Brutus must learn how to keep faith in the Burning Flame

In “Pillars of Smoke,” Lorenzo escaped Belmont and an arranged marriage. But he left behind his parents, Brutus and Ophelia, and the twins. Three days have passed since the “Night of the Rocket,” but none in Belmont are allowed to know of the life outside. In the city beneath the mountain, the Belmontians try to preserve their way of life and stay faithful to . . .

The Burning Flame

Part I

BY FRASIER ARMITAGE

Three Veils passed, but Lorenzo hadn’t returned. 

“Where can he be?” Ophelia asked. 

Brutus sat with his hand on his chin. 

“Brutus! Didn’t you hear me? Our son is missing these three Veils, yet you say nothing?” 

“Where are Sylvia and Roderigo?” he said, absently. 

“They are readying themselves for the service.” 

He nodded. “That’s good.” 

“What of Lorenzo? What did you say to him?” 

Brutus scowled. “You think this my fault? That our son would flee and not return because of me?” 

“You were the last to see him! To speak with him! What else am I to think?” 

“I have done nothing but care for this family and honor the flame. What more can I do?” Photo by Chirag Nayak.

Brutus stood, rising with the fire that burned inside him. “Our son is missing, and now you lay the blame with me! I have done nothing but care for this family and honor the flame. What more can I do?” 

“Please do not scold me. I worry for my boy. Is that so wrong a thing?” Ophelia shrivelled, tears cascading down her cheeks. 

Brutus unclenched his fists and wrapped his arms around his wife. “Come now, let the twins not see us like this. I’ve sent word to the Council. There are eyes in the smoke. If he is in the city, we shall hear at the service.” 

“And if he is not in Belmont?” 

Brutus released Ophelia and retired to his chair, his hand returning to his chin. “Worry not, my love. If he cannot be found in Belmont, it will fall on me to decide what must be done. Let’s not fret over what we do not know.” 

Ophelia wiped her red eyes and puffed her chest, forcing an empty smile to her lips. “Sylvia! Roderigo!” she called, and the twins ran through the hab. 

Sylvia reached around her father’s leg and gave it a squeeze. He didn’t stir. He just sat there, staring into the distance. 

“Come,” Ophelia said. “Let us go and pay our respect to the flame.” 

The family departed through the airlock into the smoke-laden street. They grasped each other’s hands and peered through their breathing masks at the shadows of the other families of Belmont, all mingling outside the Pillars of Belmont. The whole city crowded around the sacred monument, and a single light blinked from a balcony cut into the foremost pillar. 

“Children of smoke,” a voice boomed through the city, bouncing off the stone which encased them in the mountain’s core. “We gather to cleanse ourselves. Fire purifies all it touches. Let us pass through the fire as one.” 

“Amen,” the crowd responded. 

“They grasped each other’s hands and peered through their breathing masks at the shadows of the other families of Belmont, all mingling outside the Pillars of Belmont.” Photo by Jacob Boavista.

A horn blasted three times. 

“Confess, and let your sins burn away.” The voice of the minister resounded among the people. Whispers echoed from each of them as, through closed eyes, they made their confessions. 

“Forgive me,” Brutus whispered so quiet that none might hear. “I should’ve listened better to Lorenzo. I should’ve heard him, instead of dismissing him the same way I would any fool who questions the wisdom of fire. I am as blind as a man who stumbles in smoke. And now my son is missing. Let him come back to me. Guide me to him. Let me see him just once again.” 

The horn blasted three times more. 

“Your words have been heard,” the priest’s voice thundered. “Now let the fire answer.” 

A scorching mist billowed from the pillars, blown across the river of purified ore that flowed from between the two titans. The mist spread through those gathered, dispersing its heat among them. 

“You have been heard. Now let the smoke wash you clean, children. May this Thickveil be a Holy Veil. And may you have peace.” 

The horn blasted a final time, and Thickveil struck. 

“Amen,” the people parroted before they turned back to their habs.

“Let me see him just once again.” Photo by Om Prakash Sethia.

Brutus turned, and Ophelia squeezed his hand. 

“Brutus!” a voice called from the crowd. “Brutus!” 

Brutus stopped and waited for the shadow that rushed towards him. Antony emerged from the mist. 

“Brutus, the Council will meet with you,” Antony said. “Come. They gather as we speak.” 

Brutus looked to the pillars, and offered a silent prayer of thanks, before he twisted to his wife. “Take the children, Ophelia. I shall return shortly.” 

She vanished into the mist with Sylvia and Roderigo. 

Antony led him through the milling crowd towards the foremost pillar. A stone door scraped open, and they moved inside the pillars. A crunch brought the stone behind them, sealing Brutus in. 

The hiss of air sucked the smoke out of the chamber, and Antony unhooked his breathing mask. Brutus followed, and the floor shook. 

Gears whined. A rumble caused Brutus to stagger as the lift drew him up the colossal shaft, through the pillar, to its peak. The lift emptied him into a dimly lit room, where men and women gathered in a circle, their bodies covered in hooded robes, and blood-red eyes glowed from the shadow where their faces should’ve been. 

“Come.” One of them beckoned Brutus into the circle. It was the same voice which had led the people in the cleansing ritual. “Speak.”

Brutus stepped into the midst of the Council of Belmont. “Is there news of my son?” he asked. 

“He is not in the city, my child. If he lives, he has abandoned us.” 

Brutus’s shoulders slumped. His fingers rubbed his forehead. “He may still be covered in mist. You know the mountains conceal all. It may not be too late for him.” 

“You know the law of exposure. Not even the minister at the gate has the freedom to reveal his face to an outsider.” 

Brutus shook his head. “If I could just get onto the mountain, I’m sure I could bring him back without anyone seeing.” 

“It is forbidden.” 

Brutus’s lips quivered. “But . . . he’s my son.” 

“He is a child of smoke. We all suffer this loss. But you know the writings of the Guardian. The Gospel of Portia clearly states that none may leave the mountain. You wouldn’t question the founder, would you?” 

“No.” Brutus clenched his fists. “I’m a loyal Belmontian. I follow the path of fire.” 

“A pure soul of Belmont. May the flame always warm and feed you. Amen.” They moved their hands up, rising to mimic a flicker of flame; the time-honored symbol of worship. 

The Council dispersed and Brutus turned back to the shaft. A hoodsman joined him as the lift descended. He peeled back his robe. “Brutus, I am truly sorry for your loss.” 

“Thank you, Councilman.” 

“Please, call me Julius.” 

Brutus bowed to him, but Julius grasped his arm and lifted him upright. 

“My friend,” Julius said, “not all among the Council approve of its piety. Or its decisions. In fact, there are some of us who are even—” Julius looked around him, although he knew they were alone as the chamber whirred lower and lower still. 

“Even what?” Brutus asked. 

“Can you be trusted with a secret, Brutus?” 

He nodded. 

“There are some among us,” Julius whispered, “who believe that Belmont should not be cut off from what lies beyond the mountain. That if a fire cannot spread, it will fade and die.” 

Brutus’s eyes bulged, and he grasped his chest. 

“Does this shock you?” Julius said. “When the Guardian wrote her manifesto in which she recommended to limit contact with the others beyond the mountain, it was only so that those who mined inside this rock may not become discontent. Complete seclusion was never her aim. She sought contentment for the people. How much contentment do you see among this new generation of Belmontians? Was your son content here, Brutus?” 

Brutus shook his head, stifling the lump in his throat. “He wished for a life beyond this place.” 

“And he was wise to do so.” Julius rested his hand on Brutus’s shoulder. “The priests preach that segregation is purity, but what is worth more: a lump of pure iron, or the mountain in which it forms? Blind devotion to smoke and fire will only lead to ash. I know you are loyal to the flame, and this talk is new to you. But I sense a purpose for you which Portia herself would smile upon. One in which you may prove yourself a true Belmontian.” 

The war within Brutus erupted across his face. The hoodsman spoke heresy. Yet, instead of rejecting it, Brutus listened. And more than that, he saw a spark of sense in it. Was this the heat that had tickled Lorenzo’s ears and led him to abandon his home? Lies. Lies. All these words, lies. And yet, they spoke to Brutus as the lift lowered through the pillar, and he couldn’t turn his ear away.

“What would you have me do?” Brutus asked. 

Julius smiled. “For many Veils, our group of adherents have sought to start a fire of our own in Belmont. But we’ve yet to find the spark to ignite it. Your son could be that spark, Brutus. I saw you clench your fists when you were denied the chance to search for him. What if I could give you that chance?” 

Brutus’s eyes danced aflame. “You mean it? You can get me past the Gatekeeper?” 

“Bring Lorenzo back to Belmont, and we’ll burn through this mountain.” 

Brutus nodded, but his chest sunk. “Julius, none will be hurt when this fire of yours is lit, will they?” 

“Brother, we seek harmony with those beyond. Peace brings no harm with it. You know this.” 

Brutus pictured Lorenzo’s face. He’d petitioned the flame to see his son one time more, and he had been heard. He grasped Julius by the shoulder. “I will be your spark, Julius.” 

“Meet me at the gate at Halfmist.” Julius returned his hood to cover his face. “For Belmont.” 

“For Belmont,” Brutus repeated. 

The lift hit the ground, and they disappeared into the plumes of smoke shrouding the city. 

Brutus’s breathing mask hissed as it worked to stave the smog of Thickveil from his lungs. He strode a path along the river, its molten heat radiating with a comfort that settled his beating heart. All the omens favored this decision. He glimpsed shadows through the mist, knowing the smoke held unseen eyes. Always had he believed the smoke concealed them, yet now he knew that all things were exposed to it. That even the shadows were consumed by its all-seeing haze. 

