The Elitinati Mentor swept past the muttering knots of novices receiving wyrt-therapy. He stroked his own wyrt--a small, bulbous, fuzzy creature with many foot-pad-like appendages and no eyes--comfortingly.
Therein lay the secret of the Elitinati "enlightenment." This was the reason the Temple was built where it was, and the city established as the Capitol: they built it over a deep cavern housing the wyrt-mother, and she made it possible to spy on every person, at every time, and for those who actually allowed the wyrt to "settle" on them, the Elitinati could use the mother to control and direct their thoughts, feelings, and actions. The more wyrts present, the more complete the control. Only the Council had command over their own minds enough to be able to influence the mother herself, and because of the hive-mind nature of the wyrts, whatever they told her, she communicated this to the rest of her "children," and the entire nation felt it.
Strange, though; only in Eillumaeia had the Elitinati been able to convince the people that the wyrts were a necessary fashion item, or at least a harmless pet that you let ride on your shoulder; those who "discovered" the "enlightening" qualities of the wyrts were immediately admitted into the Temple-University to receive Elitinati training and become wholly committed to the cause. They became Elitinati Mentors when they realized the control of the wyrt enough to then begin asserting control over it, thereby "freeing" themselves all the more, while remaining inextricably dependent on the knowledge the wyrt hive-mind provided for them.
Those in the Outlands, though, viewed the fuzzy, brightly-colored creatures as wild pests, not something you welcomed in your home or on your person. Out there, the Elitinati could only look on and keep track of the movements of the populace, sending out soldiers or operatives whenever they saw questionable activity. It didn't matter, anyway; there were more than enough people in Eillumaeia itself to keep the Elitinati "tradition" going for a long while.
The Mentor reached the door to the Inner Sanctum, and saluted the guards. He bent down and released his wyrt into the room first, closing his eyes and focusing on assuming the senses of the creature, which (even without eyes) had the ability to sense danger. The Mentor found none, only a silent admittance. He entered as another wyrt climbed onto his boot.
Immediately, an Elitinati Lord's voice sounded in his head.
"What is it?"
"I have seen the stranger spoken of by Captain Lyam, milord," the Mentor murmured.
"And has he yet taken a wyrt?"
"No, milord; I tried sending them toward him many times, but--" the man hesitated.
It didn't matter; the price of being a Mentor was that the Lords of the Council could read your mind. "What do you mean, 'he was invisible to them'?" The voice demanded angrily.
The Mentor shrugged, "In faith, I do not know, myself. You know how wyrts are, they can latch on without the person noticing--but these creatures would not even latch! He walked all the way through the very center of town, and I was snatching wyrts off of people and directing them toward him, but every time, they seemed to scuttle right past him without stopping."
"Are you saying that you have lost your ability to control the wyrts?" The Lord demanded, and the Mentor was keenly aware of the teeming mass of wyrts that had been scattered through the room were all now converging toward him. He closed his eyes and imagined the consciousness of each creature, and commanded them to stop and move away from him. He opened his eyes, and saw that they obeyed him. He sighed with relief and smiled.
"No, your excellence, I still control them. I do not know why they have failed so far."
"Hmmm... Perhaps the stranger has some sort of mental spell that must be overcome before he can be susceptible. At any rate, soon we won't have to worry about people shunning or losing those unsightly puffballs any longer."
The Mentor grinned, "It is true, then, about the Innoculations?"
He sensed something akin to pleasure and pride in the Lord's voice as he replied, "It is true, young Mentor; we are in the process of discovering the neuro-genetics that allow the wyrts to network, and soon, we will be able to use that network ourselves, and it will be every bit as inconspicuous as the wyrts are here in Eillumaeia, and furthermore it will be completely invisible, so that the people under our control will not be noticed, even in the Outworld."
The Mentor rubbed his hands, "The Outworlders will think they're receiving their normal vaccinations, when in fact they will be receiving wyrt-neurons to replace their own! Magnificent, my Lord!"
The tone of the Lord's voice returned to derision, "Of course you think it's magnificent; that is why I am a Lord and you are only a Mentor. Your mind is still puny; go and study some more."
