Of Patchwork Warriors Part 6

This chapters are a mix of humour; sub-plot concerning a group of enterprising crooks led by the astute ‘Guv’nor’ Master Silc ; action of various sorts concerning the three central characters Trelli, Karlyn and Medician Beritt.

(Feel free to release your inner critic, this is a free-zone)

CHAPTER. SIXTEEN

‘I’m telling you Master Silc whatever it is, it’s not right!’

Old ‘Oily’ Klee had been so long in his craft and trade as a Mechanical that everyone had quite forgotten what his first name was. By appearance he should be seen as a wizened, worn-out, white headed, old fellah, but the sharp eyes, the constant aura of activity and the thick belt holding various screwdrivers, pliers, coils of wire and other instruments of his trade indicated quite the opposite

And anyway, not many people could lean over Silc’s desk knuckles pressed onto the surface and get away with it.

‘Tagburt Myrdle and Jysh Grivens both had narrow dodges when their storages blew the brackets! Karlgeh Whin had a channeller melt before his very eyes!’

Silc got the message none of this was good news, even if the detail was lost on him.

‘Now. Some of this I admit is the risks we take, but three together in one decan? Not right Master Silc. Not right at all!’ he paused to gather breath ‘And that’s not the half of it! Twice our Weather Predictions have badly, very badly gone wrong. The Fisherman’s Guild is giving us severe petulance over the damage done to the herring fleets; the way they’re carrying on, you’d think we caused it. But they pay us well for the forecasts, and they lost five ships in storms off the Southern Bay, where storms had no business being! It was supposed to be soggy over all of Decoryx not all dropping in that one patch of sea!!’

Silc took definite notice; he had his own very important understandings with The Fisherman’s Guild with regards to smuggling.

‘So. Decoryx you say,’ Silc looked passed Klee, calling towards an outer room where several of his men awaited for summoning ‘Oi! Rhoney! Bring me in that coastal map of the Uppers will you?’

In short interlude a young man with the air of one ready to please came rushing in, nodding respectfully to Klee and handing Silc a rolled map.

‘Open it out son, will you?’ came the patient response. The young man eagerly did so.

‘Now then Oily. Where in your opinion do you reckon a fuss might exactly be

coming from?’

‘’Ullo Merk’. Quick question. Has the City Council or Guild of Trade any recent problems of a deoryxish port Prendaelyn? Y’know, swift dealing by them, too sharp undercutting, signs of better bribes than we can offer?’

Merklin Silc slipped into the chair. Younger, slimmer and possessed of either a winning or knowing grin. In the wake of The Red Decan this brother had opted for a political career, his principal weapons being guile, sharp insight for the deal and the appearance of an easy-going nature.

‘Oooh bruv’ now that’s, as we say in Council a moot point. Prendaelyn may look like a fussy little port-town where sailors can only arse-blast with the correct permit, but their Guild of Trade,’ he sucked in breath and shook his head ‘Made themselves big favourites of the prince’s grandad and dad, played very nicely with all the right respectable people in Decoryx, then started setting up networks all along the coast. Rumours are they might be trying to get a toe-hold in our dear sister city,’ he oozed sarcasm ‘Lucher. Ever since that trouble with its three mayors in a year business it’s trade guild is weak,’ Merklin studied his brother ‘You haven’t got strong words that they in Prendaelyn haven’t been trying to push any of the five different sorts of Imperial Investigations into our commerce businesses, have they? Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard such stuff. There would have been rumours about them in playing along with The Custodians, or the Taxation for mutual benefit by making accusations about other towns, cities or guilds,’ Merklin seemed to thinking on his words ‘It’s what I’d do given half-chance,’ one finger raised in warning ‘But you got to be very careful, one wrong step and,’ he pushed his thumb onto the table ‘The imperials will squish you instead,’

His older brother remained silent, lips pursed, Merklin sat and waited. After the Red Decan the survivors had become careful folk; ones to leave things to simmer looking for the right circumstance.

‘It might be Merk. Just saying that’s all. That if this is so, then it might be, just might be this Prendaelyn might have got some trained Jordisk to smooth its work along. Old ‘Oily’ Klee was in here earlier on. S’why I called you. There’s odd stuff going on and he reckons there could be whychery involved, and points a finger right at Prendaelyn. I’ve a mind to send a good mercenary Seek and Snatch crew, apparently, you can trace Jordies and their stuff . See if we can find someone, bring them back here, and make the best of it, either turn them or manufacture confessions. What I’d like you to do is spread some muck about Prendaelyn in advance. Any problem there?’

Merklin took on a wolfish smile

‘Not all. Won’t need much convincing,’

‘Dunno why you don’t run for mayor Merk’’

‘Wot? Me being Chairmain of Civic Ways and Means. Secretary to Fiscal Appointments, and Advisor to Guild of Noteables? Why give up all that power just for big chain and a funny hat?’

‘Course I’ll have to use Jerreli’s ships,’

Merklin’s face clouded.

‘I know Merk. I know. But the lad’s been bending my ear for lunations know because I don’t give him any work,’

‘That’s cause he’s blimpin’ useless bruv! He maybe our nephew. Lyai,Goodlawdgawd rest her soul. But he’s only good fluffin’ up and down the imperial side of the Centrus Sea stealing off fishing boats and pirates worse than him! He’s the one in the family who didn’t get out and about defending the Silc body and bricks during the Red Decan!’

‘Yer, I would have expected him not to be found hiding under a bed. He was ten I suppose,’

‘Norwyn’s twins were only six but they still went at that fellah with knives and forks!!’

‘I can’t have him grumbling anymore. Grumblers are prone to offers from Others, and this is just a ferry job. I’ve short list of very good groups who know the snatch business, and if I can get the top one, who are tuscatalians by the way, then they should be enough to scare him into doing things properly,’

‘Alright bruv’’ Merklin sounded fatalistic ‘I’ll leave that side of things to you, and sort out the civics,’ he mused and his face brightened ‘There might be a way to make a trading profit on this. Of course we’ll need to work slow and steady,’

Thus, happier in his own realm Merklin Silc got up bade his elder brother a good morning and set off.

The elder Silc’s thoughts drifted back to the Red Decan; little folk, the rats of the city had tried to take down the Family Silc, sheer numbers against the Silcs, it had been a close thing, but the little rats had quickly learnt to regret their mistake. As the eldest survivor of the Paternal Line he’d take swift control and carefully built back. And not just relying on the name either; that had been the mistake which led to the Red Decan, not paying attention to any little chancers.  Elinid was now Silc and no mistake. Now for the next move and no one was going to spoil that.

 

Merthyl was feeling somewhat peeved. He had not been surprised that his efforts had summoned up those four creatures. When he had read back over the few volumes he held, it was obvious, to him, that he held a natural talent for this art. The creatures though were of the lower orders with little sense or perception; their craven loyalty to him was useful, being content to inhabit the cavernous underground rooms of the small castle; content to amuse themselves then feed on whoever or whatever he caste down there. As they prospered so did their ability to fly, although he only allowed one at a time out at deep night.

This was all well and good, but the next step was proving to be annoying to achieve. By all rights and rites he should now be able to make some direct contact with one of the more intelligent creatures that lived in the Zerstorung, and yet despite the obviously best and correct effort this was coming to naught. He believed there was something or someone blocking him. At first he had suspected one other member of the Obsidian Council either threatening him or playing at mischief, this notion did not stand up to examination; neither the brutish Silc nor the austere Karutorm displayed any great enthusiasm for the more complex aspects of contacting or using The Zerstorung, Uraxch’s party tricks were not up to such efforts. As for the Mage Hysterical, Merthyl reckoned he would be able to sense the old fool’s incoming babble and outrage. No, this was something new.

He examined the runes caste upon dark red Board of Knowledge; they indicated nothing specific upon the silvered  lines, the many hued shapes the lines made, or the arcane symbols within the shapes. Definitely new.

But he was not done yet, he had other weaponry, with a gloved hand he took a handful of pale emerald dust and scattered it over the board; instead of drifting downwards, it moved to the south and west as if moved by a soft breeze, ending up in one small layer. Carefully Merthyl brushed the layer onto a clean metal plate, covered that with one similar and made his way down to where his creatures awaited him. They were, as was their custom either flapping about the confines or squabbling over bones, all of which stopped when he arrived and they turned to capering beasts eager to please. Merthyl saw this as only natural, after all he had brought them from the Zerstorung, given them form, sustenance and amusement. Now he intended to give them purpose.

‘Come my warriors,’ he called, he was quite pleased that he’d thought of such a title, made them feel as if he personally valued them above others and not as simple devices. He held out the tray ‘Can you trace a scent from this dusts? ‘ the group gathered about shuffling and hoping, then thrusting snouts into the tray inhaling and gabbling amongst themselves.

‘Hagh! Good Master!’ growled the one with the most pronounced canine features and seeming leader ‘You have found prey for us to hunt?’

‘Tell me what you know?’ urged Merthyl ‘Show me your worth!’

‘Creatures of flesh, bearing fire and metal. Bold. Bold. They bar the way to softer meat and make barriers,’

‘We find them!’ cried out another clawing and beating at the air; at once this was taken up by its three companions, the sound rising to a clamouring ragged chant, each in its excitement rising as the tempo of its wings increased.

To Merthyl it was quite obvious that he was now in tune with the forces seeping through from The Zerstorung and bringing them slowly under his own control. No doubt his years spent in practicing and finessing the arts of cruelty into an art form had also made him adept at the skill of harnessing that which others only dreamed of. Smiling, he led his four to the door, to the tunnel from which they were usually allowed to use only at night.

‘Once loose,’ he told the eager band ‘Fly fast and high, then once you have traced these who would dare, swoop down, and have you fill!’

And as he expected like the good faithful hounds they were they did as told. Although he had to admit the speed of their ascent until they were but dots in the sky was quite surprising. It would have been rather interesting if he’d had the confidence for them to capture and bring back these characters, but that might be too complicated and could draw attention from folk he had yet to evaluate. You should not give way to too much, too soon. After all, this was better than he had initially expected.

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Karlyn was maintaining what she thought was a thoughtful silence. She’d told Meradat that the bees were very confused and she’d encountered a few very cross butterflies. She was now looking at the clouds, trying to make out which way they were actually going, never mind the way the wind was blowing, because that didn’t count. She wished that the Meradat would stop looking at her in that hound peering way; it wasn’t her fault that the Time was all skewiffed.

And she still reckoned that they should have burnt that wobbler back in Lump-Town.

Meradat had accepted the girl’s observations concerning Time. In his dealings with the Stommigheid and the Jordisk he had learnt and experienced enough to know what might be plausible. So despite her obvious volatility and intent to infuriate or intimidate she was showing a potential for doing some good, even if she was not aware she was. Keeping her under control was going to be the principal problem.

 

Migran had not previously endeavoured to have his oculator work at such an intense level, each gem set to its limit, but he would prove to Trelli. He would. By Ven of Numbers he would!!

 

Frib! There’s that damn particular hue!!

‘Sergeant Erzns,’

Beritt had correctly estimated she had not earned the right to call him ‘Sarge’; hence her very precise but respectful tones.

‘Medician,’

Even if his response was his signature grim and also indicating for disapproval at the messing up the balance of his file, it was better than having to put up with the claims to injuries and could she kiss ‘em better of which troopers Norvan, Trex and Dell just did not weary of.

