Between now and February 2, 2021, I will be posting chapters from The Legend of Kyd Lumin, my upcoming book release. Previously, I posted the Prologue and I. Kyd Lumin. Below is the next chapter "II. Mairel Elof".
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II. Mairel Elof
The emptiness of space spans farther than any living being can understand. Stars spread out as pinpoints of light seem merely a backdrop to scenery filled with nothingness. For one spending their night outside on a planet, the view is similar to spending their night aboard a ship traveling the stars and watching them pass through a cabin window.
Mairel Elof, the heiress to the Elof Empire, did that often. Recently, her days rarely amounted to spending time on any planet, let alone her home planet of Juris—the epicenter of the Elof Empire. Instead, she found herself aboard many of the space-faring ships of the Empire.
She could live a life of luxury. After all, she was the Heiress. Though she held little power in that form, the amenities of being the daughter of Empress Cybil Elof meant having all the riches the privilege expended without all of the responsibility.
But Mairel had no intention of a life of privilege. If she hoped to one day inherit the empress’s role, she had to solidify her ability to lead. Thus, Empress Elof had allowed the assignment of Heiress Elof to supervise the ongoing operations of the military. This consisted mostly of observation of the vast fleet that spanned the oversight of ten planets ruled by the Empire. The Empire’s rule and acquisitions had doubled in the past decade.
A decade, the same amount of time since Heir Elof had gone into exile for his treasonous act. The thought of his name made Mairel’s body temperature rise, turning her naturally tan skin color to darkened tints of blood-red around the cheeks and hands. Mairel glanced at herself in the mirror, wishing she could hide the rush of emotion even from herself.
Heir Elof made it difficult for her to do so.
Since the time he’d murdered one of the Empire’s higher position guards and went into exile, Mairel had urged her mother—the Empress—to move against other planets and gain their control. Heir Elof’s actions showed that dominance was necessary; one person should not be allowed to act in rebellion against the Empire’s rule.
And so, as she stepped over to the view from her cabin on one of the Empire’s largest ships, the Blazing Equator, to a view of stars, she calmed herself. Heir Elof’s betrayal strengthened and legitimized Mairel’s role as heiress. It also ensured that the military remained strong under her oversight.
Still, there was one motive that helped her completely. Eventually, she would find the exiled Heir Elof and make him pay for his crime.
Until then, she would be patient.
She grabbed a brush from the bureau’s top and stroked it through her long blond mane. She then bunched it at the bottom, wrapped it in cloth and tied it tight, forcing it to fall in a single line, almost like a rope.
A moment passed. An incoming message’s soft chime sounded, accompanied by a blinking red light’s steady rhythmic pattern. Mairel tapped the light. “Yes.”
“Heiress Elof. Captain Lang, here. May we request your presence on the bridge?”
The Captain’s tone sounded request for approval. So many times, the admirals, captains, commanders and ensigns—even the maintenance staff—spoke to Mairel in a way that begged her recognition. As if her mere presence was an honor beyond any other.
She would want it no other way.
She deserved the respect and adulation of all the Empire’s citizens. If they acted otherwise, she’d be concerned.
If they acted like Heir Elof, she’d order their execution without a hesitant thought.
“I’ll be there shortly,” Mairel responded.
Currently, she wore garments for leisure, black and dark, and fitting her body’s form in a way that left little to the imagination. Citizens never saw her that way. A way more like them. A way that would show weakness.
She changed into appropriate attire—a white robe cinched at the waist with golden trim along all its edges, a teal garment under the robe that covered her from the base of her neck to her ankles, and beige boots that reached to the top of her shins. Finally, she adorned her hands and ears with jewelry from the Elof lineage.
She then grabbed her blade from the wall where it hung. It had been passed down for generations, starting at a time well before the Elof Empire rose to power. The hilt was etched with entwined ornas that ended at the top in a small onyx gem—colored in near opaque blackness—representing the eye of the one orna. The other orna head was tucked behind the prominent one’s neck, reminding Mairel of the other blade’s existence that complemented it. But that blade….
She sheathed her blade in leather and placed it at her hip.
By foot, the distance from her cabin to the bridge was a walk that covered many minutes. While it would have been easier to have the standard escorted automated transport expected of an heiress, Mairel chose to walk. This allowed her to observe members of the crew in her travels. It gave the crew opportunity to express their respect and honor for the Heiress as she passed. Commanding officers in each section of the Blazing Equator would call out that the Heiress was in their presence, immediately causing any other crew members within view to stop performing their assignment and stand at attention, arms stiff at the side.
