Patchwork Warriors Part 8

And here we go into the start of the first episode of sustained action

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

 

Dekyria knew there could be dislocations and interludes of silence, the light oculartragen were not precise and reliable devices. Though this particular absence was not one he could be sanguine about. Bleymore’s opinions had given weight to his own feelings on the recent events and he was in something of a struggle to keep his anxiety supressed. He’d deployed every one of his men to either try to make contact with or observe as best they could Erzns’ progress.

‘What are the current assessments Captain?’ Major Gellgrachen put Dekyria at some ease; he was far better at this waiting interlude, calm, seemingly patient and seated, no pacing and above all no demanding.

‘Difficult.  We think we have a signature which might be coming from this elidian girl travelling with the custodian. Its nature is not very stable though, flares, then dies and flares again. The surrounding activity is impeding contact with the file Major,’

‘With Erzns and a custodian in combination, I think we can afford ourselves a small measure calm in this matter Captain. Keep your men alert, but do not drive them. We need to remember our primary missions involve stealth and observation. I daresay the appearance of these creatures is alarming, but we best serve the situation by being alert and keeping Drygnest appraised,’

Dekyria was in no doubt; a very firm order to hold steady.

 

Jerreli Silc did not like skulking about shores at night time. He always reckoned there were better things to do with the night, sleeping being the one for starters. Night time always seemed to bring an urge in his older and more experienced crew to tell lurid tales about mistakes in night time navigation and subsequent wrecks, always ‘around these parts’, which was wherever they went.

‘Skiff on its way Capn’’ a said lean fellow who despite missing half of one arm and an eye moved about the craft with enviable ease.

The approaching craft moved through the dark waters with a predator’s speed, its oarsmen obviously well versed in their craft and at home in the waters. In short time, they had drawn alongside and a rope ladder dropped down.

Five figures made quick and silent progress onto his deck, once the fifth was on board, the skiff was on its way. Jerreli resented the fact that no one on the craft acknowledged him; he had expected his uncle to have told them to give him some respect.

The first man who had boarded first was no taller than Jerreli but nonetheless gave the impression of a handspan’s advantage in height. His light olive skin highlighting the steady calculating gaze from hooded bright eyes. Although his squarely handsome features suggested politeness Jerreli did not feel at all comfortable.

‘Captain Silc. My name in Sinola Mietitore,’ he said with only faintest hint of the rich accent of Tuscatalia ‘Thank you for being so prompt. Your uncle was quite insistent about this commission being carried out,’

‘Yes,’ Jerreli said straightening his back and hoping to look every inch of a reaver ‘We sail to Prendaelyn, set you ashore before dawn, raid the town and undercover of the confusion you’ll bring back whatever you have to bring back,’ he said the last bit hopeful of some information on the matter.

‘That’s the same information I was given,’ the man said affably ‘It’s good when everyone knows what’s to be done,’ he smothered a slight yawn ‘If you don’t mind my men and I would like to be shown somewhere where we can catch up on our sleep. We’ve had quite a busy time getting to this western coast on time,’

Jerreli peered over the man’s shoulder at the four other arrivals, each one busy familiarising themselves with their surroundings, appraising the small gathering of the crew, while in turn giving nothing away in their faces, letting the knives, swords and crossbows they carried doing all the talking. Most folk grew nervous at being the object of attention from a pirate crew, this gathering stood calmly, waiting on their leader.

Jerreli had them taken to one of the dry and healthier parts of his ship. This pirate captain legend building was hard work, and short on encouragement.

 

Migran chewed at his lip. The screen was giving rise to all manner of shapes and colours he had not encountered. At some stage a few days back, not so very far away there had been some rather pointedly violent event. The mystery being such readings should have indicated a very large explosion, but no news of any detonations had arrived, natural or otherwise. Without any mentor, he felt very alone and worse, considering Trelli’s circumstance, responsible. There was no doubt the situation called for a calm and reasoned evaluation followed by a carefully constructed response. His current state of agitation was not conducive to this. Indications even suggested matters were moving out of his influence and he was being swept along. Being a lone explorer was no longer exciting; it was downright wretched.

 

‘Oily’ Klee sucked in breath between his teeth and shook his head, which as far as Silc was concerned was the usual thing these good mechanicals did every time you asked them to do something for you.

In this case the mechanical was regarding the set of six hand-sized metallic-black oblong boxes connected by wires; three each attached to an end of a thumb-thick foot length dusty grey bar, through dull red crystals.

‘Y’see Mister Silc, these haven’t been connected in two parallel rows of three, and thus led into a Pacifier. You connect these straight into a Corresponder of this size and you’re bound to get a reflexive overload; that’s why two of them wires are burnt out now. Where did you get this from anyway?’

Silc had initially called in Oily Klee just to check the thing was working, tonight. Of course asking one of the old type of mechanical meant they would give the thing a good going over.

