So far, fairly linear. Introduction, then two chapters containing the same characters and one aspect of the plot. This is where we take the first test to check if the narrative will hold true is strength and continuity:
Chapter Three (part one)
Many would have been surprised but to Karlyn this situation was fun. She was enjoying herself immensely scaring folk with facial contortions and muffled exclamations. She hauled in breath through her nose to commence a truly wondrous snort.
All halted when she caught a tang of the hot pungency of fear, mingled with the aroma of oil on warm metal, much, much stronger than in the town.
‘Ooooh by the way my nose twitches
I can smell little scared whichies!’
Her further adventures into commentary and poetry were stilled by another scent swiftly following. This was a rare one, she was not use to clean smells, like someone had washed everything. Another odd thing was the way it made her feel sort of, well nice?
She twisted her head to look north and west, but the horse was in the way. She supposed she’d find out more when she was let down.
In the meantime, she went back to upsetting folk.
There was a hammering at the door
“Medician Beritt! Urgent! Now!!”
“Oh ffffrib,” she muttered
One other female groan issued forth, followed by an unclean sock, lightly impacting on her face. Lareh had uncanny aim.
“G’wan Deya and let me get back to sleep,”
“I only just got into bed,”
“Well Medician Deya Beritt you can only just get out again,”
Lamenting the injustice of having a duty which everyone thought required no sleep the medician stumbled to the door and opening it peered into the ill-light of a shoddy candle.
“Yer?” she was not bothering to stifle her yawn and ill-humour until she noticed the twin shield insignia of a captain faintly glimmering, she then bothered to look up. “Oh Cap’n Dekyria, err, sorry. How can I help?”
“Serious injury just brought in,”
Short on information but not inclined to argue with a captain, Beritt was quick to grab her mediphsic box and naturally stubbing more than one toe hobbled out, While in answer to a ragged plea, closed the door behind her.
Although the officer was tall and with a start on her, Beritt was not long to catch up with a man whose right leg below the knee was of wood, the flesh and bone long since mouldering far, far away to the east upon the northern slovosskian border. As she drew level Dekyria looked down at her, slight bemusement upon a square face lined before the proper age.
“Bare feet and service night gown Medician?” he asked a tinge of humour there somewhere.
“If it’s urgent captain it might not wait for me to get into boots and uniform,” she patted a pocket in her thick uncomfortable service nightgown “I’ll put my spare socks on when I get the chance,” slight cough for deference’s sake “If I may captain; battle or accident?”
He placed a finger to his lips, leaving Beritt to ponder on the paradox of someone making all that noise and drawing attention then insisting on secrecy. Two years, three lunations, one decan and two days in the Imperial LifeGuard Regiment and she still could not understand officers’ ways. This one being in charge of the ‘owls’ of the Observation Station Dorigen made the business all the more puzzling.
A sudden swing to the left and then a descent down stone stairs had her wishing she’d taken a few moments to put those socks on; this chilly passage way was a swift trip to one of the three cellars. What the frib were they doing putting an injury case down there? There was a perfectly good-
She nearly missed her footing at the sound of the thin wail. If the injury was that bad she was not so sure she would be able to deal with it. But outposts did not have doctors or physicians, that was for the grand folk at Drygnest or Soralach. Drafty little stone keep outposts got medicians and The Blessed Lady Captain help this poor girl if she could not work miracles.
As they came closer there was a scream. Beritt had had some experiences of screams in her career of patching up damage or easing folk out of this world; she had a notion the one she’d just heard was more out of terror than pain; pain caused long, almost angry outbursts, this one was too high and shrill; suggesting more of a mind than a body in torment.
“Keep up the pace Beritt!”
‘How could a man with one and half legs of flesh and bone swing that quickly down a stairway? and that with its own sort of pain and discomfort too. Not that he’s ever asked me to attend to it as he should. Officers!’
At the foot of the steps there was just about enough for one pace and there was a door, progress made all the more difficult by the presence of two troopers. Trex with his usual lazy smile, Myrrek, always doleful, but both sharing a tense alertness which made Beritt inadvertently retreat until she banged her bare heel on the stairs; Erzns’ men. Sergeant Erzns file never said anything about their activities, you could get banter and you would get sweeping generalisations about how the regiment should be run but never any detail.
One more loud chilling scream of fear.
“What the Fourth Hell is going on!” Beritt demanded her sense of service overwhelming any respect of rank “You torturing someone in there cap’n and gone so far that you want me to patch ‘em up!”
The trooper with the lazy smile winked at her in approval, she did not feel in the mood for any sort of compliment.
“Nothing of the sort medician,” the captain said, wearily he jerked a thumb to the door “In here is a fellow who has been messing about with business he should not have and got in far too deep. You are going to see what happens when someone is careless with The Astatheia,”
For an instance her body would not move. Even smoothed out by the LifeGuard’s own idiosyncratic official term for The Stommigheid she was still prey to a deep sense of agitation at the mention of the stuff. Not even her two years being in the atmosphere of the more objective religious philosophy of the Devoteds of the Libratery had eased her instincts.
Beritt took in a deep breath; yes she knew this was one of the reasons why the LifeGuard had the keep as a Station of Observation. To watch the four princedoms of the Southern West. But Dekyria’s ‘owls’ usually kept themselves and their work in their own room. The only contact being the brief social nod, exchange of opinions on the lack of comforts and the requests for ‘something to help with a head pain’, the reason for which you never asked about. This flurry of recollections being swept out of her head when the captain nudged her in through the door and closed it behind them.
They’d taken a lot of trouble to put as much light as they could; they’d even brought in some decent bedding for the fellow to lie upon. You could almost call it comfy. Not that the man was in any condition to appreciate it, Erzns lean and hardened by years of service held him at the waist, while his fileman Creylan grasped the shoulders and was speaking in his trademark everyday way, trying to infuse some sort of calm into the writhing figure. Two others stood by and shook their heads.
The man was not listening to anyone. Beritt had witnessed this sort of stare before; the look beyond the people in front of you, the stare driven by the fear that was running rampant through your head. She’d met it with silly lads who’d not meant to kill someone in a tavern brawl, with soldiers who had their first or one too many battles, folk who’d tried a mysterious brew they shouldn’t have. In addition to warfare and military maintenance The LifeGuard did like its medicians to impose onto the Community; Maintain a Presence they called it.
The man seemed to be seeing something on the opposite wall, as his wide-eyes were fixed there, another long wailing scream and a stream of incoherence. Creylan turned to Beritt a grim smile on his face.
“Hullo Medician, you wouldn’t have something for this awful earache I’m getting would you?”
Dekyria spoke in a, slow, factual, precise way.
“You are now going to learn something about my file, Medician. We started noticing something upon the oculators,” he fixed an intense gaze upon her “Oculator Medician?”
“Those dark grey metal boxes, with bright gems on the surface and black stand up mirrors?”
“Well, you know too much already,” his mouth turned up into a tight smile.
“Medicians end up being everywhere with everyone Captain,”
“Fair comment. Anyway, we observed series of bright sparks jumping. It’s called grasshopping,” he gestured to a thick grey brown leather belt inlaid from the buckle to each half way around each side with large pale green gems “And that’s the Jordisk device they use. It allows someone to pass in and out those places beyond the World Physical; just of the edge of the Fourth Realm. Hazardous. Only the most daring usually use it. This fellow, I think was just panicked and was desperate to get away. Saw things and maybe touched things way beyond nightmares. It’s a place of hells Medician, true ones,”
The man’s breath began to came in short desperate keening sounds, Beritt reckoned he was trying to say something important, but his terror was shredding his sanity.
“What would you like me to do Captain?” not at all certain of what was expected of her; she was still trying to cope with grasshopping and places beyond the World Physical. But Fourth Realm, that’s where the demons lived and lurked.
“Calm him down and get him to make sense, please. Y’see the noteworthy thing is that from what we can trace we think he started off on the south eastern border with neighbouring Valeneg and now arrives two hundred and fifty miles north and west here on Decoryx’s mid northern border. Ending up a suspiciously close two miles from here which is a bit of an upset seeing as how we are supposed to be very secret. So it looks as if he knew where and who we were. That’s why Sergeant Erzns’ file was sent to find him,”
“Screaming and crawling in circles on his hands and knees,” the sergeant volunteered “We had to tie him over a horse and gag him to bring him in,”
Somewhere along a road, still draped over a horse and musing on those recent smells Karlyn had a notion that apart from this being fun, someone else nearby in time and place had or was going through the same experience as her, only maybe not having as much fun. She rolled her eyes at a passing farmer and made muffled howls. The Custodian scowled. Karlyn thought him an ol’ spoily-sport.