Aaaand we’re back with the first new scene of Worlds Rising: Rebellion in 2020. And when I say ’new scene‘ I mean new scene!
As a matter of fact part of the reason why I decided to take a bit of a break from the story was that I had felt very uncomfortable with how I’d presented the upcoming events thus far. Too static, too much of a monolog. I mean, ugh, right?!
Well, what can I say, a break did me good and the next time I set to work with this piece of
crap text, my brain came up with a whole different approach. Dialog, baby!
I won’t bore you with the details on how I had spent the past couple of weeks on my couch
eating cookies and watching K-Dramas crying and fasting to appease my muse. Instead, I will let you be the judge of whether or not the wait was worth it.
Let the show begin!
A quick recap of what had happened last:
Abbida has patched up Lian’s wounds to the best of her knowledge and they part, for Abbida is going to seek help back at the village. Meanwhile, Li Xiao feels very much at odds with his superiors when, surprisingly, he is ordered to fly into combat.
If you are new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 12, Part 1
“I can’t believe you! How can you just sit there and do nothing?!” Stomping up and down the cramped space of their family’s hut and pushing aside the sacks of dried herbs dangling from the ceiling on every turn, Joram gave off this air as if he was about to punch something. Or someone.
Ashok hunkered by his desk in his own private corner and bit his tongue. The herbs gave off their distinctive aromas of Lavender, Thyme, Camphor, Anise and a dozen more that Ashok couldn’t even name. If their mother could see Joram right now, mistreating her precious medicines so, she would not approve. But Ashok understood quite well the need to vent and, frankly, he deserved his brother’s anger. From the beginning, Joram had warned him it could come to this if he failed to persuade the council members to take on defense measures. Of any kind! But they hadn’t.
And there was no denying it, ultimately, the current situation was Ashok’s fault. As much as Joram, too, had missed home while being imprisoned, he had always deemed an escape too risky. For their fellow prisoners as well as for their families back home. It had been Ashok who had thrown all caution to the wind after Major Huang Lian had assured him the Dikang had their backs. But it wasn’t the rebels who were stuck here now–they were.
Feeling restless, Ashok fiddled with the tiny knob-in-the-ear the major had slipped him at their last meeting. Once or twice she had called out to him during the escape, after that it went dead. It had been weeks now since he’d last heard from her. He chose to believe she was still alive and that the plan was still on. But time was running out. Frustrated, he wrung his hands. Truth is, there wasn’t much he could do now, but wait. With Cole and Abbida gone nobody would heed his warnings anymore, not even his pleading to hide in the woods.
That part was the hardest to understand. Surely there had to be some secret place or other for the villagers to hide? Any sane council would have taken measures for situations like this, wouldn’t they? It was only natural! Well, it should have been.
More to keep his fingers occupied than from necessity he rearranged his notes and unfinished projects on the narrow shelf behind him, huffing, “I can’t believe our own brother would stab me in the back like this. I mean–what in the world could he hope to gain from collaborating with the enemy?”
“We don’t know that!” Joram said. “It must have been Rona’s doing. That woman has never been anything but trouble. Tarek’s a fool!”
“Yeah, yeah, we all know you don’t like her. That doesn’t make her a super villain.”
“Don’t tell me you still believe she was ever going to help you convince old Mandras? She must have been plotting treason all along. Who else knew all the details of this… plan… of yours? She is the only one who could have sold us out like this.”
“Along with the whole fricking council!”
“Uh huh, I can see old Mandras limping to the enemy on his cane before my very eye.” Joram scoffed, waving in the direction of the meeting hall, where said council was conferring in a closed session since the day before, when Rona’s treason had become apparent. Nothing had come of this meeting thus far and nothing would, that much was clear by now.
Ashok didn’t want to argue with his brother. Bad enough that Tarek had chosen to oppose his own family. And Joram was right, Mandras or any of the other elderly council members collaborating with the invaders didn’t make sense. Not, that it made any sense for Tarek or Rona to do so. Why? What was there to gain for either of them?
It was no use racking his brain. He–
A loud and insistent stroking of the council gong interrupted his thoughts, the surge of adrenalin jolting him as he recognized the sequence. A raid! He exchanged glances with Joram.
His brother had stopped in his tracks. “It’s happening.”
Strangely composed, now that their fears were becoming reality, Joram seemed to wait for Ashok to take the lead. Ashok bit the insides of his cheeks. Was he up to it? He had to.
Slowly, he plucked the tiny communication device from his ear, contemplated it one last time, laid it on his desk and grabbed Cole’s hammer that he’d brought from the smithy–just in case. One blow was all it took. Joram watched as he gathered up the tiny shreds, walked over to the ash pit behind the oven and buried them deep inside. Part of him almost felt relieved. Day and night he’d been hoping for another sign from Major Huang Lian. Now the waiting was over.
In the pale orangish light of early dawn people were herding together in front of the meeting hall. There lay a tenseness in the atmosphere that promised a stormy day–in any sense of the word. Ashok squinted towards the east, where the enemy was most likely to come from. Any last hope was shattered by the thin, scattered line over the horizon. From experience, he knew they would fall upon them at tremendous speed. A chill ran down his spine as he followed Joram towards the gathering.
Mandras and Eleni and other council members had stepped outside to face their clamoring, anxious neighbors demanding reassurance. A smaller group of men kept off to the side, and Ashok immediately recognized his fellow escapees. There was Kyle, the man from another village, still mute, and right next to him Raman, his youngest brother. Ashok stepped up and grabbed Raman by the shoulder: “You’re not coming! Go home, stay with our mother! You’re all she will have left!”
“You can’t make me!” Raman said, his eyes glaring, fists balled.
“No, he’s right.” Joram came around from the other side and gently shoved Raman away from the crowd, pointing him towards their mother who was eying them with a haunted look on her face.
“Where are you going?” she asked, rushing closer. Her glances flitted from one of her sons to the next and the next, understanding dawning. Tears started filling her eyes. “What are you doing?!”
“Mother.” Ashok intercepted her, wrapping his arms tightly around her shoulders. Her head pressed against his chest, and he loosened his embrace somewhat for fear of crushing her. “It’s alright. Don’t cry. Please, don’t cry!”
Her fingers clawed into his sides, she pushed back in his arms and shook her head vigorously. “No! You can’t go! Nobody is going anywhere. I just got you back!”
“We have to, mother,” Joram said. “Or else they will destroy everything and enslave you all. Think about the kids!”
“Oh no, not the little ones! But what is going to happen to you if you go back? Will you be safe?” She reached out to Raman and Joram as well. Thankful, Ashok realized his mother was beginning to accept the inevitable.
“We will,” he promised against his better judgement. “They still need us. And you, Raman, will take care of our mother until our return, understood? She needs you.”
It was obvious that Raman wanted to object, but catching their mother’s eye and maybe sensing her desperation he gave in. Defeated, they both stood back as the other escapees surrounded Joram and Ashok. After a short, mostly silent exchange they all headed out from the village. Mandras called out to them, and even Eleni meant to say something, but their voices were drowned out by the crowd and Ashok wasn’t going to listen anyway. He was done with them.
Outside the village they stopped and kneeled on the stubbly soil of a harvested field. They folded their hands over their heads and faced east, where the fighters where coming closer through the clouds, now visible to the plain eye, a steady droning in tow.
Ashok felt Joram next to him shift his weight and, out of the corner of his eyes, contemplated his brother’s profile. All the brothers were of similar height and resembled each other a lot. Their father’s physique had mixed rather favorably with the delicate beauty of their mother. Now, ill-concealed anger and frustration marred Joram’s good looks, and yet Ashok was painfully reminded of Farid, the second and undisputably most handsome of the brothers.
Ashok missed Farid every waking hour, his violent death had inflicted a wound which would never heal in any of them. Farid’s enamel ring was all Ashok had been able to save and take back to their mother. Had Huang Lian not disobeyed orders and spoken to the condemned men before the execution, he wouldn’t even have had that. It was then when he first started trusting Huang Lian.
And for the laser gun she got him.
The gun that had disappeared along with Tarek and Rona.
Ashok bit his tongue and raised his gaze to the sky. The aircraft were gaining rapidly on them now. The droning turned to roaring as half a dozen smaller fighters and two large transporters sped towards them. A swarm of locust, infesting the plain, stirring up the dry soil, hurling clumps of dirt, sand and straw to all sides like projectiles. Ashok ground his teeth, refusing to shield eyes or ears against the onslaught. Inside, a hatred boiled up he had never thought himself capable of. That was all in the past. Today, everything was different.
The noise was hardly bearable now. The aircraft roared over them, passed the village and looped back to descend right above them. The roaring and the screaming of jets drowned out all other sounds. Around Ashok the men vanished in plumes of dust and dirt. He tried not to breathe and was forced to cover his face with his sleeves after all. Even so sand and dirt got into mouth and nose, tears ran from his eyes and he coughed. When the noise finally died down and the dust settled, they were surrounded from all sides by soldiers in full combat gear, pointing heavy weapons at them.
At least they had not been shot on sight.
Drawing attention towards himself was the only thing now he could do to protect the village from the enemy’s wrath. There would be no mercy, all that knelt here beside him knew that. They had all witnessed the deaths of those who’d tried to defy their captors before. But the enemy needed the village. After the culprits’ surrender they would spare the neighbors. That was Ashok’s only hope.
~ to be continued! ~
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Rattle and shake!