Beloved Universe

Reader

Read the latest posts from Beloved Universe.

from Tales Around Estate

The trip to the palace had been a peaceful and uneventful one. High Baron Hesh Avernell had a simple trip from his personal star yacht to the imperial palace where he had been summoned.

It was not surprising that the invitation from Emperor Morek Vaesh was coming. He had been dining once a week with a different member of the Gray Council and Hesh was the last one on the list.

The man in charge of one of the powerful houses did not mind. He had been out of the sector handling a negotiation with House Gijol which the emperor would have known. Now, it was more than likely pleasantries and an update on how it all went.

Morek had done well after taking over from his father eight years earlier. The Empire had grown stronger and tighter knit. The only disaster was the discovered treason of House Klav and actions to deal with it. That was a nasty bit of business.

Hesh sat in his comfortable chair in the passenger section of the personal shuttle with only his two angels by his side. Guven, one of the few male angels that graduated as a bodyguard on one side, his cybernetic eye the only thing that broke that handsome face and the beautiful Eutiva, his oldest bodyguard. Though they wore simple outfits, he could spot the glimmer under their skin of the cybernetics and knew their armor of nanofibers was ready for a mental command at any moment.

The shuttle made its way towards the palace and the gentle bump told him that they had arrived. The hatch hissed open and, on the tarmac, he was met by the three maids bearing the collar of the royal family.

“My master,” the silver haired woman said bowing deeply while the other maids followed. “The emperor waits for you in his personal dining room.”

That was the first thing that made Hesh sense something was wrong. The inner part of the palace was sealed from all but his maids, his wife Empress Cilia, and a few others. Dining normally took place in one of the main rooms designed for just that.

Hesh glanced at Eutiva and he could see the flicker in her eyes. Something was off. There was nothing he could do now as all he could and should do was obey the command of his emperor.

Following the maid through the myriad of corridors, they arrived at a door that was flanked by multiple soldiers, angels of their own dedicated to the defense of the emperor.

“My master,” the lead angel said, his gray eyes focused on Hesh. Though he used the proper polite address, Baron Avernell had no doubt the man did not care about his title but only the defense of his charge.

“I must ask that your angels remain outside with us.”

“My lord,” Eutiva went to protest, her eyes growing wide, but Hesh raised his hand to silence her.

“Of course. As my emperor commands,” Hesh responded with a smile. He turned to Eutiva.

“Please wait for me in the shuttle. If, for some rare reason that I don't come back. You both are forbidden to fall.”

There was an unspoken between the two even though his conversation was polite and easy going. If something happened to him, he had just commanded his bodyguards not to seek revenge. What they called Fallen Angels.

Hesh could see that Eutiva desperately wanted to protest, to force her way in but this was out of her control and though the baron was not sure what was going on, he was not going to betray the emperor's trust. As the two left, Hesh was ushered into the private dining room of the Emperor of the Xaltean Empire.

“There you are!” Morek Vaesh called from his side of the ornate wooden table. Heshe's eyes immediately scanned the room and easily noticed the guards hidden in the shadow and could feel the tingle on his skin that cloaked angels were in the room. Hesh bowed low to the emperor but the exclamation from Morek stopped him.

“No, no. Enough pleasantries tonight, Hesh. Tonight is going to be something new.”

Walking towards the table and sitting in the chair that a cute maid pulled out for him, Hesh noted that there were three empty bottles of vevet wine on the table and a half full one by the emperor’s elbow. His glass filled halfway with the red liquid.

“Thanks for inviting me to dinner, ” Hesh said easily trying to make sure the mood did not affect him. He wanted to keep things stable as possible, especially if Morek was already drunk.

“You're quite welcome. Did you know I had to put up with the nonsense of all those other Council members just to get to you?”

“Oh?”

“Of course!” Morek said gesturing with his cup, the liquid splashing out. “I can't just randomly invite you without getting everyone's suspicions up. Can't make you look like you’re the favorite. Not safe for your health.”

“I'm flattered, your majesty. I don't know why—”

“Stop!”

Morek slammed his cup down on the table, the liquid splashing out, rage in his voice. He breathed in a tried to calm himself. “Just...stop.”

That was when Hesh saw him. There in the far corner was a robed figure in off white with red trimming. He wore a faceless mask.

An inquisitor.

Hesh stood, took off his ceremonial sword and handed it to a maid, removed his jacket with the ribbons and threw it over a chair. All he wore was his trousers and white undershirt. He took a bottle by, popped the cork, filled the glass, and took a swig. The burning liquid forced him to focus.

“Alright, Morek. Tell me what's bothering you.”

“Loyalty,” Morek said, his eyes studying him keenly.

“Do you question my loyalty?” Hesh asked simply. There was no reason to couch his words now.

“I don't know.”

“What makes you doubt me?”

Morek threw back his glass and drained it. He then wildly gestured at the guards who exited along with the shimmering forms of the cloaked angels. In the end it was just Hesh, the emperor, the inquisitor and two maids. A rather beautiful maid with long golden hair stood by the emperor's side. She wore a gold collar that told Hesh she was the arch-maid for her cohort. She deftly filled his cup again.

“Hesh. We have been friends since childhood. You jumped into that raging river to save me when we were twelve. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your staunch support.”

Hesh Avernell remained silent.

“So, answer me this, Hesh. Answer me as the friend you have claimed you are.”

He finished another glass which was filled again.

“Are you having your way with my wife in your bed?”

Silence. Only the labored drunken breathing could be heard in the private dining room. Hesh threw back and drained his own glass and then looked at the emperor, his friend, straight in his eyes.

“Yes.”

Morek's eyes gleamed at the answer. He shifted and pointed at his friend from across the table.

“Are you after my throne?”

“No.”

“How can you prove it?” Morek asked.

“Only my word and the solemn oath of my House to your own. Avernell will always stand with Vaesh.” Morek slammed his fist on the table making utensils dance.

“That's what Orbet Klav said, and he tried to take the throne for himself. I had to forsake his entire house. Do you understand? I signed the death warrant for the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children because he tried to betray me. And he also claimed his word.”

Hesh's voice was hard and dark. It cut through the drunken stupor of the man who had so much guilt on his shoulders.

“I am NOT Klav.”

Morek and Hesh locked eyes and neither once waivered. The silence was loud, and Hesh could feel the buzz of the alcohol. Finally, Morek leaned back and let out a long, deep sigh.

“I believe you, Hesh. Everything you have ever done has always been to better my house or ours together. I just...I just needed to see if you would still be honest with me. I... I was prepared to kill you.”

“I know,” Hesh answered relaxing as he watched the Inquisitor leave. If they were leaving that meant he was safe.

“And you still told me the truth. Directly. To my face,” Morek laughed. “You looked me directly in the eye and admitted you're enjoying the empress’ beauty and didn't even bat an eye.”

“I swore to you to tell the truth no matter what when you ascended the throne,” Hesh admitted filling the glass and trying to steady his shaking hand.

“And you going to apologize for taking a man's wife?”

“No.”

Morek's eyebrow went up in a mixture of humor and disbelief.

“I apologize that it led you to believe that I was coming after your throne. That was never my intent.”

Morek laughed and waved his hand. “I know. Your bluntness is refreshing. All the polite words from the others and then there’s you. You tell me straight to my face. I've known you had an affair with Cilia before we were married, and I thank you.”

“You thank me? I'm the one confused now.”

“Cilia has needs. Needs I can't fulfill.”

“Morek.”

“I'm dying, Hesh. It's a matter of three or four years.”

The silence was back. Hesh Avernell knew about the emperor’s health issues but the diagnosis was new. He stared at the young man across from him.

“I knew you had some health issues, Morek…”

“It’s Eruk’s disease.”

With those words, everything came into focus. The emperor’s behavior, the fact he had gone from being an active individual to rarely being seen outside the walls and other small things.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Me too.” Morek responded staring at his glass. “We always knew, we just kept it a secret. People with Eruk’s disease can live until the early sixties but mine seems to be accelerating. My DNA is tearing itself apart and you know it’s terminal. I’m not going to make thirty.”

“That’s why you were harsh with the Klavs,” Hesh mused.

“I was harsh with the Klavs because they were damnable traitors. Orbet declared it in front of all of us,” Morek snarled but then calmed himself. “But I do see what you mean. Yes. I expect Cilia to take my place when I die.”

“And?”

Morek sat back and steepled his hands in front of him as he stared at the plate of untouched food. The Arch-maid gently rested her hand on his shoulder which made him sigh and pat her hand as if it was comforting. Hesh tried to school his expression to remain neutral, but Morek saw it in his eyes. “I’m a horrible husband, aren’t I?” he asked.

“The life of an emperor is busy—”

“Hesh.”

“You are a horrible husband, Morek.”

Morek leaned forward, grabbed a piece of cheese, and nibbled on it as he thought.

“I knew I was not a good husband. I knew it before I was even married but it was expecting of me to marry the oldest daughter of House Brevet. At first, I was able to give her the attention she wanted but as the burdens of ruling got heavier and my health began to decline, I couldn’t. So, she went searching for you.”

