This is the part where the villains make their appearances and also the final member of the heroic trio. Villains are my weakest work; they are there to be knocked down, one came out ok, one I finally enjoyed doing, as for the others…..sorry ’bout that.
Comments and suggestion are welcome, but otherwise save this and all other episodes as a sort of magazine series and read at your leisure. I’m cool with it either way
“As the Obsidian Council requires,” he spoke the necessary invocation, without much belief, but it was expected.
The Helmsman seated before the black metal surfaced table, twice of length of a man’s height, narrow as their reach. His eyes set upon the glass fixed to the opposite edge, framed in plain iron frame from each of which ran five finger thick worm grey cables. At first glance to the unknowing it would appear to be a window set upon its side. In this The Helmsman would agree they would have been partially correct, the dangerous difference being this window did not offer sight into the simple World Physical.
“Be alert my good crew. We are crossing currents,” calm cultured, modulated tones.
Through this window, he looked out upon the slow, sullen, night blue sea, shifting beneath a blighted yellow moon hung upon drape of a void, both his hands moved upon two circles of gilded silver inlaid into the table, each set with twenty gems of shifting greens and flickering yellow to greys, index and middle fingers drifting down to touch a gem. By this means he kept the construct upon the course between the World Physical and the oceanic border of The Zerstorung accompanying each contact with a gem, either thumb would touch an iron grey pearl both of which would control the speed of passage. Safe from any observation be it curious, hostile or predatory.
“We’re in a safe cove,”
His team of two collectively sighed, each had been trained and assigned to carry out one quarter of his actions, each would now take over that one half in his absence for, naturally, he could not remain seated all times of the day. And there was another duo ready to take their place at the allotted time on, or when accidents arose. The work was not without its risks. Navigating The Manse of the Jagged Borderlines, keeping the ancient place and its network of entryways free from the authorities and chancers in the World Physical and the embrace of those monstrously hateful of The Zerstorung risked damage of the body and the mind. His men trusted him though; he directed by example and stern countenance; there was no need to spread another layer of fear; The Zerstorung’s presence was sufficient.
“And now I must attend upon The Council. They will need to be appraised of our secure haven. Please notify me if even the slightest Untoward takes place. The Council have agreed to the Precedence of Interruption, in this circumstance,”
So the Helmsman rose, although not a particular tall man, his near military bearing and steady scholarly approach to the task leant him an air of authority, that caused some of his men to whisper he should be upon the Obsidian Council itself, instead ‘some’. This was never spoken within his earshot; he was most severe of such notions. He was the Helmsman, allotted to and proud of his task.
He strode from the room, expression serious, deep in thought.
And out into the corridor on his way to the meeting at the behest of the Obsidian Council. To report.
One large hand fell upon his shoulder.
“Hello there Boskie!!”
The Helmsman started, one hand to his chest.
“Gawdelpusall! Mistah Silc!!” all culture and poise lost in the suprise
The Helmsman looked about quickly to make sure there was no one else in the gloomy passageway, which of course wasn’t necessary because Grenaww Silc always made sure there were no witnesses. The large, well fleshed man smiled, his eyes crinkling with confidence born of the knowledge of many people’s secrets and through years of experience in Elinid’s criminal world how to work such to his best advantage. Dressed in common work-a-day shirt, jack, boots and trousers of a city stained grey. The very image of a practical man. He was The Money here. Very, very practical.
“Don’t get much chance to speak with you Boskie, even if we’re both in the Funny Shop. You have done well for yourself lad, your old dad would be proud,” Silc sighed “Ah best look-out on the gang, even in his declining years. No one could play the old idiot like he could,” he gifted The Helmsman a reassuring pat on his arm “We’re still seeing you Mum comfy,”
Meanwhile all bearing and scholarly bearing had been melting The Helmsman glanced this way and that.
“We shouldn’t be together Guv’nor. The Council wouldn’t like it. And if anyone heard us talking like this?” he shrugged, Silc nodded soberly.
“Very cautious Boskie of you. Yeh, you go back to that fine Middling Academic accent,” he tapped his nose “I’ll still be expecting first words of what you see, and also anything anyone of the Wobblers Three come out with,” another grasp of the shoulder, this one tighter “The Mechanics back home are telling me things are starting to look interesting. Well, actually they’re moaning a lot because they say that stommigheid keeps inferring with their machines, ”
“Well I see things from different perspectives to any Jordisk or Mechanical Guv’nor, but you can be sure I’ll stay true. Honest!”
