Whatever possessed us to stop in those slums, I think it was the suns doing. It gave us a true sense of her convictions, or her reasons and desires to help the people. For all the evil that was lumped on her broken heart, she hadn’t become the sin of the empire, she still retained herself, standing strong in the face of adversary for the underdogs.The Journal of Solomon.
“Mkle, how long has this royal governor been in charge of the city?” Patch asked. After discussing plans with Mkle, Isis had taken the short man to meet the rest of the group. He informed the group of the emperor’s royal governor who watched the town of Yanters and the surrounding land.
“He’s been here for about thirteen year,” he answered Patch. They had expanded the gozo box to allow the whole group to sit comfortably within. Wain settled himself into a shadowed corner and Solomon watched at the door for intrusion. Yute had still not shown up.
“So, what’s in it for you, if we start a rebellion?” Mkle asked the group at large. The undercurrent of the question settled around Isis and began to tighten around her neck.
“We need a coin that is in that city,” Rew dodged the question fully.
“Yes, well, I could surmise you needed something within the gates because any other smart individual would just go around the wall,” Mkle chuckled.
Rew flustered on the comment, but Patch’s hand settled on his shoulder to still him. Patch looked to Wain, not sure if it was right to explain Isis to the man or not. Wain looked back and chewed his lip, debating with himself.
Solomon fingered the scale in his pocket. It was slick with thin raised ridges, almost like the ridges of a fingernail. He waited on Wain to condemn Isis and he knew that he could protect her. He watched the sun’s shadow creep through the entrance of the gozo box and slowly crawl up Isis’s body. She resettled her weight and a scale moved causing a space under one of her scales to itch horribly. It took her will not to try to ease it and she prayed that Wain would get over with his decision-making plans.
Mkle, ever observant, knew the woman was connected to the reason. He smiled inwardly to himself. “You know, you could always have her wait for you outside of the gates until you get your coin,” he told them. Solomon and Wain’s eyes snapped to the man. “Now that I know it’s you who is holding them back, what is your ailment, my dear?” Mkle smiled at her. Who is this guy?
She glanced to Solomon. He took the scale from his pocket and threw it over to Mkle. The man held it up to the light and a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. He returned the scale quickly. “So?” Mkle prodded innocently. At that, Isis gave up her fight with the itch on her side. She lifted the side of her shirt and scratched the skin where a new scale was beginning to grow.
The bead of sweat dripped onto Mkle’s battered shirt collar. His eyes rounded. “By the Red Sun…” he sucked his breath in.
“Now you see why we have to protect her,” Otly growled. His hand came up in defense of the girl. His red hair swooped forward and his eyes narrowed to a seething white. The impression was that of a vengeful ghost. The man looked up at the elivik, fear circling in his eyes. “If she’s found, we’re all dead,” the man croaked.
“Yeah, but…” Honfu went to protest. Solomon smiled into the white sun’s blaze at the defense.
“No,” Mkle cut him off, “if she’s caught…” He began to shake.
“Look, maybe if we can do something with the royal governor, then you wouldn’t have anything to worry about,” Penen ventured tactfully. Mkle was about to shake his head, and then he mulled the thought over in his head for a little longer. “Okay, Ipty, impress me,” he nodded. “What do we do?”
The team gathered that night around a cook fire with Mkle and several people he felt would be interested in assisting the group. The girl that Wain had noticed earlier, the blind girl, was working the stew. He was distracted through most of the conversation by her. Gotre laughed over Wain’s smitten ogling and pointed it out to Fado. Fado chuckled, watching Wain try to help her.
The girl became angered when Wain offered her assistance. ‘I can get it myself, thank you,” she huffed as she dished up several bowls. Mkle’s eyes shown with mischief in the firelight as she dumped a ladle full of boiling hot soup in Wain’s lap. “Hot!” he yelped as he hurriedly brushed the offending liquid off his pants. The group waited for him to change before continuing with business.
“Wha-what’d I do?” Wain whimpered as she walked back through the memorized pathway.
“Don’t worry none, Wain, she hates help,” Mkle supplied him. Wain raised his bowl to his nose and sniffed the thin liquid. There was little aroma but as he took a sip, he realized the girl needed no assistance from anyone. “Good huh?” Mkle chuckled.
“Hmm-hm,” Wain nodded his head, licking his upper lip of the broth.
“Her name is Gracela,” Mkle supplied him.
“Gracela,” Wain mumbled to himself, his eyes flickering to the gozo box that the woman had crawled into.
