This excerpt is from “Mandatory Paradise”
Copyright M.D. Kenning 2012 All Rights Reserved
Mandatory Paradise Chapter One
As he did every day, Daedric felt the confines of his horrible prison with the windowless walls encroaching upon his freedom and sense of self. It was not like his location was without light. Sunlight came in from the ceiling forty feet up. The large, man sized, open holes that streamed in light and air from the roof gave him a sense of freedom. If only he could somehow slip his earthly shackles and fly straight up through the holes and into the open sky so he could see all the inhabitants of the lovely island of Nimoa. Such hope and bliss was denied to him from a corrupt system that would keep him a prisoner there for forever. I mean, he thought to himself, there must be at least two, maybe even three hours left in school if he was reading the sundial right.
His father, Raicus, always told him he was exaggerating what school was like. But he was pretty sure his father just forgot what it was like to be eight. Part of it was because his father was ancient. Twenty-four was obviously very old even if every time he told his father this, he crinkled his eyebrows the way he did, their thick black plumes smooshed together and his nose wrinkled up while his thick black beard huffed up and down as he said, “Daedric, I’m not old, I just had you young. That makes me seem old, but I’m still very young and very entertaining!” He always wondered who his father was trying to convince.
Daedric realized the only convincing he needed to do right now was to his teacher, Priestess Alnanla. She turned to him at that moment, her fierce green eyes from underneath her hood locking on him. So he focused his eyes more, feigning intense interest. The sunlight from above was mildly blinding; it was bouncing off the reflective and twenty foot tall columns that filled his classroom. That was the purpose of the shiny marble columns covered in some sort of lustrous finish that filled every corner of the large auditorium with sunbeams. At least two hundred other students of various ages up to twelve occupied the same room with him. They all sat on the hard marble benches that he was sure had contributed to at least some of his sour mood. His father got to sit in an office with a chair that had a nice padded and creamy velvet cover. So why did Daedric have to sit on the ice cold marble with only a thin green robe to protect his butt from its hard, unrelenting exterior? These thoughts made it hard to concentrate on what Alnanla was saying. Normally, this wouldn’t bug him. However, she had two meetings with his father this week alone, and he feared a third meeting might cause his father to spank him. Even worse would be if his father did not take him to the Bull Dance at the stadium in a little less than a week. The moon would be full. That was when the dance always took place.
It was always magnificent watching the twenty four people; twelve of them Priests, twelve of them Priestesses as they danced in and out of their spiral patterns for a full hour before the bulls were even released in the arena. Their bodies would coordinate in perfect timing and motion with their legs and feet. The movement from their hands seemed to be for the sake of balance. Thin silk scarves trailed behind them. Instead of the traditional thin hooded robes and gowns that most people wore in the sunny climate of Nimoa, these scarves were all they wore. This was so their legs would not be impaired during the dance. Daedric sighed to himself thinking about that leg coordination, knowing it was something he could never do. That was the way of the island Nimoa; when it came to harnessing their mana at least. Half of the people could harness the amazing type of abilities their mana gave them through the coordinated use of their legs in ancient rhythms and patterns. Those people would become Priest and Priestesses, Soldiers, Laborers and of course Vineyardsmen. Those that could only use their mana through their hands were doomed to live a boring life as Craftsmen, Artists, and Bureaucrats.
Because his father was the youngest clerk for a Judge in the history of Nimoa, Daedric had consigned himself long ago (at least two years ago) that he would grow up to be a Bureaucrat. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to live life on the edge as a Priest in the Bull Dance. He would be able to channel the mana of himself and the crowd so he could do spectacular leaps in the air of over twenty feet. He would move to a rhythm with the bull in a perfect display of devotion to the Ancestors. If he could do that he might be able to fly out of the holes in the roof and into freedom; as long as his stupid teacher didn’t notice him twirling and spinning for a full hour. Daedric chuckled lightly to himself while imaging doing that without his priestess’s notice, but unfortunately his chuckle drew his teacher’s gaze to himself. She gave him a stern look, and he decided to pay attention to the rest of her lecture so he would not get in trouble later that day when his father came to escort him home.
