literature

Rammus - The Divide

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Week One --

The Stellae-Lucis valued perfection above all else, and Ram was far from perfect. He was one of the lucky ones, his mother told him. If it weren't for being conceived amongst the poor back on his home planet, his mother would have never been allowed to carry him to term. Vexxils were bred under specific parameters, and his extra set of limbs did not fall under that. From the moment he was born amongst the hay and corn in his master's little shed, his mother hid him.


If he was found, he would be exterminated, least he end up breeding and spreading his disease. Despite vexxils being valued for their grunt work, even the poor, who often could not afford high quality vexxils, chose to emulate that of the rich: if it looked out of place, and not pretty, then it could not be so. And to the Stellae-Lucis, he knew he wasn't pretty.


His mother named him Rammus, like the big horned, cloven hoofed creatures that her master spent much of his days toiling over. Sometimes she would bring Ram and his siblings the best pieces of meat she could find off the corpses of rammuses she found killed by predators in hopes that they would grow bigger and stronger than her, considering their diet consisted mostly of freeze dried flakes and kibble. He dreamed often of being back in her nest, curled around his siblings, squeezed by the warmth and weight of family.


It was such dream that he was roused from. He clung to the memory's milky smell before it faded from his grasp. A distant voice boomed through his leaf-thin blinds. Something was going on in the plaza. It was close enough to hear, but far enough to be unintelligible. The sound of many paws thundered outside. He pulled himself from his newspaper and linen scrap bed to follow the crowd to where they coalesced. A tri-colored vexxil was going on about how the Stellae-Lucis would return, and about how they had to put aside their serpent worshiping ways to prepare for it.


It was all bullshit, he thought, as he settled at a nearby booth and ordered a small bowl of broth. She must have been one of those pretty designer vexxils that had never seen a single horrible thing in her pampered life. If she knew a fraction of the shit the Stellae-Lucis had really put her kind through, would she really be up there toting around pretty words for such vile creatures? To worship some horrible god that granted them freedom was a small price to pay. Perhaps even one day, they could become free from Opheus too, he mused over the steam from his broth.


He'd seen a few of the Vigil's posters. He thought they were just some pup's wild fever dream, but it appears it wasn't. He swept his spiked tail out of the way as a pair of pups lumbered too close to him. One of them had two extra little limbs, a bit shorter than the rest, just like him. If the Stellae-Lucis came back, what would become of the little one, and him? Would they be shot and tossed out like trash? Unacceptable.


He would die before he saw it happen.


And if it came down to it, he'd take as many of those Stellae-Lucis bastards with him as he could.


Week Two --

The city's silence unnerved him. Since the Vigil and the Devoted started to clash in more ways than one, the news of escalating violence, particularly in his part of town, where the initial Vigil speech was held, set him on edge. He had avoided any fights himself, though he definitely saw the effects of the fights. The disagreements were written on the bruised eyes and fur-less bits of passerby that passed him in the streets. Where he lived most of the vexxils were untrained, and with no work to occupy themselves, they could do nothing but fret over whether this whole Stellae-Lucis thing was going to happen.


Ram didn't want to think of what would happen if it came true. When his mother passed, he left his siblings behind and stowed away on the Stellae-Lucis ship that came to Planet 441. He did it to escape them, to hopefully find some freedom amongst the stars, where-ever the spacecraft would take them. With so many other vexxils brought along as workers and livestock, it was easy for him to blend in. He'd gotten very good at finding weird ways to bend his limbs, and wearing a cute little sweater helped to hide them.


Before, he used to think about getting them removed entirely. They were such a hassle to hide from curious vexxil onlookers and from the Stellae-Lucis that would kill him to protect their precious vexxil gene pool pure, that he thought it would make life easier. But doing a shoddy job on their removal would have been dangerous, and it wasn't like he was able to walk up to a Stellae-Lucis, wag his tail, and get some legs sliced off.


These days, though, since the Stellae-Lucis were eradicated from planet 441, he was becoming more at peace with it. He always thought himself a bit weird regardless of his "deformity", as the Stellae-Lucis would put it, and seeing new pups with new, strange physical traits and markings brought him hope. Vexxil society embraced the new and the weird with curiosity and understanding that made him feel comfortable in his skin. Sure, he may have been poor monetarily, if one valued ariums and books and bikes and cars and the like, but he was content knowing that he at least had a warm place to stay, and could find a way to feed himself, even if it meant he had to scour the woods and hunt it himself.


Which made the hopes of a Stellae-Lucis homecoming all the more horrible. The Vigil craved lives where they didn't have to think. Where decisions were made for them, and they could live simple lives. A simple life could be good, but a simple life under the thumb of another? Preposterous. Perhaps it made him egotistic, he pondered over a bowl of his favorite broth, but if they knew the truth of the Stellae-Lucis and it's societal misgivings, then they would choose to face the unknown rather than to accept abuse at the hands of their "families".


He gathered one of his favorite blankets, tucked it away in his bag, and set out to find this "Vigil". They wanted to build a communication center? He wanted to see it with his own two hands when it burned, as he hoped it would.


Week 3 --

If he wasn't so passionate about making maps and cataloguing everything new and exciting he could get his hands on, Rammus would have gotten so lost in the woods he would have had to make a whole new civilization for himself. He nearly tracked over his own steps multiple times as he trod through the woods in search of the communication center. It was definitely out of the way. He couldn't help but wonder how they managed to find it in the first place. Did the Vigil secretly have explorers mapping the woods? But why would they care about mapping things if the Stellae-Lucis were just going to come and disregard all their discoveries? What fickle, hopeless dreamers.


Although, if he paused in his shit talking, he guessed he was a dreamer too. Dreaming of one day seeing Vexxil civilization bloom and blossom, and, please to god, become better than whatever crap the Stellae-Lucis were pulling on their own planet. He didn't know the full extent of the history of the Stellae-Lucis, but with how their society was run and how split the classes were, he wasn't sure he wanted to know. Rammus knew there were horrible secrets to every civilization's history, but he suspected the Stellae-Lucis must have had more than most.


He took his time getting places, always getting distracted by the little things and details along the way, so it made sense that he was, as always, late to the main event. And that event was the Vigil and the Devoted fighting like they were at war. Rammus had never gotten into a fight before despite all his bark and grandiose visions of strength. He wasn't about to make this is first, he thought, as he watched from beyond the fence with horror as his kind fought each other with tooth, claw, guns, and magic. Some of the vexxils in the fight looked so kind and delicate, but there they were, as vicious and bloodied as even the larger, more fighting-scarred vexxils.


Could he really do something like that? He liked to think he was fully capable in a fight, but now he wasn't so sure. If he was in that . . . he'd probably be dead in a few seconds. Just another casualty in some scuffle between two different sides of the same coin. Opheus was the better of the two choices, but in the end was it just moving from one slaver to the other?


When the mercenary leader, Fortella, showed up, that was enough for him. The last thing he needed was to get arrested, or injured in the crossfire as it started to trickle out from beyond the fence. He didn't wait for Mitra's reply when Fortella confronted her. He'd seen enough, and he needed to get the hell out of this place.


Rammus clutched his maps closer to himself and darted out into the woods, back onto the path he mapped back to the city. With the wind at his back, he would make his way back home.


Week 4 --

It was noisy again. Throughout the week the clatter of metal and stone rattled his house. He wasn't even that close to the plaza, but the noise seemed to travel for miles, just as Mitra's voice had all those weeks ago. The founding festival had finally started, which meant even at night it was loud. Fireworks lit up the sky every night, and would continue to do so for the rest of the week. The noise didn't bother Rammus though. Although he enjoyed the silence of a walk in the forest, most of the time if it was too quiet, it made him feel like something was watching, or coming.


He headed out for his morning broth. As he passed an electronics store toting some used books and tablets, Rozen's voice caught his attention. The statue was almost done, which meant that all that construction noise would be going away. Rammus sipped at his broth as he weaved toward the square. Already he could see the statue on the horizon, poking above the crowd. He watched it grow closer and closer until he was at its base.


The hexapod vexxil stared up at the statue in wonder. He'd never seen Opheus before. Just pictures and funny toys and now, this statue, but every time he was filled with a sense of dread he would have to choke down. They were just livestock to Opheus, and here they were celebrating him.


No, he reminded himself, as he watched a vexxil etch in the sharp slits of the serpent's eyes. They weren't celebrating him, but the health of their civilization and their freedom. Opheus was just a symbol of that. Whatever Rammus felt, he had to realize that they had paid a price, but Opheus was not without kindness. If he could even process that. How much of an animal was Opheus, and how much was he like vexxils, with true empathy and compassion?


And what became of the Vigil? Would he see them again? He still heard their whispers on the street and even found remnants of them amongst those who still believed in the Stellae-Lucis returning for them. He hoped whatever they planned next wouldn't be violent. What would the city become, if there was full blown war in the streets?


Rammus didn't want to think about it anymore. He tossed his bowl in the nearest trash can and weaved his way back home. Perhaps he was thinking all too much about this. If the Stellae-Lucis did show up, he would just go back into hiding again. He'd just run with whoever else would run. With Opheus by their side, though, would the Stellae-Lucis even ever have a chance? Would Opheus defend them, or would he just profit off the dying, picking them off the streets before their spirits breathed their last? It wasn't like the Stellae-Lucis could win against him even if they tried. Else they probably would have won the first time.


He hadn't even been up for three hours, and he was ready to go to bed again. This was all too much thinking. Too much existential dread. Rammus curled up in bed, settled down, and hoped to dream of better, more careless days.

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