2: Architecture

2: Architecture

I followed them down the hole. When I had proposed the plan to Orion, he had smirked. He was almost immediately all in, and that made me incredibly nervous.

“But if this fails…”

He had grabbed me by the cheeks, feeling my jaw through the skin. His fingers were uncharacteristically soft, seeing as he was essentially a bandit leader.

“I actually hope you fail, then I can just have you become an offering to Dezallldwinn.”

I didn’t need my teeth, so I didn’t really care. I just wished he would let go of my face soon.

If I could save my mother before… Before she got any worse, this will have been worth it, teeth or no teeth.

“Don’t worry, I’ve mapped it all out.”

He just smiled. It was a disgusting and sinister smile, as if he expected that my plan would fail no matter how much I planned or hard I tried. He was hoping that my hole wouldn’t lead anywhere so that he could send me of to be punished.

“It won’t fail, alight?”

That’s what I had said, but now I wasn’t so sure. This could either bring me to third or even second command, but if something went wrong, well, I’d be in the same position as Laila. Tortured and at the bottom of the ladder.

*

I was at the back, even Laila was ahead of me. I was fit, but I was still far behind all the mercenaries. Contrary to what people think, it’s not that hard for a woman to build muscle. Even more important, in my opinion, is technique. Once weapons enter the equation, strength becomes less important and I hadn’t seen anyone who was a better thrust fencer than I was. Or a better fighter in general. They had all had some skill, yes, but no polish.

The only person I wasn’t sure of was Orion. I had never seen him even touch a sword. He didn’t have to.

We reached the ruins.

I took out the map I’d made of the ruins and checked the distance. I squared my distance in my head; I had the squares memorized up to sixteen. Then I added. Forty six. That’s between six and seven. Okay.

“Okay, just Northwest for about seven kilocubits. Maybe longer. I didn’t have time to map out a straight path. No one comes down here.”

“Can you please state that in leagues, genius? Not all of us are scientists.” It was a woman named Ferrule. She had never liked me, as if she thought I was competing with her for something, but I never figured out what.

“It’s about three leagues.” That meant about three hours, less since we were marching.

We had had to dig our way in. That was the gamble, that’s why I would have to pay for it with my teeth. We spent five days digging. You can imagine my relief when the hole bottomed out and opened. It was a relief.

We followed my plan and headed northwest. I tried to keep ahead, to lead, but these people, this gang wasn’t going to follow me. There were a lot of us, maybe fourteen. That’s half the gang. I always ended up in the middle, where my rank suggested I should be. If I didn’t try to keep up, I would get sucked into the back of the crowd.

As we walked, I stared around the ruins. It was a high-ceilinged cave. There were no stalagmites here, because everything was dry. The sea, cubits above, washed into a desert, the shores of the desert city of the Djeb. This place had a lot of dusty stone buildings, most of them were three or four stories high, and it seemed that the buildings were still in good condition. As if only a year or two had passed since the place was vacated, instead of two or three thousand.

My goal was to tunnel back up under the Imperial treasury. It would be the greatest jackpot that the crew had ever hit, ever. And so, once we hit the place, we stopped. I told them to stop, but most people ignored me. I was alone in the building for a long time.

It didn’t have stairs, it didn’t even have ladders. I really wished that the crowd following me would stop talking. I wanted to take it all in. Did the Djeb people live here once, before it sank into the sands? What happened?

Eventually everyone else realized that I had gone into one of the dusty buildings and one by one, two by two I could hear them searching for me. I was, after all, the only person who knew where they were supposed to be going. They were shouting and minutes passed. I secretly hoped that they would give up and abandon me. They had abandoned people for less before.

And then, they seemed to quiet down in an unnatural way, as if someone had pulled them far away. They were still shouting, some at the top of their voice, but it had become so quiet that I couldn’t hear the individual words they used. Everything began to blend together.

There was suddenly a white tree with orange leaves in this stone building, planted in the ground. I knew it had not been there before. Had it grown in the short seconds that I had turned away? Anything was possible when it came to plants, I knew that from experience. I wondered, had this building been constructed around the tree, or was the tree planted here to be used instead of stairs?

