JUXTAPOSED — Chapter One — Derek Barton

JX CH 1

 

Since The Hidden has been finally completed and now out for sale on Amazon and Kindle, I have been thinking about a new series for my blog.  This is a rough draft of Chapter One.  

Series Synopsis:

Parallel realities, Tayneva and Kav’zera, two worlds with vast differences, have become suddenly entwined.

Tayneva — The island nation of Risa is home to the Temple of Kove. Always a place of sanctuary for any in need.  A group of six clergy students find adventure and purpose through an unexpected source.

Kav’zera — The Enddawn Encampment, a military youth prison houses revolutionary agents who rose against The Crest Tyranny.  A group of six rebels may get their one chance at freedom.

Can these two groups of boys learn from one another?  Will they help each other at the risk of their own lives?

 

CHAPTER ONE — TEMPLE OF KOVE:

Alexendar was transfixed, his focus locked ahead, his head and heart conflicted. As a young clergy student, a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove, this was developing into a bad habit for him. Often lost within his inner thoughts and emotional turmoil, the Fathers were noticing Alex’s marks were slipping within the student ranks.

Early morning sunlight warmed the large cathedral and washed over the first four rows of pews.

“Welcome back from your extended holiday break,” Superior Tressmen spoke out from behind a wooden podium, his voice a deep but monotone bass. He was tall and slender beneath ornate tan robes. “We know this is a taxing time of the year, yet we are grateful for all your efforts in your studies. Also, The Fathers and I are aware of the sacrifice you and your families had to undertake to return to the temple. In times as these, we must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around the world that look for our direction. With a shielding hand to protect us, our Father, Lord Rhote demands strict observance, yet also he demands the continence of stone in our beliefs and thoughts.”

Alexendar was in the third row by the outside aisle, among five other boys sitting nearest to a row of towering, stained-glass windows. They were all bored, tuning out the lecture. Of the clergy class of eighteen boys that spread out among the cathedral, these six were an especially tight-knit group.

Alex’s hand came up subconsciously and brushed aside his sandy brown mop of long hair. It was blocking his view of the drama unfolding — a silver-furred spider with a red cross down its back crept down a cord of its web, advancing upon a struggling ice-blue fly.

His heart ached to snatch out the poor insect, saving it from a gruesome death in the mandibles of the spider. On the other hand, the spider’s web was hanging in the inside corner of one window frame. Few opportunities to eat had presented itself these last couple days. Alex had noted the spider’s presence one day during the vespers hour the week before.

How do you put more priority on one soul over the other? Its nature and its fate. Yet should I act? Do I have the right to interfere?

Alex winced, groaning softly as the spider wrapped spindle legs about the fly and slowly rotated its victim.

Thomess who sat next to Alex was a heavier boy with stark white hair and round features. With a smirk on his lips, mirth in his eyes, he nudged Romunn who sat on his right with his elbow. He poked a chin toward Alex, both witnessing Alex’s emotional reactions.

Romunn, a dark-skinned youth from a fishing village outside of Rovmantysa, shook his head and whispered, “Such a lost little princess…”

“And me without a lace tissue for all of his tears!” Thomess added.

“Perhaps it is not too late to go to Mending School so he might save all the world one day!”

Alex finally caught wind of the other boys’ taunts, his cheeks darkened. “Shut it!” He punched Thomess in the ribs.

Laughter erupted from the others around them and interrupted the Superior’s lecture. The balding, thin man paused and glared at the group.

Satisfied with his warning, he straightened his shoulders and continued, “Yes, the rest of the world may be obsessed with this new queen in Wyvernshield and what her actions may mean. However, we as emissaries of Rhote must be absolute and without bias. While the armies of the Keliada Allliance or the Rovmantysa Front swirl about in chaos, remember we cannot afford such ties, such luxuries. We are neutral so that there is always in every land, country, and continent a Temple of Sanctuary.”

Romunn leaned over and whispered to Alexendar, “You take everything too serious. We were only poking fun.”

“I know. Sorry.” He shrugged, more embarrassed than before.

Gregge, the shortest boy among the newest Bhik-sunii, sat behind Romunn. He had black hair and olive-toned skin. “We have to go tonight. I swear I have it this time.”

Alex twisted his head slightly to acknowledge the boy and still look like he was paying attention to Superior Tressmen. “I am willing. How about you guys?”