Mairel barely acknowledged any of them; instead, she focused ahead on the destination she wished to reach.
Upon entering the bridge, Captain Lang called out, “Heiress Elof, the high honor, on the bridge!”
The crew responded as they should: stopping their duties until Mairel gave them a signaled hand gesture ordering them to return as they were.
“Captain Lang. Report on the importance of this meeting you have requested.”
“Yes, Heiress.” Captain Lang was a stodgy man. Stiff around the shoulders and barely had a neck. However, he wore the gray uniform of the fleet well. “We have received reports that might interest you.”
“And, well, it might be best to show you directly. But it is regarding Heir Elof.”
That thrust her attention to the fore. Hearing that name roll off someone else’s tongue stung her ears. They all knew what he did. Inheritance or not, referring to him as Heir Elof, contradicted the actions he had taken.
“Has he been located?”
Instead of answering the question, Captain Lang activated a holographic image of an individual. He appeared to be a Delphian. Tall and slender, he would be loyal to the Elof Empire as they have the planet Delphi under their dominion. However, traitors are everywhere. The Delphian man stood there motionless in his more casual attire of a sleeveless shirt, pants cut just below the knees and sandals on his feet.
“It’s difficult for me to answer that question with a hundred percent certainty.”
Then why must you waste my time? Mairel thought. She had no patience for weak intelligence, especially with something so crucial as capturing Heir Elof at stake. Captain Lang should know better. He should not even be presenting this to her unless he knew for sure that they had located him.
Captain Lang tapped a few buttons at the base of the holographic display. The image shifted, layering a background into the scene. Again, all without action or movement. It appeared to be a village with many people moving about—some local merchants in makeshift shops, the others perhaps tourists perusing the wares.
“My patience is ending, Captain Lang. Please get to the matter.”
“Yes, my Heiress. I apologize.” He tapped another button.
The display shifted into motion with the Delphian man at the fore talking. “Hey, my love. Wish you could be here. You should see the sights around these villages. Just getting to them, scaling the cliff sides to reach them … Amazing! Simply amazing. Anyway, wanted to let you know I’m doing well. Even though I’m loving this trip, I hope to see you more. If you—”
“What’s the point, Captain? For me to excuse myself from my private quarters to watch vacation videos for someone I don’t know.” She placed her hand to her right hip and held the hilt of her blade. She’d used it before to take care of others for much smaller offenses. She had no reservations now to do something similar.
Captain Lang’s eyes spotted the movement. He knew what that meant. He nervously fumbled through his next words, “My Heiress … I … this … the—”
“Spit it out!”
“Yes. I apologize. It’s in the background, through the milling people. We intercepted this message—quite accidentally, I’ll add—as it passed through some of the Empire’s channels to reach its final destination. We thought it was nothing at first, even when the tracking systems alerted us. But—” He tapped a few buttons.
The view shifted, zooming inward to the merchants and tourists behind. It stopped when it finally rested on the face of an individual so far in the background he was barely recognizable.
“What am I looking at? A blurred mess?”
“The system triggered on this face. I understand it’s difficult to recognize or see due to how far from the recording he was located. But the general structure of the face appears to match that of Heir Elof.”
Mairel leaned in closer to the holographic display. A fool’s attempt to clarify the image, she knew. Regardless, she could not fight the urge to see the face of the Empire’s traitor. In some ways, she recognized him. Her mind could easily play tricks in this instance, filling in the lacking details to create an entirely inaccurate picture.
“Where is this located?”
“It’s on Quarros. One of the furthest located planets in the sector.”
Quarros? The Elof Empire had yet to strengthen its position on every known planet. Quarros, Mairel knew. Yet it was so far from their reach at the current time; they had not attempted to overtake it. The strategy had been to start at the center, Juris, and work their way outward as they gained power. They’d spread this way like a virus, thwarting any attempt by those who chose to rebel to gain back a captured planet. So far, the strategy had worked well.
“I’m aware of Quarros, Captain. It’s quite the distance even from where we are now. Are you suggesting we travel all that way, use the Empire’s resources and hope that this nebulous display is Heir Elof! I’d sooner execute you here and be on my way than waste the resources.”
“My Heiress, I—”
“Save it! You have failed me this time. You fail again, there will be no mercy.”
