A few weeks ago I mentioned that my Fantasy Space-Opera, Tilruna, was getting at least one prequel that was going to be based on a Shakespeare play, similar to what I do with fairy tales in The Yellow Hoods. Tilruna: Fall of House Andes is inspired by Hamlet and I posted the first raw scene here, now it’s time for the second one.
Reminder – These are RAW, meaning that I haven’t revised or edited them, never mind them having been near an actual editor. My process is initial draft, three revisions and editing, then beta-readers, then revision, then editor 1st pass, editor 2nd pass, THEN proof readers, and formatting for production. So I’ve got a ways to go.
Chapter 2 – Scene 1
Elmath stared at her ghostly reflection in the orbital defense station’s observation deck window, her mind still wrestling with the events of two months before. The journey home had been long and painful.
As the station rotated and one of the eight Elven moons came into view, she felt her chest tighten and the grief she kept caged inside fight to be freed.
Reaching for her anger, she forced out a controlled breath, curled her trembling hands into fists, and ignored the tears as they escaped down her face. As she felt its warm embrace push everything away, she knew its power was waning and the pull of despair’s gravity was growing.
As the Elven homeworld rotated into view, a chill ran through her. She’d seen this a hundred times during her stasis sleep. Her eyes darted about desperately, hoping and fearing to see her father standing with her. She mouthed the words of the quote he said every time the scene had played out in her mind. “Our worlds are so beautiful yet toxic, our people so wise yet belligerent, our philosophies so profound yet fail to see fundamental truths… The foundation of any great society…” She bite her lip as her chin quivered.
Straightening up, she glared at the formal military uniform she’d been required to wear. The two station staff had been hard pressed to convince Elmath that it was now required to board the station, but she’d finally given in.
The white-and-gold military jacket with its runes and medals sickened her, a reminder of the social games and hierarchy of Elven society. She tugged at the white cape pinned to the back of one of her shoulders.
“It was well designed by a mind that understood it needed to endure the harshest of environments,” said a warm and familiar voice.
“I loath this creation of my mother’s with an unending passion.” Elmath turned and faced her oldest friend, her expression softening after a few seconds.
“It does suit you.”
“It is good to see you, Orathio. And the new Grand Librarian robes suit you. I hadn’t realized you’d begun your transformation.”
Orathio was particularly tall for an Elf and stood a head-and-a-half taller than Elmath. He had traditional, long silver hair, braided and pinned to his shoulder, as per the style of House Andes. His scholarly robes were red-and-silver, with a hood that was pulled back.
“It started a few days ago. I can feel the changes starting. My studies tell me that it will happen quickly now. But, where are my manners? Allow me to welcome home the estranged Etta Headlum of House Andes.” He tilted his head forward and gently touched the fingers of both hands to his forehead.
Elmath stared at him, a cheeky annoyance on her face. “Et-tu, Ori? Am I to be plagued with formality and reminders of how much I was at home in the Outskirts at every turn?”
He was about to reply, when he was visibly thrown off. “Your… hair.”
“I think the court at the palace will have a less delicate reaction.” A devilish smile crossed her lips. “When one is working with the other races, I believed it wise won should not look exactly like the horrors of their history book.”
Orathio paused before nodding. “A wise thought indeed. However, it will only serve to make things more difficult.”
“Oh? Have you seen a care here, among us?” She gestured at the room playfully. “For I see none, and if there were one, I can tell you it would not have my name on it.”
Elmath moved back to the observation window. Folding her arms, she shook her head. “Formality, status… to speak nothing of how our native tongue must be spoken by the heir and Etta Headlum of a house… It’s enough to shake loose my fragile grip from the precipice of sanity.” She stared at him coldly and then as his brow furrowed she burst into laughter.
Joining her at the window, Orathio’s robes moved with a life of their own. “There was mention that the beaten ship you arrived on was set to the minimum of life support settings.” He narrowed his eyes at stared intensely at her. “Your face is thin and your eyes, darkly rimmed. Have you been checked by—”
“I am fine,” she said waving away his concern. “As for my ship…” She ground her teeth. “I was the fortune one, surviving to avenge those who were stolen from me should I be able to move past my grief. That said, Fate was not eager to make my return easy. When my ship arrived at the first teleportal, I knew deep in my soul that it was no accident that it was dark and dead, like my shipyard. A journey of a day was now threatening to be months.”
