The Terrapenta Project

This is the 1st novel in the new series I have written. I am currently working on the 2nd novel, but for now I will be uploading The Terrapenta Project one chapter at a time. Each will remain on this page for a few days before being replaced by the next. I am always open to comments via the contact page concerning my work, and I will gladly reply to any questions. I hope you enjoy the book.

3rd August 2020

Chapter 41 - Bandar Pertama

King Lorien sat upon the great Gor-Eagle throne at Ibu Kota, the high castle within Bandar Pertama. He leaned back on the soft feather cushions that were stitched into the fabric and fixed onto the carved wood. The throne had stood upon its two sturdy legs for over two centuries, it had seen kings come and go, but it had remained unmoved, a fixture unaffected by the politics of the land. Its wings that curled under it to form the seat had supported every monarch since King Morgan, the first ruler of Terrapenta. Behind, the wide feathers of its sweeping tail rested on the ground, and above where the king sat, the yellow beak of the powerful beast was open, its eyes angry and cruel, its head lifted tall and proud. It was a symbol of the power held by the King of Terrapenta, Emperor of the five cities and upholder of the Laws of the Gods. But at that moment, Lorien felt no such power, just weakness from losing the woman he loved through the selfish, lustful yearnings of the father he had despised. His only comfort was the memory of the sword thrusting through his flesh, and leaving his body a lifeless heap on the floor.

As king, his father had to be given a funeral befitting his high status, with all the pomp and ceremony, followed by a month long period of mourning. Lorien would have preferred that his father be left to rot on the wastelands south of the frozen mountains, to serve as rich pickings for the wild scavengers of the land, there to remain until only the bare white bones were left to crumble into dust.

He recalled his father’s words to him during those long quiet nights in front of a raging fire in the dead of winter. His father would offer advice for when he became king, warning him not to be weak, as only fear would keep his subjects obedient. “Keep the elite soldiers of the guard well fed and well paid. Keep their women and children safe, and when they face trouble, protect them and destroy their enemies, show them a loyalty you expect from them. But, from time to time there is also a need to show that you own them, and that they and their families’ full stomachs are down to you. Not often, perhaps once every year or even longer, look for a misdemeanour perpetrated by one of them, and when you find it, come down on that soldier like a hammer on a pea. It is worth giving up one out of a few hundred every so often, they are replaceable, your crown is not.”

“For the rest of your subjects, let them starve, keep them poor, let them live their lives in poverty. As long as they work and pay their taxes, allow them to live, but let those lives be full of fear, fear of the power that reigns over them, fear of you, their king.” He would always hammer his fist on the table at that point of the lecture to emphasise the point.

What sort of king would he be? He had already considered those he wanted close to him, just as his father had done. Was that the start of him becoming the same person, would he despise himself in a few short years? Now that he was king, even for such a very short time, he was already planning how he would exert his authority. He had always determined he would be the opposite of his father when he stepped up to the throne. He would be a king his subjects would respect, not fear, but had the words his father had drummed into him already set themselves in the foundations of his own reign? Was he seriously contemplating the advice he’d received?

It was true, the most fragile period for a new king were the first few months. This was the time he had to weed out his enemies and establish himself as unrivalled ruler of the land. Perhaps for the first months he should continue the ruthless ways of his father until he was established, then he could become the benevolent king he always saw himself becoming.

He would have to choose who would sit on his council, and discuss with them how to proceed with seeking out any who would oppose him. The thought crossed his mind that if he dismissed anyone from high office of his government, they would have to disappear permanently. He shook his head slowly fearing what the future held for him.

*

Shanree sat close to Sable on the rickety cart as the troop left Bandar Kedua the following morning. Most of the soldiers who had remained on the Crystal Mountain when the king had abandoned Ester had returned. The only ones who had not come back were the soldiers who’d lost their lives on the mountain, and the prisoners, known as the king’s guests. Those prisoners had been butchered by the soldiers and sent up the mountain to the rebels.

Shanree had no idea what to expect when she got to Bandar Pertama, or from the king who had stormed off in anger and sorrow the previous day. She was a protected Offering, but with every mile they travelled away from Bandar Kedua, it was another mile further from the priest who had placed that protection upon her. If Lorien could get away with murdering a king because he was now a king himself, he would have no problem dishing out the same justice on anyone he desired, including herself.

As she contemplated those thoughts, she felt Sable’s head fall onto her shoulder and realised this girl had lost much, too. Her comfortable life at Timur Indah as a hand-maiden with a mistress she loved had gone, had she also once been an Offering in the same position as her?