He scanned his hand against the access panel of his hab. Beyond the airlock, Ophelia waited for him. 

“What news?” she asked. 

“I must leave at Halfmist,” he answered. 

“Leave? Where?” 

The less she knew, the better. He trusted his life to Julius, but the lives of his family were another matter. “I cannot say. But know that there is hope, my love.” 

Tears welled in her eyes. Her hands quivered. “You speak the truth?” she said. 

“It is all I know how to speak.” 

“Oh, Brutus. Do you have to leave? I’m not sure I can cope without you.” 

“All will be well, my dear Ophelia. Light a fire for me, and hope it doesn’t fade.” 

“Hope. Is that all you can give me?” 

Brutus folded his arms around her. “What else is there to give?” he said.  

“Hope is a dangerous thing to possess, husband. Hope alone would drive a person mad.” 

He pulled Ophelia to his chest and cradled her. He wished to tell her that he would bring their son home again. That all would be well. But silence settled in the hab, a silence he couldn’t bring himself to break.

“A father will always find his kin.” Photo by Ante Hamersmit.

Sylvia squealed from the playroom, and Ophelia pulled herself from his hold. 

“It’s okay,” Brutus said. “I’ll check on them.” 

Ophelia nodded, her shaking fingers covering her lips. Brutus entered the playroom and roared as loud as a kiln. The children scattered through the room, fleeing his stomping feet as he bellowed, giant as the mountain. 

“Where are those children? I’ll lick them up in my flaming arms!” 

The children ran, but he caught Sylvia and swept her into his grasp. He nuzzled his head on her stomach and blew kisses over her. She laughed, kicking her legs. Roderigo tapped his father’s knees. Brutus slipped Sylvia under one arm and scooped Roderigo in his other, peppering him with the same affection. 

“Father’s a fire!” Sylvia said. 

“Nice and warm,” Roderigo answered. 

“I burn for you, my children.” Brutus remembered the same game he used to play with Lorenzo. “There’s no hiding from your father, no matter how hard you try. A father will always find his kin.” 

“Is that true, Father?” Sylvia asked. 

Brutus pictured Lorenzo, lost in mist. “If I said it, it’s true.” 

They played the game again and again. Ophelia sat in the doorway and watched them play. Then the horn blew across the city, chiming an hour until Halfmist. 

Brutus kissed his wife’s cheek and left his family playing together. He grabbed his mask, his pickaxe and his jacket, and without another word, vanished into smoke. 

Through the city, Brutus ascended one level at a time. He climbed beyond the colonnades and above the pillars, where the once colossal drill had first chiselled out their mountain home. Smoke rose in a cloud, growing ever thicker as he reached the top of the shaft.

“Smoke rose in a cloud, growing ever thicker as he reached the top of the shaft.” Photo by Adam Bixby.

Julius waited for him in shadow. “Brother,” Julius said. “You are ready?” 

“More than you know.” 

A smile crept through the glass plate of Julius’s breathing mask as he shepherded Brutus along the passage towards the gate. “Have you ever met a Gatekeeper, Brutus?” 

“Not that I can recall.” 

“They are the most loyal of all Belmontians. They serve in isolation, shielding the mountain from outsiders. And yet, they must touch the outside and allow it to pass in safety within this rock once every six Veils. For how else are we to be fed with food and air? You see, Belmont is not so alone as you might think.” 

Brutus remembered Lorenzo speak of food and air, which Belmont traded with the other cities of the Globe. He had not wished to listen then. But he listened now. 

“We had a Gatekeeper join us once,” Julius continued. “Many Veils ago. But the Council discovered the plan to drop the gate, and he was banished forever. The gate opens once every sixth Halfmist to allow goods safely in and out. But we would’ve smashed the barrier that blocks us from leaving, the same wall which keeps that Gatekeeper from ever returning. So I ask you, are you ready, Brutus? You know what is at stake?” 

Brutus imagined the smiling faces of his dear wife and children. He must return those smiles to their eyes. Until Lorenzo was found, their eyes would never gleam again. What choice did he have? Even if he, too, might become banished from Belmont, he had to try. “I understand the risk.” 

“Good.” Julius clapped him on the back. “Here.” From beneath his robe, the hoodsman pushed a small device into Brutus’s palm. “This will draw the gate once, and once alone. It is how you must return, with Lorenzo in your arms. Do not use it until you are finished in your search. One use is all that it can produce.” 

“A gift from your Gatekeeper friend?” Brutus asked. 

“A relic from a former time. Which is what we will all become, unless you can bring your son home.” 

Ahead, the smoke thinned, and a group of Belmontians with ore-scorched masks huddled, waiting. Julius guided Brutus into the core of them. 

“We are the mountain, and you are the flame,” they chanted. “Rise and burn. Rise and burn.” They stomped their feet as they pushed through the thinning barrier of mist, repeating their chant. As their footsteps quickened, their voices raised, until they were running in the clear air, screaming the anthem at the top of their lungs. 

Through the thrashing limbs of those around him, Brutus glimpsed the giant air vents sucking up the smoke, and the tunnel which led to an amber force field, shielding a huge drawbridge and open gate. Beyond the gate, a cavalcade of hovercraft lined up with supplies for the Belmontians. 

The Gatekeeper stood at the far end of the drawbridge, between the open gate and the misty mountain beyond. Photo by Sergey Nikolaev.

Halfmist struck, and the force field collapsed as the horn shuddered the walls, rippling up from the kiln below. The Gatekeeper stood at the far end of the drawbridge, between the open gate and the misty mountain beyond. 

“Hold!” the Gatekeeper roared, as he ignited the laser of his axe and scythe. 

The masked men swarming around Brutus lit their picks. They broke formation, charging at the Gatekeeper. Shards of electrum flashed where the laser of scythe met pick, and the men wrestled the Gatekeeper from his post. 

Momentum carried Brutus ahead. Julius was nowhere to be found as Brutus left through the open gate, stumbling onto a new kind of rock. The men behind him dispersed, and a force field shot up the side of the mountain, masking it in an amber haze. 

Brutus gathered his footing. The mountain beneath him splintered into pieces. It seemed so unsteady, so fragile. Not like the solid stone carved inside the city. The safety of his refuge crumbled with the pebbles which scattered at his feet. 

“Lorenzo!” he called out. His voice carried through the mist. “Lorenzo, my son!” 

Brutus unhooked his breathing mask, and gulped the air. It dizzied him in an intoxicating rush. Never had he tasted air so light and yet so dense. It enveloped him, more so than the fog. 

He staggered down the mountainside, the only sound his echoing cry and the scuff of his footsteps over uncertain clumps of disintegrating rock. 

“Lorenzo!” 

He wandered for hours, calling out. As he neared the foot of the mountain, golden rays of sun broke through the mist, and he threw his hand up to shade his red eyes from the light. Never had he seen so bright a flame as the ball of fire in the sky. Everything blurred, so intense was the glow of morning. The stone reflected the light back to him, forcing his eyes shut. He stumbled blind until the ground leveled off, weeping tears in the heat. His skin burned. Sweat poured from his tattered clothes. 

“Lorenzo!” 

His foot struck a lump. It wasn’t rock. A soft, spongy form stretched out below him. He knelt to feel it and recognised its touch as flesh. 

Brutus ran his fingers across the body that lay before him. He dared to open his eyes, and there he saw the scorched remains of his son. 

“No!” he wept. “Lorenzo. My son. My boy.” 

He cradled the limp body to his chest. Tears drenched his child. Brutus cried out, his voice louder than the horn blast at Thinveil. 

“I asked that I see my boy once more. But not like this. You deceived me!” 

He slammed his fist against his chest, beating it as he screamed at the fire which had brought him here. 

“Why would you do this to me? Were the omens not good? Did you not answer my plea? Fire is supposed to be pure. But you are not a pure flame! You lie. Lies. Lies. All these lies. No more! You are to blame for this! I curse you, and I curse this ground, and I curse the world. Oh, Lorenzo, my boy. Can you ever forgive me?” 

Brutus picked up the body and turned back up the mountain. Into the mist, he disappeared, to return his son the way he’d come. All the while, he kept repeating the chant of Julius’s men. “We are the mountain and you are the fire. Rise and burn. Rise and burn.”


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe Folio series, and then Frasier’s “The Voice of Beasts.”

On Friday, we bring you Part 2 of “The Burning Flame.” Brutus returns to the guarded entrance of Belmont with what he assumes is the body of his son. He is called before the very Council he defied. And he must reconcile the loss of his son with his faith in the Burning Flame.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up! But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on their way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

New release of the conclusion of “Eyes Up the River”

After Antonio slayed the kraken, the Newlondon Guild inducted him as a member. They sent him to Whitehall as Newlondon’s ambassador to greet the spaceship from the Polity of Unified Planets.

Eyes Up the River

Part II

by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage

A line of hovers stretched up the river, veering off along the road to Whitehall. Antonio hated the thought of skipping ahead of his fellow Newlondoners on their way to the city, but he had no time to wait. Antonio swerved over the riverbank and thrummed across the savagelands. His barge shook as the dust beneath his skiv plumed to cloud him in sand. He grasped the knife from his boot, and his keen eyes darted around, ready to pounce on any wild beasts hunting in the low plains that sensed the vibrations of his engines.

Drones appeared overhead. They cast their shadow across his scow, and scanned him, emitting a buzzing whine to ward him off. He rammed the throttle, but the roar of his hover couldn’t outrun the buzz of the pests above.  