The two eagerly nodded their heads then looked at their remaining conspirators, Willeum and Charlse. Willeum was similar to Alexendar in features but he kept his brown hair short and cropped. Charlse had freckles and spiked red hair.

“Where at?” Willeum asked too loudly.

Shushing him, Charlse smacked the boy in the back of his head.

“ENOUGH!” the Superior bellowed.

The cathedral was immense and elaborate for this was the primary center of worship to Rhote, but the concrete wall of silence which fell upon the Bhik-sunii, made the room grow exponentially.

Not a breath was taken in the expanse of the cathedral. Every back stiffened and every shoulder straightened. The Superior was usually a tolerant man, and many considered him like a father away from home, but there were times another side had surfaced. This provocation revealed that side once more.

“EXPLAIN!”

Again, not a breath was taken.

Superior Tressmen gripped the wood podium, then he snatched up a thick tome of worship in front of him and slammed it immediately down like a clap of thunder.

“EXPLAIN! I AM LISTENING!”

Alex’s hand returned to his forehead and swiped nervously at his long bangs. He shifted in his seat, trying to prepare his words, starting to rise. Thomess’ arm crossed his chest, pressing him down. Then he glanced over at Romunn.

Trembling slightly, Romunn rose from his seat and faced the offended cleric. “Father, I apologize for my behavior. I did not mean any disrespect or to take away from your message for today.”

“What were you doing then, Cam Romunn?” Tressmen’s voice still tinged with fury.

The boy kept his head down. “I found out there is a testing this afternoon which I failed to study properly for over the holiday. I was asking the others what they knew of the lesson.”

“Right.” The Superior’s tone spoke loud and clear he was not believing this story. “Anything else you want to add? Anyone else here wish to elaborate?”

When none of the boys spoke, he noisily gathered his tome again in his arms. “In the future, I expect better use of my time and yours, Cam Romunn. Since you felt obliged to share with everyone and ask of everyone to share in your dilemma, I will ask that everyone share your penance for today by doing an extra three sets of vesper studies.” His words were immediately drowned out in a chorus of groans. “And… Cam Romunn, after completing your testing this afternoon, you have an appointment with me in my study before the dinner hour. We will adjourn now so that you will all have time to thank Cam Romunn and the others…and begin your work on the vespers.”

It was not long before the six youths gathered at their favorite spot of shade from several Okia trees on the temple grounds.

“I cannot believe you did that,” Charlse was marveling at Romunn, shaking his head.

“He would not have had to if you were not all mouth and no brains,” Alex snapped at the redhead.

“It was Willeum who got Superior Tre—”

“—What? No! It was you,” Willeum shouted as he shoved the boy off his feet and into the dirt.

“Hey, guys, stop! If you get caught fighting, then tonight is totally called off,” Thomess exclaimed.

All chatter and the fight ended instantly as all eyes shifted to Gregge. He nodded and answered their unasked question.

“Yes. I found it — The Ritual of Delann-Vaik.” A toothy grin spread across his face. “It has to be the right one. I mean, it says right in its title, The Call Through Death. I mean I might need some help later with some of the translation and gestures, but this will work.”

Alex shook his head. “I know you are the best in the class for the ancient languages and such, but do you really believe you have translated the words right? This will not be like last year?”

Gregge rolled his eyes, thrusting his arms into the air. “When are you going to let that drop? When will I hear the end of it?”

“Look, Gregge,” Charlse growled at him. “You nearly got us all expelled and half the temple garden burnt. We were lucky that rainstorm covered everything up. You have to be sure!”

Romunn laughed, “Hey that fire got us out of graoul soup for a month. I think you should do it again! Gregge, I believe you.”

Everyone laughed as they normally did at Romunn’s jokes.

“I am sorry you have to get the Belt,” Gregge said.

“Just make it worth it tonight.”

Thomess pulled out of his pocket a small brown pouch. “I have some extra oron-root. Anyone want some?”

As they relaxed, sitting on the ground, and sharing the contents of the pouch, Romunn asked quietly, “You guys have to promise you are not going without me. I mean, I may be a little…slow walking tonight after my appointment with Superior Tressmen, but I want to be there.”

Alex who was sitting in his usual spot next to Romunn, put his arm over the boy’s shoulders. “You would never be left behind. You ought to know that by now.”

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