Elmath tapped at the glass. “I reconfigured everything I could, using the stasis chamber until it was out of power and then breathing and moving as little as possible until it was charged again. But when I arrived at the second teleportal, and found it disabled, I was certain the third would be the same. I shouldn’t have made it, save for a random attack by a desperate pirate vessel. After I bested them with my phantom blade, I managed to scrounge enough to allow my little ship to get me here.”
She glared out into space. “All the teleportals have been shut down, have they not? Even the ones within Tilruna?”
“From the Dark Sun to the Light, and all around our system,” said Orathio, his voice deep and grim.
Elmath growled. “How could the Governing Council allow this to happen? This is the agenda of the xenophobes and fundamentalists.”
Orathio reached for his hood but left it alone. “We will… speak of that shortly. How has your stay on the station been?”
“I’ve mostly been here.”
“The entire time?”
Elmath shrugged. “How much time has truly passed? For there are times when I have been staring out this window for what seemed to be minutes, only to discover it has been hours. If I were to be told I have been here for a week, or for two hours, it would not surprise me. It is as if the universe and time are as broken as my soul.”
They stood there silently.
She leaned over and nudged Orathio with her forearm. “I appreciate you coming to this dank dungeon in the sky to escort me home. I’d been informed that I was not permitted to leave here until someone came for me.”
“There have been many changes, but we were fortunate. Bardrano, one of the staff you undoubtably met earlier, asked for me. I was here a week ago to assist him in a most… unexpected affair. So when they pulled your ship into the hanger, he asked for me and House Andes complied, though hesitantly from what I heard,” said Orathio.
“Hmm. Well, enough of all this, I must hear the real news. What has transpired with my house? With the Governing Council?”
Orathio rubbed his hands together. “Before we speak of your house, perhaps you should sleep.”
Her jaw slid forward and she narrowed her eyes. “Orathio, if you are attempting to hide a word of the truth from me—”
“I am merely concerned for your welfare and state of mind. When you arrive at the palace, I am certain life will be difficult. And knowing you as I do, once we start down this path, you will find no rest.”
Elmath relaxed and nodded. “To be honest, true sleep has been a stranger to me since word of my father’s death reached me. All I have managed is time scurrying, sometimes with my eyes open, sometimes with them closed. My body is sore and worn, my soul bruised… but I will not be deterred. My anger is the battery from which I…”
“Do not judge me, Ori. My old enemy is my truest friend at the moment.”
He put his hands up in peace. “I know how much your father meant to you, as well as your work.”
Her face twitched as she pushed off the emotion wanting to escape. “There’s no point in dwelling on any of this, is there? No more than wondering why the Orken homeworld is so close to the Dark Sun, and the Dwarven homeworld so close to the Light Sun, or why only the Elves were given a home perfectly in the middle, bathed in an abundance of mana that made us drunk on power? Or even why an uncle would allow a tutor to use a real phantom blade when training his niece?” She looked at the sleeve that hid her prosthetic forearm.
Orathio’s lowered his eyes.
Elmath tapped him lightly in the stomach with the back of her hand. “Do not let such things concern you, for soon you will be a Grand Librarian and such feelings will be well beyond your grasp, if they are not already. Oh to be free of feeling and worry, what I wouldn’t trade. That said, I am glad that you haven’t yet been consumed, as I fear I will need my only real friend in the days ahead.”
He smiled. “I am ever at your service.”
“And formally, with all the respect due to one who has achieved the highest level of a most sacred order,” she bowed and put her fingers to her forehead, “Congratulations.”
His smile grew.
“Now, tell me of my House.”
Slowly the tips of his ears sat back. “The teleportals, the required uniforms identifying position, they are but a few of the decrees recently issued by the Governing Council. In the past few weeks, they have also revoked the status of all non-Elves on the homeworld and moons. Those that have not fled remain at their own peril.”