Three days of very trying journeying but thanks to Poseydale she was finally used to getting to balance the oculartragen while riding. Captain Dekyria had been most insistent that she scan the locality for anything untoward every three thousand and report to him. He was obsessed the time, kept questions about her notion of what part of the day, or night. Of course this meant much broken sleep, a great deal trying to get the colour and shape right to form the signals, trying to read the code book correctly even in the dark and after all that fribbin’ about she ended up getting replies which indicated nothing except that he would be in contact. She reckoned by the time all this was over she’d have a fayre inclining about what the anguish of Confusions inflicted in the Second Hell.

 

But this time, she saw a hue about the all the colours; in the form of a thin line of orange which slithered into the sort of green wounds turned before she had to saw someone’s leg off.

‘I’m seeing one of those hues I was warned about!’

Erzns being as wise in matters of the Astatheia as Beritt swung his mount about rode alongside her and peered at the screen, when he spoke he was calm and strangely affable.

‘Do you know where?’

Beritt ruffled through the code book, peered back and forth between it and the screen, and very glad it was still daylight.

‘According to the code book, not more than a thousand at the fast trot,’

‘Alert Captain Dekyria now. Don’t hurry yourself. Get the report right,’

By now there was a huddle of troopers, their concerned expressions giving her the luxury of a brief smugness.

 

Karlyn was sure that cloud was going the wrong way; she sat straight in the saddle to sniff the air, her nose wrinkling up in disgust,

‘Blurgh!! There’s ripe splosh-pit somewhere! Yurgggg!!’

Meradat could smell nothing in particular to account for the girl’s agitation, now causing her to turn from one direction rapidly, to another while she scratched frantically at her thumbs with index fingers, alarm spreading across her face twisting her features into wide-eyed and teeth-barred ire.

The horses grew agitated, both riders more accustomed to being foot-solid dismounted, hauling off packs of their choices

‘Scraith! They!-they!’

A sudden sharp creak upon a branch of the wayside trees, followed by another and another. Meradat aware of the thick, slow slap of flesh upon flesh, looked up to see four shapes perched above them, large bat-like wings slowly folding. Slack jowled human faces stretched by dogs snouts and elongated ears, fever-yellow eyes bright with cruelty.

‘Live meat and souls’ one croaked deep and malicious, ending in a paradoxical high pitched laugh.

‘A fine time for feasting,’ added another and raising one leg, voided a stream of thick and foul excrement, in Karlyn’s direction, causing her leap backwards, while screaming in angry fear.

‘A female,’ breathed the third and standing tall revealed extended male organs beneath folds of flesh landscaped with ruin. ‘The feasting will wait,’

 

Merthyl had brought out a scrying dish which he had stolen form The Manse, and was busy with an incantation which was intended to allow him to view the progress of his pack, when he was assailed by a sudden sensation of falling, had caused him to clutch at the arms of his chair, gasping for breath quite at a loss to understand, his eyes flooding with tears; clearing abruptly to look into…

A wood, from four slightly different positions, down upon a tall thick set man in the ugly dark tunic and robe of one of those wretched Custodians. He was drawing a very unsubtle axe. Merthyl was trying to focus, assuming he was seeing through four set of eyes, when another figure almost danced into his view; a rather slender creature he might have thought a city urchin but that they were rather tall for that sort. Neither of them seemed the least bit afraid, defiant, and for one spasm of time Merthyl thought the slender being was looking at him; at which juncture he realised this was a girl as did his pack, whose intentions with her he did not need to wonder about. Sitting back and gathering his sense he prepared to enjoy the show.

 

Meradat was slightly satisfied with the girl having the sense to close ranks as she drew a long and clean slightly serrated blade of a knife and positioned back to back with him. Although he would have preferred prayers to the muttering of curses and oaths.

There was more of the thick slapping sounds as another one of the creatures alighted upon nearby trees, obviously all ready to enjoy the anticipation of the horrors they were about to inflict.

‘That was the pong then!’ she said ‘Where the scraith?’

‘Zerstorung,’ he replied ‘They are not calling out a name. They must have strayed into through a rupture between the worlds, no doubt caused by that meddler,’

‘So what do we do?’

Meradat picked up his axe settling it tight in both hands

‘Rely on the Lord God for our strength and forbearance,’ he said ending his words in a soft low chant.

‘That’s the knobbling death hymn!’ she objected.

‘One must always be ready,’

‘Oh dongers to that!’ she dropped into a crouched, one hand beckoning at the creatures, forcing herself to smile ‘C’mon if you think you’re hard enough!’ she chanted at them.

Meradat had been ready to explain to her that he was conducting a pronouncement of fortitude, preparation for death being a requirement. If all had gone well a slight and temporary but nonetheless effective barrier brought by his faith would have offered some protection to him and the girl and injury to the creatures. This might have eased the odds slightly, but that was all supposition as with a collective screech the fel things spread wings and descended, taloned feet and clawed hands eagerly outstretched.

‘’Ware your face!’ Meradat warned, diving to his left and dropping; a pair of filthy limbs brushing through his hair, a swift glance revealed a pair had landed close in front, beginning to advance, slowly, unevenly and bunching, allowing him the time to scramble up into a crouch. From there he hurled himself forward, hands gripped to his axe as he swung the weapon backwards, then pivoted on one foot whirled the blade towards his assailants. One took to the air with a mocking screech, but the other let out a howl of pain as the axe ripped across one limb, an odorous sickly green ochre spilling froth.

 

Merthyl winced in surprise. He had felt that!

 

Karlyn, badly pressed by the other two had been dodging with all of her street honed skills from one grasping claw to another. She caught sight of wounding and found time to grin. One of her attackers hopped and landed before her with a screech, which annoyed rather than scared her, so anger fuelled she brought her knife blade down into its foot, through flesh and bone and into the ground beneath, pinning the beast. At once a smouldering began about the wound, thick oily smoke and flickering of flame following. The creature shriek of pain gave way to a series of yelps of terror, wings flapping in panic as it scrabbled to try and free itself from the purveyor of the sudden incineration.

‘Shit yourself away of my lovely roasting knife!’ she cried, diving to the right to avoid the grasp of its comrade, then thrusting her right hand into a pocket pulled out a small oiled bag. She, danced back from the one assailant, tore at the bag with her teeth, spitting quickly, and then dashing forwards under clumsy failing claws slammed the ripped packet upon the injured limb, its powdery contents spilling out. At once there was a sizzling, and the smell of burning detritus, swiftly followed by a burst of flame, which travelled up the things’ limb flames licking upon the tips of the wings, Karlyn rolling away whooped in savage glee ‘Ooh you bright little fosfer powders!! Give it a roasting!!’

 

By now Merthyl had fallen from his chair in the shock of the pain from blade and flame, curled upon the floor, grasping and clawing the air. The visions were now no more than fire coloured flare of pain, mixed with oil think smoke.

 

The one wounded by Meradat, howling and leaking its essence had flapped to a nearby tree. the other much alarmed by the sight of one of their own threshing and burning gradually tuning into wholly into a thing of oily flame and smoke joined its colleague and together they huddled and temporarily uncertain of their next action. Karlyn stumbled and chortled her way to Meradat who having wiped his blade upon the grass was now once more couched ready for the next assault.

‘Them’s easy!’ she gasped in heady victory.

‘What were you using this time?’ was the stern demand.

‘Not giving away my secrets,’ was the smug reply.

It was at this stage the one wounded by Meradat whimpered and tumbled from the tree, completely empty of life.

‘Bled to death from that weedy wound!’ the girl cried ‘Oh this is gonna be fun!’

‘There are still two of them,  cautious now,’ warned Meradat and gesturing to the one pinned and burning now a writhing screeching mess of wings and limbs. ‘And that one is as unpredictable as a pack of mad dogs,’

As if to support his point of view the thing gave vent to screech which caused Karlyn to slap her fingers to her ears; the beast with a frantic flapping of its wings broke for the sky tearing loose from the burning foot, and trailing a stream of the vile ochre. Uncertain in its motion it still set a baleful glare upon Karlyn and pointing one clawed finger at her gabbled a stream of incomprehensible stuff which she took to be uncomplimentary and the precursor to a maddened attack.

To see it twist and tumble to the ground a pile of burning offal leaving the others to seem to rally for another attack when there came sudden shrill sounds overhead, faint metallic glows marking some sort of passage, ending in explosive impacts upon each of the creatures, tearing their bodies and scattering debris over the area.

 

One white and steel coloured flash and the sudden scent of a furnace and Merthyl was free of pain, left panting for breath, and terrified.

 

In this unexpected violence Both Meradat and Karlyn had part dove, part been knocked to the ground; she was the first to look up

‘And now there are none of them left. All blowed up now,’ she turned to Meradat current engaged in sitting up and brushing fragments of the wayside from his clothing ‘Did you cause all that to happen with a really big pray?’

‘No,’ she couldn’t understand why he sounded displeased. Maybe custodians didn’t like to be rescued, made them feel not fearsome enough ‘This was another agency. I daresay they will make their presence known soon enough,’

He then began to rummage amongst the bodily remains, scowling, kicking a part with his boot here grunting, crouching at any piece there, poking it with a stick and muttering, quite deaf to Karlyn’s loud complaint that the horses had gone.

When her initial outrage died down she supposed it would make sense, as the poor things would have been scared witless by those nasty creatures. Next, when another wave of composure washed over her, she wondered just who had fired what and why. Starting to shiver, and not wanting to admit an aftermath of fear or danger of losing the benefit of her last meal she made herself active stepping carefully away from most of the foul waste and carefully puling free her knife. At once beginning to clean it, administrating from a small clay bottle an astringent liquid and using a very rough rag.

‘Uh! Degenerated humans!’ Meradat said ‘No wonder we had this easy! Foolish wretches lapsing into sinful blasphemous ways and sucked into the maw of the Zerstorung to receive just punishment in being absorbed into its vile ranks. They either took advantage of a rending in the barriers, or were summoned here by some wretch,’

‘I thought I saw a face on one of them before it burnt away. Sort of youngish, all twisted up of course,’

Meradat did not look surprised, just thoughtful.

‘Regrettably we have no time to discuss that now, we shall soon have visitors. So be quick and tell me about the burnings you affected,’

‘Fosfor,’ she said simply ‘S’ stuff that burns when you slap it on someone, all their sweat and stuff starts it off, an’ it feeds and feeds so it does. The knife’s teeth has it rubbed in y’see,’

‘You tore open a packet with your teeth! Why did you not burn!’ suspicions rising.

‘ Ah, that’s like those comets. Safety and speed. That’s the trick, two layers on bagging, you tear open the stronger one, then holding onto its remains slap hard, and the second bag ruptures,’

‘Seems uncommonly dangerous,’

‘Yeh,’ she drawled, her grin unhinged.

‘Foolishness is a sin Karlyn Nan-’

He stopped; the sound of horses from the fields, in steady approach signifying riders.

He turned to Karlyn one finger raised in warning.

‘When they arrive, say nothing unless I tell you to,’

‘Who? They the ones what blewed them beasties up?’

‘Say nothing,’ he repeated.

For someone as turbulent as Karlyn this was a bit of a challenge; there again she was experiencing a wave of curiosity over the whos, whys and what-have-yous of the approaching party.