He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he scoped the trajectory of the drones. A green glow flashed over his body and his hand. Upon reaching the gold of his ring, the glow emitted by the drones faded, and they vanished, skimming ahead of him to the gate. I guess Prospero was right. This ring gets you out of just about anything. 

A beam of light shone from the city gate across the sands, guiding him to the entrance, and clearing a path for his arrival. Walls surrounded the towers of Whitehall. Blue lightning fizzed across them as the shields’ halo danced over iron and stone. Behind the colossal walls, glass shards loomed into the heavens, light skimming over the sand from the reflections. 

Antonio swerved over the riverbank and thrummed across the savagelands. Photo by Alessio Soggetti.

Antonio’s skiv rocked, slowing to approach Whitehall’s officers, who guarded the city gate and checked each hover seeking entry. 

“State your designation!” The guard’s voice boomed through his helmet. 

“I am Antonio of the Newlondon Guild. I was summoned to Whitehall.” He raised his hand and showed them the ring. 

The guard strapped a set of portable anti-gravs to his boots, which lifted him above the surface, and he drifted towards Antonio. He tweaked the visor on his helmet and verified the gold ring. “Antonio. Welcome.” The guard raised his helmet’s visor, flashing a toothy smile. “You don’t mind if I search your vessel? Just as a formality. We wouldn’t want anything unsanitary smuggled into Whitehall.” 

Smuggled?” Antonio spat the word. “Are you trying to offend me, Whitehaller?” 

The guard’s smile widened. “You people really don’t like smugglers, do you?” 

“Smuggling is the worst crime a Newlondoner can commit. Not even the scum who board the deathships would stoop so low.” Antonio wiped his hands on his chest, as if to rid himself of the accusation’s stain. 

“Then you won’t mind if I search your craft?” the guard asked. 

Antonio crossed his arms. “I hide nothing.” 

The guard landed on deck and passed a cursory glance over the oddments scattered about. He ruffled the nets and kicked at the helm-panel. “Looks clear.” 

“Then I can pass?” Antonio reached for the throttle. 

“Just a moment. I haven’t searched the underside.” 

Antonio frowned. “Since when did a Whitehaller search the underside of a skiv?” 

“What’s the matter? You nervous?” The guard cocked his head. 

Antonio flapped his arms. “Fine.” 

The guard returned his visor over his brown eyes and stepped off the deck. Anti-gravs floated him beneath the hover. “Well, well, well. What have we here?” The guard reappeared on deck carrying a satchel. He emptied it, and a glut of weapons spilled over the barge. 

Drones appeared overhead. Photo by Karl Greif.

Antonio straightened. “What is this? What are you trying to pull, Whitehaller?” 

“I could ask the same of you.” The guard trained his gun on Antonio. 

“You set me up!” 

The guard’s smarmy grin returned. “Not me, friend.” 

Antonio lunged for the guard. The man loaded a blaster round, but Antonio flew so fast, his knuckles slammed across the guard’s helmet before their arms had even lifted an inch. Beneath Antonio’s fist, the guard’s visor splintered and cracked, knocking his anti-gravs off balance, and he lurched unsteadily, grasping the hull’s edge to keep upright. 

Drones swarmed the craft, darkening the sun from Antonio’s pale face. 

Antonio stopped. His chest pumped. From the guard’s pocket, a trail of doubloons scattered, all bearing Newlondon’s seal. Antonio stared at them. His jaw gaped open at the familiar crest stamped on every piece of silver. 

The guard readjusted his helmet, stooped to collect the precious coins, and approached through the swarm of drones. “I’m placing you under arrest for conspiracy to smuggle, Antonio of the Newlondon Guild.” He bound Antonio’s wrists in iron manacles and removed the Guild signet ring. 

Antonio was hauled from the skiv on an anti-grav platform. Drones forced him through the city, to a chamber in the city walls. Bars sealed behind him, and he looked through a slit to the desolate plains of the savagelands beyond. 

When I accused the guard of setting me up, he said, ‘Not me.’ But if not him, then who? 

Antonio paced the cell, his manacles weighing on his arms and his heart. Those doubloons remove all doubt. Someone is behind this. Someone wants to paint me as a smuggler. Whose mind would be so sick to arrange such a thing? The thought of being branded as the lowest of men made him wretch. 

He slumped on the iron floor, raking his fingers through his hair. From his pocket spilled the crumpled note he’d found hidden on his barge. His eyes ran over the words. 

The gold a monster slain bestows. His signet ring! Once the drone had scanned it, the ring had led him straight to the Whitehallers. Straight into the jaws of their trap. Conceals a secret hid below. The weapons had been snuck on the underside of his craft. Below. Whoever had made that note had known. They’d tried to warn him. Beware of what you think you know.

From the other side of Antonio’s bars, a latch cracked open, and footsteps ricocheted beyond his cell. Antonio scrambled to his feet and clanged his manacles against the bars. “Hey! I’m not supposed to be here! I demand to speak to someone!” He shouted to the newcomer walking toward the cell in the darkness.

“Oh, but you are right where you are meant to be, dear brother.” Solanio slid into the sliver of light from the slit in the wall of Antonio’s cell.

You!” Antonio lunged at the bars, trying with all his might to reach far enough through to get to the monster looming before him.

You are right where you are meant to be, dear brother. Photo by Larm Rmah.

“Come now, Antonio. Calm yourself. Don’t make a scene.” Solanio surveyed the dingy cell.

“If there is a scene to be made, it is of your own making,” Antonio roared. “Or would you still claim that putting me on the deathship was all a mistake? What have I done that offends you so that you wish me dead or condemned?” 

A shadow swept across Solanio’s eyes as he pursed his lips and shook his head. “You always had the luck, Antonio. Ever since we were children. Oh, yes. My father might’ve owned half the boats along the dock. I may have had fish on my table every night, and a free room in one of those sordid little hovels on the seafront. But you? You had everything. It was as though Elizabeth Hathaway looked upon you from the heavens, and smiled.” 

“What are you talking about? You know better than any how I used to scrounge bread from your own table.” 

“Bread, maybe. But affection? You were never in want of heart, Antonio.” 

Antonio gripped his chest. “And neither were you. You have been loved, Solanio. I loved you as a brother.” 

Solanio grimaced. “And I you. But she should’ve been mine. Do you understand? You’re nothing. You’ll always be nothing. A woman that beautiful should see straight through a dock rat like you.” 

Understanding flashed through Antonio, and he rubbed the twine around his finger. “Bianca?” 

Solanio nodded. “She would never have loved me while you still lived. You came and boasted of your engagement that day on the pier, and I had to stand there and smile, all the while thinking, knowing, it should’ve been me.” 

“Who Bianca loves is not for you to decide. It is her choice, and hers alone.” 

“I know it. She chose you, and all I could do was sit and watch. I spent that afternoon in the company of thoughts darker than the night itself. And then you came to me and begged for my help. I thought it would be easy to fix. With you locked on the deathship, she would never know the truth.” 

“You were supposed to be my friend, Solanio. My brother!” 

“And you were supposed to have suffered an unfortunate death. She would’ve turned to me in her time of despair. She’d have found solace in me, first as her friend, and then, as her husband. But then you went and cheated death, and even returned with a kraken in tow. It isn’t fair, Antonio. It’s never been fair!” 

Antonio raged, his manacles tearing at the skin of his wrists as he flung himself at the bars. “Bianca would never fall in love with a snake like you, Solanio! She already sees through your gutless, vile ways.”

“That might be true,” Solanio responded simply. “But what respectable Newlondon woman would love a smuggling criminal? That is something even Bianca can surely not forgive.”

“It was your silver that bought the Whitehall guard, wasn’t it? Just wait until Prospero finds out that you’re the reason I didn’t make it to Whitehall as he commanded. When the Guild realizes you’ve threatened one of their own, what do you think they’ll do?” 

Solanio tossed his head back and laughed. “Why don’t you ask them yourself?” 

New footsteps echoed in the metallic chamber. “Greetings, Antonio. How do you like Whitehall so far?” 

No. It can’t be!  

The gold from Prospero’s chain rattled into the light. His waxed moustache and beard framed a sinister smile on his smug face. “Come now, don’t look so surprised. Who else could have sent Solanio to take your place at the summit?”

“Prospero? What trick is this?” 

“No trick, Antonio. I’ve actually come to thank you. You’ve brought great wealth to Newlondon. Well, I should say you brought great wealth to me and the Guild. But the Guild has never been overly keen on sharing.” 

“The kraken’s eye? Is that what this is all about?” 

Prospero rubbed his portly stomach.

“Well, we couldn’t let you sell it and keep all the wealth for yourself, could we?” Prospero said. “So we welcomed you to the Guild to split the profits. But of course, with you out of the way, there’ll be no need to split anything.” 

Antonio’s nostrils flared. “I’d have given it all to you. I’d trade anything for a chance to live free with the woman I love.” 

“You betrayed me brother.”

“Foolish child. Did nobody tell you that trading for love will get you killed? Or worse? You really are as gullible as Solanio said.” Prospero laughed heartily. 

Antonio closed his eyes. “You betrayed me, brother.” 

Prospero shook his head. “You think this was his idea? When you landed with the kraken, I checked the deathship’s manifesto. It didn’t take long to track the Tempest back to Solanio. If it hadn’t been for this woman of yours, I’m not sure I could’ve convinced him to turn on you. You should have heard him beg for your life. Pathetic, really.” 

Antonio looked at Solanio, who turned his face away. 

“You won’t get away with this,” Antonio said. 

Prospero raised an eyebrow. “And who’s going to stop me? You? What are you going to do, appeal to Whitehall for compassion? Perhaps it would’ve been kinder to have killed you than leave you to the mercy of these ’Hallers.” 

