The other day I shared that I was working on a secret writing project that wasn’t going to be secret anymore, namely that I had a prequel to my upcoming Tilruna world that I was working on that would be inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
I’m a very visual guy, so I put together this version 0.1 of a cover to set a bit of the tone. Now, you won’t see that cover (or any) associated with the story until about 6 months AFTER it releases. How’s that? Well, Tilruna: Fall of House Andes is going to be part of a Shakespearean Space-Opera boxset put out by my friend and amazing author, Drew Avera. You’ll have an opportunity to enjoy a SLEW of fantastic stories, along with my prequel to the fantasy space-opera world that I’ll be kicking off before the end of the year with Season 1 (or 0, depending on my mood :D).
But being a visual guy, I needed a cover to anchor my posts and make it feel real for me.
My plan is to send this off to beta readers at the end of June (*panics because of deadline*). I’ve got a form up for those interested in beta’ing or reading advanced review copies of any of my works over here.
NOW, here’s a really, REALLY raw scene to kick things off. Brutally rough, okay?
— Scene One —
Elmath stared at her ghostly reflection in the orbital defense station’s observation deck window. Her thoughts still held prisoner by the news that had haunted her throughout her two month-long journey home. As the Elven homeworld rotated into view, a chill ran through her immediately followed by a river of rage. Her pointed ears stood up and went red, her sunken eyes glared back at her through the shield of her chin-length white hair. She took a deep breath and held it, clinging to the intensity of the moment as if it was all that made her real.
She tugged the jacket of her formal, white-and-gold Elven military uniform. Looking down, she turned her scratched hand over, the bruising setting in.
“Seeing you in formal uniform is a rare thing,” said a warm and familiar voice behind her.
Letting her breathe out, she stared at the new reflection quietly. “Hello Orathio. It’s been a long time.” Her voice was flat, absent of any of the love and joy she’d usually harbored for him.
Orathio came to stand beside her. He towered over her by more than a forearm. His long silver hair was braided in three parts, and seemed to blend right into his silver and black scholarly robes. Pointing at her hand, he offered a concerned smile. “I gather that there was some… disagreement between you and your communication console regarding the new requirement for formal dream?”
She looked at her hand and flexed the fingers. “There was. But, what can one do when your mother replaces your father so readily, tipping the scales in favor of our enemies?” She turned her gaze on him.
Orathio studied her gaunt face. “Have you slept?”
“Ha. Do you mean have I slept since word came that my father was killed in an accident? Or do you mean since I arrived at a third teleportal only to find they all seem to be broken and in need of desperate repair, forcing me to slowly return from the Outskirts? Or do you mean from the point where I learned that my dreams and purpose of building interstellar ships with the best minds of Elves, Dwarves, and Orks was now to become a memory?” Her eyes burned at him. “Tell me, Orathio? Tell me.”
Her face and shoulders fell. “This is not on you,” she said letting a sigh escape. “I just…” She stopped as one of the Elven homeworld’s eight moons came into view. “Do you know how long I yearned to see home? And yet now that I see it, I want nothing to do with it. It turns my stomach. Eight great houses, eight moons we call home, and all of it a reminder of just how misguided our ways are becoming.” She yanked on the cape, the sound of a tear bringing a satisfied smile to her face. “I nearly had my squadron fire upon the station when they demanded that I board in traditional uniform. My father would never have allowed that.”
“We should get that fixed before you leave.”
“Nothing of the kind.” As two tears escaped her eyes, she intercepted them with her thumbs. “But there’s no point in dwelling on any of this, is there? Oh the things we take for granted, Ori. Why is our homeworld’s perfectly between the Orken dark sun and the Dwarves bright one, making mana so plentiful here that I don’t even need replace the battery for my prosthetic, that our kind can do what the Orks and Dwarves see as unnatural, even divine.” She glanced at her arm. “We take even their ideas and claim it as our own.” She leaned her forehead on the glass. “This is something I’ve thought about, out there in the Outskirts. But the safety of space travel? I hadn’t given it a second thought until I read those words that my father had been undone by the smallest of cracks in his personal ship’s reactor core. A line no longer than the tip of a finger, in a ball the size of a melon, and it tips the balance of everything.”
