Marking of the Daysby Sincline Koutaishi
The End of an Era
For the next 30 days the castle is alive with activity. Everyone is in a rush to do something or another. My goals are starting to take substance out of all the activity. The borders are closing tightly as my troops re-deploy from this world to defend our territory. Shilne is up to his forehead in work as he directs the intricate movements of the armed forces.
The treasury—along with its keepers—is being moved to the vaults on Forth bit by bit. I had known of the wealth that father had hidden here, but not seen the extent of it until now.
The Alliance is becoming nervous yet again, wondering if we are serious about keeping out of their territory and the messages come pouring in once more. They can see all of the activity but are not sure of what it means to them. I imagine they fear we are preparing to mount a massive attack upon them and laugh to myself. Quite the opposite...
I have found some time to watch the news feeds from Forth. Apparently there is some truth to Hanta's saying that there were celebrations in the streets at the news of my ascension. I smile as I flick through the images that were captured by the Ministry of Information reporting staff. They say that the festivities put those of the harvest festival to shame. I am sorry that I have missed that this past season. It has always been my favorite time in the cycle of the seasons.
Look at how happy they all seem. If only my Diya will be so pleased. I am shocked I have not heard from them.
I turn from nursing my ego to the problems at hand. There seems to be a minor setback to my yearnings to destroy Galrea. I have been trying to find those who engineered this massive horror, but they are nowhere to be found. I am pushing Hanta's patience to the limit with my pestering her for this information. She has called to every Diya with Engineering and Architectural leaning that she can find. No result. There is an enormous shrugging of shoulders in response.
When she turns to the Ministry of Heritage and her own alumni at the University she finds a great deal of conjecture on the subject. What comes from it is that my father went to great pains to ensure that every soul that worked upon the castle's more intimate details—hidden corridors, the dungeons, the vaults and other such things—was squashed out of existence. In this manner he hoped to keep his secrets... well... secret! If there are any surviving Engineers or Architects it is likely that they will not soon step forward to admit to it after all of these years. I cannot say that I blame them.
"The only thing I can think to do then is not worry how the place with come down, but focus on what will come up in its place." I say to Hanta, "To that end, please bring me the best Engineering Master Teacher and the best Architecture Master Teacher from the university. I trust that you have some opinion on who those people might be."
"They will not want to come here." She warns.
"Mmh." I smile slowly and look up from my mountain of papers, "I seem to remember that you did not want to come here, but you did when I asked you to."
"I never said that I was intelligent to do so." She blows the steam off her cup of tea and has a sip, "Mmmm... Why is it so cold in here??"
"Ran out of wood for the fire." I shrug, "I have not been thinking about the temperature."
"I will have some brought up for you."
Speaking of fire... "I burnt one of father's favorite chairs last night." I muse and smirk.
"By Gods. What are you thinking? Do not do that." She shakes her head.
"You will make the Ministry of Heritage quite upset."
They have descended upon this place like insects. Every hall I walk, every room I enter it seems contains one of these people with a notepad or Comm to capture images.
"I tried at first to set fire to the throne in the throne room..." I continue and sit back, watching her face turn to a look of shock rather than just annoyance with the story, "But it would not burn no matter how I wanted it to."
"That would explain some of what the castle staff has been whispering about. They think you have lost your mind. I begin to agree with them." She pulls her feet up into the armchair beside her, sipping at her tea with a frown for me and my behavior upon her lips.
"I am simply trying to amuse myself now and again." I laugh and wave a finger at her, "In fact one of the Heritage people came upon me when I was trying to light it and ran off in shock. I left for a while and when I returned with some fuel to pour over the ugly thing, I found it was already gone. They had gathered it up! Very efficient people... So instead I burnt his favorite chair. It was a small victory. Not nearly as satisfying as burning the throne might have been."
"Try to contain your enthusiasm for destroying your father's personal effects."
"Share your tea with me and I might consider your advice."
"A small price to pay." She makes a cup for me. "I will get you some wood and speak to a few of my fellow instructors at the university to see if I can persuade anyone to come here to talk to you. You could, of course, simply speak with them over a CommLink."
"I want to conduct my business face to face where possible."
"I will see what I can do."
She excuses herself and I settle back to ignore my pile of work and scan the news feeds again instead. My father had ignored the civilian population greatly. I see that clearly now just from reading these feeds. Poverty is the norm. There are few jobs aside from those in the military or government. The slave colonies work to feed our military and the regular population is going hungry. I have to attend to this somehow and soon.
One of the servants arrives with wood for my fire. It is the same slave girl that I had first accosted regarding her wish to remain or go from this place. She curtsies and smiles at me nervously then begins to stack the wood from the cart and after that sets to work building a fire for me.
"Have you decided where you will go?" I ask her and she jumps a bit, turning to me from what she is doing. "Still a bit nervous, yes?" I try to soften my smirk of enjoyment at her nervousness.
"Yes, sire." She nods, "I am going to go to Forth."
"I believe you will enjoy it there. I always have."
She nods again and finishes with building the fire as I return to my work then warms her hands. "Sire?"
"Does it snow on Forth?"
"Snow?" I am not sure what this human word means and look back up to her.
She can see from my expression that I do not understand the word and begins to explain, "Yes... Snow... When it gets cold. The rain turns to snow and covers the ground in white."