 

Seven riders approached from the cover of another tree line, two leading Meradat and Karlyn’s horses; their garbs were the variety of tough practical travel worn types, each wearing headgear of some sort. Apart from the smallest of the number who was hunched forward, the others held weapons the length of throwing javelins although twice as thick, where a metal point should be was a small oblong, rounded at each end. At the opposite location, a box shape, the top of which catching the sun’s light betrayed the glinting of four separate jewels, the fingers of one hand of each rider not far away.

Meradat stiffened, his grip tightening about his axe at the confirmation of Stommigheid usage. Apart from that small one, the others seemed accustomed to scowls of disapproval. Their leader moved closer, a gaunt, stubbled faced man surveying Meradat with a thoughtful gaze, which settled on the custodian’s chest.

‘Your Diligence,’ he greeted the custodian with the customary correct honorific followed by a casual gesture at the badge of office hanging loose from his coat ‘It seems you’ve had something of a nasty event,’ he glanced back, five of the riders continued to survey the area, a small one in the centre was hunched over something set upon the saddle.

‘All clear of evil Sergeant!’ the latter pipped up, evidently relieved.

‘You are not in the usual uniform, but I would believe by your efficiency poise and access to questionable weaponry that you are of the LifeGuard regiment. Also, you are here for some particular reason,’

The last was a definite statement.

‘Sergeant Erzns,’ came the stony reply ‘Beyond that Your Diligence, I am not authorised to further information,’

The custodian assumed the rest to be all troopers because apart from the small one, there was lack of any display of respect. The LifeGuard were notoriously difficult to intimidate. You could bribe the occasional trooper, but Meradat could foresee a communication with an officer to get this group to divert from their current course. As with Karlyn, he would have to bide his time, only in this case in hundreds rather than days.

One man with a friendly grin leant over his horse and whistling softly looked at the debris, his sing-song kymric accent lightening the mood.

‘Not nice at all, see. No one said anything about beasties directly did they sarge?’ he turned to Meradat ‘Pardon me your Diligence, but do you think you attracted them like? Just asking, that’s all,’

‘These fel things arrived through the meddling of others,’ Meradat pronounced ‘It is my duty to hunt this miscreant down,’ he set his attention on Erzns, the hundreds were running out ‘You may well have to consider the authority vested in my rank by The Sacred Edict of Laheldae, Year of Remorse 275 to summon all-’

‘-Available resource to your purpose,’ Erzns concluded for him ‘I am aware of the edict Your Diligence,’

At this juncture Karlyn let out with a sudden high whimper and one leg gave way causing her to tumble, knocking her face against a tree, in turn releasing a burst of language that at least one trooper seemed impressed by. The smallest of the group, secured whatever they had been lurking over, and slipped from their saddle, hauled off a sizeable oblong leather sack from their saddle and ran over to Karlyn.

‘Me ankle,’ she wailed ‘Hurts sudden like scraith,’

The trooper knelt by her, picked up Karlyn’s foot, placed it on their knee and without comment began to ease off Karlyn’s boot, Karlyn was about to pass comment when they looked up at her, displaying a face, small, round and as far as Karlyn was concerned far too dam’ pretty by half; stray wisps of blonde hair making the whole sort of  perfect, for a solider anyhow.

‘What-cha?’ she began, as her boots and sock were drawn off and fingers lightly ran over the swollen area.

‘Medician Beritt,’ the young woman said ‘Nasty little sprain, must have come down heavy. Been fighting then?’

‘Naw,’ came the sour retort ‘I was skipping ‘round the daisies when I tripped over a toadstool,’

Beritt shrugged; there were always the tetchy ones.

‘It happens,’ she said, infuriatingly affable, then stopped eyes narrowing on a growing dark stain along the left leg of Karlyn’s trousers. ‘Hey! Open wound!! C’mon, out of sight of these eager dogs, I want to look at that,’ she pointed, Karlyn’s eyes widened ‘It’s a nasty little beast planning on being dangerous,’

And despite the disparity in sizes she lifted Karlyn up, swung one of the injured girl’s arm around her own shoulder and dragged her off into the cover of the trees.

‘If y’all lucky missy, she’ll kiss it better for you!’ someone called after the duo.

‘Never mind,’ Beritt warned to a curious Karlyn.

 

First there was a stinging astringent, followed by a pungent salve and finally a bandage expertly administered around the leg wound, accompanied by a gruesome lecture about fatal blood losses, then Karlyn was obliged to sit still without her trousers while something equally smelly but cooling was applied to her ankle and then another bandage wrapped tightly about it.

‘Going to have to watch that wound for possible late poisons and suchwhichs, and need to change the bandage on the foot regularly too,’

Karlyn’s nose twitched; the stinky from the spikies was clearing, and suddenly she could smell, Clean, and Flowers!…with a touch of oil. She goggled at the small soldier, head down at their business. Oh. This is gonna be interesting. But keep it to yerself for the presently, these are funny ol’ times.

‘Well thanks Flaxi,’ Karlyn said casually on pulling up her trousers ‘Just tell me how it’s done and I promise to be good,’

Beritt frowned, she’d been called more insulting or denigrating things than ‘Flaxi’, that was not the issue.

‘It’s not as simple as that,’ she cleared her throat, time to cite the texts ‘A wound incurred in the proximity of a fel creature must be subject to qualified medical supervision, lest extreme infections or possible possessions take place,’

Karlyn screwed up her face and sniffed

‘I gotta custodian with me,’ she said primly.

Beritt shrugged.

‘Well I’ll have to exam him for wounds too,’

‘I’d like to see you try,’

‘He’s got no option,’ she cleared her throat ‘Edict of Jurghen in the year 237, On Precautions and Exclusions of Evils,’ she looked back to the general area of where the men might be ‘Custodians wrote it…annnddd,’ she drawled out ‘When LifeGuards and Custodians meet there is a very strong chance that the Lifeguards whether they like or not will end up trailing in the custodian’s holy presences,’ another shrug ‘Or so I been told,’ a bright irreverent smile that Karlyn liked ‘So he’s stuck with me nagging him about Year 237. Anyhows I think he’s set upon having us trail along so your stuck with me!!’

‘Medician Beritt!’

Both women started at the swift and sharp summons, Beritt recovered with a weak grin and a scramble to her feet

‘And that introduces me! Medician Arketre Beritt! And is Sergeant Erzns sounding very unhappy. Which means I’ve got other work to do,’

‘He’s got wounded too?’ Karlyn asked.

‘Only his sensibilities. No, I got lumbered with a clunky thing that communicates over long distances, and I can’t tell you anymore. Yet, I suppose,’

‘Oooh secrets!’ she trilled ‘I’m Karlyn Nahtinee, and have been chosen by Custodian Meradat to help him track down some Jordy wobbler. As you can see, whoever they are they’s causing all sort of problems!! And you work with devices too I thought I could smell oil on you,’

Beritt decided any questions she might have on that score would have to wait.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

Somewhen following Karlyn and Beritt’s meeting…

 

Trelli was sitting up, gasping and wondering if she had really screamed or whether the sound had only been in the dreadful nightmare. A hideous midnight scene of ugly flapping creatures cackling obscene threats. Leering at her. Then thrusting into her face their own features; twisted versions of men. She had threshed, begged for help, stumbled, felt the thick flap of bat-like wings upon her head, knew she was doomed unto a hell, when there were sudden eruptions of noises, then screams as thick bloody stuff fell upon her, she trying to scrambling away.

Into the blessed familiar shadows and shapes of her room.

As the soothing sound of the night-time sea swept away the memories and brought her into the comfort of the reality of a simple, cold night, fear gave way to relief. But things kept disturbing her sleep and there was precious little of it anyway.

The thought of which nudged her into crossness.

Which in turn set a certain clarity of perception into her head. What or who else would be giving her cause to have such nightmares? She couldn’t say how, but she just knew it! She spifflin’ well knew it!!

‘Ooooh you! You!!’ she muttered as she slithered out of bed, pulling on her coat against the chill. She was going to box Migran’s ears she was! Enough was enough!!

 

‘Migran!’ she hissed tapping his door ‘I know what you’re up to in there! Now stop it at once!!’

It says much for the purity of Trelli’s heart and the fire of her anger that it never occurred to her, not for one heart-beat, of this being a most unfortunate statement to make outside of a young man’s room at night time. Migran was taken aback and a’feared that a latent ability to see through doors had suddenly blossomed in Trelli. Composing himself and also wrapping on a coat, he stumbled to the door.

‘Trelli! Go back to bed! This is most……improper!’

‘No! You’re doing things you’re not supposed to! And they’re affecting my sleep! Great looming things in my face!!’

Migran’s initial agitation vanished, puzzled, somewhat he carefully eased a crack in the doorway; at once her face filled the gap.

‘Now you just open this door!!’ she ordered.

It says much for his own confusion that in turn it did not occur to him, not for one heart-beat that young men all over the town were dreaming of such invitations.  Whereas in his case puzzlement growing into bafflement, which made him ready to do as she commanded.

And was nearly toppled over as Trelli entered by means of shoulder.

‘I asked you not to be doing this!’ she was saying, to which he was about to ask for clarification, when she spun on her heels towards the slight glow upon the screen.

‘There!’ she announced with triumph ‘Knew it!! You’ve been fiddling again!!’

His thoughts were mixed between the sincere hope this conversation was not reaching the ears of his parents, albeit at the other side of the house. He was sure he’d switched it off after that last success in probing new distances. On reflection, he knew he had switched it off. So here was the sudden realisation that his device was coming into life on its own. He looked to Trelli. He looked to the brightening screen. He looked back to her.

‘Not with- I mean I had set the device to be inert. It shouldn’t, cannot become alert by itself,’

Trelli sniffed with all the superiority anyone of the fairer sex can bring to a situation of male haplessness.

‘Well it doesn’t seem to have listened to you has it now?’

He moved around her and sat at the desk, moving fingers over the jewels. His mind catching up with all of her accusations.

‘Dreams? What dreams?’

‘Horrible monsters!’ she said ‘And I knew it was all to do with your dabblings with forbidden stuffs!’

‘How did you know?’ he asked, feeling a bit more confident as the screen soothed by his administrations settled into a soft pale blue background light

For herself Trelli stopped being confident and resorted open-handed waving of her hands.

‘I don’t know! I just did!’

His eyes widened, and he swivelled his chair so he faced her, studying her with much interest.

‘Empathetic- ‘he began, interrupted by Trelli’s slight gasp and her spinning about her back to him.

‘Master Migran,’ she began formally ‘Will you tighten that coat up please.  This is the second time you’ve been forward! Don’t give me an easier cause for complaint to your father and mother !!’

In the excitement Migran had been quite unaware of the malfunction of his attire, so with babbling apologies did as he was told, followed by an action which would have surprised many a young man, he shooed Trelli towards the door; she having had far too many shocks and surprises for one young woman in one night did not resist.

‘We’ll talk about this in daylight!’ he urged.

‘Well you just put that away!!’ she retorted and fled.

Leaving him not too sure just what she had exactly been referring to. Aside from matters Ethereal, there was this unfortunate occurrence in relation to ‘his’ and Trelli,

He glanced back at the device, idly gnawing on his thumb. Spontaneous activation? Empathetic resolution?

This was exciting stuff! Trelli with his machine could break barriers!

