When Wellin Votara approached his foreman and asked to be transferred back to Mektemar Felnen’s work crew, the foreman rolled his eyes and sighed, but did as Votara asked. Clearly, in the foreman’s eyes, Votara and Felnen had gotten over their little spat and were friends again. Nothing unusual about that.
After several more weeks of preparation, Votara and Trel Solum finally found an opportunity to put their plans into effect. Management wanted to open up a new shaft, and Votara and Solum volunteered to be the ones to open it. They asked Felnen to be on their work crew. He was a little unsure at first, but Votara and Solum had been quite friendly with him over the past few weeks, and he had no suspicions that anything was wrong.
The work on the new shaft was uneventful at first, but after a few hours, the floor caved in beneath Votara and Felnen, and they were once again trapped at the bottom of a pit. Solum did not fall in, so Votara called up to him to go for help. Solum ran off, leaving Votara and Felnen alone.
“Wow,” Felnen said, sitting down on the bottom of the pit, “What are the odds that this would happen to us again? You see why I didn’t want to be on this work crew?” Votara was silent, causing Felnen to look up at him curiously.
“Hey, Wel,” Felnen said, “What’s up? Is something wrong? I mean, other than being stuck at the bottom of a pit?” Votara remained silent and continued to stare at Felnen for several minutes. “Um,” said Felnen uneasily, “you’re kind of starting to freak me out, man.”
“What would you say,” Votara said finally, “if I asked you to help me bring down the Empire?” Felnen looked startled, and then angry.
“This again, Wel?” he said, exasperated, “I thought we were over this! I thought you’d seen the error of your ways! The Nether is dead! Why would you bring this up again?” Votara closed his eyes and sighed.
“I would never abandon the Dark Presence, Mek,” he said quietly, “I swore an oath to serve the Presence with my entire being, and I will not betray that oath. You should have known that.” Felnen swore and stood up.
“I can’t believe you, Wel,” Felnen growled, “Stop clinging to a lost cause! The Dark Lord failed! He was defeated! You’re wasting your time, and your life!” Votara turned away from Felnen and bowed his head.
“I’ll ask you one last time, Mek,” he said, so softly that Felnen could barely hear him, “Will you join me?”
“Never!” yelled Felnen, “I have given my allegiance to the Empire and to the One! I have forsworn any oaths I might have made to the Dark Lord! I am done with him!” Votara sighed again and pulled something out of his pocket. It was a float pack.
“I’m sorry, Mek,” he said, and activated the float pack. Felnen’s jaw dropped.
“Wait a minute,” he said as Votara began levitating out of the pit, “Wait! What are you going to do? You can’t just leave me here! Wait! Votara! Stop! Come back!” But Votara didn’t stop, and he didn’t come back. He floated up to the top of the pit, where Solum was waiting for him.
“Is everything ready?” he asked, ignoring the increasingly desperate cries coming from the pit. Solum nodded. “Let’s do this, then,” Votara said.
Solum pulled a small rectangular box out of his pocket and pressed a button it. There was an explosion, and a large pile of rock came loose from the wall above the pit and fell down into it. There was a roar of noise as several tons of rock crashed into the pit, and then silence. No more cries came from the bottom of the pit. Votara closed his eyes, took a deep, shuddering breath, and then opened them again. Solum looked as if he was going to be sick.
“There is no turning back now, my friend,” Votara said. Solum just nodded. “Do you have my new ID?” Solum pulled a tablet out of his pocket and gave it to Votara. Votara turned it on and examined the contents, and then gave a satisfied nod. “Excellent. Remember, Mektemar Felnen and Wellin Votara died in a mining accident. I am now Shrev Longarin, from Aduaria. Got that?” Solum nodded again. “Good. Now all I have to do is get out of the mine without anyone seeing me, and get to the spaceport. We’ll meet there in four hours. Okay?” Solum nodded a third time, still looking as if he was going to vomit. Votara put his hands on Solum’s shoulders and looked him in the eye.
“Hey,” he said intently, “Look at me.” Solum did. “We did the right thing, Trel. Sacrifices must be made in the service of the Presence. If we hadn’t killed him, he would have turned us in, and this would all be for nothing. Okay?” Solum stared at Votara for a few moments, and then nodded again.
“You’re right,” he said softly, “You’ve always been right. I’m ready. I’ll be fine.” Votara looked into Solum’s eyes intently for a few more minutes, and then nodded.
“Okay,” he said, “Remember: four hours. As soon as the foreman has finished the accident report and let you go home for the day, come to the spaceport. I’ll be waiting for you.” Solum nodded and turned to walk away, and then he looked back.
“This is really it, isn’t it?” he said, “The day of rebirth for the Nether has come at last.” But Votara shook his head.
“No,” he said firmly, “No. Felnen was right about one thing. The Nether is dead, and it’s not coming back. We are not the Nether anymore. We are something new.”
“Something new?” Solum said, puzzled, “What are we then?” Votara thought for a moment.
“Fangalin,” he said finally, “We will be called Fangalin.” The look of puzzlement on Solum’s face grew deeper.
“Fangalin?” he said, “What does that mean?”
“In the Ancient Tongue, on Trisitania before humanity traveled among the stars, it meant ‘terrible shadow’,” Votara said, “We will be shadows, hiding in the darkness until the moment is right, and then we will burst forth, breaking the galaxy with our terrible fury and remaking it in the image of the Dark Presence.” A look of awe came over Solum’s face, and then he shook himself.
“Right,” he said, “Okay. I’ll meet you at the spaceport in four hours.”
To be continued…