[Original Novel] The Eternal Mysteries of Vril, Part 18

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Previous parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

I can usually get a handle on what someone’s deal is within a few minutes of discussion with them. The topic doesn’t matter, it’s all about inflection, word choice and body language. There was never anybody so far beyond me that I couldn’t suss them out, until now.

He slapped the hull of the saucer shaped craft, making a hollow, echoing metallic sound.

I could appreciate what it represented, but had nothing to add.

My ears perked up at that last part. I glanced at Tlalo, who hastily clarified.

His voice had that inflection common to the speeches of demagogues. The contagious passion for a cause which could either inspire or terrify, depending on the degree to which you buy into their worldview.

Tlalo then gave me over to the care of Drena, who informed me that the rest of the day would be spent training in the use of the Vril staff. I complained that I was hungry. She frowned briefly, but did accommodate me in the end.

The soft, steady golden glow of a nearby Vril lamp cast Drena in elegant relief as she prepared a modest meal. Chopped vegetables of a species unknown to me, and a bean paste which tasted considerably better than it smelled.

Drena sat down opposite me, though she’d prepared nothing for herself. I answered that I never expected a lavish banquet from a people literally driven underground, fighting for survival.

She smiled. Was I funny just then? She had the facial features of a Sphinx, and increasingly seemed to share its cryptic nature as well. Between mouthfuls of the leafy, spinach-like greens and what could pass for unusually fragrant hummus, I assured her that I appreciated every ounce of hospitality, and joked that it was at least vegan…to which she raised an eyebrow.

She glanced out the window, and I followed her gaze. Tufts of deep red grass waved gently in a breeze coming from one of the many tunnel openings around the perimeter of the immense cavern. Scaly six legged beasts, which I assume must fill the niche of scavenger down here, picked through the debris between the nearest burnt out buildings.

They all must harbor painful memories of the war and subsequent occupation, like Tlalo. All of them, in order to keep their fires burning under these bleak conditions. To make them join such a desperate movement, with seemingly pitiful numbers and even more dubious odds of success.

Yet here I am, having cast my lot in with them. One madness heaped upon another, upon another, countless layers deep. After the meal, Drena took me out into the field, soft blades of rich red grass tickling my ankles as we walked. A gust of wind sent visible ripples across the grassy expanse.

What a strange sensation, for there to be wind underground. I’ve been in caves before, there’s sometimes a gentle flow of air if there’s another opening elsewhere, but rarely did it feel so much like natural wind as this.

It lightly tossed Drena’s hair about. She’d have looked captivating right then, except that she was studying me with worrying intensity. Eventually I had enough of her eyes burning a hole in me, and asked what it was about.

I reaffirmed that I’ve been a vegan for some years now, which only further befuddled her.

I nodded, adding that in my own estimation a cow’s life has the same value as a human’s. That disregarding an animal’s right to live just because it’s less intelligent is exactly the sort of vicious, exclusionary barbarism I’d committed to fight.

I stopped in my tracks to process it, feeling sure she’d gotten turned around in her thinking somewhere.

She conceded that.

I disputed it at first. When she used the word awareness, it sounded somehow more correct and less harsh than when she used the word ‘intelligence’ instead. Yet it still effectively came down to the complexity of the animal’s brain, or the plant’s nervous system. So I tried a different angle.

She frowned. I told her I’d let her know when I met some. She was unamused.

Absurd. I said as much. She shook her head.

I threw up my hands in exasperation and asked what her diet is like, if she has such involved feelings about the morality of food.

Oh. Of course. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. I groused. She seemed unexpectedly wounded, so I qualified it.

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