“One for many.”
“An uprising?” I ask and roll off of Zane. Then I slowly sit up – not overly hasty – and look at the fairies which are buzzing around above my bed. Maybe I should see to it that the ventilation shafts which lead to my rooms are properly blocked. The fairies have sworn their fealty to me, but they are making a little too much use of their new freedom.
Willow lands on my lap and nods feverishly. “Elma told us to get you. This is something she can't handle alone. Nice rack, by the way...”
I look down at myself and try to ignore her attempt at provoking me. “Fine.” I groan and get out of the bed. Elma, the woodworker's wife turned out to be more useful than her husband. Not that Wilhelm is doing a bad job; he is good at what he does. Though, in the weeks since I started this community, Elma turned into something like Illum's mayor. She is taking care of the people, the community.
That's something I want to avoid at all costs. Dealing with people takes a lot of time and I don't have enough of that as it is. That's why I got myself some employees to handle the complicated stuff. I am the shaper, the mind who puppeteers the whole. I might spend time on a particular project now and then, but I will never be able to run something like Illum all by myself.
I am Illum's ruler, the mysterious figure who stands behind the people who do the actual governing. And that's fine. Otherwise, I wouldn't have the time for all my projects and little mischievous adventures.
“But first, I'll take a shower!”
It was a short shower, combined with cold water to shock myself awake. Last night took its toll. Let's simply say that Zane is a good lay. I admit it, I chose him because of his physique, not necessarily because of his mind. But he still performed above my expectations.
Willow and her little crew used the time to fill me in on the situation. Luckily, it seems like her warning of an uprising was a little exaggerated.
According to Willow, Elma got into trouble when we started to hire people by the hundreds. Not only did the newcomers not respect her properly, some of them outright challenged Elma's position. My appointed spokesperson for the common folk did her best, but there is only so much she can do without involving the guard.
Over the last few days, certain individuals started making speeches, calling for a city council with the power to defend the commoner's rights. That's something I expected. It's a normal development. Give people the freedom to pursue their own wishes and some of them will grasp for more power. Elma tried to counter their speeches with reason, but that never works with hot-headed idealists.
Now they have gone as far as making a public speech in broad daylight, riling up the masses. That's why Elma called on me for guidance. Apparently, there is something like a little demonstration going on in front of my palace. Around eighty people are listening to the poisonous ideas of one of their fellow compatriots.
That might not seem like a lot, but it shows that there is fertile soil for their ideas among Illum's population. Shaking my head, I get dressed and leave my quarters, guided by Willow.
Wetting my lips, I consider the probability of this being a natural development. It might be, but it's equally possible that a certain someone helped the wound to fester. I don't believe that my security measures got every last agent of another power. There could be sleepers who didn't give themselves away up until now. If Zane's former fiancee made it onto Illum, then other powers might have done the same. It's too convenient for this to happen when I should have my mind on other things.
Maybe it's the doing of that guy from the Consortium. He openly threatened me and he seemed like the type of person who plays games.
Too late, I remember that I left Lucifer in my quarters. Oh, well. The most he will do is to scratch the furniture. It's not worth turning around because of that. He will survive on his own for half an hour. I am not willing to waste more time than necessary in this case.
“What are you going to do?”
Zane's voice turns my attention to him. He also got dressed and followed me, though he looks a little dishevelled since he didn’t get to use the shower.
“What can I do? I obviously have to put an end to this uprising before it turns into something major. It's an inconvenience, but I have to admit that this is probably my fault.” I shrug. It’s never wrong to admit failure when you are indeed responsible for what’s happening.
Zane raises an eyebrow. “Your fault?”
“Yes. I failed to hold a proper speech when Illum's status changed. Apparently, many people still think of me as a small lord who has to answer to a higher power.” I hesitate. “What they have to learn is that I am the highest power they ultimately have to answer to. Illum belongs to me and their presence on my estate is in my hands. There is no need for me to tolerate them. In my neglect, I failed to make that clear.”
We reach the front of my palace, where I find Elma and a group of my guards. They are at the palace’s entrance, warily watching a crowd of fifty to eighty people. The crowd is listening to a man who is standing on a makeshift pedestal. He has a lean body and brown hair. What he lacks in physical appearance, he makes up with his rhetorical talent. Wild gestures with his whole body enforce his speech perfectly. Not too theatrical, but not too stiff either. A natural mangler of words.
I listen for a minute to his arguments. The longer I listen, the clearer it gets that he is trying to muster support for his cause. Of course, he carefully avoids mentioning open rebellion, but that’s just a matter of time. I have seen how it works.
First, you have to get the movement going until it’s large enough to pose a serious threat. Then, when your demands aren’t fulfilled, you identify the individuals who are willing to use force to get what they want. Once you have a few fanatics at your back, you can start the revolution.
Elma is glaring darkly at the man, clearly not happy about his words. That’s when she notices me. The stout woman quickly bows to me. “Mistress, you are here. I wouldn’t have called for you if I hadn’t thought that this deserves your full attention.”
I hold up my hand. “It’s fine. You are doing a good job at keeping the general population away from me, and for that I am thankful. I have many important things to do. Though, it seems like I need to show a little more public presence.”
Elma presses her lips together in a defiant manner, then she answers in her usual accent, which identifies her as one of the original settlers who I picked up in Sawood. “That’s certainly not the case Mylady. We all know what you did for all of us – are still doing for all of us. Be assured that none of those who were with you, in the beginning, are a part of this group. Those over there-” She gestures at the crowd. “They are all the new folk who never got to see your power in person. They just need to learn a lesson. That’s all.”
I smile benevolently. “If that’s so, then I’ll make sure to give them one they won't forget.” Gesturing, I indicate for everyone to stay put. Then I slowly walk towards the crowd, casting a defensive bubble of force fields.
The first few men who have their backs to me are simply pushed aside. The others quickly get out of my way when they realize what’s going on. They clear a path in front of me. The speaker stops his speech when he realizes who came out to visit him. He points at the smiling me, trying to sound outraged. “See? That’s what I’ve been talking about! How can a single woman like her rule all of this? She belongs at the oven! How can a single person represent your best interests? But if we form a city council...”
He rambles on and on. I grimace at the thought of having to listen to thousands of hours of recorded surveillance footage. But otherwise, I probably won’t find out what this guy’s goals are. Today, I don’t feel like interrogating someone. The sky is too blue and I am sore. Hah, there is no choice if I want to know if this was orchestrated or not.
Pulling down the corners of my mouth, I step onto the large pedestal. It’s five by five metres and made out of wood. Touching my tattoo, I summon Illum’s controls and activate the speaker function. A moment later, my voice booms loud and clear all over Illum. I try to sound as measured as possible while I interrupt the man’s rambling.
“I failed to introduce myself to the common public. Allow me to rectify that. My name is Nova Mirai. I am the ruler of Illum and your employer.” I gesture at the grand structures around us. “Let’s make something clear. All of this is mine and while I allow you people to live here, you are my employees and my subjects. Maybe my benevolent and leisurely leadership didn’t make that clear.”
I sweep my gaze across the crowd. “At least on Illum, my word is law. Here, I am your god. Never forget that, or you may be unlucky enough to gain my attention and suffer my justice! And believe me, while my justice is fair, it’s also quick and without mercy. You never want to cause my ire!”
I reconfigure one of the force fields which hold Illum in place, reshaping it beneath the crowd. Within moments, everyone is on his or her knees. Just as it should be. Some are trying to get back up, but the weight of several g’s pulls them down. “If you don’t want to stay on Illum, then that’s your choice. Leave if you must, but never again bother me with a scene like this.”
“What are you doing!?” The speaker steps closer, reaching into his leather jacket. Before he can do anything, I raise my hand towards him and close it. He chokes as the air escapes his lungs. His chest caves in, cracking ominously as bones give in to the force. The man can’t even scream. How could he without air?
He struggles in an attempt to cast a spell, but Illum’s full might crushes him like the bug he is. Blood and flesh is pushed out of his mouth and his eyes pop out of their sockets as his skull cracks open like an egg. More cracking sounds pierce the silence as his bones yield to the force fields.
I let go and his body flops to the ground like a sack of water, his bones broken in so many places that it’s impossible for his limbs to keep their shape. His muscles twitch in an attempt to get back up, indicating that – somehow – he is still alive. At last, it ends with a last gurgling sound from his throat.
Clapping my hands as if I touched something dusty, I watch the horrified gazes from the crowd. “Does anyone else wish to be relieved of his duty because of treason against… me?”
Since nobody dares to speak up, I stroll past them. “Stay here and contemplate your situation for the next hour. You might find that being one of my subjects isn't so bad. And if you still can’t bear the thought, then rip up the contract and leave Illum at the next opportunity. But never try to change the rules I set, or I will step on you.”