Thursday, July 16, 2015

Throwback Series: "The Day of Reckoning" Prologue Part 7

“Did you notice those posts when you came into town?” she asked.
“Do you know what they are?”
Previously: <Part 1>  <Part 2>  <Part 3<Part 4>  <Part 5> <Part 6>
The hour was late in the morning, nearing midday, when Deej finally finished preparing the althraxine and analthraxine. Laurel and Renata joined the men in the dining hall where Deej brought the vats of the drugs, and Gorrmunsa supervised them all carefully dividing the liquids into separate vials. Laurel fumed uncomfortably under the nerve-wracking, unblinking gaze of the Kytarr. When there were only a few vials left, Carsius and Augustus set about arming the canisters while Laurel and Renata filled the remaining vials.
Gorrmunsa had brought more vials than could fit in the canisters, but the mushrooms Deej brought produced enough althraxine to fill all the vials. At last, Carsius stood and dusted off his hands.

“That is finished,” he said, “now to distribute them around town.”
“It would be best if the canisters were set all at the same time, so that their timers could be exactly synchronized,” Deej remarked.
“There are not enough of us to be able to be in every location at once,” Gorrmunsa said, hissing in frustration. “And the Elf is wounded.”
“Oh-ho, Gorrmunsa,” Deej chuckled at his friend, “you forget so soon that it was haste on both sides that caused those wounds.”
“Wounded or not,” Laurel added, “I would not go with you on a mission doomed to fail!”

“How you do go on about that!” Augustus leapt to his feet. “Are you implying that you would stoop to sabotaging your own allies?”
“How dare you—“
“Then how can you be so sure that we will, in fact, fail?”
“Because I—“ Laurel was so overcome she could not continue. Carsius took advantage of this moment to try and reason with the two operatives.
“Laurel and Augustus, this is no time to be arguing with each other! Laurel,” he turned to the Elf, “if you do not learn to curb your tongue, you may lose the respect and the listening ear of every last one of us. You must learn to be open to suggestion, instead of disparaging your comrades because you do not approve of their ideas. There is no way to know ahead of time whether a mission of this sensitivity will fail—“
“But I do know—“ Laurel interrupted, but Carsius raised his hand.
“Be silent! I have not finished: you cannot be so certain that we will not have some measure of success, though I agree: merely acting this once will not be the end of the matter. As for you, Augustus—“ Carsius did not speak to his former squire, only gave him the glare Augustus knew so well, the glare Carsius would often turn on him when as a squire Augustus would fail in his duties because he had been talking too much. He hung his head in shame. Carsius saw the change and his face relaxed.

“Yes, my friend; you must learn to respect your elders. You cannot know but that Laurel may have seen more battles than you, perhaps she has done somewhat of this thing herself. Merely because she predicts failure for an experimental mission does not give you leave to accuse her of subterfuge. In fact, merely because one person predicts failure does not guarantee success! Swallow your pride, brother, and allow the opinions of others to stand; if indeed they are unfounded, they will fade. It matters not who is right or wrong. What matters is that when all is said and done, we are all on the same side, working shoulder-to-shoulder, united in our goal.”

Carsius’ words hung in the silence for a moment, then Gorrmunsa interposed.
“The canisters are ready for distribution,” he said.
“All right,” Carsius assumed the role of mission director, “Gorrmunsa, Augustus, and I will take the three furthest points of the city, North, West, and South…” his voice trailed as he pondered how they might manage the remaining two points, Eastern and Central.
“I can help,” Renata volunteered.
Augustus could not restrain a snort, “With that head of—“ he caught Carsius glaring at him again, and ceased speaking.
Gorrmunsa did not say anything, but it was evident that he held the same disdain as Augustus.
Carsius smiled, remembering how easily she had given him the slip when he first realized that the Syndicate might have allies on Eillumaeia.