"Ahht. Yes it does snow. Not too much where you will be. I hope that does not worry you."
"Not at all. I love the snow. I'm glad that I will see it again. It just gets very cold here and very wet." She makes a face. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be bothering you."
"I do not mind. You are giving me practice in speaking human. Gods know I need it."
"You speak very well, sire."
"Thank you." I nod, "You said you had children... Where are they, girl? You seem young to have children."
She turns bright red then, "I... Lied to you. I have no children. I thought that you might not kill me if you thought-" She stops and bites her lip.
I laugh, "Lied to me? I see. More sympathy for a mother..."
"Yes... I was afraid. I'm sorry."
"No need to be. Well done. To be honest that was not what prevented your death. I never intended your death. You did not know that."
She nods, her cheeks dropping their color. "Would you like your late meal?" She changes the subject.
"Yes, I would indeed."
"I will bring it to you shortly then."
She bobs in a little curtsy and hurries off. I sit back and rub my eyes. I need to find something to employ my people. I need to speak to some economists. This is an area I am not well familiar with.
Hanta comes back and disturbs my thoughts. "I have some news for you."
"Give it to me then."
"I spoke with my friend Taiitsu in the Architecture Department at the University. She has agreed to be the intermediary to help in finding you well qualified people to assist you with Galrea... But she will not come here. She has young children to tend to and a husband who is ill."
"She is well connected with the Architecture and Engineering community both so I believe she is the best person to help."
"Good. I suspect I am going to be bleeding the University dry for their talent in many ways. I need to speak with our Finance Ministers. I want you to pick someone from the University to be the intermediary for this too. I am not familiar with economics and I do not want to be led astray by government personnel with their own agendas. I trust you and I trust that you have sense of others who are also trustworthy and have the best interests of our people in mind."
"University educators have very little in the way of thought toward greed. They will more likely be interested in seeing their theories put into practice for the betterment of things." She agrees. "I know someone who will be fine at this as well. Sholan is Economics Department Senior. He gives a fine lecture even to those who are not familiar with the subjects he professes. He will be able to make things clear to you without making you feel offended at his simplifying."
"Contact him then. I will be glad to meet him."
"Taiitsu has said she will contact me later this evening after the children are in bed. I will try and find Sholan now." She clicks open her Comm and walks away from me across the room to keep warm by the fire while she searches for her friend. Soon Sholan is on the main video screen in the room. He conducts himself as an intelligent and levelheaded man. He has been in the University since before the war began and so he has seen the Empire fall from prosperity to military domination. My feeling is that he will make a fine partner for me in helping the Empire back to its feet.
"The fact that you have decided to destroy Galrea is quite a good thing for the economy." He notes.
"How do you think so?"
"The rebuilding. You are talking of public works projects. This will be a substantial bit of work you are calling for and not something that will be carried out by the military. Of course military concerns will be part of the project, but it will be carried out by civil engineers and laborers. You will be employing thousands upon thousands of civilians... I understand that you will be financing this in part by the jewels you...mmm... recovered from your father's royal treasures." He is trying to be delicate in repeating the news he has heard of this apparently.
"Yes I will. Are you offended?"
"Not at all! I am glad to see all of that going to good use... Pardon my questions, but I do also understand that the treasury that was kept there in the castle is being moved to Forth and that it is quite extensive. Do you realize that this wealth has never been factored into the Imperial economy?"
"I had guessed as much. My father enjoyed hoarding." I nod.
"If you place this wealth into the economy too quickly it could have a negative effect. Done properly though..." He muses, a smile playing on his face as he thinks of it all. "I see good things!"
"How soon can you come here? I would like to speak with you in the flesh just before meeting with the Economists."
"I will be there in a few suns. I have a few things to clear up, but I do look forward to this challenge. Thank you, sire. I will endeavor to serve you well."
"I have no worries of that. Gods keep you."
"And you, Baika." He bowed before the screen went dark.
"I like this man. He is enthusiastic for the challenge!" I smile at Hanta. "You have good friends."
"I know!" She smiles back.
The former slave girl returns to us with my dinner and Hanta picks at what is on my plate a bit.
"Would you like me to bring you something?" The girl asks, noting Hanta's looting of my meal.
"I will just take food from my King's mouth. He enjoys it." Hanta's nose wrinkles with her smile.
"That is not at all true. Please bring her something. I do not want her fingers all over my food."
"Yes sire." She smiles at our humor and hurries away.
"She seems like a nice person." Hanta comments.
"I would tend to agree. Even considering the fact that she was so worried by us previously." I swat her hands away from my meal.
"Saich! Give me a little!"
"You have had more than a little already. Yours is coming." I growl.
No sooner does her meal arrive than she is bringing it into her body with great haste. Even the slave girl seems amazed.
"Gods, woman. Are you with child??"
Hanta's glare cuts through me, "Baika!!" She exclaims.
"Eh? What?? It is a question. You are eating as though you have more than your own life to sustain!"
"Let me give you some valuable advice..." She tightens a frightening scowl on me, "Keep your male mind out of the affairs of women. The only thing that it can do is serve to confuse you or make you realize we are less the perfect little delicate beauties that you like to think we are."
"Mmh... Must be that you are coming into season." I grumble and smirk at her angry expression. "You should be a great deal of joy to be around for the next little while."