Captain Lang shut his mouth without a response. The other crew had fallen silent, staring at the spectacle of Mairel Elof flexing her power. They knew what she was capable of accomplishing. They’d heard the stories—some true, some exaggerated and others fabricated. Regardless, her infamy struck fear, as she wanted.
Without another word, she twisted her position toward the bridge entrance. The flap of her robe twirled with the movement before settling down on her backside. She exited the bridge, frustrated that the captain had embarrassed her in that way. Did he genuinely believe he had found Heir Elof? Possible. But for him to have such shaky evidence of where he existed, it was foolish of him. He knew the consequences of this quest. Anything short of concrete evidence should not be brought to her.
The entire Empire was aware of it. They knew she had one purpose and goal.
She reached her cabin, entered the room and immediately switched all forms of communication to a setting that would not disturb her. She changed her attire to what she wore previously and rested on the long sofa in her room. She lay there, staring up at the ceiling.
What if it was him? What if I’m the one overreacting?
No. She wasn’t overreacting. The Empire required all citizens to show respect and obedience; military personnel even more so. Which would mean, even under uncertainty, Captain Lang knew to bring crucial information forward if that uncertainty leaned in the wanted direction. Perhaps he did display respect and obedience after all.
Something lingered and swirled around Mairel’s mind. The blurred image of that man could be anyone, but certain aspects of the image resembled Heir Elof. If she chose to disregard it, she would never know if it indeed was him. Was it better to waste the fleet’s resources on a possibility and catch Heir Elof than it was to avoid it and never find him at all?
She sat up from her reclined position and debated how she should feel. It was then that something caught her eye, distracting her from the thoughts her mind refused to allow exit. Along the far side of her room, placed on a shelf that hung at the midpoint of the wall, a pyramid-shaped artifact she had discovered six months earlier glowed its crimson shine.
It had done that on a few occasions since she discovered it. Each time it happened, there seemed to be a purpose. The first time it was rather obvious.
She had been on another ship of the fleet; with another captain and another crew. The amount of hopping she did from ship to ship, she could not recall which captain and crew, but it was of no consequence.
What was of consequence was the discovery made that day.
While patrolling a sector within Juris’s solar system, Mairel sat in a chair on the bridge typically reserved for the captain. He had wisely allowed her to observe things in the seat, not even objecting once to her proposal to use it.
That is obedience Mairel thought. Showing such character, she thought she should recall the captain’s name and face. Yet, nothing came to mind. She could only hope the report she sent in at the end of the observation expressed how well he accomplished his task.
Someone on the bridge called out, “Captain, unidentified object appears to be passing our trajectory. It may hit us.”
“Moment until impact?” the captain asked.
“Any minute, sir. Our sensors only now picked it up. It appears to be quite small. I’m surprised the sensors are reading it at all.”
“Any ships in the vicinity? Is it a weapon?
“Nothing on the readings.”
“Can you bring it up on screen?”
The captain stepped over to a viewing monitor and watched the screen. Intrigued, Mairel stood from the captain’s chair and joined the captain. The screen was awash with pinpoints of stars and blackness. Whatever the sensors picked up had yet to be close enough for the naked eye to see.
“There!” the captain said. He pointed at a spot on the screen.
Mairel focused her eyes more to see what he saw. For a moment, she saw nothing. But then, one of the pinpoints of light moved, shifting off-angle some and the dot representing it enlarging ever so slightly.
“Can we shoot it or avoid it?”
“Too small for our weapons,” someone from the crew yelled. “Course change is possible but would be too slow to avoid it.”
“Let’s try anyway. Bring us about port side.”
“Sir, if we do that, it’s possible the object hits crucial ship systems. Without knowing if this is a weapon, we should avoid that at all costs.”
“Agreed. Where would it hit if we maintain our current heading?”
“Lower decks. Near the…”
“Near the what?”
“Heiress Mairel’s quarters.”
“What?” Mairel said in unison with the captain. “My quarters?”
Without saying another word, she turned to leave the bridge. Any other day, she would have stayed on the bridge and allowed the scenario to play out to its conclusion. But that day, she had chosen to leave her blade in her room while visiting the bridge. Since then, she made sure she wore it at her side at all times in public.
The captain was too late. If any permanent damage came to the ship and her room, something would most certainly happen to the blade.
She glided off the bridge with determination. She reached the elevator. Traveled down the few levels to the lower deck. Hurriedly ran the hallways until she arrived at her room.