“Is that why you stole the body from my scow? So there’d be no way for me to appeal.” 

Prospero frowned. “What body?” 

“The pirate. From the river.” 

Prospero waved his arms. “I assumed you’d dumped the body. Besides, who needs a murder charge when you’ve been caught red-handed smuggling? You know the penalty for smuggling, Antonio. I’m sure the Whitehallers will be delighted to exact every last morsel of your sentence.” 

“Solanio, please.” Antonio stretched his hands towards Solanio, but the young man turned away. 

Prospero held up the signet ring the guard had taken from Antonio and twisted it in the dim reflection of the light. “You’ve proven useful, both of you. But I think I’ll have to wait to see how you handle the summit, Solanio, before I can place it on your finger.”

“We had an agreement!” Solanio sputtered. “Frame Antonio, and in return, I’d be a member of the Guild and have Bianca’s hand.” 

“Report back to me in Newlondon, my dear boy. I’ll keep this ring warm for you while I wait. Perhaps the young lady will need some company, as well! Goodbye, Antonio. And thank you again for the riches, and all the, shall we say, benefits that come with them.” Prospero chortled as he left.

“Stay away from her, you fiend!” Antonio yelled, but the door slammed shut on his words.

Solanio stared at the door, trying to calm his ragged breathing. 

“What have you done?” Antonio said. 

Solanio wheeled on him. “Do be a good friend and stay put this time. I’m running out of favors to counter your incessant heroic returns home.” 

“You really think you’ve won? That they’ll let you have her?” 

Solanio snarled, and a serpentine smile crossed his lips. “Everybody’s luck runs out eventually. Even yours.” 

Solanio slipped out the door, his footsteps fading into nothingness. The blood drained from Antonio’s head, and the room started to sway. He grasped the edge of the slit to steady himself. Beware what you think you know. The words rattled in his skull as he tried to comprehend all he had just heard from Solanio and Prospero. He was friendless and hopeless. He laid his head against the wall as tears stained his cheeks.


Nightfall darkened the cell. Loud pops and booms drifted to Antonio from beyond the shields, followed by cheers. Colorful bursts filled the sky through the slit. 

Fireworks? Antonio had heard of them, but he had never seen them with his own eyes. What are the ’Hallers trying to do? Show off for the Polity? Make friends before enemies? The commotion grew. It reached such a fever pitch, Antonio shivered as if the celebrations were an ominous warning. 

Isolation crept into Antonio’s skin. He lost himself, giving his mind over to flashes of memory, closing his eyes so as to better glimpse the way Bianca had looked the last time he saw her on their cliff top. How she’d told him to return to her. They’d stood so close to the precipice. So close. 

Time passed without meaning while Antonio remained locked in his cell. He lost count of the days in his solitude. 

“My Bianca,” he said each day, reaching out for her. “My darling Bianca. I didn’t sail too close to the wind, but it caught me nonetheless.” 

Time passed without meaning while Antonio remained locked in his cell. Photo by Diego González.

His voice bounced from the walls, the only response to his call. But he never let up. Every day he closed his eyes to speak with the memory of her. 

“My beautiful Bianca. I’m here, my love. Keep your eyes up the river for me.” 

‘Always,’ she had told him, a promise he replayed in his mind over and over. 

One night, a low whistle stirred him from sleep. He followed the sound, and it led him to the window slit. An exterior floodlight shone a narrow path around the prison wall, but all was dark beyond its beam. Antonio’s eyes strained to see into the darkness beyond the light.

He heard the whistle again. The tune seemed so familiar. And then he placed it. Yohoho, row, nonny, row.

Antonio returned the whistle and waited.

A flicker of a shadow cut through the light, but Antonio’s eyes weren’t fast enough to see who it was. Something came flying through the slit above his head. It clattered on the iron floor. Antonio dove to the ground feeling his way through the dark. His fingers brushed the cold, small object.

Antonio held it up to the light of the slit. A small key with a familiar piece of twine was tied in a bow at the top. 

“My clever Bianca! You did it, as you said. You kept your eyes up the river for me.” He snatched the key in his grip. “And now it is my turn to come back to you.”


If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier‘s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. We will be seeing more of Antonio, Bianca and even Solanio in the coming weeks. But in two weeks, we turn our eyes down river to Finsbury, where young Panthino discovered on the Night of the Rocket a cache of weapons buried beneath a field. In the next installment of Nights of Revelation, a secret society turns Panthino’s life upside down. Somehow, they learned his secret and kidnapped his unrequited crush, Desdemonia. Check back next Friday week for “The Shambles.”

If you would like to prepare for “The Shambles,” you can read “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross and meet the hulking-but-shy Panthino and the talented and popular Desdemonia.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Antonio returns a hero after slaying the kraken

The waves of the South Sea break against the docks of Newlondon on the morning after “The Night of the Rocket” . . .

Eyes Up the River

Part I

by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage

The Tempest’s engine sputtered to a halt as the deathship reached its berth. Creaks and moans rippled through the ship, its ropes straining against the hull in the still churning water. Laid strewn across the deck, the massive creature’s corpse towered above the sail. The only piece missing was its grotesque, green eye that Antonio cradled in his hands. 

“Your valor will not be forgotten, men,” Antonio said to the few remaining members of the crew.  

Footsteps pounded down the dock toward them, shouts growing louder as they approached. 

“It’s true!”

“A kraken! I never thought I’d see the day!”

Antonio scanned the crowd for Bianca’s blue eyes. 

Prospero, the head of the Guild, pressed through the masses and reached the ship first. “Antonio? Is that you?” Prospero gawked. His gaze slipped from Antonio to the eye in his hands and then to the slain beast. 

Footsteps pounded down the dock toward them, shouts growing louder as they approached. Photo by Doruk Yemenici.

“We have returned with a slain Kraken, and here is the eye.” Antonio stepped off the ship next to Prospero. 

Prospero gingerly accepted the eye as if it were a bomb ready to detonate. “But how? Why are you here, on this deathship?” 

Antonio searched for words when his eyes landed on Solanio lurking toward the back of the throng. Antonio flushed with anger, forgetting Prospero altogether.

“I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for all this, but now is not the time. There are more pressing issues,” Prospero said, grabbing Antonio’s attention. “We will secure the beast and you can report to the Guild House as soon as you’ve cleaned yourself up. Agreed? To think, all on the same night as the Rocket.”

“The rocket?” Antonio asked.

“Ah, yes. You’ll be filled in at the Guild House.” He turned to his men and motioned to the beast. “Get to work!”

Antonio twisted back to the crowd to find Solanio, but he was gone.


Dressed in his best shirt and pants, Antonio wound through the narrow streets of Newlondon to the Guild House. He wanted nothing more than to find Bianca, but he couldn’t keep the Guild waiting. The kraken would ensure a better future for them both. Besides, whatever the Guild decreed, Bianca was sure to find out soon enough. 

The jingling of keys caught Antonio’s attention. He turned down the alley toward the metallic rattle. “Why didn’t you stay at the docks and greet my return, brother?” he said to the figure who slipped a key in the door in front of them.

He turned down the alley toward the metallic rattle. Photo by Edoardo Frezet.

“Antonio!” Solanio stepped out of the building’s shadow. “Hero of the day! Quite the feat you’ve achieved, dear friend.”

“Yes, dear friend. An opportunity I would never have been given if it wasn’t for you, I think.” Antonio’s pulse raced as he approached the man he’d wrongfully trusted.

“A happy accident. You are alive with quite the prize in hand. No need to thank me for your good fortune. I wished only to help you in your time of need. Who knew I’d be more successful than either of us could’ve imagined?” Solanio’s tone dripped with affection to mask the biting jealousy barely hiding below the surface. The effect was not lost on Antonio. His rage burned brighter as he loomed large over Solanio, whose back was now pressed against the door he was trying to open.

“Solanio,” Antonio menaced, his finger digging into the other man’s chest. “Your great help was to lock me on a deathship knowing full well that none have returned before today. That is no ‘happy accident.’” Antonio reeled back to swing at Solanio’s smug, rat face. 

Solanio raised his hands in defense. “But it was an accident!”

Antonio dropped his fist, his shoulders still vibrating. “Enlighten me, then! How did this accident come about?” 

“You came back in the pitch-black, foggy night, desperate for my help!” Solanio roared in Antonio’s face, stepping forward. “Between the fog and darkness, I thought I was stowing you on one of my father’s ships. I returned to the docks this morning to fetch you when the deathship moored up. I was as shocked as anyone to discover you there.”

“Do you think I am that stupid? You can navigate the docks blindfolded!” 

“Stupid, no. Could a stupid person defeat a kraken? It’s clear you are exceedingly clever, dear Antonio. And as you can see, even I can make mistakes. I am just so thankful this mistake turned out so well. For you.” A mocking smile spread across his lips. “Aren’t you due at the Guild House by now?” 

Antonio glanced down the alley toward the street, then he turned back to Solanio. Before he could open his mouth to speak, Solanio had vanished. The door in front of him locked from the inside.

Antonio blew out an exasperated breath from his lips. “Will you stop disappearing like that!”

Solanio’s apparent betrayal churned in Antonio’s mind like a restless sea on his walk to the Guild House. Everyone makes mistakes, but Solanio wasn’t that careless. Was he? What would he gain if I hadn’t returned? 

People skittered in a frenzy along the dock, where seedy rooms-to-rent overlooked the bay. Trawlers queued for a berth to land. Everyone seemed to be searching for a skiv bound for Whitehall. All these people, and Bianca nowhere among them. Where can she be? 