I I noticed someone had begun climbing down the tree from a hole in the ceiling. It was amazing, seeing this humanoid form move so naturally. Stairs now seemed like some sort of abomination in comparison. The person was a beautiful denizen of the ancient city, a woman around my age, no older then twenty-two. She dropped to the ground and stared passed me. She seemed happy to see whatever was behind me. I turned to follow her gaze. Outside, I could here the gang milling about, but they were faded and ghost-like, as if the universe had decided that for this small moment in time, they didn’t matter as much as I did. I turned to see that the denizen was looking at a man, just as beautiful as she was. They certainly were not Djeben, not as the people of the Djeb are now anyway.

The two people had silvery-blonde hair that reached to their breast. They wore nothing above the hips, likely due to the heat. They didn’t seem to be biologically capable of tanning, instead their skin had become chaulky, like it was covered in a thick protective powder. I could tell that it worked fine against the sun, but it deadened the senses. I realized that it was dead, these powder outer layers. You can’t really burn dead skin, and I suspected that that’s what it was. It was all their dead skin, stuck on somehow. That’s why they were so careful to cover their genital region, to make sure the sun never touched it. I covered my mouth with my hands.

I figured I must be seeing some sort of vision of the past. That meant that the woman couldn’t actually see me since I was still in the present. I expected her to walk right through me to greet the man. But, she didn’t. She stopped, and looked up to me. She could not have been more than three and a half cubits high, half a cubit shorter than me. She smiled and blushed at me, pink hues quietly escaping the powder white husks of her cheeks.

The woman reached out to touch me. I flinched. She remained steady. I looked away, and saw that the man was near me now as well. They both touched my face, each put the back of their fingers on a separate cheek. Their chaulky fingers were surprisingly soft. I had no idea what was happening. Was this some kind of ritual?

“Illa non est ex hoc tempore,” the man stated.

The woman tilted her head back and forth a couple times. I was not familiar with this motion. Was it a nod?

The man had spoken the ancient and dead Latin. I didn’t know how to speak it myself, but I knew that it was the root of the language the Metch spoke centuries ago, before everything got replaced by the Solune Standard.

The woman said, “Et erit opus nostrum auxilium. Monitus.”

The man nodded. If he nodded, then what had that that head shake meant?

They moved their hands to my shoulders, and pulled, putting weight on me. They leaned forward, swinging on me. It was an odd feeling, but they countered each others weight quite well. Their other hands touched, fingers interlocking, and they kissed, letting go of my shoulder. I was certain that this was another ritual, like a three person handshake, but I’m not expert on ancient civilization, so I wasn’t sure.

They finished their display and turned to me, mirroring each other.

“Adria,” The woman stared at me, and pointed her thumb to her chest.

That was her name, I was certain.

“Agusto,” The man pointed his thumb to his chest as well.

I made the exact same motion and said, “Aleksandre.”

They moved, hands becoming a blur, and then both of their thumbs were on my forehead. In unison, they shouted, “Almeda!”

Then they shoved their thumbs into my cranium. The digits became white powder, and suddenly my mind went hot and numb, as if I had drunken syrups.

I knew that they had sacrificed something mental in addition to the physical loss. They each kissed a cheek of mine, and then they pranced to the tree. I watched, and I knew that they wanted me to follow. I knew that I was now connected to them. Entirely mystified, I followed.

They grabbed the tree and climbed, as if they were lemurs. I could not, my fingers simply passed through the branches.

“Vaha non!” I said, truly disappointed. I could no longer see the couple at this point, and I was beginning to feel abandoned.

They peeked down the hole, and beckoned.

I heard the man say gently, “noli commoveri, adolescentula.”

He was telling me not to worry. I knew I still had to follow him, but I couldn’t jump the necessary six cubits.

“I need a rope!” I said. I had the vague feeling that I had spoken a different language.

One of the faded gang members had wondered in by now, and was staring at me. He obliged, and I threw it up the hole. The woman caught it and disappeared.

Agusto assured me that she would return saying, “noli commoveri, ego reddam primum.”

I was surprised that he had refereed to her as “I.” They must be very close if they considered themselves to be one person.

The rope tugged, and I started to climb. I truly wished that the tree had not died. The numb parts of my brain had become very sad about the entire ordeal.

