Pain woke Belle up. She had been asleep in her bed on Vegeta. She didn’t remember going to sleep. Her mind was covered in a fog. She felt hot. Her whole body ached uncomfortably. She felt weak. Weaker than usual. Where was Uncle Kala? Where was she? She didn’t immediately recognize her surroundings, which wasn’t too unusual for her at this point. Putting that to the side for now, she nestled back into bed and tried to sense his aura. It was weird and hard to concentrate. She had to find him. Oh, there he was. Belle was too delirious to make out how far away he was. Only that she had found him. He was probably really close. She tried to reach out to him with her mind.
The chime of her power didn’t go through as clear as she would have liked it, but hopefully he would still recognize it. She managed to get a little message across their connection. Maybe. She wasn’t sure if he got it.
“Uncle Kala…? I’m so hot… Can I have some water…?”
Water would be nice. She was thirsty. Belle fumbled with the blankets on top of her for a minute, pushing them off. Maybe that would help some too. The worst part of it was the achiness. She didn’t like it. It felt bad. It wasn’t the good kind of ache like after training. She felt it in her bones. And, for some reason, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
On a gilded hammock held by two cherubic oozarus, dimly lit by the soft light reflected on a great thousand-piece chandelier, rested Kalabas in his bedchamber. The floor was marble, unlike the jade ape statues, and the walls plaster, styled in such a way that it resembled freshly varnished, unblemished wood - the style of the room and furniture followed a stylistic pathos antiquated even to the Duke’s standards, but almost everything was as it was before the Fall of Vegeta and Kalabas was adamant to keep it that way. Not that he had any particular attachment to the unquestionably grotesque oozaru rug cut from grandfather’s shoulder, but the familiarity of sleeping where he had as a child eased him plenty, enough to sleep without aid.
Yet, in spite of the late hour the Duke was not asleep nor alone, but accompanied by a small pack of saibamen and reading the local newspaper. Kalabas swung in his hammock like a barque through a storm, and so did his disposition. That there were those opposed to the Queen was understandable, Kalabas liked Vocado better and he was far from being alone in that assessment, but he simply could not stand all this talk about doing away with the monarchy and in its place establish a democracy. Did these lame-headed traitors really trust themselves with matters they knew nothing of? Bah! On the other hand in every article he read a deep, earnest sentiment of union, a cry for identity, for Vegeta, for justice to saiyankind, and in a far too subtle degree, for arcosian blood. Of the latter he thought he had shed plenty.
Kalabas threw the Nighty Herald at his feet and snapped his fingers, impressed by the sharp echo made. Immediately the green mob scurried to his side, dragging along the Duke’s new and improved arm, three gremlins pulling by each finger and even then only moving it with a great deal of effort. “I snapped once, you fools.” the servants stared at him dumbly with empty red eyes, their ‘brains’ too conditioned to understand their new master “Cocoa.” Kalabas moaned dry and hateful, imitating his father’s voice so well that the fearful plants ran out of the room with their purpose renewed. It wouldn’t take long for them to return, he thought with his head on the feathered pillow.
Then, he heard that very familiar and welcoming chime. He smiled, anticipating a pleasant talk with his cousin-niece. “I am glad to hear from you, capuchin!” he declared at the empty room, face scrunching in worry once her reply reached him. “Dearest, I am afraid I won’t be able to. I am in Vegeta, but I’ll see to my quick return to you. Perhaps Karon or Vocado is awake?” He did not mention Roma as he was certain she would instead give her soda .- and if the parenting guide Kalabas bought was to be trusted, sugar before bed was a surefire way to ruin a restful night of sleep for all involved.
Hearing her uncle’s voice made Belle feel at ease, putting to rest the knot of anxiety that sat in the pit of her stomach. She even managed a small smile. It was really nice to hear his voice again. She hugged one of the pillows beside her weakly, making herself sit up. Her head was pounded. She lifted one hand to it. It felt hot. Mister Karon and Mister Vocado…? Belle frowned, her uncle’s reply a little muddled in her mind.
“Huh…? But they’re… they’re not here…”
Belle couldn’t call out for her daddy either. She didn’t want to see him. Maybe if she was really quiet, she could get herself something without disturbing him. Rolling over onto her stomach slowly, Belle slid off the bed until her feet touched the floor. She winced a little from the aches that were sent shooting through her body at the motion. She clung on to the edge of the bed for a while, thinking about what her Uncle had said. He was on Vegeta. Maybe he could come get her. Wait, no. There was some reason why he couldn’t come. Her brow furrowed but she couldn’t really remember, stilly groggy and pained.
“No, I’ll go get it… maybe Daddy’s not awake…”
Letting go of the bed, Belle turned and shuffled slowly toward the big doors to her room. Her room wasn’t a child’s room. It had none of the warmth or softness. Her room was a Saiyan’s room. A Noble’s room. Cold and bare. Filled with things that couldn’t even tempt a child’s curious gaze. Sharp things or fancy things. Belle took some care to avoid those things. She didn’t want to knock anything over. As she made her way across the room, she clung tenaciously to her connection with her uncle. Flashes of her stumbling across the room. Her red sickly face, the weakness of her small frame. Translucent furniture. A vanity. A huge canopy bed much too large for her. They all drifted across their connection with an ethereal quality to them, manifesting in different spots in Kalabas’s vision.
Belle’s hands clasped around the handle. It was icy cold to the touch, which was nice at first, but her journey across the room had sent her into a fit of shivers. Still, it was too late to turn back, so she opened the door carefully and peeked into the hallway beyond. Empty. It was clear. Slipping out of the room, Belle tip toed slowly down the hall toward the kitchen, shivering all the while. She could do this. Just some water and then she could curl up under some nice warm covers. Just a bit more. She had to keep a stiff upper lip.
Kalabas almost said a very dirty word, but he contained himself - he had expected more from the third-rate psychopomp and the miniature princeling! To abandon his child like that, after he trusted them her wellbeing… He took a deep breath, wary of jumping into conclusions most dire, - perhaps Belle was simply stating that Karon and Vocado were not at hand, more likely than not they were just off and away for the time being - Kalabas knew they were not bad people, otherwise he wouldn’t have left her in their charge, and even while it was rare for him to see eye to eye with either the Duke knew that whatever passing contempt they felt would never victimize Belle. What’s more, Roma had it in her to fill a glass of water no matter how diluted her blood was by the Duke’s own wine. He was unsure whether he should charge per barrel or per glass or at all, truth be told, but regardless Belle would get her much needed water. Or so he thoughts.
“Daddy? You mean Chard?”Uncle Chard, reminded Kalabas to himself. Unless he had got over his distaste Vocado, Kalabas doubted the Belle’s father had joined Vocado’s little posse. Sudden ghostly flashes of things filled Kalabas’ vision, like stage props appearing and disappearing in place. A canopy bed, lances and blasters and similarly breathtaking instruments of war, some quite splendid artwork too… Why, the kid’s room was quite beautiful! - but only in Kalabas’ hallucinating eyes, he knew that Belle would do better with a more child-like decor. “Impressive.” he said as the walls and floor and furniture he perceived melded and contrasted and pushed and pulled, his perceived reality was a dizzying conglomeration of two spaces just similar enough for him to navigate through, what else could Belle do with her gift? He stumbled and bumped a lot, but he managed to throw his arms at the little kid in the middle of the ever shifting room. “What a blessing, you are in Vegeta!” His hug phased through her conceptual form, and his fall cut short by a saibaman who yanked him back to his feet by the bandana and received a pat for its trouble. Kalabas gave Belle, the only thing besides him that he could see clearly, a thorough glance.
She looked sick, how much Kalabas could not tell, but she was also bruised, and that he could see clearly. Was it carelessness on Chard’s part, or something done out of training, something done in a fit of madness, maybe anger? “Where are you?” At the castle, most likely, but he had to be sure. The situation required a degree of coolheadedness that the Duke was feeling himself lacking, his anger needed a target and he had to be sure that it was the right one.
The uncle followed his adored niece through short flights of stairs that doors that led nowhere. He was helped by his curious saibamen, pets as loyal as old dogs even if not nearly as smart, who tugged and pushed and guided him softly. Kalabas stopped when warm pewter burned his lips. It was the hot cocoa he had asked for but a moment ago. He finished it in three quick, worried gulps, walking Belle after. Stiff upper lip, she thought and he heard, concerned by how useful those words had become. She quite simply didn’t deserve to live in this permanent state of danger and anxiety. “Belle, attune your signature to mine. I need to pinpoint your exact location.”
Her uncle’s voice echoed distantly in her head. Yes, her daddy’s name was Chard. Her mommy’s name was Carra. Belle paused for a moment in the hall when she felt something. She wasn’t sure what. Uncle Kala was saying something about her being on Vegeta. Yes, she was. More specifically, she was on Vegeta in her father’s manor. She was careful to avoid the garish furniture and decorations that spotted the halls. The servants were all probably asleep by this point. It was late. Maybe she wouldn’t be found out. It was scary. So scary.
“I don’t like it here, Uncle Kala…”
Not in this cold, empty, quiet manor. Not on Vegeta at all. She liked Namek. That was where she had met her uncle for the very first time. Maybe she could go back there one day. She had met so many nice people and made so many friends. Sure, she had been kidnapped by the Fleet there too, but they hadn’t been unkind to her. Some of them, like Mister Lord Chill, had been very nice. As she reached the door to the kitchen, she paused, hearing a question echo through her mind. Where was she? Her first thought came to mind.
That wasn’t right. Home didn’t feel like this. Home felt like snuggling into Uncle Kala’s arms. Home felt like playing games and being told stories. Home felt better than this. Little tears welled up in her eyes, but she hastily wiped them away with a shivering arm. Her brow furrowed as her little face twisted up in a fierce anger.
“Not home! It’s not… it’s Daddy’s house.”
Her rage drifted over their connection briefly. It wasn’t fair. She knew that. She wasn’t stupid. It wasn’t right that she was being treated like a tool. She knew that so much better now than she did when he had sent her away. Her anger drained away as fast as it arose. She didn’t have the energy for it. It wasn’t fair, but it was how things were for now. She had to keep a stiff upper lip.
With that determination in mind, Belle tiptoed into the kitchen. She floated up to one of the cabinets very slowly to grab a glass from within. All she needed was a cup of water. Floating over to the faucet, she turned it on and held the cup underneath, waiting until it was almost full to turn it off. She took a little preemptive sip as her uncle asked her to focus in on him more so he could find her. She frowned a little confused but tried to do as he asked. She glanced around for the heart of his aura and froze suddenly. Her eyes went wide. Her chest grew tight. Only one thing could be felt from her over their connection. Terror.
Around the corner came an aura as dark and seething as pitch. The aura took on the shape of some sort of dreadful monster. It manifested before Kalabas’s eyes as well. This monstrously cold and dark aura washed over Belle as its source stride into the room with smoldering eyes of fire. The cup slipped from Belle’s hands and shattered with a resounded crash on the floor. With the crash, the ghostly visages before Kalabas’s eyes disappeared all at once. Belle. The kitchen. The monstrous Chard. All of them gone. Belle’s presence in his mind gone. All that was left was a chilling silence.
Did Cruss speak truthfully all those years ago, when Kalabas was about his cousin’s age - were his words justified, those curses warranted? Despite it all the Duke could not make any sense of the situation. The pieces were there, but the image irreconcilable with the facts. This was Baron Chard, Uncle Chard, the man who had protected Kalabas when his father threatened with starvation, abandonment, death. When Cruss was plunged into madness, his waning grasp on reality finally snuffed by age and disease, Kalabas could only turn to his uncle. And Chard helped him, asking nothing in return but growth, effort, and wisdom - it was never about love and even at that very young age Kalabas knew it, Chard came to his aid because it was his duty, nothing more, nothing less. Yet, the Duke saw in Chard the father Cruss never hoped or tried to be, this man led by example, he preached little and acted greatly, he wasn’t deranged or resentful, duty was his greatest and only passion, and to hear him talk about it! Entire afternoons flashed through Kalabas’ eyes, workouts that crushed the body but healed his soul, lessons that he couldn’t have gone without. Chard was the reason that Kalabas was the way he was, the reason behind his virtues and vices and everything in between.
So… to see this blackened, evil thing, to know that it could only be Chard… However briefly, Belle’s fears were his Kalabas’, Chard was not his greatly esteemed uncle but a father far worse than his own, a terrible man capable of great evil, more than willing to surpass it, for reasons Kalabas struggled to understand - how could one be so cruel to his own? What would he do to Belle? What could he have done to Kalabas? He had to say something, warn her, tell her to run! But his throat was gripped by fear, he could barely breathe, in this quick moment of weakness everything was gone, Belle, the kitchen, only Chard remained. His mirage cast its shadow over Kalabas’ heart, his dark dour semblance filling him with hatred.
There was no time to waste. Kalabas took a deep breath and threw himself off the window, his course set to the Strongbone Manor.
Mar 22, 2021 14:13:54 GMT -6
Amara: when i was a lad i ate four dozen eggs
Mar 13, 2021 22:12:28 GMT -6
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