OK, this is where you get to meet some of the main villains of this book
“As the Obsidian Council requires,” he spoke the necessary invocation, without much belief, but it was expected.
The Helmsman seated before the black metal surfaced table, twice of length of a man’s height, narrow as his reach. His eyes set upon the glass fixed to the opposite edge, framed in plain iron frame from each of which ran five finger thick worm grey cables. At first glance to the unknowing it would appear to be a small window set upon its side. In this The Helmsman would agree they would have been partially correct, the dangerous difference being the window did not offer sight into the simple world.
“Be alert my good crew. We are crossing currents,” calm cultured, modulated tones.
As he looked out upon the slow sullen night blue sea shifting beneath a blighted yellow moon hung upon drape of a void, both his hands moved upon two circles of gilded silver inlaid into the table, each set with twenty gems of shifting greens and flickering yellow to greys, index and middle fingers drifting down to touch a gem. By this means he kept the construct upon the course between the World Physical and the oceanic border of The Fourth Realm accompanying each contact with a gem, either thumb would touch an iron grey pearl both of which would control the speed of passage.
“We’re in a safe cove,”
His team of four collectively sighed, each had been assigned to recorded one quarter of his actions, each would now take over that one quarter in his absence for he could not remain seated all times of the day. Another four arrived, each seating next to one of the first four, ready to take their place at the allotted time on, or when accidents arose. The work was not without its risks. Navigating the House on the Jagged Borderlines, keeping the ancient place free from the prying eyes in the World Physical and the embrace of those monstrously hateful of The Fourth Realm risked damage of the body and the mind. His men trusted him though; he directed by example and stern countenance; there was no need to spread another layer of fear; The Fourth Realm’s presence was sufficient.
“And now I must attend upon The Council. They will need to be appraised of our secure haven. Please notify me if even the slightest Untoward takes place. The Council have agreed to the Precedence of Interruption, in this circumstance,”
So the Helmsman rose, although not a particular tall man, his near military bearing and steady scholarly approach to the task leant him an air of authority, that caused some of his men to whisper he should be upon the Obsidian Council itself, instead of ‘some’. This was never spoken within his earshot; he was most severe of such notions. He was the Helmsman, allotted to and proud of his task.
He strode from the room, expression serious, deep in thought.
And out into the corridor on his way to the meeting at the behest of the Obsidian Council. To report.
One large meaty hand fell upon his shoulder.
“Hello there Boskie!!”
The Helmsman started, one hand to his chest.
“Gawdelpusal! Mistah Silc!!”
The Helmsman looked about quickly to make sure there was no one else in the gloomy passageway, which of course wasn’t necessary because Fereal Silc always made sure there were no witnesses. The large well fleshed man smiled, his eyes crinkling with knowledge and confidence born of the knowledge of many people’s secrets and through years of experience in Elinid’s criminal world how to work such to his best advantage. Dressed in common work-a-day shirt, jack boots and trousers of a city stained grey the practical one. He was The Money here. And, very, very practical.
“First time I got a chance to speak with you Boskie, now that we’re both in the Funny Shop. You have done well for yourself lad, your old dad would be proud,” Silc sighed “Ah best look-out on the gang, even in his declining years. No one could play the old idiot like he could,” he gifted The Helmsman a reassuring pat on his arm “We’re seeing you Mum comfy,”
Meanwhile all bearing and scholarly bearing had been melting The Helmsman glanced this way and that.
“We shouldn’t be together Mistah Silc. The Council wouldn’t like it. And if anyone heard us talking like this?” he shrugged, Silc nodded soberly.
“Very cautious Boskie of you. Yeh, you go back to that fine Middling Academic accent,” he tapped his nose “But now I’m settled here with feet under the table I’ll be expecting first words of what you see, and also anything anyone of the Wobblers Three come out with,” another grasp of the shoulder, this one tighter “The Mechanics back home are telling me things are starting to look interesting,”
“Well I see things from different perspectives to any Jordisk Mistah Silc, but you can be sure I’ll stay true. Honest!”