Priestess Alnanla continued to drone on in those always slightly shrill tones that she used, “… completely encircling the entire island of Nimoa, hidden in the outer walls of the city with thousands of aqueducts breaking off of it. Now if the main aqueduct that all the others break off from was one straight line instead of the four connected channels built into the top of all four main walls around the island, how long would it be?” She turned and looked into the crowd.
That question was so obviously for one of the older kids, like Minara (the brat) that Daedric sighed deeply in relief. His sigh brought the green eyes and sculpted stare of Alnanla on him, though. With mild trepidation (but not fear) he shook as she queried in sharp tones with the final being sharpest, “Dae-DRIC? You seem to think that the answer is obvious, and of course you are paying attention, so what is it again?”
Daedric froze, his full head of curly black hair slightly swaying in the breeze from above. Not only had he not been paying attention, he also couldn’t care less. But if he said that, he had a strong suspicion his father would be upset. Right now, Daedric was the one who was upset. He furrowed his small eyebrows together. Why was she always picking on him? He wasn’t one of the big kids, but she always treated him like he was. That caused the other kids to always pick on him. He knew if he didn’t answer her, his dad would find out and be mad. So he carefully put his hands behind his back while seeming to stretch and be relaxed. As soon as his teacher couldn’t see his hands, he made the signs with them for Calculation and Analyzing, and channeled his own personal mana into them. Every person could only channel so much mana a day, unless in service of the State, as was law. Kids weren’t even supposed to channel at all without priestess, priest, or parent permission, but he didn’t really care. His tangible need to see the Bull Dance caused him to break the law.
He started to speak, to cover the time of the Calculation Mudras, the ritual with his hands. Hand mana actions took much less time than leg mana actions. It still took time to sign the forms that would send probing beams of energy into the rectangular walls that surrounded the entire island that the main aqueduct was ensconced in. “Well that’s a very interesting question Priestess. In terms of length, part of what’s important is do you mean by feet or by road mile or …”
Her loud “MIS-ter dae-DRIC!” cut him off in mid stalling. “You obviously don’t know even any of what was discussed, so stop this act and admit you were not paying ATTENTION again!”
He twitched his fingers into the final position meant for the Calculations and stopped. An easy use of mana, like analyzing and calculations, used hardly any mana or time for results. He was happy seconds later when he knew the answer. “Forty Nine miles is the length of the main channel, Priestess, of course.”
She looked at him sternly, her high cheekbones thrust towards him. Her black hair was pulled back behind her hood. He could swear that without the hood her hair would have leapt at him like frightening snake hair. The tales said that existed on some of the monsters that existed off the island of Nimoa and had conquered the rest of the world. Instead, she looked almost serenely as she responded, “Very well, I guess you were paying attention.” Her lips were pursed in such a way, though, that he didn’t believe her. It was an expression very much like the one his father wore when Daedric was telling his dad a lie, which was often.
It wasn’t that he wanted to be a bad kid. He had been told by all of his teachers many times in his life that he was a bad. His father even sometimes got mad at him; like when he ‘lost’ that Thesis Stone that one time. He loved his father and he even respected his teachers, to a small degree at least. However, life was so much harder for him then most kids and so he had to adapt a little bit differently to get along with others and enjoy life. Sometimes the consequences of those adaptations would have negative consequences that he didn’t like, so he had to… adjust reality a bit to make up for it. Because he wasn’t a mana user on the power level of someone on the Senate, his adjustment of reality was mainly based on altering information. Besides, his father was a clerk for a Judge and had always told him the most powerful way to change reality was with your words and information, not just mana. So he was just following what his father was doing. In many ways, he thought, the lies I tell are just preparing me to be a Bureaucrat someday.