There was no time for sleep, or anything else for that matter; he tided away his copy of ‘The Lustful Revenge of the Scorn’d Princess N’Y Hishleal of Old Roder’ and set to work…

 

At the persistent buzzing from the oculartragen Beritt awoke and at once felt a sudden affinity with housemaids and maidservants all across the realm. One of the Good Lord God’s given rights of soldiers was to complain about anything to hand. Over the past lunation or so Beritt had been indulging this. Did no one do anything important in the daylight these days?

On the previous night after Custodian Meradat had insisted on everyone listening to his version of what they had already been ordered to do. Then while the girl Karlyn got to sit about the campfire with the file swap jokes, ribald remarks and improbable yarns,  Beritt had been stuck with listening to both the custodian and Erzns. So after the custodian, had gone through a quick ceremony of Hopeful Purification over the oculartragen, he and Erzns had agreed the messages should be minimal and prompt, but carried out in secrecy. The result being settled against a tree Beritt had set about the long and bothersome intricacies of despatching a detailed report of events to back to Captain Dekyria and the unavoidable request for permission to accept a custodian as commander. She was obliged to work by a moonlight made variable by skittering clouds, sourly thinking herself lucky they’d not expected her to put a blanket over her head to cover the dim glow of the device.

Of course Dekyria had then kept her way past snoring time with a whole host of questions which Beritt reckoned were selected for the need to supply difficultly constructed responses.

And now the blasted thing was starting off again. What now?

‘Hi Flaxi! Thanks for the ministrations!’

Beritt had thought it the wind through the branches, but when the upside down face appeared, she discerned the noise was all down to the young woman she’d patched up earlier.

‘What the frib’ you doing up a tree, with a nasty sprain to your foot?’

‘You must be very good at your healing stuff ‘cos it’s all better!!’

Beritt had to admit that someone swinging from a tree by the crook of her legs was unmistakeable evidence of recovery. Interesting. Must be more lithe and athletically healthy than first thought. The long beaming face swung closer.

‘You like trees then?’ Beritt asked, feeling just a smidge uncomfortable as the girl blew at her fringe

In her two years, three lunations, one decan and nine days in the LifeGuard Beritt had a sufficient experience with the eccentric and disturbed. Since this one frowned at her unruffled question, Beritt concluded here was a girl that simply liked to unsettle people. And judging by the way she alighted in a deft drop and roll, also somewhat athletic. Damn! I must have been on good form when I bandaged that ankle up!

‘Yeh! Trees is safe, no one can sneak up on you when you’s perched high. And their friendly too,’ she made cradling motions with her arms ‘Hold you snug and secure, if you know the branches. And they’re great places to sniff out what’s going on in the stormhiggle,’

‘Stommigheid?’

‘Yeh that!’ the girl shuffled over to Beritt, and hunched up, hands around knees. ‘You do the fiddling with dire devices then?’ the question being accompanied by a mock hideous face.

‘Yes, that I am. Medician and currently in my spare time working at Assessment and Evaluation. And that’s all I can say,’

Beritt returned to scowling at the mirror’d screen, then became aware of the reflection of a wide-eyed inquisitive Karlyn peering by leaning on her shoulder and pointing

‘What’s them squiggles mean then?’

Beritt was about to make a terse statement to the effect that she was not very sure when there came a summoning from Erzns. He was standing of course with the custodian.

Realising that whether she liked it or not Karlyn was in her wake, definitely none the worse for her previous day’s injury, or so it seemed. Beritt approached, saluting, slight bow to the custodian. Erzns of course did the initial questioning.

‘Reported in medician?’

‘Yes Sergeant. During the commencement of the Deep Night Watch. No reply though,’

‘She’s got the squiggles though,’ Karlyn volunteered, Beritt noted Trex and Norvan just would have had to have heard that, wouldn’t they? ‘There were these four like circles of light,’ extravagant finger gestures began. ‘And then they went into all sorts of skinny oddly lines, some tangled, some dancing about,’ the gestures continued after the words ceased, since no one was replying she felt inclined to add ‘Very pretty they were too,’

‘From what I was told, I think it was some sort of interference caused by rogue Astatheia,’ Beritt then turned to Karlyn ‘Stormhiggle,’ she said, pointedly; the effort was wasted.

Meradat stepped forward, despite the four handspan difference in height Beritt did not feel loomed over, just seriously addressed

‘And Medician Beritt, just what is your assessment?’

‘Err…my assessment Your Diligence?’

‘Yes, Medician Beritt. The Lord God has passed this burden unto you. It is your duty to honour Him with your response,’

‘Oh,’ Beritt hated it when several people looked at her, unless she was up to her wrists in gore, then she didn’t care ‘Well, I suppose, because this is not the usual patterns and codes, then I am guessing we might be closer to whatever we’re looking for and it’s up to…errr..something?’

Meradat nodded and then directed his attention at Karlyn, who was more concerned with the overhead passage of a moth, until Beritt nudged her in the ribs.

‘Custodian’s looking at you,’ Beritt said

‘Thank you Medician,’ he said

‘Ass-sniffer,’ Karlyn joshed; to Beritt.

‘Clear you mind of impurities young woman!’ he announced, ‘In view of the circumstance of the conjoint nature of this task, you will now need a title, so that the LifeGuard may address you properly,’

The term ‘squirrel-head’ occurred to Beritt, but since no one was asking her initial medical assessment of the girl’s statement of mind, she kept it to herself.

Meradat meanwhile made a solemn passage of his right hand from the centre of Karlyn’s temple to her brow, then splayed index and middle fingers in opposite directions.

‘As instrument willing of the Lord God, I entitle you Tildelte Nahtinee,’

‘’Til what, who when?’

Beritt ‘tutted’

‘It’s an ancient northern word for ‘alloted’. Means the Good Lord God has set you a task,’ Meradat looked quizzically at her ‘I was a novice devoted in a Libratery for two years, before being selected by The LifeGuard under the Morgevan Convention,’ he made further sounds of approval then took Karlyn’s right hand and placed in it a small staff-shaped iron medallion.

‘Wear this in realisation of the journey you must take in The Lord God’s purpose. And The Lord God remain with you medician,’ he added. Karlyn made obvious comic sniffing sounds but was led away by the custodian for further instruction in the solemn procedure of her duties.

‘Well you got him on our side medician,’

‘Thank you sergeant. But I don’t suppose that’s of much comfort, is it?’

‘Not on this jaunt medician. Not on this jaunt,’

 

Of Patchwork Warriors Episode 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Musings

Best advice for anyone starting out writing SF or Fantasy

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

In my experience, writing about the fantastic is predicated on a willingness to dive into the unknown.  Few things are as thrilling as channeling unfamiliar concepts and worlds through my mind.  While I humble myself by openly admitting “I don’t know,” I embolden myself by saying, “I’m willing to try.”

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Of Patchwork Warriors Part 5

One thing about Fantasy Novels, you have to have the Nasty- here he is

CHAPTER TWELVE

Merthyl was naturally pleased with the smell of cooked meat. Let the boors fill their dungeons with the stench of burning, where was the amusement in such bludgeoning haste? And more importantly, these days, what sort of gain did you get from a sudden ragged scream and a lot of blubbering. No far better to build up the horror and agony, slowly, while explaining to the subject the full weight of the circumstance; the intention, the reasoning and of course the indulgent pleasure of seeing them realise they had been betrayed.

This had not been the first time he had employed the angelic featured golden haired child whose slightly open mouth and wide pale blue eyes gave an impression of wondrous innocence. She was particularly expert at producing large tears and heart-felt sobbing pleas for mercy; these being meat and drink to the delights to those of his circle whose bent was towards the kidnapping and ruination of children.

And they fell for the little monster every time.

Merthyl’s patches of territories could be located across the central belt of the Oakhostian, and in one upon a summer’s day out in the woods hunting for maid to abduct he had come across this child cheerfully nailing a living rabbit to a tree. She had told him with a sunny disposition she enjoyed the noises dying animals made. After a rather macabre conversation with the child Merthyl had asked her if she would like to earn some money, producing a long needle from under her sleeve and threatening him she said she would not do things grown-up girls did. Merthyl was quite charmed and explained she would only be bait for men who deserved nasty deaths. She had giggled, only disappointed he would not let her join in, as yet.

Naturally many of his collection of followers were wary of an invitation to spend time with him alone, but with such a tempting offer how could some depraved men resist, and they were the material he needed. Slavering and laughing over the child they were easy targets for a narcotic laced dagger. He supposed he could have found a simpler way to abduct such material, but, again where was the fun in that?

And of late he had realised there would have to be enterprise mixed in with his entertainment.

 

Initially he had found his way to the Obsidian Council through contact with Uraxch; there appeared to have been a loss of two others through carelessness with the Zerstorung and new outlooks were required. At first it was enough to just advise Belacheli on new ways to cause suffering to those the mage planned upon sacrificing, learn some tricks and with Uraxch’s aid find murky little secrets amongst some powerful families just in case his own family name was not sufficient to protect him. And for that year the whole business had been another means of easy adventuring. Then first the vulgar, thuggish Silc had arrived, bringing with him Grand Duke Karutorm, who was at least nobility. They had brought a dynamism and a direction which had excited Belacheli into more extravagant efforts. Merthyl had concluded he should be extending his knowledge, just in case opportunities or necessity required it. Whereas Belacheli fawned, worship, grovelled and so forth before the Zerstorung, Merthyl was intent upon meeting it and equal terms. He was no one’s servant. And he reasoned despite all their much-vaunted reputations had any of these apparent Lords of the Zerstorung ever pierced the walls between the realms? They needed someone with zest and imagination to aid their endeavours, someone who would allow them certain degree of access and opportunity which he could exploit to his own. He had learnt through his own trial and error that basically as he understood things, the creatures of The Zerstorung responded to those who could enact terror, pain and anguish with a purpose. In order to communicate he had managed to obtain some credible works; for Belacheli would never let anyone see his own collection; Merthyl suspecting they were replete with a great deal of bowing and scraping anyway.

He trusted, this time, his efforts would have granted him some attention from these Zerstorung beings. He had applied a mix of comic comments, and mockery of the dying man who had one trusted him as much as anyone did of Merthyl. The fellow had been secured to the well-designed turning spit by silver chains and above the best of roasting trays to catch the juices and delay the whole process. Then the correct use of incantations at regular intervals. The whole taking place before a squat ornately carved dark bronze effigy of traditional grinning demonic visage which as far as Merthyl knew was supposed to be a means of contact into the Zerstorung.

Now that all the screaming, pleading and cursing was over he treated himself to a long glass of vintage wine and prodded with corpse with a knife; as far as a meal the fellow was somewhat underdone, but the death had been exquisite.

Merthyl waited.

He did expect results rather than simple exultation this time.

And had to sit down to catch his breath, which he had preferred not to have the time to do, results should have been quicker.

He would, naturally, leave the remains cook a little longer.

Only to feel a twinge of concern that the faint wisps of smoke that suggested the body might be burning, which would not do, as he did intend to serve up choice cuts with a salad.

However he noted with a jab of excitement the wisps gathering together, twisting in agitation. They thickened into a line of dirt grey which in began to expand, until within its unsettled borders appeared another line, one of writhing viridian and yellow shot through with dark red. This began its own growth, until Merthyl was looking upon a landscape in torment, a plain from which by gouts of flames burst consuming or rending whatever had been above or above them. Things moved in the distance, some loomed close; there may have been purpose to their actions, until they were taken by the roaring incendiary or confronted by some other shuffling, striding or scuttling thing. All beneath a night sky that being devoid of stars was illuminated by flashes and explosions of light, the origins of which were obscure to Merthyl.