“Of course, of course,” said Silc and moved off with a swiftness not normal associated with a middle aged, well-fed fellow, leaving The Helmsman to lean against the wall, gathering his breath and composure. Not only danger from The Zerstorung, but danger of being discovered as a spy by others member of the Obsidian Council, and also danger of not being up to Grenaww Silc’s expectations.
When you worked for the Silcs they always made sure they got their money’s worth.
Silc liked to enter the chamber first, settle himself down, get used to all the theatrical stuff they used to keep the workers in line and scare the willies out of anyone else who ended up in here. The chamber made to instil an unsettling dread in the entrant by the imposition of its atmosphere of gloom, broken by the oily and incense heavy guttering candles. He could have got them this sort of stuff a lot cheaper. And as for these ten green-grey robed and hooded fellows bearing what he felt to be impractical halberds having to stand alert and attention for thousands at a time must be wearying upon them; probably be too ragged to use them halberds if the time ever came.
First came in in his poised insouciant way was the slender young Lord Merthyl; a student of cruelty as a pastime, predator upon the weak and as a scion of an influential family at the imperial court basking in the unhealthy glow of being beyond authority. He brought the veneer of terror to the Council, the one to frighten the ignorant and vulnerable.
Silc lounged, the boy thought every commoner should jump at his appearance; he should know by now he wasn’t getting any from Silc, but he still tried it on. Nobles were like that. In Silc’s opinion it was down to too much marrying of cousins.
“’Lo there,” Silc said without looking up from a dispatch an agent had dropped his way before he’d set off. As he expected Merthyl walked over to him, there was a keening sound and the tip of a blade flicked up the edge of the paper.
“I expect a measure of courtesy before the lessers” drawl Merthyl
Silc did not look up.
“Put that away and save it for your chained-up victims sonny. You’ve been warned before,” Silc’s voice was a low and cold growl, from out of his sleeve flicked the blade of a knife, with one slight gesture its metal chimed against Merthyl’s sword and pushed it to one side. Merthyl managed a sardonic laugh, a slight bow and took his place at the far right edge of the table.
Striding in, from a door on the opposite side of the room, with the air of someone who thinks he held some sort of proper power came the shaven headed and heavy fleshed, Uraxch, self-styled, The Pioneer. A man versed in tasting of and supplying unsavoury pleasures to jaded nobility, masking it all beneath a veneer of forbidden lore. Silc wondered how anyone could be daft enough to take seriously someone who wore what appeared to be a small bejewelled cushion on their head; but apparently his was a minority opinion. Uraxch held many in his sweaty grasp by dint of knowing their dirty secrets.
“How’s the deflowering business then Uraxch?” Silc asked, mockingly, the man stiffened and looked darkly down his long nose at Silc.
“I have written a new treatise on the translations of the Book of Anitifakh” he said with relish, hoping to gain some purchase “But it is not for the faint-hearted,”
“Got a spare copy?” Silc drawled back “I’ll get a few printed and sell them way-over the odds to young poseurs; the twonks’ll buy anything with the right sales patter; I’ll do it for a quarter of the profits,”
Currently short of funds Uraxch could do naught but respond with a grunt, pretending he wasn’t interested and then sat next to Silc, who did not bother making any room.
From an entry point so small and musty, Silc had once thought it a cupboard door bustled self-styled mage, one Belacheli a man possessed of an intense ever active stare, constantly moving fingers and several runic facial tattoos. As far as Silc knew the nervy old goat was the only one of the five who actually made any attempt at genuine worship of something in the Zerstorung.
“Ah Fame’d Mage Belacheli,” Merthyl hailed, joviality masking a sneer “In what direction would the Ancient Revered Ones have us break wind this day? And for what duration?”
Uraxch giggled, they both found Belacheli’s antics funny. Silc kept his distance, you never when the fool might start something off by accident.
The mage paled. Silc reckoned in anger at blasphemies and fear that something horrible might appear there and then and start pulling all of their balls off.
“Lord Merthyl!” the mage began, but stopped at the sound of the iron shod the heavy boot striding.
