Where Once The Faithful Rise

Where Once The Faithful Rise cover

The Psychics have found the clues to the future, and know that time is short to keep their knew-found knowledge secret from the High Lords.

But it will not remain that way for long. They must get to the lost planet and the secrets of the Orb before the agents of the High Lords have their way.

Read a chapter of this stunning sci-fi saga, below…

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Before the moons of Aardnaar had chance to set upon the horizon in a glittering dawn of a new day, the small procession was already high above the shores of the lakes that marked the mountain pass to Palladin and beyond. They snaked their way ever higher into the first fingers of early morning sunlight. The creatures of the night had departed for their dens an hour or so earlier. In time the swarms of blood sucking insects rising off the flowing waters of the mountain streams would make this place no longer the paradise it seemed.
There were two litters, carried in tandem by their teams of un-protesting ratings. The lead one carried only Madam Zonga, alone amongst the comfort of her velvet and silk pillows. On the second a further two psychics sat with meditated calm.
At the head of the whole procession their native guide sought to read out the subtleties of the path that no off-worlder might see amongst the leaf mould beneath the trees. Jono had provided him only after subtle threats had been made about letting Stoto take over the running of Palladin. Even Zonga had had to admit in private that such threats would have been enough to get anyone to do anything for them, such was the odious nature of the man. Once the military fleet finally departed, then they would be at the weasel man’s mercy, and she did not doubt that old scores would be quietly settled.
Up the valley the early morning mists still swirled, justifying the name the locals gave these forests. The terrain was untapped, and for the most part rarely explored by those who would prefer to shelter in the towns and cities down on the valley floors. Up here between the rivers and the bracken moors and peat bogs high on the hillsides, only the hardiest of trackers and nomads roamed.
It was also the place that Zonga knew the One had lived a long time in. Guided by her senses that reached out across the ether, searching for the signs, Zonga was convinced they would find answers. Up here was the place that would shed light on their secret quest. It might allow them to get ahead of the High Lords and subvert their purpose.
Eventually the mists enveloped the trees, until all anyone could see were a few tree trunks and low-hanging branches. Pine needles littered the floor adding to the blanket that muted all sound.
Zonga leant forward in her litter and signalled their guide to step closer.
“What is this place?” she asked.
The guide bowed down low, running a hand through his tousled hair. She sensed across the ether in the man’s mind that he was nervous, and was not used to having to be around so many people.
“These are the mountains of the mist, Madam. Here is the way through that you have asked me to show you.”
She looked about from side to side, but saw only walls of sluggish moving grey mist.
“I see nothing.”
The guide forced a smile at the lack of knowledge of the off-worlders.
“It is what gives these mountains their name. In the warmer seasons this is a beautiful place. Then the mists burn off in the day letting a traveller see his way. You have to know the way well though this time of dakrum as it is easy to lose your sense of direction.”
He was proud of his knowledge; Zonga could look into his harmless mind and see it. Knowing that they were at the man’s mercy should he choose to take offence at anything they did, she feigned an interest in his words.
Letting her mind reach out on the ether she was relieved that his advances were merely professional pride that he knew these mountains so well. That she knew she could humour him over – small things for small minds. It surprised her that it felt good to build the man’s confidence.
This was something new that she rarely felt before now, having spent so long in Qataari’s influence. She shuffled to make herself more comfortable within the sanctity offered by her velvet and silk lined litter.
“How far is it to the cottage?” she asked pleasantly, choosing her moment carefully between his words so as not to offend. She had learnt of the homestead in her meditations deep into the night. It was not wise for a psychic to spend so long allowing their mind to flout away from the body, but it had been a risk she had calculated to take. In that meditation she had seen the tiny building, left just as it had been when the girl had left. There would be many clues there that she knew she needed to visit it in person to learn.
“Not far now, ma’am.”
He pointed an arm to the mists in the direction the procession went; though as much as she squinted her eyes could make out nothing except the looming shadows of trees.
“I see nothing,” she conceded.
It had been a nuisance that the woods were so steep and thick that using a shuttle had been out of the question.
“A few hundred paces, that I be sure of,” replied the guide with pride.
Letting her mind reach out on the ether, she felt for the glow that she had witnessed before. In the mindscape locked within she could sense the trees marching away for many thousands of paces in all directions. There was a stream, its waters crystal clear, and ice cold snaking down from the fells.
Here and there she felt small mountain creatures regarding the passing travellers warily from the seclusion of their habitats; there was nothing to cause them harm.
Finally, ahead of them all, following the guide’s outstretched arm through the mists that evaporated to nothing upon the ether, she could tell the resting-place that they sought.
A smile crossed her face as she opened her eyes.
Here she knew they would find much of what they wanted. Qataari would never know the full truth; that she would see too strenuously. Only herself and her two psychic companions would be wiser of the resonance carried on the ether. If the right mind could get close to the source, they could see all like it was yesterday. If Zonga’s predictions were right, they would see for themselves the memories of the One they sought laid bare on the ether for them to sift through.
Then they could be certain.
The High Lords might suspect that others would have their own motives. Even now, she surmised, they would have their spies out, looking for those who sought to better them. She knew that Stoto was one of them, but the others were better hidden so no-one could be trusted with absolute certainty.
Another smile flickered across her lips in rare show of emotion. The guide thought it was directed to him, but it bore more significance to her innermost thoughts. There were no spies with them at least – the small military attachment that Qataari had been obliged to provide to them contained none – she had searched for the safety in their minds. The men were dedicated to their job, and nothing else.
“We arrive.”
The words shook her from her rêverie. Looking about her she saw the rough built walls of a cottage looming from the grey shadows of the fog.
“This place?” she asked, wanting to be certain.
Wriggling free of the litter, she stepped to the ground. It felt spongy with moss underfoot, but stable and more than able to hold her weight. Slowly she circled the small abode, reaching out to feel its every detail with her mind before she was satisfied it really was the right place.
She nodded to the psychics to join her, then addressed the men.
“We will search inside. Stay out here, and see that no-one else comes close.”
Their leader, a young man of chiselled features, snapped smartly to attention.
“It is done, ma’am.”
She nodded; satisfied that he would be true to his word. The psychics followed her to the door, and they entered the darkness of the abandoned cottage together.
Inside the room was cold and clammy. It was clear that no-one had been here in a while. But possessions remained and with them hung the aura of those that had been here. Spreading out the three psychics soundlessly formed a circle. Holding hands, they reached out with their minds, looking for the clues.
Within the visions of her mind Zonga saw the young girl move around the building like a ghostly figure in her mind’s eye. She felt the emotions, binding together seemingly still so real after all this time.
Slowly the everyday tasks moved aside as the minds of the psychics went deeper into the building’s memories. Finally the ghost of the girl seemed to melt away, and the thoughts in her mind became clearer and the memories moved on into her life.
They saw a date, with a man whom she had met only a month before. Some-one important, though other memories engraved upon the fabric of this land would tell in time. Other memories of old swirled before Zonga, and she saw that this was a man of much importance. There were others who believed strongly in the future that he possessed for himself.
But then there were even more people who frowned upon such a liaison. Unnatural, they said. He was too old, too important with too much of a future to waste on an insignificant girl from the future like her, they said.
They did not care for the words that were spoken. They were young and in love. And deep down they knew there was more for them together than that. Their love had grown quickly, but it was strong and unswerving. Nothing that the elders could say would change that.
The echoes played on as she got ready in the cottage that had been her home for so long. Tomorrow she would go to the palace down the valley. Tomorrow she would begin a new life together forever and she was happy.
She hummed and sang, putting together the clothes that would be needed. An iron bound trunk at the end of the bed lay open, ready to receive that which would be taken though the girl did not posses much. A love of corsets – how they changed her figure for the better. A feeling flitted by within the meditation of a disappointment in what nature had dealt upon the cards.
Then the door to the cottage rattled, and the stranger was there. Only this was not a stranger to her; the vision took with it the feeling of familiarity.
His features were young and clean, but Zonga knew she had seen him before. Jono had been the one for whom her love had known no other.
Memories glittered within the past as the echoes from the cottage played on.
He had known more than he had let on. But as Zonga watched the vision grow and progress, she realised that even he might have underestimated the true potential of the one he loved.
Now Zonga and the other psychics could see clearly that day that had passed so long ago. It was as if history was playing there and then in front of them as the ghostly figures and the feelings of their minds danced their memories in the room.
The others in the cities and the guild had not seen her, having been blinded by their traditions that were so old as to be inflexible. They said that she was nothing for him. She could not be a part of his life, if he wanted to be such an important part of theirs. He had, of course, pleaded with them. But they had sternly pointed to the words within the text and made him chose between a future and a destiny.
He had come tearful to her abode to tell her of the decision he had painfully been forced to make.
