Between them WORD and WP so badly messed up the previous post by turning narrative into gibberish that I have had to start again; thanks Audrey for raising the alarm.
(Worse thing was it looked fine when I posted it ‘something’ happened afterwards……I hate computers and computer programmes)
Many would have been surprised to find out that 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 at a hurriedly passing farmer
This mischief 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 the one she’d experienced in that cosy kitchen; her mind buzzed as a busy hive
‘Ooooh by the way my nose twitches
I can smell little scared Whychies!’
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 south and west, but the bulk of 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 Arketre answer the fribbin’ door and let me get back to sleep,”
“I only just got into bed,”
“Well Medician Arketre 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 her eyes adjusted to the light and thence the signature dark grey short coat with three pockets on each side and a silver flag on each shoulder 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 another 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 the chance presents itself,” slight cough for deference’s sake “If I may ask 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 file 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 long 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 heal the sufferer, just aid them to peace. Outposts did not have doctors or physicians, that was for the grand folk at Drygnest. Drafty little stone keep outposts got medicians and The Blessed Lady Captain help this particular poor medician if she could not work the required 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 attendant pains 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 LifeGuard should be run but never any detail. Naturally you knew they did more than scout and secure the area from interlopers and the Just Curious.
One more loud, chilling scream of fear.
“I’m hearin’ Third Hell’s worth of pain in there!” Beritt asserted; her sense of service overwhelming any respect of rank “They been torturing someone cap’n and gone so far that y’all 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 instant, 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 religious atmosphere and analytical 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; Outpost Dorigen as a Station of Observation. To watch the four princedoms of the Southern West. Dekyria’s ‘owls’ usually kept themselves to themselves in their own room with its metal boxes, winking lights and mirror’d surfaces with more lights. There were the requests for ‘something to help with a head pain’, the cause of which you never asked about. So, you didn’t really know what they got up to. 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 by 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. The LifeGuard did like its medicians to impose into 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 mirror’d surfaces”
“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 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 Zerstorung. 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 the real hells Medician, ”
The man’s breath began to come 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; Zerstorung? 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 myles north and west here on Decoryx’s mid northern border. Ending up a suspiciously close two myles from here which is a bit of an upset seeing as how we are supposed to be very secret. However, it is 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,”
“No wonder he’s in a distressed state,” Beritt suggested as she tried to come to terms with having a sort of contact with The Astatheia; while reckoning Stommigheid was the much better sounding.
“Nevertheless,” Dekyria interposed “I need to know if he truly was looking for us and why,”
“Excuse me for asking captain but does The Major know?”
“He’s in contact with Drygnest, medician,”
‘Squirtz! The Castle! Oh gladsome day! If I do something wrong, I get the Castle dropping a big midden right on my poor little blonde head. Fribbit! I’d rather be midwifing that colonel’s daughter again! This more a job for an Andliga, except that the LifeGuard keeps all its religious officers at Drygnest studying old texts,’
“You’ll have to tell the sergeant and the fileman to let him go Captain. That restraint is agitating him,”
Neither man felt her suggestion was a good one and expressed as much with slow shakes of the head. The captain looked at Beritt, she looked back, he winced; she was right, but it was still his decision. These medicians did fall into that role of reckoning they had the right to address ethical issues to anyone, irrespective of rank.
“You’ll have to tend to your own injuries if this goes wrong,” he warned her. “Sergeant Erzns, Fileman Creylan when the medician is ready let the man go,”
‘Oh wondrous, the art of the shifting the responsibility’
There was little enthusiasm the pair’s faces; in addition, the other two who had been at rest against the far all, eased off of it and moved in, poised. As Beritt drew closer the man twitched and screamed, his breath coming in that hysterical sharp and high way. She was certain he was trying to speak, and she supposed she would have to try to break through that barrier of terror, so she knelt before him cold stones at once assailing her knees; his terror now reminding her of her baby brother when pa’s meanest hound had barked at the tot.