Antonio passed through the milling crowds to the building jutting out at the pier’s end. He traipsed the stairs, his footsteps following him in echoes. A huge door with an emblem of a fish barred the way. He took the fish by its fin and knocked it thrice on the iron door. 

Creaking open, it swung on its hinges, and Antonio entered a lavish room. A dozen people sat in a crescent behind a ceremonial table. They sported the finest garb, all ruffles and trims. And their white moustaches were waxed with the utmost care. 

“Welcome, Antonio!” Prospero’s voice boomed from the center of the crescent. Golden chains hung around his neck. “On behalf of the Guild of Sailors, may I be the first to congratulate you on all you’ve done for Newlondon.” Applause shook the glass windows overlooking the sea. 

When was the last time any of these men were actually on the water? They might have owned the boats and gleaned the city’s wealth, but they’d lost their sailing legs a long time ago. 

“It takes a lot to impress the Guild, Antonio,” Prospero continued, rubbing his paunch. “But bringing back a Kraken? There’s enough pollium in the eye alone to restore prosperity to this city.” 

“I wish only enough to buy a ring for my bride,” Antonio answered. “As for the rest of it, you gentlemen would know far better than me what to do with it.” 

A murmur of smiles swept the room. “Your words do you credit, Antonio. And I think we’re all in agreement. Among the Guild, we recognise a good catch when we see it. And there’s no finer catch among men than you. Which is why we’re electing you to be a member of this Guild, for the services you’ve rendered to Newlondon. What do you say?” 

Antonio’s eyes popped. He’d have chosen wrestling with the tentacles of a kraken over facing the false smiles of the Guild any day. But how could he refuse? He knew better than to cross these men, or else any life with Bianca would sink to the bottom of the ocean. They might as well have placed an anchor around his neck. “I am honoured,” he said. “But what would be expected of me?” 

Prospero toyed with his golden chains. “Even when bestowed with this great honor, you are still thinking about how you may serve. Bravo, Antonio. There is one thing we were hoping you may do to cement your place at the table. I take it you saw the purple lights in the sky last night?” 

Antonio nodded. “They appeared after the battle with the kraken. I thought they were another beast coming for us.” 

Prospero raised an eyebrow. “You may be right about that. A Polity rocket landed near Whitehall. You know of the Polity, I take it?” 

Antonio frowned. “I know that Captain Elizabeth of the good ship Shakespeare warned of them when the first settlers landed all those generations ago.” 

Prospero folded his hands together, leaning forwards in his chair. “History is a funny thing. It has the habit of repeating itself. We heard from Leonardo at Whitehall that the Polity seek an audience with a representative from each of the five cities. We can think of no better sailor to send than you.” 

“You want me to go to Whitehall?” The blood drained from Antonio’s face. The drone. The pirate. That’s what landed me on the deathship in the first place! 

Prospero smiled. “It seems like all the world wishes to go to Whitehall. I take it you already have a skiv?” 

“Is there no one else more deserving of this,” Antonio paused, “privilege?”

Prospero shook his head. “None.” 

If the drone had reported back to Whitehall, I’d already be under arrest, from the moment I landed. Maybe it’ll be alright? Antonio chewed his lip. “Then I have no choice but to accept.” 

The only other chains he’d seen like the ones they’d bestowed upon him were the kind they kept in prisons. Photo by Vishnu Prasad.

“Excellent. Welcome to the Guild, Antonio.” Prospero stood and beckoned him forwards. He approached, and Prospero lowered the golden chains over Antonio’s head as the others applauded. The only other chains he’d seen like the ones they’d bestowed upon him were the kind they kept in prisons. 

“May I see my bride before I depart?” Antonio asked. 

“Of course. But don’t take too long. We don’t want to keep the other cities waiting. Or the Polity for that matter. Find out what they want and report back to us. We can then decide what should be done about the newcomers. And in the meantime, we’ll make arrangements to auction the kraken’s remains. Here.” Prospero took a signet ring from his pocket with an anchor engraved upon it. He placed it on Antonio’s finger before he lifted the chains from Antonio’s shoulders. “The ceremony is complete. If you get into any trouble, just show this ring. You’re a Guild member now, Antonio. Remember that.”

“Thank you.” Antonio stroked the ring as it pinched his skin. He bowed, and hurried out of the chambers, back along the pier. Bianca. I must find Bianca. 

Antonio sprinted to the one place he hadn’t looked for Bianca yet, their secret hideaway on the cliffs above the sea. He could barely fathom that it was at that very spot, two days ago, where Bianca agreed to be his forever. As he came over the crest of the hill, there she was. Her chestnut curls gently swayed in the breeze as she stared at the horizon.

“My sweet Bianca,” Antonio said quietly.

She spun toward him, her eyes wet as she wrapped him in a tight embrace. “Bless the Arrant Moon you are safe.” Bianca clasped Antonio’s face in her delicate hands, studying his face. 

A storm knitted in his brow and a fog clouded his eyes. 

Purple clouds over the cliffs of Moher. Photo by Simon Moore.

“I heard about the kraken,” she said. “I thought you had a trade run. And that same night, the Polity arrived? I believed they were little more than legend. Has the Globe changed so much in so little time?” 

Antonio looked away from her searching eyes. “The only thing that has not changed is my devotion to you, Bianca.” He took her hands in his and kissed her finger with the small cord wrapped around it.

“What are you hiding from me, Antonio?”

“I hide nothing. It’s just . . . there is so much to share but no time to do so.”

Then she saw it. The Guild ring on the finger where his matching cord had been. Bianca eyed the ring with surprise as she pulled her hands from his. A blush of suspicion spread across her cheeks to the tips of her ears. She knew his distaste for the questionable nature of the members. “There is no hiding that ring. Guild membership? How, when?”

“It is just one of the many things I wish to tell you about,” Antonio said. “The slain kraken secured my membership. You must understand, I could not refuse without risking both our lives. You know the rumors of what happens to those who oppose the Guild. And I am now to meet the Polity as their representative to Newlondon.”

“Luckily for you, that isn’t the strangest thing I’ve heard today. And how were you on the Tempest?”

“My trading run, well, let’s say it did not go as planned. I turned to Solanio for help and instead he locked me aboard. He claims it was an accident, but I have my doubts.” He paused and looked out over the sea. It had brought him a fortune. Perhaps it had really brought him a curse. 

“I cannot make sense of it. I have so many questions.” 

Antonio turned back to her. “Bianca, let’s stem the tide. Forget the Guild, the Polity, all of it. Let’s run, now. We can be free together.” The fog lifted from his eyes, revealing the man she had fallen in love with. Trusting, naïve, wistful. It made him beautiful, but also doleful. 

Bianca closed the gap she had made between them. “Why do I love you so much, my dear fool? You know we cannot flee, and that you must fulfill your duties. You have no choice in the matter.”

“Then come with me. To Whitehall. You are my compass rose. I have never needed your direction more.”

Bianca’s head fell. “I must stay here. Don’t forget, my dear, you managed to defeat the kraken. What awaits you in Whitehall cannot be worse, can it?”

Antonio swallowed hard, thinking of the chains and shackles awaiting him if the drone had indeed captured the ill-fated encounter on his skiv. And then he shook off his doubts. “No matter what awaits, know that I love you, with all the deeps of my soul.” Antonio looked deeply into her glistening blue eyes.

“And I love you.” 

“Keep your eyes up the river for me,” he said. 

“Always. Don’t sail close to the wind and return home to me.” Bianca cloyed at the twine of her ring as they parted, and she watched him leave. There wasn’t time to explain to him what had happened, why she must stay. And she couldn’t bring herself to burden him more. Not with the rocket waiting for him, and the Polity breathing down both their necks.

You are my compass rose. Photo by Aron Visuals.

She remained on the cliff for as long as she could, clutching her ring to her heart, knowing that beneath the Guild’s signet which weighed upon Antonio’s finger, the twine that bound them still remained. “Antonio, my love, you are right. If only we had more time.” 

Antonio forced himself away from their cliff top, wind scolding his cheeks with its frigid bite. He descended down the hidden path to the pier. Sea fret rolled in to cloud the air with a salty tang, masking the rush of crowds. 

He shimmied a route to the visitor’s slip and found the dock where he’d stored his skiv. There his ship hovered undisturbed. Waves sloshed beneath it. A roll of tarp made for a poor man’s casket, covering the body of the dead pirate. Antonio’s chest sagged. He glanced over his shoulder, but between the dense fret and the frenzy of the crowds, all eyes were up the river, and no one saw as he reached for the tarp’s corner to pull it back. 

He winced, and then his eyes widened. Where a body should have been, bundles of netting clumped together. A shiver swept through Antonio. He yanked the tarp back, scouring the empty nets, but found not even the trace of blood. Bodies don’t just disappear. Not without a reason. Who could’ve done this? 

A leather cylinder fell from the web of netting, and he scooped up the container, popping it open. From inside, he unfurled a parchment. In blotches of ink, a note was scrawled — 

The gold a monster slain bestows,
Conceals a secret hid below.
Beware of what you think you know.
Yohoho, row nonny, row. 

No signature hinted at the author of the elaborate handwriting. Antonio scrunched the parchment in his hands. His eyes flashed everywhere at once. I never told Solanio where I’d docked the skiv. And the weasel would never have left a note like this. Who else knows of what I’ve done? 

A storm tossed the waves of Antonio’s thoughts into chaos. He reached for the twine, and the comfort of Bianca’s promise to him, but he found the anchor of the Guild instead. The Guild. Could they have done this? He had no time to think. No time for doubt. He must get to Whitehall, and trust that with the body gone, he had nothing to dread from the city’s drones. 