She hit him lightly in the stomach with the back of her hand. “But you, you I will no longer take for granted. You are now a Grand Librarian.” She stepped back to get a good look at him, a huge smile suddenly on her face. “Your commitment to the academic arts is something I can only marvel at, Ori. You’ve spoken about this since we were children in school, and yet you’ve done it. Please accept my humblest apologies, I learned of your ascension months ago and failed you as a friend. I should have sent you a congratulations immediately. Will you forgive me?” She tilted her head, her ears bowing down humbly.
Orathio laughed. “You could push me off the cliffs of insanity, and I wouldn’t ever hold it against you.”
“Because if I pushed you off, you’d know it was because I’d want company on the way down,” she said, sliding in for a warm hug. “It’s good to see you. You are ever my anchor in a windstorm, and I fear that I have quite the storm ahead.”
As she pulled away, his face was a mix of emotions and confusion. “I hope I can serve you well. I have some news that I have feared to share with you.”
She gestured at him.
“The teleportals you mentioned, they were not in need of repair.”
“This isn’t news to me,” she said, folding her arms. “We actually seized one of them and spent a week trying to get it working, only to discover that several key components and been destroyed. But there’s more to it, isn’t there?”
“There is. It was the Governing Council that shut down all teleportals that reach beyond the Orken and Dwarven worlds.”
Elmath’s face lost all signs of warmth. “That’s impossible. Without my father, Brafintro and the other fundamentalists wouldn’t have had a majority to push forward anything like that. How did this happen?”
Orathio took a step back and stared at the empty, dusty chairs in the observation room. “Do you know, it’s been a long time since anyone came here to just watch the skies. I remember when we came here as kids once, a trip to the homeworld with our school. People used to have to come to these stations, but now, there’s no need. They serve only as spears in the sky, awaiting an enemy to arrive, from without or within.”
Grabbing him by the arm, Elmath pulled him close. “What don’t I know?”
He looked at her, his face an alarmed reflection of hers. “House Andes voted with the fundamentalists, though it bickered with the Brafintro representatives, at least for show.”
She let him go, her head shaking.
Orathio pulled on the shoulders of his robes and leaned against the back of a chair. “Your uncle, Daucilus, proposed the motion to shut down all of the teleportals… and cast the deciding vote.”
Elmath froze. “That’s impossible. We’re the major bloodline of the house, not him. He’s got no claim.” Her eyes went wild. “Unless you’re telling me that he married my mother. I’d heard a rumor, but thought it was just… It’s true?” Her voice was fragile.
Orathio glanced at her and then the cold, stone tiled floor. “They married within days of your father’s death. They immediately made it a crime to share the news, which was supported by the Governing Council.”
Stumbling backwards, Elmath fell into a chair, her head in her hands. “I…”
A small, blue star-burst appeared two feet before Orathio, eye-level.
Bringing his index fingers together before him, he then drew them apart and a screen appeared, its sides and back shimmering blue. A figure in military uniforms stood at the ready.
“I apologize for interrupting you, Grand Librarian. However, you had said to let you know if it reappeared. It… it has,” said one of the men on screen.
“Thank you, Bardrano. Are you able to make sure there’s no record of it as last time?”
“I’ve already dispatched my colleague to ensure our logs will be clean, and that we will have the operations center to ourselves.”
Orathio bowed and touched his forehand. “Thank you. I will make sure that your loyalty to House Andes is properly noted.”
Bardrano copied the bow and touch, and the screen vanished.
With a uncomfortable sigh, Orathio looked down at Elmath who seemed lost in a world of pain.
After a minute, she looked up at him. “What’s wrong?”
“I need you to come with me to the operation’s center.”
What do you think? Leave a comment.