A good way to start actually …
“Hello,” she said softly laying emphasis on her southern hengestatian drawl, accompanied by a manufactured gentle smile
No scream from the man just a grimace of fear and a pleading look. She thought it might be a start. Suddenly the man shot up to a crouch and Beritt was left kneeling before someone who previously had been struggling against two very capable soldiers. As he ground his teeth together and hissed in his breath, she was struck by her own sudden fear that he would bite her nose, aside from the pain she would have to put up with endless jokes on the matter, particularly from Norvan and Drell, still seeming to be lounging against the wall.
“You are safe,” she said, plainly, but heavy on the apparent confidence. You had to make them believe in you. Truth be known you had to make yourself believe you! He fixed his attention on her as if only now aware she was there his expression confused, his breathing turning to a simple panting as he looked down, now trying to make sense of this person kneeling, in apparent calm repose “Y’all should sit with me an’ we can talk some ‘bout what troubles you,” she knew this was a risk, patching up wounds was one thing, getting into the twists and turns of the mind was quite another, having the possibility five soldiers ready pounce and afterwards call her a fool was not helping. She took some solace she was still wearing her undershorts, so if she did end up sprawling backwards, all would remain hidden.
The man’s mouth worked, wordlessly at first, then he sank to his knees as if the effort to speak sense was draining him, thus face to face with Beritt who was in turn trying to feel she had this all under her control while not letting on that she was making all this up as she went along. She smiled, encouragingly, then the man suddenly lurched forward, and Beritt was glad she’d not crouched, after all any sort of sprawl was not dignified.
“They…they…. they,” he said, which she reckoned was a start, so she reached out and took his face in her hands.
“Are not here,” she hoped that came out as a statement and not a suggestion. Also, she had a problem as she wanted to reach for something out of her box while keeping him calm. Never mind the rest watching. Concentrate. She lowered one hand to his chin, fumbled backwards to the other, assuring him all the while he was safe now.
“The dire screams and the burning iron sun!” the words came in short burst, punctuated by more keening breath “Then I fear they saw me! Showed me dying…dying innocents, tortured, said I would be next. They loped! They slithered, they reached!!”
Beritt with one hand brought up the slender glass tube. Using her thumb, she flipped open the top and passed it across the man’s nose, while holding her own breath, it would not do for the two of them to slip under its soothing vapours. Easing her other hand from his chin, she swiftly sealed the tube and dropped it into the box. The man blinked, swayed slightly once more surveyed the room, this time his eyes in focus, comprehension taking place of panic as the vapours did their calming work.
“Safe,” she said with a little more confidence “Secure,” she added. Now to get him settled as her feet were freezing and knees protesting; so, with an inspiration born out of the memories of when her mom used to have her to care for her baby brother she leant forward to carefully place a light kiss on his forehead. The shock of sudden tenderness caused him to sit down, blush and run his hand through his hair in surprise.
“Goodness,” he said suddenly “An angel,”
Drell muttered a complaint that she’d not done that to him when he’d been afflicted, causing Norvan to ask who would want to kiss a boil on the arse, particularly Drell’s ugly hairy rump.
A glower from Erzns stifled any further commentary.
Meanwhile Beritt was trying not to fluster herself with surprise at her own precipitate action.
“Oh no sir. Just a medician in the LifeGuard,”
“Then I have arrived?” he said, trembled and tears of relief began to flow down his face, as he took hold of her hands “But please don’t give me anything to sleep. Not sleep, they will find me in my dreams. I want to stay awake, there is much to be said,”
Beritt managed another smile, and holding his hands rose, she would have to put her socks on. Once they both stood, she turned the man gently towards Captain Dekyria.
“This is the officer sir you should talk to. Captain Dekyria is a fair and reasonable man,”
“She’s obviously willing to kiss a captain’s arse,”
“I heard that Trooper Norvan!” growled Erzns.
Beritt with her back facing the sergeant while looking at trooper Norvan extended her right hand’s middle finger along her nose indicating she’d heard him too. Dekyria either chose to ignore lower rank business or was concentrating upon the fellow and although not possessing Beritt’s capacity for gentleness none the less spoke in his own calm respectful way.
“You’ve obviously had a very troubled journey sir. We will get you some refreshments and we might have some conversation. May we know your name?”
“Bleymore, Geral Bleymore” he said.
