Of Heirs

Eight day of the The Month of Resz, 4011th year of the Solune Standard calendar.

Monarchy is a touchy subject for some. It is not for me. Corporations have begun to appear in the Lussa and Djeb realms, and they are quite similar to what I have in my Kingdom. I have been around since the foundation of this nation, I, in fact, founded it myself. Very few of my citizens question or take issue with my rule.

Soon, I will be announcing my stepping down, I will be announcing my heir. I have spent three centuries considering all the options. I have made many conclusions. The gravity of my conclusions are not to be questioned by those who have not been considering their own subjects for at least a century. By this measure, most of the people in the Solune Kingdom are unfit to veto with my decision, and I doubt that they will. My considerations are thus:

  1. If wisdom increases with age, than mortals, especially those with mundane life expectancies, are too unwise to rule. On average.
  2. Those who have eclipsed adulthood are unfit to rule. Their brains have finished developing and they will therefore never truly adjust. Thus, a ruler should ascend before her mind is made, that she may develop with the people and for the people.
  3. She must not use violence except as a last resort. A ruler should lead by example and inspire respect. Only brutes lead with fear, and brutes are overthrown, always.
  4. The people must come to respect their leader. Respect is not the same as like. She must be someone whom no one us hateful when following, someone with drive.
  5. My one weakness is a lack of progress. I am extremely old fashioned. We have not stagnated, but we are close, especially compared to the Djeb, the Lussa, the Metch, their science, trade, and industry. Our next leader must be progressively minded. Youth is particularly inclined to such ways of thought.
  6. Finally, it would be best if the heir is not one of my own children. This might cause jealousy, or suspicion of favouritism among my followers and peers. It might be misconstrued as a norm.

I have a shortlist in mind, and yet, only one person stands out… She fits all but one point. No, if I follow my whim, my kingdom may fall, just as the Djeb had. And yet, she is the most qualified by my measure.

But, is leadership to be chosen by a check-list? We will have to see.

Daniel Triumph.

Gathering All of the Evidence [ROUGH DRAFT]

Evidence

This is a compilation of the first draft of the Evidence series.

Evidence is a novella, only 20 000 words long. This is the first draft, a simple copy of all the chapters that I’ve released individually over since May 28. This is almost word for word what you would find in the Table of Contents. If you want to read the final draft, you will have to wait for the editing process to be completed, right now there is no ETA. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy this heavily flawed first draft. I apologize for any grammar or logic mistakes, as this is the first draft, and it is entirely unedited and not at all proofread. Apologies.

One day, this will be fully drafted and finally self-published.

Finally, to hear the two songs that inspired it all, follow the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpcDQGdwlGU, and then, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMcUxONgcsE.

You may download this manuscript: Gathering All of the Evidence

Gathering All of the Evidence

The First Draft

By Daniel Triumph


© 2017 Daniel Triumph, Canada.

Digitally published August 16, 2017 on danieltriumph.com and as a .pdf file.

Some rights reserved.

Continue reading “Gathering All of the Evidence [ROUGH DRAFT]”

Evidence

Previously, Table of Contents

Before he spoke, before he gave Janna her sentence, Kain called Natasha up. Janna assumed that this was so that they could discuss some form of law, as Natasha knew more about the exact laws of the Kingdom than anyone else in the room.

Then, Natasha sat down.

“You are sentenced to two years, with a potential for coarctatio in…”

Kain looked at Natasha, as if searching for answers. Natasha just shook her head, as if to say there was nothing she could do.

Kain’s eyebrows furrowed, and he said, “Eight months.”

Janna’s eyes widened. Eight months? She could be out, highly constricted, but free for the birth of her child.

She stood and bowed, then exited, followed by Drake, then Chance, then Chloe and Natasha.

 

Outside Janna leaned back and stared into the sky. Maybe all this wouldn’t be so bad. As she pulled her arm up to block out the sun, someone grabbed it.

“You are quite aware that this coarctatio is only to apply if you are absolutely clean of action during your incarceration.” Natasha stated.

