This month I have decided to make each of my short stories on Kindle free for a week. This week’s entry is An Hour of Wolves: A Sleeping Gods tale.
I wrote this one a few years back in the waning years of my army career, little knowing the journey it would take me on. Sleeping Gods is now in the 4th book and revolves around the past returning to the present. Humanity has been lied to for three thousand years, falsely believing in the old gods. Now, with revolution spanning the seven hundred worlds, it is all men can do just to survive.
Enjoy and, as always read on, my friends, read on.
3160 A.G. (After Gods)
Boots. Heavy footsteps marching down the marbled hall echoed from the walls. Men and women slipped aside. A petrified glare froze on his face. He bumped into a clerk, carelessly knocking a stack of documents into the air. Papers fell in his wake, but he had no time for niceties. The worst possible scenario he could imagine had just happened. He had to tell the Inquisitor General.
Armed guards blocked the ornately carved metal doors to the Inquisitor General’s private office of state. Black uniforms immaculate in the halogen lights, the guards tensed, but did not move. They viewed the aide impassively despite his hurried appearance.
“Let me pass, I must speak with the Inquisitor General,” he demanded. His breath came in ragged gasps.
The guard on the right looked down on the smaller man, disdain in his eyes. “The Inquisitor General is occupied. He does not wish to be disturbed, clerk.”
“He will once he learns what news I have to tell.”
The aide’s cheeks flashed crimson. The burning ran down his neck.
“I said no,” the guard reemphasized.
Undaunted, the aide said quietly, “this is about the Three.”
The guards passed a worried glance to each other and slowly opened the door. Each member of the Inquisition knew the standing order regarding news of the Three. The aide passed an angered glare and slipped past. He found the outer office of the ranking member of the Inquisition austere. Spartan furnishings hardly interrupted the solid steel grey of the walls. A singular round wooden table from the first Inquisition held a vase with a single rose. The petals were blood red and tinged with blue. Blood to remember the dark times. Blue for the promise of the future. Incense filled the air, a thin cloud clinging to the cathedral ceilings. The polished white marble floor was streaked through with gold. The aide bowed as the Inquisitor General entered the antechamber.
Farius Graeme was an older man of more than one hundred. He had close cropped silver hair and a pencil thin moustache accenting his drawn cheeks and pinched nose. A gaunt man, Farius wore the white robes of office. He was tall, much taller than most in the order. Hardly noticeable wrinkles edged his striking blue eyes. He looked up from his morning reports, surprised to find his adjutant.
“Good morning, Alain. What brings you into my office so early?” he asked. His voice was gentle yet stern.
Alain stood and met his commander’s piercing eyes. “My apologies for interrupting you, Lord Inquisitor, but we have a problem.”
“There are always problems, Alain. This is a complicated universe,” Farius replied with in a mirthless tone.
Alain swallowed hard. “My lord, it concerns the Three.”
Silence assaulted the room. The Inquisitor General felt as if his stomach had been wrenched out. The Three was the most volatile and hushed secret in the known universe. For generations the Inquisition had kept knowledge of their existence from the general population. They became faceless whispers of a far more brutal time, lost to the ages and struck from history. Only the few in the Inquisition knew their dark secrets. Farius Graeme had dedicated his life to maintaining order in an otherwise unruly age. The sudden reemergence of the Three threatened to shred his life’s work.
He struggled to find strength in his voice. “Which one?”
The Inquisitor General stumbled back a step before recovering. He used the diversion to clasp his hands behind his back as he moved to the massive bank of bay windows. The dawn was brighter than usual today. Sunlight glistened from the tops of the rain soaked buildings of Krenz, principle city of both the Inquisition and the Holy Orders that ruled the galaxy. The combination of rain and sun made the spiraling columns and rounded rooftops appear almost majestic in the early morning.
“Amongeratix hasn’t made a move in over five hundred years. What has he done?”
“Preliminary reports say that he was recently spotted on planet Plom.”
Farius cast a stern gaze back over his shoulder. “You didn’t answer my question, Alain.”
Alain felt the blood leave his face. “My lord, he was seen murdering over one hundred people, to include the local Inquisitor.”
So this is how it begins. Farius Graeme remained silent for a time. Part of him refused to acknowledge the statement. Five hundred years of peace wiped out in the blink of an eye. Amongeratix was the worst of the Three. The Order had failed. Inspired dread choked him, paralyzed him.
“I never thought in all of my days to bear witness to this,” he whispered. “Do you know why the Inquisition exists, Alain?”
“To maintain the status. We are protectors of the universe. It is our charge to ensure that none of the gods are awakened before the rest,” he dutifully rattled off. Every inductee to the Order went through a rigorous training period before earning the badge of the rose.
“A fanciful dream, but nothing more. No, the Inquisition exists because if one of the Three manages to remember who they are the universe will burn. I have dreaded this moment from the instant I took the oath of office. Where is he now?”
Alain rechecked his data pad. “The murders were on planet Keltoo and he was last spotted boarding a spacecraft on Plom. We have had no word since then.”
“We must move quickly. Amongeratix is the very worst in men. He alone has the ability to destroy what we know,” Farius ground out. “I want a team of Inquisitors assembled before noon. We must stop him now or there is no point.”
“Inquisitor Breed has just returned from Tharnis,” Alain offered.
Farius considered the name. Breed was an anomaly amongst his peers. Young, barely thirty years old, Tolde Breed represented what Inquisitors of lore used to be. He refused to rely on technology, preferring to use his wit and ancient tools that modern society frowned upon. Tolde Breed was the perfect man for the job. Amongeratix represented the very worst in men; millennia of pain and suffering waiting patiently in the dark places of life for the right moment. Farius prayed that Tolde had the strength to stand up to the night.
“See to it. Ensure he has everything he needs. There can be no failure, Alain,” he said in a stark, measured tone.
“At once, my Lord. Shall I have him report to you?”
“No. I must go inform the Cardinal Seniorus. The Conclave must be told.”
Alain bowed sharply and backed away. His eyes stared at the single rose on the way out and he wondered what would become of them all.