So, having set the scene, it’s time to introduce those Who May Possibly Be Main Characters. Y’see being a chaotic sort of writer I never know who will stay, who will go and who might hang around and turn up later, while acknowledging that it might be best if some folk take the lead…..
Now are we going to have someone soliloquising or brooding in a plotting sort of way?
Or do we have one or a few getting down to no-nonsense violence?
(Whereas I’m all for innovation in the theatre; it seemed this version of Mary Poppins was too much style and not enough substance; somehow the essence of Chim-Chim-Cheree was lacking)
However I digress…. The opening had been low-ky; a build-up was required but to keep the pace not an overwhelming one. So time to introduce two new, but more idiosyncratic folk.
Two nights later Translator Pastoral ClnMyla was soothing the nerves of the town’s three indentured translators; men who had probably started out life meaning well but had in one way or another made too many accommodations while trying to make living in a place like Yermetz bearable. Being summoned to the Translator Pastoral’s abode was worrisome enough, having the additional information that it was at the behest of a Custodian would result in a communal air of three very scared rabbits, each making excuses or credible reasons for things. they had done. Some of these he’d had no previous knowledge of, but resolved to keep as note as the details might prove useful as leverage in later times.
“Now my brothers-in-faith. You must not be vexing yourselves so. Yes, the presence of a Custodian of the Word of The Lord God can be a measure troubling even to the most innocent of souls, but he is here on far more important business than a few,” slight cough “Relatively minor transgression in the moral fibre of the local clergy,”
His assurances were not given time to even fall on figurative ground when the door was flying open and stood a tall, solid man whose heavy featured scowl was made all the more impressive by his mane of steel grey hair and matching eyes. ClnMyla sighed, he was used to the man, but for weak folk with troubled consciences…
“Ah brothers-in-faith. Allow me to introduced Custodian-“
“Meradat,” the man intoned casting disapproval in all directions “You are the first line in defence of the Lord God’s Word, but because my presence here is necessary, you are found wanting,”
The three men’s countenances at once changed from variations on the state of trepidation to a shared misery beyond measure which stifled their abilities to even stutter excuses. As ClnMyla expected Meradat was perversely and grimly satisfied by this woeful sight.
“Hmmph! The sin of incompetency is as dangerous as any. It says much that I have to find useful information from the Translator Pastoral’s humble and contrite servant!”
ClnMyla knew for a fact Meradat always asked servants first. They replied out of respect, faith, terror or the urge to redress a wrong upon themselves In Harrdel’s case that would be a bit of the first, some of the second and certainly the fourth; not the third though.
But before the Custodian could further indulge his hobby of making translators miserable Harrdel appeared in the hallway, not caring to stand on any ceremony.
“Just got news honoured mentors! That house in our fire!!”
Ignoring the nonplussed three translators, the custodian glowered in general, ClnMyla grabbed at his nearby cape, told Harrdel to be giving the three brothers-in-faith something warm for the night and suggested Meradat he should firstly step aside and then follow on account of not knowing the way.
This did not last, soon Meradat was striding ahead instinctively drawn towards trouble.
“Brother ClnMyla I detect yet again a failure in that soft approach of yours, otherwise you would not have resorted to contacting me by this,” the custodian pulled from his pocket the hexagonal thumb-nail thick hand sized metal object with one dark green gem at its centre “Thing!” he enunciated the word with his customary distain, not happy with the Custodian’s Office compromise in using such devices for urgent contact over distance. “Indulgences in the dealings with human frailties will be your downfall!”
“There you go exaggerating again! Is this not the first time in two years, three lunations and six days that I’ve called you up on the chunky… Thing!, Is it not so? How would it be if I was to be troubling you dogged fellows every time something difficult turned up?”
Meradat grunted, the Translator Pastoral was a master at sounding reasonable and it was a sad fact that custodians were spread very thin these days. Far too many involved in or watching the myriad intrigues within the Oakhostian Empire; far too much attention to internal politics and not enough upon sin and blasphemies. Small wonder his reports were never answered or he was constantly despatched to the more obscure concerns of the empire.
Taking in Meradat’s silence ClnMyla did not labour the point, anyway he was wryly enjoying the spectacle of furtive figures who upon seeing the custodian’s forbidding outline vanished in a scampering of feet.
“By the way Meradat, did you take the trouble to announce your official presence?”
“I have no time to waste on miserable town officials with their ditherings and fawnings!”
“So what did you tell the town watch at the gates?”
“They did not care to challenge me,”
“No, they being used to harmless local farmers and traders. Or influential Local Interests. It must have been quite a shock to their sensibilities,”
But then it was time to break into a trot because the custodian was picking up his pace as the smell of burning tar and wood stung the throat, while the accompanying glow turned into the livid hues of orange and yellow bloom of fire at work. They cleared a corner and there the building ClnMyla had visited was host to a roaring column of flame; its brood of sparks dancing up defying the drizzle, the windows once empty sockets now were portals from which fire in perverse parody of waterfalls flowed upwards.
“Would you look at that! And it starting in such a damp house too,”
“Yes,” the custodian replied teasing the word out “It was what I was planning on having done,”
“That’s all well and good for a Custodian. You come in like an invading army, then leave the poor Translator Pastoral to deal with all the outrages. Which only start, I might add, after you’re safely out of hearing,”
He shook his head at the chaotic but not very energetic attempts by a few folks with buckets.
“There would be more cries of outrage if anything had seeped out of that abode of stupidity,”
Meradat paused, studying the sight “Damp you say? Then what brought cleansing flame upon this blighted place?”
“That would be me! Doin’ good works!!”
Both men executed swift turns, and promptly lost some dignity by bumping into each other, but once composed observed in these now flickering shadows a figure standing at their full, albeit ordinary height, eyes sparkling in the blaze, a bright wide smile across their narrow face.
“Oh,” they sighed “An’t burning wickedness a glorious deed and no mistake,”
There was no doubt about it, despite the ragged collection of jack, shirts trousers and boots by the tenor of the voice, the softness of features and the long dark eye lashes this was a woman, possibly a young one; leaning against the wall arms folded.
ClnMyla was first to the conversation, he did not want Meradat causing this possibly unusual person to go all skittish and run.
“Pardon me for appearing slow. But would you be after claiming the responsibility for this conflagration?”
This caused the person to rise from their slouch and frown, arms unfolding and straying down to their sides.
“Just said that didn’t I?” they leant forward, teeth slightly barred “I set fire to that nasty place. Just like I’ve done before!!”
“So you’d be making a career of this then?”
“Yer!” she waved a hand at them “Like you holies, it’s my vo-err-voc—“
“Vocation,” intoned Meradat, she nodded in response “And by your accent am I correct to assume that you have journeyed northwards all the way from the Blaggatinian peninsula, burning down places along the way?”
“S’right. Right up from Elinid,” she spat, quite profusely, narrowly missing clerical shoes “Rot-it-to the Fifth-Hell,” a pause to scratch their scalp “I’ll go back there one day an’ burn the whole dam’place down!”
Meradat was normally a man given to action, either physical or verbal on the basis that assault took the foe off of their guard, however this person presented a collection questions which he felt, just this time, might be better dealt by his colleague. ClnMyla was of course all for talking.
“Well, miss, I take it, it is miss,” the arrival nodded, sniffed and followed it up by a wiping of nose on sleeve, which he took as a perverse sort of confirmation of her gender. “Just what would be bringing you on such a task?”
The girl raised her head, a thin smile about her face.
“I can smell nasty business I can,” a quick shrug “Not the robbing and cheating sorts, but that dirty creepin’ whytchie stuff, the stormihiggle or something,”
“Stommigheid,” Meradat corrected and being only able to restrain himself for very short interludes, loomed in asking “And just how do you burn things?”
ClnMyla winced, one odd answer here and the girl could be on the wrong end of an official Stommigheidate accusation. She swung out a sack, previously hanging from the back of her belt.
“I got all I needs in here. All the natural stuff that will burn anywhere and anyhow. I can set fire to a riverbank if I fancies!”
After a hasty glance to Meradat, ClnMyla put on his most disarming smile.
“This scenting of things?” and he let the question deliberately hang there, letting her have her say.
“I just do. It’s a gift and I makes the best use of it. Soon as I got the chance to get out of the sproggle hole Elinid and into the open where I could think and smell straight, it all became alright, an’ since then,” she shrugged, then looked back to the fire, losing herself in the sight, one hand idly tugging at her shirt.
ClnMyla moved between her and the flames, his smile determinedly fixed in a kindly manner, time to calm her down and learn more about the wheres and the whys.
“Well this is go news to our stretched and tired hearts. Another to the fight. My new cook, she’s fine at her calling and a most devout lady, will be only too glad to prepare you a decent meal and a hot brew. Would you care to accept the invitation?”
At the mention of food there was a low gurgling noise from the girl’s midriff and a swift lick of her lips, although her expression was guarded.
“No funny-bunny business?” she asked, eye narrowing “No having me take off all my clothes to check for sinful marks? No creeping up to me at night with your trousers off and nightshirt up?”
ClnMyla was fair certain Meradat’s nasal inhalation and exhalation of outrage had caused two attendant drafts. These being a precursor to a combination of tirade and apology against the ways of lax, unworthy and thrice-wretched members of the Ecclesiastes.
“Ah, now you’ve started him off,” explained ClnMyla “He’s be going on about his colourful notions on how to cleanse our wayward brothers-in-faith and what’s wrong with the ruling councils. So unless you want to suffer a chill or a severe ear-ache you’d best accept my good graces and assurances and have a decent meal inside of you, for certain of the Good Lord God you’re looking as if you need one,”
The girl considered her feet.
“Yer, I’ll chance it,”
“Grand! I’m Translator Pastoral ClnMyla, that fellow with the endless vocal chords is Custodian Meradat, and you’d be calling yourself?”
“Karlyn, Karlyn Nahtinee,”
Before ClnMyla could comment on that, the blazing roof fell in, Meradat announced that there was no more to do done here and Karlyn Nahtinee was shepherded away.