Baron Avernell remained silent as he also picked up a spiced cracker and placed some jelly on it with the silver knife.

“Now, I find myself too exhausted to move some days. As you know, Cilia is quite…active.”

A smile crossed Hesh’s face before he could stop himself and Morek laughed and pointed at him. “See! I knew you’d laugh at that. Now, I rule from my throne room, my dining room, or my bedroom. Aetev has been wonderful in taking care of me on my bad days. She’s even taken good care of me when I have the energy for anything recreational.”

For anyone outside of Hesh and Morek, there would have been horrified expressions. Even the arch-maid, though her eyes were cast down in obedience as expected for her position, her face was beat red with the emperor admitting so casually she joined him in bed. The emperor was the epitome of power and though there was fluidity with bonded servants, the emperor was never to. It not only opened the possibility of an illegitimate heir if one was not careful, but it also put a target on the maid in question by the emperor’s enemies. The appropriate thing he should have done was request a concubine from the Scarlet Order. But who was Hesh to judge the emperor? He had just admitted he was having an affair with the Empress.

“Hesh, my friend. When my time comes, I want you to protect my family. I want you to back Cilia when she comes to the throne. She’s going to be terrified and needs a hand to help her. A hand that wouldn’t put their own personal or house goals in front of her.”

“You have always had that oath,” Hesh responded vehemently.

“It’s a lot to ask, Hesh. I know I’m being a horrible friend. To put on your shoulders the survival of two houses for no reward. The humans may become more aggressive, the Drull are eyeing the southern border again, and the Aten’kara Theocracy have begun probing the buffer zone.”

Morek let out a sigh as he finally finished off the bottle he had been working on when Hesh had arrived.

“You have my word.

Morek smiled genuinely for the first time since the High Baron had arrived.

“Alright. Let’s eat and talk like the old days before we remember our places,” Morek cheered.

And they did.

 
Read more...

from Tales Around Estate

TW: Violence

The cold weather was the hardest for Kinah to get used to. She knew that House Klav preferred the colder worlds, the Emissary Maid of the 3rd Order did not realize what cold was. House Nevakev from where she had come loved the temperate. This was not temperate.

It was early morning when Kinah had gotten out of bed, combed her pale red hair and created the intricate single braid down the back of her head. Once that chore had been done, she quickly donned her under skirt, top, and then layered two pull over robes over her head and then cinched them with her belt that displayed the three kovek ribbons she had earned through her career. Mistress Ulia of the Mournful Song Estate had warned her early on to use layers as the weather on Valkis was finicky. Kina had learned the first day that she had not layered enough when she thought she had.

Quickly exiting her room (for she discovered 3rd Order maids of her cohort were given personal rooms here), she made her way down the stairs and out into the frigid morning. Kinah's breath escaped in cold puffs of white as her feet followed a deep red sandstone path that wound through the lush grass and under the heavy evergreen trees. The trees were fascinating as they were trimmed in such a way that their branches created a natural cover for those on the paths if the rain, wind, or goddess forbid, snow swept through. Unlike her previous estate where everything was kept close to each other, Mournful Song Estate was spread out among the land with paths connecting them together. The only people she ran into were the guards standing half asleep and only alerting when she got close. A quick nod between them was the only communication.

Once Kinah had made it to the main pathway which was much larger, she saw the 2nd Order maid Tuv with her head dress firmly clamped on her head with a bow around her chin to keep it on.

“Good morning, peer Kinah,” Tuv said as she motioned for her to walk with her. “Hopefully you slept well.”

“I did. I believe I've adjusted to the weather.”

Well, the sun does not come up for another two hours, so I want to show you the proper way we handle the torch lighting as per our lord's preference. Mournful Song Estate is famous for its ambience and respect for the ghosts that haunt her lands.”

Ghosts. Yes. That was something that Kinah had not expected. Though she did not truly believe in the spirits of the long lost, House Klav was very dedicated to finding a balance between the living and the dead. There were multiple temples on the property that she had to learn to properly maintain so not to disturb the spirits sleeping.

Tuv began her explanation of the torches and how they were supposed to be handled. Kinah tried to focus as the breeze tried to steal her breath. Kinah tightened her belt a bit more to keep the body heat in as she also tried to remember the pattern of lighting that she was being told. It was the words that seemed to change into a strange, strangled choke that caused Kinah to abruptly stop and turn to look at her peer.

“Peer Tuv, are you—–”

The chill and drop in Kinah's gut were not from the weather. Tuv stood there, gasping as deep red blood poured from her throat. The 3rd Order maid's brain barely registered the shadow standing behind the unfortunate maid keeping Tuv's wrists pinned to her hips letting her quickly bleed out. The shadow gently lowered the now dead maid into the pool of her own blood.

Kinah gasped and stepped back as the masked shadow moved into the light. It was humanoid because the lower portion of his face was covered with a metallic mask, his upper and lower body covered in metal on top of an inner armor weave. The person held a knife in his hand. The terror that shot through Kinah caused her to step back with a stumble.

“Ashkatula,” the hoarse whisper of a terrified girl escaped Kinah's mouth. ‘Assassin’.

The assassin stepped forward as the sound of running feet in the woods reached her ears. Kinah knew she was dead but there was a deep desire to run.

“Hold your ground, maid,” a voice behind the assassin said. It was female but synthesized. Another similar dressed person stepped forward though the dull golden belt told Kinah that she was the leader of the attacking party. The Emissary maid froze in place.

“What is your rank and position?” the assassin demanded.

“Emissary Maid of the 3rd order. Recently transferred from House Nevakev,” Kinah barely got out, her mouth dry from the terror.

“I see.”

There was silence that was palpable while the sound of screams began to reach her ears. “Wha...what have I done to warrant death, arch-wraith?” Kinah ventured as she watched the woman's eyes study her.

“It is simple, Maid. You have been forsaken.”

Kinah did not know if she could have gotten colder but she did. Forsaken. The Estate had been Forsaken by the Empire. The maid fell to her knees unable to stand any longer.

“What has this estate done to offend the emperor?” Kinah cried, tears streaming down her face. Why she was still alive, she had no idea.

“It is not this estate,” the Arch-wraith continued with a hint of kindness in her voice. “The House Klav has been forsaken by Emperor Morek for treason against House Vaesh. All Estates have been struck. Your High Baron has already been executed by the Ashkatula. Now, your estate must pay for his crimes.”

Kinah slumped.

“But. You have an opportunity to live should you take it,” the Arch-Wraith offered.

The maid looked up, the tears now flowing freely, her mind thinking of her brother somewhere on the property. The reason she transferred.

“If you help me identify, locate, and access the estate so that the will of the emperor can be carried out, I will grant you one request that is within my power. You may use it to save your life. If you do not wish to accept, I shall end your life here as painlessly as I can.”

“I accept,” Kinah blurted quickly, a plan forming if she was fast enough.

“You swear your allegiance to the Ashkatula and carry out my orders?”

“I do.”

Silently, the assassin approached and tied a golden ribbon quickly around Kinah's left arm. “Wear this and no Ashkatula will touch you unless I say. Take me to the lord of the estate.”

***

What happened next was bloody. One of the instructions that was provided to Kinah was that if she saw anyone 2nd order or higher, she was to point them out. The first time she saw Yukin, the 2nd order technician and she pointed him out, she saw the betrayal in his eyes when an Ashkatula materialized behind him and slit his throat.

Kinah had become the specter of death to the house, but she dutifully carried out the instructions cause she needed it for her plan to work. Kinah became responsible for the deaths of those who had taken her in as a friend.

Closer to the manor they got, the more bodies they come across. Kinah tried to tip toe through the blood spilled and coating the once beautiful stones while the Arch-Wraith simply stepped through it as if it did not bother her. The 3rd order maid noted a tall stranger wearing dark robes but no armor following. His face fully covered in a smooth helmet with no features. She did not know who he was, nor did she want to know.

As they got through the side veranda into the main house itself, the stench of death and blood filled her nostrils. She immediately vomited on the floor and the Ashkatula patiently waited. It was the scream and a body come running around the corner that got Kinah's attention. It was Asa. The Estate maid and someone she became best friends with. She saw Kinah as she tripped over a body and fell into her arms. They both went to the ground on their knees as Kinah locked eyes with her soul mate.

“Kinah! What are you. We got to go—–” She was cut off as the Arch-wraith stepped forward.

“Kinah?”

“I'm right here, Asa,” Kinah said kindly holding her friend’s hands. “I'm right here.”

“They're killing everyone.”

“We've been forsaken.” The look of astonishment and then horror told Kinah that Asa realized what she was doing.

“Kinah...no,” Asa begged.

“I'm right here. You're not going to be alone.”

The tears flowed freely from Kinah's eyes as she gripped her friend’s hands tight. Asa saw the gold ribbon and gripped tighter.

“Save me. Please! Give the gift to me,” Asa begged.

“I…I can’t.”

The realization sunk in and the anger and betrayal on her face.

“You choose your brother over your lover?” Asa demanded bitterly.

How was Kinah supposed to answer? It was only a moment, but the treacherous maid finally spoke to the Ashkatula who had been more patient than Kinah had ever expected.

“First Order.”

The look of betrayal was cut short as the sharp dagger pierced the side of Asa's throat. Her friend jerked instinctively from the attack, but Kinah just whispered softly to her friend as her eyes dulled slowly, the blood coating Kinah's hands. Blood that she had shed.

When the soul of her lover departed her body, Kinah laid her gently on the ground and placed her hands on her chest in respectful pose and then stood scrubbing the tears out of her eyes smearing the blood across her face.

“Let's go.” Kinah growled and the Arch-wraith said nothing else.

***

It was at the security field that stopped them but unfortunately for those who were hiding inside, Kinah knew the code. The look of show on Lord of the Blue Yisuf Klav told him that he thought the field was going to be up. The Arch-wraith strode in with her assassins with bloodied Kinah by her side. Mistress Ulia stepped forward to defend her master but saw Kinah and the ribbon, her eyes understood. Kinah saw her own brother, a 1st order Technician standing with the family shocked to see Kinah.

“I'm sorry,” Kinah said to the mistress.

“Do not be,” Ulia said with a sad smile. “You were offered a chance. the goddess must have a future for you.”

“Lord Yisuf,” the Arch-Wraith called and the man stood, his wife and three daughters cowering behind him. Only he and the desk separated the killers.

“How DARE you attack us, assassin,” Lord Yisuf demanded. “Your crimes will be punished.”

The silent robed man with the mask stepped forward and walked over. He was unarmed but he only approached enough to hand the scroll he produced to the Mistress.

“I am your inquisitor. By order of Emperor Morek. For treason, attempted sedition, and other crimes against the sovereign ruler of our great empire, House Klav has been forsaken. As required, all leadership will be terminated, your bonded servants of 4th order and below will be re-appropriated to other houses, and your lands will be given to those houses loyal to the emperor...except for Mourning Song Estate. She will be abandoned and deconsecrated, to stand as a decaying warning to any other house that thinks of rising up against his sovereign.”

Duke Yisuf shook as he fell into his seat, his wife and children beginning to cry knowing it was also their death warrant.

“Arch-wraith,” Kinah started, and the woman turned to look at her. “My Boon.”

“Speak.”

Before Kinah could, her brother shouted.

“Kinah! No!”

“That technician is my brother. I wish to use my boon to save his life.”

“Kinah! Don't.”

“Then—–”

Before the Arch-wraith could complete what, she was saying, Kinah's brother threw himself forward with a shout of rage and struck out at the Inquisitor. Before he could even connect, an assassin slipped in between them and plunged his dagger deep into his chest. Ruk fell back with a grunt and Kinah screamed running to her brother.

“Why? You could have lived.”

“Save yourself,” he choked out before passing away.

“Kill the family,” The Arch-Wraith said.

As the assassins stepped forward and Duke Yisuf reached for the paperweight, Kinah stared at the cowering children. If she remembered, an eighteen-year-old, a seventeen-year-old, and a thirteen-year-old. Kinah had no reason to live anymore.

“Arch-wraith.”

The assassin looked at her again as the assassins hesitated for a moment. Kinah had to decide and she pointed to the thirteen-year-old in her mother's skirt being held tight.

“My boon. I ask for the life of the youngest.”

The assassin seemed to be surprised by the request.

“Really? You have only been here for a few weeks. You have not had a chance for loyalty with this house. Would you not want to spare your own life?”

“She is thirteen. The age of accountability is fourteen. She should not die for sins she is not accountable for.”

The assassin looked to the inquisitor who gave an almost imperceptible nod.

“Lord Yisuf. This maid who has earned the kiss of the Shadow, is offering her boon to your youngest. Send her to this maid and she will be spared. You will be offered this only once.”

Yisuf did not hesitate. He ripped the daughter from her mother who was screaming and pushed her into the arms of the waiting maid.

“Close your eyes,” Kinah whispered then covered the girl's ears. The three assassins made quick work of the Mistress, Duke, and the rest of their family. Kinah did see the look of thanks from the lady of the house before her life was taken from her.

Scooping up, the girl, Kinah fled into the other room and curled up against the wall, so the poor child did not witness any of it. Kinah ran. She ran as hard as she could until the cold air ripped the energy from her lungs.

She found herself at the edge of the estate, within the meditation paths that the estate used to use. She had been clutching the girl tight to her chest and finally slumped onto a marble seat by the trickling creek.

Kinah looked at the girl, her face streaked with tears though none were flowing now. She looked up into the 3rd order maid’s eyes, searching for something.

“I’m sorry,” Kinah whispered not sure what else to say. The girl reached out and took the 3rd order maid’s hand and held it, both unsure of what to do next.

Silence and the sun. That was what came next. The warm rays made them both blink and painted the surrounding deep green with brilliant orange and yellow. The birds had begun to sing, filling the deathly silence, seemingly marking the end of the violence that was behind her.

“What happens to me now?” the young girl asked, speaking for the first time.

“I don’t know,” Kinah answered. “You live. You’ll need to find purpose for your life.”

“And you?”

Kinah tried to smile at the girl but they both knew her life was forfeit now. The maid felt a gloved hand gently lay on her shoulder. The Ashkatula had finally come.

The young maid looked at the figure passing her, the inquisitor had stepped forward holding his hand out to the only survivor of Mournful Song Estate.

“Come with me, child.”

The girl gingerly took the Inquisitor’s armored hand and took a few steps before looking back to Kinah.

“What’s your name?” the girl asked. “I want to remember you.”

“Kinah.” she answered, the tears starting to stream down her face. “Yours?”

“Abiva,” the thirteen-year-old responded before following the inquisitor away.

Being left alone with only the sun, the birds, and her executioners, Kinah sighed.

What else was there to do? She couldn’t run. She could barely fight, and she gave up her only chance to the one who had just left. The girl got off the seat and went to her knees removing the ribbon from her hair. Wordlessly she wrapped her wrists together in the ribbon in the ceremonial bow of the dead, preparing her body for the Rite of Dust so that the god of shadow, Erit, could take her to whatever fate she earned.

“I beg of you to please give me my rites,” Kinah said, her voice wavering as she sensed them surround her. “I deserve that much.”

She closed her eyes. Kinah hoped to take the blade to the heart and not have to bleed out like the rest, but it was not in her power anymore.

“Do you want to die?” the Arch-Wraith asked.

What type of question was that? Kinah wanted to snarl that at her murderer. No one wants to die. “No.” she was able to get out.

“You are a 3rd order maid. The death warrant is clear that you are stripped of all your rights and that you must die.”

Yes. Kinah knew all of this. Why was the assassin still talking instead of just getting it over with.

“You…impressed me, Maid Kinah. That is not an easy feat.”

The girl’s eyes popped open and looked up at the assassin who had removed her lower face mask showing the weather, scarred expression of the Ashkatula leader. Kinah’s heart trilled for a second. Soldiers and assassins wore masks so that the gods would not know who was committing such heinous crimes or that was what they believed. If her mask was off, there was a chance she would live.

“It is a technicality but if you pledge yourself as a heshut to House Gijol and the Order of Ashkatula, I shall let you live. You will return to our estate to become one of ours.”

“The contract…”

“It says you must die at the hands of the Ashkatula. It doesn’t say when. You will die as one of our heshut…in essence by our hand one day. Do you accept?”

The sun brightened Kinah’s face, and she nodded with just a bit of hope.

“I accept, xixihanvash.”

 
Read more...

from Imperial News

Wow. I cannot believe it has been six months since I provided an update for everyone who isn't a member of the discord server. So, here we go!

Beloved Maid: Alone in the Wilds – Released!

I did think I was going to be able to but I actually got the first novella in the Beloved Maid series released!

Beloved Chains: Issue 4

There really isn't much to provide for this section except that Issue 4 isn't dead. The artist who is finishing it up had some unavoidable emergencies that have put this on hiatus.

Pages will be released as soon as I get them!

Beloved Maid: Issue 7

For everyone that is following Beloved Maid, we are on our way through Issue 7 and the good news is that the rest of the series is entirely funded!

After laying out the entire story, there will be twelve issues total and one more novella for this part of the universe! That doesn't mean that it ends with these characters, just the series itself.

Plans for this year

For 2024, I really do not have more plans except for continuing the projects that we already have but also get the collections released that I had been planning for some time. There is the short story collection and Beloved Chains: Spring which combines all the issues of both web comics (plus artwork) into one physical volume.

Ending

So, that's that. Not much else to update you with but if there is something specific you'd like to ask, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or join the discord and ask there!

 
Read more...

from Tales Around Estate

A Star Traveler short story

POP, crunch, crunch.

POP, crunch, crunch.

The sound of loud chewing broke Michael out of his thoughts. A little while ago he had made his way to the Icarus’ crew lounge to find it nearly empty. The on-board ship time was 21:30 hours so most were either at their shift or in bed.

Not him. A recent burst transmission from Alliance Command had reached them, and it contained more than software updates. The Center of Data Control took their extended mission into consideration and sent along a few petabytes of new literature,manuals, and star chart updates. Michael was happily reading a treatise by Lucretius Mesk on the vulnerabilities of Star Traveler Network reliance. That was until the chewing broke him out of his reverie.

Looking up, he saw across from him near the small viewport, a young woman with dark hair who was deeply engrossed in a compu-pad in front of her. There was an open bag of carrot sticks beside her; she twirled one of them between her fingers. Bridgette Bailey stuck it into her mouth and broke off a piece with a loud pop. In the silence of the room where only the random shifting of the Alcubierre warp field’s hum could be heard, the carrot sounded like a gun shot.

“Dear goddess, what are you eating?” demanded a voice from his right. Though the voice spoke standard, there was a distinct accent to it. “You sound like some Bashrok gnawing on bones, Bailey.”

Phasia Eshevet was not someone that most people missed. She was the only Xaltean woman aboard ship. Her dark black hair was cascading down her shoulders, and she wore a loose white top and skirt that Michael knew was called a tvekel by her people. He only saw her in it late in the evening when she was relaxing. It seemed her talk with Sinclair Barrett, their captain, had relieved any concerns she had.

Bridgette Bailey’s full saucer-like eyes were on the verge of panicking, but as soon as she saw who was speaking, they narrowed. Bridgette took another carrot out and bit into it, never breaking eye contact with the other. Phasia, herself, also narrowed her eyes at the action of the onboard linguist.

“Goddess! You're so annoying,” Phasia snarled, slamming her compu-pad down on the table.

“At least I’m not a slut.”

Bridgette must have meant to mutter the words under her breath, but the room had gotten inconveniently quiet as the star drive shifted the field again. The words reverberated through the lounge.

Phasia’s eyes narrowed; She stood from her seat slowly. “What did you call me?”

Michael instinctively wanted to intervene, but he resisted. Captain Sinclair Barrett had made it clear to him in one of their meetings that confrontations were going to happen to the crew and to allow them but make sure they didn’t get out of control. Michael was pretty sure Sinclair was referring to these two. Bridgette looked as if she was going to back away, but her blue eyes changed to one of resolving. She stood also and spoke with measured words.

“I said at least I’m not a slut.”

Phasia’s mouth dropped open. She closed it and folded her arms across her chest.

“How...how dare you.”

“How dare you!” Bridgette snarled back with a ferocity that Michael had never seen before. “You have belittled me and hounded me ever since we wound up on this ship together and I’m sick of it. I’m not going to let myself be pushed around by some whore who can’t keep her clothes on for a few minutes a day.”

What color Phasia had in her face drained away, and her shoulders slumped ever so slightly. A slight gleam came to her eyes. Bridgette opened her mouth to speak but closed it silently.

“I’d rather be a slut than some naive virgin who clings to a religious cult to feel important,” Phasia shot back.

Bridgette’s face colored but before she could say anything more, Michael decided it was time to stand.

“Save it,” Phasia told him as she scooped up her pad. “I was done here anyway.”

With that, the woman left the room, and Michael sat back down. Bridgette also did but could not get comfortable. After a few minutes, she made a half-hearted excuse and mumbled under her breath before leaving the room.

Michael sighed as he stared at the compu-pad that never left his hand. Interpersonal relationships were difficult to grasp for him.

“It was bound to happen.”

Michael looked up and saw the secondary entrance to the lounge that connected them to the galley. Sinclair stood there with his coffee leaning in the doorway. He sipped on it as if he hadn’t just seen two of his crew viciously attack each other.

“Nothing we could have done?”

“They’re the polar opposite,” Sinclair said coming over and sitting down across from his first officer. “Baily grew up in an extremely strict and conservative environment. She has never really experienced other cultures and peoples. She’s clinging on to what she knows as a semblance of stability.”

“And Phasia?” “Phasia is the antithesis of everything The Holy Innocentia and their Great Sheppard preach against. You know the three tenants of Celestianity?”

“Loyalty, purity, and austerity. Even I wound up in a few of their Sunday schools as a kid.”

Sinclair chuckled at that. “Phasia’s people are the exact opposite of the tenants. Our Xaltean crew mate sees Baily as a threat to her identity.”

“What do we do?”

Sinclair stopped for a few moments as he stared at his coffee then took another sip.

“We need them to learn and see each other as people and not the representation of evil. How do you feel about Phasia? Any worries?”

“No,” Michael said with a shrug. “I admit I had some of the preconceived notions and a concern she’d try to jump me in an empty corridor, but I have never seen someone work as hard as she does.”

“Her training won’t let her slack.”

“Training?”

“I can’t go into a lot of detail, “Sinclair said with a sigh. “But Phasia isn’t just some random Xaltean. She has been trained by a house.”

“Which?”

“Shova.”

“Ah.”

The elite artists of the Empire. Michael had seen some of their work, whether it be paintings, sculptures, woodwork, they were exceptional. That explained Phasia’s attention to detail.

“How about you stop by and check on her in a few minutes, Michael?” Sinclair suggested.

“And do what?”

“Lend an ear. Let her vent. I’ll check on Baily and see if I can’t guide her to be more…understanding.”

Michael looked down at his treatise. It didn’t seem that important anymore.

“You got it.”

 
Read more...

from Codex Xaltea

New Cambridge Journal of Law (Volume 13 Issue 154) circa 2259

Introduction

The legal framework of the Xaltean Empire presents a fascinating study for a Terran lawyer. Characterized by a dual-system approach, the Empire incorporates both the Inquisitorial and Arbitrator Systems, each catering to different sectors of Xaltean society. This paper aims to dissect these systems, offering insights into their operation, implications, and unique characteristics from a Terran legal perspective.

The Inquisitorial System

Overview

The Inquisitorial System is a unique judicial process predominantly serving the members within the House System of the Xaltean Empire. It is characterized by the central role of Inquisitors, who are trained and deployed by House Adaka. These Inquisitors are granted expansive authority, serving simultaneously as judges, appellate authorities, and in rare cases, executioners.

Operational Dynamics

The system's primary function is to administer justice and maintain discipline within the House System. In most scenarios, Inquisitors' jurisdiction is confined to the Houses, with only a minimal percentage of cases involving non-House members. The process is initiated when an Estate or House summons an Inquisitor, seeking an impartial adjudication. Notably, the Triad, which oversees the Inquisitors, is under no obligation to respond to these calls, except when involving the Imperial family.

The Role of the Inquisitor

Upon being summoned, an Inquisitor conducts a comprehensive process, which includes listening to the parties involved, investigating the matter, and ultimately rendering a judgment. This judgment is typically final, with appeals to the Triad being rarely successful.

Within this system, House members in good standing may seek the counsel of an Adjudicator. However, these Adjudicators, unlike their counterparts in the Arbitrator System, possess no legal authority to challenge an Inquisitor's decision. Their role is purely advisory.

Decree of the Forsaken

A unique aspect of the Inquisitorial System is the implementation of the 'Forsaken' decree. This occurs when a House or Estate is excommunicated, either by another House or, more severely, by the Imperial family. In such instances, Inquisitors are authorized to issue warrants leading to the elimination of the condemned party, many times quite violently.

The Arbitrator System

Structural Overview

In contrast to the Inquisitorial System, the Arbitrator System closely resembles legal frameworks familiar to Terrans. It involves a hierarchical structure of Arbiters at various levels, each responsible for hearing cases and delivering rulings.

Hierarchical Levels

  1. The Arbiter: This is the first level, where individual Arbiters listen to cases and make initial rulings.
  2. The Auditor: At this level, Auditors review petitions against the Arbiter's judgments.
  3. The Supreme Council: This four-member panel selectively chooses cases for review, functioning as the highest appellate authority.

Individuals facing the Arbitrator have the option to be represented by an Adjudicator, akin to an attorney in the Terran Confederacy. This provision ensures legal counsel and advocacy, paralleling Terran legal norms.

Interaction with the Inquisitorial System

A notable intersection between the two systems is that civilians, like House citizens, may petition the Inquisitors. Furthermore, Inquisitors hold the rare power to override decisions made at any level of the Arbitrator System, though this is infrequently exercised.

Comparative Analysis

Similarities and Differences

Both systems reflect the Xaltean Empire's intricate social hierarchy and cultural ethos. The Inquisitorial System, with its focus on House affairs, aligns closely with the aristocratic and traditional aspects of Xaltean society. Conversely, the Arbitrator System offers a more democratic and accessible approach, akin to Terran judicial processes, highlighting the Empire's multifaceted legal culture.

Implications and Challenges

The coexistence of these systems poses unique challenges. While the Inquisitorial System emphasizes absolute authority and traditional values, the Arbitrator System incorporates elements of due process and individual rights. This split can lead to conflicts, particularly in cases involving both House members and civilians.

The Inquisitorial System's broad scope of authority, especially in the context of the 'Forsaken' decree, contrasts sharply with the more regulated and appealable nature of the Arbitrator System. This disparity underscores the differing levels of legal autonomy and power distribution within the Xaltean society.

Conclusion

The Xaltean Empire's legal system, with its dual approach, presents a complex and multifaceted legal landscape. The Inquisitorial System reflects the Empire's traditional and hierarchical nature, while the Arbitrator System aligns more with modern judicial principles. For a Terran lawyer, this system offers a unique perspective on how legal frameworks can embody the cultural, social, and political nuances of a society. Understanding these systems not only enhances interstellar legal discourse but also provides valuable insights into the governance and societal structure of the Xaltean Empire.

 
Read more...

from Codex Xaltea

Excerpt from the Journal of Culture And Religion, Issue 234 circa 2261

Within the Xaltean Empire, a fascinating cultural dichotomy exists, painting a vivid picture of tradition and modernity living side by side instead of being replaced. This divide is most prominently seen in the distinction between the average Xaltean civilian life and the revered, yet complex, House System. Let's delve into this intriguing societal structure and understand what sets these two worlds apart.

The House System: A Glimpse into Tradition

The House System, a cornerstone of Xaltean society, is a traditional structure that has been integral since the empire's inception. This system, often the face of Xaltean culture in diplomatic arenas, offers a unique blend of tradition and prestige. It's important to note that while this system holds significant influence, it doesn't impose its rules on civilians outside of it. Yet, its allure is undeniable, drawing many civilians who seek elite skill development and career advancement within its ranks.

Characteristics of the House System:

  • Tradition and Prestige: The House System is steeped in tradition, offering a life of prestige, even for those in basic roles.
  • Elite Skill Development: Joining a House is seen as a pathway to mastering advanced skills and securing a promising career.
  • Ordered Life: Life in a House is structured, providing clarity and direction to its members.

The Flip Side:

  • Restricted Autonomy: Members of a House often face limitations in decision-making, adhering strictly to the directives of those above them.
  • Adherence to the Old Ways: The system sometimes clings to archaic methodologies, which may seem outdated to modern civilians.
  • Inter-House Conflicts: Members may be exposed to risks arising from rivalries or conflicts between Houses.
  • Bonding Contracts: These contracts can limit freedoms, binding members to the House's rules and expectations.

The Life of an Average Xaltean Civilian

In contrast to the structured life of the House System, the average Xaltean civilian enjoys a more liberated existence. This part of society is characterized by its diversity, freedom of expression, and autonomy.

Key Aspects of Civilian Life:

  • Individuality and Expression: Civilians dress in a variety of styles, showcasing their personal tastes and individuality.
  • Autonomy: They enjoy full control over their lives, making personal choices without the constraints of a hierarchical system.
  • Modern Outlook: Civilians often embrace modern practices and methodologies, setting them apart from the traditionalist approach of the Houses.

The Visible Divide

The differences between these two facets of Xaltean culture are not just ideological but are also visibly apparent. Civilians, with their diverse and colorful attire, stand in stark contrast to House members who don uniforms symbolizing their allegiance and role within the House. This distinction extends beyond clothing to encompass lifestyle, values, and social norms.

A Balanced Coexistence

Despite these differences, both systems coexist, each respected and revered in its own right. The House System, with its promise of security and prestige, continues to attract civilians seeking to learn and excel. Meanwhile, the civilian populace thrives in its autonomy, often viewed as the progressive and modern face of Xaltean society.

Conclusion

The Xaltean Empire, with its rich cultural tapestry, presents a fascinating study in societal dynamics. The coexistence of the traditional House System and the more modern civilian life underscores the empire's ability to harmonize tradition with progress, order with freedom. This duality not only enriches Xaltean culture but also offers a mirror to our own world, reflecting the diverse ways in which societies evolve and thrive.

 
Read more...

from Tales Around Estate

By Jonathan Snyder

It took every bit of self-control that Tova Bonavet had to not adjust her tvekel, the skirt wrapped around the lower half of her body for the twentieth time. She sat in the waiting room of Lady Yanatha Shiv, the leader of the Hope Renewed Estate and Ambassador to the Terran Confederacy. She could hear conversation and murmurs through the heavy wooden doors which were hand carved by artisans from the empire.

Tova knew what this was about. She knew that Princess Aevina Vaesh was the subject of the modulating tones and voices. Tova had chosen not to say anything about running into the woman while about New Chicago not expecting the woman to come flying over the gate with a Terran boy. Tova confessed everything to the Lady of the Estate before Baneth arrived and knew that once everything quieted down, there was a very good chance her butt was going to be whipped for hiding such an important fact. The dark look on Lady Shiv’s face when she confessed was familiar enough to know she was upset and disappointed. Tova knew she deserved it. She should never have kept her mouth shut.

Aevina always got her in trouble.

Why was she here now? That was the worst part about it. Tova knew that behind those doors, Yanatha and Baneth were speaking with the Triumvirate. Three High Barons of the Gray Council, powerful people in their own right and terrifying when together. Only the Empress could command them, which made their words unquestionable. There was a very good chance, she was going to receive her punishment in front of the three.

Tova’s face flushed with embarrassment. To be punished was one thing but to have it done in front of the Gray Council was a humiliation that she would never be able to live down. All the young dark-skinned woman could do was control her breathing and accept whatever was given to her.

The voices were raised again, and it sent a cold chill through her spine and she jumped in her seat as the door banged open. Lord Baneth, a handsome but terrifying man with scars on his face, strode past her with only one glance of annoyance. Lady Yanatha, her hair in thick black braids cascading down one shoulder, only took a few steps out and looked directly at her. Behind her, in the dim room, Tova could make out the glow of holo projectors still running.

“Tova.”

Tova quickly hurried to her feet, the adrenalin running through her almost making her trip over her own feet. She dipped a quick curtsey.

“Yes, My lady!”

“The High Barons wish to speak with you.”

The terror that shot through the young woman was so much worse. Now, she would have rather been stripped naked, placed on the altar, and exposed to the entire planet than to be interrogated by them. It was not her own reputation at stake now but that of Yanatha and House Brevet as a whole. One word from either of them to their own High Baron and Yanatha would be stripped of her position and so much worse for Tova.

“My lady…” Tova started but the sharp shake of Yanatha’s head silenced her.

Taking a deep breath and giving in and straightening her skirt, Tova walked in trying to be proud but humble to the three who kissed the hand of the Empress. The three holo projectors hummed softly having broken the images up to three distinct individuals.

In the center was a strong looking man wearing one of their traditional military uniforms like Baneth earlier. Though in his case, he was much more decorated, the medals and awards emblazoned on his chest. He wore a collection of kovek honors, Tova had never seen anyone wearing that many given by the royal family. When her own emerald eyes contacted his, he smiled gently which seemed to ease the tension in Tova’s heart. She could make out the sandy light brown hair from the cascading blue emitter and he gave her shallow bow.

Tova broke out in a deep blush and immediately fell to two both knees and prostrated herself in front of them with her arms out in front of her. The heavy door closed behind her as Tova kept her forehead against the cool marble floor.

“Rise, Maid Tova,” the gentle voice from the center hologram said and her head popped up surprised, but she slowly pulled herself to her feet. Tova had seen pictures of this man, the favored of the Empress. High Baron Hesh Avernell.

“My master! I am humbled you wish to speak to a simple maid as I,” Tova started trying to remember the proper salutations. She cursed herself for not asking the Emissary maid for the proper wording. She remembered that a maid, no matter the bonding referred to a High baron as Master but that was about it.

“Please,” Hesh said with a raise of his hand. “You are not in trouble. We need to gauge the situation that is at hand.”

“And Lady Shiv told us that you were aware of the presence of the Princess before her arrival at the Empress.” The other, harsher voice spoke. He was an older man with a white beard and as decorated as Avernell but the jagged cut of his uniform and hints of red told her who it was. High Baron Reklun of House Tavik. Baneth’s Lord.

“Reklun,” the one on the opposite side of Avernell said. A tone of warning in her voice. There was some sort of unspoken communication between the two but the other backed down. This one wore a tvekel like she did but of cut and splendor that made her own pale. High Baroness Ilesh of House Vanen was known to wear the same clothes as her servants to blend in with her household.

“Lady Shiv—-”

“You do not need to defend your lady,” Baron Avernell cut her off with a gentle smile. “She informed us that you confessed before the conference. We are not here to take any action against her. We need the truth from you with our questions.”

“Truth? I would never lie to you!” Tova said horrified at the prospect. It was at that moment a fourth form stepped in view. The young maid could not tell if it was, he or she but the familiar robe with red sash and a faceless mask covering their identity was unmistakable. An Inquisitor.

“Maid Tova, I am Inquisitor Kal. You are called to bear witness in this triumvirate. As is your right, you may request an adjudicator to assist you but in the expedience that our masters, the High Barons, need to decide, you and the members of the estate have been granted absolution for anything that comes out about the Princess of the Empire.”

Immunity. In a way, that was a relief as that meant her lady was protected as the inquisitor had absolved the estate. They were desperate for answers. Tova’s own morality surfaced, and she lowered her head.

“I will speak honestly and truthfully to the triumvirate, even without absolution. I swore to uphold the tenants even at the cost of my own stature. I will accept any punishment the Triumvirate deems necessary.”

Tova raised her head and saw the very quick smile from the central High Baron before he began.

“Tell me of the human who is with the Princess.”

“The princess was with two humans. Shiloh Jackson, who is the one who holds the bond but when she was out of apartment, she was escorted by a Larry Turner.”

“Tell me about him,” Hesh said with a nod of understanding. “What do you make of him?”

“He is an idiot,” Tova said before she policed her words and then she quickly bowed her head in apology and continued. “But shows affection for the princess though he keeps it to himself.”

“Affection? Does he treat her as property?” Hesh asked.

“What do you mean idiot? Is his stupidity a risk o the Princess’ life?” Reklun demanded.

“What do you mean keep to himself? Does he feign interest in the princess for some other reason?” Ilesh asked with concern in her voice.

Tova breathed in slowly pulling her thoughts together and then tried to speak.

“Larry Turner is a human male in his early twenties. When I say an idiot, I am referring to the idiocy of youth. He is optimistic and short sighted, but he does possess a self-awareness to protect those around him. He chose on his own to bring the princess to the embassy as he feared her falling into the hands of the Terran police force but short sighted in not asking the princess and thus bringing her to where she was not wanting to come.”

No questions followed that, so the young woman continued.

“He cares for the princess. He hides it behind a faux disdain but a few moments ago before the arrival of the Mistress of Blue Blossom, Larry Turner was willing to throw himself at my lord Baneth in what he thought was a way to protect her.”

“Futile gesture,” Reklun said amused. “Lord Baneth would not be felled by an untrained human.”

“I agree, My master,” Tova said making sure to stay official with him. “But I believe it speaks to his affection and care for her as he was willing to risk bodily harm in an unwinnable situation to protect her.”

There was a defiant upturn of Ilesh’s chin as if some point was made for her.

“How does he treat her?” the Baroness asked.

“He treats her well,” Tova said. “I do not wish to speak ill of the princess.”

“Maid Tova,” Hesh said cutting her off. “I appreciate your desire to maintain decorum but we three are well aware of Princess Aevina’s tendencies to be a dekek in the trousers. Please speak your mind.”

“Princess Aevina has not followed her contract as she should have. Sneaking out from her master’s abode without his permission to explore the city,” Tova started giving in and realizing she had to speak. “Larry Turner chose voluntarily to escort her for her protection and made sure she was safe. Even in a bar fight that she started a month or two ago.”

“I had a feeling that was her,” Hesh chuckled to himself.

“And Larry has not availed himself on the Princess sexually?” Ilesh said. “Her contract has removed her of the ability to decline her master.”

“Larry Turner is a gentleman that I believe the High Barons would find to be honorable to the level our people. I am confident that he would never avail himself of that clause due to his own integrity.”

“I.” Tova started. Well, it was time to confess everything.

“I wanted to understand what he was truly capable of. I asked a few of the maids to wear more revealing clothing around him and to also be more flirtatious so that. He never once crossed the line and touched a maid against her will with ample opportunity. He was even caught looking, blushed and called the maid pretty and quickly retreated to the other side of the room. It was amusing. He respects the autonomy of an individual even against the contract itself.”

“Maid Tova,” Hesh started and then stopped for a moment. “Would Larry Turner protect the life of the Princess at the cost of his own?”

The maid thought for a few moments and then nodded.

“Yes, My master. Larry Turner would protect the princess with his very life, even though he does not realize it.”

“Very well. Thank you for the truth, maid Tova. You are dismissed. Please ask your Lady if she would join us.”

Dropping to her knees and bowing low again in reverent respect, she backed out, not turning her backs to those who outranked her by so much. Outside she found Lady Yanatha sitting on one of the comfortable chairs with a glass of Vevek Wine with ice floating in it. One male and one female servant waiting at the door.

Yanatha raised an eyebrow, her dark eyes smoldering with fury.

“The High Barons ask for your company, My lady.” Tova said with her eyes properly looking at the floor.

Before the lady could move and ignoring the other maids that she outranked, Tova went to her knees in front of the sitting woman.

“I ask for your forgiveness,” Tova said with her head down.

“You were absolved by the Triumvirate,” Yanatha responded coldly.

“I do not wish their absolution. I wish the forgiveness of my lady for the position I put her in.” Tova said quickly.

There was a pause and Yanatha leaned forward, her breath against her ear so only the maid could hear. There was a bite of anger in it.

“Be careful of your choice, Tova.”

“I want the forgiveness of my lady,” Tova said again with certainty.

Yanatha laid a hand on her shoulder before standing up.

“When I’m done with you, you’re not going to be able to sit for a week.”

There was a ruffle of clothing as the Lady floated through the doors that slammed shut again. Tova stood and took her seat again knowing that she had given up the protections of the absolution. Tova did not care. Yanatha was the first to trust her and she wanted that back.

Yanatha was creative in her punishments and no matter what she had planned, it was worth it to get in her good graces again.

The pain would be proper absolution.

“Damn Aevina and the trouble she gets me into.”

 
Read more...

from Imperial News

I am amazed how fast that the summer has gone and now that we are back in autumn. We actually past our four year mark here at Comic Fury on the 7th of this month! In a way, it is hard to believe that this much time has past while working on this passion project and I appreciate each and everyone of you that have stayed along for the ride. So! What's still coming? Let's get that update done!

Beloved Chains

Issue 4

Just a few updates when it comes to this one. Issue #4 is still going. All the layouts have been completed and I already have the first completed page. I'm hoping to get at least half the pages in my hand before I start releasing again.

I want to avoid too long of a hiatus but I also don't want to put you all in the situation on not knowing when the next page is coming out.

New Artist!

I am happy to announce that we have a new artist for the series and you have actually seen his work before. MajiroB, the artist behind the Interlude 2 – “Obedience”

He will be taking over the story for Issue 5 that is presently being written! I'm very excited to be working with him in the coming months!

Beloved Maid

All of you haven't finished Issue #5 but I already have almost all of Issue #6 which will be uploaded right behind so there shouldn't be any interruption between the two!

Digital Comics Released!

I have also gotten Beloved Maid released digitally for anyone who wants to get a personal copy and support the project! You can find them below

Issue #1 Amazon | Gumroad Issue #2 Amazon | Gumroad Issue #3 Amazon | Gumroad Issue #4 Amazon | Gumroad

Blue Blossom Adventures Visual Novel

Unfortunately, this project has been on the bottom of my to do list due to how much it takes to get done. Like I mentioned in my last update, I had to redo all the code again to make it better and run smoother. It was a lot of work down the drain but in the end, it'll make the game a lot better!

More to come on this even though it might be awhile.

Novellas & Short Stories

In the gaps between art releases and the other projects, I decided to lean into the talent I actually have and get some content out for those who like to read about the world as much as read the comic.

The short story collection is now at 5 completed stories of 15. Some of the other ones I'm working on are a longer but I'm going to get this done. I plan to release a few more online for everyone to read if they'd like.

Between a Princess & A Hard Place

The first novella based in Beloved Maid! I started this one while on vacation as I had a wild idea to slip some story between a point in Issue #6. There is about 10,000 words of the planned 25,000 and I hope to release it before the end of the year!

I've been really wanting to get a novella done for this universe as I wanted to see what these characters were like in a story.

My Beloved Chains: Spring

This is almost done. It is actually an omnibus of Beloved Chains Issues 1 through 4 and Beloved Maid Issue 1 through 5 plus the inclusion of a lot of the art including some art that has never been released!

The goal is to release this as a Print on Demand manga so that anyone can get a physical copy of the entire universe to read whenever they want!

How can You Keep up on Projects?

I decided it was time for a way to track the projects so you could easily see how they are going. If you go to the following page, you can see an updated status of the present project, where it's at, and for the funding status of the next issue after!

Status of Beloved Universe

How you can help?

I'm still working on a perk system built into my beloved universe website but if you are interested in helping out. There are a few ways you can help. * You can donate through librapay or through paypal. * Purchase one or more of the released volumes. * Vote and Share Beloved Universe with whoever you want to enlarge the readership!

Where to Hang Out?

Interested in hanging out and seeing snippets and sneak peeks? I do release some snippets of projects in the work on our Discord and for those who love the decentralized technology, you can join us at our new matrix server (which bridges to the Discord)!

Discord Matrix

Ending

That's it so far! Thank you again each and everyone of you who has taken time out of their day to fall the adventures of Henry, Maevin, Aevina, Larry, and the rest of the Beloved Universe cast!

 
Read more...

from Imperial News

Have you ever had that moment where you were sad and happy at the same time? That is what I am experience right now.

I am sad to announce that Laura Mondragon, the artist behind Beloved Chains will be departing the project after the conclusion of Issue 4. That is the bitter part as she has been with me since the project started and created the fundamental visual that is the Beloved Universe. Through the five years we worked together, she became a dear friend and will be sorely missed.

The sweet part is that her decision to step away is due to the need to shift priorities for her family life and opportunities to pursue her career as a professional artist.

I will be the first to say that I am proud of her and what she is accomplished and though her iconic drawing style will be missed, it would be selfish of me to not want her to be the best that she could be!

Beloved Chains is not Dead

No. This does not mean the Beloved Chains is coming to an end after the completion of the fourth issue. I will have more news on the next artist who will be continue the series in the next blog I will post sometime mid week!

Stay tuned for more updates on where we will be going from here!

Thank you all for your continued support of this project and the love you have shown Laura's work. I know she has great things ahead of her!

 
Read more...

from Tales Around Estate

Though the corridor of space the Radiant Awakening was in had been contested for a while nobody had actually tried anything. The loosely affiliated group of stations and ships calling themselves the Wanderer’s Accord had claimed a few parsecs of Xaltean territory as their own which was promptly denied by the Empire. It had been quiet until now.

The Executive Engineer in charge of the entire ship’s engineering crew believed it was a gravitic mine hidden along the normal route ships were taken. He wasn’t sure if they were specifically targeted but the damage had knocked out their drive leaving them defenseless in real space. To say Ship Master Vylk Mas of House Nabeth was not happy would have been an understatement.

He sat in his seat in the center of the ship’s bridge surrounded by the floating hologram screens with the status of the vessel his House had entrusted to him. His First standing politely to the side, her jumpsuit perfect aquamarine color and hair in a bun giving her a beautiful but business look.

“Anything with long range communication?” Vylk asked leaning slightly to see between the holographs to the person working on said equipment.

“Negative, Ship master. Something in these asteroids are interfering with transmission. Maybe deposits of Nyrilium or other material.”

“First, anything from Executive Melk?”

“Nothing new. The core’s integrity is compromised from a cracked cross-node. We cannot return to null space until he figures a way to patch it.” She responded crisply as her eyes continued to watch the bridge and listen to the earpiece she wore. Helasia would funnel the information to him as he needed it.

Vylk rubbed his forehead in frustration. Could anything get worse?

“Ship master! Signals detecting dropping out of null space. They’re ahead of us. Interception in five minutes.”

Well that answered that.

“Scanners?”

“Still messed up from the mine detonation,” the officer responded back.

Helasia’s face grew tighter in frustration. “This feels more and more intentional, Shipmaster.”

Vylk nodded in agreement but so far, his options were limited. Without his primary power source, the primary pulse cannons were offline. They had been lucky enough to restore energy shielding earlier.

“We’re receiving a transmission,” the communications officer continued.

“Activate Channel. Tie into translators.”

“They’re transmitting in Xaltean.”

‘Oh. This is definitely a setup.’

“Xaltean vessel. This is Captain Junta Jor of the Black Pox,” the voice came over. There was a sneer in the sound of heavy imperial.

“This is Shipmaster Vylk Mas, Serene Starfall Estate, House Nabeth. What can I do for you, Captain?”

“Seems you’re having some issues with your ship,” he continued in a surprised tone that nobody believed.

“Nothing we can’t handle.”

“Well, we’d like to offer our assistance with our engineering teams.”

“No need. We have it under control.”

“I insist, Shipmaster. I’d hate for all of you to be stranded out here. Someone might take advantage of you.”

Vylk glanced towards Halesia who had brought up a holo-tactical map in front of her face. He didn’t need a report from her to know that the two other vessels were taking up flanking positions.

“Your concern is noted and appreciated but this vessel is sovereign territory of the Empire. I do not believe the Wanderer’s Accord wants to start creating waves with us now.”

There was silence for a few moments before the voice returned.

“Honestly, you look like salvage to me and in that case, we’re going to lay claim. You know. Law of space. Don’t worry, Shipmaster. Your crew will be well taken care of. Especially any women. We have great places for them that are safe.” The channel closed before Vylk could respond and he swore catching a few off-guard.

“This is the Shipmaster,” he said tapping the comm button. “All hands. Arm yourselves and prepare for hostile boarding parties.”

“We’re going to fight?” Helasia asked. “They’ve got us outnumbered.”

“I refuse to surrender this ship without a fight and let my crew fall in the hands of slavers.”

She nodded though her face had gone a bit pale, her grip tightening on her side arm.

On the viewscreen, the Black Pox maneuvered itself and the Xaltean captain could make out the dock clamp ports opening.

“Shipmaster! A new vessel just dropped out of null space,” the comm called out.

“ID?”

“The vessel is human. Duty Class destroyer. They’re…hailing.”

“Xaltean vessel. This is Captain Emilia Sanderson of the Cofederate starship Joshua Chamberlain. You appear to be having a party. You alright?”

“Captain,” Vylk responded. “We’ve lost our engines and the vessels around us have declined leaving as we requested.”

“Oh, have they now?” there was a three tone beep which confirmed they had opened a channel and added the others.

“Human vessel,” came the angry voice of the Black Pox captain. “You’re presence is not need. We have—”

“Listen buddy,” Captain Sanderson cut in, her light voice carrying an iron he hadn’t heard in humans before. “it’s high time for you to pack up and go back where you came from. I see those grapple hooks. If you don’t want me open fire, you better be jumping.”

“The Accord doesn’t—”

“I don’t give a shit about your Accord. I’m passing through delivering supplies back and forth between colonies like a mail man and both my crew and I are hella bored. I would appreciate nothing than to give them target practice.”

“You wouldn’t—-”

Helasia giggled and Vylk looked over to her. She whispered. “Humans have just started powering up their central rail gun. I’m detecting them heating their nighthawk missile racks.”

The humans were brash, ill-mannered, and loud but Vylk could now see the benefits of that.

“I’m not gonna even start counting, Captain whatever-your-name-is. As soon as my rail gun is charged. I’m shoving this tungsten steel shell up your ass.” The three would be raiders turned and their engines flared pushing them away.

“You still there, shipmaster?” the human called.

“I am.”

“Mind if we provide a tow? There’s a Terran repair facility nearby. They can take a look at your damage or if you’re not comfortable with that, you can park outside her cannons until your own help arrives. That way those assholes don’t try to pick on you again.”

“Greatly appreciated, Captain.”

Vylk laughed to himself as the connection ended. He had not anticipated being saved by humans of all things today.

This was going to be a funny story back at port.

 
Read more...

from Imperial News

Sorry all for yet another post right after I sent the update in but I had learned some new information about the systems I was using for donating to Beloved Universe.

I decided to part ways with Ko-Fi and completely deleted our account there. It wasn't an easy decision, but I discovered they had silently de-activated my ko-fi account with no email. It appears to be because it supported an nsfw project and they are so nervous with dealing with Paypal, they didn't want to chance it.

But don't worry! I found an incredible alternative in Librapay. They share our values and understand the importance of providing a secure and welcoming environment for all creators and will allow us to continue to offer the opportunity to support the project!

You can find our official link at:

https://liberapay.com/beloveduniverse

I have also added a icon where the ko-fi one used to be on each of the comic pages. It's the big yellow button!

Before we wrap up, we want to send out a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you. Your support means the world to me.

If you have any questions or need assistance during this transition, you can send a PM to me through Comic Fury or reach out to me through Social Media!

Thank you again!

 
Read more...

from Imperial News

To Start Things Off

I know it has been awhile since I have been able to write up a blog post and give all of you an update on the universe. The first thing I wanted to say is thank you for your continued reading and supporting of the comic. I really enjoy reading all the comments that people leave even if I don't respond to them for awhile. Thank you! This comic would not be as fun as it is now if it was not for everyone of you who has taken the time to show it some love.

So! Let's get to the updates on all the different projects that I have been working on!

Beloved Chains

As you all who have been following the comic have noticed, June 22nd, we went on the hiatus as Issue 4's pages are designed and drawn. I am happy to say that I'm all paid up with my artist on that one so there should not been a long wait between them. She is presently giving me an end of July Deadline so I'm hoping to start releasing more pages again in the first week of August!

After that though, I'm still working out the finances to fund Issue #5. Worse case scenario, we won't be able to until I get the budget to a point to cover it.

Beloved Maid

Beloved Maid is continuing on with no problems! Kinchan has continued to work on getting the art completed. As of the posting of this blog, we have only one more page for Issue #4 to release BUT, I have already uploaded half of issue 5 so there won't be any delay!

Beloved Maid is funded all the way through Issue 6 plus a bunch of special artwork that I hope to make available on the website once I finish some backend coding.

Blue Blossom Adventures

The visual novel? Has it died? No! I honestly had to start all over again because I learned so much about the system I am using to write it that I made it almost impossible with the present code to actually make it expandable. Instead of taking time to hack it to make it work, it'll be easier for me to restart the code base.

That has been started and the artwork is already 90% done. So, I'm hoping by Christmas to have a release!

Tales Around the Empire

I am working with the artist of MB Studios to create an anthology of short story web comics that tell stories from all over the universe instead of staying focused on the main characters of Beloved Maid and Beloved Chains.

This comic will not be as common as the others but a place to share unique stories that I come up with for you all! Stay tuned as we are already done with the script stage and character designs which I plan to share on the Beloved Chains website next week!

Writing, Writing, Writing!

I have a bunch of short stories and novellas that are still in work. Not an exhaustive list but I'm half way done with Ascendant Rising and in the process of editing the second Star Traveler book Dead in Space to continue that story.

Not to mention the Anthology Tales around Blue Blossom which will have 15 short stories, some you have already read and others that won't be published on the blog or websites including unique artwork for them in the book!

In the End

We are still chugging along! I've enjoyed all of this but I didn't realize how much output I would need on top of my non-writing life and everything.