In the memory played out within her mind and the room, Zonga saw the emotion well up within. The wound was still sore after even now so many years. The young Jono told his love that he had felt his future lie within the guild. There was much that he could do, and much that the ether had called out to him.
But he had known they would never allow her to be a part of it. The hierarchy were stuck well and truly within their ways. They left a path open for his potential to grow, but it would have to bloom without her by his side.
He had made his decision, brought here in this night in history with tears.
With love he held her in his grasp, explaining this all had been forced upon him.
The psychics together felt the fear in his mind that she would not understand. But as the final words came and went, the watched the ghostly apparition of the girl in their minds’ eyes nod and wipe away the tears.
Yes, she understood, but she would never let her love for him die away and extinguish like an untended flame. It would burn for always.
The thoughts flowing in Zonga’s mind grew as the significance of the scenario played out in the ethereal memory became clear. As her mortal eyes cast themselves once more over the cold long extinguished embers of a fire long forgotten and the artefacts of a life left behind, she saw what Jono had seen all those dakrum ago. The girl was special, and held a key to the faith that he held onto so dear.
He had felt her power, waiting to be tapped.
The psychic felt the cool breeze on her face as the door to the cottage was pushed ajar.
A smile slipped across her pale face in the darkness. Now the psychics here all knew that was why he had sent her with the others. Tomar was not the secret, though she knew the High Lords and their followers would see things that way. They were shallow and weak-minded; they only saw what they wanted to see.
A crewman peered around the doorjamb; cautious at the intrusion he knew he was being forced to perform.
“What is it?” she asked sweetly. She could feel the fear in his mind starting to overpower her thoughts as the memories faded away.
Slowly the psychics relaxed and broke their circle of hands to turn to face the nervous man.
He bowed low, sweating despite the cold.
“My Lady. Commodore Qataari has sent message from the palace – the old priest has spoken all he knows.”
Another smile crossed her face. She could imagine that fool Qataari letting Stoto bully the priest into submission. It would be like a bull running amok through a bazaar.
Her mind reached out across the ether searching back through the trees along the route they had travelled and felt in a split moment the truth.
“I know,” she said softly, as her eyes finally focused back to the real world, “I have felt it.”
The crewman looked taken aback. The emotions from his mind hung about him like an invisible haze, waiting to be sifted through and read.
“Madam?” His words petered out.
She nodded, understanding his feelings. “Do not worry crewman. We have learnt all we can here. It has been most informative.”
He bowed low a second time.
“You may go.” She dismissed him with the wave of a hand. Relieved, his head disappeared and the door squeaked shut. She turned to the other psychics.
“We have also felt the emotions,” began Crimzon, “The memories run strong in this place.”
“But Jono?” asked Corona.
Zonga waved her to silence. In her head she played through the thoughts she had touched on the ether.
“He has told them only what they wished to hear,” she replied, “He will not betray the girl.”
“But they will learn in time,” warned Corona darkly.
“Not before we have got to her first,” Zonga replied, “They will waste their resources going after the old man.”
Crimzon looked through the dusty window glass to the group of military men milling outside. “They grow restless,” she warned, “We must return.”
Without further word Zonga led them out of the cottage. The chill of the air hit them hard – the building had been warmer than it seemed despite the many moons that it had lain abandoned.
Crimzon and Corona sat gently within their litter, and Zonga returned to hers.
“We are ready now,” she announced climbing back aboard the furs and velvets.
The leader nodded and signalled the others. Immediately men stood to attention. Crewman took hold of the litter handles and hoisted them high for the return trudge to the Palace.
Footsteps rang out in unison and the litters began their journey back down the mountains to the palace. As the group reached the edge of the clearing and moved back amongst the trees and the last vestiges of the mists, Zonga looked back at the cottage disappearing quickly behind.
Reflecting on what they had learnt, she felt the emotions still running strong from the echoes they had seen together. In the small insignificant cottage they had learnt the story that The High Lords could never know.
A voice at her side startled her – not something that as a psychic she was used to, but the group meditation had tired her out.
“Your task was successful?”
Looking to the side of the swaying litter, she saw the leader of the military group looking to her expectantly. For a moment their minds brushed as she reached out. But there was no ill intention or subterfuge from the man. Perhaps he was genuinely curious after all?
She nodded and looked to the passing trees and bushes shrouded in the swirling mist.
“Enlightening,” she said, “It confirms what we wish.”
He shrugged, but seemed satisfied with the answer. For a while he kept pace by the litter’s side, though she ignored him and in time he dropped back to the others. Presently she felt the minds of Crimzon and Corona lull to sleep, and soon she too nodded off from the exhaustion of the mental task they had performed.

Part three of the Shibboleth Saga.
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