Grand Duke Karutorm, strong featured and grim. His family had done much military service for the Oakhostian. A heavy-set man full beard and moustache possibly covering a few scars, iron grey hair cut short. Silc exchanged a brief nod with the man. He was serious business. He’d assumed a sort of leadership. No one argued. Suited Silc fine.
“There had best be good reasons for this,” Grand Duke Karutorm announced, directing his volume and purpose at Mage Belacheli “I have important duties in my own lands,”
There was another swift exchange of looks between the grand duke and Silc. Fixed at diagonal opposites of the Oakhostian but thanks to links formed and then forged through the lucrative fur and rare minerals trades not so much an alliance but mutual understandings had been formed.
“I do hope it is good news,” drawled Merthyl “My little groups are getting most weary of The Blasphemous Rites game with nothing to show for it. I mean to say, where is the true fun in torturing a translator to death? Once they work out they’re being martyred they get positively sanguine”
Silc wasn’t really sure if the little bastard had made that up or it was a genuine complaint. Either whichway Merthyl had been saving it to goad Belacheli in front of Karutorm. For what reason Silc couldn’t make out, he considering himself sane and all.
Anyhow Belacheli’s high and rasping voice was soon drawing any casual attention his way.
“This last Twenty Days of Torment. Seven times three have I enacted The Blood Hazard and each time in the final death rattles did the sacrifice become conduit from the Zerstorung and pronounce soon would the barriers be broken and The True Lords would return!”
Silc directed his attention to Belacheli, index poised on left hand to count off as Silc began to speak in apparently quite respectful and enquiring tones
“Sage Belacheli. In my experience of folk facing certain death through torture are inclined to either,” he counted off ” scream their innocence, swear to betray everyone they know, plea for mercy, weep for divine intercession, or if really tough shout out defiant obscenities and swear they’ll be back as ghosts. Why is it different here?”
Merthyl smirked; Uraxch did that silly giggle, a scowl from Karutorm stifling this; Belacheli took a degree of comfort from his delusion of a genuine request from Silc.
“As the soul is taken to be prey within the Zerstorung do come the voices of the Lords and their servants as they use the last shreds of life within the body. Thus do they impart important information upon those they consider worthy,”
“Oh, I see. Thank you Sage Belacheli,” Silc said, flatly.
Karutorm seemed no more impressed than Silc felt.
“Summon The Helmsman!” Karutorm called out, voice echoing.
The Helmsman was already at the door.
He stepped forward in solemn and head down respectful pose; Silc approved, let them feel they are truly important, particularly Belacheli, standing quivering and dithering, with his parchments, all stained at the edges.
“Helmsman!” Belacheli called out in a high grating voice “We command your observations!!”
The Helmsman, as expected bowed his head in acquiesce, his response came with all the plain solemnity and respect these people expected.
“I can of course only speak from my own observations upon the waters of Mare Laten, and these, sirs are just often snatches. You will appreciate the attention to my post must be constant, for the changes in the currents ever despatched by the Lord Wardens of The Deep are contrived to snatch the unwary journey folk and so drag them down into the Sunken Cities where they will be bound in crushing servitude at unknown tasks. Caution must also be given for the mindless beasts ever seeking to wreak out their unstoppable horrors rending with myriad limb, tooth and claw,”
He paused, judged he had emphasised quite enough the perils of navigating the manse, then went to the task at hand.
“Across the horizons, we have espied storms of blood red, riven by lightning flashes of iron; seen peaks torn apart by those mighty energies, then against the lurid yellow and orange flames released by such monstrous destructions witnessed shapes moving. From my secure distances, I could not vouch whether these were single towering beasts or vast hosts gathered; though the sightings did indicate at each time they moved with a single direction and seeming purpose, to halt and in a great agitation fulminate against places unseen,”
Although he did not dare exchange direct communication of any sort with Silc, The Helmsman did observe a faint twitch of approval upon the man’s mouth, for what reason he wasn’t sure, anyway his attention was directed upon Merthyl, naturally lounging in pretence that the whole business was nothing he’d not encountered before, but nonetheless….
“Why must all this be so distant Sir Helmsman? Where is your boldness?”
A deep grunt of annoyance and swift chopping motion of one hand indicated Karutorm was not sharing Merthyl’s view of things.