‘Rhoney ‘ere,’ Silc announced with a tone suggesting retribution for the very worried looking young man ‘Bought it from a highly rated supplier over in Swhizer,’

‘Well, they’re alright I suppose for the short-range stuff. Y’see they’re all about smuggling information through and on the Jordisk network over a few towns’ distances. Sends a swift pulse which is difficult to catch, s’ ok for that purpose but not good for long range. Just as well I ran a test, if you’d tried this full power, the whole thing would have gone up like a firework display,’ he shook his head and sucked in more air ‘Very messy for the operator,’ he looked at Silc meaningfully ‘And anyone who happened to be close by,’.

‘I got to have it working tonight,’

‘I suppose I can patch it up. Won’t be very secure though. Don’t know why you didn’t come to me in the first place, since I was the one that brought all this trouble to your attention’

‘No disrespect Oily, but the last time I gave you a secret project, the news went twice ‘round the city in a decan!’

‘Yeh, but that was only to do with hand-held gem powered torches. And you should have thanked me for that one, you turned it into a nice little earner,’

‘I blimping well had to, on account of the secret getting out! Had to cover the losses. Now get this sorted out for me,’ he glared at Rhoney ‘Otherwise someone’s old mum is going to be visiting a funeral-master!!’

 

Mietitore looked at the oval disc and examined each of its ten small jewels for any sign of activity. He was not one to place much faith in the devices or activities of the, call it Stommigheid, Ethereal, or Astatheia. Careless folk proliferating constructs of metals, wires, glasses and types of gems arranged in haphazard ways. Above all no one in overall charge, because the Custodians were pretending it had been supressed beyond a few stubborn souls, while even they used a few selective devices. Small wonder it was not dependable.

 

‘I suppose that’ll do,’ Klee stepped back, wiped his hands on a rag, then his nose on the back of his sleeve. ‘Might burn out if you go on too long. But for sorting out a botch-up, it’ll do,’

Silc judged that because Rhoney was staring in goggle-eyed admiration, that the traditional old mechanical’s description as any piece of exceptional work as mere ‘sorting out’ was once more in play. Meanwhile Klee was all for labouring a point.

‘Still should have come to us. It’s our livelihoods too,’

Silc however was all for being strict; because when you added this information to what that loon Belacheli had been babbling about and the stuff Karutorm had been hinting at then you were getting into very particular territory where the rewards could be grand, but if you tripped, you got badly slapped about. When he replied, it was with his gentle air of menace.

‘Let’s just say ‘Oily’, it’s about more than Livelihoods and local business interests,’

Klee wisely didn’t do any more labouring.

‘Far enough. I’ll hang around though, just in case. Got to go to The Necessary first,’

And left.

 

In the gloom of the quarters, Mietitore watched the sudden faint glow of a pale yellow gem, he leant forward, ear to the device.

‘….itore….hear me?’

Why was he not surprised all was not clear?

‘I hear you,’

A long pause.

‘….  shore…’llow the saf-ire… ronger it glows….’loser…get,’

In a very sardonic tone he repeated this to his men, none looked impressed; his longest serving associate, long hair covering a scar down the left side of the square face asked pointedly why couldn’t they have been told that earlier.

‘I yes understand….I said ‘Yes I understand!’

‘….when you….done…..at once!’

‘Yes, I understand!!’

And snapped the cover on the device, dropping it into the leatherskin sack; apparently, these devices did not take well to a salt water atmosphere. When he addressed his men, it was in very bitter tones

‘I was told to await the details of something called a triangulation, which could only be supplied at the time of the landing,’ he waved the small sack; dismissively ‘And thus tonight we know it is the saf-ire colouration we follow!!’

His second, Marillo, scratched his head and spoke slowly, folk now no longer above the ground had mistaken that simmering anger for simply slow wits.

‘So then, we go ashore, to a town we’re not familiar with, to look for someone or something we don’t know anything about and bring it or them back, hoping a pretty light guides us through it all,’

‘Yes friend, we are called upon to do the impossible, for the ungrateful,’

‘But we get paid Captain,’ the youngest of the group but the best shot any of the rest had seen in a collected career of about a hundred years.

‘Indeed Marallel, but as you will learn, it is never comparable to the worth of the task!!’

 

Silc glowered at Rhoney, then took a long draw up a mug of beer. He then addressed his woes to the group of his most trusted.

‘Now that was blimpin’ embarrassing that was! I felt a right clown. Could barely hear a word he said and no doubt likewise! Just gotta hope the fellow lives up to his reputation and gets ashore in the right place. Then hope my twonk of a nephew keep calm and pretend to be a merchant fleet awaiting to come into port the next morning, all right and proper,’

Grutch of the hard unforgiving features considered the machines.

‘And you still don’t know whether he’ll be bringing person or machine out! What happens if it’s a scraithin’ big thing they can’t lift or that won’t fit into a ship?’

Silc snorted.

