Hugh Year: 673
Hugh stared outside the window of his complex. He could see the night sky and the city of Polais, an epicentre for all noteworthy Sovereigns in the Kingdom of Kohlgraäd. There was an unspoken tradition in Polais, the taller your building was as a Sovereign, the richer you came across as. A useless tradition from the consolidation period.
In person, no one acknowledged this, it would come across as silly. But in secret, new scaffolding would be placed as Sovereigns looked to stay ahead of their rivals. Soon, Hugh’s view would be gone as Sovereigns continued to compete.
Government airships flew in the distance; their floodlights running surveillance in and around Polais’s many districts. Hugh could even see smoke from a series of industrial complexes far off on the horizon and a few pipes from ryne refineries.
The factories and refineries were far enough for any Sovereign with vested interests to monitor in safety, but they weren’t near enough to be an immediate health hazard.
Hugh smiled, being a Sovereign had given him many opportunities, many benefits.
He wondered though, why had he decided to stay in one of the most expensive cities on the Cradle? With his fortune, he could have gone anywhere.
Maybe the purchase was meant to be a statement; to others and himself. Or maybe Hugh was just bored and needed an excuse to spend more glaze on things he didn’t necessarily need.
Hugh was paying more attention to things he already knew about the Cradle and himself, it helped him stay focused, especially when he started feeling overwhelmed.
Hugh could see shades of himself on the glass window in front of him, the greying hair and the wrinkles. He was a little over forty, yet every time he looked in the mirror, he felt and looked sixty. He wasn’t as attractive as he used to be, not as energetic and not as in shape.
Perhaps he had just chosen a boring city for his retirement. The novelty of being a Sovereign had worn off in his thirties.
“Hugh, are we going to talk about it?”, Rim said, she lay on one of the couches in a long, sleeveless, high slit white dress; it was adorned with a thin line of diamonds on the waistline. She had crossed her legs such that her thigh was deliberately exposed through the slit. Her outer thigh had a Sovereign tattoo, proof of her belonging.
Rim’s Farsidian blue skin glittered with gold, she was wearing her favourite golden flaked perfume from the Fairlight Isles. The one she used every time she had a business meeting or a negotiation. She knew its effect, she knew exactly what she was doing. “Hugh?”
“What do you want me to say, Rim?”, Hugh exhaled. “There are certain things you don’t just do. I thought we agreed that -”
“We did”, Rim emphasized, gently. “It was a mistake. I didn’t want to hurt you. You know that, right?”
Hugh stayed silent. The encroaching darkness outside had turned the glossy window into an unmarked black mirror; he could see a reflection of Rim behind him. Her Farsidian goldenrod eyes were focused and unerring. She had even worn the hairpin he had bought her the previous year in Zohm, tying her black hair into a knot.
“Come on Hugh, at least look at me.”
“You finally wore the pin”, Hugh said. “The irony. Today, of all days.”
“I wanted to surprise you. I just didn’t think that… you know.”
“That I would catch you?”, Hugh said dryly.
“That’s not fair. I didn’t do it for him”, she looked away briefly, focusing her eyes on the door behind her, and then she looked back at Hugh. “I promise. It was for you.”
Hugh turned around to face Rim. “Was he good?”
Rim tilted her head and pursed her lips as if to imply, You don’t want to know that.
Hugh moved in closer and sat on a couch across from Rim, it was divided by a glass table that had a stubbed cigar, an open packet of blue stone and a variety of wines and whiskey. No human could ingest blue stone without burning their insides, that was Rim’s. The wine and whiskey were unopened.
Hugh picked up the leftover cigar, noting how it had been smoked by Rim’s visitor. “He got comfortable. How was he? Everything you hoped he would be?”
“Hugh …”, Rim sat up on her couch and tapped gently on the space beside her. “Please. Come closer so we can talk.”
She paused. “He was, okay. I guess.”
“Is this because I no longer make time for us? You felt lonely. Is that why you did this?”
“No”, she fiddled with her nails. “Nothing like that.”
“Can you at least tell me his name?”
“I didn’t really, get a name.”
Hugh nodded out of habit.
“Hugh, listen — If it’s any consolation, I didn’t plan on you finding out. The Kings’ Union was supposed to go for another five hours and if you hadn’t left the venue prematurely …”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“No”, Rim said. “But it’s the truth.”
Hugh looked past Rim, behind her was the door into their bedroom. “So you said he’s still in there?”
Rim bit her lower. “Yes. Please don’t get angry.”
“No promises”, Hugh grunted, heavy shoulders as he stood up. “Looks like it’s time I dealt with him.”
“Hugh, I’m the one who messed up. You don’t have to. I’ll take care of him. You can come and see for yourself; nothing I’ve said is a lie”, she let out her hand, encouraging Hugh to hold it.
With a resigned sigh, Hugh held her hand as she led him into the bedroom. It was dark in there.
Hugh switched on the light, and on the white carpet right beside the bed lay the body of a middle-aged man. He was wearing a faded suit and his head was covered in blood.
Years as a Kohlgraäd Regulator helped Hugh deduce that the man had been struck by a blunt object. And now he lay on the ground bleeding; drenching his area of the carpet in a dark crimson. He looked like an underground Prospector trying to parse off as a Sovereign, sophisticated. Hugh had seen many of his kind whilst serving the Government. The man’s right hand had a smudgy Sovereign tattoo. It was pathetically fake.
“Well?”, Rim said. “Are you ready to give me your verdict?”
She hadn’t been lying. There was nothing inventive about the setup. It all looked sloppy and unimaginative. “You were right. Nothing special happened. It’s almost depressing”, he opened a nearby wardrobe, their equipment was untouched.
“Babe”, Rim said. “I didn’t use any of it. I wouldn’t do that without you.”
“I suppose I might have overreacted. When you said I shouldn’t come in here I expected the worst. That you had decided to have fun without me.”
Rim cupped Hugh’s face gently in her hands, ensuring his eyes met hers. “As I said before, I wanted it to be a surprise. I wanted you to see that I’ve been paying attention, I’ve been learning. But, well, he tried to escape and …”
“You took care of him”, Hugh smiled. “I’m proud of you.”
The middle-aged man woke up, panicked but unable to move. He was paralyzed. His eyes darted everywhere in confusion; oscillating between Hugh and Rim.
Rim pushed Hugh on the bed, helping him unbuckle his belt. She removed her underwear and went on top of him, holding his hands down firmly as she swayed her hips, directing him inside her. She let the pleasure wash over her, Hugh was immersed as well, his frustration from earlier vanishing just as quickly.
From her position, Rim could see the paralyzed man on the ground looking at her, unable to move; with no choice but to be a viewer. Something about that just worked for her.
That’s right. Rim thought as she moaned. Look at me, look at me like that. Like you thought I was yours. Like you could ever lay with me. You filthy fuck.
She began moving her hips faster. Pressing Hugh deeper.
Don’t die, don’t die. Not quickly.
Not before I …
– O.D. ©2022
Art by: moonworker1
If you’re curious, this story takes place in the universe of my upcoming book. It’s an action-packed adult fantasy novel that takes place in a world called Cradle. The title of the book I’ll share at a later date.
I’ve done so much world-building for this universe that I considered doing some experimental writing. As I said before, it’s an action-packed adult fantasy novel and yet what I shared in this post does not evoke that same tone.
This is more along the lines of an adult fantasy thriller. And that’s the experiment.
I want to see how many tones I can organically bridge in the same universe using the rules that apply to everyone living within it.
So I might write a horror story in a different part of this world and maybe even a short comedy. For anyone interested in reading my book, or even those who aren’t, these self-contained stories will be easily digestible. There will be no cliffhangers and none of the characters featured here will appear in the book so it’s completely spoiler-free.
It’s literally just a high-resolution window into different parts of the world.
(It would be such a waste to have this huge world only to follow a specific set of characters without exploring what else it has to offer)
The point here is to have fun, I hope you enjoy it 🙂