand down the woman’s scaled back.
Subole and the rest of the Fiws had watched this take place and listened to what was said. He knew their hands had been tied. The council would be unable to do no other than protect and serve this woman as the real heir to the throne of the Galaxy. He finally came to the platform with a key for Isis’s shackles and unlocked them. Solomon hefted her into his arms and carried her back into the rocky cavern of the Fiws.
The giggling laughter of little children running down the halls of the rock tunnels came drifting down into the woman’s consciousness. Symone carefully raised herself up on her elbows and looked at the kobiglow sconces that lit the room. The room was bland and there was nothing other than the gauze curtains and draped bed that rested in the middle of the room. She carefully stood up and walked across the cold rock floor to where her clothes were set on a chair. The woman slipped on her pants and shoes and walked out of the room. Her presence was known to everyone now and they knew who she was and her background. Her scaly shirt told of one life while the hole in the shirt on the back of her right shoulder showed of a different past.
“Sherdu’Ka a tu nigh,” came the greeting. Blessed lost empress. She looked down glumly at her sandals and standing before her sandals were another pair of shoes. She looked into the black eyes of a face that she had once known. “Symone, I am sorry,” Solomon told her solemnly.
“You now say sorry? Yeah, you’re sorry, you’re a sorry excuse for a white stallion! I was out cold for a week and a half after having five scales ripped out of my back and then left on my own; not seeing you or the others once! I know why you and the rest of these people stay away from me. I may be the king’s assassin but I am not going to-” she was suddenly speechless when his lips pressed to hers. It was radiant and she felt like time had stopped altogether. For the first time in her life, she actually enjoyed being kissed. It did not last long enough though.
“Symone, I have wanted to do that for so long. I may have acted like I wasn’t paying attention to you but I had my reasons. I was trying to figure out what to say,” he admitted sheepishly.
RT @ThorntonGibsonK: I can’t wait to read what happens next in The Kavordian Library! – #scifi, #fantasy, #webseries #booksTweet