Beritt did not bother going back to bed, by the time she’d have crept into the room of grunts and snores, she knew there would be short space to catch up on sleep, so she eased in, stole away with her uniform and other equipment and went to the cupboard space that was officially a room of medical examination and treatment. Under the pretext of checking supplies and getting ready for the next (or today) day’s duties, she dozed, head on the table.
In the shortest of spaces of time there was a persistent knocking at the door.
“Yer,” she grumbled, loudly, as by the marks on the temporal candle there was still another thousand to go before the Medician was ready for the day’s duties. Whoever the careless clown was who’d tripped over in the dark and reckoned severe damage upon some part of his precious male being she would be telling him what she thought and-
The door opened. Fileman o’ the watch Desreg peered in, like most in the outpost his expression was unsympathetic; he’d obviously decided a count of five was quite enough time for her to be up and at the door.
“Major wants to see you Medician, now”
The emphasis in the word ‘now’ suggested she should be there ‘now’ presenting herself to Major Gellgrachen; at this instant.
“My pleasure,” she said; Desreg gave her a questioning look, he was not a man who appreciated the layers of womanly sarcasm.
Major Gellgrachen was seated at his desk, upright and correct, as was his nature. Short greying hair matched by a trim moustache and modest beard all in place, and his round full face composed. Save he looked concerned which would be usual for a major of an outpost. Major Gellgrachen was particularly diligent in his duties; the whole region for fifty myles was regularly but discreetly swept for any disruptive elements. Prince Atherlin of Decoryx to be visited regularly and appraised in general- not a civility afforded to the other three princes. Captain Dekyria’s file supported and information assimilated and of course ever in communication and obeying Drygnest. No one ever questioned the LifeGuard’s bleak northern fortress of Drygnest; LifeGuard troopers were ever tireless of their boast that it was Drygnest from where the Oakhostian Empire was truly run. Beritt reckoned Major Gellgrachen surely had a plate full of responsibilities and yet on this particular morn in this particular circumstance, she felt she was the principal subject.
During Beritt’s tenure of seven lunations, two decans and one day at Outpost Dorigen, she didn’t think she’d given the major cause for concern. Sometimes when feeling grumbly she wondered if he was typical of the older officers and of the secret opinion that ‘girls’ as medicians could be a problem when looking at, and having to deal with men’s most intimate of parts. Perhaps he had a close to a paternalistic worry, that if she looked at one too many dongers she might get over-heated and faint.
“At your request, Major,” she said, standing to attention, correct salute, hand to the heart, teeth then clenching to stifle a yawn.
“Medician Beritt, Captain Dekyria has reported to me of his approval of your assistance in calming down our, as it were, ah, guest,”
“My duty Major,” she replied, respectfully, in the approved manner. According to some who had trained her, sewing back a leg with needle and twine so that the man could hop, skip and run, good as new was mere ‘duty’. Raising someone from the dead might get a nod of approval. Mixed reminiscences were replaced with apprehension when Gellgrachen began to fiddle with the quill, usually in neat placement two handspans up and two to the right.
“Yes. Quite. Good work Medician, but,” he paused, leaving her to wonder just what boundary specific to her womanhood she’d tripped over “I’m not sure though medician about this kissing the fellow!”
“I am sure you meant well. But I should remind you this is an outpost in hostile country Medician; the men are tensed for action, as they should be. Although everyone is quite aware of the very strict sanctions on intimacy between troopers, this kissing business might tend to unsettle the balance,”
Beritt did not reply straightways, she was trying to keep a very straight face and not go into girly sniggers over the ‘unsettled balances’; this lot could keep their ‘balances’ in their trousers, or hands or….
He was ‘looking at her’.
Expecting a reply, no doubt.