"Unlike some people, at least I am pleasant to be around sometimes."
"Yai!" I laugh at her. "Should I call to Yuki to come and take care of you?"
"You are truly wrong in the head. Leave me be." She settles into her meal, turning her body half way from me as to ignore me while she eats.
The slave girl fills our glasses once more and then makes to go.
"Waik ua naisi ma'ah." I say to her before she leaves and her strange brown eyes turn to me.
"Tell me your name."
"Laila," She says.
"Very nice." I smile, "Thank you for the meal, Laila."
"Thank you for freeing us." She curtsies again and smiles brightly. "I can hardly wait to see my new home."
"Mmh... Thank you for reminding me! More work for the building businesses. As soon as Sholan is here I want to have a meeting with the economists. Did you say that Taiitsu will be speaking to you later? I want to talk to her too. I have to see that housing is built for those that will be leaving Galrea and that the current housing is repaired for those who are already living in Aykovas. By Gods my father was a lazy man. Look at all of this he has left for me to do! Aich!! And there is another thing..." I wave a knife at Hanta, "The coinage, the money... It all has his regrettable face on it! That will change!!"
"Will you put your face there?" Laila asks rather meekly.
"Never should I think to put another face on our funds!" I take too large a bite of my meal and chew on it with some anger at the thought of my father's face still staring out of all the imperial currency. No wonder no one is buying or selling much. No one wants to pass his ugly face in exchange for something.
"When he speaks of his father he becomes harsh." Hanta tells her, "Do not worry yourself."
"I am not worried." She smiles again. "Sire, may I ask a question? A favor of sorts."
"Ask me. We will see how generous I am feeling."
"May we have some books? I don't know if you would be able to give us any in our language...."
"Ahht. I think that I might be able to help you!" I get up from my meal and go to my inner chamber, returning to them with a few paper-paged books, "I often read in other languages to keep familiar with them. These are three of the number that I have in your language. I believe there are more at the colony in Aykovas."
She takes them from me gladly, opening the pages and looking at the words with some amazement.
"Thank you." She smiles. "This is wonderful!"
"If you are so kind you may teach me a few of the words I do not know." I settle back down in front of my meal.
"I will." She excuses herself from us, hugging the books to her, leaving me to watch Hanta continue to devour her meal as I am talking to her constantly between my own slower eating. She goes in for another serving.
"You must miss Shilne. You are talking and talking and talking..."
"I am trying to work things through that are in my mind!"
"Take care you do not talk your brain right out of your head!"
"Take care you do not eat yourself into immobility!"
Ah I do enjoy a good scrap with her. But I should be careful that I do not eat myself into immobility. I have been sitting too much and so after my meal I make my way down to the barracks and the training halls to find a sparring partner. My exercise ends up being more of a training session for the less experienced warriors who are practicing here. Some of the Commanders on the floor press their underlings to take a turn fighting me. It will do them good to have a few bruises and settle their egos. I am glad to take out some of my aggression on the young combatants. One by one I offer them a hand up off the ground and bow to them as they limp off the floor. Even the larger southern juniors go down to the mats in defeat.
"Forgive me for beating you." A rather large example of such a young man steps up to me next, showing me his ego and confidence.
"Ah... Juyochi. I have heard about you." I smirk.
Raikojo—his commander—barks at him across the floor, "You had best be able to match your skill with your ego, Juyo!!"
"Yai yai." He waves him off, "I will try not to hurt you too much, my King. You must be tired from playing with these others." He bows along with me.
"Shoch!" The mediator calls and we face off.
Juyochi is full of life and I entertain myself with dodging his rather rough blows for a few minutes. His fighting style is all about his size and the force he can muster behind that size.
"You have no grace." I say.
"Shortly you will have no face!" He replies from his frustration at not being able to strike me yet. He lets fly another very direct strike so I grab that arm and pull his strike through, sending him sprawling onto the practice mats.
He rolls over to begin to right himself and as he rises he finds my foot on his knee—another kicking him in the side of his big head. I spring back before he goes tumbling again. The group that observes is laughing.
"Do not let them worry you, Juyo. Keep focused." I tell him and let him get up this time, "Come at me."
Juyochi gets the beating of a lifetime and apologizes to me for his unwarranted ego.
"Remember not to depend just on your size." I tell him and head back to my chambers for a bath.
Over the next few days I do my best to extract all of the assistance that I can from those at the University in Namida and Baiaryu in the southern continent. Taiitsu finds me assistance on a grand scale. She coordinates a search for Architectural and Engineering talent along with seeking out construction groups to carry out the work. I am faced now with 10 of her prized students to help me sort through 350 Diyas who are looking to have contracts and employment for their people. Seeing one of the members of my own Diya arrive surprises me considering all of the silence that has been coming from them.
Fehruichi bows to me respectfully, his sons in tow. They go to their knees before me and I enjoy this moment of superiority.
"Rise." I command and they respond, "I did not think I would see my own Diya arrive. I have heard nothing since my ascension."
"That is not because there is nothing being said, Baika." He smirks, "I am glad to be here to help in this momentous task."
"No feelings of anger that I am dropping Galrea to dust?"
"None. As an architect I have always thought this place disgusting. No offense to your father, yet he had his own tastes..."
"He did at that. Welcome."
"Thank you." He and his sons bow away and join the throngs that have gathered in the throne room, which is now lacking a throne.