One of the men had become fidgety and kept playing with the fire. “Charvan!” bellowed Mkle as a limb snapped and sent sparks all over. The young man snapped to attention, “Sir!” Mkle rolled his eyes. “You’re not in the army any more Charvan! Stop calling me sir!” he bellowed at the trembling youth. “Yes, sir! I mean, Mkle, sir,” Charvan replied immediately. Mkle rolled his eyes and continued on, “This is Charvan, one of the members of our small militia. He stands watch against predators from the deep forest typically, but tomorrow, he’ll take you to meet with one of our comrades in the walls,” Mkle stated with finality.
The group leaned forward, noting every movement and every sound Mkle made. He described the elaborate details of the plan until the white sun’s rays glowed shallowly on the horizon.
“You guys got it?” Mkle asked at last. They nodded their heads slowly, beginning to grasp the concept of what they were about to do. “Alright,” he mumbled, tugging at his goatee as was his habit. He looked up into each individual’s eyes and finally settled his gaze on Solomon’s. “Go,” he whispered into the dawn’s quiet.
Yute had slipped into the city. He walked unhurriedly through the cobblestone streets, past mansions of marble and granite. He passed inconspicuously by the guards and citizens of Yanters and made his way to the governor’s house. It was a large, rambling estate of pasture land that had been cleared of the massive pines. Columns and flying buttresses, fennels and crowning adorned the gaudy building.
He sneered in disgust at the show and made his way around to the servants’ entrance. He hid in the brush near the entrance and watched the milkmaids, the cooks, and the housekeeper enter and exit the house in a continual hum resembling an ant line. Finally, when he noticed a lull in the comings and goings he entered the house and made his way to the governor’s study.
The sound of light tapping feet coming down the hallway had him flattened against an alcove in the wall, pressed behind a crudely carved statue of a nude male Elivik. A maid in a short pink frilled dress carried a tray of sweet creams and biscuits into the office. “Your afternoon snack, sir,” she said sweetly. There was a grumbled reply and then a sharp “Oh” from the girl before she fled the room with reddened cheeks.
“So… you’re a sick perv,” Yute mumbled to himself, pulling at his thin lip. A sneering smile crossed his face. “My kind of man.” He crawled out of the alcove and lightly stepped down the hallway. He peaked in the pocket door to find the governor in a red smoking jacket sitting behind an ornate fruit-wood desk. Gold rings decorated every plump finger and sent small white specks of light shining about the room. He savored a biscuit spread with orange marmalade as he lounged back in the leather swivel chair. He took his time placing his highly-shined, black shoed feet on the massive desk and leaned back, taking a bite out of the biscuit.
“Mr. Governor,” came a whisper in his ear as a sharp blade settled tightly under his double chin. He coughed, startled. The blade grazed the skin and a single red drop rolled down the blade to drip off the hand guard onto his red smoking jacket. “Wha-what do you want?” the man squeaked.
Yute removed the blade. “I want you to help me,” he answered calmly.
“And why should I help you!” The governor bellowed, red faced. The blade returned to his neck.
“Because, you don’t hold all of the pieces anymore; I do,” Yute hissed with a snicker. The fat man paled as the knife scratched his skin again. He waited with held breath for the steel to be removed. Yute finally returned it to its sheath on his hip. The fat man waited for directions, carefully wiping his chin off with a white silk handkerchief. Yute went to the other side of the desk and settled himself in a chair. He eyed the man, weighing whether the man would really be able to do his bidding of if he would just turn tail. He bent forward, capturing the man’s gaze. He spread his hands on the table and began with his plan.
Charvan took the group into the deep city to introduce them to a comrade of the unfortunates. She was a small Ipty, an exiled Duchess that the three brothers knew about. Duchess Cryndel met them on the doorstep with a cheery smile and a quick ushering into her small house.
She had star-gazing eyes and moonbeam colored hair. She led them into a small side parlor and left to retrieve a platter full of sweetmeats and hot kingda. The group settled into plush settees and on the floor around the kingda table. The small woman settled herself gracefully into an armchair and smiled at the group. “Charvan,” she beamed, “what have you brought me this time, mischief maker?” He blushed under her words and tipped his head down to sip his kingda.
“Well, uh, that’s Wain, Rew, and Patch over on the green settee. Honfu, Penen, and Gotre are down on the floor there,” he pointed to the brothers who were sitting at the other end of the room. He sipped his drink again before clearing his throat, “Solomon is sitting on the other armchair. Um…Otly is against the door frame, and this,” he tapped Isis who had sat down next to him, “is Isis. Oh, and Fado stayed back at camp, but he’s hoping to meet you soon.” Charvan smiled with pearly white teeth when the Ipty nodded with cherry cheeks. “So,” she clapped, excitement burning in her eyes, “what are you up to?”
