One thing about Fantasy Novels, you have to have the Nasty- here he is
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!”
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.
“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?
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,”
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.
She would put that whispered response down to one of those fuzzy instances when your mind is all of a buzzing bee-hive.