At the top, I realized that the rope had been tied around what appeared to be a bench, carved out of the stone floor. I realized- No, I didn’t realize. I knew. I knew that this entire building was once a large stone hill. These people carved into a part of the landscape and turned it into homes, planted trees. It was beautiful.

They climbed the tree a floor higher, I threw up the rope, they tied it, and I followed. It was as if, or rather, I knew that I was in two time periods at once and that, to a lesser extent, so was this pair. I wondered where the rest of their people were. Had they left? Maybe this was just their personal home, and no one else was around because no one else resided here.

We continued this process over many floors. No one from the faded, ghostly gang followed me up. On the fourth and final floor, I stopped and gasped. There was an old man and a child. The old man nodded at the pair and then turned. He lifted a small wooden box out of a stone crate, also carved out of the ground. He handed it to me.

The old man’s skin was hard, like dried white clay. He said, “Hanc inimicum.”

I nodded. I didn’t know why he had referred to the gang as my enemies, but I obliged. I didn’t open the box. The small group in front of me started fading, and the crew began to get loud gradually, inorganically.

I desperately called out to Adria and Agusto. I pointed to myself with my ring finger, for I knew that this was the correct finger. I said, “Riley!”

They again mirrored each other, pointing and saying, “Methos,” and then they faded away.

“Seriously Alexandre, how did you do that? And what the hell are you saying?”

It was Laila. He was shouting up the hole from four floors down.

Someone else shouted, “Yeah, are you possessed? Talking in tongues?”

“Quid? I mean, what?” I had been talking Latin out loud, and they had heard my voice echoing through the structure.

I sighed. Then I thought, or rather, I knew that I was now partially possessed. The hot, chaulky parts of my brain were filled with little pieces of information. Information that I couldn’t yet understand, but would as it attached to other nodes in my brain. I would decipher the chaulky brain matter slowly, possibly faster in my sleep.

I was suddenly very happy about this odd form of possession. I was greatful for the new resource. I knew it was a gift, not a threat. I looked down at the small wooden box. It had not faded away. Neither had the chest, which was full of ancient golden coins.

I brought everything down. The rope was long enough that I could simply climb to the bottom. I left it there, hoping that I might return in the future, although I had an odd suspicion that I would not.

“Is that it?” Ferrule asked.

“What do you mean?” I had a lot of gold in my money pouch now, “Look at all this!”

“Those are worthless Methos coins. They’re made of stone and bits of metal. They’re worth is about the same as a rock.”

I had an uncomfortable feeling. From the expression on Laila’s face I could tell that Ferrule was right. I could only hope that the box I had hidden in my bag would be enough to save my poor face.

Daniel Triumph.

Compendium of Mankind

See Also, the Encyclopædia Léxis Exígisi

This is an Compendium of Dawngale Characters. It will be updated as needed, and serves primarily as a public point of reference for myself. The Επιτομή των ανθρωπότητα (Compendium of Mankind) was written by Chloe Rhye, and exists within Dawngale as well as without.

Traits may be subject to change in the future as I retcon and adjust for consistency and improvement. Stars* denote areas that are to be filled in when the information needed becomes available. They also note names or titles that are placeholders. [Square brackets] indicate side notes. Treat them as footnotes.

The Kompendium of Aνθρωπότητα

This version of the Επιτομή των ανθρωπότητα is organized by family name of the female line first, then by place of birth for those that lack or do not identify with their family. The Royal and Servant families are prioritized.

Sur-Name (Label) Middle-Name Auxiliary-Name(s), Given-Name.

The Servants of Dawngale

Nature (Mother) Däwngale, Genisis.

Also known as the Servant of the Overside.

Nature (Father) Duskríde, Origin.

Also known as the Servant of the Underside.

The Children of Genisis and Origin a Nature.

Nature, Diasical.

Also known as the Servant of the Innerside. Also known as Newman, creator of the listwalkers.

Nature (Death),

Nature (Birth)

Nature (Conciousness)

Nature (Balance)

The Servants that have committed apothœsis.

(Tendrils)

(Conflict)

(Duels)

(Music)

The Apprentice Servants

Dawngale (Friendship) May Zeth, Alice.

 

See, “Children of Genisis Däwngale Nature.”

Rhye (Sovereignty)(The Solune King), Elham.

See, “The Solune Royal Family.”

Children of Genesis Dawngale Nature.