“Well,” Wain cleared his throat an set his half empty cup back on the serving tray. “We need help with a plan.”
Three weeks later, Isis and Solomon stared out at the open field before them. It was packed with tents. The beige canvas snapped in the early morning breeze as the white sun peaked over the sharp pine tree tops. Dew had settled on the solitary long grass stalks that had not been bent from the comings and goings of the people.
A man rose at the top of a small knoll and brought a trumpet to his lips. Into the silence of the early morning, he played taps, an old classic not forgotten from Earth. Groans and grumblings rang across the field as men and women rose and made ready to report to their duty stations. Solomon and Isis watched humans and aliens alike skitter across the field to areas where different forms of training were taking place.
The archer’s stand was placed down near the cluster of rocks in the east side of the field. The Lef Eliviks mainly gathered there. The Lef, the ancestral specie of tree and sand Eliviks, had taken up arms in defense of Yanters because of the deforestation for expansion purposes. The deforestation was not even to help those in medical or physical need, but for the rich to build bigger houses.
They typically had the sharpest eye of the alien species. Isis joined them shortly after seeing that the rest of the group had made it to their designated stations. A lithe female Lef Elivik instructed the group, made up mainly of young child-aged Lefs, on how to maintain their weapons. She held in her right hand the Lef staff, a specialty of the Eliviks, a small, silver, ornately carved stick about a hands-breadth long. She took with her left hand a small pick and carefully dug out the tarnish from around three rings located at the top and bottom of the stick. She watched as the children and Isis slowly cleaned their own staffs. The instructor then held the stick away from her in a vertical direction and pressed her thumbnail into one of the fine filigreed ropes around the base of the stick. From both ends of the stick, long pipes of silver shot out with a silent woosh. The class did the same with little difficulty. She took a polishing rag and shined it down to a high gleam. From there she tipped the top of the staff towards herself and extracted a thin wire from the tip and connected it to the base, bringing a slight bend to the silver staff, creating the infamous deadly lef bow. For the rest of the morning they practiced with ease.
The children and adults had been instructed and trained prior to the groups arrival as the city’s militia in case of another warring city. Patch taught the cooks about the plants around them and how they could be used as foods and as hidden poisons within the foods. The Ipty brothers formed a small platoon of Ipty fliers to help in taking out the guards on the city walls. Wain and Rew joined with a band of rock climbers as a special forces team to infiltrate the governor’s mansion. Otly and Fado helped in creating the glass tipped arrowhead for the tips of the Lef arrows which were packed with a contact explosive, similar to the Buckingham rounds used in World War II by the British special forces. Solomon translated amongst the aliens when communication became garbled.
And they continued training in this fashion for five more weeks.
The blackened morning of war descended on the camp as a heavy oppressive blanket. The children and adults alike were restless. They had noticed in the previous weeks how the walls of the city had gained more guards. When men were sent in for provisions, they didn’t return. The army, a thousand strong, had started to weaken as this day approached, and now that it was here, there was no turning back.
A thick gray fog settled between the tents and a hoot from an owl echoed over the field. Isis stood at the top of the knoll on that chill morning and surveyed the sight. Her stomach knotted in apprehension, mortified at what she had instigated. Promise me, a male voice ran in her head, that you will never fight with the people of this galaxy. A small child’s voice answered the male’s voice in her mind, I promise…
A yellowish haze cast spiked rays through the tree tops to cut the fog. A solitary fireweed lily, a small flaming red violet, calmly lifted its branches to a shaft of light that fell on it. She bent to pick it and as her fingers closed around it and bent the stock she looked up to see others, many other fireweed bloom, a stain of red upon the field. She released the flower to continue standing in the sun. She sat on the dew damp grass and stared at the ground, a knot of premonition against the back of her eyes and the bridge of her nose.
She heard a stiff pant from behind her. She glanced over her shoulder to find Fado puffing up the hill. He grinned sheepishly and settled his thick body next to hers. “You’re up early this morning,” his voice shivered across the field.
“Is this right?” she turned back to staring at the flower.
“Is it right of you to pluck that flower, just to let it wither and die?” Fado asked as he bent forward and plucked the flower and twirled it in his finger. “There will always be others to grow back,” she shrugged. “As there will always be wars to wage and win,” he said, handing her the little flower. She stared at it and turned to ask him, but he had already left. She stared at the blood red veins running through the fire colored flesh of the three petals. The wind tugged at it and took it from her hands to lose it in the trees.
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