“Considering your claims and accounts of your exploits Merthyl I would have thought that question unnecessary! It is not obvious we must hold this manse in a delicate balance, at jagged borderlines, far enough in to avoid detection, but not so far we risk ourselves!” The Grand Duke did not wait for any reply but turned instead to the mage “I trust this information is sufficient for your interpretations?”
Merthyl remained slouched, to Silc he looked like a sulky child, even if he did try to sound sophisticated. Meanwhile the old mage was having another say
“Oh indeed!! Indeed!! These indicate that the Zerstorung’s princes do marshal their powers and armies, seeking to rend apart the barriers between our lands. It behoves upon us to play the part I have ever predicted and corrode those schemes and devices placed here by the weaker sighted and timorous in denial. Only those who are of strong purpose and ready to accept the Inevitable Order will prosper in this time!!”
By this time, The Mage’s face had become reddened, spittle was flying off of his lips, his breath began to turn ragged, and without further words he sat down, though still managing to maintain a bright glare in his gaze. Silc had seen more entertaining and longer rants and he was none too sure if Belacheli actually had any plan to offer. To judge by the shifting of The Grand Duke Karutorm’s weight, and his clasping of hands he had the same opinion as Silc. After all, if the gabbling twonk was as good as he claimed why did he need a helmsman to tell him something he should have seen through something or other?
Karutorm meanwhile was back issuing orders “Mage. You must seek further congress with the Zerstorung and discern where they may, ah, appear. Lord Merthyl; Master Uraxch this is the time when you must bring all the influence you hold upon these sons and daughters of noble houses; there must be dissatisfaction at the Grand Oaken throne spread, by any means. Master Silc, I trust you know best how to exploit such situations,”
It was the convention between them, that Silc let Karutorm give the orders, sounded better
With that the Grand Duke rose and departed.
At once Uraxch and Merthyl set to grumble and making poor jokes about the way he had treated them; Silc simply made his own sardonic farewell and also quit. Not only were there things to be done, but there would be folk who wished to speak with him alone.
Not surprised that Young Boskie was first out of the shadows
“Nice performance there, lad. Very dignified. So,what didn’t you tell them that I should know?”
“We don’t want to encourage this Guv’nor. It’s not just boogie-boos out of tall tales. My team and me managed a few closer looks using our imaging. And from what I seen I don’t think this Zerstorung bunch are much for caring about gratitude or collaboration. And they don’t look like they can be controlled neither! If they get through, then we’re all for their lunch!!”
“That’s why I’m here Boskie. To take advantage of it all before it gets too hot. Oh, old Karutorm and his north eastern lot can have their rebellion and set up their own independent realm, though why they fancy that being so close to Slovosskia is a mystery,” he cleared his throat “For the present, anyhow. The thing is, this type of danger if used properly can rattle a lot of folk and The Blaggatinian gets free without any costly rebellions with our dear old Elinid at the lead! It’s a great opportunity. You just keep me informed, that’s all,”
Silc paused for a brief swig of peppermint cordial to settle his stomach before the uncomfortable lurch to his innards he suffered as he walked down the short passage way from the borderline back into the Real World.
As he waited for the cordial to settle he looked at cover of the copy manuscript of Uraxch’s book, passed to him by one of Boskie’s men. Half-naked girls sprawled over statues of muscular lads with over-sized thumpers, he flipped open a few pages and snorted.
But useful ones, if goaded the right way.
As usual Silc paused to get his bearings, never mind he’d used this drop-off several times. In reaching this place of secret conferences he always felt he’d been dumped here in a sack and upside down too. So he leant against the cold wall, breathed deeply and looked about the little room, all dark unadorned stone and the usual early year damp. A sniff, wipe of his nose on his sleeve and slow walk to the door.
In the adjoining and large room, at an aged, scored table sat Karutorm. Silc ruefully thought that of course he would be looking comfortable. All this harsh, miserable-looking damp stone was probably a home form home for him.
“What do you think about the latest news?” Silc asked; Karutorm was never much for pleasantries, all business, and in the circumstances that suited Silc.
“Their delusions and foolishness grows every day, having their hands on this weight of potential is a very grave concern,”
“Yer,” Silc sat down “It’s as well we grown-ups found them when we did,”
Karutorm forced a rare, albeit bitter grin.