“I apologise Major,” she said contritely, not snapped as some LifeGuard indulged in when replying to something that irked them, always sounded churlish to her. “And thank you for your advice. You have my assurance this was a tactical decision Major, to calm a very distressed person, sisterly if y’ like,” nervous she was lapsing into drawl, she rallied, not the right thing in these circumstances “But, I appreciate it was a bit headstrong. Not as detached as a LifeGuard should be. It won’t happen again Major,”
“Explanation but no excuses. Quite right Medician.” but there was no dismissal, so she concluded there was more to be dropped on her “Now this guest of ours. As you may have gathered he is valuable, therefore I require that you visit him, morning, evening and any other time when Captain Dekyria feels necessary. Need you to check upon his health in body and spirit, as it were. We can’t have the poor chap running riot about the place, though the Good Lord God knows what he has been up to get into this state; Captain Dekyria is coming up with the most lurid hints,” the major realised he had drifted off slightly, coughed and gathered himself “Anyway that’s for another day,” he lowered his tone “And whatever you hear Medician Beritt, remember this. We are LifeGuard. We are the line of defence that cannot waver. No matter whatever is the nature of the foe,”
Frib! Sound like The Astatheia has truly come to town. Y’all rally now girl
“I understand Major. As instructed Major,”
“Good,” that measured tone of approval somehow bothered her. “To about your duties then,” and he returned to some papers on his desk; the snatched sight of his weary resignation making Beritt feel he, like Dekyria, would rather be patrolling some windswept remoteness on the slovosskian borders; she’d heard some impressive tales…
She stepped down the corridor and looked over her shoulder, not certain what to expect. The way of Dekyria’s short lecture and the look in the fugitive’s eyes were putting strange ideas in her head. She puffed out a sigh, causing her fringe to rise.
This was an outpost and you could expect a few nuisance raids from folk as shadowy as they were; but events of the night and this dawn were making her feel as if a battlefield was coming to them.
Gellgrachen busied himself with some paperwork, a regular assessment to Drygnest of Prince Atherlin to be transcribed into the first layer of code; it filled in the interlude of five hundred before Dekyria’s instructed arrival.
And the swift knock on the door, exactly at five hundred.
And the equally swift entrance when ordered; Gellgrachen felt Dekyria’s battle with his incapacity was more ruthless than was necessary, but in this the man was resolved.
“I do believe you were right Captain. We are very fortunate to have a medician of Beritt’s capabilities to hand in this situation. Drygnest will be very interested in Master Bleymore, particularly if as you say he came looking for us. It will be vital we keep the fellow in a generally calm state while they make up their minds. We wouldn’t want anything tracking him here,”
“I’m glad you accept that possibility My Major,”
“It is best to accept all possibilities Captain. This minimises the chance of being surprised,” Gellgrachen rolled the pen between middle finger and thumb “Beritt does seem very composed. I appreciate medicians are expected to calmly wade elbow deep through innards and solidly remove limbs with blunt carving knives if necessary, and she’s has sufficient experience of that sort of work, even under missiles. However I always imagined confronting injury through the miasma of this Astatheia to be unsettling,”
“She gave the impression we might as well have been bringing in a trooper with a leg hanging off,”
Gellgrachen put the pen down.
“Good. Very good. This must be of grim satisfaction to you Captain. You have been forecasting a disturbance for some time,”
“The only satisfaction My Major being that we are a quarter ready,”
A custodian upon the road leading a horse carrying someone who was draped, gagged and bound was not a sight an ordinary person would care to see, but by the same token they would have not been surprised. This ominous reminder of the sterner arm of The Ecclesiastes made travel easier as folk would naturally try and distance themselves from the apprehended wretch.
This wretch loudly snoring did take something away from the grimness, and Meradat was glad the road was now a lonely one. Maybe rumours had spread quickly and of course no one wanted to meet a custodian. He glanced back at the girl; he had not encountered anyone before who would consider their present circumstance as conducive to a sound sleep. There might be a hint of insanity, but his opinion was divided; also possible was that she may have been born an incorrigible mischief given some sort of purpose as yet unknown. As for her claim to be able to scent out transgressors through the Stommigheid this was still to be fully proven. He had hoped the exercise in discomfort would lower her guard and reveal some sort of truth; her snoring was lowering some expectations, while giving form to other possibilities.
They turned a bend in the road; a farmer leading a horse and cart looked up in surprise, then trepidation, and made to hurry by. The horse bred for labour and not adventure was not disposed to, resulting in the poor fellow mumbling a mixture prayers and pious greetings to Meradat, much familiar with the pattern. All might have gone reasonably well save that as the man drew alongside the girl, her head suddenly jerked up. Sighting another hapless victim, she began with an unhinged leering then assailing him with muffled dire warnings and accusations
“Heretic!” swiftly boomed Meradat by way of an explanation.