The vista was blocked by something.

Merthyl used to and often responsible for the devastation which could be wrought upon human features made out two eyes, although nowhere near aligned, and a maw which showed variations of the formation of teeth. Other than these focal points the sludge coloured face appeared to have suffered a melting reminiscent of wax. Groaning noises, approximating words emanated from the maw and the eyes fixed upon him an expression of horror, at each side of the face appeared stubbed projections which resembled paws, thick blunted nails scratching at the edges of the apertures onto the disordered land.

His experiences of the results of abuse upon the human form indicated to Merthyl that there was some sort of pleading taking place and a possible opportunity was presenting itself, just what sort he couldn’t say, but if nothing else there would be experience. After all his previous actions had rent apart this small portion of the barrier between the worlds, so one could only advance.

With a confidence forged from arrogance he stepped back and bade the creature to enter. He concluded he had been quite successful in his actions, obviously, all of his studying of Belacheli had been worthwhile and he evidently, he assured himself, had an instinctive grasp of these powers.

The form slithered, with much discomfort over the edge and fell with much gasping to the floor, no sooner had this taken place than another appeared, the face long to the point that Merthyl wondered if it was actually dripping away, the eyes almost at opposite sides of the head swivelled, apparently satisfied it was safe the creature made a similar unformed progress ending upon close to its comrade.

Merthyl ended up with four of the warped creatures floundering upon his floor seeming as helpless as caught fish. He was beginning to feel disappointed, when the first fixed one eye upon him.

“Ffoooood,” it groaned.

Another with a bulbous head burbled a noise to Merthyl which he guessed was an explanation of something.

“Mmmeee-th!” gasped the long faced one.

The last one, which was judging by the shortness of limbs was possibly devolving to a worm simply threshed.

Merthyl reasoned thus. Since they seemed eager to be here, had they originated from this world? For they were no threat so hardly constituted an invasion. Even if generally incoherent they were however able to make their pleas understandable. This was all new but, he told himself, he was certain he was master of the situation.

He strode over to the spit, donned gauntlets and with seeming ease born of one of those tricks he had learnt from Belacheli, pulled the partially cooked body off and threw it upon the floor to land amongst the quartet, who in turn crawled, writhed and rolled upon the feast.

Merthyl was quite pleased with the result, even as they fed their forms began to become solid, albeit not in quite the usual human form, snouts were forming, fingers were ending in definite claws and he believed nascent wings of a bat’s shape were developing upon their upper backs. One with a particularly canine face turned to him.

“Master,” it managed, blood and juices running over with cracked skin of its jaw.

Merthyl made a slight gesture of acceptance, it would be as well to seem aloof.

This would be a surprise to this night’s two guests.

He noticed there was little of the man left and the creatures although seeming to have a more structured shape still looked only half way to what they might be. They needed more food. But his few servants were valuable. His guests were, generally only useful in feeding his pride and ego.

Feeding? He laughed. He could certainly use his guests for that purpose!

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Dekyria was beginning to feel there were more layers to this than the usual worries about The Zerstorung or simple criminality. He had reached this conclusion when he had found himself in all damn seriousness deciding there was no basis for considering activity by pixies or fairies.

If there was a measure of frivolity creeping in, who or what was responsible for that? There were the usual questions whether The Zerstorung was influencing or being influenced or even if a two-way flow was taking place. Answers could be found in looking for increase in tydes, fluctuations and so forth. But, this other possibility? Where would a feeling of frivolity seep in ? As yet Drygnest would not expect anything more than normal regular reports; at present this was a local matter, a skirmish; this was why Outposts were situated about the Oakhostian, first lines of defence. The evaluation all down to him; observation.

Bleymore was calmed thanks to Beritt; The Owls were excited, intense, more hounds now, straining at his leash. Dekyria had made it a practice to stroll around the outpost, chatting with other officers, exchanging grumbles with troopers looking out for any signs of Astatheia upon them. He would pass some time with Equesteria Lareh H’senez, in case her ‘darlings’ all forty horses were showing signs of distress or agitation. She had nothing unusual to say other than to suggest in her elder sister way that since she had troopers to assist her as part of their duties, shouldn’t The Medician have the same, because of late Beritt had been looking very intense, when she thought no one was looking at her. Dekyria took note of that as the two women naturally shared a room and probably a lot of chat and H’senez being a notoriously practical sort who some troopers reckoned would be inclined to put you out of your misery, if you broke a leg.

Back to Beritt, the small, deceptively pretty and almost innocent looking Medician. When it came down to it, she was getting caught up in this tyde.

Not forgetting of course Voices from the future.

 

Another dawn…

There was Bleymore awake, looking fresh and in low conversation with Hartey the nightwatch. As the youngest and most enthusiastic of the file Dekyria allowed the lad some leeway in his pursuit of Astatheia knowledge. The conversation was on the evasive subject of Numbers Where There Are None and as far as Dekyria could make out Bleymore was making the most logical statements on the subject, by reference to the active oculator.

And was a shame to interrupt, but there were other matters which needed completion. They had talked late on after that calming exit by Beritt. Dekyria thinking that Bleymore would keep on discoursing, brought the matter in an interlude by agreeing to see Bleymore’s points and feigning fatigue. He had needed to ponder on the implications.

Voices from the future, for one thing.

“Trooper Hartley, I’ll take over thank you. One last onerous task. Stir your comrades,”

“They might spare me the usual curses Captain. There’s a lot of interest after yesterday,” the lad smiled and nodded at Bleymore, took the hint and left quickly.

“If we accept at this stage Master Bleymore that these recent manifestations have proven to be as you say. Just what would you reckon to be the cause?”

This time Bleymore did not look fearful, simply distant and thoughtful, when he spoke the words came slowly, chosen with care.

“I am not altogether sure. One aspect I did notice was there seemed to be s slight increase in the brilliance of some of the white circles, but there was no discernible pattern. We would be wise to assume the event will be in close proximity. The distance I am not too sure. As these are physically small events the range cannot be too far,”

“Do you think we could place an approximate on them,”

“It may be so. Though I concur. It would be an approximate,”

Dekyria tried to avoid a sigh of relief. He had Bleymore effectively in his file and working on something with potential import. Apocalyptical incursions from the Zerstorung would have to wait. Good work Beritt. Very good work.

Bleymore shuffled a little and made much of looking at the oculator.

“Medician…Beritt?” the captain nodded at this tentative opener “She’s a remarkable healer isn’t she?”

“Bears repeating,” Dekyria managed a genial smile.

Fribbing dam’ remarkable. And maybe this something to do with the lighter aspect, though not one you could call frivolous.     

 

Normally The Helmsman did not bother much with the sky about the seas, but there was no avoiding the sudden small but very bright flare of white. So sharp. It even managed to reflect upon the sullen waters which appeared to lurch in agitation. That was new. He quietened his men. Bade them work on the delicate process of focusing. Everything had to be conducted quickly for the event was fading.

And was gone.

Of this he was sure though, there was not one source, but three revolving about each other in an agitated dance.

 

Karlyn was not having as much fun as she thought she ought to be allowed to have, considering she was now working for a custodian. For a start, he was insisting she read the Holy Books and ‘Tractz ‘; never mind whether they were riding, sitting eating and now even when she was up a tree and he kept asking  her school-master about them. As she saw things; The First Holy Book was exciting in parts about how the world was made and the evil things that tried to sneak it away getting a good thumping. The Second Holy book was a bit tweedly going on about how people came into the world and how love started, followed by being sensible, and clever, well she supposed love would have to come first. Then bits about how people learnt about The Lord God, which she thought were a bit obvious. The Third was more fun because that went into details what were the sins and told gory tales about what happened to sinful folk. She didn’t understand the Fourth it seemed to involve a lot of folk meeting and sitting down to discuss what was good or bad, and what happened if you did one for the other reason, or didn’t do anything for another reason. She thought the Fifth Book was a giggle. Meradat was hurrumffy saying it only served as to display the foolishness of obsession. It told you there should not be a privy within 852 paces of a temple. It explained what you should not eat before visiting a temple; how best to clean your nose and ears before going and other such fussy-stuffs. Karlyn promised herself the next time she saw a big fancy temple she was going to run in there and let fly one big blast. The Tractz or Tracts as Meradat called them were all about how deceitful the Stommigheid could be, and the sort of tricks in might play on you, to with time and things They did make sense but made the whole thing sound dull, like sitting down and counting your breaths or watching walls, though what the walls wuz supposed to do she was not sure.

 

Once they had crossed the border into the princedom of Decoryx things became interesting. After a day, on a late afternoon they reached a small town, and she’d told Meradat she could smell sharp clean oil but mixed with sweaty shirts. This, she reckoned meant someone here had been working frantic on something.

She had thought there would be so much fun when Meradat having reached the town square loudly pronounced his rank and reason for being there. Everyone ran about the place and the poor translator and someone who might be a mayor were dragged out for Meradat to be furious with.

She’d helped him root out some young limp-one of a lad who had made a feeble bit of stormhiggle stuff that was supposed to predict the weather. When this was uncovered as the source there was much mirth. Some local farmers were quite severe in saying it couldn’t predict rain in the middle of a downpour. So instead of burning him at the stake and terrorising half the town as suspects as Karlyn had hoped, Meradat had him simply stand on a wagon while the Custodian lectured everyone about the dangers of becoming woebegone through following such imprudent things, as these foolishnesses led unto the Hells. It was a chilly and windy day, Meradat didn’t notice of course, but everyone shivered or glared at the young twit.

Karlyn had to content herself with sitting on a wagon wheel and leering at various random folk.

When all was done and the guilty party was indentured to serve the widows, orphans and temple for six lunations, Meradat then subjected the translator to another lecture for failing in his duties.

So having nothing much else to do, Karlyn took charge of the offending device; a tubular metal thing not very secularly attached to a metal box ; the tube being topped by four metal arrows and something orange and bulbous, along its length in all sorts of irregular places were cheap gems. She shook it, the lad winced

“There is the daftest looking device I ever saw!” she chided “It’s so bad it’s an insult. You’d be laughed at in Jorddie circles you would!”

With that she nudged him into a nearby bit of scrub land.

“Show ya!” she cried

Then jumped up and down on it until it broke; the lad was made to watch, he blubbered and pleaded, what for she didn’t care, she wasn’t listening.

She was suddenly noticing something.

His little box of tricks was leaking a dark oily water that looked like it was rippling all by itself, some of it lurched at her leg; dancing back, she thrust one hand into a trouser pocket, pulled out a small oilskin bag, punched it with a fingernail and threw the dusty contents it upon the vile liquid. There followed a fizzing and an agitation; the liquid writhed, the flame rippled across the surface, growing from dull red into blinding bright orange. The lad, previously transfixed squeaked and fell backwards; Karlyn threw dried sticks upon the burning, which consumed them hungrily, all the while the liquid rose and fell seeming to wish to break free, while diminishing as the flames fed upon it, until there was nothing but a patch of sandy grit being picked up by the wind.

Karlyn was quick upon the lad, gripping two handfuls of his clothing

“You got even more explaining to do!” she hissed.

There was some more babbling in reply.

That annoyed her.

She lunged; he screamed; she yelled swear words and set her hands about his neck; even so he still managed to make a lot of credible noise.