Däwngale Rheya May, Yaska

Yaska was the first solitary creation of Genesis, and she was possessed by her from the day Yaska left Village #4 to the day she defeated (Death).

Yaska is a Tier 1 being, meaning she is as powerful in body, mind, and spirit as Genesis and Origin. Yaska is the most physically powerful being in the universe, proven by her sudden surge of power after Genesis gave up possessing her.

Däwngale Maya, Reyla

Yaska’s older sister. She has of Djeben blood.

Däwngale May Zeth, Alice

Attached to Finch Dirge May Zeth.

Domains include: The Solune Kingdom, the East Metch Kingdom, The N’Tarial Plains, and the Djeb.
Apothœsis condition: Befriend the Elken, the Obsidian, and the Lussa, as well as one civilization from a far off land.

Däwngale Wrath, Illiyana

Illiyana is around Alice’s age.

The Solune Royal Family

Rhye (Sovereignty)(The Solune King), Isaac.

Elham founded the Solune Kingdom, and is of the first generation of Solune. He and most of his family are nearly immortal.

Yaska, Chloe, and Elham were the only Dawngale characters that I made before creating the Dawngale world.

Rhye (The Conqueror)(Mistress) Nature, Honor

Honor is the wife of Elham. She was once a spirit, a child of mother nature’s, which is why she bears the name Nature. She left her domain, effectively becoming a Fiend. She conquered the Djeb and the East Metch Kingdom.

Honor has no claims to the throne, and no will over it outside of advice to her husband. Thus, she is a Mistress of the Kingdom, but not a Majesty.

Rhye Crystal (Majesty)(Mistress), Jealousy

The oldest child of Honor and Elham. Occasionally swaps consciousnesses with herself either two years in the future or two years in the past.

Rhye, Zealott

Thought to be evil, and stripped of his Majesty. Left the kingdom.

Very close to Janna Rhye

Rhye (Magistrate)(Sir)(Majesty)(Mistress), Natasha

Ex-Captain of the Murdock City guard, and current Captain of all five guards. She also ran the Solune Agents for a time, but the King took the task back after he began to need them for diplomatic missions.

Magistrate Rhye has constructed a new set of laws, specifically around punishment and law enforcement. She created 27% of the current law, and modified 84% of the remainder.

Natasha is known for her loyalty to her kingdom, and her uncanny competence. She is also adept at managing complex systems, especially mathematical, temporal and navigational. This is what made her a prime Captain.

Natasha and Kain are twins.

Shinn Sootie (Mistress)(Magistrate) Rhye, Kain

Kain lives a peaceful life in the Sol-Metch State. He married a Djeben traveller named Isabelle Sent Sootie. When they married, he took her last name to avoid the attention of having a royal surname. They intend to have many children, but Isabelle has troubles child bearing. (The will still have many children regardless.)

Kain is also an ordained Magistrate like his sister. Kain as dropped Majesty from his titles, but he technically still retains its powers and respect.

Kain and Natasha are twins.

Rhye (Majesty)(Mistress), Janna

Janna is the primary heir to the Solune throne. She has a violent temperament, but she grows out of in by the adjusted age of twenty-six.

Janna is attached to Drake.

Rhye, (Majesty) Drake

When they became each other’s protectors, Drake took Janna’s last name. He did not like his master Aeisticht, who was very selfish.

Attains the Majesty title upon Janna’s coronation.

Rhye (Master)(Majesty)(Lussa Princess)(Doctor)(Mistress) Yaska Duskríde, Chloe

Chloe is one of the most intelligent people on the planet. She is also brave, a trait that surprises even herself at times.

Chloe is quite beautiful, as is to be expected of a Prince. Chloe Rhye is two tiers of beauty higher than most other people, which is lucky for them as she is beyond compare, and therefore no one else is expected to look as stunning as she. (See tiers in the Lexis.)

The Solune Legends

Yaska Rheya May Däwngale

Chloe Yaska Rhye

Janna Rhye

Drake Rhye

Salt Resz

The Gladius of the King

From the Legendary Event

Jin Resz Sing

Wallace Aura Ceramar

From the Wall of Bones Conflict

Natasha Rhye

From Duties to the Kingdom

Musings (on the Riley)

The Riley are easily identified by their jet black hair, dark skin around the eyes, and pale skin.