I meet many fine people on this gathering day. I let them know what is on my mind and find their attention to my words gratifying. Sholan is standing at my side along with Hanta.
"Sire." One of the builders calls my attention, bowing as I look to him.
"Keep in mind you will not be able to level every structure in this campus."
"What do you mean?"
"While all of this activity is going on, there will have to be facilities for the thousands of people who will be working and living here. You will have to keep up at least housing. These barracks might be the best to keep standing. And the landing facilities and storage facilities here." He indicates with a pointer what he speaks of. "They are far enough from the castle site that they will likely not be heavily impacted by the demolition."
"Point well taken. The buildings you designate will stand." There is always more to this. Hours upon hours of intricate detail. All of these minds working together toward a common goal is impressive. Seeing northern and southern in cooperation is also quite the thing. Language does get in the way a few times but there are enough present that speak both to offer translation. I go to bed tired once again after a long day and looking forward to more such discussions with these fine people.
In the following day the Avasjans arrive to discuss their reclaiming technology and to make tests that will determine how much can be done with this seemingly lifeless rock. The representatives that arrive with the science masters are pleased with my change of title. Never would they have ventured into our territory while my father sat the throne. They had made it quite clear to me that they did not like him or his policies and would never move to assist his rule. They had been willing to talk with me over the years and offer research when asked by myself. They hint at being willing to join with the empire if my rule continues to show promise. To have their assistance gives me added incentive to make a good showing as the new king.
The Ministry of Heritage learns its lesson about going into the royal wing when one of them is filled with shrapnel from an explosion. I decide to add insult to injury by visiting him in the medlab and saying 'I told you so' as the doctors remove bits of metal from his flesh. He looks up at me woefully as I smirk at his situation. He will not be able to sit down for quite some time without a reminder of this incident. He is lucky to be alive! From there on, they elect to collect images of these rooms and leave them otherwise undisturbed. They are meticulous about capturing the place as it is. I am now glad for some reason that they have managed to save the throne my father sat from my yearning to see it aflame.
Seven days pass with the Builders and Architects and Engineers competing for space in the hallways with the Ministry of Heritage. The economists and financiers arrive to discuss the financial inner workings of the empire with Sholan and myself, just in time to see the last of the treasure from the vaults leaving this world for Forth. They claim no knowledge of the wealth that I have been having moved. I find it hard to believe and during my discussions with them I find them even less believable.
"They have been in my father's palm over the years." I state my suspicions to Sholan as we walk the halls to the dining room to take a meal with the Ministry of Finance.
"I would have to agree, sire."
"I will see them cleaned out. This I vow. Find for me those among them that might have the interests of our people at heart."
"I will, sire. You are being patient beyond what Hanta has led me to expect."
"I am too busy thinking of everything I must do to spend much time on my anger. Mark it that I am on the verge of a great deal of it however."
"I will keep mindful of that! I look forward to them pressing the boundaries of your patience that I might see some of your legendary temper."
"Mmh... You should not hope for such things." My temper often seems to cause bloodshed.
"There is not often excitement in the world of economics, just a great deal of counting and noting. So I may have something to write home to my wife about!"
The day after this meal I have a list from Sholan of those in the Finance Ministry to keep and those to discard. He has gone so far to prioritize his list and state reasons for the rankings. Meticulous creature, he is. I will keep this for worrying upon when I return to Forth.
Now that the landing pads are cleared of the loads from the vaults, I set the troops to work on removing the pieces that the Ministry of Heritage has requested. Everything worth reclaiming is being dismantled and removed from Galrea. Additional storage for items removed from the castle and additional temporary housing is being built far off beyond the barracks and other buildings that the builders have requested to remain standing. I am still not sure what to expect when we strike this place down. There may be a massive explosion from some as yet unseen traps. It may crack the planet in half for all that I know, but I am not going to waste too much energy in moving these things off the planet just to have to move them back again. If it is all blown to dust, who am I to say that it was not meant to be?
I discover that my father has kept more in hoard than just the wealth I had moved to Forth. Storage facilities that I have the locking mechanisms burnt off of yield surprises. Food, medical supplies, seed... I am shocked! Everything that is needed to sustain troops and colonies has been secreted away here.
Why was he keeping this all away from our people?? I wonder this as I stand in the belly of one of the massive underground storage facilities, my eyes scanning the packing cubes as far as I can see down halls that extend in many directions.
At the very least much of this should have gone to Mycenea to aid in their recovery. I put some of the former slaves to work at taking inventory of all of this. When they finish I will take a good number of carriers and move these supplies to where they are needed before the demolition work begins. I do not want to lose the opportunity to assist our people if this planet does cease to exist. There is too much here to hope to move it all to safety before the end comes. At least these corridors are some distance from the castle itself so there is a possibility that they will remain undamaged.
Ah, the slaves... They have made their choices and they are causing problems in the castle with those who were formerly their masters. Most are going to be leaving for Forth. That does not surprise me much. They have been allowed to contact the human leaders of the colony in Aykovas and are satisfied that they will be pleased with moving there. Those humans that lead or act as representatives for their people are still recovering from the shock of having their freedom granted, such as it is. Those that kept watch over them have been withdrawn and rather than offering a sense of security, it is making them worried.
"We are concerned that you are removing your people in order to exterminate ours." One of the bolder humans speaks to me of the conjecture behind their concern.