“When I was younger I naturally scorned trade. I was all for battle. Growing older and inheriting the Family Duty I learnt it was necessary. This was… must be The Just Wise God’s way, for the path led to you, led to the Thoroughfare, and through a means to an end in trade, we find our facing this potential either for advancement or doom,”
If you left out the religious part Silc reckoned the man had put it as clear as sunshine.
“Uraxch is no problem. He knows scraith all apart from party tricks” Silc said “I could get a good strong woman to dress up in sequined robes with silly symbols and wobble him to death and he wouldn’t put up a fight. Belacheli is a risk, panic him and he might set off something by accident, ‘course he never steps outside of than blimpin’ manse. It’ll have to be an inside job,” he ran one thumb over his lips “Needs planning,”
“You seem to believe it is time for us to seize The Manse and the Thoroughfare. I wouldn’t want that snake Merthyl with us. We’ll have to deal with him too,” Karutorm drummed a gnarled but still impressive hand on the table, he spoke it was knowingly. “For some reason, he really does not like you Silc,”
“He wouldn’t be the first,”
“But he is trying to impress or influence me. He keeps showing things he can do with the Stommigheid. He makes tables rise, he lifts stone statues with one hand,”
“Very useful if you want to set up in the furniture moving business,”
“He deludes himself into thinking he is some sort of warrior of The Zerstorung, I have left some suggestions for him concerning the independence of the Balac region, under Terasonia’ leadership and he has talked at length about carving out his own princedom. If I played on that, he could be led on and then denounced as an Imperial Traitor; the distraction would be useful to Terasonia. It’s an idea I have been mulling over for a while in any case. All evidence suggest solid plans may have to be put in place,”
“But we’ll need to have an understanding about The Manse,” Silc said, slowly, thoughtfully, just in case.
Karutorm leant across the table, his face blank stone.
“You can have that. Just so long as you use it for trade. It wouldn’t suit our plans in Terasonia. We just need the chaos the others can cause,”
Silc agreed, he would leave that for now. It wouldn’t do to press hard as to just what sort of choas that last bit meant. Anyway, having complete control of an Oakhostian wide network for swift travel, what more could an enterprising elidian crime lord wish for?
“Our Helmsman,” Karutorm said suddenly “How trustworthy is he? Can we rely upon him to obey orders, keep his head and be careful ?”
This suddenly put question caught Silc, for a short spell he wondered if the grand duke had learnt of the link between Silc and ‘Boskie’ and was probing, but Silc’s generally calm and generally stoical expression held.
“I think he does a good job as the lad that’s responsible for keeping The Manse between Here and that nasty ocean, and so out of the eyes of prying officials who know their stuff. As you’ve heard from his own mouth he’s seen some pretty scary things but he keeps the Thoroughfare working. So, I think he’s a fairly solid sort,”
As far as Silc could tell from the face of another versed in the art of keeping careful, Karutorm did not seem too happy with that, what with his fingers tapping on the table.
“Our Church have their own means of watching out for acts of the Zerstorung and its agents,” the noble began slowly, Silc kept calm, wait now, see what happens. “They know it as Kyusaja; there are several meanings; The Tempter, The Teaser, One Who Annoys and,” his tone grew darker “The Tormenter,” he let that hang there, long enough for Silc’s shrewdness to take in those implications “Even I have to accept their examination whenever I return from journeys outside of Terasonia lest I have suffered some incursion,” Silc thought the man sounded admirably fatalistic about it “The Church will brook no use of the sorts of devices we dabble with Master Silc. It has its own methods which it deems pure and that is all we know. Whereas The Church does not directly bother in politics, if it feels the people are threatened by Kyusaja they could make matters difficult. If The Helmsman is careless in anyway…”
“The Elinid Guild of Mechanicals gave me devices to carry into the Manse which allowed them to survey his work. They deemed him solid enough,” that much was true, Silc was always worried about one of his being turned. “If he’s keeping clear of the Zerstorung’s tendrils then I’m certain he won’t be known of by your,” Why couldn’t they have temples like everyone else? “Church,”
Whether Karutorm was satisfied with that answer or just putting up with it Silc couldn’t tell. The man stood up, adjusting his fur robe.
“I thought it a suitable time to tell you of these factors Master Silc. Now I must journey back. To ensure The Church does not suspect me it’s necessary to arrive two days away from the borders, and that span can be a vital factor, I cannot delay any further,”
He turned, and exited through a door set behind him giving the appearance of walking into another room. About a thousand miles away by Silc’s reckoning.