Most people didn’t realize at first just how much he lied. Or if they did, they didn’t make a big deal of it because they knew what a rough life he had been through. His father and mother had conceived him on their graduation day from the university; his father sixteen and his mother eighteen. Most people in Nimoa did not start a family until they were at least twenty. But “Accidents happen sometimes,” his father would always say with a wide smile, and what a glorious accident that had been. Even knowing that most didn’t start their families until the age of twenty or as late as thirty, his father was still old. No one else thought that. They always remarked how young his father was to be a clerk to a judge. But that’s because they were looking at his father’s bronzed skin or tight black curled hair with no hints of grey. Maybe they were looking at his body which, although not toned, certainly was in shape enough for a clerk. They should be looking at his eyes though, which were always a gray stone that showed his father’s true age and from what his grandfather said they had been that way since Daedric’s mother died.
His mother died when he was born, so he had never seen his father without those lifeless eyes. His father often had a wide smile when not at work and witty quips even when at work. Those that knew him could see that it never touched his cold eyes. Those eyes often felt frigid when on Daedric, and he would not blame his father for hating his son for his mother’s death. Others said his mother had been his father’s whole world, which was obvious because of just how often his father told stories of her. The problem was those stories always started with “your mother” and ended with “my beautiful love,” so often that Daedric couldn’t even remember his mother’s actual name. Thinking about this forced him to choke down a not quite silent sob. It came out as a loud noise, interrupting his teacher.
The priestess swung her head towards him, which had been on other people in the rows of benches. All the children too young to be in a university were in that classroom for the entire south eastern district of Nimoa, also known as Kerate. So he should not have been tied into that noise. Her eyes still singled him out at the top bench. That was where he was always sitting so that no one could get behind him and tell when he was using his hands and channeling mana to cheat. “Daedric, I assume by your outburst maybe you are bored, or maybe you already know the answer to what I’m saying. So I was just telling the class what would happen if the water didn’t split out in the thousands of drains and channels and pipes, and just stayed on the top of the water in the main circuit around the city. At the intense pressure generated by the aqueducts at night, how long would you say it would take for the water to go all the way around the island to where it originally flows from? Or is something like that beneath you? Do you not find that our precious water, that we drink of, that goes into the sacred wells, that powers our baths, and that cleanses our lavatories, to be interesting?”
Actually, he really didn’t find it interesting to be honest. But he didn’t want to say that. He knew how adults acted when they were told a truth they don’t want. Like the fact that he couldn’t care less that his great father Raicus was considered a genius. Or that his mother had been so smart and amazing, because if she was so smart and amazing how come she was dead and he was alive? If she was really so fantastic, why wasn’t she with him so Daedric could have a mom like everyone else? Instead he was stuck with a dad who was often flicking his fingers and wrists in Mudras. This indicated he was pulling and assessing information from the island’s Library Mind to later be given to Judge Massia, even when he was at home. A dad that would do that and talk to you about your dead mom at the same time was not great. An interesting dad would be one that took you into the center of the town for the nightly dances. Even if he couldn’t channel his own mana from it, he could generate mana so the island could use it to strengthen its shields and monsters wouldn’t come into town and kill people like they seemed to almost every moon at least a few times. Daedric bet his mom would have taken him to the dances so he could have been like everyone else: connected. Instead he was stuck with a father that wanted nothing more than to stay at home wishing he was living a life that had been over for half his life. The whole time he was thinking this, Daedric had been channeling the mana into certain forms with his both of his hands; thinking about one thing, and channeling mana for something else, just like his father.
“Forty Minutes, that’s how long Priestess, and I really do find this fascinating.” He replied in a tone most approximating respect. He let his hands drop to his Kibisis pouch, and he comfortingly patted it, since it contained the contents of another time he had successfully tricked an adult.
She smiled so widely at first that he thought he had finally pleased Priestess Alnanla. A task which up until that point he thought had been virtually impossible. However, he had been right, for she responded in a very tight and almost quiet voice, “I got you.” His eyes widened just from the intensity of how she said it. Did she really derive that much pleasure from somehow catching him in his lie?
