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10.7 Interlude: Malcolm

# 2392 12 - 16 mins. 9

It was annoying that he had to do this every day. Malcolm had better things to be doing. But it would all be worth it once it was all said and done. A minor inconvenience for a better world. A world without hatred. So, as annoying as it was, he sat and waited for the next one to come in.

The room was made of stone, a dull material, but it was sturdy at least. The walls were rough, showing the lack of practice these diggers had. It was red, and the room was only big enough to contain a stone slab table in its middle along with three wooden chairs. It was bare as it didn't need anything more, though it would have been nice if it was made a little more comfortable since he sat in it on a daily basis.

He heard someone in the distance. It sounded like there was a struggle.

"Let go of me you witch!" shouted a male voice. "Get your hands off of me or I swear—"

The two figures came into view, lit by the dance of flames in the braziers at the corners of the room.

"Well, it seems we let you go too long," said Malcolm from his seat at the table. He watched as a male Treek was pushed into the room with his arms secured behind his back. Behind the Treek, pushing him forward, was Gisela. She was dressed in her Elven robes with two short swords crisscrossing on her back.

"Gisela, make sure we get this one in more frequently, maybe every 5 days instead of the usual routine," said Malcolm.

"Yes, sir," said Gisela. She shoved the Treek into the room and the Treek tried to charge at Malcolm, but it was no use. Malcolm raised a hand and a wall of fire grew out of the table, separating himself from the Treek and only leaving enough room so that he could still make eye contact with the Treek. Malcolm smiled as the Treek stumbled backward from the heat.

"I don't think you want to do that," said Malcolm.

"Let my son go," said the Treek. "He's got nothing to do with this."

"He's got everything to do with this," said Malcolm. "I need every hand I can get to help if I am going to make the world a better place. Now sit." He let the fire dissipate.

"Your idea of a better place is all of us dead," said the Treek. "You're a monster!" The Treek pursed his lips and then spit at Malcolm. The spit smacked him just beneath his eye and began to roll down his cheek.

Malcolm could feel the anger build in him in an instant. He began to breathe heavy and his face contorted with anger. Gisela knew to step out of the way. He wiped the spit with his sleeve. Then with a twist of his hand, Malcolm sent a torrent of fire at the Treek and slammed him against the far wall of the room. The Treek smacked the wall and fell to the ground.

"You would do best to not anger me again, or I will make sure your son sacrifices his life for the cause sooner rather than later," Malcolm growled at the Treek. The Treek looked up at him with growing intensity on his own face. It seemed this one's spirit was not so easily broken. But they all fell in line one way or another.

"Gisela," Malcolm said in a firm voice. That was all she needed. Gisela grabbed the Treek by his bound arms once again and slammed his head down on the table hard enough that it had to have hurt. Malcolm smiled at the thought. Then he pulled the gloves from his hands and laid them on the Treek's head.

Slowly, a pink glow began to radiate out from Malcolm's hands. It seeped into the Treek's head. After a few moments, the Treek stopped struggling to break free of their grip and laid there, docile, accepting of his treatment.

Malcolm held his hands on the Treeks head for a little while longer. Then, the glow dissipated, only remaining at the Treek's temples. He pulled his hands back and smacked them against each other trying to clean off the filth.

Gisela let go of the Treek and he stood up, across the table from Malcolm.

"Now, you remember me, don't you?" asked Malcolm.

"Yes, master," said the Treek.

"I need you to go make sure the other Treeks are doing their part in the excavation. If any fall out of line, I expect you to take care of it. We can't afford any lost time right now," said Malcolm.

"Yes, master," said the Treek once more.

"Go, return to the other Treeks, and make sure they are doing their part," said Malcolm. With that, the Treek stood. He turned and walked out of the room without Gisela as his escort.

"You could have restrained that one better," said Malcolm.

"Sorry, sir," said Gisela. "I did not think him stupid enough to pick a fight with you."

"He must have a very strong will to be able to fight off the magic that quickly. Keep a close eye on that one. I don't want to lose any more workers but we may have to dispose of him if he proves any more difficult than he already has been."

"Yes, sir," said Gisela. There was a pause and then she continued. "That is all of them for today."

"Good. I'll need a bath after this," said Malcolm looking disgusted at his clothes. His clothes were only slightly dirty, but the thought of just being around those filthy workers was enough for him to need a bath.

Malcolm began brushing off his clothes as he headed for the exit where the Treek had previously left and Gisela followed behind him.

When they exited the chamber, they found themselves in a massive underground cavern. Walkways stretched across it to various levels and a constant sound of metal clanging against rock made it hard to hear anything. Below them was a drop of hundreds of feet before they would reach the excavation area.

"Is Havik staying out of trouble?" Malcolm asked.

"Yes, sir. He is keeping an eye on the Gnomes and Avians as you asked," said Gisela.

"Good. You may go back to your post as well. I have business to attend to."

Gisela nodded and jumped off the cliff to join the others. Malcolm thought nothing of it and continued across a walkway to a suspended structure in the middle of the cavern. He walked inside and found a smaller woman. She wore her Elven robes and had various moving images on the wall of everything going on below.

One showed a group of filthy Avians with dirt-stained feathers hauling rocks away in stretches of fabric. Another showed a group of Elves digging into stone with old rusty picks while a few used a wind storm to clear dust and small rocks out of the way. A third showed Saurians using their magic to exploit cracks. The water washed away debris and let it find a resting place further down in the cavern. They all looked worn and tired, but they all continued to work.

"What is our progress?" asked Malcolm as he came in through the door.

The woman jumped at the noise. She composed herself, straightening her robes and then said, "Sir, I'm sorry I didn't know— Right. Well, we are continuing our way up the neck. I believe we are getting closer to the head, but we can't be sure until we uncover more of it."

"How long until you know?" asked Malcolm.

"I believe we'll know in the next couple of days," said the small woman.

"That's good. And have you seen any movement?"

"No, sir. I've been keeping a close eye on it and I still haven't seen anything other than subtle breaths," said the woman.

"And you'll let me know as soon as you do," said Malcolm.

"Of course, sir," said the woman. She paused and then continued. "Erm, if it does move, you will know. But I'll be sure to tell you just in case."

Malcolm nodded, "Thank you. We are building a better future, Annette. I need your help as much as anyone else's in this."

"Of course, sir. I won't let you down," said Annette

Malcolm gave one more tight nod and then continued out the other end of the room. It only led to more walkways suspended hundreds of feet above the construction below. Malcolm stepped out onto the bridge. He swung his hands around and a gust of wind flew up beneath him, shaking the bridge and room he had just left. He heard a yelp of fright behind him, but only let the wind continue to carry him on his way. He flew above the web of walkways and dead ends. He flew to the top of the monstrous cavern where he landed on a ledge. He looked down one more time at the hive of workers beneath him. Each doing a separate chore. Each working toward the same goal. Yet he knew it was only possible by force. These creatures below were enemies and could only ever be enemies unless he ruined their minds. He only wished it was more sustainable.

Malcolm continued his walk as if he had never left the ground. The red stone ledge connected to another building built into the wall of the cavern. It was decorated with ornate carved stone. The rocks looked like they were out of place in the cavern. He was glad to have had the Dwarves build it for them. Even mind-controlled, they were better at the fine details of Earth magic than he was. It was a shame to have lost them.

He walked through the door into an elaborate mansion, out of place against the rough-hewn cavern where it sat, but it was what he required to do his work. He walked in, went up to his room, undressed, and walked over the black stone tub along the wall of the room. He pushed and pulled at nothing with his hands. Then, with a blue glow, water materialized out of the air and dropped into the tub. He spent a few moments on the routine until the tub was full. Then, he squared his stance at the tub and thrust his hands at the base of it. A red glow turned into a torrent of flame that blasted from his hands and licked the black stone walls of the tub. After a moment, the flames stopped, and he stepped into the tub and laid back in the steaming water. Malcolm let out a sigh and closed his eyes.

Then, a door slammed and Malcolm's eyes snapped open. His eyebrows lowered as he turned his gaze to the doorway into his room.

He heard a voice. "Em, uh, Malcolm?"

Malcolm rolled his eyes and didn't answer.

There was a patter of footsteps and then a person showed in the doorway.

"Ah, there you are. We were supposed to meet. I have news for you about our progress," It was Arthur, his brother. He had brown curly hair, freckles on his cheeks, and a pasty complexion.

"I'm trying to relax, Arthur," said Malcolm, not looking his brother's way.

"Yes, but we need to talk? How do you always forget about our talks?" asked Arthur.

"I don't know. They're always so informative," said Malcolm. Arthur caught none of the sarcasm in his tone.

"They are. Especially today. I've made some progress with sight magic. I can see further, and put in simple conditionals," said Arthur. "It's quite impressive if do say so—"

"Right, what is it Aurthur? I don't know if you noticed, but I'm trying to wash the filth off of me from working with the slaves."

Arthur looked up from his book and then right back at it. "Oh, sorry. Well, I looked into the colony. They are starting to worry me. I keep looking at the outcomes and the colony seems to cause trouble for us one way or another. I'm having a hard time finding any outcomes where the colony doesn't get in the way."

"I think you need to practice that sight magic some more. That sounds like your worries are getting in the way of what the magic is telling you," said Malcolm.

"That's always a possibility, but I have been studying, and getting better at predicting situations that I can test after the fact. I am improving, and I don't think this is just my imagination. The others have seen it too," said Arthur.

"That doesn't make any sense. How could the colony get in the way of what we're doing?" Malcolm asked.

"Well, you see, they're starting to unite," said Arthur. "That Treek girl's group is slowly growing. Somehow, people are starting to rally around her and rethink what is possible."

"I don't care. I killed that Treek a day or two ago," said Malcolm, waving his hand lazily through the air.

"No, but you didn't. She's still alive," said Arthur, looking up again from his book to look Malcolm in the eyes.

"She's dead," said Malcolm. "I had my dragon melt her."

"I don't know how she did it, but she survived. I saw her today. She found our teleporter under the Lashgar falls," said Arthur.

"What? You're sure it was her?" said Malcolm, finally turning his head to look at Arthur.

"We have all of the other Treeks," said Arthur with his hands raised. "And besides, the others that work with her were there as well."

"That little weed," said Malcolm. He exhaled audibly and straightened his head, sitting upright and tense in his tub. "You think she is the cause of the problems? You think her little group of misfits will get in our way?"

"Yes, yes I do," said Arthur.

"Then we'll have to kill them all, just to be sure," said Malcolm.

"I'm not so sure that is a good move either. If we attack, they'll know that there is something bigger going on here. It may cause them to unite," said Arthur.

"Right. Then we won't go. I'll send my dragon."

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