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, I. Kyd Lumin and II. Mairel Elof. Below is the next chapter "III. Kered Lumin".
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III. Kered Lumin
In another solar system, distant from Juris, a planet hung in space, revolving around a single star. Though the planet’s path caused this star to shine as a bright sun during the daylight hours, another distant star loomed large enough and low at the horizon. Of course, the central star dominated the sky, while the other—a much smaller burning disc—proved to complement the other, dropping below the horizon well before night fell each day.
It was on this planet of Hupoge that Kered Lumin had lived nearly all of her life, specifically in the village of Mankato. For a brief moment, she had lived on Juris until her early teenage years. She and her parents had been granted permission to leave Juris—more given an order actually—and she had since lived among her native people.
You would think such a life would be pleasant and enjoyable. If not for the Elof Empire controlling their planet, forcing the Hupogeans to work as slaves to do the bidding of those with power, perhaps life could be enjoyable.
One day, this has to end Kered thought.
Anymore, being on the surface of Hupoge was due only to the Empire’s demand. Kered had finished her labor for the day without a lashing, without someone demeaning her, but not without being treated as if she were invisible and non-existent. And certainly not without witnessing others treated in all those ways and more throughout the day.
For a moment, the view of the two suns in the sky—the non-dominant one nearly disappeared from view, while the one crucial to the Hupogean existence dropped below the horizon—brought on a tranquil peace at the uptop of Mankato. It was as if things were better than they were. As if the Hupogeans were their own people.
Kered turned away from the view and joined the hundreds of others who now entered the shaft to the underground labyrinths where the Hupogeans lived. For centuries, they had made tunnels and livable caves below the surface of the planet. These had been sacred places for her people, traveled and viewed in appreciation of those who came before.
With the Elof Empire taking control of the planet, the people-peaceful in nature-were forced to live underground. The Hupogeans built entire cities, and life now existed there for them all.
Kered longed to live in the time where they were a free people on Hupoge, when the Empire enslaved none of them. She also thought of those taken from Hupoge and enslaved on Juris—her parents included, who, fortunately (or perhaps not), were allowed to return to the home planet in their later years.
The elevator could hold a large number of Hupogeans, and so Kered managed to board it without a problem. The large, rusted door closed, and it descended to the depths below. Most everyone stayed silent with a stray conversation here or there as the descent took place.
Kered glanced around for familiar faces—she was taller than most Hupogeans—but saw none. Next to her, a man lost his footing as the elevator shook in its descent, and he bumped into her. At first, he said nothing of it. But then his eyes met hers.
“I’m sorry, Kered.”
“Nothing to be sorry for.”
She recalled the face of the man but not the name. He knew her, of course. Everyone knew her: Older sister to Kyd Lumin-the one man brave enough to stand up to the Elof Empire and protect a persecuted brother. For Kyd’s actions, everyone respected Kered. She did nothing to encourage Kyd’s actions, and thus, had no reason to be treated with the accolades and respect she received.
The elevator reached the downbottom, and the door lifted to reveal the active village. Had someone arrived blindfolded to the location, they’d be surprised to learn they were underground. The ceiling reached higher than could be seen due to all the lights placed throughout, making it appear as if the nighttime sky was above. People milled about, traveling to their homes made within the dirt or even stopping at merchants who sold wares.
Down here, there was a semblance of normality. Life as it must have once been for all Hupogean people on the surface.
Kered stepped from the elevator, head bent upward as she admired the large masses of muddy rock and stone that levitated in the air. These floating miracles led to the other levels of the underground village. They’re held together by red lasers meant for anti-gravitational use instead of as a weapon—though if your hand passed through one, it would surely cut it off with a cauterized wound.
These lasers also protected the outer walls of the underground village from the gantworm crashing through and destroying everything. It’s a writhing underground dwelling beast, nocturnal in nature and sensitive to the slightest of vibrations from the uptop, which it will sometimes breach for a tasty morsel.
Fortunately, Kered’s home was not far from the elevator. Mankato’s downbottom dwellers had granted Kered and her parents what was considered the best location and best home. Why did they do this? Again, for the fact that Kyd Lumin was their son and brother.
She never asked for the adulation she received for her brother’s heroic act. But she did understand why the people regarded her as the one who could bring them freedom from the Empire.