Priestess Alnanla smiled widely as she responded in loud but restrained tones, “Mister Daedric, that is precisely accurate for how long it would take for the water to circulate around the city at this exact moment. I asked you, however, how long it would take to circulate at night, when the system is pressurized FOUR times faster so that its motion will generate more mana to strengthen our shields at night when the monsters try to break into our city the most often. In that case, the answer is TEN minutes. So by your answer I would say you somehow know EXACTLY how fast the water is flowing now, in WHICH case you must have made some very up to date CALCUALTIONS.”
The last words of her mouth had such a weight and finality to them that for the first time in a while, he was actually afraid. He wasn’t afraid any more when the bullies beat him. They did this daily with their feet as they danced around him for being so selfish and not generating any mana in the nightly dances. They would laugh as they danced and kicked him. The bullies told him they were doing their civic duty to generate mana by hurting him. He felt though that they were lying because the place they kicked him would stay burning the whole night through, which obviously meant they were using their own mana to enhance the beating. As a lowly Bureaucrat he could do nothing about it except maybe let someone else know what was happening with a Mudras, but that just meant he would be ostracized even more. So he was no longer afraid of the beatings or anything else anymore. Right now he was, because his teacher knew that he illegally used mana. He wasn’t sure what the legal ramifications were, but he knew that when his father was told, he wouldn’t be able to go to the Bull Dance.
“Priestess–I’m sorry–please don’t,” he started to say, but the tears were so thick he couldn’t speak well, and he knew that everyone was inwardly laughing at him as he began to cry. He wanted to say more and find some way to make her stop. She was already beginning to look towards the door to leave the large classroom.
“Minara, while I’m gone you are in charge, and make sure Daedric doesn’t leave or cause any more trouble. I’m going to the Head Priestess of the school and let her know that there has been a mana violation.” With that, the Priestess headed out of the class. Before she did though, the gangly Minara rose out of her seat very smugly and began to dance a small dance in front of him. It was simple with her legs stamping out a simple cross-like pattern back and forth, even though her feet would blur and do little twists as she did. It had happened to him enough before that he knew exactly what it was, a Trance Dance done to send a person into a stunned state. This was so that they could not move, and their mana could be harvested that way. It only worked on the willing and the very young, and he was the second.
He tried to move, but he could feel the mana come off of her movement as it locked him still. His legs and arms both fixed into place as his whole body stiffened except for his breath. Minara laughed at him. The rest of the class had started talking to each other as soon as the Priestess left, taking advantage of the unexpected break in their studies. He hoped that they would all be grateful enough to him that they would not beat him up the next day during lunch. Assuming he was allowed to go to lunch after Priestess Alnanla reported what he did.
Minara was enjoying being allowed to use her Mana like this, for she was a priestess in training and this dance was the first one taught. It was used by priestesses in training to keep ‘unruly’ kids in class in line. He never like the idea of the Trance Dance, a dance used to help the island stay powered, being bent into a punishment for him and others. What was the punishment for a kid using some mana without permission? He knew technically any illegal use of mana was mana that couldn’t be harvested towards the shields to protect the city at night. Since they didn’t go to the dances he couldn’t see what he was hurting. Daedric had always hated rules that were not for an actual reason. What was the worst that could happen in the city from just a little fun mana use?
His thoughts were pierced suddenly by a loud scream followed by freedom in his limbs. Temporarily he was filled with glee that some sort of misfortune befell Minara, which had given him freedom. That was until he looked up to see what had happened. The twelve-year-old body was in a straight line, with her arms splayed out in front of her rigidly, and her eyes seemed to have no irises in them.
Then, her skin began to bubble and blacken, and small streams of blood ran from her white eyes. As her screams cut off and thicker and darker red blood began to boil out of her mouth, for the second time that day, Daedric felt fear. Soon the fear was replaced by more immediate events as the other students began to scream, but not in fright. He saw as they all began to stiffen, and their skin began to boil and blacken. What was going on?
He did not get to explore that idea more though, for soon his own sight blanked out and he felt his arms rise in front of him! DID I DO THIS? WHAT HAVE I DONE?
Those were the last thoughts of Daedric as his blood began to boil, and his skin along with it, as his life ended. He thought in the distance he might have seen his mother.
She was screaming too.