"Saich! Too much worry." I shake my head, "Why would you want to have my people in your lands?? Thought your wanting freedom from watching... Rrrrhh..." I am frustrated enough with the situation that I am losing my grasp of speaking their tongue. "You want for me to bring back some of your watchers?"
"There are some that we would not mind having return." He says, stepping back from his accusation.
"Name them and I will ask if they would be willing to. Send me a list!" I throw up my hand.
"Please do not mistake this for ingratitude. We are happy that you have offered us freedom even though you are not able to return us to our former homes. We are happy that you are having our homes rebuilt. We will do our best to work within your society and continue to raise the crops to feed as many of our people and your people as we can."
"Mmmh." I grunt.
"We are sorry to cause you frustration in the face of your kindness to us... This is all very unexpected and strange."
"Granted. I have other things on my mind and it seems that your people are already causing some friction amongst mine. Do me a kind favor and keep low and quiet for the next quarter."
"I will be sending builders out to you to survey the land and work with you on where you wish to have the additional residences built. You will be the masters of your own land and so you will be intimately involved in this exercise. I am certain that there are those among you that are familiar with building and I expect that they will keep active in this process."
"Keep involved." I stress.
"Yes, sire." He nods, "You have been very generous and we will enjoy that generosity and keep care of the land you have given us."
"Good! You will be receiving guests in the next few days. How many can you accommodate immediately?"
"Since the guard housing has been emptied, we can probably make do and have 300 arrive. How many will be coming in all?"
"I have a list of well over 2000 who wish to become permanent residents. There are possibly 500 more that will be temporarily moved there. 200 or so will come back here after Galrea is rebuilt and 300 will go to Mycenea eventually. I have much work to do there to provide those colonies with their freedom..." I watch his eyes grow in size as I am speaking. The Aykovas colony is approximately 2000 in number. They will be more than doubling in size.
"We will be busy." He says after a pause.
"Keep your focus and everything will be fine. Gods keep you."
"Thank you, sire." He and his peers bow to me and I shut down the connection, gritting my teeth in the frustration I feel.
I make my way out of the meeting room and toward the dining room to take a meal with Sholan and Hanta. Shilne should be joining us this evening and I look forward to seeing him again. It will be a small gathering and I am thankful for that. I have almost wanted to beg out of this and go straight to my chambers to take my meal there alone with a book. When I see Shilne is already there upon my arrival I am glad I have joined. His humor settles me and I indulge in some wine to relax further. My peace is short lived.
One of the castle staff decides to try her luck with disciplining a former slave. As I watch she strikes Laila and the poor little human falls to the ground. I am not sure of the provocation for this, but there has been such tension growing between the human staff and my people as of late. I have become fond of Laila over the days that have passed and so my anger with this is doubled. Before the staff member can think, my chair is toppled on the ground and her throat is in my hand.
"What do you think you are doing??" I bellow into her surprised face.
"Sire!" She wails, "Please! She was being disobedient!"
"I do not believe this. I was watching you both. What did you think she did that caused this?"
A list of nonsense immerges from her including spilling some soup and not following directions quickly enough. I pull her face close to mine.
"You... Have one last chance. Change your behavior or you will be excused from service. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sire." She barely whispers.
"Make your apology and make it good." I find myself enjoying the taste of her fear far too much for my own good and work to break from my anger but not before I push her down to the ground beside Laila where she is remaining—too afraid to get up.
"I am sorry." She says, voice shaking.
Laila nods slowly, her hand covering the redness that has erupted on her cheek.
"Get out of my sight!" I command and she scurries away with my eyes following her out the door. I turn to Laila and offer her a hand, displeased by the way that she withdraws from me, "I will not harm you. And she will not harm you again. This I vow."
"She will." She whispers. "She hates me."
"Come and take my hand."
At last she does and I help to lift her to her feet, bringing her to sit beside me at the table, "Sit down with us and have some food."
"I am allowing it. If you think there is anyone who will question me, you are wrong." I smile and push a plate toward her.
"Do not debate with him, you will not win." Shilne laughs.
"True enough." Hanta agrees and calls over one of the other staff members to bring some ice for Laila's face.
I feed her and take her to my chambers so she does not have to return to the staff area. Her face is even redder now and I feel rather angry about it still. She will certainly have a fine bruise raise there.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" She asks when I give her some tea.
"You seem to be a nice person. And you have taught me at least 20 human words!" I try to have some humor with her regardless of the over-workings of my mind.
"That wasn't very hard to do."
"Having the courage to continue to speak to me—someone who has made you afraid for your life—was hard for you to do." I say and when she starts to drowse I have her sleep on one of the sofas in my main room arranged warmly in blankets from my own bed.
I settle back down in a cushioned chair across from where she lays sleeping and return to my working, soothed by another hot tea and the sounds of quiet music. There is no end to the things that I have to do. Every now and again I find my eyes sinking shut and shake my head to come back to the waking world. Finally I put down the Comm and rub my tired eyes, pressing the heels of my hands into them and then running my hands up my forehead and my fingers into my hair. "Mmh..." I look back over at Laila, hands dropping back to my legs. Humans...