As if on cue with her thoughts, Taiker Q’Darra blocked Kered’s path home. She was a new recruit to the revolt. Young, bubbly, full of hope. Kered had some of that still, but as each day, month and year passed, the eagerness waned.
“Kered!” Taiker said. “So glad I found you. We have an emergency meeting. Something’s happened.”
This would be an unusual circumstance that a new recruit would track her down. Usually, Kered or others that had authority among the group would call the meeting. They would do it in a less public setting. And privately!
“What is it?”
“Just come,” Taiker said.
No respect for authority. Taking charge despite her low stature in the group. Taiker would make a great leader for them all one day.
Kered followed Taiker to the designated meeting location, which changed regularly to ensure any of the stationed guards within the village never became aware of the revolt’s existence. They mingled through crowds of young and old alike; bumping and jostling into others who ignored their movement. Taiker moved quickly, putting a few individuals between them. Being she was shorter than most people, Taiker blended into the crowd and Kered nearly lost her.
There! The crowd had dispersed and Taiker stood in the opening of ground dirt, waiting for Kered. She appeared frustrated with Kered’s inability to keep pace. The girl had much to learn in the way of patience.
Cut into the rust brown rock and dirt a single frilled drape taller than Kered covered an opening. Taiker pulled it aside, holding it back so Kered could enter. Instead of following behind her, Taiker kept watch outside to make sure no Empire guards happened upon the meeting.
Inside the room, a crowd of at least thirty had assembled. Hupogeans young and old, male and female, congregated together. While the revolt consisted of more than these ones, this was the typical core group that met for decisions on their next steps toward freedom. They would disperse after each meeting and relay the events to others. All this done in secret, and as far as anyone knew, the Elof Empire had yet to discover a revolt was in the making.
Kered moved through the crowd, and they quickly spread apart to allow her passage to the front. She was curious as to why this meeting would be called without her knowledge. Stepping up to the makeshift platform, three other individuals stood there—Ziq Heeta, a big burly man with muscular definition that stretched his garments to the max—Lona O’di, a petite but strong woman slightly younger than Kered—and Ondel Peda, frail in frame but more than compensated in brain ability.
Kered leaned into Ondel who stood at her side and said, “What’s going on? Why wasn’t I informed ahead of time about the meeting?”
“We have an opportunity,” Ondel said in his squeaky voice. “Ziq wanted to present it now so no time was wasted.”
Ziq tended to be somewhat hot on overreaction, so Kered wasn’t surprised at all to hear that. They’d had a number of at odd conversations since the beginning of forming the revolt. It didn’t help that the two of them were once in a relationship either.
“Attention! Attention!” Ziq called out over the chatter of the group waiting for the meeting to begin. The crowd hushed almost immediately but not quick enough. “Attention!”
That did it.
“We’ve received communication from the cell on Juris,” Ziq began. Kered found herself as attentive as the rest of the audience given her ignorance of whatever intelligence they discovered. “They have been able to reach out to a majority of our people. Most are on board. As you can imagine, they’re scared.”
He had to be referring to what they had discussed for months now. For fear the others in the room and the revolt at large may bubble over with unbridled hope, they had kept their plan between a few of them on Hupoge and others in an investigative cell on Juris.
“Scared of what?” someone in the crowd called out. “What are you proposing?”
“It was Kered’s plan from the start,” Ziq said. “I’ll let her tell you.” He nodded in Kered’s direction giving her the attention. This was more than him humbly giving her the floor. Ziq knew as well as anyone that her words held the weight of a thousand confident soldiers, her being the sister of Kyd Lumin.
Kered may not know what news was received from the cell, but she knew the plan inside and out. Of course, allowing the crowd knowledge of the former was unneeded and doing so would only stand to cause them to question the plan in the first place. She stepped forward and spoke.
“Our plan is the first stage of the active revolt. Too long it has been passive. Planning. We need something to inspire. As you know, some are satisfied with the current situation. If they don’t rebel, they are typically treated kindly, though still viewed as dirt. But perhaps, if we are able to incite others to want freedom, we could change that view.”
Kered sucked in a deep breath. She expelled the air so quickly through her excitement to finally relay the plan and the reasoning behind it, her lungs felt as if they would collapse.