The Mentor bobbed his head, "Yes, milord." He crossed over to a knot of Mentors poring over thick books, and purposed to get through at least an entire shelf by the evening meal.
Meanwhile, in the streets of Eillumaeia, a Stranger walked, shrouded in a cloak, ignored by the brain-washed populace, taking everything in with keen, piercing eyes that seemed to see into the soul. The Stranger exhaled in the smoggy evening air, and continued walking, never ceasing, toward the desired destination: a certain building, wherein sat a certain person who would begin the chain of events that would forever change the face of this world.
The squadron at Gate E16 watched everyone coming and going carefully. Ever since the mysterious stranger (who seemed to have disappeared by now) entered and made that declaration about the "Day of Reckoning," the guards had been fully on alert to every stranger coming in.
The commanding officer at the gate, Captain Tankar, heard the distinct whine of a hover-coach and called his men to attention.
A large black craft sailed into view at the gate. The Captain recognized it easily; the Elitinati Watchtower (their common symbol) was emblazoned in gold on the side. It was the hover-coach of Sister Miligred, who had gone to visit some friends off-planet.
Captain Tankar immediately gave the signal to open the gates, and Sister Miligred entered unhindered. As the gates closed behind her, the Captain looked down at the checklist of itineraries, which all those leaving Eillumaeia were required to submit prior to departure. Sister Miligred--but her itinerary stated that she would not return for five more days! But that was undeniably her coach! What was the meaning of this? Captain Tankar reached into his collar and brushed the fur of his wyrt. Such stimulation was considered an alarm by the Mentor watching over him. Immediately, the Mentor sent a detachment of soldiers toward the hover-coach, which was now making its way through the streets to the dwelling of Sister Miligred.
Using magnetic cable-guns, they brought the craft to a halt and, as was protocol, the lieutenant in charge called, "Hail the Elitinati! Sister Miligred, we request an audience with you."
"What?" Her cold, hard voice issued from the darkness within the craft, "Here in the streets? You fool! You really think I will show my face because some soldier orders me to? What is the meaning of this?"
The lieutenant blushed and stammered, "Well, ah--" of course the Sister would not know! She had departed before the stranger arrived! "There was a stranger in here recently, who made some threatening statements--"
"And now you suspect me of treason?" Sister Miligred's voice rose in anger, and her long, jewel-ringed, pale hand appeared at the sill of the window. "Fie! Why would I be in league with such rabble who speak subversively against my brethren?"
"Madam," the lieutenant moved on to a more pertinent issue, "It seems you cut your intended visit short; may we know the reason?"
There came no reply for several minutes. The Lieutenant worried that the powerful, irate woman was now so incensed that she was too overcome to speak. He waited for his fate to be sealed--
"...They were dead."
The lieutenant started, "Dead, madam?"
"Yes! You may as well announce it to the whole town, calling me out like this! I spent half that time traveling out to my friends on another planet, but when I got there, they were all dead! The planet was a wasteland, and not a word of warning!"
The lieutenant could now hear soft sobs issuing from the depths of the hover-coach.
"Please," Sister Miligred begged in a voice much gentler than any she had used before, "may I proceed to my home, that I may grieve respectfully for them?"
The lieutenant bowed his head and released the cable. His men did the same. "Yes, Madam; my condolences. You may go."
Hastily, the detachment returned to elsewhere in the city. Had they remained but a few minutes longer, they might have seen a certain figure approach the black carriage: a cloaked figure, invisible to the wyrts. Quickly, a hand reached out to help the passenger--but it was not the same hand the lieutenant had seen. This one was younger, and stronger. The black hover-coach sailed onward to the mansion, where the passengers were able to pass via an exit-tube straight into the building without being seen.
No one thought it odd, though, or thought about it at all; the Elitinati were famous for not wanting to be seen.
Captain Tankar marked "Sister Miligred" off his list--but on the world she was visiting, there stood a grave with another name, bearing the corpse of the woman known by that name. The inhabitants were truly all dead, victims of a brutal attack. That much was true. The one who returned to Eillumaeia would grieve her friends--and she would grieve for her family as well, though not in the manner of the Elitinati. She would grieve--and she would plan.
The Day of Reckoning was coming.