They come in so many different colors and variations. Laila is a cream colored young girl with long reddish brownish hair and those brown eyes that I find so strange. She is as young as the Altean Princess. Perhaps that is why my fondness for her has grown. She reminds me a little of her. Her youth at least and her gentle nature. Something in me stirs at the thought of her and seeing this girl lying so close by in complete trust of me. I rise slowly from my seat and make my way over to her, coming to kneel beside the sofa where she is curled in the blanket and breathing deeply.
I stay still and kneeling there for a good while, just watching the pulse in her throat and her body moving as she breathes. My fingers find her hair and fascinate themselves with the waves of it. I lean in and take a breath of her.
It would be so easy... She would not resist so much for you have shown her kindness. She will not give you much trouble... Take her. Her freshness is yours to have.
My brow furrows from the things that are coming up in my mind, the images that are playing out a preview of the horrors I could inflict upon this trusting girl. I grasp at the threads of these thoughts, trying to pull them out like so many splinters.
Is that all you are? A rapist of young girls? Is that what you really are? Someone who can only repay trust with terror? Is this all you are capable of in your heart? You sit and sneer at those who treat these humans poorly and yet you have these vile thoughts. You defended this girl and now you think of taking her against her will. It is not any great wonder that the one you love despises you. For all of your yearnings to not be like your father, you are just like him. Even the Vidons could not remove his foul spirit from you.
I realize that in my fighting with myself I have taken her hair into my tightened fist. She has not woken from this but I freeze in position, heart pounding, eyes wide. I do not want her to wake and find me like this... I let my fingers loosen with some difficulty and her hair falls out of my grasp then I draw a deep tremulous breath and sit heavily on the floor.
"By Gods..." I sigh and fight the sick feeling out of myself bit by bit. When it is gone it is replaced by a deep sense of relief and exhaustion.
"What's wrong?" She mumbles, having woken slightly and seeing me sitting there on the floor beside her.
"Nothing... Working some things through in my mind." I press a hand to my forehead.
"Should I get you something to drink?" She shifts and settles sleepily back into the cushions.
That is the last thing I need at the moment, "No... thank you kindly. Go back to sleep."
"Ummhh..." She sighs and her strange brown eyes drowse shut again momentarily, "Sire?"
"Where do you live on Forth?"
"Namida. It is a rather large city." I lean against the sofa wearily.
"Is there a castle there that you live in?"
"A palace." I miss my home...
"Instead of going to Aykovas could I go to work in your palace?"
I turn my head and look toward her half open eyes. "Why would you want to be a servant again? You can be free at Aykovas. Humans are so odd..."
"I just like being around you. You make me feel safe."
Now there is a funny thing, hmm?
"Eh, I am not safe for anyone to be around, Laila."
"I think you're going to be a great king..."
"I think I will do what I can. I am only one man and a flawed one at that." I shake my head.
"That's how it is to be a person. Flawed... I will go to work in your palace. I have decided."
"Laila..." I laugh weakly.
"Mmmm." She sighs and fades into sleeping again.
There will be no arguing with her over this tonight. I pick myself up and go to my inner chambers, falling into bed in my clothing and finding my will to sleep almost immediately.
The following morning a banging on my outer chamber doors and the sounds of a great deal of argument wake me. I wince from the abruptness of my waking and tear myself wearily from the comfort of my bed. I think to pull on my robes but realize I am still in my clothing from the day before. Raking my fingers through my hair and squinting, I try to make out my path to the door to the main room through sleep-sticky eyes. Laila is sitting up on the sofa, clutching the blanket to her nervously at all the commotion.
"What is it?? Why are you disturbing me??" I bellow and throw open the doors.
My guard is containing the head of the housekeeping staff. She is furious and building her anger as they hold her back. Shilne is in this group and seems to be finding some humor in the situation, but then he often does even in the strangest times. In the mass of motion and sound the head of housekeeping spies Laila on my sofa and shrieks, breaking away from the guard and making toward her suddenly. I come between she and Laila.
"Aiino!" I shout at her, "What is the meaning of this??"
"I have had my fill of these insults!"
"These waikuniv humans!! You let them free and now they disobey and cause problems for all of us! They are disrespectful and animalistic, vile things!! And you protected that little thing from appropriate discipline from one of my staff!!" She storms.
"Aiino, think to yourself carefully of your future and control your tongue. I have little patience for your petty behavior." I growl.
"Do you think I have not enough to do without having to listen to the trite concerns of the housekeeping staff??? All of this bickering and posturing will end! Things have changed and you will come to be used to it or you can leave! I will have peace in this place or I will remove those who break it!!"
"You should keep mindful of your heritage and not move so quickly to defend the little human girls you are recreating with!!" Her snipe surprises me and I feel myself fighting to resist the strong and sudden urge to choke the life out of her. Every muscle in my body tightens against itself until I can speak again.
"Damn your assumptions! I have had no recreation with this girl!! I will see this nonsense ended! If you cannot keep peace with the humans then GO from this place with great haste!"
"You think you can run this place without us??"
"I believe that those humans who are still endeavoring to serve us regardless of their new freedom will be happier to help run this place if they are not being constantly tested by you and your worried staff." I step forward and lean down to meet her face to face, "My father and his narrow ways are dead. GONE!! I swear to you Aiino, if you or any of your staff lays an unwarranted hand upon any of these people I will cut them off myself!!!" I shove her away from me and point two fingers into her face, which looks ready to say something back to me, "Do not dare to say another word to me unless it is your stating your understanding of what I have said!"