“As you know, on Juris, many of our people are enslaved, particularly in the capital of Juris City. The capital where Kyd Lumin successfully saved one of our own from certain death at the hands of the Empire.” Kered was no stranger to invoking the story of Kyd’s heroism. That small act alone had led to the beginning of the revolt’s creation. “It is here that we free all our brothers and sisters. We help them escape.”
Even as she said the words, the realization that a spoken plan may actually come true caused her to become euphoric. All these years of contemplating a revolt. Figuring out what would work. And now—if Ziq’s words proved accurate—a chance to make it reality.
“How do you propose we do that? Take the next imperial ship to Juris, hop off, ask for any Hupogeans that want to go back to their home world get on the ship and head back?” another person called out sarcastically. A few in the crowd laughed.
“Exactly,” Ondel said. “We’ve used a coded transmission disguised over the imperial channels that feed directly to our people. They have received the information for the plan. The vast majority have agreed and now they are waiting for our signal.”
“And the ship?” Kered found herself asking. Blaster bolt! Would the crowd wonder at her question and lose confidence? All the aspects of the plan had gone through obviously, but she had no idea. She planned to talk to Ziq quite harshly when the meeting was complete.
Ziq spoke next. “We have a few individuals stationed within the Empire’s hangar bays at the uptop. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been doing their duties, performing their grunt work all the while keeping keen attention with eyes and ears for access codes and such. They’ve successfully retrieved the information we need to commandeer a ship that will allow us to gather up a thousand, maybe even more.”
There was some grumbling amongst the crowd. It came as no surprise to Kered. To finally move ahead against the one force that kept you living in a state of fear and dread would cause trepidation. The thickness of doubt in the air nearly made it difficult to breathe.
“This’ll work,” Ondel said. “They don’t expect it so they won’t be able to resist it. The psychology of intelligent beings dictates their overconfidence leads to failure and then they compensate. We have the fact of surprise on our side.”
“But how do we know it’ll work?” the same voice of doubt shouted from the crowd. “Stealing an imperial ship! It’s crazier than a clinkin’ robo without wiring.”
“Because….” Lona said. But she stopped there.
The four of them glanced to each other. Clearly, they had lacked relaying the confidence in the mission the four of them possessed. True, there were thoughts of doubt, but all missions would fail if one succumbed to the dominant thought of failure.
“Because why?” the doubting voice replied.
“Because we have Kered Lumin,” Ziq sounded with a booming shake. Kered hated that Ziq rested the fate of the mission on her shoulders. But it was to be expected to give hope and optimism. “More importantly, her brother will be there to help us!”
She hated that he said this completely.
To the words, the crowd cheered with an electric roar. Sounds of agreement thrust upward and all in attendance nodded to each other in approval of the news. In the celebration, some even danced in glee kicking their legs out and in to an unheard beat that soon became heard with the clap of hands in a regular pattern.
While the crowd rejoiced, Kered stepped up to Ziq, anger and frustration filled her soul in a bitter approach. “How dare you! You can’t promise something like that. You know I have limited contact with my brother. He’s a fugitive.” She clenched her right fist. How she’d love to land it square on his bulging jaw.
“Ker, what was I supposed to do? You saw their reaction. Now we have them on our side. Besides,” he leaned in close, lowering his voice as if the celebrating crowd could hear him to begin with, “they don’t have to see him. They just have to believe he’s helping. We scatter a few reports about of him being seen and all will be well.”
“I oughtta strip you of any dignity and respect these people give you. You can’t invoke the name of my brother.”
Ziq smiled that frustrating, confident smile that Kered hated. “Oh, Ker. Don’t even think that is true for a moment. The people have taken the actions of your brother and embellished them in their minds now for years. He’s become a legend to them. Legends are inspirations. Legends lead victories long after their deaths.”
Kered turned away. Unfortunately, he was correct. Blaster bolt! She hated when that was the case. The reaction of the crowd proved him right. The mere thought of Kyd Lumin helping them seemed to claim victory in their minds. Still, she was a part of the lie now. She couldn’t be a part of that. If the people found out, how would that affect their morale? What would they think of her?