 
Read more...

from Codex Xaltea

Excerpt from Human Database maintained by Innocentia Colonies

Celestianity was born out of the remnants of war as much of the planet and colonies were seeking some sort of answer to the horrors they had experience. This lead to the rise of the need of spiritual guidance persists. Rooted in the fragments of old belief systems, Celestianity weaves together principles from Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, offering solace and purpose to the denizens of the Terran Confederacy.

In the aftermath of devastating wars that dismantled organized religions, a spiritual void engulfed the cosmos, leaving countless souls yearning for meaning and salvation. From the ashes of the past, Celestianity emerged, born out of the fragments and remnants of its predecessors. Assimilating elements from Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, Celestianity became a beacon of light, restoring hope and purpose in a universe scarred by conflict.

At the heart of Celestianity lies the profound understanding of cause and effect—a timeless principle resonating throughout the many. Celestians recognize the interconnectedness of all actions and decisions, understanding that their choices have far-reaching consequences that shape their individual destinies and the trajectory of society. This belief serves as a moral compass, guiding Celestians to act responsibly, with mindfulness, and with reverence for the cosmic tapestry of existence.

Central to Celestianity is the unwavering conviction in the transformative power of faith. Celestians understand that faith is not merely an anchor in times of tribulation, but also a catalyst for personal growth and spiritual elevation. By embracing the teachings, principles, and rituals of Celestianity, followers believe they can attain celestial salvation and enlightenment, transcending the limitations of mortal existence. Faith becomes a potent force, illuminating the path towards cosmic harmony and unity with the divine.

As pilgrims in the cosmos, Celestians embark on sacred journeys to revered sites scattered across the vast expanse of space. The primary site being the Altar of Hope on Sanctum Lumina. These pilgrimages provide opportunities for introspection, renewal, and communion with the celestial realms. Immersed in the presence of these sacred spaces, devotees seek solace, enlightenment, and a deeper connection with the cosmic energies that permeate the universe. Accompanying these pilgrimages, prayer becomes a channel through which Celestians communicate their hopes, fears, and aspirations to the higher realms, seeking guidance, solace, and strength.

The initiation into Celestianity takes the form of baptism, a sacred rite symbolizing commitment and dedication to the core tenets of Loyalty, Purity, and Austerity. Loyalty fosters a sense of unity, encouraging Celestians to stand together in pursuit of cosmic harmony. Purity emphasizes moral rectitude and the purification of one's intentions and actions, guiding the faithful to embody righteousness. Austerity, a cornerstone of Celestianity, teaches followers to embrace simplicity and self-discipline, valuing spiritual enlightenment over material desires.

As Celestianity flourished, it embraced a conservative approach to its implementation, seeking to preserve the core principles and rituals that had withstood the test of time. This conservatism ensured the continuity of the faith and provided stability in an ever-changing universe. It served as a reminder of the wisdom contained within ancient traditions, guarding against the dilution of Celestianity's essence.

Within the territories of the Terran Confederacy, Celestianity permeated almost all aspects of society. Its influence extended to governance, cultural practices, and personal ethics, manifesting as a presence in the lives of its adherents and those in the periphery. Celestians actively engaged in public life, guided by their religious convictions to foster harmony, justice, and spiritual enlightenment among their fellow citizens. The religious institutions of Celestianity provided spaces of worship, education, and communal gatherings, serving as vital pillars of the faith.

Celestianity's emergence and evolution within the post-war era symbolize humanity's unwavering pursuit of meaning and purpose. Blending elements of Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, it created a unique tapestry of beliefs and practices. From the ashes of the past, Celestianity rose to guide countless souls towards salvation, enlightenment, and unity with the cosmos. Its legacy endures as a celestial beacon of hope, illuminating the path for future generations in their search for transcendence and spiritual fulfillment within the vast realms of the Terran Confederacy.

 
Read more...

from Codex Xaltea

[Official Archivist Entry for Codex Xaltea]
[NOTICE: All measurements have been converted to Terran metric(imperial) measurements]

Introduction

When House Avernell’s Blue Blossom Estate is mentioned, it can elicit many different responses from people. To the Historians, it’s known for the desperate holding action several hundred years ago against a massive Drull Incursion where Lady Vanata Avernell gave her life in the protection of the planet. To others, it is the home of the unique and highly valued Blue wine produced through traditional methods giving the beverage a refreshing and cool taste with only a hint of tart. For many though, it is mostly known for its recent entry into the history books as having the first ever Terran installed as Lord of the Manor.

This small report will answer the physical questions about the estate more than any political or historical significance.

Vital Statistics of the Estate

The Blue Blossom estate is 1,181 square kilometers (456 square miles) surrounded by a high security stone wall with the inner Estate House sitting on 2.6 square kilometers (one square mile) of land near the center. It makes up a total of 721,152.3 hectares (291,840 acres) consisting of forest, lakes, and fields and the land set aside for the growing of both Blue Blossom Wine and Winter Rose Wine.

It presently employs a total of 4,289 personnel with 2,800 dedicated to the fields and the rest distributed among the estate personnel and the grounds personnel.

In the Spring and Summer months, the estate focuses on the production of Blue Wine and puts out an annual amount of 650,000 cases of wine 487,500 cases being Blue Wine and the last 162,500 being Winter Rose.

Prestige of Blue Blossom

Though many other houses have grown their own Vevet Blossom plants to make the wine, the traditional methods utilized and perfected are only known by the artisans of the estate. Eighty years ago, the Empire granted the Estate the rights to the name Blue Blossom Wine blocking all others from using the term. The derivatives are mostly known as Vevet Wine.

The Estate boasts three imperial pennants from Emperor Shuvik Vaesh, Emperor Morek Vaesh, and the present Empress Cilia Vaesh. These pennants represent the favor of the ruling family towards the estate and add to the prestige of the House.

Present Leadership

The present leadership of the house is as follows:

  • Lord of the Estate: Henry Patton-Avernell
  • Mistress to her Lord: Maevin Maer
  • Head Technician of the Ground Legion: Vindik Mal
  • Head Maid of the Estate Legion: Abiva Etiv
  • Head Maid of the Reserve Legion: Nish Kevet
  • Master Vintner to His Lord: Ekulik Ral
  • Security Chief to His Lord: Primal Tox Utivin

The Ground Legion

The Ground Legion is the overall name of the segment of the estate that takes care of maintenance and vineyard work. The Ground Legion is broken into Battalions, then cohorts, and then teams. The list is as follows:

  • Maintenance Battalion (Called Technicians)
    • Fields Cohort (In charge of maintenance of all equipment in related to the fields)
    • Construction Cohort (In charge of construction and repair of all facilities).
    • Services Cohort (In charge of repairing anything else including shuttles, computers, etc).
  • Harvest Battalion (Called Harvesters)
    • Vineyard Cohort (Works in the fields.)
    • Lake Cohort (Works around the Lakes including the fishing and stocking of the lakes)
    • Forest Cohort (responsible for maintaining any of the herbs and spices grown in the fields)

The Estate Legion

The Estate Legion’s primary job is the Estate itself and the ground about it, which is the people that the lord of the estate will encounter the most.

  • Estate Battalion (Called Maids)
    • Estate Cohort (takes care of the inside the primary residence and surrounding grounds)
    • Scullery Cohort (Responsible for feeding the entire estate. Responsible for estate Kitchens and outer facility kitchens.)
    • Emissary Cohort (responsible for seeing to any guests and honored patronages. When no one is present for their services, they usually will act as aids and secretaries for leadership).

The Reserve Legion

The Reserve Legions primary responsibility is controlling the supplies in and out of the estate from raw goods to processed goods. If any of the Legions need to purchase anything specific (except for weapons for the standing security as that is handled by the Security Chief), it will go through them.

  • Reserve Battalion (Called Maids)
    • Stockpile Cohort (Responsible for managing and movement of resources within the estate grounds.
    • Inventory Cohort (Responsible for maintaining stock levels and handling the paperwork, customs, etc.)
    • Acquisition Cohort (responsible for the physical purchasing, retrieving, moving, and transport of all resources outside of the Estate.

Security Cohort

The Security Cohort exists outside the social structure where it’s soldiers and guards are under the command of the Security chief who reports directly to the Lord of the Estate. For all intent and purpose, the Security Chief is at the same level as the Mistress though due to tradition and deference, the security chief will always defer to the Mistress or Administrator of the House while in turn, the Mistress will limit their involvement with anything security related.

The Master Vintner

The Master Vintner is in charge of the production, quality, and the training that is around the wine that they make. They are considered outside of the normal chain of command where the Wine Maids and wine technicians fall under them directly. They are considered artisans in their fields and not part of the chain of command. They are easily identifiable as they will tie a purple ribbon in their hair that drapes down the side of their head along their shoulder with the gold trimming of a Vintner apprentice.

In Closing

This is only a brief statistical analysis that goes on with a large Estate like Blue Blossom. Most other houses, both large and small, will utilize mostly the same system and may not even have certain battalions and legions present due to their responsibilities. For instance, House Neema, who only produces jewelry and trained artisans and is not a sector hub will condense much of the rolls into one or two Legions.

Hopefully this will provide an interesting peek into the active workings of a House Estate.

 
Read more...