“Of course, of course,” said Silc and moved off with a swiftness not normal associated with a middle aged, well-fed fellow, leaving The Helmsman to lean against the wall, gathering his breath and composure.
Bound to have happened sooner or later, he had been telling himself that for two years’ now.
Silc liked to enter the chamber first, settle himself down, get used to all the theatrical stuff they used to keep the workers and any simple-minded visitors in line. The chamber made to instil an unsettling dread in the entrant by the imposition of its atmosphere of gloom, broken by the oily and incense heavy guttering candles. He could have got them this sort of stuff a lot cheaper. And as for these twenty grey-grey robed and hooded fellows bearing what he felt to be impractical halberds having to stand alert and attention for thousands at a time must be wearying upon them; probably be too ragged to use them if the time ever came.
Next to come in, in his poised insouciant way was the slender young Lord Merthyl; a student of cruelty as a pastime, predator upon the weak and as a scion of an influential family at the imperial court basking in the unhealthy glow of being beyond authority. He brought the veneer of terror to the Council, the one to frighten the ignorant and vulnerable. Of course the boy thought everyone should jump at his appearance; he wasn’t getting any from Silc, so he would be annoyed and looking to pay Silc back. Nobles were like that.
“’Lo there,” Silc said without looking up from a dispatch from an agent, as he expected Merthyl walked over to him, there was a keening sound and the tip of a blade flicked up the edge of the paper.
“I expect a measure of courtesy,” drawl Merthyl
Silc did not look up.
“Put that away and save it for your chained up victims sonny,” Silc’s voice was a low and cold growl, from out of his sleeve flicked the blade of a knife, with one slight gesture its metal chimed against Merthyl’s sword and pushed it to one side. Merthyl managed a sardonic laugh, a slight bow and took his place at the far right edge of the table.
Walking boldly, from a door on the opposite side of the room, with the air of someone who thinks he held some sort of proper power came the shaven headed and heavy fleshed, Uraxch, self-styled, The Pioneer. A man versed in tasting of and supplying unsavoury pleasures to jaded nobility, masking it all beneath a veneer of forbidden lore. Silc wondered how anyone could be daft enough to take seriously someone who wore what appeared to be a small bejewelled cushion on their head; but apparently his was in a minority opinion. Uraxch held many in his sweaty grasp by dint of knowing their dirty secrets.
“How’s the deflowering business then Uraxch?” Silc asked, mockingly, the man stiffened and looked darkly down his long nose at Silc.
“Delicious,” he said with relish, hoping to gain some purchase “You should try it some time,”
“Nah,” Silc drawled back “Give me someone with a bit of knowledge and built for comfort, just the sort to come back to after a hard day’s proper work,”
Uraxch grunted, and sat next to Silc, who did not bother making any room.
From an entry point so small and musty, Silc had first thought it a cupboard door bustled one of those mages, Belacheli a man possessed of an intense ever active stare, constantly moving fingers and several runic facial tattoos. As far as Silc knew the nervy old goat was the only one of the five who actually made any attempt at genuine worship of something in the Fourth Realm.
“Ah Fame’d Mage Belacheli,” Merthyl hailed, joviality masking a sneer “In what direction would the Ancient Revered Ones have us break wind this day? And for what duration?”
Uraxch giggled, they both found Belacheli’s antics funny. Silc kept his distance, you never when the fool might start something off by accident.
The mage paled, Silc reckoned in anger at blasphemies and fear that something horrible might appear there and then and start pulling all of their balls off.
“Lord Merthyl!” the mage began, but stopped at the sound of the iron shod the heavy boot striding.
Grand Duke Karutorm, strong featured and grim. His family had done much military service for the Oakhostian. A heavy set man full beard and moustache possibly covering a few scars, iron grey hair cut short. Silc had been following his career for a few years now. A strongman from the far North East of the Oakhostian with his prince under his thumb. He was just the sort a lively lad from the far South West of the Oakhostian could do business with. Once Silc had heard Karutorm had made his own discovery of this lot and was making moves, then Silc had decided to that was the time to make the moves of his own.