On the Day of Sin, seven rode out from Feloria. Seven blades unsheathed, seven voices raised to draw and bind the first slave. Darkness fell upon the land, concealing Infernua Izar. Incubo del Peccatore. Berehan Sang punishment. For long life and magic, the seven considered the cost a fair trade.
“After the Fall” by Brigida Murienez, Clan Historian
Dai Ithra, 5691 AY
Snow fell and the Hunter’s Moon brightened the streets of Feloria on the planet Dai Ithra. Hover globes chased the shadows away with their magic wrought glow. Citizens hustled from shop to shop, parcel laden arms jostling the throng. Wizards streamed among them, towards the Wizard’s Tower to the northern point of the island where they studied the arcane arts. Their velvet cloaks flapped in the chill breeze and exposed layered robes, sewn with down for added warmth.
A figure slunk through the crowd, Clarita Murienez, face hidden by a wide velvet hood. She pushed away from the city center, towards a rocky outcrop next to the Dia Vithra River. Ice slid under foot, each step a fight to stay upright. The tread of her boot caught a rock, anchored her in snow and helped her scramble up the slope to Lyrenthia House. The seat of power for clan Murienez in Feloria.
Her boots sloshed through the icy water of the Dia Vithra River. Its path cut from the north down to the southern marshland. In the east, the Vicero Mountains lined the river and on the western bank, the flat plains of Vion El. Its course split around Feloria, serving as a natural defense and trade route for the various clans populating the planet.
The woman patted the interior pocket of her jacket with a gloved hand. She had a musical score hidden inside, folded against two vials of protection, potions crafted for a quick escape. A black leather whip with nine barbed tails struck the side of her leg as it bounced from the belt she wore.
Wind gusted the edges of her cape apart, exposing a black down suit embroidered with Infernua. The planet’s daystar, Infernua Izar served as her personal sigil. She gazed at the moon, smiled at the glow, proof the daystar still radiated light.
Holding her cape closed, she struggled up the last incline and cursed. The clothing did nothing to abate the cold. Her breath curled in the air, a white misty vapor, only slightly paler than her own skin. She floated like a haunt among the rocks up to a path lit by globes. Guards clad in brown leather with coiled whips secured at their waists patrolled a massive estate. Her clan’s seat of power in Feloria.
At the door, two men stood sentry, their coats thicker and embroidered with golden whips on their shoulders. Clarita recognized both of them, they were brothers serving as clan lieutenants in the guard, Isirio and Basillo. The two had almost identical features, tree like height, blond hair, brown eyes, and copper skin. She didn’t know their family name, but the two had served for at least 100 years in hopes of elevation. They had time to earn a higher rank. 100 years was not much to a Dai Ithran.
“A blessed true-night to you Isirio, Basillo.” Clarita nodded to the hulking trees as she passed by them and entered Lyrenthia House. She heard them return the greeting as the doors closed behind her.
Large, chandeliers warmed the foyer and illuminated life-sized statues of ancient Murienez clan members. Families who had brought fortune and fame to their members. To the left, the clan’s most famous philosopher and scientist Diandio Murienez watched an experiment in an unseen lab, he held a clipboard in his bronzed hands.
To the right, the clan’s founder Zanarti Murienez loomed like a hawk, a whip in hand poised to strike. She supposed this was the artist’s vision of what it was like for the founder to harvest that first tone, way back on the Day of Sin.
Shivers ran down Clarita’s spine. The Day of Sin. What a stupid holiday. The clan, the whole world celebrated the day Berehan, Creator of All had cursed their light forsaken planet to eternal darkness each day. Their daystar, Infernua Izar, never felt particularly warm to the Dai Ithran people, it never showed its light though the animals and plants proved the star still existed. The moon’s glow still reflected its light each true-night.
Clarita glared at the statue of Zanarti. Selfish, destructive. The man didn’t deserve celebration. Not that her peers agreed with her. They adored the magic and long lives his sin had granted them. Generations of Dai Ithrans lived for hundreds of years instead of 70 or so at most. They had magic like Altheans and Ishanians. Other planets had long life, magic, advanced technology. Why not Dai Ithrans? Zanarti had led the charge when the original seven clans struck down that first tone. Damning the Dai Ithran people in Berehan’s Song, striking their tones from the celestial score. Cold, pain, darkness. As if that price was worth more years and physical enhancements in life.
Rage flared within. A tempest struck the shores of her tone. Clarita shuddered, skipping up the stairs through Lyrenthia House. She passed the music room, heard someone instructing Murienez children on how to play the flute. More rooms served for clan meetings. She saw the silvery skin of her mother through a sitting room door, her glossy red hair, so odd for a Murienez, framed her face in long waves. She tapped a screen on the wall and an image of a distant city appeared. “With this glider model, we can have newly harvested tones delivered anywhere in a matter of hours. Imagine, ordering a tone on your shellophon one morning and receiving it that same day. Our gliders will reach Sarnth, Alcmene and Hypan in a matter of hours.” She tapped the screen, saw Clarita and smiled briefly before she turned back to her guests, visiting wizards from clans Cirovarre, Huntorevarre and Rolavarre.