‘Use your noggin’ Grutch! All those Jordisk stuff’s little things aren’t they? Got to be otherwise they couldn’t be secretive, could they?’

‘This load of boxes don’t look little,’

‘But you can blimpin’ well pick it up an’ carry it! Can’t you!!’

Oily Klee returned to the room from ‘attending to his necessities’.

‘You still talking to whoever you’re supposed to? Shouldn’t stay much longer could over-heat’

‘Naah! We’re done,’

‘Then, you’d better disconnect then,’ the old man said, waving a spanner at the farthest right box ‘It’s still casting out all your words,’ he sniffed, used his sleeve again, and took some amusement from the sight of feared crime leaders getting their knickers twisted, then added ‘Not there would be much chance of anyone catching a snatch of anything between this and a specified piece of work. Not up that part of the world anyhows; not a usual place of h-interest by the authorities. Now if you were up further up north where The Grim keep their stuff,’ he shrugged ‘They’d be knocking down your door right now,’

Silc ‘s face fell. That was the one party he did not want getting involved; not The LifeGuard. In stand-up fights they were bad enough, but when it came to murky work they came in all sorts of shapes and sizes and differin’ ways of doing things.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

 

Meradat was about as satisfied thus far as he could be, bearing in mind the unknown factors as to who exactly he was in pursuit of, the likelihood of others being on the same trail for blasphemous or foolish reasons and what catastrophes either might bring by design or more likely by accident.

 

For the LifeGuard file some of the expected tension afore a battle had been soothed away through enjoying a day long discourse between Tildelte Nahtinee and Medician Beritt. Nahtinee had started sneezing, the medician had insisted upon examining her nose and there was between them some ribald sparing as to what else might sneeze; this appeared to refer to a previous examination by Beritt. The medician was of the opinion Nahtinee had inhaled too much pollen from sitting up trees, which was countered by Nahtinee claiming Beritt was smelling of dying daffodils which was very sad, but no doubt that ‘wuz’ ‘wot’ ‘wuz’ making Nahtinee sneeze. The medician had spiritedly denied any such aromas and assertions of poor hygiene. This was but the first round; at every bout of sneezing the medician would suggest some medical solution, to which the tildelte would have a caustic response, that in turn would bring a comment about her lack of medical knowledge. The troopers began to make small wagers and judge who had won each round. Sergeant Erzns was quite sanguine about it. He assured Meradat this was a style of bonding.

 

As a plan in terms of simplicity and execution all had over gone very well. Thanks to a detailed LifeGuard map, they had identified a hostelry of central location and of enough capacity to afford cover. They had entered Prendaelyn in pairs as was common of itinerant males. Meradat ensuring Karlyn stayed under his supervision. Once in the town, he had ensconced himself in a corner of the Grand Welcome tavern’s main bar room and having ordered and then sampled the fayre decided the tavern’s name was, as he had suspected, quite inaccurate, though he had tasted worse. Karlyn now free of sneezing and in the company of trooper Trex indulged in the roles of appreciative audience to some naturally shameless dancing girls. The pair actually being there as guards in the improbable event of Meradat being in peril. Then each of the other troopers entered either glaring as if looking for someone who would regret being found, shrugging and deciding to look for a better place, or weaving in and weaving out seemingly already having drunk enough. Assured everyone was in the town and at hand Trex and Karlyn threw coins at the girls who with practised caught and located them; where being a matter of bawdy conjecture. Nahtinee was much of trying to flirt with one, then blowing kisses as the two appeared to weave out. After a hundred with the air of someone who had not sampled worse fayre Meradat exited.

Norvan ambling along the walkway rolled his eyes in one direction, then went the opposite way. Meradat went down the indicated alley.

There in a shed which appeared to be an adjunct to The Grand Welcome, the group, save Norvan, was centred around Medician Beritt and the oculartragen The medician with much composure was ignoring Karlyn leaning over her shoulder and asking inane questions.

‘I’ve found where the fuss is coming from,’ she said, with an edge of hope in her voice ‘Near the dockside,’

Karlyn sneezed.

Over Beritt’s right ear.

‘I know there is a deficiency of trees hereabouts. But can you not go climb a roof and sneeze there?’

‘I can’t help it!’ Karlyn sniffed the air ‘There are smells like strong peppers!’

‘Well I’ll just amble into the kitchens of this tavern and cite your complaints. I’m sure they’d be understanding of your over-sensitive nose,’

‘Not those sorts of peppers,’

Beritt turned her full attention of Karlyn.

‘As much as it distresses me I really will have to look up that nose of yours again,’

Meradat interposed looking severely at Beritt and questioningly at Karlyn.

‘Your adherence to your duty is noted medician, but there is not the time. We will trust to The Lord God. Let us be about his requirements,’ and strode forward, Karlyn having stuck her tongue out at Beritt followed in his wake asking when she could start burning things.

