Zoomers

An hour and a half.  That was all the time that remained of having to pretend I was paying attention to the horrid lesson over video conferencing.  Everyone’s faces were drawn with similar dull gazes, looking into the several-years-behind webcams built into the mass produced laptops we had been provided.  The teacher was no different, save being contractually obligated to make sure every minute of the session was crammed with an entire day’s worth of knowledge.  The best we could do to appease her was to nod our heads in response to her provocations of our knowledge.

“Everyone understand?”

Nodding.

“Alright, I’ll move on then.”

Nodding.

“Davy, are you chewing gum?”

Nodding- wait no.

I struggled to hit the unmute button to make my case. “I uh, sorry, I just-”

It had long since lost its minty flavor after being gnashed around between my teeth since before the meeting began.  The movement of my jaw to appease my ancient carnal instincts as well as my more modern anxiety had become secondary at that point.  “You know the school rules, no gum at school.”

“I’ll just spit it out-” I said, darting back and forth just at the edges of the camera’s field of view, looking for the wrapper or a scrap piece of paper.

“No, you’ve wasted enough time for us this week already,” Mrs. Kay huffed. “You were late Monday, and you had no answer for me when I called on you Wednesday.”

“That was-”

“And now you’re talking back to me.  You’re off to the principal,” she glared at me, or at least the camera she was sat in front of. “You have his link?  I’m sending him an email right now, so you better be there ASAP, buddy.”

Before I could defend myself, I heard the jingle of the call disconnecting me.  Somewhere deep in my emails encompassing weeks of assignments and communications, I found the link to the principal’s own ‘disciplinary’ meeting.  The waiting room welcomed me with a message of ‘Please wait to be dealt with.  Do not minimize or exit out of this screen, and do not leave your device unattended.’

Five minutes passed.  And then five more.  And then just when I was about to fall asleep at the wheel, the jingle rang out.  I was let in.  There was the principal; round-faced, bald-headed, and complexion red as could be.  I held my breath as he looked at me through his camera with studious eyes.  When his mic unmuted, I heard the chuckling in the background, followed by the man’s final guffaw and a huff to catch his breath.

“Funny ladies here in the office,” he mentioned.  “Uh, what brings you here?”

“Mrs. Kay probably sent you a message.”

The principal bit at his lip.  “Don’t tell me what probably or didn’t probably happen.  You’re here for a reason, aren’t ya?”

“Well-”

“Here it is,” he interrupted.  “Davy, three strikes.  Disruption, insubordination, violation of decency standards.  What’s this last one?” He asked with a puzzled tone.

“Gum chewing, proba- it was for chewing gum.”

The principal looked at me with a disappointed look. “You’re a junior, you should know that rule by now.  And in class, too.”

“I’m-” I began, glancing behind my back to the corners of the room that was certainly none other than my bedroom in a house whose mortgage was solely being paid for by my parents. “I’m at home.”

There was a finger snapping through the camera and mic at me.  “Look at me when you’re speaking.  Your house, my house, the school- no gum.  Anywhere.  If that were it, I could get you out of here, but that seems like it was the final straw this week.  Do you know how much Mrs. Kay and the other teachers work to keep things together, to keep teaching in these trying times?”

“Sure?”

“Sure.” He repeated, leaning back in his chair. “Well, as per the rules, we’re giving you an at-school suspension.”

“At school?”

“I’ll give you the link for Mr. Butch’s detention room, it will have to do.  Finish up the day there, and the rest of the week for good measure.  Any questions?”

“What.. should I do?”

“It’s detention, son.” The principal clicked his tongue. “No talking to each other.  Just sit there and do your work.  No goofing off on other sites.”


A hopefully farewell to all the zoom meetings held this year.

Departure

Remnant: Book of Tulefore Chapter 7 [Final]

Kiaren and Silvus had managed to exit the great hall with the Slanian prisoner by way of the unique guard’s knock to find Terren at the exterior. While Terren arranged for the castle guards to return to their normal posts, the others returned to the awaiting ship at the harbor. Danus had resigned himself to pacing a length of the quay while awaiting their arrival.

Some of Silvus’ men had descended from the ship to provide watch over Medan while he regained his composure. The heavy air was suddenly lifted as they spotted Silvus forcing the man down the stairs to their location.