“It may come as a surprise to many of you,” he said, “but young Renata has been well-trained in the art of remaining invisible—in spite of her hair,” he finished pointedly.
The young woman blushed at the praise. “I’ll go grab my cloak.”
“I will remain here with Laurel,” Deej volunteered. “Good luck, my friends.”
“Well, we have the four points covered,” Carsius noted, “each of us will take a canister to within ten kilometers of the city borders, and also a second canister around the Square at the center of the town.”
“I’ve already prepared the timers,” Gorrmunsa said, “all you need to do is press the button there next to the console to activate them once you’ve placed them.”
“Remember,” Carsius reminded the other three, “though we are invisible to the wyrts, we do not want to risk being seen by anyone. Use the utmost caution.”
“Of course,” Gorrmunsa’s elliptical eyes narrowed happily.
“We should return around mid-afternoon,” Carsius told Deej, “If we have not returned by dusk, you may be sure something has happened and I leave it up to your instincts to decide whether to investigate and rescue or to abandon this mission altogether.”
Renata cast a worried glance at Laurel, who shook her head. She would never abandon her friend, not while she could still breathe.
Deej wagged his head, “I don’t think it will come to that, Carsius. We shall await your return.”

Laurel stood at the bay window of the sitting room at the front of the house, watching the four operatives—one a particular friend of hers—steal away into the distance. She heard a soft noise behind her.
Deej stood patiently in the middle of the room.
“So, Laurel,” he asked, “we have some time to ourselves; why don’t you tell me your story, and I will tell you mine?”
Laurel glanced warily at this stocky, yet perceptive creature. He hopped up onto one side of the grand sofa, and patted the cushion next to him, winking invitingly. Laurel sighed and left the window.

She told her whole history to the Ewok, beginning with the horrible blight that killed her grandmother and drove her people off the island of Andar and across the sea to the continent of Murinda, and how the Elvenking—her great-uncle—decided during the voyage that he would not be coming as a conqueror, but as merely the leader and spokesperson for his people. He appointed his closest officials as Royal Councilors to maintain Andarian law among the Elves, and hid his identity as the Elvenking, referring to that identity as separate from himself, going by the name Sir Golon, so as not to appear as a threat to the existing king in the nation of Glastor, where the Andarian exiles settled.

She spoke of her mother, whose mother was herself the first Andarian Elf to marry outside their race, and she married a Glastorian man, and so became disgraced. When Laurel’s father, Nareandor, married the disgraced half-Elven daughter of this union, therein the other Andarians saw folly, and therefore Laurel, though her great-uncle accepted her and appointed her as his heir, received the disdain of her people that her mother and grandmother had faced.

She recounted the time when the nation of Glastor was conquered by the armies of Fortinskan, and the king of Fortinskan wanted to remove the Andarians from the town and into the forests, but the Chief Royal Councilor worked out a deal wherein the Andarians could all return to Andar instead of remaining behind and, as Laurel had tried to point out, still honoring the word of the Elvenking, who promised his steel and his people’s skill in defending the nation. These Elves would have rather returned to an uncertain future in Andarian than remain faithful. Moreover, they deliberately excluded Laurel from the group by emphasizing that the “pure Andarians” were the only ones who could return, of which Laurel could not count herself because of her bloodline.

Laurel told Deej of the wyrts, and the wise Ewok nodded somberly.
“So that is why you believe this plan might not succeed?”
Laurel sighed, “That’s not the only reason; I know it will fail because I have observed this city since I’ve been here. Come see.” She beckoned the Ewok to the window and pointed.
“Do you see those posts?” she pointed to tall structures scattered throughout the skyline of the city.
“Yes,” Deej replied, “but I do not recognize—“

Just then, the saboteurs returned.
“Phew!” Augustus whooped, “That was exciting!” He winked congenially at Laurel, “Hey, good thing you two are standing by the window. We just might be able to see it happen; the timers will be ending soon.”
Renata went and stood next to Laurel, who put an arm around the redhead’s shoulders. Together, the six operatives watched as Carsius counted down under his breath.

There was no massive explosion, no noise—but a distinctive purple haze began to rise from specific points around the city. Pillars of purple vapor rose straight up—

And were harnessed by the posts Laurel had pointed out to Deej.

After the purple haze came a green haze, but this followed the path of the purple haze, no wider than a few inches, and straight upward, where it gathered in a canopy as if trapped by an atmospheric membrane.
Laurel grinned at the crestfallen expression on Augustus’ face.
“Did you notice those posts when you came into town?” she asked. “Do you know what they are?”

“Apparently…” Augustus replied hollowly, as the full effect of the situation weighed on him, “Eillumaeia is equipped with a city-wide pneumatic filtration system.”