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Founders chapter 1: The Jewel
We are the shadows lurking behind you, the insects hearing every word you speak. We are the whisper in your ear foretelling your demise. You rejected us, so we take what we want and follow our own rules. Your fear is our throne, and if you want to fight, we’ve been waiting to show you how strong we are. We don’t care what you call us.
We are Mueta, and we fear nothing.
—from Moshee, the first Mueta High Boss To the various royal houses of Knalz
Chapter 1: The Jewel
-SCRAPE-CRUNCH!- [Booted feet land on a gravel pathway alongside a wall of polished stone. Their owner, Myuliq, stands and quickly presses himself against the wall as a pair of guards walking along its top pass. The wall is only a story high. Another, higher one can be seen beyond it, and beyond that, the evening sky, the golden world of Tala dipping into darkness.]
Another guard: Identify yourself! [Aiming a shooter at Myuliq, the guard stands a body’s length in front of him on level ground, his uniform a long, formal jacket of thick rikor hide and metal plates strapped in place by many belts.]
[Myuliq turns invisible. The guards atop the wall return and peer over the side.]
Young Wall Guard: I don’t see anyone.
Older Wall Guard: Shoot anyway. Some of those halflings can disappear.
[Shooter fire erupts, but Myuliq has already ducked low, feet sweeping into the legs of the guard level with him, knocking the man down. As the ground guard falls over backward, Myuliq slips behind him, unable to maintain invisibility while moving so much. The trail of darters follows, and the ground guard serves as Myuliq’s shield, jerking with the impacts before falling limp.]
[Myliq flees, the wall guards vaulting to the ground and taking up pursuit.]
Older guard: We need backup in the inner palace, sector 2!
[Myuliq rounds a corner and discards the shield-guard’s heavy weight, sprinting faster. The path becomes a hallway, floor a mosaic of stones, vaulted ceiling high above.]
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Blia, where are you?!
Blia: [‘whispering’] Turn left.
Myuliq: [complying and dashing up a steeply inclined hallway, ‘whispering’] You didn’t answer my question.
Blia: [‘whispering’] Your question did not require answering. Jump.
[At the peak of the incline, Myuliq leaps, grabbing a rope hanging in the middle of this round space. A guard stands halfway between him and the parapet, eyes scanning beyond the largest wall. Myuliq’s legs lash out, crashing into the guard’s back.]
Myuliq: [thinking] This is a watchtower. And the rope…
[The watchman flies face-first against the parapet and is knocked out. The rope descends under Myuliq’s weight, and a bell thunders.] -CLONG-
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Whelping stars, Blia!! Nothing like telling them exactly where I am!
Blia: [‘whispering’] No, now all the guards believe the palace is under attack.
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] And this helps us how?!
Blia: [sighs, ‘whispering’] All who hear the alarm will rush to their stations. They will look for a threat to come from outside. They won’t expect an infiltrator to have rung the bell.
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] I’m going to take this one’s uniform.
[Myuliq takes the jacket from the unconscious watchman and throws it on over his dark clothes, shoving the metal-and-feather helmet down on his own head. He leaves the chin strap undone and buckles the belts as he continues to run, inadvertently crisscrossing some of them.]
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Blia, how far to the treasury?
Blia: [‘whispering’] I don’t think it’s an actual treasure we’re looking for.
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Pyah said whoever brings the High Boss the blue jewel hidden in this palace will have a wish granted.
Blia: [‘whispering’] Does Pyah ever say what he means?
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] As often as crap smells nice.
Blia: [‘whispering’] They called the queen Lady Sapphire. Perhaps it has something to do with her?
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Thank Pyah for being so specific. I hear the High Boss collects things to use in art. Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly what we bring as long as it’s a pretty enough blue to inspire and it’s from this palace. Eek!
[Sryts cover the floor ahead, slithering toward Myuliq, serpentine parasites. Their golden scales glitter in the twilight glow of Tala. Reversing, Myuliq fondles a latch, charges through, and slams the door behind him. He has entered a study, full shelves lining the walls, and a young man sits at a desk. The latter jumps to his feet, fear eking.]
Room’s occupant: Don’t let those sryts in here! You…[warily, curiously] you are not a guard. [His eyes glow like cerulean sapphires set over a fire, his Knalcal birthmarks almost as brilliant.]
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Blia, I think I’ve found something that will work. [Myuliq sends a memory flash.]
Blia: [‘whispering’] He’s cute for a Knalcal.
Myuliq: [scoffing, ‘whispering’] For a Knalcal, right. [thinking] It’ll be difficult to carry all of him out of here, though.
[Silent, Myuliq advances, a kanaber slipping from his sleeve and snapping on in his hand. The blue-eyed boy backs up, and as Myuliq stabs, the boys catches his wrist. Myuliq twists, wrenching the boy’s arm behind his back and pinning him on the stone floor. The kanaber disintegrates, pieces floating off like dust.]
Myuliq: [shocked] You’re Magni! That’s why you’re afraid of the sryts.
Blue-eyes: And you’re a disgusting gkapu! Get off me!
Myuliq: [still sitting on him] You’re in no position to make demands, Knalcal. What clues did your Truth give you for the Wish Quest?
[Behind Myuliq, the kanaber reforms like grains of sand filling a mold. |Sensing| this, Myuliq ducks and rolls aside. Completed, the knife-like weapon’s laser blade snaps on and follows him.
[Back slamming against the shelving, Myuliq catches the kanaber, grip tight, laser blade’s curved tip a hairsbreadth from impaling his chest. The kanaber continues to push, like a nail constantly feeling the urging of a hammer. Myuliq’s ‘netics |rip| at it, but the weapon is |repaired| faster than he can |demolish| it.]
Myuliq: [strained] Like I’ll let…you win…that easy! The High Boss will…
[The sapphire-eyed Knalcal pauses, hand still outstretched, but he no longer |pushes| on the kanaber.]
Blue-eyes: You are Mueta?
Myuliq: Obvious, Mush-for-brains.
[The Knalcal |pulls| the kanaber back, dragging Myuliq forward a stumbling step before the Mueta lets go. Blade deactivated, the sleeping knife lands on the Knalcal’s open palms, and in a half bow, he offers it to Myuliq.]
Blue-eyes: I’ll go with you.
Myuliq: Um... [Myuliq takes the weapon, sliding it back into his right sleeve, thinking] He’s really Talented, but he’s not marked in any way? [Aloud] Care to properly introduce yourself?
Blue-eyes: [grins] Difficult, seeing as I have no name and no title.
Myuliq: Why are you in Parsimy Palace?
Blue-eyes: [shrugs] I was born here. I’ve never been beyond the main wall.
Myuliq: [disbelieving, skeptical] Knalcal officials kill any Magni they catch.
Blue-eyes: Apparently not one born to the Knalcal queen.
Myuliq: You’re a prince then?
Blue-eyes: From a certain point of view.
Myuliq: And you want me to kidnap you?
Blue-eyes: That’s not why you came here?
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Blia, the blue-eyed idiot is a Knalcal prince who wants me to kidnap him.
Blia: [‘whispering’] I see multiple opportunities in that. Suppress your rebellious side and do as he requests.
Blue-eyes: [backing away, hesitation a haze surrounding him] If you were here for some other mission, I don’t think-
[With a spinning kick, Myuliq’s boot strikes the Knalcal’s temple. Before he can fall to the ground unconscious, Myuliq catches him, flings him over his shoulder, and exits through the window, dropping into a garden courtyard.]
[A patrol rounds the corner and marches through an archway directly in front of the Mueta, immediately taking aim.]
Myuliq: [shouting, panic edging his voice] Sryts got ahold of the prince!
Patrol Leader: Hurry and get him to the infirmary!
[The patrol clears a path and Myuliq passes them under the arch, disappearing around the corner.]
Myuliq: [thinking] As if I have any idea where the infirmary is.
Continued in Chapter 2: The Wishver the floor ahead, slithering toward Myuliq, serpentine parasites. Their golden scales glitter in the twilight glow of Tala. Reversing, Myuliq fondles a latch, charges through, and slams the door behind him. He has entered a study, full shelves lining the walls, and a young man sits at a desk. The latter jumps to his feet, fear eking.]
Myuliq: [thinking] As if