Medan stood to examine the captive Slanian. “Fine work, Sir Silvus, Lady Kiaren. I imagine we can see to it that he does not cause any trouble for our voyage.

“He was of no great trouble,” Silvus sighed, passing the Slanian over to one of his men, “but I’m wary of what we will come across when we arrive across the sea.”

Medan folded his arms. “We’ll have plenty of time to discuss how we will proceed, commander. Now, let’s load up and not stall any longer.”

Kiaren slumped her shoulders. She passed by Danus, who attempted to stroke her back. Ignoring any further interaction, she planted herself against the stone embankment across from the docks.

Silvus examined the ship while Medan and the rest of the crew prepared for the final departure. His eyes drifted back to Kiaren, staring at the ground. She offered up a singular glance as he approached and said, “don’t waste any more time, Medan told you.”

“There is always time for you, my dear.”

“Don’t attempt to flatter me with your words, this late.”

“Flatter, no.” Silvus folded his arms across his chest. “You’ve enough flattery to last a lifetime. It’s restraint you need.”

Kiaren grit her teeth. “I suppose I’ll have much time to practice that.”

“You ought to listen to your brother more often, at least in some manners.”

“Nonsense.”

“As he said, there is an order to things, especially in the castle.”

Kiaren pushed herself up. “Such as the order to place your rank above mine?”

Silvus sighed. “It would be wise of you to apologize to the guards you treated so poorly back there. You’re in a position where respect must be mutual.”

From atop the deck of the ship, there was a call. “Sir Silvus!” Medan waved at them. “While the winds are willing!”

Silvus glanced back and waved a sign of understanding. “Kiaren… I shall return here one day. When I do, I shall hope that I will see you as the best version of yourself. Farewell.”


Keep an eye out, hopefully later this summer, for the remainder of the passages of This Prequel collection to the Sing Wars! As always, thanks for reading!

Servants of the Empire

Remnant: Book of Tulefore Chapter 6

Silvus’ breath was heavy from mounting the tall stairway up from the docks and about the road leading to the castle. The early hours of the cold morning left the streets still empty. Instead of going after the Slanian, he decided to turn to the castle in order to seek out more guards.

When he arrived through the main entrance of the courtyard, those present were absent from their stations and chatting among themselves. “What’s persuaded you to move from your posts?” Silvus barked at them.

The men stood immediately to a stiff attention. “We… assumed you had already left, Sir Silvus.” One replied.

“Don’t be so foolish,” The commander complained. “I’m in need of your aid, to help search a man- there was an attack upon the Viceroy.”

“A Slanian?” Another guard asked.

Silvus perked up and approached the men. “Yes. How-?”

“One just passed through, sir,” The first guard said. “We thought it was strange, he wasn’t entering by the servant’s entrance.”

“He’s inside?” Silvus asked, beginning to stomp off through the hall’s tall doors without awaiting an answer. “Come, we’ll need to flush him out.”

The Emperor had yet to come to the hall that morning, leaving only the servants and maids clearing the used settings from that morning’s breakfast. They glanced at Silvus before quietly focusing back on their work. The commander examined them; the inhabitants of the south wing of the castle were of various origin, some of Callian birth, whereas others were of the sort brought to the homeland from Tulefore’s colonies. A lightly-tanned Slanian woman, whom he clearly recognized, continued sending glances to him, hardly making a peep.

Silvus held his fist up, silently stopping the other guards behind him. “Block off the exits,” he whispered back, “here up front, the servant’s entrance, and the side entrance on the north. Get someone guarding the upper chambers, as well. Not a soul in our out.”

“Yes, sir.”

Silvus stood his ground while awaiting the others to disperse. His fingers trembled at the pommel of his sword sitting in the sheath at his hip. He glanced at the Slanian woman, still at work, before rounding the table and following the south wall to the rear corridor. A single other servant was ahead of him in the section of the castle, transporting a stack of plates.

Kiaren arrived shortly after to the entranceway of the great hall which had been firmly closed up and blocked to entry by the guards. Terren was not far behind, his breathing ragged. “Sister, the man can’t be that fast.”

Kiaren ignored him, stepping before the guards in anticipation that they would immediately act. “Why are the doors sealed?” She asked defiantly as the men stood their ground despite her approach.

“You should not enter at this time, Lady Kiaren.” The first said, holding his hand up to her. “Silvus already offered us an order to not allow anyone inside. He already came this way after a Slanian.”