She was handling Janna with force, locking her arms together. Janna turned, looking over her shoulder. She could see Drake being shackled by Alice. They were lead to the hotel-like prison. Janna continued to stare up at the sky as she walked, looking and feeling utterly condemned, relying solely on Natasha to guide her through the city.

“Is there hope of mourning?”

Natasha almost stopped moving, “No.”

It was an unusual phrase, but it had a very specific meaning. Their oldest sister, Jealousy had said it one day, when she was seven or eight, or possibly even as old as eleven. She had blinked, and suddenly looked somehow more mature, and then she said it.

“There is hope of mourning.”

No one else had been there, but two years later, on the exact date that this subtle but meaningful event had occurred, Jealousy blinked again, and looked somehow younger. This was moments after their mother had died, of natural causes.

Janna shook her head. She wasn’t going to think on the details of how her father had gone through to revive and stabilize Gwenhime, not now. Since then, it had become an ill omen, whenever Jealousy said those words. Usually of death, but occasionally of something far more sublime.

 

Natasha lead Janna into her room, and removed the cuffs. She stood on the threshold.

“Avoid confrontation in the coming months. Report to a guard if anything happens. I know this may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done,” Janna noticed that her sister was being entirely sincere, “But for the sake of yourself and your child, you must be entirely passive.”

Janna grabbed her sister’s hands and stared into her eyes. Natasha simply raised an eyebrow. They stared at each other for many moments, and then Janna fell into her sister. Janna did not shed a tear, but simply embraced Natasha. After a moment, Natasha returned the gesture.

“You have a couple of sixths to rest before the ceremony,” Natasha said in hushed tones.

She did not lock the door from the outside, and as she exited, Alice strode in. Again she was dragging Drake behind her as though she had forgotten about his existence.

Janna ran to the bed, stripped and leapt in. Drake rubbed his wrists, and followed, standing at the edge of the bed.

Alice became very bashful, and ran out the door, locking it from inside. They were not locked in, it was not yet time. The rest of the world was locked out.

Well, Evidence is finally over. It seems not a lot of people followed the series, but to be honest I don’t think it was that great. But! This is just the first draft. With most works of fiction, the first draft is awful, and so it is here.

That’s it. There may be a part two, but far in the future. It will start, of course, with Janna’s ceremony, and end with Janna choosing to continue her search for Zealott a few years later, in the company of her daughter and Drake.

The second draft will likely be released in three 6000 word parts.

Daniel Triumph.

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P.S. Check out the Table of Contents for more.

Evidence

Previously, Table of Contents

When Drake returned from upstairs with Alice, he seemed a little happier. Forgetting that Drake was still handcuffed to her, Alice ran over to Natasha, excited, and dragged him behind. Alice was unusually strong for such a short, thin woman.

“Hey!” She said, “It looks like your little sister mightn’t be in so bad of a position as she was before anyway, anymore!”

As usual, Alice’s sentences made sense, but were quite awkwardly constructed.

Natasha waved her off, and then Alice sat at the other side of the long cafeteria table next to Chloe, facing Natasha, Janna, and Chance. Janna faced this newcomer with interest.

“Well, what did Drake tell him?” She asked, eyes swivelling back and forth between them.

“Oh, he talked ever so much about the Servant of Death, who I am not vary much a fond of, and also I don’t like the Servant of Conflict either.”

“Are there any that you do like?” Chance asked, cutting off both Drake and Janna.

“Oh yes!” Alice continued excitedly, “I like Mother Nature, and also especially I like the small god of Friendship!”

“The what?” Janna butted back in, “Hang on, what’s a small god and what does it have to do with Servants?”

“I, uh, well,” Alice was eager to answer, but seemed not to know how.

“I can explain if you like,” Chloe smiled.

Janna knew that Chloe had always loved explaining things, and Janna had the suspicion that she would be able to do it better than Alice. It seemed Alice agreed with this too, as she had stopped stammering and was looking at Chloe expectantly.

“Okay, but don’t go into too much detail. Looks like break is almost over, and I really want to know what Drake told my brother. I mean, what Drake told the Chair.” Janna said.

Drake nodded, “Yes, I would like to tell her.”

“Fine, all right.” Chloe shook her head, “I really don’t like abridging though.”