The farmer gabbled something but since Karlyn had upset the horse by her sudden actions, he had other problems.
To avoid any further ill-matched interludes Meradat set his small train into a canter off of the road and into the nearest copse. As soon as they had stopped Karlyn wriggled and slithered off of the horse, and despite being bound hands and feet managed to land to a crouch. Once seated she proceeded to bite at the gag, tearing parts into her mouth and subsequently spitting them out. Upon reducing the gag to rags she set her teeth to the hand ropes.
“That will not be necessary,” Meradat said, hoping to inform her of his displeasure at such excess. However, he noted she had managed by feral glee to free her hands and so able to be attending to the leg restraints. She was obviously quite adept at such manoeuvres. Then judging by her grin, and springing to her feet with an accentuated arm stretching yawn it appeared she’d seen the whole business as another sort of jolly game.
“Ooooh I am stiff!” surrendering that much to normality she peered down the direction from which they had come, and called back in the direction of the vanished farmer “Sorry I scared you little horsey!” This courtesy applied she commenced to bounce up and down on her feet explaining she needed to get them mobile again.
Her series of peripatetic, agile and perverse displays left him wondering if she had had some training, or whether this was another apparent natural gift. If the former was the case, then maybe there could be some foundation to ClnMyla’s concerns over some sort of plot to discredit. At least he would know how to handle the business. If the latter were so, there were many questions.
Suddenly in conclusion to her exercises she dropped into another crouch, scratching her shirt and sniffing the air.
“S’there. Long aways, but it’s there. And something new. Moving souths for certains,”
Meradat would accept that opinion without comment for the present
In the meantime, Karlyn swiftly ascended a tree and seeming to make herself comfortable in the upper most and precarious of branches stared southwards, with all the poise and concentration of a hunting beast. He would leave her for now and take the opportunity to consult his own records on sources of information.
“Can I be a Gervalon all the time?” she asked over a very functional and cold late supper of bread and diluted wine, and not seeming to worry too much that he would not allow any fire for secrecy’s sake.
“No. They are serious and intense about their obstinate and heretical beliefs. They are not given to pulling faces or making odd noises. The guise would not bear examination,”
“Pity. It’s fun to scare people,” She pondered “So can I be an apprentice Custodian?” not appearing to be unsettled by Meradat’s expression scornful disapproval she continued “I could say, I was learning to torture people,”
“There are no apprentices! The post is supposed to be obtained after many years of trustworthy and diligent service as a translator, seen to be willing to face danger in the Lord God’s name,”
“Well don’t you have assistants to do horrible things to hairy-tiks?”
“Her-ra-tics! And having assistants of such employ is not relevant or conducive to this commission. As I explained before we left that wretched town, it is hoped you are tasked by the Lord God to use your abilities to seek out this miscreant of the Jordisk. Clarify this for me. You were guided to Yermetz through your sense of smell?”
“Yer. I’d come into Valeneg, because the grubby little place was all smelling of old damp socks and tavern outhouses, that’s a sign of laxness which means trouble in my mind. Call itself a princedom! All ragged and no one caring what goes on down the road unless interferes with their own scrappy businesses. Bound to be a place where whychery goes, and them spikey demons pop out- goin’…grrrrrrr!”, she pulled a pulled and shaped her hands claw-like to emphasise her point.
Meradat had to admit to his mind that was a fair, if not a little vulgar an assessment of the place.
“Anyways. Not only did Yermetz have the worse socks, but there was a bad lemon smell mixed up with that you get in a farm full of dead things. Led me to that house. It just had to be set fire to,” she chuckled “That stopped the lemons and bad farms that did,”
“Your affinity with fire. I examined your back-pack and other gear, while you slept,” the latter words being a sardonic observation “You have a carefully arranged and stored selection of fluids and powders,”
“Tools of the trade,” she said, chewing determinedly upon the bread.
“That small stick of fire you used?” although a plain question, bereft of accusation, she reckoned there was enough weight in his tone to go through a floor; she grinned anyway. There were times when she liked showing off.