Would the plan even work? Who was to say that—
The sight of Taiker at the meeting entrance snapped Kered from her thoughts and questioning the mission’s success. Taiker stood waving her hand, signaling that an Empire guard approached. With the noise of the crowd and celebration, all ignored her, including Ziq, Lona and Ondel.
“Everyone!” Kered yelled out. “Stop.” She clapped her hands but that was no use, she joined in their celebration with that action. What could she do?
A high pitch burst hit the area accompanied by the cracking of rock and dust settling to the ground. The crowd immediately stopped celebrating and turned their attention to the sound.
There, standing at the entrance, adorned in an ominous dark outfit, angled and cut to fit the form of the man within perfectly, with a cape in matching color flowing from the neck, stood an imperial guard.
“What is this racket in here?” the guard yelled out when all had given him attention.
Nobody responded. And why should they? Almost any response was the wrong response in situations like this. Any opportunity to abuse their power and enforce the sovereignty of the Empire was something to use to the full advantage. Why would an exception be made in this case?
The guard moved toward the crowd, his blaster in hand and pointed forward. “I’ll ask again. What is happening here? Who’s in charge?”
Cowering back, the crowd separated, allowing the guard to pass through. If nobody responded, things would get worse than needed.
Kered stepped forward and yelled out, “I am. We’re just a few friends come together to relieve our stress after a day of hard labor.”
The crowd separated at the other end, now allowing Kered passage and creating a clear path from one end of the room to the other. If there was a thick air of doubt earlier when all questioned the plan, there was now a thick air of tension surrounding everyone. No doubt, this guard knew that Kered was the sister of Kyd Lumin. There was a risk of harm coming to her for that reason alone.
“Ahh,” the guard said. “Kered Lumin. You organize this party, then? You know there are regulations on gatherings as large as these.”
She held her head up high and refused to respond. There were regulations as he spoke of. Gatherings could exceed no more than ten individuals. The Empire may not suspect any organized revolt taking place, but it didn’t mean they were ignorant to the fact it could happen. Many laws were positioned to quell any attempt of a rebellion forming.
“I’ll repeat myself again! Did you organize this party?”
She could lie and say yes. She could tell the truth and say no. But why should she give him the satisfaction of a direct answer at all?
“If you’re asking permission to join our party, I’d imagine most would say you’re not welcome here,” Kered replied.
The guard and Kered were now only an arm’s length from each other. Kered’s reply had garnered a few chuckles from the nervous crowd that surrounded them. Kered understood the potential consequence of her action and the guard’s face told her one was coming. He bit at his bottom lip and glanced from side to side at the reaction to Kered’s words.
Without warning, he lifted his blaster high and swung it forward in a rapid attack. The blaster caught Kered on the cheek. She suffered through the pain, immediately the skin along her high cheekbone split and blood oozed down her face. She fell to the dirt and had the presence of mind to keep a watchful eye on the guard who now raised the blaster higher into the air, readying another blow.
It was then that Ziq stepped forward in front of Kered. Using his monstrous muscular ability, he grabbed the arm of the guard, stopping another strike from hitting Kered. With grunts and spits, Ziq now fought the guard, struggling to keep the arm holding the blaster from breaking free.
Surprisingly, though having a lot less mass, the guard overpowered Ziq, swinging his free fist and making contact with his jaw. When that failed to loosen Ziq’s grip on the other man’s arm, the guard flurried more punches into his ribs.
The crowd had now separated even farther, with most taking advantage of the situation and running from the room. Only a few stragglers remained. Though Kered would have preferred the others helped—simple math says thirty can overpower one—she was glad they had escaped any possibility of danger. Besides, reality math says that a single blaster bolt can overpower thirty.
The two struggled now in each other’s grip. Kered fought to stand. Lona and Ondel had stepped in closer. Perhaps if Kered could focus her eyes and ready her body, the three of them could help Ziq overpower the guard completely.
Ziq kicked out his right leg, hitting the guard in the knee. With this action, the guard yelled out in pain and reached down to his leg with the free arm. Ziq took advantage of this turn of events, bringing a fist to the guard’s face.
Despite all of this, the guard had yet to drop the blaster, but he had dropped to his knees, crying out in pain as he rested on the one Ziq surely must have broken. With one last attempt, Ziq lifted his knee upward, striking the guard in the jaw. That was enough to loosen the guard’s grip and Ziq ripped the blaster from his hands.