If you looked at any map of the Solune kingdom, the Riley town of FACE is labeled as “somewhere in this forest.” Only its residents and the Solune Agents know the town’s true location, for anyone else it remains hidden like a Riley in the night. Setzer jogged down the forest trail leading to his home town. Eventually it opened up and FACE stood before him. He waved to the town guards, Carl and Miles, as he stepped in.

The people of FACE held all sorts of regular jobs, from the two guards at the front, to the people who hunted in the northern woods near the mountains, to the innkeeper, Kasuga and her husband who was a woodcutter. Other residents held less honest ones as burglars, thieves, cutpurses and scammers. People who led such lives were allowed into FACE, but it depended heavily on what they stole. Encouraging the authorities to find the exact location of FACE is considered a high crime. There were strict rules put in place to keep the town a “low threat” in the Solune Kings eyes. This is the primary reason why Miles guarded the area. She would search the entrants to ensure that nothing that would make them a “high threat” or put the town “in need of investigation.”

Setzer walked past Miles without getting stopped. He actually worked for the king as a scout and investigator, as a Solune Agent, and therefore did not need a search. In fact he could end up being the one to look into the town if it was thought something expensive or important had been smuggled in.

—The Riley Town of FACE

1: Jump

1: Jump

“It was a mess, an absolute mess before I started. Wasted hours, people slacking off, criminal acts done right under our noses. I cut hours but not pay. I increased productivity. I even added temporary and part time positions. But I can do no more here, and so I am stepping down as Captain of the guard to pursue other ventures. I am moving on, and I hope you will forgive me for it.”

“Her Majesty Sir Natasha Glass Rhye has spoken.” A tall man said, gesturing at me.

The crowd clamoured. I was speaking at the primary venue for both artistic and governmental exhibitions.

Like the crowd, I consider myself to be a beautiful but plain woman. Ihad been the Captain for only two years, and even now I wore the pale grey jumpsuit that was my uniform. The thick embroidered ribbon on my arm prove and display my Captain’s rank. I kept my hair shoulder length as a sign of devotion to my occupation, and after stepping down, I was considering letting it grow. I had dark hazel eyes, too yellow to be considered brown, and I’ve been rudely informed that my face is long and stern, I think that my face and expression are fitting of my authoritative position.

By now the crowd’s clamour had agreed upon one thing. They were shouting something in unison, and I  tuned her ears in attempt to decipher it.

“What now? What now!” They chanted.

I smiled at them. It made my face sore, I didn’t use these muscles often.

I said, “I will take the next few months off, my long accumulated and neglected vacation days. Afterwards, I will begin the education and qualification process to become a certified poet and then a magistrate.”

Poets had a dual function in the Solune kingdom. A regular poet was a jack of all mental tasks. A certified poet used their wide knowledge base to help overcome disputes as a third party. In this kingdom, qualified poets also functioned as lawyers. A magistrate is one who manages and writes laws.

The citizens of Murdock cheered and clapped. Ibowed, turned, and stripped off my jumpsuit. My day-baton clattered on the wooden stage. Everyone became silent as I turned back to them, dressed in a frilly white top and pale green knee-shorts.

From their reaction to my exhibition, I could tell that I wore plain-clothes quite well. I bowed, and then jumped off the stage and sat down in the crowd next to my sister, Chloe and her mother, Gwenhime. The tall man, who was actually my father, the King, beckoned at someone else, another woman in guard’s clothing.

This woman wore black plate armour over her uniform. She had heavily tanned skin and her hair was a bright sandy strawberry blonde. The crowd cheered again, much much louder than before. The guard waved from her podium at a short dark haired man in the crowd, who waved back bashfully. I knew her as my Vice-Captain. Her name was Alice and she was bound to Finch. It was likely that they would soon marry, and I wondered what Alice would do with her job should she start having children.

I would have to look into parental leave once I became a poet. There were a lot of weak or simply neglected parts of the law. Once I was done with it, it would become more liquid, able to change to suit the nation’s needs. It would be a legacy I could be proud of.

“Vice-Captain Alice May Däwngale will take Natasha’s now vacant post.” The King stated. He took Natasha’s uniform from the ground and tore the ribbon off. It was velcro, so this was neither difficult nor violent to remove. He stood and walked to Alice then took her ribbon off and replaced it.