Beritt frowned, shut down the device and began to pack it away, Erzns crouched next to her.

‘Any contact with Outpost Dorigen medician?’

‘Nothing sergeant.  There’s all these colours dancing about the place. All I can tell you is that this is a comforting as sitting near a wasp’s nest,’

‘I’ll take that as a reasonable assessment of the situation medician. I know you were two lunations at the Siege of Parledach, but ever been fighting in streets before?’

‘Only family fist fights with the town kids and latterly tavern brawls,’ she managed a sly grin, this earned her an approval in the form of a twist of his mouth.

‘If one happens, and it probably will, let the file do the work, you guard this oculator-thing.  Stay low, look to the shadows for comfort, and when I order move, move fast. And don’t try and use your bow unless you’re in a face off, too many soldiers loading one in streets have found they make a good target,’

She would have liked to have asked more about the last words, but he was out and leading. As standing orders dictated either as a medician or an ‘owl’ she took her place behind him.

 

Migran nearly fell out of his chair, the two voices coming across right out of his oculator. The conversation was broken up but there was enough to convince him they did not sound the friendly sorts and the ominous word such as ‘raid’. He paled somewhat and felt his stomach lurch. There was no doubt about the discourse. Just off of the coast there came severe trouble in the form of raiders coming ashore and looking for something. Since the whole conversation was being conducted through mechanical, then the probability would be that the something would be him.

Or Trelli!!

Panic assailed him and with it a debris of thoughts and fear shook lose by the shock. Who could he tell? Who would believe him? And anyway, what would be the reaction to him telling them about his illicit activities? He could envisage time being wasted while the agents of destruction moved in. Prendaelyn was hardly a fortress town, as far as he knew there was only one very old ordinance piece, and the town guard’s extent of capability was sorting out unruly market crowds, or engaging in struggles with drunks, and this being a market day would ensure their capacity was stretched.

What could he do?

Trelli! He had to get Trelli! Sitting alone and forlorn in that dockside warehouse, she would be an ideal target, and….and….

…. While he was running there, he would…he would…. think of something else.

 

Trelli curled up even tighter in the blanket; the three large cushions and one pillow propped in the corner were a poor substitute for a bed, and not much in the way of warmth either, this year’s spring being of a particularly reluctant sort. Perversely as far as she was concerned the only improvement in the weather would be if it were to rain very heavily and keep people in doors instead of letting them be cheerfully, stupidly and loudly drunk outside thus keeping her awake. And if there was someone more stupid than a drunk it was Migran who had got her into this mess. No, maybe, truth be known she was even more stupid because she had known it was all not right and blasphemous and should have told someone.

From where she gripped the blanket faint glows of red and blue emanated.

This was not her world. This was a place where the wicked and the silly dwelt. At this a jolt of conscience stopped another bout of sobbing. She’d played her part in tax evading. It might have been only a little part, but even so. Maybe this was a punishment? Maybe it was the pathway to a hell, probably the First, where she would be constantly unable to do even the simplest thing, like pick up a spoon to eat soup, because that’s what The Stupid deserved.

Stupid! Stupid!

She hoped if she cried enough, she would tire herself out and fall asleep.

 

Mietitore stopped at the rock outcrop, viewed the watchtower central to a man high stretch of wall which drifted out on one side to a higher tower and wall and on the seaward side to some craggy rocks. At once his military sensibilities were affronted at such a ridiculous arrangement. The building itself no more than thrice the height of a man marked the end of the town’s defences. He supposed, wryly, that the authorities were assuming the sea would stop any interlopers beyond this point. Maybe they felt main threat from hereabouts would be from men who were afraid of getting their feet wet, or sand in their shoes when the tide was out. He turned to his men, all versed in the art of scaling small locations, and also in permanently removing the risk of guards raising an alarm. While they did what they had to do, he pulled his cloak over his head and under cover considered the device and the sapphire light, which winked faintly on the central gem. He supposed he would have to make do with that! Still judging by the horizon, the dawn was another eight thousand off, which should be time enough to locate what or whoever the cause was and get them way

He hoped this particular group of pirates knew what they were doing, too many of the crew seemed nervy. Was it necessary to have all guns manned and ready to fire? And why three ships? That would surely raise suspicions if there happened to be an efficient harbour watch, which there again he doubted. There was a lack certainties here. You need a few certainties to work with particularly when whychery was involved. They could call it what they liked; Ethereal or Stommigheid. In Tuscatalia it was La Rovina; the Bane.

 

Migran in mid scamper paused in a street, the direction and length of which afford a clear view of a wide patch of sea. Congratulating himself on the foresight of bringing his lensan, he extended the tube and peered through the series of three glass discs, each expanding the view. He could make out three ships! He supposed one ship may wait the night at sea to ensure a safer passage into port in daylight, but this fleet of three and the word ‘raid’… surely it was too much of a coincidence! He must raise an alarm!