Three of the great clans had come, her mother must have felt disappointed. Not a single Bonavirez was in attendance. No Pelinvarre, Quiorra, or Dominico. Clan Anirienz with their long military tradition hadn’t come and neither had the shipwrights, the Alessios. One day they’d come, when they saw her mother’s invention. Gliders! Machines to fly people and goods all over the world in hours. As if an Alessios starship had that same capacity, not when they were rendered immobile by Berehan, banned from interstellar travel. Clarita moved on, smiling with pride.
The grand hall sat to the right on the first floor, a lavish room with marble and starion encrusted balconies, a large stage for musicians and entertainers. The next two floors housed lesser Murienez’ who hadn’t earned elevation. The next three floors served established families within the clan who worked in Feloria running businesses, serving as clan guards or as animavillam, the tone harvesters. The upper floors where Clarita jogged up flight after flight of stairs, housed the elevated. Elevated wizards, the High Seat Adulfo, his faction of palm lickers and sycophants.
Clarita reached the top floor. She had a private suite, three rooms for her own use, which she had earned the day she graduated the Wizard’s Tower as a 28th degree magus. None of that mattered now. She had other plans, seeds planted years ago in hopes of returning the light of Infernua Izar to the people. Clarita touched the pocket of her jacket, felt the crinkle of paper and smiled. Yes, the plan had taken root and soon she hoped to hear of ripened fruit for the plucking.
Inside her suite, she crossed to a cabinet, retrieved a bottle of Cirovarran Plum and poured a glass. A 5429 vintage, vinted in the Huntorevarre winery. She sniffed the vintage and her muscles relaxed. With the wave of her hand, the door to her suite closed and locked. A waste of tonal energy, yet the success tonight warranted a little indulgence. She sipped the wine. The sweet, crisp flavor soothed her nerves and warmed her tone. The tempest battering her soul, the tonal note given to her in the Song, receded. Clarita sighed.
Clan Cirovarre knew what they were doing. Their orchards yielded the best and most lush apples, plums and pears. Thorny stardrops and grapes grew in abundance there. Even though the daystar didn’t shine for the people, Cirovarre understood the changing of the seasons, the movements of animals and the best time to grow. Their trees bore the best fruit. Praying, Clarita hoped her own seeds proved just as lucrative. Just as clan Cirovarre worked with clan Huntorevarre to create the best wines, Clarita had gathered her own recruits for the coming harvest. She swirled the wine and sipped, took out the paper delivered to her in the business sector and started to smooth it out on the table. Musical notation filled the page.
Noise outside her room introduced a visitor before the knock came. A sharp rap sounded on the wood and Clarita lifted her fingers. Green energy flashed around the door and then it unlatched, swinging open.
The door framed Silerta Murienez, captain of the guard for Lyrenthia House. She strolled in, glanced about the room, starlight shining on her copper skin. She flipped her plaited blonde hair behind her shoulders and took a seat at the thornwood table in the center of the room and slammed a small vial down on the table. She propped up her feet and leaned back. “Essence of Althean, just as you’ve requested.”
With a snap of her fingers, Clarita closed the door. “Did anyone else order a flagon?” She hoped to learn who else on Dai Ithra had increased their tonal stores, someone was collecting and Clarita wanted to know who and why. It wasn’t another Murienez.
A smile quirked across Silerta’s face. Her big amber eyes lighting up. “Now, now High One, the activities of other wizards, even our clan’s wizards are confidential.” She put her feet back down on the floor. “It’s how the whole thing works. The animavillam capture the tones, we harvest them down in the cells, and we deliver each request personally. I can’t go divulging our clientele, not even for you.”
Snatching the vial, Clarita studied it, frowning. A pearly substance swirled inside. Tonal energy came out in different colors, it had a physical quality, not quite watery, not quite oily, or silky, or thick, or runny. It was hard to describe. The hover globes and moonlight amplified the color in the vial so that it had an opalescent sheen. This tone had power, great power. “This isn’t Althean Healer.” She wanted a healer’s tone. They had a particular regenerative quality to them unlike any other soul in Aulei.
The whole universe hadn’t produced another tone like an Althean Healer. She needed to test that tone. So far, the experiments to support the seeds she’d planted, to find the best worlds to harvest, had failed. 30 years of failure smarted. Clarita kept her features smooth, refusing to show disappointment.
