Exordium: Red Star Rising Bonus Material

Hey there dear readers. With the end of Easter Hols I’m kick starting things with a quick post while I get on with a short story, then some query letters and the final edits to RSR.

This little segment from the novel was originally intended as a prologue of sorts, but with the needs of the story served it was, by necessity, cropped.

Anyhew, time is pressing, so on with the show……


Exordium: The Exile

..And is it not so that where shines the light of abundance, there too is found the shadow of waste? Where there is ripe fruit, is there not also the beginnings of decay that shall come to afflict the crop whole? So does my mind turn to the dilemma at the heart of our peoples condition, their perennial decay or embrace of excess: is it possible that we have lived too long?

Eskelephos paused as the Senior Gnostiopath entered. Pashallen eyed him with a bemused expression, cocked her head and asked, “Will you recant?”

“Have you not seen the shape of this conversation?” Eskelephos replied.

“I have.”

“And?”

“Nothing is inevitable. So I ask again, will you recant?”

He studied her with sardonic amusement. “You know that I cannot.”

Pashallen inclined her head in a shallow nod of acknowledgement. “I understand.” She picked up a fragile glass ornament, inspected it. “You will no doubt be exiled.”

“No doubt.”

“That doesn’t bother you?” she asked with a glance.

“It would be but another error by the Conclave.”

“Indeed,” Pashallen agreed as she replaced the ornament. “I, for one, would rather keep you where I can see you.”

“To guide my hand?”

“No,” she smiled sadly, shook her head. “To stay it.”

He sat back, crossed his arms. “Will you trust to the Conclave’s decision then?”

“The Conclave perform their role under the auspices of their station,” Pashallen said, “As must the rest of us.”

“You make a plea to tradition? When we need change?”

“A lack of unity will not aid us. Onolorethen believes – ”

But Eskelephos cut her off. “Did he send you?”

“Onolorethen wishes only that you would restrain yourself until – ”

“The time for restrain is over!” he cried, and the gnostiopath backed up a step. “I have furnished the Council with my argument and the evidence.”

“And what of the cure?”

“There is no cure.”

“Surely you cannot have given up?”

“There is no cure!” Eskelephos slammed his fist on the table and Pashallen recoiled, her face haunted by a shadow of disgust. He ran a hand down his face and for a dizzying moment it became a hundred such moments, all tinged with the same despair that had become an eternal replay. He drew a breath. “What does the Conclave think will happen if it does nothing but procrastinate further? Do they wait for a miracle? There is no cure.”

“No cure,” said a cold voice, “That we know of yet.”

The pair turned to see Onolorethen, the dour faced Warden of Semephos Gate.

“You still believe that?” Eskelephos asked. “Why is the Conclave incapable of acceptance?”

“Because there is still much work to do. We can not give ourselves to death now, not after the progress we have made.”

“Progress?” Eskelephos sneered the word. “We are far from a comprehensive understanding of the Sundering, let alone anywhere near reversing it. Meanwhile, our people either wither on the vine, or else turn to debauchery to escape the affliction.”

“And does this alleged condition afflict you also Eskelephos?”

Eskelephos’ reply was a derisive snort. “Our society is turning upon itself to escape its fate and yet you seek to diminish those who would provision them all with truth.”

“The Conclave – ”

“The Conclave!” Eskelephos cried, so angry that he had to turn his face to hide his fury, “They too suffer yet pretend that they are hale! Will they not accept that we have reached our end?”

“You,” Onolorethen hissed, “You speak always out of pessimism, claiming a moral high ground. How do you think the people will react to being told that not only are they sick, but your solution is to euthanise them?”

“I think,” Eskelephos said as he turned back to face the Warden, “I think that they will come to embrace it for mercy.”

“Mercy?” Onolorethen scoffed.

“Better to accept one’s fate rather than succumb.”

“But,” Pashallen cut in, “Must it be the only solution?”

“If there is no cure, then what else? Will we leave them to vegetate, or to lose themselves in the Excession?”

“And what will happen to all our work?” Onolorethen asked. “Shall we simply fade from the world?”

“Perhaps,” Eskelephos sighed.

Onolorethen shook his head. “I shall not accept it.”

“Can you not bear to let go? Is your pride so resolved to ignore what is happening to us?” And it occurred to Eskelephos then that they had all lived a thousand life because the Utinymn had stubbornly refused to accept mortality, and now they simply applied the same rigour to denying their surrender.

“As Pashallen has stated, nothing is inevitable,” Onolorethen replied. “I shall neither vote for any edicts that reveal our dilemma and panic the people, nor shall I proffer such extreme solution to them as remedy.”

“And have you asked your gnostiopath what the shape is of our future? Does she hear our people alive and well in the echoes?”

Onolorethen looked to her, and she closed her eyes, reached out to the echoes of the future. “I sense the fading of our influence, our dwellings empty, our people vanished.”

Eskelephos sighed. “So you see the logic of my argument?”

She smiled sadly. “Logic is not my priority. For all that such echoes bring, their very cause maybe from the embrace of your actions. The future in this moment is unclear, and for all that the Utinymn are absent, I sense our presence, but faded like dreams……” She turned away, a frown furrowing her brow. “Like ghosts.”

The others made to speak but she forestalled them with a hand. “There is a woman, struggling, as if with death itself. She negotiates our…… freedom, yet she is not of the Utinymn.”

Onolorethen made to speak but Pashallen suddenly turned a finger of accusation on Eskelephos. “You. You have decided upon something that will set this in motion.”

Eskelephos’ smile was grim even as it was satisfied. “I have?”

“Just now!” she said, her voice rising. “You caused that ripple!”

“It seems to me that the end comes inevitable,” Eskelephos said. “There is no way we can avoid our fate, so would it not be nobler for us to choose the manner of our passing?”

“It is not for you to decide,” she said, her voice etched with acid but her eyes clouded with confusion.

“That is as maybe,” Eskelephos agreed, “But I will not desist from bringing the truth to the people.”

“You shall do no such thing,” Onolorethen replied. “The Conclave has decreed that you shall be exiled. I only wish they had not been so lenient.”

Pashallen made to speak, and to Eskelephos’ eye it seemed she bit her tongue. To Onolorethen he said, “So be it.”

With a last contemptuous sneer Onolorethen swept from the room. Pashallen made to follow, but Eskelephos called her name.

“If I had not been exiled….?” he ventured.

“It is not your banishment that matters,” she said with a shake of her head. “Whatever path lays before you, I see it leading to the same crossroads.”

“And at that crossroads?”

“Clouded in violence,” Pashallen replied, “And necessity.”

Eskelephos said nothing and she turned to go, then tarried at the door. “One last thing I shall give to you. Beware Onolorethen’s displeasure. I fear that he has been provoked to rashness.”

He regarded her with cool, contemplative eyes as Pashallen gave a shallow nod. “Fare thee well then Eskelephos.”

To the senior gnostiopath he gave no more than a curt nod, and she departed. Alone once more he turned his attention back to his missive.

As for the answer, I can only surmise that we are to pay the price of our hubris, either to embrace the Excession or else lapse into the Stupor’s vegetal dotage. With the refusal of the Conclave to heed my findings, and their punitive actions against my threats to reveal the truth to the public, I go now into exile.

Forgive me, for I am now ever more resolved to a course of action that will be considered as heresy even though change must be brought about, either by a radical transformation or by the return of mortality.

No doubt you shall hear ill news of my departure, but I trust to your conscience that you know what I do is for the greater good.

You shall forever carry my heart.

Fare thee well my love.

Eskelephos put the pen down, looked to the window. For all that the day was bright and warm, a bitterness lay on his tongue and he cursed what he must now do, so he folded the letter, scrawled his wife’s name upon it and placed it beneath the glass ornament.

He would not wait for the Conclave’s summons, for they were nothing more than an irrelevant nuisance now, and so minutes later he had gathered the few items he required and departed to find a fast ship that would carry him far from his home, from his people and from the judgement of the Conclave.

Far away and into exile.


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