Kiaren stomped her foot. “I know who he’s after, my father gave the order to go after him.”

“It seems both Silvus and the Slanian were faster than us, then,” Terren hummed, looking up and down the tall structure of the door.

Kiaren shook her head and turned back. “What if there are more of them in there that would follow that man?”

Terren pursed his lips and shrugged. “The servants who reside here have been here long enough, they may be trusted.”

“Stay here then,” The lady folded her arms. “The other doors may need reinforcing.”

As Kiaren began to stomp off about the courtyard, Terren was helpless to stop her. Down one of the side roads adjacent to the area was another entrance, leading to a lower level of the castle’s structure under the south wing where the servants lived and worked. Kiaren was distraught to find, already, a pair of guards already at the separate exit.

“Aside,” She directed, gesturing her hand back and forth. “I need to get inside.”

“Sir Silvus’ orders, Lady Kiaren.” The guard returned, standing before the latch. “My apologies.”

“I have rank on Silvus,” Kiaren growled, her hand at her hip. “Move.”

The first man shook his head. “Lord Danus… has asked us to…”

“Shh-” The second interrupted. “By any means, it is safer if you remain out here.”

Kiaren stomped and shuffled her stance back and forth between the blocked doorway. “If you’re out here, then Silvus is acting on his own inside. That’s not something I can allow.”

The pair remained silent, eyes shifting to each other and skating the ground uneasily. Kiaren lashed out, her teeth grit, and grabbed onto the leather chest plate of the closest, pulling him away from the door. “Lady Kiaren, I cannot-”

“Silence.” She said, yanking the latch of the door open.

Silvus had entered the castle’s kitchen. The air inside was relatively warm with the heat of the ovens soaking up the flames of wood fires burning deeper inside. The smell from the breakfast service lingered as well. The servants could not help but notice his arrival, surprised to see one of importance in their midst. The number, Silvus noticed, of Slanian servants, was sparse, less than he expected.

“Keep working, pay me no heed,” Silvus directed, catching the eyes of several of the men and women. Farther in the rear of the kitchen, the soiled dishes were being soaked in a large wooden basin and combed over by worn and wrinkled hands. With tentative steps and a scanning gaze, Silvus continued on to the rear of the level to the back stairwell.

A clutter of furniture from behind him called his attention back. The commander caught the sheen of a metal instrument in the hand of the strange Slanian. The man clacked the edge of the wide kitchen knife against one of the work surfaces, while the uninvolved workers scrambled past Silvus and back to the front of the castle. “Don’t move- what are you planning?” The commander asked calmly, his hands held out just before him.

“We no want Tuleforian Viceroy… our land.” The man spoke menacingly, his hand going white at the wooden grip of the instrument. “No forces, no swords.”

“I’m not the one you should be trying to convince.” Silvus stood his ground, looking to the shaky Slanian. “Although, you’ve lost any chance of finding favor with Medan.”

The man clacked the flat of the blade once again, before jabbing it out toward Silvus. “Stop! Go! Do not care!” He took a step forward, forcing Silvus to cautiously retreat. “Go to our home, but you not win against us, many!”

Silvus felt the small of his back touch the wood of the basin as his space to retreat dwindled. Behind some of the far racks, the remaining servants, those of Slanian birth, were looking on. The attacker bit at his lip and continued to push forward.

At his rear, Silvus managed to make contact with the edge of an earthen bowl, mostly submerged in the water. With a swing of his shoulders, he jerked around and flung the bowl outward toward the Slanian, wash water and all. The dish bounced off the man’s shoulder, and the water entered his mouth and eyes. Silvus took the chance to rush toward the man and shove his hand against the side of the table, forcing the knife to fall to the ground. With a practiced movement, the commander forced the Slanian’s hand behind his back, restraining him.

Kiaren had managed to snake her way through the packed storage room below, and up the stairs to the kitchen. She arrived as the bowl found its way to the ground, shattering. Silvus had forced the man against the table, held at bay. “Silvus-” She called out, her eyes training to the situation.

“Everything under control,” Silvus said back, holding tightly to the restrained man. He turned his attention to the other servants, who were already beginning to retreat once again. “How did you get in here? I told the guard to not allow anyone past the entrances.

Kiaren bit her lip. “That’s none of your concern.”