Chapter 5: Our Own Prisons We Do Make
It had been days since the last contact with anyone. His cell was six feet by six feet square. There was a rusty pipe sticking out of the wall that gave minimal amounts of water. He didn’t know where the water came from, but it smelled of sulfur and burnt bread. As far as he was concerned, it was the sewage from one of the floors above, if not the sewage coming directly from the White Palace itself. He was provided two small buckets everyday. One bucket full of water, and the other empty, to carry away his waste. Regardless of what they took away, he still smelled of shit. It had been months since they dowsed him with the powders and hot mineral waters.
In his recollection, in the time before he became a fugitive from The Creators, the cells of the Tower of Creation never fell into the state that they were currently in today. Although, he had only seen his cell to this point, he believed the Lord Veeter Commander’s policies on holding prisoners was uniform throughout the cell block.
The last bout of interrogation was the hardest to endure yet. He can’t remember what he did or didn’t say. It was all a blur. He hadn’t slept for seventy-two hours, and they whipped him repeatedly. All they wanted to know was where he came from, and where he hid the child. He’d lasted this long, he needed to last just a bit longer. He had counted the days since his capture, and kept a record of scratches on the wall of his cell. If his calculations were correct, then Phoebe’s twenty-first birthday would be very soon.
Once she accessed her book, she would know the things I kept from her.
He had hoped that she could forgive him for keeping her from the truth for all of these years. He only did it out of love to protect her from all the dangers that would fall upon her if it were known what her true identity might be.
He followed the signs for years, and he had friends that assisted him in determining the validity of her birthright. Never had the moons aligned as they did on that night. Not in the two thousand year history of Valkron.
What if they were wrong? No, they couldn’t have been. It is she. I know it with all of my heart. She was born on that fateful night. I held her in my arms. She’s the hope of the world. I saw the magic with my own eyes. She saved my life with her hands. There’s no other explanation. It has to be her.
There came a thud on the door. He went and stood at the back of the cell facing the wall, with his hands on his head.
“Put your hands on your head Take.”
Trantaxus made a slow exaggerated motion of taking his hands off his head and then replacing them in the same position. The guard entered the cell and placed his club against the back of Trantaxus’s knee and pushed. Trantaxus lost his balance and fell against the wall and then slid down to the floor. The other guard standing outside the cell came in and switched out the buckets. Leaving one full of water, and another one with moldy bread inside of it. It never mattered to him that they delivered his food in the shit bucket.
When they finally left the cell, he rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. It was blank darkness. He rolled over onto his side and dug a pebble out of the rut on the floor and scratched off another line on the wall. He measured the days by the deliveries.
It was a lonely adventure, but Trantaxus kept himself lucid by recalling memories and by constituting waking dreams. He knew every detail of his life to this point, and took the liberty to improve each memory and deed if they needed the slightest embellishment. He came from a long line of storytellers, and in spite of his militaristic past, he held fast to the nuances of a proper narrative structure.
After he finished making his mark, he palmed the bread from the bucket and tore it up into chunks. He needed his strength; he never knew when an opportunity to escape might present itself. He forced the moldy parts of the bread into his mouth first. They had a minty taste. It was tough to get them down, even after all of this time. He persisted. He washed it all down with a few gulps of water.
The tower probably hasn’t changed all that much, probably not at all. If I could get outside the cell, then I could descend the back staircase from the cellblock, and sneak into the hover sled repository. Once inside, I could initiate a fire alarm, and when the doors open, I can take a hover sled out.
The plans were always the same in his mind. The only difficulty was getting out of the cell and past the guards on this level. He remembered Veeter protocol, and knew that they always guarded or patrolled in groups of three. Back in his youth, it would not have been a problem to make short work or three Veeters, but in his current state, he would be lucky if he could take down one.
I’ll have to use experience to my advantage. I still remember the sequence of combat and self-defense maneuvers. Hell, I wrote the manual on them.