I must get to Whitehall, no matter the cost. For Bianca. For both our sakes. 

He pocketed the crumpled parchment and swung the hover from its berth, charging upstream amidst the cavalcade of rocket-chasers. Spray kicked up from the hover’s pads. The Elizabeth River undulated beneath the pressure of so many barges all heading for the city, and the purple light of whatever monster waited for them.


On Friday, we release the conclusion of “Eyes Up the River“! The tentacles of Newlondon’s Guild of Sailors grasp Antonio’s future more closely than even the kraken’s deadly grip, and the unfaithful Solanio reveals his secrets.

If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier‘s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

The winds of change tear asunder an old alliance

A Matter of Principle

by Frasier Armitage

Octavius brushed his quivering hand across the pad to the Governor’s residence, and the doors swept open. He walked straight to his drinks cabinet and struggled to pour a goblet of wine from his decanter. His hands steadied as he downed the syrupy liquid. 

From behind, Flavius tapped him on the shoulder. “I don’t suppose you’ve got another glass lying around?” 

In all the commotion on his trip back to his penthouse, Octavius had forgotten Flavius was there. “Of course. Forgive me, Flavius. It’s just, with everything we’ve seen tonight, I needed something to clear my head.” 

The shrill clink of Westminster glass rang as Octavius tipped another goblet from his decanter and handed it to the Mayor.

The shrill clink of Westminster glass rang as Octavius tipped another goblet from his decanter. Photo by Charl Folscher.

Mayor Flavius swilled the liquid with a steady hand and sipped. “Don’t tell me. Bottled 410 AL. Am I right?” 

“What?” 

“The wine. It’s a nice vintage.” Flavius swallowed with a resounding ahhh and cast a jealous glance at the Governor. 

Octavius studied the decanter. He had absent-mindedly opened a 410 AL vintage as if it were a regular occurrence. This kind of liquor was a perk of being the most powerful man in Whitehall. The most powerful until tonight, that is. 

“How can you talk of wine at a time like this, Flavius?” Octavius passed the decanter to the Mayor and shuffled across the lavish apartment to the window. Below, lights twinkled across the city as celebrations drifted upwards. The whole city was alive. So why did it feel as if those lights were a stranglehold around Octavius’s neck? 

The Mayor sidled towards the window to join the Governor of Whitehall. “What ails you, Octavius? We’ve been gifted an amazing opportunity. And you seem to be treating it as a death sentence.”

Why did it feel as if those lights were a stranglehold around Octavius’s neck? Photo by Nathan Dumlao.

Octavius’s shoulders slumped. “Didn’t you see what the Polity did tonight? What they intend to do?” 

Flavius shrugged. “I saw some lasers blast a few drones out of the sky. The closest thing to fireworks we’ve had since the half-millennium.” 

“Exactly. You were there. You saw the look on the face of that insufferable shrew. Captain Ward, or whatever her name was. With a flick of her fingers, she can rain down fire from the sky. That ship up there. It’s a weapon they can use to strike at any time, and we’re the ones with a target on our foreheads.” 

“Target? What are you talking about, my friend?” 

Octavius paced back to his cabinet and snatched another decanter. Something stronger than wine. “Why summon us to that summit tonight?” 

Flavius stroked his chin, but he didn’t answer. 

There were times when Octavius valued the Mayor’s stoic deliberations, but he could be far too calculating for his own good sometimes. Where Octavius used his gift for rhetoric, the Mayor used silence. In the past, it had made them an effective team. Octavius, as the superior in both position and oratorical ability, handled the public appearances. Flavius knew his place was to stand silently by the Governor’s side. Never before had Octavius doubted that that silence meant agreement and loyalty.

“Because,” Octavius continued, “they wanted to discover who to dispose of in order to take control of the Globe. Know your enemy. That’s what they’ve made us. The enemy. It’s just like what was written in the ancient texts. The writings of Elizabeth Hathaway. She knew it. And she was right.”

It’s just like what was written in the ancient texts. Photo by Kiwihug.

Flavius waved his hand in a calming, friendly gesture. “We all know the writings. Every child does. I’ve been reciting Hathaway’s warnings since my school days. But we’re not children, Octavius. And the Polity knows it.” 

“Hathaway’s words are more than just a children’s story, Flavius. This is why we can never return to the Polity, she wrote. Why we must remain vigilant to resist their false promises, why we must not look back, but fix our eyes on what lies ahead. The peace of our people depends upon it.

“Yes, yes. But that was generations ago.” Flavius shook his head. “It’s been over five hundred cycles since the Shakespeare brought our people to the Globe. Do you really think the Polity hasn’t changed in all that time?” 

Octavius paced on the spot. “You remember why Hathaway captained that ship? Why our people became refugees across the stars? It was because the Polity landed on our ancestors’ home planet and forced us into their squabbles and wars. Our ancestors fled their world. That’s why they people built the Shakespeare and travelled for five generations until they found the Globe. And now the Polity have followed us here. Do you see any difference in that little display of theirs tonight? What do you think will happen to our peace, Flavius? To us?”

Octavius cast a look that communicated his fears better than any rhetoric.

Flavius just sipped his wine.  

“Look at the two of us,” Octavius continued. “How many other Globers are as—peaceable—as us? We are at the top of Central Tower. Enjoying wine bottled in 410 AL. With the whole Globe beneath us and none above us. And we are at peace.” 

It can erase us from existence at a whisper.

“But surely you don’t mean that the Polity would be a threat to our powe. . . I mean, our peace. Do you?” 

“Can you not see it? The only thing above us on all the Globe is that ship with its lasers. It can erase us from existence at a whisper, and hovers unseen, out of reach. Do you really think they’ll let us keep our . . . how should I put it—keep hold of what we have—when they hold us at gunpoint?” 

Flavius stroked his chin. “But Octavius, don’t you also see that the Polity could help us to maintain peace, as you put it, across the entire Globe? Not just in Whitehall.” 

Octavius stopped pacing and regarded Flavius as though he’d grown a second head. “How much wine have you drunk?” 

“Listen to me, my friend. You are Governor. And I am Mayor. And together, we are stronger than we would be alone. How much stronger could we be with the Polity at our side?” 

The Governor’s eyes bulged. His cape billowed as he stormed through the room. “You’re a fool, Flavius! Trust the Polity? That’s a death sentence.” 

“Is it foolish to dream of a peace that extends beyond our people?” Flavius cocked an eyebrow and puffed out his chest. “Or do you think so small, you cannot see beyond this Globe?” 

“Small? Small! Your chosen field is microbots, and you have the nerve to call me small-minded! Tell me, as a scientist, of all the microbots you’ve invented, how many of them do you consider as equals? You are their master, Flavius. They are your servants. And you would make us microbots to the Polity! We should have been spending our time reengineering the engines that carried our people to the sky. In building satellites to protect the Globe. Not funding research for your useless trinkets!” 

And you would make us microbots to the Polity. Photo by Yuyeung Lau.

Flavius turned as red as his wine. “You’re mad. The blueprints for the Shakespeare’s engines are lost to history. Lost when the first Central Computer was flooded in the First Alignment. We might be able to hover a ship twenty metes above the surface–maybe 30. But sending a ship into space? Impossible. That kind of technology died with Elizabeth Hathaway.” 

“Impossible? You of all people know that the engine of the Shakespeare still circles the Globe, too big to land. The technology it holds could put an end to the Polity so that they never cast their shadow upon us ever again.” 

“And how do you expect to use it?” The Mayor threw his arms about. The wild motion startled Octavius, who was famous for his flamboyance as well as his clever rhetoric. Something about the quiet, mild Mayor encroaching on Octavius’s signature style rubbed Octavius the wrong way. “The Shakespeare is just as unreachable as the stars. Is it not better to bend a power like the Polity to suit your will, than to antagonize them against us?”

Octavius trudged to the other end of the long window, putting distance between them.

The normally attentive Flavius missed the cue and continued. “Leonardo will be accompanying the Captain on her tour of the cities. He’s no fool. I am certain he can persuade her of our value. Of the superiority of our principles. If they have made us their enemies, then should we not make them our friends?” 

“You think they can be programmed like machines? Talk sensibly, or not at all.” 

The Mayor scolded Octavius with a look. “I speak for the people. You saw how they cheered. Cheered when those drones exploded in a shower of fireworks tonight.” 

Octavius shook the words away, but he’d heard the cries as loud as any. “The people do not see yet. But their eyes can be opened.”

They cheered when those drones exploded in a shower of fireworks tonight. Photo by Designecologist.

Flavius laughed. “You believe you can sway the Globers. I believe I can sway the Polity. We make a fine pair.” Flavius reached to place his hand on Octavius’s shoulder, but the Governor shrugged him off. 

Octavius would not look at the Mayor. He tossed a gobletful of hard liquor down his throat, and it burned him. But not as much as Flavius’s foolishness.

“The arrogance of scientists is believing they’re in control,” Octavius boomed. “But this is no experiment. This is life. Our lives. And the Polity would rob us of them. Well, not if I take theirs first.”

“Take their lives!” The Mayor’s eyes bulged. “What madness are you proposing?” 

Octavius peered through the window, beyond the lights of the city and out to the black splodge where the Polity’s lander marred the landscape—a giant bacillus ready to spread its shadow across the entire surface of the world. 

“I swear upon the Central Tower in which we stand,” Octavius whispered, “I shall kill Captain Ward and her Marines, wrench the Pacifica from the sky and throw it into the Southern Sea.” Octavius could see a dim reflection of himself in the window. Death filled his eyes.

