This the other half of the ‘Villains’ Chapter and where the author continues to foray (heroically) into his nemesis(es) lands of Plot development and Villains with Character……
“There had best be good reasons for this,” Grand Duke Karutorm announced, directing his volume and purpose at Mage Belacheli “I have important duties in my own lands,”
There was a swift exchange of looks between the grand duke and Silc. Karutorm’s swift attendance from one end of the empire to the other being possible through the elidian’s network of empire-wide contacts in the river transport companies and cartels; themselves funding a deliberately bewildering array of mechanical and Stommigheid powered craft so vital to imperial trade and transport that no one cared to investigate.
“I do hope it is good news,” drawled Merthyl “My little groups are getting most weary of The Blasphemous Rites game with nothing to show for it. I mean to say, where is the true fun in torturing a translator to death? Once they work out they’re being martyred they get positively sanguine”
Silc wasn’t really sure if the little bastard had made that up or it was a genuine complaint. Either whichway Merthyl had been saving it goad Belacheli in front of Karutorm. For what reason Silc couldn’t make out, he considering himself sane and all.
Anyhow Belacheli’s high and rasping voice was soon drawing any casual attention his way.
“This last Twenty Days of Torment. Seven times three have I enacted The Blood Hazard and each time in the final death screams did the sacrifice become conduit from the Fourth Reams and pronounce soon would the barriers be broken and they would return!”
Silc directed his attention to Belacheli, index poised on left hand to count off as Silc began to speak in apparently quite respectful and enquiring tones
“Sage Belacheli. In my experience of folk facing death undress, they’re inclined to either,” he counted off ” scream their innocence, swear to betray everyone they know, plea for mercy, divine intercession, or if of sound character give vent to defiant obscenities and possible hauntings. Can you explain this variation to me?”
Merthyl smirked; Uraxch giggled, a scowl from Karutorm stifling this; Belacheli took a degree of comfort from his assumption of respect from Silc.
“As the soul is taken to be prey within the Fourth Realm do come the voices of the Lords and their servants as they use the last shreds of life within the body. Thus do they impart important information upon those they consider worthy,”
“Oh, I see. Thank you Sage Belacheli,”
Karutorm seemed no more impressed than Silc felt.
“Summon The Helmsman!” he called out, voice echoing.
The Helmsman was already at the door.
He stepped forward in solemn and head down respectful pose; Silc approved, let them feel they are truly important, particularly Belacheli, standing quivering and dithering, with his parchments, all stained at the edges.
“Helmsman!” he called out in a high grating voice “We command your observations!!”
The Helmsman, as expected bowed his head in acquiesce, his response came with all the plain solemnity and respect these people expected.
“I can of course only speak from my own observations upon the Mare Laten, and these, sirs are just often snatches. You will appreciate the attention to my post must be constant, for the changes in the currents ever despatched by the Wardens of The Deep are contrived to snatch the unwary journey folk and so drag them down into the Sunken Cities where they will be bound in crushing servitude at unknown tasks. Caution must also be given for the mindless beasts ever seeking to wreak out their unstoppable horrors rending with myriad limb, tooth and claw,”
He paused, judged he had emphasised quite enough the perils of navigating the manse, then went to the task at hand.
“Across the horizons we have espied storms of blood red, riven by lightning flashes of iron; seen peaks torn apart by those mighty energies, then against the lurid yellow and orange flames released by such monstrous destructions witnessed shapes moving. From my secure distances I could not vouch whether these were single towering beasts or vast hosts gathered; though the sightings did indicate at each time they moved with a single direction and seeming purpose, to halt and in a great agitation fulminate against places unseen,”
Although he did not dare exchange direct communication of any sort with Silc, The Helmsman did observe a faint twitch of approval upon the man’s mouth, for what reason he wasn’t sure, anyway his attention was directed upon Merthyl, naturally lounging in pretence that the whole business was nothing he’d not encountered before, but nonetheless….
“Why must all this be so distant Sir Helmsman? Where is your boldness?”
A deep grunt of annoyance and swift chopping motion of one hand indicated Karutorm was not sharing Merthyl’s view of things.
“Considering your claims and accounts of your exploits Merthyl I would have thought that question unnecessary! It is not obvious we must hold this manse in a delicate balance, at the Jagged Borderlines, far enough in to avoid detection, but not so far we risk ourselves!” The Grand Duke did not wait for any reply but turned instead to the mage “I trust this information is sufficient for your interpretations?”
“Oh indeed!! Indeed!! These indicate that the Fourth Realm’s princes do marshal their powers and armies, seeking to rend apart the barriers between our lands. It behoves upon us to play the part I have ever predicted and corrode those schemes and devices placed here by the weaker sighted and timorous in denial. Only those who are of strong purpose and ready to accept the Inevitable Order will prosper in this time!!”
By this time The Mage’s face had become reddened, spittle was flying off of his lips, his breath began to turned ragged, and without further words he sat down, though still managing to maintain a bright glare in his gaze. Silc had seen more entertaining and longer rants and he was none too sure if Belacheli actually had any plan to offer. To judge by the shifting of The Grand Duke Karutorm’s weight, and his clasping of hands he didn’t either.
“Mage. You must seek further congress with the Fourth Realm and discern where they may, ah, appear. Lord Merthyl; Master Uraxch this is the time when you must bring all the influence you hold upon these sons and daughters of noble houses; there must be dissatisfaction at the Grand Oaken throne spread, by any means. Master Silc, I trust you know best how to exploit such situations,”
“I do believe I’m the only one he’s not giving orders to. An’t that cosy?”
With that the Grand Duke rose and departed.
At once Uraxch and Merthyl set to grumble and making poor jokes about the way he had treated them; Silc simply made his own sardonic farewell and also quit. Not only were there things to be done, but there would be folk who wished to speak with him alone.
Not surprised that Young Boskie was first out of the shadows
“Nice performance there lad. Very dignified. So what didn’t you tell them that I should know?”
“We don’t want to encourage this Mistah Silc. It’s not just boogie-boos out of tall tales. My team and me managed a few closer looks using our imaging. And from what I seen I don’t think this Fourth Realm bunch are much for caring about gratitude or collaboration. And they don’t look like they can be controlled neither! If they get through, then we’re all for their lunch!!”
“That’s why I’m here Boskie. To take advantage of it all before it gets too hot. Oh, old Karutorm and his north eastern lot can have their rebellion and set up their own independent realm, though why they fancy that being so close to Slovosskia is a mystery,” he cleared his throat “For the present, anyhow. The thing is, this type of danger if used properly can rattle a lot of folk and The Blaggatinian gets free without any costly rebellions with our lead old Elinid at the lead! It’s a great opportunity. You just keep me informed, that’s all,”
Silc paused for a brief swig of peppermint cordial to settle his stomach before the uncomfortable lurch to his innards he suffered as he walked down the short passage way from the borderline back into the Real World.
Belacheli appeared, Silc caught himself from thinking ‘As if by magic’.
“I need virgins!” rasped the mage, Silc maintained a straight face, on account of knowing the back ground to this request.
“My good Sage Belacheli. We’ve been over this before. By their very nature virgins tends to have families that care about them and your requirements are far too extensive. That many young ‘uns will cause upsets, which will lead to difficult questions. Ones that I can’t afford. You’ll just have to make do with the prison sweepings I’m sending you,”
“I require a pure terror. My lords will savour this and be grateful! These are not times to anger them Master Silc, they are learning to reach out again,” Silc detected the usual gleam of fervour seemed to be dulled a bit. Was that concern on the old man’s face? He obviously needed a bit of pushing, see what else might be learnt from a bit pf panic.
“No virgins Sage Belacheli! Am I clear on that? And don’t you try getting any yourself; I’ll learn about it, and we will have to have words with The Grand Duke, and you know how stiff-necked he can be!!”
Silc then stalked off.
But useful ones, if goaded the right way.
His stomach lurched.