Silc went back through the door, opened one to a small wardrobe; someone had a had a peculiar sense of humour back in those days. He walked into a room which years must have had a pretty little sight onto what he guessed had once been a garden; remains of short walls still poking out of the long weeds and grasses. Three men were waiting. Silc strode out hands sunk deep in pockets
“Alight guv’?” asked a bull-necked and shaven headed man asked
“We got a lot of work to do Brandgash my old son. A lot of work. Have this place watched; because I think we’re going to having some very urgent messaging from our friends in Terasonia coming this way,”
“Funny you should say that guv’. Old Oily’s been knocking on about wanting to you sharpish like, seems he’s been getting some more sorts of Unusual out of those machines of his, and he says he’s not the only one,”
Brandgash knew a lesser fellow would get in a panic, but not his guv’. He just smiled that calculating way.
“Problems my old son? But I smell opportunities amongst them. If any of the naughty Jordisk boys or girls are own our patch then, we’ll have ‘em and see what’s what!”
“Oh Trelli! Time to come upstairs!”
Housemaid Trelli had sighed and stopped cleaning the spoons. Of course with The Master and Mistress out of the house Young Master Migran would be taking advantage of their absence. She’d known that was all wrong and there might well be consequences, but what could a girl from an orphanage do? As she’d often told herself, she was lucky to have a steady job and a roof over her head.
Up three flights of stairs and there straight right to the Young Master’s bedroom, door open and him standing there with a big grin on his face, gesturing to the bed.
“Are you ready Trelli?” he’d asked with a wink.
“Yes Master Migran,” she’d replied fatalistically.
“Well there you go,” he’d said.
Gesturing to the untidy pile of letters, notes and invoices upon his bed.
“You are so very good at filing Trelli; I don’t know what I would do without you. Father thinks I do all this by myself,”
Of course, Trelli had smiled, indulgently and kneeling at the bed swept up the hillock of documentation, then settling into a cross-legged position on the floor had begun her usual methodical approach; invoices and bills to the left to be itemised, recorded and totalled, his own notes and scribbles of course in the centre, to be filed for his perusal and finally to the right, the information he had come by or in rare instances she had found amongst pile and thought he might want to see. He took all this for granted, but for a housemaid this was a very good way of learning about the comings and goings of the world outside of the small port town of Prendaelyn.
Migran had closed and locked the door and seated at a desk was examining Trelli’s previous organisation of the invoices and bills. By means only truly understood by himself he would transfer household and family’s mercantile expenses and incomes back and forth to suit the never-ending endeavour to reduce the family tax burdens. Unlike his elder brother Presidge he had not really inherited his father’s grasp of knowing what and when to buy and then sell to the best advantage, which included the skill of making folk feel they really should purchase at that time whatever it might be. His talents lay in the arts of numbers and in consequence to compensate for being in the shadow of his brother’s affable but nonetheless dominant personality, Migran had studied the vagaries of arcane tax laws.
He’d gifted her with his idea of a comforting smile. Dear little Trelli worried about breaking any laws, which of course being a cautious little brown mouse she would; but he did not see things that way. He was not breaking any laws, as such, simply taking advantage of those vagaries. All in the cause of his true goal and that was an entrance into the shadowy world of the Jordisk. Although he felt they were making too much of the mysterious and dangerous part of their calling. Observations and evaluation was quite enough and he had been steady making progress, true some family funds had been syphoned off, but he’d reasoned these were simple investments for the future; after all what business man wouldn’t be gleeful in knowing what was going on across the whole Oakhostian?
“What’s this Master Migran?” Trelli had asked holding up five pages pinned together and looking very yellow, she’d then sniffed them “S’ very old,”
Migran was not usually given to swift movements but had surprised her by the speed of his exit from the chair to her side, hand taking hold of the five pages.
“Ah-Oh. Glad you found that. It’s an,” a pause she’d felt too long “Old document! And, it’s to do with,” another slight pause then the words had spilled “Old tax laws which might still be in existence and can still be useful!” and he’d covered his withdrawal with a proliferation of expressions of gratitude to her for finding it.
Judging by that torrent of hastiness Trelli had suspected there was more to that in those old papers.