Silerta pursed her lips. “No it isn’t. Althean Healers are not exactly falling from the sky. We took a merchant ship on their way to Ertlos 9, breaking Berehan’s will.” She arched her brows, driving home the point. The gestures said, the animavillam and harvesters worked hardest. “Captured a boy from the vessel. He’s down in the cells if you want to take a peek.” She pointed her elbow at the door, brushing the tone extractor at her hip, a coiled whip, the primary tool of the Murienez. “I’ll take payment now.” Silerta tapped the table.
A boy. Not an adult.
Pain flooded Clarita. She doubled over, soul twisted and joints pinched in agony. The pain was part of the punishment. All Dai Ithrans endured just like their inability to see the daystar and the muted level of warmth they experienced. She straightened. Her plans had to succeed. Hundreds of years of agony. What insanity had infected Zanarti to trade peace and comfort for longevity and magic? Clarita would pay the price for the stolen tones, return the light of the star. No more pain, no more poisonous spores to kill the people because they could never see well enough where they stepped, and no more damnation. Berehan had to forgive if she righted their wrongs.
“Very well.” The captain deserved her thanks. Capturing any Althean was nigh impossible. The guard deserved commendation for their work. The animavillam they employed in particular deserved a boon. Clarita made a mental note to send one as she took the vial marked ‘Essence of Althean’ to her personal storage cabinet.
The cabinet with Clarita’s collection of tones, hundreds of them in small flagons, stored in an intricate leaf and vine glass case, decorated with copper filigree and secured with a Portal Guardian L-IV tone.
Clarita pinched two petals on a small glass rose set at the front of the case and a tiny door opened to reveal the inky rainbow called Portal Guardian L-IV tone. She set down the Essence of Althean next to the rose for a moment. Taking the Portal Guardian, she twisted off the top, dabbed a tiny drop of the tonal substance on her tongue and lifted her hand up to the cabinet.
“Lanzamiento del portale guardián,” she whispered. Clarita invoked the tempest within. No, she didn’t have a dynamic and orotund voice, she had the whisper of a storm at sea, a raging thunder and lightning. Not the best for controlling spell work, but powerful when it worked. Her own tone reached out, mingled with the Portal Guardian L-IV. A flash of green ringed the case and dissipated, two doors opened as if on invisible strings. She placed the Essence of Althean between an Ishanian High Note and an Earthling Low Pitch. Chills ran down her spine.
Music wafted from the vials in the case. Tones harmonizing in time with the Song. Berehan’s creation imbued in every single lifeform in the universe as a tone in His grand score. Closing the case, she murmured, “portale guardián cerce.” The petal handles twisted, the doors closed and locked into place with a flash of energy. The tempest within raged green and seared Clarita to the bone.
The musical notation found its way into Silerta’s hands as Clarita rummaged through her desk for enough coin to pay the woman. Her hand swam the depths of loose gold coins, silver, rarin stones, Zarthonian crystals called zargots, her fingers closed on a starion diamond and released it. An Althean healer was worth a starion or several, not a merchant’s son, no matter how much her tone ached for the boy’s fate. “I hadn’t marked you as a connoisseur of music Clarita. Do you play?”
Clarita grabbed three zargots and slammed them on the table in front of Silerta. “Payment” She snatched the score from the guard’s hands. “I don’t play, but I had thought to surprise my mother with a private concert if the clans invest in her gliders.”
Silerta swiped the crystals and pocketed them, rising to her feet she crossed to the door. “I won’t ruin the surprise, but you might consider some leisure activities, something carnal.” The woman ran her fingers along her thigh. “You’re a bit tightly wound Clarita.” She saluted and stalked off, a smirk on her face.
Exhaling, Clarita rushed to lock the door only to find another visitor. Maricosa Murienez, a child of 30 years. The girl wasn’t much older than she was when her father died.
“A blessed night to you High One.” Maricosa carried a tray, an envelope with Clarita’s name written the outside and sealed with Adulfo’s mark caused a flutter of alarm in her chest, though she concealed it.
Envy flashed in Clarita. How she longed for a harmonious tone. The tempest clanged and struck chords counter to the Song’s melodies. Globe light illumined the girl’s lace dress and honey hair. She had eyes of amber and bronze skin. A slender beauty to rival the murals of Placina Murienez. The famed painter might have praised Berehan Himself for such a muse as Maricosa.
“To you and yours Maricosa. Do come in.” She ushered the girl into the room and directed her to the thornwood table. This time Clarita left the door open, she didn’t have enough tonal energy left for waste and she didn’t want the girl to get comfortable. Clarita had work to do. Sometimes she wondered about accepting Maricosa’s request. The girl’s family had petitioned Clarita for sponsorship. Every Dai Ithran who trained in the Wizard’s Tower had to earn the recommendation of a previous graduate. As a 28th degree magus, Clarita was one of the most powerful Murienez’ wizards. Sponsorship would gain Maricosa great opportunity and for Clarita, she’d have the girl’s service for the next five years. Dare she trust this one?
Maricosa set the tray down and glanced around, her amber eyes wide in amazement. Ambition struck chords in her soul.
The girl strolled through the room, eyes locked on the line of floral etched windows, the thornwood desk, chairs and table. One cabinet stored wine, the other Clarita’s private collection of tones. Some of the best harvested by the animavillam. Fire danced in the hearth at the end of the room, a sculpted mantel framed the fireplace with the figure of the room’s former occupant, Brigida Murienez. The woman had served as a clan historian and was much admired by Clarita’s mother, Eliosa. Ancestor worship the people who had come before them meant more than the creation of Berehan to the families that made up her clan. Maricosa touched the statue. “Your mother is Eliosa.”
Nonchalant, casual probing. Interesting, the girl had an angle here, likely coached by her parents. Their family might need elevation. Clarita made a note to investigate the child’s background. “She is.”
“She’s a famous inventor and stands third in line to Adulfo, the High Seat.” Now the girl was reciting her lessons. Tedious.
Clarita sipped her wine. “She is and does serve as third. What’s your game here Maricosa? I appreciate you bringing the letter. I am not ungrateful.”
Tugging on her lace dress, Maricosa cast her gaze about the room. “We had hoped to hear if you had received my, my family’s petition. Did you have time to read it?”
“I was in city center on business. I shall peruse your missive and provide a response after I’ve fully investigated your background.” She might as well state exactly her expectations now. Should she take responsibility for the girl’s education, Clarita needed to know everything about them. Did they pose a threat to her, her mother Eliosa? Were their ambitions aligned to hers or against? She had so much to learn. “You’ll have to wait until I am ready to make a decision. Understood?” Yes, the girl had to see who was in charge. The questions were pushy, a bit desperate actually. That didn’t bode well.
“Yes, High One.” The girl bobbed a curtsey and fled the room, slamming the door behind her.
The envelope beckoned. Clarita slit the edge and took out the contents, reading. Adulfo was calling for a conclave. A full clan meeting for tomorrow night. Clarita’s blood froze, her breath caught. Had he discovered her secret? She took the musical score and Adulfo’s summons in hand. The notes marked out parts for stringed instruments, horns, percussion and one sportolanq, a three pronged instrument that circled the player, tweeting a perfect imitation of a great-winged grawl. The green feathered birds had a wingspan wider than Clarita’s outstretched arms and were known for their heavenly songs, as if they had hatched on Yushrah before descending to the night planet.
None of the assignments mattered. The instruments represented a key and the notes corresponded to letters within each key. The whole document was a code from the Triune Alliance, a letter she had to cipher out. Trembling, Clarita went to her desk, tucked the summons in the top drawer and leaned down, her fingers felt underneath the desk for an indent in the shape of a leaf. She found it and pressed. A click and a pop revealed a tiny drawer. Inside, she had stowed four small books bound in leather. The first she removed, a blue one representing the stringed instruments. Clarita had to know. Did Adulfo know of her plans? She hadn’t told him, never received the High Seats permission to form the triune and seek the return of the star’s light.
Better to seek forgiveness after she succeeded and if she failed, better no one knew that she had tried. The whole plan was an oath between her and her father, the day he died. His life’s work had been a secret between them and in his death had become her mission. Clarita hadn’t thought to get an authorization initially and then it seemed too late. She’d gone too far, the seeds were planted.
Under the warm glow of a hover globe, she worked to reveal the cipher. One book after the other, she notated what the sharps represented, the half notes, the whole, a high C, D diminished triad. Soon the letters took shape in ancient Dai Ithran. Few spoke it anymore, even among the wizards, morirono settanta rose. Trenta sopravvissuti. Preparati per il raccolto.”
Tremors shook Clarita, ice cold infused her veins. Teeth chattering she locked the keys away, the musical score she burned. 70 percent dead and gone. She shivered. Tears trickled down the sides of her face, she didn’t notice. Wind buffeted her internal landscape, the place within her soul, the sound of her creation. It struck as lightning, Clarita slumped to the floor, 70 percent. She touched the smooth surface of the thornwood and pulled herself standing. So many dead, oh sweet Song. Father save us all. The chances of Adulfo discovering her failures had just increased dramatically. She clutched the desk, breathing and then the door to her room opened once more.
Her mother strode in followed by a tall figure cloaked head to toe in black velvet. The door closed. “Clarita, sit down. You have much to explain.” She pulled back the hood exposing Rofallo Huntorevarre, Clarita’s partner in the Triune Alliance. Oh blessed night, they were found out. In her mind she plotted a pathway for escape as she sat down across the table from her mother, joined by Rofallo.
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