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

 

Beritt kept her head down, and hunched while weaving slightly. She hoped no other passing group of drunks would want to know what she was carrying. There was no doubt the file about her could see off any group of at least three times their number, but she would be stuck in an affray trying to keep the blasted machine intact. Everyone else was having no trouble keeping pace; the Custodian had gone striding ahead with Norvan in tow as delegated, titular escort. Karlyn was skipping like something demented and still sneezing!. No one was worrying about the medician and the extra load, the whole weight seemed very symbolic.

‘Hey Beritt. You’re starting to look like a proper trooper,’

Trex got the traditional vulgar response of a flipped top of her thumb to the tip of her nose, but accompanied by a grin.

Proper trooper; yeh for the present that would suit fine.

 

Mietitore ran up the steps of the watch tower, two of his men were rolling the corpses of three unfortunates to one side, allowing him access to the door to the walkway. From this vantage point the town looked very much like any other. The burning of lights indicating ale, wine and coin were yet to run out. Grasping the device firmly he swept it before him in an arc, watching for the sapphire, as the light flickered across five gems, before settling upon one; thee central one of the five to the left. Keeping his arm steady, he crouched down and peered along the line. The location suggested the docks, possibly a warehouse area.

One of those who had despatched the watchmen raised the issue of someone coming to check on the watchtower. Mietitore looked to the town and his dismissive sneer was enough of an answer.

 

Curator Jerble had nearly dozed off. Whereas this was the docks temple and in theory the one which should be witness to and arbiter of much associated violence and petty villainy; truth be known no one had that much faith to bother them much. Translator Pettla had made it quite well known that he felt The Good Lord God knew all and whatever happened was His Way and all that mortals should do was pray and give Him thanks; providing this was done at the times specified on the notice board. This was most convenient for the translator and for those of the public who thought they ought to sometimes attend Temple.

So Jerble was quite surprised by the furious hammering upon the temple door and the demands for access by an obviously out of breath person. Taking hold of his cudgel, for one could never be sure, he carefully drew back the door a hand span.

A frantic face appeared.

‘Let me in! Let me in! It’s vital!!’

‘What does an honest soul want at deep night?’

‘It’s vital I tell you!!’

The irony of this time being on the other side of a persistent request for access was quite lost on Migran. With sudden fear fuelled strength he shoulder-shoved the opening door and forced the curator back, who understandably stumbling over a chair end up lying on his back. This unfortunate circumstance was of little concern to Migran who was frantically looking about for a bell rope.

‘The alarm! Ring the alarm! Pirates are coming!!’

Jerble being a man of modest composure and reasonable wits pointed out if this was the case then the watchtower men would have begun to sound their own alarms. Migran didn’t take any notice, calling out that there was no time to lose. In his haste and frantic concern for Trelli that by the time Jerble was fully to his feet Migran was scampering to a summoning bell rope, leaping upon it as if he were a man nearly lost at sea, and thence began to swing and pull demonstrating no skill whatsoever. Jerble’s own attempts to haul him off, only serving to increase the sway and tempo of the bell

In spite of his best efforts to craft a reasonably quiet life Translator Pettla was quite suddenly woken from his sleep, as was the visiting wife of a currently away on business merchant. He also moved quite quickly, in his case speed fed by a mix of anger at being disturbed and concern at possible scandal. Temple bells being rung at deep night attracted attention and he had assured the lady there would be no attention. Finding his curator at one swinging and wrestling with some hysteric in a battle for possession of a bell rope added confusion into the mix.

‘Curator Jerble! What is this!’

‘A madman, your enlightenedness! He is babbling!!’

‘There is no time to explain! Ring the bells! Alarm! Pirates!!’

Added Migran.

To the confusion.

 

Trelli sat up in a dither. Her tear heavy ploy had sort of worked. She’d not been aware she had been asleep until the temple bell woke her up. Shaking off the dream-fuddled idea that it was because the local ecclesiastics were coming for her, and pulling about a blanket for protection, she stumbled towards the nearest window. There were still a few lost revellers about, this time pausing into their inebriations to consider why some fool of a translator was ringing his bells this time of night; candles at windows suggested the few local residents were also awakening to the sound. One drunk swayed in her direction, peered and then pointed; at once she dropped out of sight, wrapping her hands into her armpits and whimpering…stupid-stupid- get your gloves, too light! Holding her breath, as if it would help, she waited for some cries of alarm in her direction, but as the clamour seemed to revolve around the bells, she hoped the drunk was either being ignored or had decided he needed to have less of the strong wines.

No sooner than she felt assured, than she noticed the gloom in the room was being softening into shades of red and blue. After a shriek of alarm, she scrambled into the blanket, wrapping her hands deeper and deeper into its folds. The light was getting stronger! What the Little Hell was she supposed to do now? Walk about for the rest of her days in a blanket? Except when she took it off to strangle Migran! Short on logic she crawled over to the window which looked out to the sea; heart hammering, mind swimming. Ships?

 

At the sound of the bell Mietitore’s group dropped to the sandy approach to the main harbour.

‘I don’t see no watchtower signal lights,’ someone said.

‘And this no place under the pious thrall of those girls out the librarteries either. This can be no call to devout prayers. Someone has set off an alarm!’ Mietitore held up the device; the sapphire light was still pointing to the warehouses ‘Much fun from now on!’

His men were versed in that savage turn in his voice, from now on woe upon anyone who even stumbled in his way.

 

‘In The Name of the Lord God!’

Norvan reckoned that when this custodian said those words, they were more of an announcement rather than an oath ‘Those are temple bells! This is obviously not a devout place given to quarterly calls to prayer!’ he nudged Norvan, who in consequence stumbled ‘To the temple trooper. There are events within events this night!!’

‘And the plan goes down the splooshes and thuds hole,’ was Norvan’s response ‘Same as it ever was,’ then sprinted after Meradat, who he reckoned seemed possessed on some homing instinct to temples as they were at the traditional tent shaped structure in short time. Meradat swerved to an alley adjoining experience had taught him hasty exits were never out the front entrance. He kicked in the backyard gate and without much loss of pace seemed ready to do the same to the back door; this was not necessary as anticipated it suddenly drew open, revealing a hastily dressed woman. She promptly squealed, and tried far too late to close the said door; a lost cause and so as had Jerble earlier, she fell backwards as firstly Meradat strode in, subjecting her to a fierce condemnatory scowl, followed by Norvan who grinning knowingly winked and tipped his hat.

‘Y’ll look back on this one day and laugh about it,’ he added and set off after Meradat.

Who drove through the temple domestic space scattering light furniture, pushing or flinging doors open until he reached the space where the translator would perform the Solemnity, an area which currently was anything but. The very dishevelled translator and his distraught curator hanging grimly onto the bell rope intent to stop the ringing, while a figure was seen scrambling out of a window.

‘Translator!’ his pronouncement echoing as he drew forth his custodian’s insignia ‘I am about the Lord God’s business here, which I had intended to conduct by stealth! What is the reason for this ringing of bells?’ he advanced, fists clenched ‘Would it be in relation to my task. Are you raising an alarm to warn those foes of the Lord God!!’

Whereas the translator could only work his mouth, the curator, used to making excuses for his nominal superior managed to interpose himself between the two representatives of the Good Lord God.

‘Honoured Custodian! We were trying to stop the work of that wild young man, who at your arrival has just fled! He was raving about dangers and woes!!’

‘He is Migran, the younger son of a merchant of some repute, Master Hendrechan !’ the translator added, anxious to move the blame.

Norvan had gone to the window, peering out, crossbow first.

‘Something scuttling in the shadows to what looks like warehouses!’

The translator perceived some safety debris of circumstance and intended to lurk within.

‘Ah! The Hendrechans’ have warehouses there! He must have some sort of hidden and proscribed device which has gone awry!!’

Even through the curator usual did the menial work in this area the translator was also adept at making up his own excuses and deflections.

Meradat frowned, ordered trooper Norvan to pursue, he would follow; before doing so he turned full face upon the translator.

‘When I have concluded my business, amongst other matters I will be back to discuss the issue of a woman trying to flee your abode,’

The translator was about to babble something; Meradat was not listening; from the direction of the rest of LifeGuard file a sudden bright green light flared.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

 

Jerreli Silc did not know this place and in consequence had no idea if they had any sort of seaward defences. Some of the trading cities along the Centrus Sea had sufficient ordinance and their own warships to see off a small fleet and still not disturb a market day. Along the coasts to the north, both scothian and imperial warships plied a grim watch for slovosskian and foggean isle raiders. So, this place could have anything lurking and he might not know until a first salvo started. He had taken the recent precaution of sending two boat loads of crew from each ship to land firstly put any end to any ordinance lurking.

And secondly to greet the tuscatalians, and relieve them of whatever they had found. They might be good at their trade but he suspected his thirty men could put paid to them.

For whatever it might be would have good value, and maybe his uncle might not know how to get the best out of it. He had his own contacts….

His musings stopped, far across the water came the sound of a bell, ringing frantically.

‘Hear that!’ he demanded to all about him.

Several said they did, a couple asked what it meant and were sharply told it was an alarm.

Someone on watch swore they’d seen a greenish light.

‘Ferrrkit!!! We’ve been spotted! ‘

 

Karlyn gave vented to such a series of sneezes that she quite lost her breath, the last one nearly caused her to topple over.

 

The Helmsman ordered his men to their station and make ready, the swell of the ominous waters as they rose and fell in unsteady tempos would soon resolve into some surge of a large and more important angry response to external pressures. What pressures though? He had no time to consider that now, all must be made ready for the surge.