The table leaned in to listen, as though Chloe was about to tell some sort of epic over an imaginary fireplace.

“Let me start by making one thing clear. The term ‘small god’ is a colloquialism.”

She looked at the confused Alice and continued.

“It’s not proper terminology. A small god is like a lesser Servant, or a Servant in training. Actually,” Chloe paused for only a moment, “Small godhood is really more of a trial. It should be no secret that Servants gain power by serving their cause. Death has been known to spur on wars and assassinations to sate her hunger. Conflict has no issues any more since he figured out how to maintain nearly eternal wars. The conflict between the N’Tariel and the Batzers, and the everwar between the East Metch and the… well we’re still not entirely sure what those creatures are. But, both have been raging for centuries because the Servant of Conflict protects against death! Can’t fight if you’re dead, right?”

“Of course not!” Alice shouted a little too loud.

“And Tendrils-” Chloe went to continue on about Servants when Janna interrupted her.

“Can we get on about the small gods?” Janna prodded, “I’m not sure how much extra time we’ll have with Kain deliberating.”

“Right, sorry,” Chloe knew she had been getting carried away, “So we call a small god a Servant Page. That’s why it’s like a trial, though it’s on a more grand scale than we’re used to thinking about. See, the Page’s task is to gain enough influence that they can ascend, commit apotheosis that is, and become a full Servant to their cause.. Well, failure means death, right? But no one kills you, I mean not usually. Instead it’s just your natural lifespan that ends.”

Janna noticed that Alice was listening with an uncanny attentiveness.

“A lot of Pages fail, and when they die, their cause is lost. Take McPunch, instigator of group hugs. Not a very universal cause, hard to get followers. He was a fine king though, so I’ve read. He should really have supported comradery or something more general,” Chloe was going to list more examples, but she caught Janna’s stare, “Right, well, really there isn’t much more to say.”

“Uh,” Alice said, “Umm, Janna if you don’t really mind that much, I would like to ask about Chloe that I had a question.”

Janna shook her head dismissively. She wasn’t quite sure why.

“Can you tell me about anyone that did ascend?” She asked.

“Of course I can,” Chloe said, “The Servant of Duels for example. Duels is one that Janna really should be paying more attention to. It’s actually a pair of them, Duels. They were N’Tariel duellists that found their art being threatened. Obviously duelling is dangerous, and the N’Tariel dueled with real swords. They created rules to make things safer and avoid bans. It wasn’t long before they got into healing and became Pages for Duels. Their set of rules and first aid spread to the Djeb and Plainkind populations.”

Alice gasped, “I’m a Plainkind!”

Chloe nodded, “It was the spread to wider domains that got them their full Servanthood. The Servant of Music, or Inspiration, or Muses… He keeps changing his cause to similar things. Anyway, Muses and Duels are the youngest Servants as far as I know.”

“Who’s the oldest?” Alice asked.

The sun was drifting toward a horizontal brick that was meant to block it out for a few minutes, marking the end of break.

Natasha broke in, “We had better go upstairs before the rest of them rush off and we have to dodge through a crowd.”

“Well, I think I’d better tell you about Servants later,” Chloe smiled at Alice.

Janna had the vague suspicion that this wasn’t the first time these two had met.

They walked back to the courtroom. It was empty; Kain was still working on his verdict. The session would not continue until he came down from the room upstairs.

Janna was in her usual spot in the centre of the room next to Chance, to their right at their own table sat Chloe and Natasha. Five circular rows of benches radiated out from the centre, breaking for the door at the back of the room, and also at the front of the room, for the Chair’s seat. Alice, still dragging Drake behind her, stood on the left near Janna. Alice decided that she was going to stand, but Drake sat down anyway. Feeling limited by Drake, and having already delivered him from the prison long ago, Alice finally uncuffed the man.

“So who is this Page of Friendship?” Janna asked.

Alice blushed and pointed, “I am.”

“What?” Janna didn’t believe her.

Chloe tilted her head, “Really?”

 

“Well,” Alice jumped, making Drake grateful that she wasn’t still pulling on him, “I got the temple after the four years I came back here.”

“What?” Janna asked again.