Ziq held the blaster with it pointed at the guard. What did he expect to do now? What could Kered, Lona and Ondel do? This was a bad situation and getting out of it now would be near impossible. Surely Ziq didn’t intend to shoot the guard? If he did that, would the other three be considered accomplices to the action?
The high pitch squeal of the blaster shot echoed within the room. Kered couldn’t believe it. He did it. He shot the guard. He killed him!
But wait! Ziq now fell to his knees and to the ground. He moved slowly without much sound. He tilted to the side falling over and twisting slightly with the movement, landing flat on his back.
There, in the middle of his chest, was the scorched markings of a blaster shot. His face seemed stuck in a position of surprise. Nothing moved as he laid there perfectly still.
Kered glanced upward to see two more guards of the Empire had entered the room. Each had a blaster at the ready. Though it seemed forever, mere seconds had passed and Kered realized what had happened. They had shot Ziq. Killed him!
A rush of emotions traveled through her. Sadness. Anger. She jumped to Ziq’s side as the guards approached. “Ziq,” she called. “Ziq.” She wanted nothing more than for him to respond and say he was unhurt. That the blaster shot was only a stun shot.
But Ziq laid their lifeless. Here one second. Gone the next. A strong and powerful man dead without a moment of struggle.
Kered held back tears she wanted to expel. She also held back anger in retaliating against the guards that were now upon the three of them. The rest of the room had emptied.
“What happened here?” the one guard asked.
“I’ll tell you what happened,” Kered said. “You killed my friend. You—”
“There was a struggle,” Lona said. Perhaps it was good she interrupted. The next words Kered planned to use may have earned her a blaster bolt to the chest, too. “A disagreement. He jumped forward and attacked the guard. Who knows how out of control it would have gotten had you not shown up?”
What is she doing? This was not Ziq’s fault. But Kered knew what she was doing in reality. It was the correct response that would prevent them from being locked up and interrogated about the gathering they had. It was the way to make sure they could still go through with their plan to free their people on Juris.
Kered stood with determination to confirm Lona’s story despite the feeling of being a traitor to her people it created in her. Ziq would understand. He would have done the same thing. Any other response could result in everything being ruined.
“She’s right,” Kered said. The words tasted disgusting on her tongue. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said what I did to your man.” She motioned her head toward the unconscious guard. “But Ziq never should’ve tried to stop the punishment I deserved.” She wanted to vomit.
Ondel remained quiet. Not a surprise at all. The brains of an operation carried little brawn and with it, little courage to act in the face of a physical threat.
“Is this what happened?” the guard said with his eyes on Ondel.
“Y-y-yes.” Ondel’s eyes met with Lona’s and Kered’s. “Exactly. He … I thought he was going to kill the guard.”
“Very well,” the guard responded. He ordered the other with him. “Call in medics to remove the body and help our man here.” He bent down to the fallen guard. “You three may leave. But if he gives us a story any different than the one you just gave us, we’ll be in touch. Is that clear, Kered Lumin?”
The guard said her name with such disgust. She understood why. They all knew her. They all knew what her brother did. They hated her.
“Perfectly,” Kered said.
The three of them left the room where only moments before a celebrating crowd looked forward to the first attempt at revolting against the Empire’s rule. And it ended with a death. Would they be able to successfully carry out the mission?
Kered was uncertain. A lot of things had to fall into place. And now, without Ziq to assist, the situation would be more difficult. Not only because his expertise was lacking but because word of his death would certainly affect the morale of those who had chosen to help.
Even now that gathered crowd would be relaying the plans of the mission to other Hupogeans, not yet knowing of Ziq’s death. They would also be giving those ones they told hope as they revealed that Kyd Lumin would be joining the revolt.
Kered felt she had no other choice. She cursed Ziq for those words he had spoken only minutes before his death. If they were going to find any success and support from the people, she had to find a way to convince her brother to help with the mission.Of all the things that had to fall in place for the mission to succeed, she couldn’t help but feel doing that would be the most difficult part.
Will Kyd help the revolt? Or will he choose to keep his family safe? Find out by ordering your copy today at: