Dark. Cold. Home.
Rubone never liked his aristocratic visits to Gijar and Castle Castora. He loved his mother, true enough, but the rest of the visit is so mundane and trite. The entire staff was well aware of his anomaly. Most kept their distance when they encountered Rubone in the halls of the castle. Those servants whose sole purpose was to comfort him were leery to get anywhere close to him until it was absolutely necessary. They all understood the Vampyr was in full force within him. There was a time when he would try desperately to hide the virus from others. Now he parades it like a badge. He wanted the people in his sovereignty to know, without a doubt, that he was capable of being a monster, and yet – he let most of them live to tell the tale of their encounter with the demon in their midst. There were some that weren’t so lucky. A guy’s got to eat.
The only living being he remotely cared for in that stuffy castle of his mother’s was Mau, the gentle feline that roamed the castle halls. Rubone had always respected Mau, just as she had always respected him. Mau would approach Rubone without hesitation to purchase a rub behind her ears or a scratch on her arched back. Rubone never disappointed her, and she never disappointed Rubone. Her unconditional fealty is the major reason he smuggled Mau back to Castle Dorle on the dark side of Gamgijar. The minor reasoning was because she would help alleviate the vermin population in the castle substantially. He had witnessed Mau’s prowess a number of times in Castle Castora. She fixed her sights on her subject, all the while silently stalking it, and would only pounce when the moment to strike was exactly right. She had patience and cunning. This feline – that he would now claim as his own – was a gentle creature with the natural born instincts of a killer. She killed indiscriminately. There was no justification for her massacre. She cared not a bit if her prey was deserving of her execution. Her assassination had a sole purpose…nutrition.
And such was the case with Rubone, although, he would sniff out his prey’s lack of morals, which was quite easy to do on Gamgijar. The dark orb, and the twin to the vibrant Gijar, was a place of abandonment and hopelessness. The female population far exceeded the male for it was law on Gijar that once a female became barren, abandoned, widowed, or destitute, her lot was to spend her immortality on the dark side of Gamgijar. Her purpose to breed Gemin had been lost, and was no longer necessary in the Gemin protocol. In his young rule of the planet, Rubone had tested his hunger for life’s elixir on his overpopulated female occupation. He had learned that the immortality of a Gemin was no match for a Vampyr’s thirst. He was beginning to consider his necessary life force was becoming more important than his lack of companionship if he kept devouring his potential mates.
Rubone hung from the beam in the middle of his chamber by his talons while wisps of these thoughts dissipated inside his head. His eyes couldn’t see Mau as she pranced lightly from her comfortable ledge on the window to sit directly underneath where he was hanging inverted, but his ears easily detected her gambol. Even though her dark fur may have matched the darkness of the room, her prance was no match for his keen sense of hearing.
“What have you brought me this morning?” Rubone asked his pet as he flipped to an upright position to land in a squat on the floor beside her. Mau immediately stood so that she could press her side against his calf and curl her tail around his ankle in a form of feline affection.
Her answer to him was a, “Meorw,”
“Another rat,” he returned, “this is what I’ve always wanted, my love.” He pet her behind the ears. According to her convulsions, he had hit the perfect spot. Her purring was an indication that she was exactly where she wanted to be at this precise moment. That was until a slight movement caught her attention from the corner of her eye. The morning gloom had crept slowly through the windows in Rubone’s chambers casting very light shadows across the flooring. Mau abandoned Rubone’s leg to pounce on the shadow being cast from the dead rat she had brought as an offering to her master. Rubone watched his feline pounce on the shadow. Then…the shadow moved to avoid the sharp claws of the cat. Her left paw tried to stop the shadow from moving, but the shadow then immediately moved to the right out of her grasp. Try as she might, and no matter how quick she was at the ambush, the shadow was swifter.
“I sense a priest in my midst,” Rubone said as he stood up from his original cat-scratching squatting position, “show yourself to me,” he whispered authoritatively.
The rat’s shadow crept along the floor to reach the stone wall, where it then travelled to the painting of bats indigenous to Gamgijar and given to Rubone from his uncle, Nicandro, when he was a child. It was from that painting that the shadow protruded from the wall and the painting itself into the room and formed into Xilef, the Head Priest of The Sheut. In fact, Xilef was the sole member of The Sheut, an ancient order sworn to defend the Queen Sokara during her reign on Gijar. He stepped out of the wall and immediately bowed in respect to His Prince.
“I should have you horribly executed for this treason,” Rubone announced to the priest who had now appeared before him in all humility, “How dare you not only invade my castle without invitation, but my private quarters.”
“I assure Your Grace that my intentions were noble. I bring word from the very Mother of the Gemin herself, Queen Sokara.”
“Holding audience with the dead is among your many talents?” asked Rubone.
Xilef stood up straight to look Rubone in the eyes. Even though the morning tried its very best to brighten the darkest corners of the room, Rubone’s eyes remained untouched by the brilliance. It was hard to see the whites of Rubone’s eyes since there were none. His entire eye was blanketed in black. The lack of light on Gamgijar, besides the light that could streak across the heavenly heights of Castle Dorle, gave all Gemin a lack of color. Even in their eyes. They were completely black from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes.
“She has survived, Your Grace,” answered Xilef.
“She lives? The murderous Queen of our history still roams Gijar?” Rubone was a little set back by this news. If the Queen of the Vampyr were certainly alive and near, would he not feel her presence? Vampyr is said to be flowing through his stone, cold veins. He understood there to be a link of commonality that could be sensed should another Vampyr be within his vicinity. It was a bit disturbing to now be told that this may be a false myth.
“Sokara, Queen of all Gemin, does live. Yes. But she is neither of Gijar nor Gamgijar. Rather she is free among those on a distant star called Earth,” Xilef informed Rubone.
Earth. There was that name again. Rubone had first heard of the star when he laid eyes on the first born brother he had never known he had. Dice was also from this Earth. And now he’s to believe that Sokara is at the same place?
“How, exactly, does the first Queen of the Gemin relay this information to you? One would assume that avenues to conduct conversations with a distant star would be a bit inadequate,” said Rubone.
“I travel to her,” explained Xilef.
“You travel to her? From the twin planets…you can travel to this Earth?” asked Rubone.
“The movement between stars is easy, Your Grace. Have you not mastered the trek as yet?”
“I’ve understood that it exists – the traveling between worlds,” said Rubone, all the while not admitting that he’s used the form of transport himself before, “ I had thought that the maneuver was reserved for the high Ma’at Priests and a select Royal few. Am I incorrect?”
“You are correct, Your Grace. However, Sokara – as you know – has trained me in the ancient art of Sheut. The act of Sheut provides me with perks, such as the ability to blend in where blending in would be impossible. I have observed the Ma’at High Priest as he takes his journeys between worlds. The act of travel isn’t impossible. In fact, it’s rather easy. It would be my honor to inform you on how to achieve the voyage,” said Xilef.
Rubone had to absorb the information that was just handed to him by Xilef. All this time, he had thought that he was one of the privileged to be able to transfer from his world to another when – in fact – it would appear that anyone had the luxury of what he had considered reserved for the Royals. How is this peon able to transport to other worlds? Certainly it couldn’t be through reflection.
He must’ve said that last part out loud because Xilef answered him, “But it IS through reflection, Your Grace.”
“Mirage is only available to the Royals. You are not Royal,” announced Rubone to the priest.
“My mentor is Royal, Your Grace. She affords me the ability to Mirage,” Xilef shot right back.
“You say she speaks to you. How is this possible?” asked the Prince.
“The Sheut allows us to communicate when out of range. I cannot speak to her unless permitted, but she contacts me. Our Queen doesn’t say too much. It’s usually a command within one sentence. Her voice is a whisper that consumes my mind,”
“You know her whereabouts? You are able to locate her prison on this star?” asked Rubone.
“Indeed. I know the exact location of her prison. She is, however, no longer incarcerated. She has escaped and fled to the northern part of the star,” answered the priest.
“So, you say she has her freedom?”
“She does, Your Grace. And she calls to me,” Xilef replied.
“How interesting, you can find her though? You’re able to locate her with your special talent?”
“I have no need to find her, Your Grace. Sokara finds me. All I have to do is follow her call.”
“Find her, and tell her I wish to hold conference on this star,” commanded Rubone, “Let her know she has an ally on the Twin Planets.”
“I will do as you ask,” replied Xilef as he bowed to show his respect.
“Then why are you still here?” asked Rubone.
Xilef was perceptive. He completely understood Rubone’s mannerisms. He’s been silently studying his Prince since the birth of the twins – Malachi and Rubone. He’s watched Rubone grow into an adult Gemin and knew his personality well. Rubone doesn’t like to repeat himself, and hardly ever says anything nice or complimentary. The Priest definitely knew that this was Rubone’s cue for him to be on his way. He wasn’t going to stick around for another, and possibly nastier, invitation to leave. He went out the same way he came in; he blended with the dead rat’s shadow, traveled up the wall, and then out the window.
Silly priest, thinking I know nothing of the Queen of all Gemin. We’ll let him think that…for now. He may come in handy in the future. There’s nothing wrong with a few priests in my legion…even crooked ones, Rubone thought as he walked over to the dead rat that had been left on the castle floor.
“There were days, dear Mau, that this kind offering would’ve been a meal for me. Today is not one of those days. I find it sweet, but repulsive,” he said to the feline rubbing on his legs. He picked the dead rat up by the stiff tail and swung it out of the open window; the same open window Xilef just exited. That’s two rats that have gone out this window today, and the day hasn’t even officially started yet.
His rule on Gamgijar had gotten tedious. No Gemin sent to him revolted, not a one of them were angered by the decision to leave them here in despair. His entire existence was bland and boring at best. It was time for something new. It was time for some ONE new. That someone would be the former Queen of the twin planets. If she has found her escape, then she is most assuredly feeding again. The virus within is brutal and follows no moral compass. Rubone had been to Earth and seen the enticing possibilities of feeding his Khepra. The nourishment was all but dried out here. The moment he passed through the reflection and breathed in Earth’s air…his taste buds tingled. His Khepra shook with excitement. It was certainly time to satiate the Vampyr in virgin territory. If he could influence allegiance with the Queen, the star would be theirs for the taking. He would need the Priest to bring it all together. The Priest is the one soul who could mediate the merger.
Rain was beginning to pelt the window sill. Small rain drops fell at first followed by larger ones. The window sill was becoming saturated. Rubone stared at how the bones of those who died to make this castle absorbed the liquid. Dry brittle bones are what made this castle. The product of the lust within me. An entire castle made of those who fell to my needs and wants. And then entire villages. Yet the virus is not satisfied. It craves more blood than what I can offer it here on this stagnant planet. If Sokara does not offer me an audience to plead my allegiance and plan our solidarity, then I must take what I can without her consent. The consequences be damned. She may be the mother of the Vampyr, but she does not own it. These thoughts were how Rubone wrestled with his decision to feast without conscience. The blood of another should be seen as a gift willingly given, not as a possession that had to be poached.
Besides, what else did he have to do today? The rain was eliminating any chance of travel around Billige. He would patiently wait for his priest to return with some good news.
The heavy metal door to his private chamber swung open, startling Mau. She hissed at the intrusion. “There, there. Calm,” said Rubone as he patted the hairs on her back as they stood at attention.
“Would you care to break your fast?” said his nameless servant. The servant, of course, had a name. But they come and go so frequently that Rubone gave up on trying to remember their labels.
“I think not. I will wait for a bit. I have this feeling deep in my gut that I will be dining elsewhere this morning,” said Rubone as he dismissed his servant. A smile crossed his face as his hunger began to quiver deep under his rubber-like skin. Today has hopes of becoming a good day, thought Rubone. “Indeed,” he happened to say aloud causing Mau to mew in agreement.