She wasn’t quite used to Alice’s odd manner of speech. It’s like she had some sort of broken and hilarious accent to match her jumpy and hilarious temperament. Alice sort of reminded Janna of a more excited version of her own ditzy sister, Chloe. And like Chloe, it seemed that she was not to be underestimated. Alice was a Vice-Captain, and apparently also a Page.

“I got a temple,” She said a little more slowly now, “It was a Conflict temple, from the man, Batshiva. He willed it to me, you see? The poor dude is dead now.”

Janna found it amusing that Alice had called the old grouch that Batshiva had been a “dude.”

“Right, it was a temple for the Servant of Conflict, but I changed a few things, and Conflict’s presence eventually left. Well, I’ve been living in there and playing with my friends there too as well.” And then for good measure, Alice added, “Also.”

Playing with her friends, Janna repeated the sentence in her mind. This Alice woman talked like she was still a little girl or something. Janna waved it off and told Alice to continue.

“It seems to be have been because I am so friendly of a person!” Alice smiled, “Once I became a guard and started talking to all of the people that I ever met in the town, and being a real friendly person also as well…”

Alice finally took a breath. Janna wondered why she felt it necessary to use “as well” so excessively.

“So, what I mean is, I started to feel a buzzing that was in my brain every single time I talked to someone. At least, every time I talked to someone that liked me as much as I liked them. I liked the buzzing, it was a nice feeling. Well, as the months and weeks happened, the buzzing got more… specific. I mean, definite. I, uh.” She searched for a word.

“Consistent?” Chloe offered from halfway across the courtroom.

“Yes!” Alice jumped again, “It was in my brain, and I heard odd ideas coming into my mind, as if they were my own thoughts. I knew they were not. I learned, seemingly from myself, that I had become something of a channel, a source. I was both an inlet and outlet for friendship! That’s what I thought. At first I figured it was Mother Nature, but my ideas told me that it was instead Father Nature. It seems Mother Nature has been missing for thirty or forty years, so I heard from my thoughts.”

“So… the Servant of the Underside came to congratulate you, because the Servant of the Overside was… missing?” Janna tried to piece together Alice’s story.

Janna was coming to like Alice a whole lot. This little girl, or rather, this young woman had a bit of innocent charm to her.

“Yeah!” Alice replied, “I’m a little worried about Overside, I mean, Mother Nature. It seemed that my thoughts weren’t really though. They were just a little unhappy to be with more responsibility than usual.”

“So what has, ah, what’s happened to Mother Nature?!” Chloe’s voice cut through the air.

She had a notebook in front of her, and it seemed she had been writing about the process of the ascension to Page.

“I…” Alice trailed off, timidly, “I don’t really know.”

“Yeah, come on Chloe, how would she know? You’d have to ask Overside or Father Nature or whatever,” Janna concluded, “But still, look at her, she seems so… Well now wait a minute.”

Janna turned back to Alice.

Accusingly, she said, “Do you passively influence people? Is that what Friendship does? You get the power to make people like you?”

Alice blushed, her eyes darting back and forth between the floor and Janna, “No… It was always like that before. I’m super good at friends.”

Alice stood, shifting on her feet timidly. Janna crossed her arms. This girl had a way about her, and it wasn’t just her bright hair and striking facial features. Alice seemed the kind of person that was very easy to like. Something like an innkeeper, Janna mused.

Kain came down from the top floor at the same time as another set of feet thundered up from the lower floor. This second person collided with Kain when they met at the landing.

“Janna,” Drake took advantage of this confusion to speak up. There was a franticness about him, “It was about Death again. You were possessed by her when we fought down in Venus’s catacombs. That’s why that man died so easily.”

The person who had run into Kain, a dark haired, dishevelled looking man, stood up, having knocked himself to the ground. Kain looked down at him, interested.

“Sorry sir,” Said the second man, who then walked to sit next to Alice.

Alice mumbled something to him, and Janna overheard, “Finch… careful, that man is a man who is also a prince…”

Natasha shook her head at the foolish display, and Chloe laughed. They both seemed to know this man, Finch. Janna vaguely recalled him and Alice attending the court either yesterday or the day before.