He heard more activity in the hallway. They were coming back. There was another loud thud on the door.
“Take. Move to the back of your cell, with your hands upon your head. Now!”
Maybe they’re back to take me for another round of interrogation.
“Your not moving fast enough, Take. Don’t make us force you.”
Trantaxus very deliberately moved to the back of his cell, and placed his hands upon his head for the second time today. He heard the first Veeter enter the cell, and then the second. The first Veeter grabbed his left hand from his head and twisted it down into the small of his back where it met an open shackle. Then the Veeter pulled the other hand down to the other open shackle. Now his hands were bound behind his back.
“Close your legs. I have leg irons.”
The Veeter hit him on the top of the back with his stick. It stung him.
The Veeter place the leg irons on Trantaxus’s ankles. The leg irons were a size too small, so his skin was pinched when they were closed.
He finally heard another thud, it sounded like a stool was place on the floor in the space behind him. The Veeter that had bound his hands and feet finalized his immobilization by putting a neck collar on him.
“Turn him around, and tether him to the wall post,” said the unknown voice.
As he was turned around, Trantaxus was slightly blinded from the light coming in through the door. After his eyes had a moment to adjust, he saw a blurry silhouette of a man sitting himself on the stool that was a quarter of a way into the cell.
The two Veeter guards left the cell. The third must have been waiting outside.
“The Great Trantaxus.”
“To what do I owe the pleasure? Majordomo.”
“Oh, you recognize me?”
“ I recognize the title that comes with the robes you wear, and the bureaucratic stink that comes off of them, but not the man inside of them.”
“That’s too bad, Lord Veeter Commander Trantaxus, or should I say Trantaxus the Traitor?”
“I am not a traitor.”
“The crimes you committed against the Supreme and Supremess are punishable by death.”
“I committed no crimes. I only protected our mutual interests.”
“What would you presume to know of my interests?”
“All Valkronians are interested in adhering to and preserving The Rote.”
“Ahh! The Rote, that pesky thing. It is certainly convenient in keeping the citizenry of our world at bay.”
“Of course you would think that way. Your eyes, ears, and heart are closed to the true interpretation and message of The Rote.”
“It always amazes me how large the hubris is of those that think they are in the know.”
“It is a document that perpetuates knowns based on faith and reason.”
“Have you learned nothing in all your years of service, Trantaxus?”
“I’ve learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
“Yes, I would agree with that. But my question to you is where does the power lie? Does it lie in the rule of law, or in the rule of perception? People are stupid animals, and require lies to help them cope with the hardships of birth. Those who rule, will forever have the advantage over those that don’t, because they know it is their right to rule, and the right of the ruled to follow.”
“The Rote, proposes that every man is a ruler of himself alone, and that when brought into communion with others in the community, each individual adds to strengthen the collective. All benefit, when man becomes master of himself.”
“Let’s just agree to disagree. Valkron exists because of the order imposed upon it by The Creators. There is no other way.”
“That is where you are wrong. There is always hope.”
“Ahh! I know this hope of which you speak Trantaxus.”
Trantaxus grew tense in his bindings. He tried to relax. He didn’t want to tip off the Majordomo that he was hitting close to home.
“Let me be frank with you traitor, I know that you believe in the prophecy. I know that on the night of the eclipse of the twin moons twenty years ago, you kidnapped the child born to the Supreme and Supremess, and set forth from the Last City to live a life on the run. How you remained at large for so long is beyond me, but a testament to the training we provide to our Veeters.”
“You were all blinded by your own ambitions and could not see the child because you had and have bad intentions in your hearts.”
“Not so. We caught glimpses of her as you moved around our world. Every time she chanced upon discovering a new aspect of her abilities, we were able to get a general idea of your location. Do you think we just arbitrarily sent the Veeter Squadrons out to roam without a sense of where she might be?
You have endangered the lives of thousands upon thousands of Valkronians, just to protect the girl from fulfilling her destiny. They were all taken in her stead, because you hid her from us traitor. Do you think that you could hide her from herself? You have done the girl a disservice. When she turns twenty-one, she is going to be overwhelmed by what she finds out from her Certainty Book. So it’s a race you see. She is going to open it on her twenty-first birthday next week. So we will find her one way or the other. All this subterfuge, and the years on the run, they’ll amount to nothing. We’ve left nothing to chance. We will have her. Also, I am not sure how you got her Certainty Book out of here, but I compliment you on that bit of trickery. However, I find it ironic that what you went to so much trouble to steal from the Tower of Creation, will be the very thing that leads us to her.”
“You presume that she will open the book.”
“Of course she will open it.”
“How can you be sure? Perhaps, I told her to never open it.”
“Her curiosity will prove too great.”
Trantaxus was bluffing, he knew that as soon as she could open her Certainty Book, she would. He regretted not telling her everything all these years. Now she would have to find it all out without his guidance.
I have to get out of here before her birthday.
“We have a proposition for you.”
Trantaxus’s grew tense again.
“I will not work with The Creators.”
“Oh, I think you will.”
Majordomo Nimsey whistled. Then, Trantaxus heard a series of steps coming down the hallway to his cell. When he looked at the figure coming through the door, he immediately recognized the successor to his abandoned post.
“I believe you two are in no need of an introduction.”
Lord Veeter Commander Lorimor walked into the cell and spit on the floor in front of Trantaxus’s feet.
“You have no honor traitor. You have stole from the Supreme and the Supremess, and all the Valkronians of this world, but worst of all you stole from me,” said Lord Lorimor as he took the glove from his left hand exposing the nubs of fingers long gone. In a fluid motion he brought his hand up past his missing ear.
“It appears that you owe a debt to the Lord Veeter Commander Lorimor.”
“I’ve already paid him in full,” said Trantaxus.
Lord Lorimor made his gloved hand into a fist and placed a blow into Trantaxus’s midsection. Trantaxus would likely have fallen to the floor if his neck didn’t tether him to the wall. However, because of the surprise of the blow, he lost his footing and his weight put a strain against his neck and started to choke him.
“Guards! Guards! Please come in here to assist our traitor.”
Two more Veeter entered the cell to hold Trantaxus up. There was no more room in the cell. Trantaxus thought of his play. He was beat. He had no play. Not now. He just relaxed and allowed the Veeters to hold him up.
“ I promise you, you will help us find her. I think we’ll start where we found you last year. I can’t believe we found you on that raid. If not for the eclipse ending so soon, we would have had more time to search the area. Damn that squadron for not knowing who you were at the time. To tell you the truth, I probably wouldn’t have recognized a weak all man like you either. Lord Veeter Commander Trantaxus, how the might have fallen,” said Majordomo.
Trantaxus noticed that Lord Lorimor seemed to be enjoying this derision a little too much. He made a mental note that Lord Lorimor’s weakness would be his blinding taste for revenge against Trantaxus, for the wounds he inflicted upon Lorimor all those years ago during his flight from the Tower of Creation. This Majordomo was tougher to figure out. Although, he played mind games, and taunted him, he knew that there was a mind calculating every word, thought, and movement that was being made in that cell.
“Take him down and bring him to the springs. We need him to be ready for presentation to the Supreme and Supremess.”
Presentation for what?
“I want you to think about your crimes. Soon you will go before a tribunal headed by The Creators. Your fate will be in their hands. Good day to you.”
The Majordomo exited the cell. Lord Lorimor lingered for a moment longer. He looked ready to pop. He spit on the floor again, and then made a hasty exit. The other Veeters untethered him and then took of his leg irons and bindings.
Trantaxus couldn’t believe how tired he was from the visit. He collapsed in a heap on the floor. Sleep soon took him.
He was in the same dream again. It was the dream in which he realized it was a dream, but he kept following it for as far as it would take him. He learned long ago to navigate his dreams by letting the flow of action take him. If he resisted for even a moment, he would wake up.
He started on the beach; he was hauling in a net with the fish from the bay. When he looked over his shoulder, he saw Phoebe, just as she was last year. She was running down the beach with wind in her hair. Then he was sitting in a canoe paddling down the Grey Rapids of the West. Phoebe was a little girl in this sequence, and sat with her back to the bow of the canoe. Trantaxus sensed that they were going down the rapids, but he could not see what was in front of him. He was terrified of the unknown, but more terrified because he didn’t know where he was brining Phoebe. In the last sequence, the one where he always woke up because he would resist where the dream took him, he found himself with a knife against his throat. He heard a voice that must have been coming from the person holding the knife to his throat but he had no face to go with it. He only saw the legs and feet of the person, and they were covered in a black shadow. The worst part was about to come to pass. He could see Phoebe walking towards the balcony that abutted the White Palace in the Tower of Creation. How they got there he had no idea. But he noticed that Phoebe was using her hands to harm someone on the balcony. They were cowering beneath her on the floor of the balcony and she persisted in using her power to harm the person. Trantaxus screamed out, and Phoebe would turn to see him being held. Just as she moved off the balcony to where he was, he felt a cold breeze and pain across his throat, and then darkness.
Trantaxus sat upright and screamed. He was grabbing at his throat to feel where the blade had cut him. His throat was intact, and he was in his cell. He was covered in sweat. In his panic he didn’t realize that the door to the cell was being opened. Again, there were three Veeters outside of the cell. The light was disorienting. He felt the rope tighten around his neck, and he was pulled to his feet.
“Come on. You’re coming with us to be cleaned.”
“Boy he smells like shit.”
Trantaxus tried to adjust his eyes to the setting and started repeating the sequence and number of cell doors he traveled by. He knew that the springs were in the underground portion of the tower, they were instrumental to his escape twenty years ago. So he realized that they needed to bring him down from where he was on the cellblock. After trying to pull back on the rope, he felt a sharp blow to the back of his head, and then nothing.
A time later he awoke in the cavern springs under the tower. He was tethered to the wooden tub he was within by the neck manacle. His hands and feet were also bound. In the surrounding tubs there were other prisoners being tended to.
He felt warm water being dumped over his head, and realized that someone was standing above him.
“Okay, lower her here. Right, here,” said the voice.
He couldn’t lift his head to see what as above him, but the periphery of his upper vision he could tell that an object was being lowered into the tub with him. He started to realize that it was a body wrapped up like he was.
“That’s it. Almost there.”
Just as the object was getting closer, Lord Lorimor stepped in front of him to the left of the tub. He smiled at Trantaxus and said, “Majordomo sends his regards, and a gift for you while you are being cleansed. She is a little overdue, but we expect her to deliver any minute now. Cut it!”
There was a loud splash, and Trantaxus’s senses were overwhelmed. The sight before him brought back the moldy bread from his stomach. He was looking at the milky cataracts of a fetid corpse. It was a woman dressed in midwifery garments. This much he could tell. The smell was worse than any offal he cut from animals while he was a butcher for a short time.
“I believe you two have met before. Lord Veeter Commander Trantaxus, may I reintroduce to you, Meara the Midwife,” Lord Lorimor said with at smirk.
Trantaxus tried to get away from the corpse, but there was no use. The harder he fought against it, the more it seemed to meld to his body. There were all sorts of softness he could feel as the buoyancy of the corpse allowed it to rub against his naked torso. Just as he didn’t think it couldn’t get any worse, the facial skin of Meara started to droop and pull back from the skull. He could fully see the cheekbones. Lord Lorimor came over to Trantaxus and held his head still.
“You, over there. Come here. Now. Grab her head and push her face to his. Lord Veeter Commander Trantaxus, please don’t keep the lady waiting. Let us have a kiss.”