Despite her predicament, she felt much relief that the old king was now dead, and whatever was going to happen to her next, at least she was relieved she didn’t have to marry the monster. She would surely have tried to kill him at some point, just like she’d wanted to do since she’d first set eyes on him. She was still confused about that, as much as she found him disgusting, she could think of no reason why she would want to have risked everything to try and kill him. And yet she knew, had Lorien not plunged the sword into him, she would have surely attacked him with that simple knife she’d taken from the table.

*

It was some time after midnight that Alistair stepped from a travel-pod which had just arrived at Disembarkation Point E. He’d successfully crept into Terrapenta unseen on many occasions with the intention of stealing artefacts to sell to the dealers, but this time was different, he was here to do a job. Placed beneath a hidden patch on his flesh, to be absolutely sure it wouldn’t be found, even if he was robbed and stripped of all his clothing, was the thin, strangely coloured disc-like microchip that would restore the memory of any Offering. It was of paramount importance it went undiscovered, his life and that of his parents back in New Earth were dependant on the success of his mission.

He took off his normal jacket and trousers he’d worn so as not to attract the attention of anyone in T-Prime. It had uncomfortably hidden the clothing he was going to use in Terrapenta, especially the long gown that was bunched up around his waist. He smoothed it down and ensured it was tied around the middle with a simple length of leather twine. It was typical of clothing worn by a man of one of the many religious factions. To lessen the chances of detection on camera, he had also shaved his head. This conveniently fitted in with his religious disguise, although he intended pulling the hood over his head as often as he could.

The only other item he had was a thin, almost undetectable flat bag, wrapped around his waist under his gown and out of sight. Inside were some king’s coins to pay for accommodation and food for the few days he hoped to be there. In keeping with the masquerade, he wore on his feet a pair of old boots, well scuffed and torn, fortunately, no-one in T-Prime had noticed. Neither had anyone spotted his shaved head hidden under a cap with a homemade ponytail attached to the back. Only if someone had asked him to remove his headwear would they have known he was now bald. He intended fitting in with the general population, taking care to not look like a beggar who would be thrown out of the city or into the dungeons, or anyone wealthy enough to be worth robbing. A man of religion with just enough to pay his way seemed the ideal choice.

He’d already checked on the pod monitor that the temple beyond the disembarkation doors was empty and the land outside, clear. He activated the small hand held device that unlocked the doors before slipping it into a hidden pocket in his gown. He wished he could have concealed that under his skin with the memory chip, but, as small as it was, it would have stood out.

Just before the almost inaudible click of the doors released, his lifeline, that was the single carriage pod, smoothly moved off and disappeared back inside the tunnel, just as he’d programmed it to. The smooth hollow that the pod sat in slowly vanished as a holographic cover formed. This was a first for him, he’d never looked upon the empty cavern of a disembarkation point before, and suddenly he felt very vulnerable.

Pulling the hood over his head and clutching the clothes he’d removed, he slowly pushed open the doors and stepped into the dark temple before closing them quietly. Just two torches glowed on either side of the long hall giving enough light for him to see his way along the central aisle. He reached the outer doors and pulled one towards him before slipping out into the night. The land around Bandar Pertama was rich in nutrients, and Alistair found himself standing only a few feet from a small copse. The ground was grassy and soft, but the air was cold and an icy breeze made him wrap his arms around himself to warm up.

He dug a small hole to dispose of his New Earth clothes before running into the trees, feeling his way through until he reached a clearing on higher ground. He stood and looked ahead at the glow that hovered above the sprawling city that was Bandar Pertama rising before him. There were no villages in this area outside the city as it was considered sacred ground owned by the Priests of the Gods of Tanrilla, so he was able to observe clearly the outer walls of the city less than a mile away.

Despite his fear, he did feel a slight thrill to be so close to the capital city of Terrapenta. He’d never been here before on his brief thieving missions as he’d believed it too dangerous. But now he was looking ahead at the city with its towers showing almost as silhouettes against the starry sky behind. A faint glow shrouded the buildings, hanging like a yellow mist, and as he looked towards the peak, he saw the high castle, the place where he knew Shanree Addison was held. She would have no idea who he was when he reached her, or why he’d come. She knew nothing of her father who’d blackmailed him into entering this dangerous land to rescue her. For Alistair, he had no idea how he was going to pull off the rescue, he’d have a good attempt, but he expected to die trying. With a deep sigh, he stepped forward and headed in the direction of the city gates.

Copyright © 2014 Kevin Fleming

All rights reserved. Kevin Fleming has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. This is a work of fiction. Any names, places, events or happenings in this book are a product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or persons either living or dead are purely coincidental. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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