Authors: D.W. Rigsby
D. W. Rigsby
© 2016 D. W. Rigsby
All rights reserved.
Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image #SIA2013-03562. Cover image is from a plate negative from Thomas Smillie in 1900.
It is said that the one to come will bring forth fire and destruction for all on Spearca, and a blue flame will cover every corner of her spatial plane.
The Book of Prophets
, by the Numas
pearca, which means “spark of life,” is a planet fully formed, yet none can venture beyond the static field at the cusp of the White Sea. Castle Dugual, the center of beauty and wealth, stands high and mighty, acting as the sole contractor for all scientific development for the realm. Advances in flight, diesel-fueled ships, and electronic communications have intermixed with the ancient ways of travel and correspondence. A treaty proposed long ago acts as a governance for those who wish to war, for it recognizes the old ways of sword and shield, integrating the advances of guns and armor. The Numas, who carry on the tradition of the way of life, also foretell the prophecy of the Coming, when Spearca will be covered in a blue flame and changed forever.
The soul is our entire existence, but what is the purpose of the soul? Wisdom states it is the essence of who we are, and the shell that houses our essence is merely a vessel for the soul to mature and prosper until it can find its purpose.
The Book of Prophets
, by the Numas
ing Offing’s hall was decorated with statues of his forefathers, men of courage and wit. His castle was built long ago, a true testament to his line, and it had been passed down for generations. Today, though, the hall was devoid of life except for the Father, who sat atop his horse, which trotted over the stone floor, filling the silence with echoes of its clicking hooves. A large white stallion carried him to confront his enemy, to devour his foe. He saw himself as the dragon, the one forged by fire and the might of God Himself. He glided down the hall, wearing a bronze breastplate etched with a dragon’s body, a serpent’s head, a bear’s claws, and a hawk’s wings. And with each step he took, he came into his enemy’s focus—from out of the darkness and into the firelight of the torches that lined the walls, his features emerged. An old yet hardened body showed through his light armor; sharp lines ran down his broad shoulders to his tapered waist, giving him the appearance of a much younger man, if it weren’t for the gray hair protruding from his helmet.
There were those who referred to him as Papa. Others called him the devil. And some still called him a bastard, for he was the illegitimate son of King Bastail, orphaned at a young age after his mother’s throat was slit open by a man who robbed her in the middle of the night, taking all her possessions, leaving the Father with nothing to remember her by. Alone and destitute, he grew up under harsh conditions in an orphanage; and as he grew into his late teens, he began to care for other orphans. After he’d cared for and nurtured the unwanted for many years, the orphans began to call him “the Father.” He molded the orphans into an army and took his father’s kingdom, killing King Bastail with his bare hands when he choked the life out of him. Out of the depths, out of the ashes, he believed he came as the dragon born to rule—and his reign began.
The echo of steel striking stone signified his approach. King Offing cringed, his eyes shut, muttering incantations to ward off the evil that had descended upon him. His fifteen-year-old son, Prince Danard, stood a few paces away, watching the Father’s movement with wide eyes.
King Offing opened his eyes and saw the low backlight behind the Father and his steed. It created a vision of a great beast that emerged from the hall into the throne room. The Father pulled his horse to a stop, took off his helmet, and handed it to one of the guards in the room. Two of the Father’s sons came up beside him. One took the horse’s reins while the other stood as though he were guarding the gates of heaven.
Dwuave was an exceptionally tall, wiry man. His light-brown beard had grown down to his chest, and his locks were twice that length. His deep-set blue eyes were watchful, and he seemed to be continuously calculating his surroundings. His arms were long, which gave him great reach in battle. His armor displayed his new sigil of a golden hawk with large outstretched wings, a broad head, a sharply curved beak, and long curved talons to match.
Odian was nearly the opposite, a man of dark skin, stubby legs, and shoulders as wide as an ox. Green eyes looked out from his rounded face, which was outlined in a dark, curly beard, trimmed to tame its wildness. His head was shaved smooth, more for comfort than for looks—but the looks he got often were ones of apprehension. He carried a large battle-ax resting over his shoulder. His armor was ornamented with the black bear—strong, true, fierce, and bold.