Kain took his time walking to the podium with a scroll in hand.

That must be the verdict, Janna thought.

He sat at the head of the room and, with a serious expression on his face, as the crowd began to shuffle back in.

There’s probably only one more after this. Unless I make an epilogue. I do have a sequel series in mind, but I’m not sure if I’ll end up writing it, what with Alice and Finch to finish, as well as my novel CN Natasha.

This is actually a second draft, and a major overhaul of the first. I actually added nearly a thousand words, and I’m not sure if I’m happy about it. See, Alice’s explanation of Pagehood was a little garbled, and so I put it into the hands of Chloe instead. I feel like poor Alice’s speech is becoming more and more like the awful dubbing in Garzey’s Wing… I’ll have to have Chloe or Finch (probably both) help her with that.

Daniel Triumph.
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P.S. Check out the Table of Contents for more.

Evidence

Previously, Table of Contents

“Yeah, it was four years ago, and it was on the Underside. This was the closest that Drake and I got to reaching Zealott. My disappointment of a brother was still working with our estranged uncle ‘Venus’ back then, so we invaded that domain. I believe that since then Zealott has moved to the northern regions of the Overside, and so that’s where I was last.

“Chloe Rhye had previously driven Venus out of the Lussa City region, so his forces were softened quite a bit. Despite the warnings of the Servant of Tendrils, I thought we could pull it off. Obviously the two of us weren’t going to be able to take on Venus’s army alone, hells, I doubt we could take out Venus alone, but that’s not what we were trying to do. Simply put, this was a stealth mission. The aim was to go in and extract Venus.

“Obviously the best way to go about dealing with anyone who spotted you was to kill them, so that’s what we planned. I didn’t aim to slip up and start dispatching people though. It would have been less taxing to just not get caught. This was supposed to be a fairly long and dangerous mission.

“Venus’s domain is less of a hideout and more of a fully fledged underground base. The entrances are hidden in the lime cliffs that jut out of the deserts east of the Lussa City. We didn’t get far. Once inside, Drake and I stalked down a few unlit caves, going by feel and sound. Of course we were not going to alert anyone by using lightings.

“It seems that there’s an entire multilevel network down there. I wish I knew more, but I know there are at least three levels. We managed to get to the second level by finding a ladder. I actually almost fell down what was essentially a manhole. The ladder descended down quite deep, and we passed from the sound-muting lime down into what I thought was hard rock. In reality, we were in the iron bedrock of the Underside.

“Obviously to some, iron carries sound very far through echo. We hadn’t even finished descending the ladder before we started hearing footsteps echo up the manhole. We had to stop, waiting for what I assumed was a patrol, to pass. Finally we reached the second level.

“Upon the ladder didn’t go all the way down, and we had to make what we hoped was a short drop. Drake snapped his finger, and hearing the echo told me it couldn’t be that deep, so I dropped.

“It seemed that Venus was smarter than I assumed. At the bottom of the ladder was some sort of elevated, reverse bevelled metal sheet. When I dropped onto it, it flexed inward and hit the floor below it, letting out a crack.”

Janna could hear Chloe inhale sharply.

“The sound travelled an absurd distance, and we started hearing the footsteps from earlier doubling back. They made a rhythmic clanking sound on the metal ground. From what I could hear, It seemed they were jogging. I looked to where I assumed Drake was. It was pitch black. I could not search his face for ideas or opinions. The footsteps got louder, so he decided to voice his ideas, I assume he was hoping his words would not make it to the ears of those who were approaching us.

“He said, ‘Let’s go up the ladder as far as we can before they arrive. When they stop to investigate, we’ll have to also so that they don’t hear us.’

“I agreed with him verbally, and he jumped up and grabbed the ladder. I followed, and the bevelled plate snapped back into place loudly. We climbed upward as the jogging footsteps loudened. Then we saw light below us and I instinctively stopped. Drake stopped not seconds later. There was a group below, unusual looking. Their torchlight didn’t seem to carry all the way up to where Drake and I were. The group, a guard I assume, milled around the loud plate, and through the small hole below I could see what kind of creatures they were. I counted four at the time, but I later confirmed six after Drake and I dispatched them.”

Kain, the chair of the court, gave Janna a suspicious look. She was being tried for two murders, not six.

“Five of the beings did not have life for me to take to begin with. They were machines, automatons. I could tell that they were unusual back then, looking down at them. I also saw two Lussa with them. Likely such automatic creatures required close watching. For errors, that is.

“After a minute or so of confused searches and many metallic pops from below, one of the Lussa, a man, pointed upward at me. I knew they couldn’t see me in the dark, and what he said confirmed it. He told them to send one machine down in the other direction, and the rest up the ladder. We weren’t quite found out yet, but the instant we tried to run, that would be it.

“I couldn’t look to Drake for advice, so I did the next best thing. I thought like he did. I figured he would want to climb up in unison with the loudest of the pursuers, that way whatever sounds we made as we moved up the ladder would be mirrored by the sound of one of the guard. I knew that this would make them sound unusually loud, but it was our only chance.

“I watched them start the ascent, first a machine with a torch jammed into a mount on its torso, and then the two Lussa, then three more machines. I squeezed my hands, trying to merge my timing with the leading machine. Once I was confident, I started moving, stepping in time. After a few rungs, I hit Drake’s shoe. He hadn’t been thinking the same thing! I stopped and then punched the sole of his foot, still in time with the leader. It took a couple more snaps of machine metal on the ladder, fist on boot, before Drake figured out what I was thinking. My next punch swung into air, and I opened my fist and grabbed the next rung. We climbed in time, but by now we were just outside the light of the torch. Drake had put us in a bad spot. I was worried about how we were going to make it out at the top. But for now, I just climbed.

“Well, my fears were confirmed. He pulled himself up as fast as he could onto the lime. I couldn’t hear much, and was revealed by just how much the lime deadened sound. Then, immediately afterwards, my relief was lost. I had to stop and wait for him to get out of the way. It was only one rung, one step, but that was all that they needed, that was it. My feet were caught in the torchlight.

“I heard a shout, not ‘stop’ or anything like that, but rather worse. It was a command. Likely the machines could be controlled by vocal commands, and this was what they shouted. Something I couldn’t understand, some difficult to pronounce word that wouldn’t come up accidentally in conversation. The clangs on the rungs sped up, and I was certain that the two Lussa watched as I climbed out.

“‘What can we do!’ That’s what I asked Drake.

“We weren’t going to escape without getting lost in the limestone maze, and so I figured it would be best to beat them to a pulp. We would also know exactly what we were taking on, to see how hard it would be to invade in the future.

“The clanking got louder. Drake, once again, was at a loss. He’s not that great at making split-second decisions.

“I walked to his ear and said simply, “Ambush.’

“Like our pursuers, we also have a code. If I don’t explain the type of ambush, it’s automatically a pincer. He stayed where he was, and I rounded to the other side of the manhole and pulled out a torch of my own. The ceiling of the cave was illuminated by the guard now, and light was reflecting down on us. Drake and I nodded to each other, our expressions resolute. I took off my backpack and reached into it until I found a small bag. I pulled it out and threw the backpack aside, out of the way. I took jitzer, that’s a powdered flash incendiary, out of my bag and sprinkled it liberally over my torch hand. Not a hard task with all the light reflecting down from above. When I was done, I passed it to Drake. He put his thumb on the torch’s flick-light, readying himself.

“I tossed the rest aside and we each took a couple steps backward. I watched as a humanoid machine pulled itself out of the hole facing me, just as I had wanted. Its movements were simultaneously dangerous and clumsy. Honestly I have no idea where these things came from, or who built them. When it was all the way out, it targeted me, and I drew two of my four swords. Don’t give me that look, I know using one sword is better! Anyway, it approached me slowly. I assumed that it was awaiting another command, and I simply edged away from it cautiously. The first Lussa saw me, and raced out as the second peeked its head out. Now that all eyes were out, Drake closed his eyes. I followed, squeezing my own shut tightly, and putting my arm over them. Drake flicked the button on the torch and tossed it a little past the hole, in front of the emerging man.

“What I assumed was a blinding flash went off moments later. Then, we began. I thrust my blade into the machine while searching for a weak point. I couldn’t really tell what it was made of, so I just kept cutting and hoping for the best. It seemed that the blinding tactic paid off. I guess the automaton’s vision sensors weren’t more advanced than the Lussa eye, and so the other two men came down upon me. I stepped back and thrust my blades into them, rending their abdomens.

“I grabbed one and let the other fall, saying, ‘Call off your machines! Tell them we’re allies or something.’

“When the man shook his disgusting face, I put my blade under his chin. He snarled at me, and then two bright purple rays of light came from his eyes and burned my face. I let go of him from the shock, and his head fell into my blade. That’s your first murder.”

The crowd in the courtroom murmured. Things were a lot more wild outside of civilized areas. More people had trained to use laszor eyes.

“I was pissed. I didn’t want that dumbass dead, it was just a wrong place kind of thing. I shouldn’t have threatened him with the blade so close. Even thinking back on it now makes me mad. So stupid.

“I didn’t have a lot of time before the machines readjusted their vision, or whatever they do. I rounded on the other man who was clutching his chest. He was bleeding freely, but I gave him the same command. He just stared at me. I couldn’t believe he was dying. What was this about? You must know that by now I knew how hard it was to kill a person, where the limits were. These people must have lacked the exoskin that was evolved thanks to the Servant of Conflict or something. Their bodies took light stabs too freely. His eyes pleaded with me, and I heeded his request. I dragged his body to my bag and took out my healer’s kit; a standard first aid kit. Drake had been dispatching the machines that were attempting to climb up the manhole. They had a noted disadvantage, and he managed to get them all to fall down and break.

“I tried to save the man, but it was really difficult. It looked like I had stabbed him in the secondary heart, and the primary was just freely pumping away. In the end, I tied off the veins and arteries with that, uh, you know that tough string used for stitches? I blocked off all flow to the secondary heart. You can live with just the primary one as far as I know. Then, of course, things got worse! Remember that machine that they sent off? The solo one that went the other way and didn’t come up the ladder? Well it wasn’t looking for us at all, it was getting help. It seems that Venus doesn’t take breaches of security, even unconfirmed ones, lightly. I looked back at the desperate looking man below me. Drake had thrown the last machine down the hole too, and we heard the loud crack of the floorplate below, and then shouts. I didn’t know if any Servant could save the Lussa now, so I just channelled Conflict and Underside, and fed the man some sort of liquid from the kit. I think it was a clot promoter.

“Then we ran. We left my torch behind, and looked back at the Lussa as we rounded a corner. He was still breathing in the dim, but no doubt he’s dead now. That’s murder two. It took us a while to navigate the maze that was the first level, but we got out fairly easily after we lit Drake’s torch and found our old footprints in the lime dust.

“And, well, that’s it.”

Kain was silent for a few moments, and then he called for the break. The verdict would not be given until he had deliberated for as long as he needed, and Kain was a slow thinker.

Janna, supervised by Natasha, headed downstairs to the break room, and Kain went up to the fourth floor, to privacy and peace. He took his three pages of notes with him.

They sat at one of the four long rows of cafeteria tables; Janna, Natasha, Chloe, and Janna’s Poet Chance. The rest of the crowd, those who were watching the trial, either sat at one of the tables, or left the tower, likely planning on returning. Janna was quiet. She sat with her eyes closed, trying to calm herself after the long recounting. But moments later, she heard footsteps from below. Still as tense as she had been in the caves, she opened her eyes and her head snapped around to face the sound. She peered at the staircase. Drake ascended into view, followed by a very unfittingly cheerful Plainkind girl in guard’s clothes. They approached the table, Drake glancing at Janna briefly.

He went straight to Natasha and said, “Where is Kain? This is the break, right?”

“He’s upstairs,” Natasha said, “But you really should not disturb him.”

But Drake wasn’t listening. The instant he knew where Kain was, Drake had already started on his way. Alice followed. Natasha went to stand, but decided against it.

“I am sure the Vice-Captain knows what she’s doing.” She shrugged.

I like this one. Probably the best in the series. Took a lot of time to build up the nerve for it though. Like, two weeks.

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Daniel Triumph.
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