When the ceremony was done, Alice shouted, “Three cheers for the new city guard Captain!”

The citizens obliged her.

“Good! Now four cheers for our upcoming poet!”

At this, I stood and turned. I bowed as the last cheer rang out. I had not expected this, but Alice was always loaded with surprises.

The King, still standing beside Alice, told her the following, “Your primary task is now to find a Vice-Captain,” he winked and then added, “You wouldn’t want us to have to pull Finch out of his Academic work would you?”

He hadn’t spoken loud enough for everyone to hear. There was, of course, no microphones here, and all speech-makers had to use their stage voices. Finch, the short dark haired man, had heard though, and he blushed. I was amused at this, but not enough to react.

“No, of course not!” Alice jumped, a bad habit of hers. She was so heavy that the stage shook and creaked.

Alice had fallen into many basements during her first year in the guard, and she had to pay for some of them out of her own pocket. I had hoped that the smaller pay would be a lesson, but it seemed that nothing would keep that girl on the ground.

“You have one month, dear Plainkind.”

“Yes, your majesty!” She said. Alice then turned to the crowd, “The King has informed me that I am to find a new Vice-Captain within the month!”

She pointed to the guards sitting near the back. All of them were there except the four currently on patrol. Even my old night watch looked at her with tired interest.

“You had better show me your best selves so that I don’t have a hard time deciding!” She hopped again, and again the wooden stage took nearly three-hundred pounds of concentrated force. The Plainkind people were very heavy, as they were primarily comprised of thick bones, thick skin, dense muscles, and even weighty archive-like brains.

I watched my excitable ex-Vice-Captain, and was surprised to feel a tear running down my cheek.

“Natasha?” Chloe said.

I just smiled at her, and she smiled back, her face like rays of morning light. Chloe was a very endearing creature.

It was hours later, my father finally told me the bad news.

I was getting ready for bed, and I had already taken off my shirt. He entered, saw that I was only wearing my chest binds, and then decided to speak anyway.

“You will have to run the Solune Agents for a term. I know you were intending to rest before you began your studies, but there are oddities amiss and they must be dealt with. I would myself but as you know the East Metch are trying to push democracy upon our Kingdom and I will not have it.”

I nodded. This was my duty as Prince.

“It will make for a fine transition.” I said.

My father nodded and apologized, then left.

The Solune Agents, I thought. They were the secret agents, or secret police of the Solune Kingdom. They weren’t a secret to the Solune people, but rather, to everyone else. I had always been impressed that an entire population could keep such a grand secret. I guess it was a form of pride. We had an elite group, while most other countries didn’t.

The Solune Agents were created for two reasons. The first was to do special missions, and to courier important information and messages. The second was so that the Solune Kingdom could get rid of their army. The East Metch were always on edge, and the King didn’t want to seem threatening. It wasn’t that we were scared, we had won most of the wars against them in the past. It was just that the King had become tired of all the bloodshed.

“What an adventure this will be,” I said to myself. Then I promised myself that after this I really would take a much needed vacation.

I released my breasts from their binds. I would be nice to have a job where I didn’t need to wear anything under my shirt too.

Daniel Triumph.

1: At the Brink

1: At the Brink

“I have to be careful throughout the process. I can’t afford to ruin this. If I don’t succeed, nothing’s going to break the fall. I’ve no family, no home, not that they would let a traitor or failure live.”

Laila nodded. He dipped his rag into the grey sludge and continued greasing the wall of the hideout.

He said, “So, what is this process? What’s your plan? Can I help?”

I put a hand in my hair. It was dark, like my mother’s. And I liked to keep it just long enough to cover my eyes, in case I needed to hide behind it.

“I don’t think so, but I’ll consider you as a pawn in the future.”

I knew that my manner of speech was inherently offensive, but it’s just how I talked. I don’t think Laila was sure it was on purpose, but this was the primary reason he and I had become friends. It seemed that only he realized that all my passive jabs were mostly unintentional. Laila, and our leader Orion. He would likely have killed or exiled me by now if he hadn’t figured me out.

Orion wasn’t an inherently evil person, but I figured that he was so close to it that I wouldn’t mind it if she had to kill him in order to make my plan work.

“Alexandre?” Laila prodded.

“Right. The process.” I nodded, “I’m going to overthrow Orion and take over. Then, we’ll wage war against our ally gang. If all goes well, they’ll kill each other off and I can leave. I can be free once more with my…”

I trailed off. I didn’t want him to know why I was so intent. I didn’t want to reveal my deeper motivations… not right now.

Laila stopped oiling the wall and watched me. He said, “Your mother?”

I turned to him, my mind awash with surprise, and also anger.

“How do you know about my mother?”

“You told me a while back. You said the only reason you joined was because your mother was in an ally gang.” He replied.

Laila must have hoped that I would remember and calm down. I did not.

Instead, I asked, “Did you tell anyone?”

Laila shook his head and raised his left arm. At the wrist it became a stump, capped with metal to keep it clean, and also to weaponize it. They made him do a task that nearly required two hands as a follow-up punishment. Now that he had a fault, he must be tested to ensure he did not become a weak link.

“I’m the outcast here. I have no one I could tell.”

Laila was a lean man of East Metch descent. He had shaggy black hair that attached to an unkempt and full beard. His skin was tanned and brown, and his eyes were large and dark.

“So, how did you lose your hand? I never asked.” I hadn’t.

“Oh, nothing much. I was one of the people who failed Diesel Dirge’s raid on Baracus. We were collectively taken out by a Plainkind girl. A very small Plainkind girl. This,” He raised the shining stump again, “was my punishment. Dezallldwinn enjoys torture, and he’s also the one in charge of punishment.”

I was certain now. I was going to take these three gangs out one by one, person by person, starting with the leader of my own gang, Orion.

“I’ve half a mind to behead this Dezallldwinn. Right after I’m done with Orion.” I said, “So, how did they do it? It seems like a fairly neat cut, it doesn’t look like they used an axe or something like that.”

Laila shook his head, “No… The Lussa have discovered something called current energy. Something about subatomic particles that move through wires. I don’t know. But, he has a power saw, a disk of metal with teeth. It spins at high speed.”

He was staring at his stump with intent.

“And they cut it off like that? Clean with a saw?”

“Clean?!” He looked at me in horror as he remembered, and it made me feel uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as I felt when he explained.

“I told you he likes torture! He cut my hand off bit by bit. He me until he had cut through the wrist bones a few times and hit the arm. My fingers were turned to bloody red coins, that’s how much he cut!”

“Well that settles it,” I hissed. My mind had turned to bile, “This month, I will become leader of our gang. The month after, I will assassinate Dezallldwinn. You should come, it’ll be fun.”

I shoved a fist into my other open hand determinately.

I, Alexandre Dirge, am a little similar to Laila, but I am much taller. I’ve been complemented on my pale, moon-coloured skin, and grey eyes. I am not an East Metch, but a Riley. I’ve always been tall for a Riley, and from what my friend Finch told me, I am very beautiful. He’ always liked to stare at my stomach, but now that it’s so toned and muscled, I wondered if he would still like it.

Probably he would. Finch was bound to a Plainkind called Alice, who was at least ten times stronger than me. She could probably take out this entire gang without breaking a sweat.

I watched Laila carefully as he finished smearing the grey sludge onto the side of the wall. It was cool outside, the night was falling and the tide was already receding.

I intended to either kill or overthrow the leader, and I had a process. But I now realized that it would take far too long, years most likely. My mind raced in a frantic attempt to condense it.

“I need to get on his good side.” I said.

“Aren’t you already?”

I shook my head, “Not good enough. I’m a south.”

The three gangs had a fairly straightforward hierarchy, named after the four ends of the world.

West was the lowest. Laila and other recruits were wests. South was the second lowest, the standard. An east was someone that Orion liked. Orion Sheer, Hinter Sheer, Diesel Dirge, and even Dezallldwinn were norths. The only thing higher was the Prince, who was called Venus, but we’ve never seen him. Not even once.

“I’ll become an east, and then a north soon enough. Just you watch.”

Laila nodded. He knew me enough. He knew that any time I set my mind to something, it became an inevitability. I knew that he had no doubt in his mind that I would soon be his new gang leader. And he was right, but it wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be.

Daniel Triumph.