She tapped a code on the wall, and the door slid upward with a hiss. She entered. At the time, she cared only about the blade. She never considered that whatever flew at them in space could kill her. She was grateful that never occurred. No doubt, the captain had the same relief. If she had died on his watch, most certainly, the Empress would have ordered a vicious execution for him.
In her room, hooked onto the wall, was the sheath and blade. She ran for it, grabbing it in her hand. She turned to run from her room. Before she could exit, something crashed through the window, causing all the ship’s atmosphere to escape into the vacuum of space.
The door to her room immediately closed, safely preventing the escape of atmosphere but trapping Mairel within the room. Breathing had already become difficult for her. Each room had emergency supplies for such an occasion. As the last of the atmosphere rushed out the opening, the whooshing of air and blowing of wind stopped. There was silence as she held her breath, moving toward the section of the room with the emergency breathing apparatus. The box hung on the wall. She reached for it, breaking it open and grabbed the device.
It was small and would give her the oxygen she needed. It would recycle the carbon dioxide expelled, pushing it back into the little tank that would convert the compounds to breathable air. As long as the power supply for it continued, she could breathe until rescue came.
Her eyes rested on something at the side of the room where the projectile broke through the window. It was a crimson glow. Slowly, she walked toward it. Her heart raced at the sight. She wondered if the light indicated the timing of an explosive about to ignite at any moment. A chill overcame her body, but she was uncertain if it was the adrenaline pumping through her or the cold of space entering the room.
Regardless, she approached the crimson glow. That was when she discovered the object. She admired its deliberate pyramid shape and the etched patterns on each side. While it appeared not to be a weapon, it was undoubtedly significant.
She picked it up and held it in her hand. It was light. It almost felt fragile. How it was undamaged from the impact with the ship, she was uncertain.
She snapped her head to the opening in her room, stepped toward the shattered window, pyramid object still in hand. Into the vastness of space she stared, wondering where the object could have come from.
It was then that she heard the crew attempting to open her cabin door. She quickly picked up a satchel in her room and threw her blade and the pyramid inside of it. It didn’t go without notice that the object no longer glowed but had turned to nearly a solid black.
The crew pried the door open, and she exited. Of course, a committee investigated the incident but found nothing other than the damage done to her room. Afterward, the ship was abuzz with speculation about what hit the ship and, as something did hit it, where did it go?
The captain wisely never asked Mairel a single word about the incident, other than asking if she was injured. He was probably too relieved that she was safe to worry about anything else.
That all occurred six months ago. Since then, Mairel had learned that this object was much more than something inanimate. It seemed to be alive. Even, she dare say, capable of communicating information to her. It had become a valuable part of her decision-making process. It had given her abilities, too, that she had yet to understand completely.
And so, her blade and the pyramid went with her wherever she traveled. She trusted it.
As it glowed yet again at that very moment, it had to be communicating to her. She pondered the possible discovery of Heir Elof. She considered it to be inaccurate and unreliable evidence.
Could the pyramid have lit up because it knows something? Could it be revealing to her that she should take the path to Quarros and finding Heir Elof?
The red glow intensified to almost a blinding radiance. That could only mean one possible thing! She had to trust it as she’d done before, but she hated that it meant confirming to the captain that his evidence was enough to merit an investigation, especially after the display on the bridge.
At times a person must swallow their pride, even if they were an heiress to an empire. This was not one of those times.
Mairel approached the communication console and opened a signal to the bridge. “Heiress Mairel to Captain Lang.”
A moment and the sheepish voice of the captain replied. “Yes, my Heiress.”
“I’ve decided to pursue your suggestion, after all. Resources won’t be wasted if we don’t find Heir Elof. Since the planet of Quarros has yet to come under the control of the Empire, this could be an opportunity to make that happen.”
“Yes, my Heiress. We’ll adjust course now.”
“I wish to be part of the search party, of course. Do not bother me until we arrive.”
“As you wish.”
The communication shut off. Satisfied and excited, Mairel considered contacting the Empress regarding the potential good news. But she was difficult to please. Word of finding Heir Elof may raise an eyebrow or both on her face but most likely for the wrong reasons. The attempt to gain control of Quarros would also fall on ears shut to the sound of victory because it went contrary to the Empress’s strategy.No. She’d make this decision herself. Hopefully, one way or another, it would lead to an outcome that would please the Empress and solidify her right to one day rule the Elof Empire.
See what happens next in chapter III. Kered Lumin!
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