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Founders chapter 2: The Wish
One day the Mueta will steal you, my son, and you must let them.
—Queen Frasta Lejan of Knalz
Chapter 2: The Wish
[The blue-eyed Knalcal prince remains unconscious, limply spilling onto Blia’s lap as she bandages his head. They sit on a bench just outside the High Boss’ receiving room, Myuliq slouched on the other side of the Knalcal. The hall is wide and tall with smooth stone walls, slate shot through with cobalt lightning.]
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Why address his wounds, Blia? Didn’t we bring him here to be used in the High Boss’ art? He’ll probably be skinned. It’d be kinder for us to kill him now.
Blia: [gentle fingers finish sealing the bandage and release the Knalcal’s unruly, indigo hair to fall over it, ‘whispering’] And if the High Boss wants him alive?
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Then he’s almost pitiable. [Myuliq’s thumb pushes the Knalcal’s right eye open.] He does seem kind of special, though. I think he’s a true-talent. [Myuliq pulls his hand back and crosses his arms.]
Blia: [‘whispering’] You shouldn’t touch a Knalcal so casually. He would take offense if he were awake.
Myuliq: [rolling his eyes, ‘whispering’] Says the one who has him sprawled across her lap.
Blia: [‘whispering’] I don’t mind. He’s cute. Why do you believe he’s true-talent?
Myuliq: [hand stroking chin in thought, ‘whispering’] He disintegrated a kanaber to steal it from my influence, then reassembled it to catch me from behind. It would take me a week to do something like that.
Blia: [‘whispering’] If you managed it at all.
Myuliq: [grimaces and stands, ‘whispering’] Pyah’s coming. Look essential.
[Myuliq stands and, from the third in the column of pouches strapped to his right hip and thigh, pulls out a slender comb. He rakes it through his pale, gelled hair in an attempt to slick down rebellious strands, but the sideways spikes immediately rise again.]
[An elongated shadow slithers beyond the corner of the hallway, sliding up on the wall as its master, Pyah, steps into sight. Eerily mismatched eyes—right one electrum speckled with obsidian, left an onyx orb, both sclera tinged with indigo—leap past Myuliq and pounce on the unconscious Knalcal. Pyah grins, four crimson lines slashed across his face adding to the wild sharpness of it.]
Pyah: [with an exaggerated nod] Spectacular job, completing the High Boss’ Quest.
Myuliq: I was right, then? The jewel you mentioned was anything strikingly blue to inspire the High Boss’ art?
Pyah: Conspiracies centuries in the making could be considered art, I guess. By blue jewel, I meant him specifically.
Myuliq: No one else was given such a cryptic clue, were they?
Pyah: [shrugs] I had to level the play some. You are an extraordinary pawn, Pooffhead.
[Myuliq growls, hand rising to smooth down his obstinate locks, but he catches himself, fingers curling into a fist forced back to his side.]
Myuliq: Why are you so late anyway? I called you over a ruah ago.
Pyah: I’m very busy.
Myuliq: That doesn’t answer the question.
Pyah: [glaring] Picky. How about: I am eternally engaged in the biddings of my fancy, which today took me someplace of which you’ve never heard, but it seems I have arrived in plenty of time. The High Boss has yet to see you?
Myuliq: You’re a Truth. Your drugged-up mind won’t let you lie or stay quiet when asked a direct question, but you sure do expend a lot of effort to never say anything useful.
Pyah: That is a freedom I shall never let be taken from me.
[Pyah performs a shallow Knalcal bow—forearms and shins forming a pair of X’s as he bends slightly at the waist—his mismatched eyes glittering.]
[Pyah walks away.]
Myuliq: [demanding] Where are you going?
Pyah: [without turning back] I am very busy, and waiting is boring besides. Scoop up that prince and follow me.
[Pyah barges into the High Boss’ receiving room, a tall, echoic space lined with doors. Strands of lights encased in glass crystals drip from the ceiling. Four lightly-armored sentries keep watch, one standing alongside every fifth door.]
[The nearest sentry attacks Pyah, luminous cyan ju’wack swinging. Pyah ducks under the slash, and with a feral smile, catches the sentry’s wrist, foot sweeping into the watchman’s knees. The sentry’s back hits the wall, the glowing tendrils of his own ju’wack pressed to his throat.]
Pyah: It’s a good thing one’s own ju’wack won’t cut you, huh.
High Boss: Hold.
[The other three sentries rushing toward Pyah halt.]
Pyah: [Turning to look at the High Boss] Good day, Auntie.
[High Boss Lurintha Moshee frowns, a slight figure on a wide, oblong platform in the room’s center, ringed by a plethora of shallow steps. The pale lavender bangs cascading from her perfect bun wave in the room’s chilling breeze, but she stands motionless.]
Myuliq: [whispering] One of these days she’ll kill him for calling her that.
Blia: [whispering] He is her nephew.
Myuliq: [whispering] But Knalcals only use such titles for what they can get out of it.
Lurintha: Do you bring me something of interest, Pyah? Or have you only come to torment my watchmen? It is vexing to have to replace them, almost as vexing as discovering their incompetence. [The High Boss flicks her fingers, and Pyah releases his captive. The sentry bows deeply and leaves.]
Pyah: [Also bowing but still a little on the shallow side] Today I come bearing treasure, Auntie. [Pyah gestures toward Myuliq, Blia, and the unconscious Knalcal strewn between them. They step into the room.]
Lurintha: Define treasure.
Pyah: [grinning] I bring you the Betrayer’s son.
Lurintha: [violet eyes widening briefly] And why would I want him?
Pyah: Any number of reasons. [Pyah’s finger’s tangle in the unconscious Knalcal’s hair and lift his head so the light illuminates his face.] His father was bred to advance our interests and instead sought to destroy us. The Betrayer fell into the claws of Death before we caught him, but if the wrath of the Mueta must have someone to make an example of, here’s an heir for that.
[Lurintha descends the stairs, curious, calculating gaze scrutinizing the unconscious boy’s docile features.]
Lurintha: There are more sides to this tale. Tell me his mother is the Queen of Knalz.
Pyah: How observant of you, Auntie! [giggles] Yes, he is the product of the royal lines of both the north and the south, and like his paternal grandmother, he is true-talent.
Lurintha: You’ve tested him.
Pyah: When Heir Sashii learned of his existence years ago, she arranged for clandestine tutors to train him.
Lurintha: You propose we keep him, use him.
Pyah: He is yours. You may do whatever you like with him once you’ve doled out the reward.
Lurintha: Reward, Pyah? Your every breath is a reward.
Pyah: Before you were born, your grandfather-predecessor issued a quest to his Heirs. Blia, if you would…
[Blia produces a scroll from her shoulder bag. As she unfurls it, a three-dimensional image is displayed above metallic cloth.]
Lurintha: [reading aloud] Deliver the royal Magni to the High Boss and be granted your greatest desire.
Pyah: The quest has gone uncompleted…until now.
Lurintha: [scoffs] King Injae Setpuar is dead. You’ve brought me a different person.
Pyah: The royal Magni, as the quests specifies, is here before you, the High Boss, helpless and subject to your will.
Lurintha: The quest was also only extended to Heirs, of which you are not.
Pyah: Yet as your daughter, Sashii is. I am only her messenger.
Lurintha: And what is Sashii’s greatest desire?
Pyah: [chuckles] Something you will not grant and she would feel like a cheater if you did. She only requests she be allowed to be involved in this royal Magni’s future, and she cedes the right to have a wish granted to Hrausq Myuliq, who bravely stood with her when her life was in danger.
Lurintha: What does Hrausq Myuliq wish?
Myuliq: Serving as Heir Sashii’s shield, one of my hrausq members was killed, a Lettaplexian named Chun. We ask she be interred here in Moshee Tower, within the Hall of Heroes.
Lurintha: The remains of no Lettaplexian have ever entered the Hall of Heroes. Those there have legendary names one of such a lowly race could not hope to attain.
Myuliq: There are Tala in the Hall of Heroes.
Lurintha: Only two, both true-talent and amaracs of High Bosses. No, your Chun would seem out of place, her story too short to stand alongside her would-be neighbors.
Myuliq: [head bowed] I understand, but the quest did say we could ask for anything. What we’ve asked is just a little thing to you.
Lurintha: Defaming the Hall of Heroes? No, mutt of many worlds. [Myuliq stiffens.] But here is my compromise. Since he so rashly worded his quest to allow for this quandary, my grandfather will share his eternal resting place. Your Chun will be lain alongside him in the Hall of High Bosses.
Myuliq: [eyes widening, ‘whispering’] We aren’t allowed in there. We won’t be able to see if that’s really where they put her or check back to make sure they don’t move her.
Blia: [‘whispering’] Chun is beyond harm now. What matters is where we believe her to be, and the separating restriction will serve Sessin well.
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] Sessin is Sessin, though. I wouldn’t put it past her to sneak into that mausoleum and take up residence at her amarac’s feet and get us all in serious trouble.
Blia: [‘whispering’] Not if we explain it properly to her. This is an honor beyond what even Sessin could hope to ask for. She must not risk it by inconveniencing those with the power to revoke it.
Myuliq: Thank you, High Boss. Your solution is beyond our dreams.
Lurintha: [with a gentle chuckle] I should hope so. Now, [nodding sharply at the unconscious Knalcal] awaken this prince.
Myuliq: I am not a medic, High Boss.
Lurintha: Mutt, are your pithy Talents uncapable of accomplishing what I request?
Myuliq: He was kicked in the head and…
Lurintha: Yes or no.
Myuliq: [jaw clenched] I cannot awaken him, High Boss.
Pyah: [pulling a slender cylinder from a pocket in his loose, red, white-striped sleeve and showing it to the High Boss] Merely out of curiosity, what do you intend for the boy?
Lurintha: If that is a drug to awaken him, administer it, Pyah.
Pyah: [seting a flat end of the cylinder against the prince’s neck and flicking a thumb along its length to trigger it] Ignoring my question, Auntie?
[The prince gasps, kicking out blindly. Lurintha leans slightly to the left, avoiding the blow. The prince spins out of Myuliq’s loose hold, sinking into a fighting stance, brilliant blue eyes sweeping those surrounding him. When none move, he straightens, a little shaky, confusion twisting his features.]
Prince: More Mueta?
Pyah: Welcome to Moshee Spire, Princeling, our Capitol.
Prince: [gaze still hopping from person to person] And what do you want from me?
Lurintha: At this moment, to know what you want. What is your deepest wish?
Prince: To belong.
Lurintha: You could belong here, or… [Lurintha launches a kick at the Knalcal prince, wedge-heeled boot crashing into his chest and slamming him on the ground. Her toes remain on his collarbone, sharp tips of a crimson ju’wack a hairsbreadth from his throat] …you could be treachery incarnate.
Pyah: The royal family hopes so. That’s why they’ve left him alive, intending he’ll destroy us from the inside.
Lurintha: Are their hopes valid, Princeling? Because it would be a simple thing to kill you.
[The prince swallows, but his gaze does not leave that of the High Boss, red light reflected eerily in his sapphire eyes and birthmarks.]
Prince: That weapon, I can’t influence it. Why does it have your life-signature?
Lurintha: This Aqkashi is a relic of Magni, and it recognizes me as its master. It will never harm me.
Prince: I am Magni, too. We are alike.
Lurintha: But are you as loyal? [stepping harder]
Prince: [voice strained] I don’t know.
Lurintha: The truth, wise. Mutt, your hrausq lost a member. Here is a replacement, for now. Get him presentable and properly marked.
Myuliq: [eyes widening] Yes, High Boss.
Blia: [‘whispering’] Sessin will flip.
Myuliq: [‘whispering’] I’m flipping! We’ll be considered responsible for him, you know!
[A door to their left crashes open, and a young Knalcal woman rushes in, stopping a few paces short of the High Boss, who shoves the prince aside with her foot. The dark-haired girl drops, knees on the shiny floor, pale hands peeking past belled, hematite sleeves, also flat, forehead touching the tile. She remains motionless, her gasping breaths audible in the silence.]
Lurintha: Okyata, report.
[Okyata looks up, maintaining her position on the floor. Her sea green eyes flick over the High Boss’ other guests, remaining the longest on the prince, and nervousness flashes across him.]
Prince: [thinking] She can tell I’m not one of them.
Okyata: [gaze meeting that of the High Boss] Saenz is missing.
Lurintha: [horror cascading over her] Details, now!
Prince: [thinking] Who is Saenz? that’s really where they put her or check back to make sure they don’t move her.