In the back of the room, centered, up a short flight of steps, was a golden high-backed chair with blue velvet upholstery. Behind the chair, a blue tapestry reached upward toward the skylight above. Red carpet, edged and intertwined with gold threading, sprawled out over the floor. The majestic decor was spoiled by dead bodies, though not all were King Offing’s men; some were the Father’s. The cost of both coin and life had been great this day.
The Father’s eyes focused upon King Offing, who wore an armor chest plate with the Great Oak, his sigil, etched into the steel. He was a short, balding, stout man who was detained by his own guards, along with Prince Danard. The prince was dressed in a fine velvet vest, white tunic, and dark-blue pants. The Father was somewhat astonished that a young man such as Danard was not fitted for battle, and he thought that maybe King Offing had truly underestimated his ability to take this castle. He further examined the former guards of King Offing, who stood around the throne room, dressed in their royal-blue uniforms and golden cloaks that flowed down to their heels. Their helmets covered their faces from the sides, bending around to the front over the mouth and nose and leaving a large opening for their eyes. They carried large spears with blood trailing down their sharp points onto the shafts, like hot wax dribbling down the sides of a burning candlestick. Their pockets were filled with silver, and their slain former comrades’ pockets were empty. Truly King Offing had underestimated him. He shook his head.
The Father’s blood, his red of life, pumped through his veins. He loved to think of how his mother’s blood coursed through his body—she had often said to him that giving life was a woman’s role in this world, and her blood was in him. Bearing life, as she had explained, was a sacred purpose, one with true meaning; and it meant everything, for without her blood, he would not exist. He pitied the dead men with their red of life drawn out; it filled the air with a sweet aroma. The Father breathed in deep, let out his breath, and shuddered.
In the morning, on the battlefield, while it was covered in a mist, he had eviscerated a man with his sword—cut him clean open, and his innards unraveled and then slid out of his gut. He had watched the man’s red of life, his mother’s blood, spill out onto the ground, blotting the dirt red. The Father hoped the man had children, for the man’s mother’s blood would have been passed on to them; and maybe they, too, would live on and pass her blood to another generation.
The Father felt very much alive, yet he knew it would pass, and the illness harbored in his body would take its toll and leave him bedridden for days. His hand raked across his steed’s side, feeling its soft hide on his fingertips. His thoughts were cold—none here would protest, and those who would have were dead, lying about in heaps of motionless flesh, with only lifeless eyes and empty pockets to show for their courage and loyalty. He’d given them a chance, announcing himself from the outer wall, promising them coin to join his cause.
His ploy was simple enough to get inside King Offing’s castle while adhering to certain war doctrines and protocols established by the Unified Kingship. Information had been acquired about how King Offing was a keeper of information for the Numas. Oh, if he could go directly to Tokus Numas, the city in the northern mountains, he would. But his attempts would be halted by the surrounding kingdoms, and simply getting to the Numas and their technology would be a feat of its own. The old order had been around for thousands of years and had burrowed deep into the mountains, where the Numas could hide or escape without notice.
Spearca was on the verge of technological revolution like nothing seen before, yet the kings, the queens, even the people of the Free City were looking in the wrong direction. The Father believed the Numas were harboring old technology kept hidden for unknown purposes, and that they had placed it among those they identified as keepers. The time had come to pull back the veil of darkness and to bring forth a new age.
He peered over at King Offing. “You’ve surrendered under the Treaty de Sanctus Marcus,” the Father said. His commanding presence poured out of him like light passing through a piece of thin white fabric.
The Treaty de Sanctus Marcus, known to some as Treaty 809 or Treaty Eximius, was founded by Saint Marcus, a humble man who devoted his life to world peace and order but believed that war was inevitable and that, as such, there should be certain practices to abide by when engaging in it. This treaty served two main purposes. The first was to limit the ability of wealthier kingdoms to dominate other kingdoms through enhanced weapons of mass destruction and air power. The second was to urge a ruler to give pause before deciding to go to war, for many lives would be required, and their ability to hide behind technological warfare would be removed.