Her furies have been tamed by my anger. For a moment she splutters and then stops, saying nothing but glaring at me still.
"Get out." I sneer, "Take her out of my sight!!"
My guard rushes forward, taking her by the arms and pulling her out of the room. She still has many mouths full of words to spit at me. I can see that much. The doors close and Shilne is left with me.
"Good morning to you, Sire." He bows, "You have had quite the waking service."
"Never again..." I mutter, "Have some of the guard keep watch over the situation. She is still filled with fire."
"And then some." He agrees and goes to the doors to my chamber to speak with the guards outside briefly then returns, "Good morning, Laila. Enjoying the excitement that comes from being around our king so much?" He jokes with her.
"Not so much." She admits, "I told you. They hate me."
"I do not believe that. I believe they do not even know you. And I believe that everyone is suffering from worry over the sudden changes that have happened. It has nothing to do with you specifically." He says.
"You do not seem to be suffering." She notes.
"Me? No. I am never suffering unless there is nothing to eat." He smiles and rubs his belly. "Everything else in life makes me happy!"
She smiles back at him.
"Shilne is quite insane." I tell her.
"Oh I don't think so. He seems very nice. My mother would have said he was born when the sun was shining."
"So said my own mother." He agreed. "Ahhlll I am so glad that I could come back to such drama. I am betting we will not get any morning meal today."
"Perhaps not." I agree and sit down in the chair I had used the night before.
"I will get you food." She says and rises from the sofa.
"You will have to go to the kitchens with the guard." Shilne says, "Quite bold of you!"
"It is my job." She says.
"I will not stop you for I am hungry! Come come." He brings her out the doors and tells two of the guards to see to her protection as she goes to serve our needs. "Make sure she is well cared for as I need food!"
The two laugh and take her away.
"Unbelievable." I say.
"She is cute!" He remarks.
"Stop staring at women all of the time."
"It is what I do, my king. I have to examine my possibilities."
"Even human ones?"
"She is female. She is pretty. She seems to not hold anger in her heart for long. And that would be a good quality to have to deal with me. However I can see she is not the one for me."
"You evaluate quickly, my friend." I laugh at him and his certain expression.
"I have long thought to myself that I should meet many women and see how many ways there are to be female and of all of that determine what is right for me of those ways. Yet while she has a number of those qualities I believe that when I see the woman who is right for me I will know it without even having a chance to see how she is... And later I will find that she is all of those things."
"Love at first meeting." I scoff and smirk.
"I believe in it. I have seen it with my own eyes." He looks at me accusingly.
"I have no idea of what you are implying."
"Saich... Fool." He sits down on the sofa, moving aside the blanket she had been using. "I bring you news, my king. Are you ready for business? Or would you like to wait until your stomach is filled?"
"I would like to wait until I have had a bath, but that will wait. Go ahead."
"Very well. Things are going well with the border closure. We have had incident with some of the humans along the borders we share with them. They seem to think that they are owners of certain trade routes that we have let them know they are not. So there have been some disputes. They are certainly watching us as when these incidences have occurred I have been confronted by those involved and generals of the human armed forces. They have many many many questions that I will not answer. They will have many more still when they see Galrea come down."
"I am working on that. They will not see Galrea come down."
"For true. They will not see anything of us shortly. I am sick to death of having their eyes upon us."
"Interesting... They know we have been having massive movement here."
"What of it? There is always movement here. It is a military center point for the empire."
"There has been much more of late as you well know and it is adding to their nerves."
"They will be blind to it soon enough... Next subject."
"The treasury on Forth has accepted the vault contents and are in process of taking precise accounting of it under the watch of Sholan from here and his trusted fellows on Forth. It is causing a stir in the financial community, but I do not mean to claim any understanding of it." He shrugs, "I have called to some of the former enforcement and staff of Aykovas to return there. Some of them already have. The residents there are feeling happier about this for some reason. The builders and surveyors will be on that land today."
"I am sure that Hanta will tell you more of these strange things." He waves his hand as if to brush away these details that are not of his familiarity. "The integration of the 53rd into the loyal divisions is going well. There are no musings of rebellion or such. They seem to have come to accept that Namden and your father are gone, you are the new Supreme Commander and I their High Commander. They are a bit soft but as the days pass they will catch up to our own troops. The other division Commanders have been speaking with me quite regularly and things are going well in their own divisions. I have been rather sneaky about making sure that they are reporting the truth of this too." He smirks with some pride.
"I have taught you well."
"That you have." He agrees, "The palace of Manaleh is being prepared for your return as you have requested."
Today is filled with updates. Sholan arrives looking rather tired out. He has not slept for keeping watch over those that are taking count of the treasure my father had hoarded. His Comm is still on and displaying the images of the main vault floor. Everything is being recorded. Akti—Shilne's second in line—has been charged with ensuring that this is all kept under control and so security has been tight.
"Why have you chosen Akti as your second?" I had asked Shilne.
"He has a sense of humor and he takes to his responsibilities with at least double the strength of any regular man. I will never have a doubt when giving him an assignment. I will always know it will be carried out beyond my wishes." He said, "Plus that I owe him a debt for a card game..." His grin grew.