Elmath’s cheeks and ears went red. “Surely you are joking, Orathio, and a poor joke it is. That…”
His expression didn’t change.
“But that would have required House Andes to throw in with the likes of House Brafintro and the Elz-Zeen Collective. They have been our mortal enemies for centuries. I cannot believe that my mother, despite all of her numerous faults, would ever side with them. House Andes has stood for openness and collaboration with all, even the minor species and civilizations. It wasn’t just my father that believed that.”
Orathio took a step back and stared at the empty, dusty chairs in the old observation room. The station had been pretty much abandoned for decades, if not longer, with only a skeleton crew tending to it. Like many things, it had once been a crown jewel of the Elven empire, and was now a relic paying little more than homage to falling greatness. “From what I have been able to garner from allies close to the Council, House Andes argued loudly as per tradition, but then voted in support of the very actions that they have long stood against.”
She grabbed him and shook him, his eyes going wild in surprise. “How can this be? What poison could infect my mother so?”
Orathio gently took her hands off of him. “It is your uncle, Daucilus, who is Headlum of House Andes. It is he who sits on the Council.”
“What?” Elmath tried to take a step backwards and banged against the window. Her eyes went cold. “What else?”
He cleared his throat and straightened his robes. “The official message announcing Lemath’s death as delayed until…”
“Speak!” She flared her nostrils.
“It was delayed until after your mother married Daucilus and appointed him Headlum. She then resumed her position of Alto-Headlum. And after the Governing Council’s motion to shut down all extra-planetary operations was secretly passed.”
Elmath growled, her eyes burning with fury. “Surely some stood against this radical shift.”
“The Houses that opposed where later… sanctioned,” he said dispassionately.
Her fingers twitched as it unconsciously reached for the small of her back. “Mince not your words, Ori. You mean they were fined? Or raided and removed from the registry of High Houses?”
He bowed his head and then nodded.
Elmath drew a flat, silver hilt, its burnt-bronze guard shone in the light. “This is impossible, madness most infectious. Daucilus was the head of a minor house, to speak nothing of his questionable morals and arrogance.”
Raising his hands subtly to usher calm, Orathio waited until Elmath lowered her weapon. “I have heard rumors that your father had made many enemies in recent years, and that Daucilus brought allies with him, though their loyalty is highly questionable.”
She pointed the hilt at his head. “Are you attempting to justify this?”
He stared at her.
Elmath dropped it to the ground and buried her face in her hands. “I’m sorry, Ori. You know me, I’m not like this. My trainers and advisors of old would be gravely disappointed in me… Threatening my only friend with a phantom blade… it is beyond the pale.” She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and then snatched the hilt off the ground, returning it to its home beneath her jacket.
“Forgive me, Orathio. I am untethered, lost in the wind but my anger, it’s all I have to ground me.” She leaned an arm against the observation window and gazed out blankly.
Orathio raised a hand towards her but then hesitantly lowered it. After a silent sigh, he pulled his hood up and hide his hands within his robes. “I attempted to get a message to you, but Phealio discovered my intent. He informed me that I was being closely monitored by those loyal to Daucilus, and decided not to risk it.”
“Oh, Phealio…” Elmath massaged her temples. “I’d managed to forget about him. Please tell me that his passion and plans for me have abated.”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Then bring on the torrential rains of even more disappointment.”
A small, blue star-burst appeared before Orathio at eye-level.
Bringing his index fingers together before him, he then drew them apart and a shimmering blue screen appeared in the air. A figure in military uniform stood at the ready on it.
“Greetings, Bardrano. How may I be of service?”
“I apologize for interrupting you, Grand Librarian. I have identified a repeat of the incident from last week. It just started.”
“Thank you, we will be there momentarily. Please ensure that there is no record of it.”
“This ancient station has many secrets,” said Bardrano. “And knowing how to actually log such things is among them.” He laughed, touched one hand’s fingers to his forehead, and disappeared.
Orathio looked at Elmath. She was staring at the floor, her face tired and pale, the purple of her eyes dull. “You must put aside your grief and pain, and come with me.”
What do you think? I’d love to hear. Post a comment or email me.