“You can no longer bear arms against your captors per the treaty. Your fate now rests in my hands. How do you plead?” the Father said. His stare was cold, and his eyes shone red in the light.
“My honor never failed you,” said King Offing in desperation as he struggled against his own guards, who held him in place.
The horse whinnied and blew out hot air.
It’s a shame
, the Father thought,
to do such a thing to another of royal
“You have no honor, only betrayal, and your desires were for the destruction of poor neighboring villages under my protection. If you have anything of value besides your honor, it may be worth something, so tell me,” the Father said. He motioned to one of Offing’s quondam guards and took his spear.
“That is not true. I did nothing to betray you; but if my honor does not satisfy you, then perhaps my submission will,” King Offing said while opening up his arms and lowering himself to the ground to kneel before the Father.
The Father scoffed and said, “Ah, but that is the lie, isn’t it?” He pointed with his spear up at the hovering orbs sent by the Unified Kingship to record this event per treaty. “Look into the Great Eyes. Look up—they capture our every movement and word, and they judge us. Give your testimony, or be silent and accept your fate.”
It was King Offing’s eyes that gave him away—the shuttering of them, the look he held, the blank, ghastly stare. The Father knew King Offing would turn his belly over just a like a dog and submit to his guilt, whether real or not.
King Offing clasped his hands together, pleading. “My guilt…you are right, ol’ Father. I have wronged you. Let the Observers know what I say. Have mercy on us, and all I have is yours. I give it as payment for my guilt. Banish us from these lands. All is yours.”
King Offing’s nostrils flared, giving away the true nature of his feelings; he was angry, and a loathing sat behind those eyes.
The Father rocked to one side to ease his aching bottom and nearly lost his balance, but he managed to pull himself upright using both arms. “Careless,” he grumbled.
King Offing held his hands up with his palms facing out. “I can help you. I’ll send for my doctor,” he said.
A cold sensation ran through the Father for allowing his enemy to see him in a moment of weakness. “I do not need your voodoo, King Offing. I have my own highly trained physicians to look after me,” he said. He sensed the orb, which hovered above, capturing every word, and each word needed to be chosen carefully. “For your crimes and the crimes of your men in the border town of Festial—for the death of all those men, for the crimes against recently widowed women, and for the many newly orphaned children—I condemn your actions, and you must forfeit your lands, your title, and your possessions.”
King Offing looked as though he’d crossed into a valley of wolves; he was completely still, unsure of how to react, unsure of how to climb his way out; yet he spoke. “You have my kingdom, and will it be enough to satisfy my debt? If not, I have something else.” He licked his parched lips. “It is worth many treasures sevenfold, or perhaps even a greater number than this. I will give it for our release.” His eyes darted over to Danard.
His guilt, yes
, the Father thought.
Confess for all to see; try and save your life and your son’s life. You don’t have much choice.
It was a worthy effort but he didn’t truly sense that King Offing wanted to live. It was something about his mannerism, the way he spoke…or maybe it was nothing at all.
The Father pulled the reins from his son and spun the horse about, holding the spear pointed up and looking around the room. There had to be something that would help King Offing to acknowledge the red of life within him. “Where is your queen?” He waited a moment, and then he turned the horse to face King Offing, who was silent and downcast. The look only compelled the Father more; he found King Offing’s behavior lacking in zeal. Of course, the presence of death could do that to a man.
Prince Danard shifted his feet and looked up at the Father, tears forming at the edges of his eyes.
There was no reaction from King Offing, the Father noticed.
Did the son matter more than the queen?
he wondered. He would test his theory. The Father pointed his spear at the boy, never taking his eyes from King Offing. “Your queen, did she get away?” He waited, knowing the answer.
There was no response. King Offing fidgeted and glanced over toward Danard.
The Father closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.
Maybe he knows his queen is lost and does not want to admit it
, he thought. He opened his eyes. “Your queen was intercepted by my men. She attempted to flee and was killed.”
He’ll feel something now for his queen; he must.
“Her death was quick.”
King Offing transformed from a still statue to an angered beast. He wrenched away from the guard and nearly broke free, but the guards were able to bring him back under control. His face turned red, but it soon slipped away, and his shoulders slumped low.