It could have gone worse for the lad, but Meradat appeared, roaring to Karlyn that the fool could hardly explain anything while she had her hands about his throat. Karlyn was not in the mood for listening; only stopping when a larger hand fell upon her collar and pulled her off as if she was a particularly bad-tempered terrier.

Meradat letting go of Karlyn after a slight warning shake to her, fixed a baleful look upon the choking, coughing, wheezing, returned to babbling lad.

“He tried to trap me with walkin’ snatchin’ dirty oily water!!”

“It looked at me!!” the lad wailed “I saw one dread eye!”

“And I squished it and burnt it!!”

By now naturally a small crowd was arriving, no need of being summoned.

Karlyn watched Meradat do that draft making inhaling as he looked about at everyone with even greater displeasure; she guessed he’d judged them even ‘much more most’ responsible in some way. This was more like it. Maybe they’d get some decent burning done; ‘cause he was hauling the snivelling lad up; Karlyn looked about for convenient piles of wood; there was a dirty smell in the air, nothing like good old wood smoke to clean that; mind you cooked meat was a bit of a spoiler.

Meradat thundered forth, as if his previous sermon was just a polite afternoon chat.

“Oh this is far worse! And yet none of you noticed! You should always be on your guard! We shalt gather in your temple! We shalt hear the evidence of my assistant and,” Karlyn was pleased as he shook the lad “Oh miserable and foolish youth! There are always consequences to dabbling in the Stommigheid!” at this the lad nodded his head rapidly. “Assemble people and give thanks to The Lord God who protects you through various and strange agencies!” looking at Karlyn.

As he dragged the lad off, Meradat surprised Karlyn by actually whispering.

“Between you and I, you nearly brought the Zerstorung here! Restrain yourself!”

Days observation of his build and the way he moved, then the ease in which he hauled her off the lad Karlyn knew trying to swat Meradat or kick him in the old gazongas was going to end up with her on her arsepart. Instead she vented her crossness on the lad.

“Oi! Wobbles! What’s the name of the nearest portside town?”

“Prendaelyn,” as the lad was in high terror the answer came out as a lament “But it’s days away!”

Meradat stopped in his hauling of the lad bade him be still and everyone quiet, and then consulted a map of his own.

“Hmm. By The Lord God’s grace it would appear we are in a narrow part of the realm. I judge four days hard riding,”

Karlyn swept a hand at the gathered host, in the process maybe by accident on design scuffing the lad’s head.

“We could let this lot sort out their own perditions and wot-nots! We should be riding now!!”

“Your wish for urgency is appreciated Maid Nahtinee, but we must ensure these wayward and indolent folk are made fully aware of the need for vigilance,”

“Oooh, we are gonna burn him then? .It’s nearing dusk and we could do with some light,”

At that stage, the lad quite understandably fainted.

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

Somewhere down the road in a sunny early morning which seemed helpless in its endeavours to lift the atmosphere.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t have burnt him. It was all his fault!!”

Meradat muttered his personal prayer for patience and fortitude. This would be a long testing ride through Decoryx. It was obvious the closer the girl got to the true source of the disruption the more eager she became.

“You, Maid Nahtinee broke the device and thus caused the fel creature a point of access,”

“Hmmph. As I see it my actions exposed the fact there was something lurkin’ at a threshold, and if I hadn’t taken it on, then it would have slithered out later and wot good would that poor ol’weebly translator have been?”

Meradat’s full disapproval fell upon Karlyn and she had the odd feeling as if a very large and disagreeable hawk had settled with one leg upon each of her shoulders.

“Consider this Maid Nahtinee. Your initial violence to the young fool raised his fear even higher. Combined with your rage in close proximity to this device such a mix of turbulent emotions in all probability attracted the creature, then your impetuous attentions caused a fracture in the already fragile barrier. All such devices must be approached with a measure of caution and inspection before inflicting justifiable destruction upon them. Whereas you had stopped this intrusion was not something to make up for the fact you had started it. Burning a young fool achieves nothing. The full severity must only be brought down upon those who willingly transgress in blasphemies,”

Karlyn scowled. She wanted to argue but somehow couldn’t get the words out in a proper order. Meradat’s grumpiness was a bit of mountain face. He’d had to spend the rest of the night to take the lad, by then quite raving to the nearest meditovory. By The Lord God’s Purpose, the monks there were of The Order of Honoured Clerke Kanch and in devotion to their founder’s austere, stern and balanced purpose thus ideal to deal with folk suffering from excessive dabbling in Stommigheid.

And she’d had to snatch a doze in a scratchy old barn while Meradat had spent his time  in some stone room, and as far as she could make out taking part in a ‘Who Can Come Up With The Most Ominous Statement’ competition with the meditatives.

In the dawn, he had instructed Karlyn to study The Third Holy Book’s words of restraint. She had said she didn’t know it had any. He told her try, and thus learn

She just sulked under the guise of study;  feeling very hard done by

It was then she fell off of her horse.

 

Seeing no obvious reason for this Meradat did wonder whether this might one of her singularly deliberate acts, but finding her quite unconscious, and nearly chalk white of pallor was quick to lift her to the shade of a tree. There to pour water over her face and through her lips, while holding her into something of a sitting position.

Karlyn blinked, spluttered and then shuffled up coming to grips with her surroundings.

“Oooh that’s nice. Bringing me all the way back to this shady oak tree,”

“I am glad you can function physically, but I fear your sense are fuddled. We have not come back anywhere. This is where you fell off,”

Karlyn’s gaze slowly swivelled back and forth several times, then moved upwards and down. At the point when Meradat thought she had finished, she continued the practice in diagonal manner, at this stage sniffing in that houndish manner, while scratching at the chest of her shirt. The Custodian waited until she had finished; previous experience of her activities suggesting something useful or at best indicative would arise.

“No I didn’t,” she said, without any hint of anger, confusion or doubt, and with left eye closed and right looking down the length of the pointing index finger continued “I was up there, just at that bend, and you was ahead looking all important like you owned the fribbin’ road saying we would have to pick up the pace to a trot,”

“I was intending to make that intention known,” Meradat’s reply was couched in thoughtful tones; the cursed Stommigheid was wont to precipitate many unusual circumstances “So, Maid Nahtinee What does the Lord God suggest to you?”

“Well, it’s not like he’s told me directly into my ears, but if you’re asking me. If I says I was up the road a bit, and you think I fell off here, AND you were going to say something that I heard you say,” all this was accompanied by gestures in back and forwards directions. “Then I am going to guess that something very funny is happening with Time,” her voice took on a complaining tone “And I got hit by it!!”

CHAPTER  FIFTEEN

“Master Bleymore,”

Dekyria was very grateful for Beriit’s skill, two days on and Bleymore no longer twitched or shuddered at the idea that Dekyria wished him to look upon an oculator. Here in this rather modest and drab walled manse there were a number of interesting and also exciting matters taking place, no longer being alone in observation and feeling as safe as one could feel had allowed him to indulge in simple pursuit of knowledge.

And speculation.

“Do you feel there is some merit in the speculation regarding Temporal Displacement?”

Bleymore looked as if Dekyria had suggested they have a small convivial party.  And so in response he spoke in a relatively light manner.

“Some of the works on the subject do contain mathematics which lend a solid credence to the theory, and I have witnessed anomalies which could only be explained by referring back to these calculations!”

Dekyria wondered if the fellow was starting to feel at home, as it were and gestured to a vacant desk and oculator.

“We have been waiting for a replacement for a talented fellow who Drygnest decided to appropriate back from us. Would you take a seat there and observe for Signature Storm Blue waves, measuring the approximate interlude between each peak?”

Bleymore cautiously sat, aware of the attention of each of the file; the device was already activated, the steady deep green devoid of activity, awaiting the manipulation of the attendant gems.

“You’ve seen something?” he asked “What?”

“No influencing here Master Bleymore. You tell me what you see,”

The results had given Bleymore some crumb of comfort about his losing track of time. He had been trying to evaluate the passage of days have been there four days, maybe five, or three or seven?  It all made perfect sense now.

 

“… First evidence here of Astatheia in Temporal Displacement …”

“…. Imagine the distance usually taking five steps only takes four…”

“…Astatheia, producing or allowing imaginably small particles of equally incredible weight to appear….”

“….so much weight as to bend Time…”

“…to disappear as so as they appeared…”

Major Gellgrachen was currently seated back in a chair, at a desk hands apexed to mouth and obviously thinking upon the information each man had supplied; at least the parts which he could grasp. A short pause and he withdrew his hands settled to the table

“So, gentlemen. It is possible for it to be Today, Tomorrow and even Yesterday within one princedom and no one notice,”

“That’s the theory,” Dekyria thought as the military one of the two bearing the news it was correct he should do the answering “And it appears we do have evidence. Verified independently by Master Bleymore,”

“And if this continues?”

“Unnatural stresses will build up!” exclaimed Bleymore “Although most people’s sense adjust to such events, humans being remarkably empathetic with the…eh…Ethereal. Structures of land, sea and air are more basic in their responses, initially they absorb the pressures, withhold them, but for a rock say to maintain a status in two separate places in Time is one likely to results in a release of some sorts of energies, violently!”

“Spontaneously exploding rocks?” now Gellgrachen sounded concerned; indeed, he should the comparison with ordinance was all too clear to him “No, that’s won’t do at all. I’ll have to contact Drygnest. Captain Dekyria can you find out where the cause of this is happening?”

“We have My Major,” he shrugged “Well, in line with the evidence we have. I suppose it should be subject to independent analysis,”

“Drygnest will have to follow us Captain,”

Dekyria thought a reasonable statement, he continued.

“The port of Prendaelyn, My Major. It did not need much tracking. The act of confirming the effect resulted in the identification,”

“Oh, that place has a certain amount of mercantile and thus financial influence within parts of the nobility of Decoryx. Stealth will be needed. Now this is a tricky question. Can we be certain in these circumstances as to how long it will take to get there?”

“At the present My Major, as the effect is still very minor we can estimate the usual two days,”

“A file will be despatched then. We must trace and apprehend the reason for this before someone else does. After all, there’s bound to be others noticing and taking an interest! Make preparations for the ability for local tracking Captain, we can’t afford to have a file running about the place when they reach the town; they need to be able to get straight to the target,”

“Will it be extraction or extinguishment?” Dekyria asked casually, causing Bleymore to pale.

“We’ll have to make it up as we go along Captain. I’ll want the file leaving by dusk. Please attend Captain to ensure they have the right equipment,” Dekyria moved swifter than the pain his leg should have allowed lips tight over gritted teeth. Just as he reached the door “Oh Captain Dekyria,” Gellgrachen cautioned “You will of course remain at your post here. Your observation and control is essential,” Dekyria turned on his one whole good leg, face set.

“Of course, Major, sir,” he said, with parade ground salute to his heart, while swallowing the disappointment.

“You will stay here please Master Bleymore,” Gellgrachen stated.

The door closed heavily, the sound of one false leg scraping, then impacting fading.

“Ah, a shame. He thought he might be leading the mission,” Gellgrachen said “But each where they are best suited. Now to you Master Bleymore. I am very grateful for your efforts and contributions. You of course understand what takes place within this location is not for discussion with anyone unless authorised by myself or another officer,”

“I understand,” a nervous slight laugh escaped “So there will be an oath of secrecy will there?”

“Oh much better Master Bleymore,” Gellgrachen stood up, crossed to Bleymore laying his right hand on the man’s shoulder “As of this juncture, in accordance with the Edict of Methendav for the Imperial Good I am empowered to empress you into the ranks of The LifeGuard,” he took from one pocket a pair of metal castle shaped insignia “Lieutenant Bleymore. Yes I am sure it comes as a surprise, however there’s no option here. You sought and found us, you’ve been party to our operations,” his face darkened “And we do not like to waste potential,”

“Waste?” Bleymore managed appreciating the implications, not helped by Dekyria’s impassive silence., Gellgrachen continued.

“Yes. Accept that in good faith and all will be well Lieutenant. Now let us find you a uniform. Shall we?”

 

Trelli wondered if all this business of Migran’s was making her too jumpy by half. Everyone else at the market was naturally grumbling about some unexpected delays in deliveries. There were always unexpected delays in some deliveries. This time why should she be feeling worried instead of cross like everyone else?

 

Mid-morning.

There was a sharp unconditional knock on the door, and barely had Gellgrachen given the order to enter than it swung open Dekyria, Sergeant Erzns and Medician Beritt entering. Each regarded a rather embarrassed and fuddled Bleymore in the clean black sedentary duties tunic of the LifeGuard. Dekyria’s rather stiff expression turned to bemused surprise, Erzns square grim face displayed a flicker of disapproval, while Beritt gifted the new lieutenant with a polite smile.

Then they all saluted to Gellgrachen in his preferred informal style off two pressed together fingers to the right temple.

“I felt it was time to extend our compliment,” he offered by way of explanation “Lieutenant Bleymore. You will of course report directly to Captain Dekyria. Now Captain, preparations ready?”

“Oculartragen is prepared and validated My Major. Carrying sufficient resources to operate for a decan. The falconades are being armed by my file. Sergeant Erzns, I’ve witnessed your file’s competency on the training field. Ensure there is strict adherence to contingently necessary use. Additional charges will be too volatile for this mission, so there’ll only be what the weapons are carrying

“My Major?” Erzns terse, cold question signalled a hope for maybe additional information

“Sergeant Erzns. We have a situation of grave importance. This seems to be taking place around the area of Prendaelyn and involves unsanctioned Asatheria. Drygnest have been informed and have approved my course of action,” Gellgrachen’s opening words stilled at interruptions from Erzns. In his uncomplicated world even if receiving an order from Drygnest involved one’s own death, the only question to be asked would be the amount of damage required prior to demise. “One update Captain Dekyria, Drygnest instructs we are to extract, unharmed, the person who is source of the problem and bring them here pending transference to Drygnest They will need to be examined,”

Beritt listened casually, thinking it was nice to be alerted well in advance this time; she could plan her entire routine around calming down someone who had to spend a few days with Erzns pack’ Suddenly it was all Astatheia, Astatheia. After this she could write a pamphlet of the treatment of…

“Medician Beritt you will be part of Sergeant Erzns file in this mission,” The Major had expected three expressions based on surprise, so carried on smoothly “We don’t know what state this person or persons will be in. We cannot have them being disruptive or unsettled on the return journey. Your mouth medician. Close it please. Thank you,” he turned his attention to Erzns saying with heavy emphasis “Colonel Rachterg made the specification,”

Dekyria judged by the way Erzns second scowl melted to a very thoughtful frown at Beritt that there must be a certain history involving the sergeant and the legendary ‘Iron Kreydez’ Rachteg. Beritt, give her due was not saying anything, just swaying a bit.

Bleymore was also quiet; into some sort of reflecting. Gellgrachen meanwhile pressed on.

“Drygnest have also ordered you to leave at dusk, at The Nineteenth Thousand. Something to do with their analysis of possible Temporal Latitudes? I’ll give the transcript to you Captain Dekyria I’m sure you and The Lieutenant can make more sense of it than I,” the business-like tone turned to one of gravitas “You will instruct Medician Beritt in the operation of an Oculartragen. Medician Beritt you are to place your basic duties in the hands of Equesteria H’senez, you will inform her now, then report to Captain Dekyria and finally Sergeant Erzns,”

 

“I got to look after that lot of wobbling whingers as well as my darlings!!”

Even if it was only for mucking out purposes H’senez with a pitchfork tended to make Beritt nervous; standing straight upright knee high in dirty hay one hand set on hip the other with pitchfork aloft only made the equestria look even more intimidating.

“Well it’s only the day to day sort of stuff. I’ve done to regular check for Particular Boils,”

“Good! I don’t want to listen to old jokes about weaponry and comparisons with stallions,” Klareh dove the pitchfork into the hay and settled into sympathy. “High Holy Arketre, they dropped you in that. Reckon it’s linked with…errr… y’know?”

“These are orders straight from Drygnest,”

“Scraith,”

Beritt snorted her agreement, with folded arms leant against the nearest object, being a stall

“Yeh!, Erzns crew are taking those whizz-whoosh falconades with them; the ones that near took Peller’s leg off! And I gotta learn Owl stuff too,”

“Are you supposed to telling this?”

“Aww scraith! It’ll filter out. Me going with Erzns’ pack. Our visitor now a l’tenant,”

At this juncture an equine head, small and with untidy mane appeared over the stall and gently nudged Beritt.

“Oh Poseydale, nice to see you too. C’mon Klareh, this little sweetie wants carrots,”

“Sweetie! You’re the only one, she doesn’t try and bite or kick! This is moving way beyond the usual Observation business, isn’t it?” she handed some carrots to Beritt who began to fuss the mare “Poor Patch ‘Em-Up Arketre. Least I can do is set Poseydale ready for you,”

 

Firstly, Beritt put together the normal collection of salves, potions, bandages and herbs to be taken by a medician of a decan long journey. She then added a few extra ‘bit and pieces’ of her own choosing. Satisfied with being able to organise her own world Beritt then made her reluctant way to Dekyria’s domain, and into a small particular room. One with an oculator attached some sort of birdcage-shaped thing; and in one corner a case of musty books.

She was subjected to a lecture on the smaller compact version of the oculator. No doubt Dekyria thought this was basic but precise, whereas Beritt reckoned she had only absorbed about one part in five of what Captain Dekyria had told her. He then presented her with a small leather-bound book filled with symbols and short explanations, explaining how important this would be during the mission as she would be able to rely on one person. Having then made her feel thoroughly unsettled, he picked up one of the musty books, thumbed through it as he spoke.

“Calming Bleymore and giving him to will to speak, work with us demonstrated your skill, even art medician, to a high degree. My estimation is that you have a certain empathy with matters and people involving Astatheia. Oh, don’t look so alarmed, everyone has to some degree, yours is probably heightened by a capacity for caring,”

Beritt blushed, feeling a bit guilty now at realising some folk actually appreciated her as a person.

“So bear this in mind when you are on this task. You may well encounter incidences where the reality you understand, the day to day ordinary will seem to drift away from you. This is The Astatheia let lose. Think of it as if you were suddenly in a fast flowing river. What do you do then?”

The analogy emboldened Beritt; she could speak from experience.

“Why Captain, as a country girl with mah own experience of such; on account of being getting into scraps and scrapes, I would go with the current for a while until I found mah bearings and then go looking for safe banks, islands or rocks,”

“Bear that in mind then medician,”

Why! An approving grin from a captain!

And all she had to do now is satisfy Erzns she could load and shoot a crossbow bolt without impaling her own foot.

Followed by the thoughts natural enough for any trooper.

“Why me?”

“Your turn,”

She would put that whispered response down to one of those fuzzy instances when your mind is all of a buzzing bee-hive.

 

Of Patchwork Warrior Episode 4

3 Rejection Letters Indie Authors Receive

Yecheilyah’s blog is simply one of the best for words of wisdom and advice for indie authors: experienced, or out there and ‘alone’. This is full of good sense on the question of Rejection.

The PBS Blog

I didn’t intend on posting again today but one of my favorite authors posted something to her IG that sparked something I had to share. As you see above, this author is Bernice McFadden and this is her sharing the rejection letters she received for her novel Sugar. I have this book as well as her novels This Bitter Earth, Glorious and I’d like to get my hands on Nowhere is a Place and The Book of Harlan but I digress. Needless to say, the writing is on point. Long story short, you all know that Sugar has gone on to do very well despite the 75 (yes, seventy-five…let that settle) rejection letters. For Indie Authors, we may not be looking for publishers, but we have rejection letters too. I want to encourage you not to give up when you get one:

Negative Reviews – One of our…

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A True History of The Isles Vol II Chapter 4 Edward II, And What Others Did About Him

Edward is not recorded as being a very good king and thus gives much opportunity for folk to right about his reign.

Had Life and Fate been kinder to him, Edward who became Edward II would have been a merely eccentric minor scion of the Plantagenets noted for his propensity to keep hunting dogs and indulge in rural management and maintenance, however as his three elder brothers died in infancy he was stuck with the job of being King of England.

The Early Years

Born on the 25th April 1284, starting off as being sickly he grew into a handsome, tallish lad. Initially the nobility were not worried; he liked to ride, hunt and care for hunting dogs, these were harmless pursuits, for those not at the business end of the hunt. The nobility and his father Edward (for purposes of clarification The I) did, however, worry when he started take part in the creation and maintenance of hedges and ditches, particularly as he liked to discuss the subject with The Very Common People. Even though he was left as regent in 1296-97 while his father fought in Aquitaine, Anjou, Maine, etc, he could still be found slipping out of meetings carrying his favourite shovel

The Court and The King (Edward the Elder), in the hopes of curing him of these unnatural tendencies had him accompany his father (Edward the I, that is) in 1300 to invade Scotland. The records are not clear if he indulged in any massacring or simply lectured the Scots on the benefits of strong hedge systems and efficient drainage; though it was recorded that he besieged (probably by digging a large ditch around it) and captured the singularly named Strawberry Castle in 1301. The same year he was officially made Prince of Wales and allowed to have the welsh give money to him. By now all the indigenous welsh princes had betrayed or killed each other into legend and their survivors were reinventing themselves as Descendants. Because Edward (to be the II) liked welsh music the population accepted him.

In 1305 Edward (still a prince) and Bishop Long Tom who was also in charge of royal finances argued over how much money he (The Kid) could have; Edward (The King one) sided with the bishop and sort of banished Edward (The ‘Kids! What can you do with them?’), but not so that it mattered. What had truly annoyed Edward (The Old Man) was his son’s relationship with an overly inquisitive young fellow, one Peering Gaveston who Edward (the boy) gifted with airs and graces which Gaveston flaunted. So angry did Edward (king and knew it) get that he pulled the hair from his son’s nose, varnished Gaveston and in 1306 invaded Scotland with an army and his son.

And later died.

Edward (Prince of Wales; II of England, Duke of Aquitaine, and other bits)’s Proclivities

Much has been and will continue to be written about this aspect of Edward (let’s call him the II at this stage)’s private life. Some lament upon the persecution he suffered, others say he was a useless king because of it, and some make a goodly income writing questionable fiction. In actual fact everyone is quite off the mark and missing the fundamental dynamics of the Middle Ages way of doing things.

When not persecuting heretics, other religions or failing to read the Bible properly, The Church disapproved of most things; particularly anything the nobility were doing. The nobility didn’t see it that way. The nobility couldn’t have cared less if their king borrowed his wife’s dress, hired two local young men and played at ‘The Innocent Maid and the Two Cruel, Lustful Robbers’ every Saturday night as long he obeyed the following rules:

1.To ensure there was at least one male heir to the throne and more if possible so there could be a decent power struggle, which all The Barons would benefit from.

2.To listen to and take the advice of The Barons, or at least most of them

3.Not to tax The Barons as a group.

4.To annoy The Church to the benefit of The Barons.

5.Not to execute a baron unless all the other barons said he had it coming.

6.If a war with France was necessary the King had to pay for it himself but if he won he should to pass out lands to The Barons.

7.If The King insisted on fighting The Scots he would have to pay for it, though Northern Barons could take part if they wanted to. But the King must make sure he always won.

  1. The King could have and was encouraged to have Supporters and Factions but not Favourites (See Vol I King John)

As it will be seen Edward (II and no options) was not very good at keeping many of these rules.

As regards the question of ‘Unnatural Proclivities’ it should also be noted this was a favoured means of accusing and hopefully disposing of your rival if you couldn’t afford a big enough army to defeat him and was a common feature of politics of the era.

In conclusion it should be noted, as regards proclivities, that Edward (the Not-The I) sired an illegitimate son, Adam, to whom he gave £13 and some spare change and told him to fight the Scots. Adam died in 1322 somewhere in Scotland, whether it was of Scots, not washing his hands or falling down an improperly constructed ditch it is not known, Edward (father of Adam) to his credit had him buried.            

Kingship The Early Years and Constitutional Crisis

Edward officially became The II on the 25th February 1308. From early on tensions with The Barons were high, but happily for the Isles these were formalised into a game known as ‘Where’s Peers?’. The rules were quite simple; Edward (now King) would elevate Peers Gaveston, The Barons would object and find a way to have him banished; Edward (II and why not?) would then find a way to bring Gaveston back and the whole thing would start again. Gaveston’s role was to flaunt and be rude to The Barons and Bishops. Eventually and unusually The Barons and The Bishops agreed on something and organised themselves and set up a very solid group known as The Ordinary Council who then formularised the rules (see above) but changing Rule 4 to ‘No Gaveston’. This document was known as The Encumbrance and to increase its stature a year was added to it, in this case 1311.

Initially Edward challenged it on the basis that as a king he could use Roman Civil Law which was very classical and thus proper. It was so complex it had to be laid on twelve tables and Edward was fond of picking the bits which suited him. The Council, with the aid of some judges pointed out everything being argued over was taking place in England, which was not classical and so English Common Law applied; being based on what everyone had done before, in England that is.

Edward and Gaveston in breach of Rule 7 went to Scotland where Robert or Bruce refused to help out and didn’t fight, thus Gaveston was obliged in 1312 to flee overseas. This time he did not wait for Edward to think of a reason why he could return and came back by himself. This allowed several barons led by Thomas of Lancaster to capture him. He was then killed by two Welshmen, they being nostalgic for the good old days in Wales when no one took treachery and killing of nobles personally.

Edward was understandably furious. Because Lancaster had gone about saying it was for the good of the realm a few barons were worried in case he might do the same to them ‘for the good of the realm’, thus they sort of shuffled over to the Edward’s side. All might have led to civil war but for France and Scotland.

Edward (II still), The French and The Scots (in that order)

France (and other bits)

Civil war was avoided when it was discovered that because everyone had been fussing about Aquitaine, Anjou, Normandy, Maine, etc  no one was ruling Gascony. Edward at once travelled to France to meet with Philip (IV, King of France, Father-in-Law etc). The problem was solved in June 1213 by the kings sharing a sailing trip up and down the River Sane, agreeing to which bits of Gascony each would rule and promising to reverently massacre non-Christians in The Holy Land, sometime in the future. Philip who quite understood about nobles said he would help Edward (son-in-law) massacre his if it would help. With spirits and consequently taxes raised, 1313 ended quite well for Edward.

The Scottish Question

In 1314 Robert, An Important Bruce began to cause trouble, again. In 1306 he had colourfully slain John Comyn (The Red & The III by the way) in a church; normally this would have been serious. Robert, however, said that John had changed sides and was ready to hand over Wallace (ie The Loyal) to The English, if he’d got the chance; thus John (The Red and now The Dead) had been bought by English gold and should be parcelled up as a rogue. By this argument Robert was able to prove the act to be one of politics and not murder so he was only slightly excommunicated and allowed to be king. This break gave him the opportunity to teach the Scots that actually they had not been invading England for the past a thousand years, but simply fighting off anyone who was on the border who might invade them first, including those devious Britons of Strathclyde who had been speaking welsh in quite the wrong place. Thus he was able to initiate a war of independence and started capturing castles in Scotland. At once (by Medieval terms) Edward (II of course) marched northwards.

The armies met either at Bannock Burn or Bannockburn; the English not sure whether they were fighting Robert, Bruce or Loyal Wallace or all three advanced backwards towards fearsome ranks of Scottish spearmen who were so cleverly organised that the English knights thought them to be hedgehogs. The Scots took advantage of this unsatisfactory state of affairs .and charged, firstly defeating, then slaughtering and finally scattering the English. Edward nobly wished to make a heroic stand but was bundled off by those of his barons who were still nervous of Lancaster.  This left Robert to say he thought he was The I of Scotland and entitled to bother the Pope on the matter. Robert then attempted to free the Irish by invading them and saying he should be their king. As was the custom of those times some Irish agreed, some did not.

Grim Times for Edward (II and so forth)     

All the barons felt the defeat at Burnt Banknock was Edward’s fault, and Lancaster said Edward should listen to him and drew up a treaty to prove it; Edward said it had Leakes in it, but being in a weak position because of famines which he was unfairly blamed for signed it in 1318, not realising in the small print was a clause which said Lancaster had not been involved in the murder of Gaveston. To compound his problems a one-eared man Powdered John, inspired by his cat (and probably Dick Whittington) appeared claiming he was actually Edward, and as a child had had his ear bitten off, making it impossible for him to wear a crown properly and that Edward (The Apparently II) was peasant which explained his fascination with ditches and hedges. Although John and (quite unfairly) his cat were hung this did not stop folk from saying Edward whether he was a II or not was turning out to be a bad king.

It was during these turbulent times that Edward fell under the influence of a family of apothecaries; The Dispensers. These were a devious father and son team who to confuse their foes were both named Hugh. Hugh The Elder took to persecuting nobles and stealing their lands while Hugh The Younger became Edward’s favourite (and so breaking Rule 8). Naturally in 1321 a war broke out, which in typical grasping fashion the father and son titled The Dispensers’ War. Although the barons forced the Dispensers to flee, Edward manage to capture Lancaster, but in an act of clemency only had his head chopped off. The Dispensers came back and with Edward exacted fearful retribution by saying all who had rebelled would know be known as The Contrary and made to wear corsets because Edward ruled they had big bellies, some chose to be executed to avoid the humiliation.

Feeling secure Edward in 1322 tried to invade Scotland but couldn’t find Robert anywhere. He was obliged to go home, only to find that in 1324 his brother-in-law Charles had become king of France and had claimed he could rule all of Gascony, and invaded Aquitaine to prove it; he left Anjou, Maine etc out of it to concentrate his forces. Although Edward gathered a smallish army together he was only able to arrange embassies and truces and eventually had to rely on his wife Isabella to sort it out. Thus, humiliated he returned to England to brood.

The Downfall

In a fit of petulance Edward blamed his wife Isabella, because she was French and while she was trying to sort out the mess he gave all her property to Hugh The Younger and said Hugh could be as rude to her as he liked. In addition, Edward said Hugh’s wife could look after his children. During this interlude Isabella met Roger Mortimer and found they had two things in common, get rid of both Edward and Hugh The Younger. Firstly, to make the business look genuine they indulged in a romantic affair, then gathered an army together and in 1326 sailed for England. Edward promptly made an impassioned speech to all English to gather about him. As folk were still getting used to being English and didn’t much understand each other’s accent, only 55 men turned up and they probably had been expecting to dig ditches and set up hedges. Edward had expected the Dispensers to protect him, but as they were only good at grasping failed dismally. Hugh the Younger being captured and horribly executed (or entertainingly if you didn’t like him), while his father in view of his advanced age was simply hung.

Edward was also captured but since this was not in a battle where anything could happen he could not be killed, as yet. Eventually everyone had to go and ask a Bishop what to do, naturally being of The Church he said that Edward (II,stillish) had been guilty of  ‘unnatural appetites’ and so not a strong king. In consequence, he should stay out of the way in a large house. In the meantime, while his son Edward (The III-in-waiting) was growing up Isabella and Roger Mortimer could sort of take executive decisions. During this period, several nobles used to visit Edward and say what a good, noble and generous thing it would be if he was to stop saying he was king. While Edward was pondering over this several traditionalists who disliked the idea of a woman being involved in government tried to rescue him. It was therefore decided there could be no more Edward II or otherwise.

The Fate of Edward (II)

The salacious and thus preferred version was that in 1237 he was murdered in a horrifying way, which is best not discussed here. This seems most unlikely as horribly killing a king was, as stated earlier, only permissible on a battlefield. This author after many minutes of research favours the idea that not knowing what to do with him Isabella and Mortimer allowed him to traditionally flee the country on the understanding he would pretend he was someone else, while they buried some hapless peasant in his place, claiming Edward had died of remorse because he had finally realised he had been a useless king.

It is therefore nearly, almost certain Edward either hid as a hermit in the Holy Roman Empire which was very big and thus accommodating, or feeling nostalgic for earlier times said he was Welsh and lived in Antwerp which was a very busy city and also easy to hide in. Either solution allowed him to live out his days in a romantic fashion with the option for being decently and enigmatically memorable.

Conclusion

Not suited for kingship but a source of endless literature factual, fictional or dreadful. However, as he was not that good as being a king, he enabled the growth of Parliament and for Robert (or Bruce) to be so incredibly famous that he is even liked in England.  

 

The next chapter will consider the role and station of women during this era. What was expected of them; what they actually did and what men thought about it all

 

The Era of a Pushy King (and some more laws)

The Thing About Writer’s Block

Very wise and incisive words folk. Read and learn

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

Not just the scourge of authors, writers and poets – anyone who has ever sat down in front of a blank page will, at some point, have experienced the phenomenon popularly known as ‘writer’s block’. I have come to an important conclusion about this most maligned of conditions and it is somewhat controversial, probably won’t be popular, but I thought I would share it with you anyway.

It doesn’t actually exist.

The natural flow stops not because of some mystical interference from the literary gods, but rather because something somewhere isn’t quite right, the narrative has gone awry or because something just doesn’t work. When the words dry up for no apparent reason and everything comes to a grinding halt, go back and look at it again. Retrace your steps, find out where you’ve gone wrong, look for the bits that don’t fit. There are all manner of things to…

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When Your Writing Issue Is…

OK, I’ve set the example and standard on how NOT to do it. Here is invaluable advice on how to do it

Shannon A Thompson

Writing a book—or anything—comes along with a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming. So here’s a quick tip guide to help you navigate your writing journey.

I have an idea, but now what?

Well, now you write. (And write and write and write again.) Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t focus on getting published. In fact, don’t spend months studying how to write on blogs like this one. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from reading about writing. You’re going to have to write yourself to learn about yourself and your craft. So, sure, research, but make sure you’re writing…and reading (a lot). Related article: No, Reading is Not an Option

I don’t have time to write.

Listen, no one has time to write. Some of us definitely have more time (or less), but comparing yourself to anyone is not going to get you…

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