Fourteen suns pass much in the same way. The slave colony on Forth has determined that they will not be able to get enough built to house the incoming humans before the date of the castle's destruction. They opt to have large enclosures built rather than concentrate all of the builder's energies on the final housing that will be erected. They will go up rather quickly. They are also concerned about feeding so many newcomers. To this I respond by sending out some of the food and seed and other supplies that I had found hoarded away here at Galrea. Their human leaders are impressed and thankful for the generosity. I am pleased that they are not taking it for granted.
The temporary housing goes up and I have my men begin the job of packing up the humans to leave. 200 or so of them have boldly decided to lend a hand with the rebuilding and will be moved off the planet's surface when the demolition is about to begin. Aiino leaves with the humans. Her intolerance has continued over the days and I find that this attitude more than anything else has been effecting the behavior of all staff involved. I give her position to the woman who had struck Laila, giving her a chance to prove herself to me and all those around her. Things quieted considerably after that. Laila has been rather pleased with the change and keeps me apprised of anything that happens that is improper. She stands beside me as the carriers lift off, taking the majority of her people away.
"You could go with them." I remind her.
"I don't want to." She turns and goes on her way, smiling and bowing to Shilne who is coming our way to tell me that everything is in order.
Every day that passes I am aching to be back on Forth, to put all of this behind. Hanta is very patient with my wandering mind and does her best to keep me focused. I have laid out my goals for her and she is keeping me on track quite well.
On Forth, the palace of Manaleh is finally prepared for my return. I have seen to it that the standard of the 102nd flies from the flag posts there and that everything my father had put into the place is removed. It hasn't been much as it seems that he moved in there and only removed things. They have found his clothing and packed it away in the case that I might wish to go through it. Akti leaves his work at the treasury for a time to make a sweep of the place for any traps of the kind that have been found in Galrea. He turns up only a few odd security devices and proclaims the rest of the palace and grounds clean. That is good enough for me.
They have turned up something strange too. An image chip from a Comm that was his. This is sent to me and I wonder at whether I wish to see the images or to burn the chip. A wave of stupidity takes me and I snap it into my Comm to have a look... They have dug this out of a hiding place in a wall and now I know why. I see myself as a child and my insides curdle. Apparently father at one time had thought of me fondly enough to image me for posterity. I do not remember this moment and yet it is certainly I there in those images.
Flipping through the images slowly, I am wondering if I will see my mother there. I hardly remember her... But no. Perhaps she was the one taking these images, not my father. There is no way to be sure. At least one day if I have children I can sit them down and show them that their father—whom history will no doubt write harshly of from many perspectives—was like they were once. Just a child with a fascination for capturing hopping lizards to play with and watching insects work their shiny magic in the fields. I snap the chip out, secreting it away in my own hiding place for future viewing.
I shake the images from my mind and carry on with the preparations. The design for the new castle has been awarded to a combination of 5 Diyas. They have worked together and come closest to what I have been hoping to build here. I enjoy that they are a mix of northern and southern Diyas. It is a good omen for the future. Almost every Diya that has made bid to work on the construction has been awarded contract and they are hurriedly recruiting employees for the job that is to come. Engineers are working with both groups to ensure that everything that has been designed is possible. I have a small model of the coming castle and surrounding buildings. I place my father's ashes beside it so that he has to look at it. My latest insult to him. Hopefully there will be many more coming.
The next thing is to remove all of the technical systems and archives from this place. It is slow going at this part of the removal. I am beginning to lose my patience for those who are taking care of it. I take two of the techs from my own troops down to meet with them today, to let them talk to each other about things. I want to know if the castle techs are stalling or hiding something. Best to bring those that can speak their strange language. I listen to them in wonderment, glad that I have my own experts in the field. They return to me and show me what is happening in more simple terms.
"The systems are very old, sire. And there is so much information to be moved. They are not stalling to make you angry. It is just a difficult process." The lead tech shrugs.
"What can be done to make it less difficult?"
"Bring some archival cells from Forth. Instead of bothering to move the equipment and all of that preparation, we could just dump everything from these old things to archival cells for future retrieval. In other words, we could throw it all in one big bag and try to make sense of it later."
"Are you certain that will be possible?"
"Without a doubt. The information will all be available."
"Send to Forth for the cells then. I will agree to this. Do it quickly."
"Yes, sire." They bow away from me.
There are so many people coming and going from this place now that the food supply is running short. I have troops to feed and supply but I do not want to dip into the little food supply available to the civilian population if I do not have to. For some things I must. The rest comes from the hordes kept hidden below Galrea. It is coming in handy indeed.
While the halls are filled with life they are emptying of all else. It is getting to be difficult to find anywhere to sit. I make certain that every image of my father remains on the walls regardless of the Ministry of Heritage's request that they all be sent to the Archives. I have extended enough kindness to them and only allow them to remove one. The rest will bear a silent witness to the final collapse of this place.
I wander to the royal hall for one last look into my father's chamber. The bed where my life was likely created. It makes me shake my head and feel sick inside but thickens my resolve to change all he has wrought.
Shilne is having a fine time vexing me with his enthusiasm for taking images when he is not busy. He is getting to be worse than the Ministry of Heritage, taking every opportunity to image me in my new clothing of royalty and Hanta as well. She throws a book at him as he flashes by once again while we are trying to have a moment to relax.
"Madman." She grumbles at his laughter.On to 10