Now Trelli ever grateful of being in a kindly household and having a secure job, did not want anything to spoil that. Like many folk who are grateful of their lot in life she had a highly developed sense of purpose to maintain the said lot. ‘Old tax laws.. with squiggles and lines??…. Hmm’.
Three whole days of waiting for the fifth day of the decan; Ghitanixday and half-day when the more fortunate of the serving folk had a whole afternoon to themselves, and their ‘betters’ not wishing to be out-done also indulged themselves, with out of house pursuits. No rest for Trelli on this Ghitanixday though; she was scaling the stairs. Four years of dutiful service had made her familiar with all of the house’s little quirks and foibles; in this instance knowing that the lock to Young Master Migran’s was not secure, and if you jiggled a butter knife under the catch, just-so then it would ignore the rusty old mechanism and dutiful slip upwards. Normally only used when out of carelessness he’d taken the spare key as well as his own was and the bedding needed changing.
After the two years she’d been his unofficial clerke she’d learnt something of the language involving taxes and it was all to do with ‘persons’ enacting, engaging or instrumental-ing. Until she had seen those five pages she’d never read of interfacial forces, or progressive capacity ratios; whatever they were. In matters taxation all the figures went in columns and did not have letters in the middle or with curved lines about them. She had a feeling he was dabbling, dabbling beyond his depth, and she did not want that sort of trouble coming her way. She could be implicated and from what she’d overheard when the family were at dinner that was not a good thing to happen to folk. And even if she was not implicated he would surely be and implicated folk brought ruin of their families with servants losing jobs. She liked Migran, he was a kindly, busy sort, but sometimes she felt he rushed without looking.
Although she had to admit she was currently doing something similar, she justified her action under the expedient of, as The Master was fond of saying, ‘Being Alert to Possibilities and Potentialities’
The catch clicked, and she eased into the room, eyes upon the desk she stepped very carefully so as not to disturb any of the new batch of papers which would be awaiting her administrations. The desk was the one part of the room she was not allowed near; if she was in the room he was always between her and it. If she was asking to come in there was a lot of clicking and locking sounds before being allowed to enter. Securing things was all well and good, if you kept the keys in a secret place, but even blocking her view the sound of metal upon porcelain had on previous occasions given the game away and thus the inkwell not looking inky had to be the place and so she lifted its cover.
She was rather pleased with herself, three small keys sitting at the bottom, she fished them out with a spare pen quill and carefully set to work; firstly opening the cupboards on each side edge; more papers and a book with the lurid title “The Lustful Revenge of the Scorn’d Princess N’Y Hishleal of Old Roder”.
Five pages in, Trelli felt her face very hot and her palms very sweaty indeed; she’d never known such things were even possible between people. She steeled herself to put it back and to carry on with the search, even if her slightly heated imagination was now intruding upon her resolution. She drew breath.
Karlyn begged the pardon of the bumble-bee she’d been chatting with; she tugged at her shirt and wrinkled her nose.
“There’s another clean one; thus one a bit soapy? But all fuddled with cooking and dusting? That’s interesting,”
She mused on this discovery as they travelled on. It was definitely coming from the same place as where they were headed…
Trelli with new steadfastness continued her investigation upon the desk. The draws upon the left held two thick volumes, the contents being some more of those complex arrangements of figures, symbols and words. Whereas she could recognise the individual words, the contexts left her quite perplexed. This much she could figure, there was a similarity between the content therein and that upon those five old pages. The sight was very unsettling, nervously she drummed finger upon the desk top, and heard a distinctly hollow sound, shifting a few sheets of tax work to one side she uncovered a keyhole, and not stopping now forged on to carefully work the lock and gently, very gently lift up the desk top, now obviously a lid and peek inside.
Something of a metal box shape, glinting, a faint shadow of her face suggesting an inlaid mirror. Nothing she’d ever seen before, and being a servant in a mercantile household allowed you to be familiar with all sorts of shapes, sizes and devices, but nothing with…
Small, glinting gems?
She dared not raise the lid higher for fear of causing something to happen; what, she wasn’t sure but was certain it might. Nevertheless, both a tugging curiosity and an urge to keep her job secure found her reaching inside through the narrow gap to touch a metallic surface that seemed to modestly quiver beneath her touch. Once again whereas she didn’t have a clue just what it might be, she was fairly certain it was wrong and…
“Trelli! What in little hell!!!”