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The story is called “Fall of the Tower” and it has been accepted for publication. The formal announcement will come soon. In the meantime, here’s a preview:
“They refused the will of the Arabika. I just tried to stop them from warning their race. But they did, making it impossible to bring them into our peace.”
“Maybe they wanted to be free, did you ever think of that?”
“Peace is freedom, Tianna. Outside of the Arabika, chaos and conflict become slavery. The Mahli may well have gone to war with us out of desire for our planetary resources or in actual fear of the Eshana. I was only trying to protect what we have and who we are. Did you ever think about that?”
“You could have at least tried to talk with them.”
“Haven’t you realized by now that people are slaves to their own whims, their emotions, their needs, and ambitions.”
“The only ambition in this room is you. No, it’s worse than that. It’s always been about the Priesthood, the Vasishi Priesthood. You know, I’ve never seen a Priest of the Kohath, the Shabnat, or the Dizhan. I’ve always assumed they existed and that I…”
“The genetic gift that allows the Priestly mind to meld with the Eshana is unique to the Vasishi, and then only among a precious few of us.”
“So, we’ve been the dictators all along, the Vasishi, my people, my…priests. And now you want to do it all over again by creating a colony on Phaedra?”
“I am not the villain, Tianna. I only want to bring unity, and true unity only comes from the Arabika.”
“I wonder if this poor, wounded Eshana would agree?”
“You will never know. Sacrifices must be made for the sake of the whole.” His expression never changed. He still looked like an angel while speaking blasphemies. “That sacrifice must include you. There can be only one Priest.”
Tianna stumbled, losing touch with existence. The flat plane was gone. Where was she? What was the Eshana doing?
“You don’t want to do this. Don’t let him. Let me help you.” She had heard the Eshana’s voice before but it had vanished. No, it was cloaked by a greater will. The Priests had always enslaved; had always controlled the Eshana and the Arabika.
Then she felt others at the shuttle controls. The ship vibrated as the fusion reactors powered up, and propellant was pumped into the pre-ignition chambers. What was going to happen to the dozen people standing in the shuttle bay between the engine cones and the entrance. Where the hell was Daron?
A loop of plastic tubing rushed over the top of her short, black hair, and savagely clenched her throat. Tianna breathlessly tried to scream Daron’s name, while Balem regally walked past her toward the acolytes. Her mind was a swirl of horror. Her mate was murdering her with no more passion than turning off a light switch.
“Husband.” Tianna tried to touch his mind through the Arabika. She felt his duty and devotion, the single-minded purpose of serving the whole. Somewhere outside of that, were others. They weren’t the faithful on the shuttle, for their thoughts were placid and rhythmic. There was madness and death beyond as the swarm charged into the shuttle bay. They were butchering the sacrificed dozen. Blood. Dismemberment. Oh, by the Eshana, they were eating them.
I don’t own the following image, but it was one of the inspirations for writing this story. I’ll tell you more, soon.