“S’like this” she raised her right hand smoothing thumb and index finger together “I place a comet-”
“Cause they remind me of them, and give folk a shock. Anyways I sneak one betwixt these two, see,” she raised her thumb “Now the thumb nail is sharp, see, and every day I rub a sandy powder across it, so it’s rough,” she set thumb to finger “So I flick thumbnail to the blue mix, which is easy to ignite; like flint can,” she demonstrated a sharp snap of thumb against index finger “Nail hits blue mix, and the flick,” she held her thumb aloft “Send the comet flying!” Karlyn then rocked back giggling “No need for aim, folk’re scattering!”
Meradat nodded, a manoeuvre with some merit. All based on natural materials. However.
“Do not your finger and thumb suffer from even the brief contact with a flame,”
Karlyn smiled, eyes bright with mischief, she held up her hands, fingers and thumbs rubbing against palms.
“Another thing I do every day, twice, is to rub in a secret little salve which give a protection against flames, just so long as its only quick,” and winked “One of the many things in my bag of whimsicallies,”
She rose, brushing off crumbs and rural detritus, sniffing the air as she did, eyes growing wide, then as she turned slowly from, one direction to another, her attention set on some far distance.
“There’s more than one place y’know. I can smell a smell of clean oil on a sharp blade,” she moved away, soft footed towards the tree setting one foot and both hands on the trunk “Well, unless you want to travel some more, “she began to clamber “I’m going back up and sit waiting for whatever the breezes and flying things bring me,”
“You feel can you communicate with Nature?”
She paused and draping one then the other leg over a branch swung back and forth, hands folded behind her head.
“Bees, butterflies, birds, and squirrels, well mostly. They’re the most chatty; birds gossip a lot, especially magpies! Folk just don’t pay attention to the proper sources,”
As he didn’t bother to suggest this was wrong, she managed a shrug, swung up, grasped the branch and returned to climbing. She’d expected custodians to be all condemnations and bluster. But this one was grim and not that many words. He was sort of reasonable company, then. And better, he had some sort of direction, which she had to admit she’d been a bit short on. It had been a bit of sweat deciding which smell to pursue the most. Already he was making her concentrate; which was a good change. Sometimes it was difficult to get thoughts straight, not being certain and all ‘bout ‘wot’ was really ‘wot’ and so havin’ to follow your instincts.
Meradat had correctly concluded there was little to be gained in trying to obtain detailed information from someone who was want to be at the top of a tall tree, even apparently preferring to sleep there. In any case the opportunity for reflection should never be missed.
Meradat’s diary was not what you would call an ordinary account of accusations, suspicions, dogged determinations to be justified, grave misgivings and predictions of doom all based on the daily observations and actions of Custodian of the Word of The Lord God. Meradat’s was of observations it was true, and resultant numerous reports of transgressions both civic and spiritual from there the style and method changed. Each incident was considered in the light of earlier ones; patterns or links were considered. He did not look for over-heated conspiracies or one of the plethora of organisations who deluded themselves into thinking they were secret. Meradat had been schooled in the practice of forecasting; which was quite removed from the dubious notion of predicting. The Stommigheid, it had to be accepted was a force and a potential of power; in some circles, there was some debate as to whether it ultimately controlled those who believed the reverse was the case. That aside it could be argued with enough study it would be possible to forecast (some said estimate) a tyde, which itself could indicate when a potentially large enough circumstance could arise, dangerous enough to fracture the barriers between The Lord God’s Jewel and the dire Zerstorung.
For a year now he had been following such a weaving of strands which had led him back to the West and South. Of course somehow the peninsula of rogues and thieves of The Blaggatinia was not involved, apparently. The suggestion was further along the coast and possibly inland; there had been some variables though, an overall fluctuation which had been until now infuriatingly undefinable. When ClnMyla had contacted him he had hoped that Yermetz would hold a complete answer. Well, he had the flight of a fool to work upon which might lead to something more substantial, but such fools were not uncommon. More important was Karlyn Nahtinee; someone with not an affinity but an antipathy to the Stommigheid and quite aware too.
He began to write down his account.
And realised he had slipped off into a rare but inevitable doze when he was awoken by a sudden jab in his thigh. A swift examination of the pocket, brought forth the hexagonal ‘Thing’, the gem pulsating a sharp light, its glow revealing the girl alighting from the tree without, it appeared bothering to use any intermediate branches.
“That smell! It’s not him! There’s no trembles! He’s gone! Vanished! Went sideways, dithered and dothered and then-pooff!!”
Meradat was not usually slow in his thoughts when coming out of sleep, but the girl’s style of announcement accentuated by rolling of eyes and waving of hands was one which had caught him by surprise.
“Have you any idea as to the nature of reasoning?”
This cause a snort of exasperation and more gesticulations
She paused to consider the suggested tying up of a loose end “Perhaps he fell down one of those storm-higgle ‘oles. Maybe a big grrrr demon grabbed him by his bum-end!!”
Meradat would not have put it in quite that manner but the girl might have a case in point there. He was about to try and prise some more truth out of her when she suddenly spun on one heel whispered something quite incoherent and rushed at the tree. But five paces away she leapt up at the trunk a distance of her own height and once clutching the bark scrambled upward. For once he was glad of that wretched hexagonal ‘Thing’s’ light as it was illuminating her progress, and more importantly her features had once more become predatory. Only when she had reached the top most slender and swaying branch, did she pause, quite irrespective of any danger and peered westwards. Meradat let her carry on, this was interesting to observe, particularly in relation to the hexagonal ‘Thing’ for both girl and device were reacting to some quite strong events.
There was a distinct whistle of surprise, a whoop of glee and once more she was descending with no thought for caution, and dropping a distance of at least two men’s height to land into her crouch. The comparison to that of a hunting dog hound made complete by panting and her eyes wide with the excitement of a hunt.
“Yeah! Never mind him. Never mind him!” she straightened up, again hands waving “He was nothing but a thin streak of widdle, he was! But I got it now! The new something else! Brewing along the coast it is. Smells all of iron and oil and sea,” she paused, puzzled “And sparks? I never knew sparks had smells? Like bits of salt up yer nose!!”
Meradat had little care either way; he was naturally focused on the location; the west coast and those towns of indiscriminate trading. He glanced at the hexagonal; the pulse was fainter; experimentally he moved to face in the very general direction of the west and coast; and the pulse although still weak managed a glow sufficient to light his hand. Normally a device which responded to one of its own kind, or to some close source of mischief, its current sensitivity had him wondering as to whether the girl was displaying a type of conductivity, passing strength on. As much as he would prefer to meditate on whether placing reliance on such was a sin, transgression or a burden of a necessity; this was not the right occasion. In time and places bereft of clues and willing witnesses, this would have to do; and so by The Lord God’s Will someone’s hand would be shown.
Karlyn leant back against the trunk of the tree and looked to the horizon over which there was a sea. Elinid was a port, a big noisy bustling bad smell of a place and you had to go ten miles in either direction to find a nice patch of sand where you could sit comfy and twiddle your toes in the little beach waves. This place where they was going smelled more like it wanted to keep its sandy beaches. She drew in and savoured the aroma, then wrinkled her nose at the pesky iron and oil wafting on in to spoil the tang. This was exciting! Not some old usual smell-chase! She might have to burn something down! He hadn’t told her she couldn’t burn anything down. Of course he hadn’t said she could either. So it seemed to her she could do as she thought fit.
She scratched at her chest, her nose wrinkled.
Now there was that clean smell again. And now with flowers too! S’nice! Where was that coming from then?
This was going to be fun.
Vengeances were alright, but a girl needed some fun!
She wrinkled her nose once more and scowled. That was a new pong and horrid too! All had been so nice, that she’d only just noticed that she must have trodden in Something, and so kicked off her boots. She’d see to them later. A girl couldn’t chat with moths, taste breezes or read the night sky with stinky boots interrupting.
“Poourgh! Still wafting about,” she complained and so climbed up far beyond a point which others might have thought safe. There, arms locked about the slender trunk, she merged with the rhythm of the swaying with the night breeze. Just her, the tree, the breeze and the sky, she smiled and closed her eyes; the stench was still somewhere, so it was someone up to no good.