A plot swirled around his head, providing him the clarity he sought better than any drink. He looked at his hands as though he could snatch the Pacifica from orbit himself. The Governor straightened up, becoming as tall as Central Tower. As if he dwarfed the whole Globe.

“This is a war for the people,” he said. “And I will not lose.” 

Flavius chuckled. He dared chuckle at Whitehall’s Governor. “You need rest, my friend,” Flavius said. “You think the Polity seek to control us, but the opposite is true. A little rest will help you see the solution to this mess. With the right programming, the Polity will be as malleable to us as microbots.” 

“Get out, Flavius.” 

“What?” 

Octavius regarded him with venom. “Leave. Now.” 

“But Octavi—”

“If you align yourself with the Polity, you set yourself against me. Here, I draw the line. Whitehall will not stand for it.” 

“Be reasonable.” 

“I assure you, I have spent long enough reasoning this out. If we sacrifice our principles, we sacrifice ourselves. Peace at all costs. If that means I have to eviscerate the Polity from the heavens, then so be it.” 

“I—” 

“Did you not hear me, Flavius? You would betray Whitehall. And I shall not tolerate a traitor in my midst. Get out! Now!” 

Octavius rampaged across the room towards the Mayor and rammed him with both hands, pushing him back so he staggered at first. 

Flavius capitulated, as he did in all things, and fled down the hall, to the elevator and to the tower’s lower floors. Photo by Quentin Grignet.

Flavius capitulated, as he did in all things, and fled down the hall, to the elevator and to the tower’s lower floors.

Octavius watched the Mayor shrink and disappear as he formulated a plan. He would force that shrew, who would make herself queen of the Globe, to see the might of the people. Revolt in Whitehall would be enough to distract her from his true strike, his blow across the heavens. Yes, he could see it now. As if his eyes were opened for the first time. 

Peace at all costs. 

He sent a message to an aide to give no one access to his quarters at any time and left. If he was going to start a mutiny, then he couldn’t do it alone. And he knew just where to start.


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. We will be seeing more of Governor Octavius and Mayor Flavius in future installments of “Nights of Revelation.” These once staunch allies will wage a war of stunning proportions that will not end until one is dead and a city lies in flames. But next Friday week we’ll have another two-part story by Frasier Armitage and Shanel Wilson, “Eyes Up the River,” set in the river-delta city of Newlondon. In this fast-paced tale, the brave Solanio confronts his betrayer, appears before the corrupt Guild of Newlondon, and receives a cryptic message from a mysterious benefactor.

If you would like to prepare for “Eyes Up the River,” you can read “The Beast Below” by Frasier and Shanel and meet the brave Solanio, the faithful Bianca, and the nefarious Solanio in seaside Newlondon.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

New leaders ride the shifting sands of power

The Sands of Change

Part II

by Shanel Wilson

Ward jumped off her flier in front of Westminster’s main gate. There was little difference from this place to the hundreds of other desert cities she had seen on Polity missions. She rolled her eyes at the sandstone walls that wrapped around the city. One blast from her pulsar gun would shake the primitive thing apart. Ward tossed her visor into the flier, nearly pegging Leonardo in the head. Shame it didn’t hit him. She would have much preferred to take these tours without Whitehall’s self-appointed guide simpering at her elbow.

“Let’s get this over with.” She stamped through the sand and through the gate.

Leonardo sped through the group of Ward’s crew she brought with her.

“Welcome to Westminster, Whitehall’s industrial sister. You saw the oil pipeline on your journey here, and they created all the glass for our photo-voltaic cells that power Whitehall.”

Hover trolleys were gathering workers for their morning shifts at the Smith and Wildcat Fields. A few of the citizens cast tentative glances at the group of heavily armed and armored newcomers, but none gave any greetings or welcomes.

A hover came blasting around the corner and stopped suddenly directly in front of Ward. A small cloud of dust caught up with the hover and swirled around the group. Leonardo coughed and waved his hands to clear the air. Ward crossed her arms as two men jumped out of the hover. Both were quite young and had piercing violet eyes.

“Greetings, Captain. Welcome to our fair city!” the shorter one exclaimed.

“Gonzalo? Sebastian? We are not scheduled to see Eglamour and the Smith until this afternoon.” Leonardo consulted his notes in the small folio he kept attached to his hip.

“Captain, I am Sebastian, son of Eglamour.” Sebastian gave her a small bow, ignoring Leonardo. “And this is my younger brother Gonzalo. We have eagerly awaited your visit.”

Photo by Hasan Almasi.

“And which one are you, glass or oil?” Ward looked the brothers over.

“We proudly represent the Smith, the Globe’s great glass factory. We would be glad to take you on our hover to the factory floor for your tour.”

“We are due in the Fields, as I said, Sebastian.” Leonardo pointed to his notes.

“Ah, yes, you see a tragedy has befallen Westminster since your comm. The great Benedick, the head of Wildcat Fields, passed away from a long illness, yesterday. We did not want to delay your important visit, so we are here to take you to the Smith.” Gonzalo stepped forward, his chest puffed up to appear as important as possible.

“Fine. I don’t care which I see first, but I need to see the oil fields before I leave. Who can give me that tour?” Ward asked.

“Benedick’s niece, Imogen. She has been overseeing the operations since her uncle fell ill, but I am sure she is mourning as she is his only remaining family. I assure you, we will be able to handle anything you need while you are here in Westminster.” Sebastian smiled and gestured for Ward to board their hover.

Ward sighed. She was already tired of the grandiose welcomes, but it came with the territory on a mission like this. That’s why she much preferred close combat. No facades in the way. Just you, the enemy and your weapon of choice. Her hand unconsciously slid over her sidearm as she stepped into the relatively small hover. 

“We do apologize, we only have room to accommodate Captain Ward on our hover. The rest of you are welcome to enjoy a pleasant stroll through our fair city and meet us at the Smith. Leonardo, I believe you know the way?” Sebastian climbed into the hover, followed by Gonzalo.

Leonardo fumed but before he could respond, Ward waved her hand.

“Johnson, you and the team will go on foot with Leonardo.” She touched the commlink in her ear.

“Yes, sir.” Johnson saluted and mirrored her and touched the commlink in his ear.

She was glad their commlinks had not failed so far. The communications around this place seemed primitive to what she was used to, and she didn’t want to rely on any of them to communicate with her team. These simpletons’ solution to the atmospheric disturbances which scrambled radio waves had been to program drones to carry messages for them. Pathetic, really. Any Polity child could have rewired a commlink to broadcast a message across the surface, even a surface as messed up as this one. Still, at least it meant they weren’t going to hack into the commlink and eavesdrop. Johnson would report anything else pertinent they may find along the way. And, as a bonus, she would be free from Leonardo for the first time since landing on this rock, or at least nearly.

“Gentlemen, shall we?” Ward reclined in her seat.

Sebastian took the controls and they sped off through the city. Ward especially enjoyed Leonardo’s face as they left. Maybe there were a few joys to be found, even if she couldn’t shoot her way through this mission.

A short while later, they arrived at the Smith. The two brothers gave her the grand tour, complete with a visit to each glassmith to see what they were working on. Ward hoped she would be spared gladhanding the locals, but she did her best to feign interest for a while. Colorful glass trifles were never interesting to Ward. Unless it served a purpose, she had no use for it. By the end of the second row of furnaces, she had seen enough.

The two brothers gave her the grand tour, complete with a visit to each glassmith to see what they were working on. Photo by Taton Moïse.

“Thank you for your time. I will meet my Marines now.” Ward nodded a farewell and turned on her heel to leave.

“There is no need to rush! Please, can we offer you a meal at our dining hall? We have some of the best chefs in the Globe creating delicious meals for our glassmiths that rival what the famed culinary men of Finsbury produce.” Gonzalo jumped in Ward’s way.

“We have provisions. Thank you for your offer. I have many important things to attend to.” Ward couldn’t justify any more time spent dealing with these windbags. She knew glass was worthless to the Polity, so she allotted just enough time to seem diplomatic.

“We would be glad to escort you to Wildcat Fields now, if that is your wish,” Gonzalo piped up.

“That won’t be necessary,” Ward responded.

“We humbly thank you for the time you have spent with us, Captain Ward. We will be glad to furnish as much glass as the Polity will need. We hope you see the value we . . . I mean, the Smith, will provide.” Sebastian placed his hand on Ward’s arm.

Ward wrenched her arm away. It took everything in her power to keep herself from pulling her sidearm on him. She took a deep breath and regained her poise.

“I will report to the Polity and let them know your keen interest.” She marched off without waiting for an answer.

Sebastian and Gonzalo watched her strong silhouette exit through the doorway at the end of the factory.

“That’s it?! She’ll let them know our ‘keen interest’? She thinks we’re fools! We cannot tolerate her disrespect!” Gonzalo ran his fingers through his hair while pacing around Sebastian.

“She’ll see the error of failing to strike a deal with us today, but we need to stick to the plan. If we do, our patience will be rewarded. The Polity will be crawling back to us before you know it.” Sebastian crossed his arms across his chest confidently.


Ward, her Marines and Leonardo arrived at Benedick’s house after a short walk from the Smith. Though the city was rustic to her eyes, Ward appreciated the functional nature of the buildings and the clean layout of the streets. She almost let herself enjoy the walk outside, except Leonardo spent the entire time trying to convince Ward to postpone her visit to Wildcat Fields.

“Please. We should leave the poor girl to her mourning. Perhaps we can come back after we have visited Newlondon?” Leonardo pleaded.

Her once-neat braid was frayed, and the rims of her eyes were red. Photo by Saif el Ouarti.