 

Merthyl was gathering a group of men he paid enough and always let make free with entertainment upon any survivors, when he felt a sudden flush of excitement far beyond anything he could normally fabricate. This was promising!!

 

Men of Jerreli’s fleet began to look fearfully to the ocean, beneath them the crafts swayed to port then to starboard, leaning at worrying slants; those below came up claiming they could hear thunder from the depths.

 

Karlyn flew backwards, convinced that some wobblers had leapt out of some shadows caught her with a swift sly punch. Beritt dropped at feeling a sudden surge of heat from her back-sack, she tore it off and finding it was pulsing soft green swore at the device; therein slipped into a doorway to check what the scraith was going on. When she had the thing in her hands the green flared into a blinding flash and the whole device shot from her hands punching her in the stomach and convincing her the fribbin’ thing was possessed.

Meradat stood firm against the wall, forcing his senses to stay alert and make as much rational observation as he could. The bell which had been silenced by the two men had started again of its own accord too fast, then too slow for ordinary work; the pitch was wrong. Above him clouds scuttled in the opposite direction, very swiftly.

 

Large bubbles broke the surface of the sea; heralds to an eruption of a column of water and debris rising upwards beyond the height of the sails of the ships, whereupon its blossomed into ugly flowering of mix of sea, sea bed and living and dead things, showering out in all directions.

‘Trap!’ cried Jerreli anxiety giving anxiety its own bloom to all manner of fiendish devices a coastal town might have.

 

Upon a squat tower set upon the portside area, sat the two pieces of ordinance of the port of Prendaelyn. This existed much to the local business communities chagrin by a compulsory purchase imposed upon them by the princes of Decoryx. Crewed by men who were thus exempted from civic tax and had some rudimentary training honed slightly by the knowledge if they got anything wrong the weapons could explode about them. Other than that, it was a reasonable way to while away some time free of family. The watch of eight had, for once been interested in the sea because of the three ships idling waiting the dawn to dock. There was discussion over where they had come from and what cargo they were bringing. There was some suspicious speculation over the three long boats and the barrels them seemed to be carrying, and whether someone ought to suggest the town foot watch come and ask questions.

Then came the bell. And the crews had decided to lock the doors load and their ordinance a slow and careful business, so let the town watch come running to find out why bells were ringing and row boats coming ashore.

Then came the violent fountain between ships and port.

While every man of the tower watch felt as if they had been struck suddenly by a sudden strong sea wind, and found they were where they were sure they had not been just a five before.

‘Pirates!’ one cried.

‘Pirates be dam’d!’ the captain of the tower watch yelled back ‘That was unnatural stuff!! Those are Sanded Land folk!!’ and unable to suppress the irrational thrill of battle, which was not normally in his nature he gave the order to commence to fire upon the ships.

At which the landing party dropped all pretence of bringing goods ashore; some did as ordered and charged towards the watch tower, others confused by the sudden change in circumstances rushed off for cover and in search of booty.

Jerreli had the signal given to fire into the centre of the town. He’d read in accounts of great pirate lords who always directed so much ordinance into the centre of a town that it caused the people to surrender. He had neglected to consider that was part of a campaign directed at the more independent city states and their physical centres of power.

 

Meradat observed the two LifeGuard scouts scrabbling, swearing complaining they’d lost sight of the fellow and what the scraith was that ‘thing’ about? Whatever it was he knew there was the expected grim logic to the event. He gathered the confused party about him, this included dragging Karlyn to her feet. He addressed Erzns.

‘You may have been warned about them sergeant but have you ever experienced a temporal event?’

‘We were warned,’ came the gruff reply, his attention more directed to his file ‘C’mon pull yourselves together, this is no worse than an ordinance bombardment,’

‘Explains all that smell of pepper and the sneezing,’ Karlyn said ‘I never had that before, not even on the road. That big whoosh of sea must be part of it,’

‘This machine went all furious,’ Beritt scowled at the device at her feet ‘Nearly scorched my back off, then shot into my stomach       ! ‘

‘I volunteer to kiss it better,’ Trex said, dodging subsequent the right swing.

Karlyn wanted to be ahead, there were sharp hammering smells to the fore; someone was doing something very seriously. She had the urge to run full speed, howling, ready with a fist full of combustibles to put an end to the source.

‘Hear that!’

          Norvan was the first to raise the alarm, but by the time he had finished everyone had picked up their gear and were looking skywards. Myrrek grumbled to Beritt.

‘Sarge’ had to scraithin mention ‘ordinance, didn’t he? Like an invocation of a curse,’

The first had been the double boom close at hand and shrillness fading off into the night. Then came the far-off many voiced retorts. The troopers whispering as each counting off the time for direction and impact

‘Keep moving forward’ Erzns ordered ‘Shift closer, there’ll be raiders! We need to get under their comfort!’

‘Comfort,’ Beritt found that a peculiar concept; the gap betwixt an ordinance discharge and where it would land.  She ducked and winced as the overhead screaming battered her senses, only to be introduced to far worse when the denotations roared and then shook the ground beneath her. She now felt she might know what the folk in Parledach had gone through. Looking back over her shoulder there was smoke, and flames flying upwards, buildings swayed, or were already gone, screams followed. Instinctively she clutched at her mediphsic. ‘Fifth Hell,’ this was her observation and not oath. She was much glad of Erzns yelled order to keep up. Orders were good, you just obeyed them, no need to think. You had no need of choice to make, all the pain and suffering behind you was no longer your concern.

That was of no particular salve to her anguish at the screams of the first victims of a town under ordinance fire.

 

Myrrek meanwhile was keeping up his litany of woe.

‘Knew it. Knew it. Plan was going too smoothly. Now the midden-storm starts. What a scraithing!’

Meradat had drawn his axe, Beritt wished she didn’t feel he looked rather satisfied.

‘There are no such things as coincidences in these matters! There are others here for whoever the culprit is!!’ Norvan being the first to respond

‘Makes sense your Diligence. Me and Myrekk will go ahead and scout the perimeter?’

Erzns nodded.

The troopers loped off, Myrekk voicing an opinion that just because Norvan had been hanging about with a custodian he didn’t have the right to make damn fool orders.

Meradat crouched, mulling through the possible approaches of the true opposition and its likely composition when Karlyn was suddenly at his side with the wide-eyed excitement of a young hound on its first hunt.

‘I can tell! I can tell!’

Meradat was obliged to reach out with one hand to her collar to restrain her further progress

‘Your tildelte seems to have a trace upon the problem Your Diligence,’ Erzns was all tight- lipped diplomacy. ‘I would suggest we had better stay here tight and see what happens, the lads will be back when the numbers get too heavy,’

‘A solid strategy on an ordinary battlefield sergeant, but where the Stommigheid is involved caution may not be an option,’ Meradat concluded distracted by Karlyn’s wriggling

‘Look I’m not a blimpin’ hound! Now let go of me collar!! There’s someone there!’ Karlyn jabbed a finger towards a specific building ‘An’ you just said yerself your custodianship we can’t wait! We gotta go and get them! Now!!’

‘They may be someone who is very alone and frightened,’

Having said that Beritt at once shrunk into her coat, hoping no one had heard her; she wasn’t feeling heroic. She was a medician, she cleaned upwards. But Erzns being Erzns had heard her

He absently massaged a two-day stubble before addressing Meradat.

‘The medician has a recent recorded affinity with folk taken with Astatheia Your Diligence. If there is someone in there who is volatile, she might well be the best one in there,’

This time, irrespective of how she felt Beritt kept her mouth tightly shut. Karlyn was more for expressing loud vocal empathy with Erzns.

‘Yeh! Flaxi’s just the one to be nice an’ kind an ease ‘em out!! Let’s not be arse-squeaking about the place!! Let me and her get in there and find out what’s what!!’

Meradat had been carefully sifting sense and judgement out of the situation. Action was required and in this instance and based on previous evidence, it was reasonable to consider the two young women liable to be useful.

‘Very well,’ and he made swift right handed gestures across the tops of their heads ‘Be about the Lord God’s bidding,’

‘C’mon! C’mon!!’ yapped Karlyn and once released sprinted across the road to the warehouses, Beritt barely keeping up; despairing when the girl did not stop at the first wall to gauge direction, but kept the frantic pace down a small alley. Although Beritt knew the light was from fires of destruction, she was grateful in that the illumination kept the elidian pest in view. This faint comfort was dashed when out of the corner of her left eye she saw a small group of loudly gleeful armed men rushing past. So now she was not only running towards some Stommigheid wielding unknown but also the teeth of this raid.

 

The sound of the pirate’s bombardment had pulled Trelli out of her island of misery and to the window. This new circumstance freezing all thoughts and even instinctive panic. As the first detonation took place, all her mind could come up with was that there would be no Sale Day tomorrow.

 

Mietitore’s progress along the dock had been steady until he and his men had been confused by the sudden twists and turns in the alleys. Usually such things were not a problem, but in this case they’d all become quite mixed up. And about the same time and ordinance had begun between ship and shore, with him and his in the middle. Although not a new experience it was not one you got used.

On top of this came a new problem; being the sapphire light was dancing back and forth from one gem to another of the inner four. Bereft of dependable direction he swore with all the passion and vehemence of a true son of Tuscatalia and invoked curses upon the Jordisk who had made this device; this cleared his head. At least he only had four possible directions to go, and all of them forwards.

It was a start.

 

Trelli didn’t really want to look down at her hands, the sight either dispirited, angered or frightened her.

But the colours were now pulsing and there was a flash similar to one from those fancy sapphire rings ladies wore

Oh, Good Lord God, help this thy poor wayward daughter!

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One thought on “Patchwork Warriors Part 8

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