“The Polity cannot wait, regardless of when death takes its toll.” Ward pressed the button next to the doorway.

After a short wait, Imogen opened the front door. Her once-neat braid was frayed, and the rims of her eyes were red. The imposing figures of Ward and her Marines seemed to catch her off guard. Leonardo stepped around Ward to greet her.

“Please, pardon our intrusion. You must be Imogen. I am Leonardo of Whitehall. We know this is a difficult time for you, but may I present Captain Ward of the Polity?” Leonardo motioned to Ward and her Marines.

“Yes, of course. The tour of the Fields. It will be no problem.” Imogen brushed the hair from her face. “Forgive me for not inviting you in under the circumstances. We can head straight to the Fields.” Imogen stepped out into the street and closed the door behind her.

“After you.” Ward gestured to Imogen. She was pleased to meet someone willing to get down to business without the flowery shows of flattery.

“We can start at the refinery. There you will be able to see the beginning of the pipeline. This way please.” Imogen led the group to the northwest corner of the city.

Imogen maintained a quick but steady pace. Ward allowed her to stay a step ahead of the rest. Her questions could wait. Ward was more interested in observing her. She noted the proud way Imogen carried herself. It was the same fortitude Ward expected of her Marines.

They arrived at the refinery where Imogen gave a brief yet instructional tour. Ward appreciated her efficiency. Imogen answered all the questions Ward put to her with ease and intelligence. Imogen’s professional demeanor only broke once, as they passed Benedick’s office.

“And this is head office.” Imogen’s voice cracked as she saw her uncle’s name on the nameplate.

Leonardo placed a fatherly hand on her shoulder. Imogen gave him a sad smile and smoothed her hair again.

“Seems like it would be your office now. Under the circumstances, that is,” Ward remarked offhandedly.  

Leonardo scowled at Ward as Imogen’s face paled. Imogen traced the nameplate absentmindedly. Ward rolled her eyes at Leonardo and cleared her throat. She didn’t have time for emotional detours. Imogen blinked and turned back to the group.

The golden dunes were dotted with slow-moving oil rig pumps bobbing up and down.

“Yes, Captain. I guess you are right.” Imogen paused, then strode down the corridor. “This way please.” Ward noted the slightly faster pace that Imogen took the rest of the tour. Imogen proved she was capable under pressure, but Ward wondered how she would fare once they began negotiations. Imogen led them to a small but comfortable lounge usually reserved for crews returning from their shifts in the Fields.

“Captain, if you wish to see Wildcat Fields itself, we can take a crew hover from here. The Fields are managed by two-person crews because of the creatures that inhabit the dunes. Your Marines are welcome to wait here.”  

“Thank you. Marines, at ease, I will return shortly.” Ward nodded to her Marines and Leonardo.

Imogen brought Ward into a small garage of hovers and got into the nearest one. Ward climbed into the passenger seat, and they set out into the dunes. Ward shaded her eyes to get a better view. The golden dunes were dotted with slow-moving oil rig pumps bobbing up and down. As they sped past, Ward saw a few workers in goggles tending to the mechanisms.

Imogen brought Ward into a small garage of hovers and got into the nearest one. Photo by Sara Bakhshi.

“I could use a pair of those goggles about now,” Ward quipped.

“There should be a pair under your seat, but they won’t help with the sun much.”

Ward reached below her seat. The goggles she found were lightweight, made with straps of canvas and fitted with deep violet lenses. Ward slipped them on but saw nothing unusual except her vision was now tinged purple.

“The goggles help filter the light so they can see the ultraviolet rays more easily.” Imogen pointed to the lenses. “They won’t help you much, except for maybe keeping the sand out. You may have noticed some Westies have violet eyes. Those with violet eyes can see ultraviolet light, but women have the strongest sight. Ultraviolet vision is a valuable asset on the Globe, especially in a place like Wildcat Fields. Not only are repairs made easier, but many creatures bear ultraviolet markings. They would be completely camouflaged otherwise.”

“That is a useful trait. If violet-eyed women have the best sight, why aren’t the crews exclusively women?” Ward slipped off the goggles and stashed them back under the seat.

“Long ago, the leaders in Whitehall learned of this unique trait and asked if their scientists could study a woman with violet eyes. They were able to develop a surgery that would enhance the ultraviolet vision even more. It was agreed that once violet-eyed women reached a certain age, they would be sent to Whitehall for surgery, and they would be hired out to the highest bidder for work in repairs or for creature defense and research. The women soon became known as Westminster Brides.” 

Ward raised her eyebrows at the word “brides.” Imogen rolled her eyes and continued, “Not what I would have called them, but no one asked me. Whitehall, as it does today, controls the greatest number of resources and power in the Globe. Westminster was not in the position to refuse this arrangement, so the practice continues through today. Westminster rarely tries to compete with the prices Brides fetch, since much of the work for the Fields can be done with our own men.”

“You have one of the largest resources on the Globe, your oil. Why not leverage it if you do not wish to keep sending your women out in this forced labor?”

“When the Globe was established, we agreed to share these resources. That principle remains today, yet with a few more caveats. Finsbury once tried to assert its independence from Whitehall, to be free from their constant demands. Let’s just say that Whitehall ensured that it would never happen again. That sent a clear message to the rest of us of what could happen if we tried to operate independently from them.” Imogen’s fists tighten their grip on the hover controls.

Ward herself had “sent a clear message” to all the Globe leaders when she arrived, showing that the UPS Pacifica in orbit could destroy anything anywhere on the Globe with its lasers. She knew that would rankle some leaders, but had it also reopened old wounds in the other cities under Whitehall’s thumb?

Imogen brought the hover to a stop at a rig on a far ridge. Ward’s eyes scanned the ridge around her. She made a mental note to prod Leonardo about the failed Finsbury coup. Understanding the backward power dynamics of this rock was critical if she was to complete this mission successfully. Blazing oranges, pinks and purples painted the sky. Ward rarely got the chance to see colors like this while on the Pacifica or any of the other Polity ships she had been stationed on. Her mind drifted from politics and resources as she let the colors wash over her. 

Her mind drifted from politics and resources as she let the colors wash over her. Photo by Nader Abushhab.

“Benedick would bring me to this ridge to watch the two moons rise,” Imogen continued. “He also brought me here when he had something difficult to discuss. I thought this would be appropriate for today. How much oil will the Polity demand exactly?”

Ward sat up from her reclined position in the passenger seat. Imogen maintained steady eye contact while the breeze blew the loose strands of her hair across her face.

“I like a girl who can cut to the chase. The Polity will need forty percent of your production.” Ward cocked her head, returning Imogen’s eye contact. The Polity didn’t really need that much oil, but Ward knew better than to ask for what she truly needed. That much would be a nightmare to try and haul off this rock, anyway.

“That is impossible. The whole of the Globe will come to a screeching halt within a week at that rate. We can give no more than ten percent.” Imogen remained calm and resolved.

“Navy leadership won’t be happy, but I am sure I can talk them down to twenty-five percent.”

“I promised my uncle to protect our people. While the Polity may promise protection, we have done well for ourselves for five hundred years. We will give no more than fifteen percent,” Imogen’s gaze returned to the ridge while she waited for Ward to respond.

“Then I have no choice but to accept.” Ward raised her hands in a gesture of defeat.

“That gun on your hip says otherwise.” Imogen smirked. “But I thank you for accepting. Shall we return? I am sure you want to get back before it is too late.”

“Quite right. Though today has been more informative than I had imagined.” Ward leaned back as Imogen started up the hover. Imogen was the first person with any brains around this place, so far. Ward appreciated being spoken to without artifice. Ward would have liked to entice Imogen to join her crew on the Globe, yet she knew Imogen would never leave the Fields. Especially since they were her responsibility now, something that made Imogen even more attractive as a crew member. Too bad.


Gonzalo watched Ward’s flier blast off into the darkening sky.

From the window of the apartment he shared with Sebastian, Gonzalo could see the flier’s red engines flair as Ward headed towards Whitehall. Jet engines were Polity tech, unlike anything he had ever seen. Sebastian sat on the small couch tossing an ornate glass ball in the air.

“There that wretched woman goes.”

“Come sit, brother.” Sebastian motioned to the cushion next to him.

A muffled ping escaped Sebastian’s pocket.

“What’s that?” Gonzalo searched for the source of the sound.

“It’s Father’s comm.” Sebastian pulled it out to see the message.

“When did you take it? Father will . . . “

“Father will what?” Sebastian interrupted. “He’s so confused, he doesn’t even know what year it is. Someone needed to be responsible for it. Let’s see what the message says.”

The blue screen read:

Eglamour, you are cordially invited to the auction of the Eye of the freshly slain Kraken in Newlondon Harbor. All invited are welcome to bid for the Eye. The most valuable bid will win! Good luck and looking forward to seeing you in our esteemed city soon. Sincerely, Solanio of Newlondon

“What did I tell you, Gonzalo? Luck is on our side. Ward will no doubt attend, so we will be sure to have a bid so extraordinary, Ward and those greedy Newlonders will be eating out of the palms of our hands. Tomorrow is a new day.” A sly smile crept over Sebastian’s lips as he clasped his brother on the back.

“And it will be ours!” Gonzalo cheered. Sebastian clicked a button on a remote resting on the coffee table. Brassy, upbeat tones filled the room with the newest Whitehall disco hit. The brothers danced around the room while the two moons rose through their window.


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.

And make sure to check back next Friday week for the next story in “Nights of Revelation.” Frasier Armitage takes us back to Whitehall as the governor and mayor grapple with the shifting power on the Globe in “A Matter of Principle.”

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross