A Leap In The Dark (Sort Of) ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’

Honestly folks, I truly would not absolutely, certainly, definitely try this anywhere other than on WP. Yes, I know I am saying that before you know what the subject matter is, but it simply as to be said the WP writing community is an open, and freewheeling sort of place where a writer feels things can be tried out without fear of ridicule or ill-informed censure.

(You know the sort of thing, like someone going onto a ‘discussion forum’ to modestly and politely state their religious, political beliefs, or social beliefs and getting responses with as much indignation and abuse as if the person had suggested a national holiday to be set aside for the drowning of small cute pets)

Anyway; as you may know (or may not know- after all a reader of blogs can’t be everywhere at once) one of the features of my posts over the months has focused on my fantasy book project Current Working Title: ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’. There were a couple of approaches, a while ago I posted up extracts, and more recently have found intermittently a consecutive series of posts of the entire work up to about one-half way through. There have been favourable comments, very constructive advice and an encouraging number of ‘likes’.

Now, here is the thing.

How is it shaping up folks?

On this post I am attaching links to all of the ‘Parts’ which include the chapters of about half-way through. If you have not read any or missed some, they are all here. So you have an opportunity, if you so wish to gauge this ‘work in progress’. This I stress, is not an urgent plea for folk to drop what they are doing and pile in with comments. The post could continue to collect comments for months because folk might take months to read the whole.

Basically, these are the questions I am looking for answers.

Firstly: Is the story holding together?

Secondly: Do you care what happens next? (This question has to be asked. You must have been reading something where you reached the stage of saying ‘I don’t care. I just don’t care what happens next!). Don’t be afraid to answer that one, you’re not drowning cute pets, you might be saving a potential commercial readership from suffering that fate.

Thirdly: What needs improving? There must be ‘things’.

And there we go. The cool thing is you don’t even have to take part, you don’t have to say a word if you don’t want to, because that in itself is as informative as anything.

So, no immediate response necessary (like there’s about 70,000 words floating about there.)

So, no response necessary.

It’s all valuable folks.

And that’s a genuine statement.

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 1

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 2

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 3

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 4

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 5

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 6

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 7

Patchwork Warriors Part 8

Patchwork Warriors Part 9

Lots of action and the three central character, Karlyn, Medician Beritt and Trelli are brought together

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

 

Migran had garnered a crumb of comfort when something slammed him into a wall forcing his head upwards and he saw the scuttling backwards clouds.

‘Temporal distort,’ he’d said to himself, with a satisfactorily composed tone, which swiftly evaporated with the thought that he might have been responsible for it.

Migran had made this journey innumerable days of his life. But never in a night made hideous by the scream and crash ordinance, cries of people, rumble of falling buildings, all mingled and made worse by panic and fear. Twice, riotous and armed men had caused him to duck into unfamiliar pathways, three times he had stumbled over litter, which his currently livid imagination turned into fresh assailants.

He was sure it was this way, he was…

Then….

Colliding with a tall, lean man, sword in one hand, and in the other something which flickered a bluish light at a rapid pace.

The lad’s initial urge to scream was stifled by his attention upon the device. Well that was Jordisk and no mistake!

Mietitore’s initial urge run the fellow through and get him out of the way was restrained by the rather evaluating look the man was giving the device, which had quite replaced his original one of abject terror. All was quite silent about the group, as the pace of the movement of the sapphire between gems began to increase, then break out of the central four until it was hurtling back and forth along all ten in an irregular pattern and pace. Whereas Mietitore and his men stared at the thing in annoyed puzzlement, the new arrival’s evaluation turned to one of disbelief. With a sharp oath, and a surprising speed of daring he snatched it from Mietitore and threw the device into the air.

‘Get down! Gonna explode!!’

Since it was he who had been holding it, the mercenary did not see how this could be a trick and took the advice, there followed a very bright light and a sharp crack; the group looked up to see small shards of debris falling in a rather pretty shower of twinkling bright reds and blues.

 

The sudden burst of light and the loud crack shattered the window, Trelli thought herself mighty lucky that the shards of glass had flown past and above; she should have been badly cut. The thought did not hang about very long. Her confused mind was making the connection between the colours from her hands and those in the sky. Something was coming for her, no doubt about it!

Trelli was alternating prayers for guidance with those begging for forgiveness; the rapid recitation of the litanies was having the pleasantly surprising effect of bringing some focus to her swirling mind. The town was under some sort of attack, that was terrible, it also meant there was chaos, but if there was chaos then no one was going to notice someone clutching a blanket over their head scuttling away; she could get out of Prendaelyn and head for orphanage at the Libratery of the Gentle Hope. They would understand. She’d always been a good girl. They would help. Firstly, picking up some bread and light wine as sustenance for the journey, she pulled the thickest blanket about herself in the form of a hooded cloak, grasped the door handle, said one fervent prayer committing her soul unto the Good Lord God, and stepped out.

On the threshold, she said one brief prayer for Migran; it seemed a bit mean not to, and it would be as well to be generous of spirit in such a circumstance as this.

 

Kalyn rushed at the door, but then noticed reflected against the growing fires, the window. With a whoop of glee, she picked up a nearby crate and threw it, clapping her hands as the glass smashed. There was no time to stop and think long plans, the calling was so strong, it was pulling. So, with only the briefest of pauses to kick away the more dangerous edges of glass she hauled in through the window, with a brief cry of ‘Cmon Flaxi!’, which Beritt answered with a coarse affirmation she was following.

‘If I got to sew up a tear in her skinny backside after this,’ being said to herself as she more gingerly negotiated the window frame.

And then a scampering through store rooms, Beritt sourly wishing she could point out to that elidian squirrel she was not only carrying a full medician bag, but this dam’ uncomfortable oculartragen (lightweight..ha!)  AND crossbow, bolt holster and a sword, while Karlyn The Mad had nothing but some sword and a mere back-pack of ‘stuff’.

 

Although the shrieks of the explosions, the crashes, rumbles and thuds were filling up most of her world Trelli could hear something below, in fact whatever it was it was growing closer and more understandable. It was a voice, actually it was two voices, calling back and forth to each other over a little distance.

There were people in the warehouse!

And being stuck stiff half way down a flight of stairs was all the wrong place to be. There again going back up these creaky stairs in any way was going to be heard. But if she just crouched down, low in this dark blanket in this dark place, she might, just might seem to be a shadow or just a corner or something. Heart hammering, she slowly squatted, hands tucked into her armpits and for no good reason, eyes squeezed shut.

 

Beritt finally caught up with Karlyn because the girl had stopped advancing and was looking up and moving in circles, one hand holding a cutlass, the other stuffed into the pocket of her trousers.

‘They’re close,’ she was muttering to herself.

‘Well y’all get in cover,’ hissed Beritt as she lurked behind a woolsack ‘Don’t stand in the open. You’ll either be a target or scare them into something stupid,’.

This caused Karlyn to snigger.

‘Oh Flaxi you do so look like a little urchin, all wide-eyed, hiding and peaking from behind that stuff!’

‘I am not peaking nor hiding!’ came the reply heavy in dignity ‘I am merely taking cover and surveying the terrain,’

Karlyn merely rolled her eyes and waggled her sword in Beritt’s direction

‘You’re all crumbled up and creeping, ‘cas you’re afraid if you stand up you’ll wet your underthings!’  This brought a venomous hissed response

‘Oh yeah! Let’s do discuss bladder failures! This is such an ideal time!! High Holy! If y’all do get a well-deserved crossbow bolt twixt your shoulders, you’re First-Hell bound! And I feel sorry for the whole crew when you get there!’ ‘Cas ya’ll bring a whole new style of stupidity!!’

This outburst prompted a rather stiff-backed confident stance from Karlyn. She raised the cutlass as if an admonishing finger, her expression insufferably superior, her voice ridiculously parlour room prim

‘We are not at home at Little Lady Snippy,’

Before Beritt could educate Karlyn into her own county’s style of insults, threats and further observations on the elidian’s state of mental health, the medician noticed amongst that performance there was a swift tightening on the expression and a glance upwards. Fribbit if the girl wasn’t acting as some sort of lure! With a grudging respect Beritt gave a brief nod; then joined in the performance.

‘Aww Little Hell on you! All this blatherin’ has indeed agitated my innards. I gonna go fer a squirtz! You play hunt the mousies an’ don’t go blamin’ me if y’all get tramsfixated to a wall with a piece of metal!!’ and jerking her head to the left slipped out of sight; her intention to circle in from the flank towards the stairs as indicated by Karlyn. It had been some time since she’d been on formal field training, she hoped she was getting it correct,

Karlyn thought Flaxi should stop pretending she was proper imperial and stick more with her homeland voice; she sounded sweet when she spoke like way.

Meanwhile back to the hunt.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

 

Trelli could not but help overhear the discourse. To begin with she was obviously being tracked by two women, which was a surprise, though of what sort she was not too sure. Also, they did not appear to be acting the way she had expected ruthless trackers to behave. She was trying her very best to think of the next move. Stuck and hunched was not the most productive. But maybe, just maybe if she stayed ever so still. It was that odd one standing up and waving the sword she had to watch out for.

‘Hello!’

Everything that was Trelli jolted, then seemed to spin; but finally, for her own survival and self-respect then clenched. This episode couldn’t have lasted that long, because when she peered down between her legs and the stairs, a face, topped with a brimmed hat and framed in blonde hair was regarding her, moonlight and unsettling flickering of nearby flames highlighting a light friendly smile, one of those easy-going hengestatian accents.

‘Hello,’ Trelli always felt good manners cost nothing, even when being hunted down ‘Might I ask your business here please? This is the warehouse of my employer,’

They both flinched as another projectile screamed overheard; Trelli felt it was a comfort, Beritt winced, she was a soldier fer frib’s sake!. She ordered herself to be more composed

‘Truth be known. I think it’s you I may be more concerned about. Y’see I’m in the Imperial LifeGuard. Medician Arketre Beritt,’ she doffed her hat ‘I am engaged in seeking out someone who may be distressed by matters outside of their control. You being all hunched up in a blanket seem to fit that description,’

She hoped that little speech was sufficient unto the cause.

To her relief, the figure sunk back with a sigh.

‘Then you’ve not come to torture and burn me?’ Trellis did feel a bit of goose for blurting out that, but all in all she was not inclined to rational thought. The soldier, let out a soft laugh, shaking her head.

‘Good Lord God’s Mercy no!’ she shook the bag at her side ‘Medician, y’see. I heal things. I care for folk,’

‘And if that doesn’t work. You got me to contend with girly,’

Beritt snarled under her breath, just when she was starting to get somewhere there came Karlyn crawling up the stairs like a bad-tempered tomcat.

‘Karlyn I-’

‘I’m with the Custodians see. We got you cornered. Give up now. You’re nicked girly!’

Trelli looked quickly to Beritt. Although the soldier’s scowl was not directed at her; that was small comfort as the nasty with the cold elidian accent crept closer, something in a bag dangling from a string in one hand, a fearsome sword in another.

‘Rein in Karlyn willya!! The girl’s scared out her socks!!’

‘They look secure to me Flaxi!!’

‘Please excuse my associate! When her mother was carrying her, the poor lady was bitten by a rabid squirrel!!’

Humour did not help, Trelli began to back up the stairs, Karlyn advanced.

‘I got her Flaxi. Now you just sit tight. This is my work. I can smell the whichery so strong!! And you! Lurky pants! Stop dithering! Raise your hands and slither down here all controlled,’ Karlyn waved the bag ‘One sly move and you get a mouthful of this, and it,’ she slavered with relish ‘Burns!!’

Trelli didn’t see how she had any options left, the little ‘hengy’ was being nice but down there, while the nasty ‘’lidian was here and getting closer! She had to do something to stop the advance of a mad-head.

Karlyn was not really surprised that the Whychie suddenly pulled off the gloves and waved her hands about, with all sorts of red and blue colours appearing. She was a bit perplexed that the display was soft and rather nice-looking, like one of the festival displays. They should be all thunder and lightning stuff. Must be a trick.

‘Now you just stop there!!’ Trelli tried to imagine the nasty girl was a sort of Migran ‘I got powers!! And you just be careful, or you’ll get them!!’

‘I wouldn’t do that!’ Beritt called up ‘My associate is not inclined to be reasonable! Whatcha name!!’ Beritt hoped that might calm the girl down; there was a bombardment going on; Karlyn was doing her mad-dog act, and here was a girl waving rainbows. ‘And y’all hold still there Karlyn!!’ Using an old barracks term for desperation, Beritt was rollin’ dice!

‘T-Trelli!’ came back the stammering cry ‘An’ you get back ‘lidian! You’ve no business crawling in here frightening people who are bothered enough as it is! Why don’t you leave you friend to help me!’

The colours began to rapidly shift between red and blue, Karlyn was certain she could see sparks dancing between the fingers; this was surely building up to some sort of Whychie attack, and poor little Flaxi would get fried or frazzled if she didn’t act now.

And thus leapt.

At Karlyn’s yell of aggression and Trelli’s responsive of a scream of alarm, Beritt’s reaction was to once more resort to swearing, while without much thought, just notions, pushed a sack of something outwards.

Not that she had been certain the stairs were going to collapse, it just seemed that as Karlyn impacted on Trelli (of the rainbows), the result was going to be a structural failure of some sort. As all shades of red and blue illuminated the descent of two bodies mingling with pieces of wood, her immediate sense of satisfaction was replaced by a feeling that the pair seemed to be falling a bit slower than they should.

But impacting as heavily as expected, in a cloud of whiteness.

‘Oh. Flour,’ Beritt said pleased with her accompanying calmness.

Even if The Fifth Hell was settling upon the town.

Then from the general direction of the girl Trelli there came a near blinding display of the reds and blues.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

 

Mietitore and his men crouched down in the alley with Migran, regarding him with if not quite respect at least attention.

Migran meanwhile was venting his fear in an explosion of anger which made him feel more masculine in such company.

‘Where the Fourth Hell did you get that damn thing from? That’s the worse locator ever. Overloaded! Tell me you didn’t build it yourself for ferrkit!!’

‘No,’ Mietitore’s men remained silent, that slow and careful way meant he was extemporising and this could be quite the work of art ‘We were sent here on a mission at short notice,’ he shrugged ‘We are just soldiers of the Oaken Throne. We have no knowledge of these devices. Save what we are told,’

He was also resolving to find out from Silc who was responsible for the device, and explain to them, with the aid of a knife to the throat the need to be more precise.

‘It’s blasted well careless, sending men out with those! Err… soldiers of the Oaken Throne??’

‘Yes,’ Mietitore placed his hands heavily upon Migran’s shoulder, you needed to display a certain amount of approachability when entrapping an innocent. ‘Our mission here was to seek out someone displaying a certain amount of independent talent in matter of…I prefer to call it by its old name The Ethereal, although in my own land it’s known as La Rovina,’

‘How pretty,’ Mietitore placed himself between Migran and the men, they were pulling collective faces at the mention of their homeland term for ‘Bane’ ‘It’s not easy working alone. Trying to progress. I meant no harm. Am I in trouble?’

‘Oh no, no. The Oaken Thorne takes a very sophisticated approach. Officially The Jordisk are seen as a group are troublemakers, but,’ he shrugged ‘There are high ranking folk who appreciate those with skill and no malice to the Grand Oaken Throne; naturally we don’t mention it to the Custodians,’ Migran sniggered at the conspiratorial tone.

‘But who are destroying my town?’

‘Ah, they would be mercenaries in the pay of dangerous folk from across the Centrus. There is war-’

‘I knew it! I heard it on my device! They know about Trelli too! We must help her!!’

Mietitore promptly focussed on two words ‘device’ and ‘her’.

 

Custodian Meradat and the rest of the LifeGuard had set off in the wake of the Karlyn and Beritt, pausing to meet up with Norvan and Merryk who having caused some unsettling of groups of pirates had withdrawn. The combined force forged on despatching two groups of reavers, but the resultant delay had them loosing track of the Beritt and Karlyn.

Until the sudden illumination of unusual reds and blues left everyone in no doubt of the direction to take.

 

Mietitore was being the process of smoothing Migran’s nerves with false sympathy and some genuine gratitude, when all attention of this particular huddle was drawn to a brilliance of red and blue issuing forth somewhere nearby.

‘Oh that has to be poor Trelli!’

‘Trelli? Dear Master Migran, who is this Trelli?’

‘She has been introduced to some empathy with The Ethereal! But until now it has been a very minor thing this is… this means she is in dreadful distress! We must go and help!!’

He was a bit surprised by the sudden collective recoil of these previously stalwart men; it was not so much fear he was witnessing as very grave trepidation. There must be something about The Ethereal that highly trained men were warned about.

‘No. No, Master Migran no!’ Mietitore clutched Migran by the shoulder so hard the man winced ‘She is beyond our help,’ Migran made to object or at least ask a question but Mietitore shook him ‘Beyond it I tell you!’ he snapped, then drew in breath again ‘Listen to me! We must get to your house and get your device! I assure you this is vital! Vital!! Show us the way!!’

Migran suffering yet another shock accepted the command, for he could not find any time to think; he supposed the man must know something more than he did and thus obeyed.

Being shoved to the fore, he did not see the men making various signs or clutch at small charms.

 

Beritt was spitting angry; up to her back teeth and more some! She’d  had this all sorted, and then Squirrel-Head had charge in and could have nearly got them all killed. This girl Trelli could have gone off ‘bang’ for all Beritt knew! Going through a whole litany of swear words, she grabbed a stunned Karlyn by the collar of her shirt, and hauled the elidian girl into a sitting position, teeth bared and face to face.

‘Happy-sliding on a stick!! I’ve seen more common sense in a line of arse-holes during worms inspection! You nearly crocked us all into a midden!! I told you we had to take it easy!! What the scraith is the matter with you!’ she shook Karlyn, who bemused by the whole display shut up ‘Now go and do something fribbin’ useful and stand by a door and…. ohhh…. scraithin’ well kill raiders!!’!

Karlyn stood up, brushing flour off of her clothes with pantomime fastidiousness.

‘Hmmph! I will just do that. But don’t blame me, if Little Missy Sparkle Fingers fries your delicates,’

And determined to have the last of the exchange, snatched out and pulled the brim of Beritt’s hat over her eyes, then making much of a casual stride exited, calling out.

‘Watchin’ you Whychie! Don’t you try and kerfluffeg Flaxi there! I’ve recently killed spikie-demonz y’know!!’

Hat back in place Beritt massaged her brows and took comfort from the fact that soon she would meet up with the rest of the file and the custodian, and she would no longer have to make un-medician decisions. Meanwhile. She crouched down next to a very shocked and bothered Trelli, who was engaged on trying to find her gloves.

‘I’m sorry about her, Trelli is it?’ nod. ‘Now, please may I help you with flour dust and any bumps or bruises; cut or scratches. My mad associate did mention a nick?’

‘That’s ‘lidian for being arrested,’ Trelli explained ‘We get them through here. Always talking loud, and although you recognise the words, the meanings are a bit obscure,’ she managed a very faint smile. ‘But what’s going to happen to me?’

‘I’m going insist to clean off the flour dust first,’ Beritt produced a clean linen square and from a long bottle poured out something Trelli could smell as part soap and part wound cleaner; the soldier’s touch was effective but gentle. ‘Can you move arms, hands, legs, feet, toes?’ she asked. Nod. Both women winced again at the sound of flying ordinance, the resulting roar and the dull vibration. ‘Now like I was saying, we’ve been looking for someone, and I’ve found them… you. There will be some more LifeGuard very soon, and we will look after you. You are valuable Trelli,’

‘I’d rather not be. I didn’t start anything. My Master’s son was fooling around with forbidden things, I found out and told him to stop, but he kept on and look what happened to me!!’ she waggled her hands ‘I’d be better off he’d done what sons of households usually do to serving girls!!’

‘Don’t sound too disappointed,’ Beritt tried to jest, it might help, herself too ‘Folk will get the wrong idea,’

‘Can’t be worse than this,’ Trelli countered. ‘And what’s happening to my town?’

Beritt hated it when folk demanded of her an answer to something she had no idea about.

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

 

Karlyn slouched against an alley wall, wiping her nose on her sleeve, when there was no real need to do so. The sight of the town collapsing and burning under frequent detonations was only mildly distracting, she was more inclined to muse upon Flaxi’s fearsome outburst of temper. Didn’t those pale blue eyes threaten to spit out lighten bolts? All so sweetly gentle, or proper, then…..Warrrooomp!! Karlyn pondered on whether that was down to military training or was she naturally ferocious and the soldierly thing had made her more disciplined?

Then Karlyn twitched. Something was coming this way. But she wasn’t too sure.

She peered around the corner, no sign of the rest of the LifeGuard or Meradat. Had they lost each other in the chase? Maybe they were fighting raiders? Satisfied her nose was quite dry she chewed idly on a carrot purloined from the warehouse’s multiplicity of stores. There were folk running this way and that, and in the confusion of flames, drifting smoke and general chaos she couldn’t make out which side they were on. What was the attack about anyhows? She wondered if this was something the town had coming to it and it just so happened when they’d turn up. Thoughts drifting, she glanced back over her shoulder, all seemed cosy and peaceful, no doubt Flaxi was playing at big sister for the little Whychie, who was the one everyone should be shouting at.

A steel pointed touched her neck.

‘’Ullo then. Wot we got here?’

Blaggatinian style of accent; one just midways between Lucher and Elinid. Usual trash not loyal to neither city; she sniffed.

‘’Bout blimpin’ time!’ she snapped at the three men; the youngest, at the back of course promptly exchanging his grin for a slack jawed surprise. ‘Been sat ‘ere abouts freezing off me arse-part. Skritiz, they says, get in that wobbling tawn. Sniff out the treasury an’ wait for the boys! An’ what scraithin’well happens! Some sproggle starts shooting big ‘uns at me! Just what the scraithin’ slidin’ on a stick is goin’ on! An’ wot fribbin’ ship y’ from anyhows!!’

One lumpen shaven head rumbled the word ‘treasury’ in a loving way. The youngster overwhelmed by the rapid flood of complaint piped up ‘Weasel of the Sea’ . The other lumpen, also shaven headed, but with a beard squinted suspiciously at her.

‘No one told us anything ‘bout a treasury. Nor a guide.’ Karlyn pulled a dismissive face.

Thrust out her left arm, the concealed blade slipping into the hand and thence into the man’s throat, ignoring blood spraying over her she ducked into him with her shoulder shoving his quivering body into his companion in shaven skullness, knocking both to the ground. The youngster made to lunge at her, she lashed out with her sword, satisfied with the drag of steel through cloth and skin and his scream. Thus, believing he was currently not a threat, with a yelp of glee, she leapt upon the other, struggling from beneath his dead comrade, she, driving a blade through his skull.

Karlyn rose, aware there was blood and gore in her hair, across her face, on her hands. She smiled making the whole impression ghastly to the lad currently gripping a cut cross his shoulder. She wiped the blade on a dead man’s shirt tucked in sword into her belt and with hands behind her back, she sauntered over to the injured and wide-eyed lad.

‘You’re gonna meet a friend of mine. She’s ever so friendly, and you’re going to tell her everything you know. Or I get to play with you, some more,’ and she made scissor snipping motions with the fingers of her right hand.

 

Face cleaned, hair efficiently brushed and having had a chance to tell her side of the story to the soldier, Trelli felt a slight measure more comfortable and truth be known a little excited, although she wished the latter would go away as it was bound to mess about with her judgement and in this circumstance, she was sure such feelings were dangerous.

Confirmed as a bloodstained Karlyn swaggered in dragging a terrified and wounded fellow.

‘Look what I caught when fishin’’ she chortled ‘I gutted two, they were all too greasy and bulbous to make much conversation, but this one,’ she tweaked his ear ‘Will tell us a goodsome tale….. Wontcha?’

On seeing the dark hunched figure with glowing hands the young raider’s jaw worked, but no sounds came out; he managed to point at her hands though. Before Beritt could make a statement of what she considered common sense and calming effect, Karlyn had grabbed him by his shirt collar her mouth, mostly her teeth to his ear.

‘Yesss little fish. We captured her too,’ she waved her badge of office in his face ‘But if you don’t talk long and proper, we might feed you to Princess Black Cat here. ‘Cas she does love the taste of a man’s-’

Beritt was wincing before Karlyn came out with the next words.

However, there was an interruption.

Up shot Trelli, glowing hands to hips.

‘That’s enough from you! You gutter-scraping ‘lidian-you!! Cat indeed! My skin may not be as milky smooth as yours, but I am not any hang-around tavern Cat!! Don’t you dare sully my maidenly status!!’

Karlyn felt her rousing both women to reveal they had shouty snarly sides, was a task goodly done. It was nice to know you had folk about you with fire. Knew where you stood. None of the sneaky, tweaky, slithery sorts, who’d steal the cold sausage out of your back-pack when you weren’t looking.  She shoved the captive at Flaxi because Karlyn knew the little sweetie was just itching to make his wound all better.

‘Oh, forgive me,’ she oozed at Trelli ‘Where I come from a Cat is a smooth, swift, worker what gets what it wants anyway anywhere. Aren’t you up to that?’

Trelli’s eyes narrowed. Fear and anger can walk close together and breed rage.       As Beritt was all too aware…

‘Ladies,’ Beritt admonishments came parlour polite tones ‘We are in a very difficult situation…. Oh hold still you pest, it’s only a wincy scratch!…. Can you please bear in mind, this town in under attack, we need to…. Shush! it’s a mere cleansing salve, s’posed to sting!……be very calm, find out where my LifeGuard colleagues and Custodian Meradat…..Yep! You heard me right laddy. You’re in a Fourth Hell of trouble….So dear ladies, can you please shut the scraith up! Calm down and go out and look for our colleagues!!’

‘Oooh Lookat the big brave raider fill up his trousers!!  C’mon little Whychie-woo! Let’s do as Oldest Sister tight-pants says an’ go and stand in a doorway hoping the big strong men turn up and rescue us!  We can hold-hands while we tell each other our girly-wishes!’

Naturally, since Trelli could not keep up with, much less make sense of Karlyn’s perspectives, she found herself dragged along, hoping whoever these men might be they might be authorities.

 

The Helmsman sudden stern call for all at their posts to prepare for evasion and possible extraction to the World Physical came as a shock, to do so would expose the Manse to many vigilant and hostile eyes. Just what would cause The Helmsman to take this risk?

There had been a sharp tear of Red and Blue not in the turbulent clouds above, but dashing just above the surface of the sea. Almost possessed of its panic and thus uncertain in which direction to go it sped back and forth with growing rapidity until it suddenly flared into a sapphire burst.

And was gone

‘All concentrate upon the central fifth at the furthest quarter. Observe from your direction for another forthcoming turbulence!’

The Helmsman raised one warning finger, and his hands moved rapidly across his own display, he withdrew the Manse to the very shoreline which comprised marked the borderlines into The World Physical. His attention fixed upon the location where the sapphire eruption had taken place. The Helmsman bade his crew to keep strict observation and hold their composure such an event would not pass without ramifications.

 

CHAPTER THIRTY=ONE

 

The captain of The Weasel of The Sea had had experience of bombarding towns and ones which bombarded back so as he swept in to for his return run he had the craft further out set on a zig-zag tack, which made his craft an even more difficult target. It was no problem really, they were just firing into the town, and no particular part. What caused him concern was a sudden swell which struck the side of his ship causing it to list to starboard, and thus sent the salvo up high arcing down.

Crashing down somewhere in the docks area.

The first thing he did was scan for two other ships in the sliver of pale on the horizon signalling the dawn and was much relieved to see them suffering with the same sea. At least no one could blame him if any of the crews were injured by the fall of shot.

‘Damn funny waters,’ he said to the boson.

‘Very damn funny waters Captain,’

 

Karlyn had looked sideways at Trelli; Trelli had looked sideways at Karlyn. As if walking into a brick wall in a thick elidian fog Karlyn had been suddenly stuck for any words to goad Trelli with. No doubt the sproggle-head was simmering, but Karlyn hadn’t been able to figure out which way the Whychie would jump, and when all was said and done, it didn’t do to upset the prize; she’d only get moaned at by everyone, and in the current she didn’t feel inclined for that. She should be praised for capturing a raider, and finding out the name of one of the raiding ships.

Surrendering to feeling sorry for herself, she sighed in relief, for there moving in a feral way Karlyn could admire came the LifeGuard and of course striding with them as if nothing dare stop him was The Custodian Meradat.  They could turn up and boss Flaxi about and thus smother her inappropriate compassionate tendencies.

‘Oi! Flaxi!!’ she yelled ‘Reinforcements!!’

 

‘I can make out your loopy- err- tildelte- Custodian,’ Norvan said ‘Looks like she has someone with her,’

‘Can you see Beritt?’ Erzns demanded; he was irritated, his eyes were not as sharp as they used to be and what with all this scraithin smoke and dust.

‘Not-’

There came a chorus of shrieking indicating another flight of ordinance, this time the piercing sound did not fly overhead, but began to grow far louder.

Meradat stopped, looked upwards.

‘Lord God!’ he intoned.

 

Karlyn watched the line of men stop, apart from The Custodian, they made to scatter.

 

In a place of firstly thunderous tearing of the senses at the impact of the projectiles upon the building opposite and then the swept by surge of a force let loose.

Karlyn began to turn as if faced by a sudden squall of rain, time was ridiculously slow, as sharp small debris came tearing at them, towards her. The last image she was aware of was the Whychie girl, hands up before her face and in one emphatic scream calling ‘NO!’. All swiftly obscured by The Second Hell’s worth of confusion, added to by the Third Hell of pain, and the Karlyn was lifted off her feet and thrust back down into the warehouse

 

Beritt had just warned the raider not to move unless she said so, when the air was ripped apart by the arrival of ordinance; its hysterical cry, the crashing and roar of the destinations. The power of the impact struck her next as if she had been punched in a tavern brawl; clouds of dust and small debris flooded in, somewhere glass was shattering while bits of the flesh and bones of the warehouse were shredded loose. She made to grab at the raider, but in the storm of destruction and confusion he shook loose and scrambled out of one wrecked window leaving Beritt to spit dust, and curses.

But with no time for any more remorse or anger, Trelli was slumped against the door frame though Beritt could not see Karlyn. She squinted, swore again, poured contents from her water bottle over her face, blinked furiously, blew her nose loudly into a rag, poured some more water into eyes and blinked once more. Now she could see a dust covered prone form, head towards her, mouth open, eyes closed. No movement. The odd thought that it was Not flour this time, then the curious irritation that all her work in cleaning up Trelli was now undone.

‘Oh scraith and shit!!’

Feeling very much that the Fourth Hell had settled on her shoulders, she nonetheless ordered herself to medician duties. She would have to work out just what had happened and what that all meant later on. Scrambling up all of her equipment she scuttled towards the door, now illuminated by dark flame of a nearby explosion. Trelli looked towards her, eyes streaming tears, breath coming in short gasps, managing to point at Karlyn.

‘I’m all dusty again! But I’m not hurting,’ she gasped ‘See to Miss Boney-Bottom,’ the maidservant managed to get to her knees ‘I’m going to go somewhere to be sick,’

‘Take this,’ Beritt passed her a solid long bottle ‘It’s peppermint cordial. When your done up-heaving rinse out your mouth and spit. Do it three times, then take one small swallow. Make you feel better. Going to need you Trelli,’

Trelli snatched the bottle and clambered off over ruins, gasping, praying, retching, sobbing. Her hands throbbing. She was going to keep on asking this until someone gave her a proper answer…Good Lord God! Just what was going on?

Trying to stem her desperation that she’d not lost someone to this night of ruination Beritt forced herself into a deliberate and thorough examination of Karlyn for any breaks or wounds. At least the elidian’s breathing was regular. This was a medician’s night and no mistake. Cleaning and patching. Another time right in the war’s workface too, not at the back where women medicians were usually kept by conservative types who felt women shouldn’t be exposed to the horrors of battle. Well try and deal with a raving threshing soldier after the shock has worn off and the pain is running wild and you may be having to saw off a limb too!

‘Ohh, I died an’ gone to the Good Lord Gawd’s abode an’ he sent me my own angel,’

Karlyn was awake and smiling up at Beritt. Beritt was going to be checking her senses, smiling didn’t count. Lots of men wandered battlefields smiling, before they fell down dead, or started to scream.

‘How many fingers am I holding up Karlyn?’

‘Seventy-five..an’ an ‘arf,’

‘Oh ferr crying out loud!!’

‘Aww you’re fun to tease Flaxi. Your little face goes all so stern and your nose crinkles,’

‘How many scraithin’ fingers!!’

‘How many do you normally use?’

‘Second Hell!! You’re obviously no more crocked than you normally are, Now, sit up and let me clean that head scratch. Midden! You were lucky! Look at all this fribbin’ rubble, and only a head scratch!!’

‘No candles this time?’

‘We got enough damn light from a burning town!’

The two young women looked across to the hillocks of stone, flames spouting out, smokes seeping upwards, beyond more fires raged and buildings toppled.

‘Lawdgawdelpus poor sproggles. Is it always like this Flaxi?’

Back at Parledach then.

‘It’s war Karlyn. What else is there to expect. Now where’s our men gone?’

Karlyn looked with a sympathetic sadness at Beritt then pointed to burning ruins.

‘Whole shattering midden fell right on them Flaxi,’

‘She’s right,’ Trelli added, hoarse but determined to sound upright and sensible as she came crawling back over damage.

Beritt stared, she didn’t quite know what else to do. If there was not so much flame, she’d get over there and pull rocks, stones and timbers away until she found, at least a body. But currently she did not want to see anyone cooked, half-baked, and worse still hanging onto life when there was no point to. She could not be a hero; she could be soldier though. She would obey orders, as expected to. Yes, that was the way to do it. She wiped dust, someone else’ blood and her own dampness from her face.

‘That’s settled that then,’ Hold it together. Look, the girl Trelli was doing it, so would she. Be solid. Be composed. ‘We’re getting you, Trelli, out of here. We’re taking you to where my commanders will decide,’ What? Don’t think. Get on with it ‘How best to help you,’

‘I think my poor squished custodian, might have had other views,’

Beritt bit upon her lip, resolving to be in authority and not raging, screaming, angry.

‘I daresays Karlyn. But look at it this way. I’m the only one hereabouts with a definite string of orders to follow. I’ll try and get that stupid collection of metals glass and gems to work one more time. Then we’ll find us a wagon, see if our horses are in good form, appropriate goods and gear for imperial purposes,’ she paused, wiped her face, and looked about at a town in torment and vanished into the wreckage. There was a pause.

‘About scraithin’ time you, useless construct!! ‘Bout as dependable as a fribbin’ overcooked soggy carrot in a Libratery at lights out!’

Karlyn nudged Trelli

‘I thinks she’d got it sort of working again. An’ an’t she’s a fierce little den-mother?’ another nudge ‘An’ A-ppro-pri-ate means we can steal what we like, ‘cause it’s not stealing if we’re doing for the good of the Oaky,’

She then clapped her hand to her face.

‘Pooooroogah! Wot a pong! Someone’s cracked open a sewer!!’

‘I can only smell peppermints,’ Trelli’d resolved to stick to basic facts. She had concluded, quite correctly, it was the best way to avoid going mad.

 

As Karlyn announced her opinion on what she could smell; The Helmsmen and his crew gasped. A bloated, detritus encrusted shape with writhing long and hooked tentacles had broken the surface at the sapphire point. The Helmsman was about to order an immediate beaching into The World Physical and worry about the consequences later on, but the creature did not notice them, it’s limbs had reached into the places above the surface and seeming to have had them half sawn off began to haul itself out of the waters, thick glistening unhealthy greens and browns revealing a long sneering mouth of many fangs. Slowly, the whole thing began to disappear after the limbs.

‘It’s crawling into the World Physical,’ The Helmsman warned ‘The Zerstorung is coming,’

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!

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 7

This is where Trelli gets seriously involved. The phrases and ‘book’ titles are taken from a previously unsuccessful trilogy (The Nearly Not Quite Paladins) based in the past of the same world (Someday I’ll get around to converting them on Kindle as free-books, just for reference purposes)….

CHAPTER NINETEEN

‘Your latest assessment lieutenant?’

Bleymore was not really sure if Captain Dekyria was being sympathetically serious or gently mocking; there again Bleymore had to admit to himself he might have been putting too much thought into the statement, and so resolved to answer questions in the literal.

‘The message confirms that the file encountered an intrusion from the Zerstorung, but dealt with it. The beings which came through must have been very minor creatures to be despatched so quickly. The opening would therefore have been one which was made by either some rare natural event, or by the unforeseen consequences of someone’s action. Based on our previous information, it has to be the latter. The town of Prendaelyn would still be the most likely source,’

Dekyria stopped watching the swirl of foam on his coffee.

‘Thank you Lieutenant Bleymore. Now what about this custodian and his rather odd assistant? Medician Beritt is very particular about mentioning her. She seems to have some sort of unusual ability. Any chance of that pair being targeted by someone or something which sent those creatures?’

‘If this custodian is of the sort that hunts down Jordisk he’d have gained an affinity with Ethereal tydes and the girl seems to have her linkage. It is possible they may have attracted some sort of unwarranted attention,’ he shuddered ‘I consider myself very fortunate,’ he turned attention back to the oculator and the display of patterns ‘Some might say the arrival Sergeant Erzns’ file was most fortunate. There again there might be those who would argue they were drawn to it. Medician Beritt’s work with that lighter type is quite good for a novice,’ he pulled a face ‘Even intuitive,’

With each part of his explanation Bleymore watched Dekyria’s casual expression turn more thoughtful, calculating and grave. Beritt said she had targeted the incursion through the oculartragen, which was essentially a communication device but with the simple addition to keep track of an already aligned goal. It was not supposed to have its own ability to pick up random events.

But, for the present keep that idea to the background and let Bleymore gain in confidence.

‘You’re good lieutenant. Very good,’ Dekyria gestured with his coffee ‘And, let’s not forget you did the self-same thing,’ leaning on his chair he stood up, expectant faces regarding him ‘There’s a war coming guardsmen. Expect the worse and it won’t be so bad,’

 

Trelli was starting to yearn for easier times when her Ghitanixday afternoons were little interludes when she could just be herself and sometimes lazy. She  now accepted this  had been chipped away since Migran had got her all tangled up with firstly his financial doings and now here she was in his room, sitting at this desk, looking at that nasty mirror, and him carrying like it was all quite right and proper. And why had she been such a ninny and let him talk her into this? This wasn’t excitement jiggling her tummy, no! This was being scared silly! And how had he talked her into this bit of nonsense!

‘What am I supposed to do?’ she demanded

‘Nothing Trelli,’ was his anxious reply ‘I just want you to see how wondrous The Ethereal can be,’ and his hands moved across the jewels bringing the pale misty dawn light.

‘That looks ghostly,’ she complained.

‘No, let me explain. You see. There came upon the world upon a thousand years ago a new force which enabled folk to do things which had only been dreamed off,’

‘And The World nearly got destroyed,’

‘Yes, there were mistakes, but that was due to foolishness. Look! You do want to know, don’t you?’

‘I don’t think I do,’

‘Oh don’t be so soppy! Look at these jewels! These are selected for their empathy with the Ethereal! They draw its elements from the very air and channel them through these delicate wires into the….’

‘Funny looking box with a scary mirror. Something will loom out of it,’ she shuffled nervously, then flinched when Migran tried to pat her knee, he had meant to reassure her, not one of his better qualities.

‘No,’ he tried his idea of a calm authoritative voice, it came out peevish. ‘Look, watch this,’ and despite her whimper of apprehension began to tap out a pattern upon the jewels ‘You see, each impact or combinations of impacts has a certain resonance which sends out a message to the central hub within the box, which in turn generates an empathy with the Ethereal. I’ll show you,’ he turned to smile, hopefully at her, finding her wide-eyed attention upon the screen.

‘S-something’s writing something!’

Migran swung about in his chair; he was used to images, currently random sounds and if you were very careful small boxes of packaged script as if a horizontal shaped page, but here was lettering in imperial classics.

Traces of Integrity,’ it read

‘That’s new. It’s not in a box!’ he said, mostly to himself.

‘I saw that being written like someone had an invisible pen!’ Trelli was all for accusing ‘Stop it now! ‘Fore it tells us blasphemies!!’

Other letters began to form rapidly, Trelli tried not to be transfixed; this was all supposed to be wrong, and she knew it, but still it was….

More letter followed

Be this thine own Evermore,’

Trelli chewed upon her knuckles and began to recite prayers begging The Good Lord God to forgive this his foolish and wayward child, Migran sat back gave out with a gasp of delight and clapped his hands.

Seek Truth in The Number Where There Are None,’

The screen faded as Migran squeaked in delight and did his own version of chewing on digits and then cried ‘Oh Trelli. Oh Trelli. Oh Trelli,’

‘Yes, I’m here. All three of me,’ fear being replaced sarcasm.

‘Don’t you realise?’ well obviously she wouldn’t but he was beyond sense ‘They were quotes from The Paladinic!! The most wonderful collection of works of those years before the Ages of Retributions!! That was a message of encouragement! A signal that all my years of effort have not been in vain!! Plain text! Not code!!’

Once more Trelli did not have any notion as to what he was talking about. Except that he was going on about books that sounded odd and if they sounded odd, then there was a horrid chance they also might be forbidden. And if this kept on she would end being questioned by a custodian!

She was going to voice her fears when Migran began to dither about with the lowest of the three drawers on the right side of his desk, doing that stupid tapping, this time on three dull looking brass screws, at which point the draw flew open, and he swiftly pulled out a volume old and battered through use, waving the thing in her face.

She managed to make an odd title of ‘A Perplexing Tendency to Persist’

‘This is how I started Trelli! Three years ago, when father made a speculative purchase of some woebegone lord’s library and I found this amongst volumes on the husbandry of vegetables!’

He could not understand why she was so repelled by this revelation. Obviously, she did not seem to understand the simple statement that this seemingly amusing and quirky tale was actually made of two layers. Firstly, part of an account of folk legendary within the realms of the Jordisk, but more important a coded guide on how you could build one of those oculators.

Trelli wrinkled her threatened nose, she was sure there was an oily smell coming out of the pages and wished he would put the blasted thing back in the drawer. Then something struck her.

‘How did you know it was a code? I mean if you hadn’t seen it before. Aren’t codes complicated?’

His grin was something she reckoned those gervalons went in for at their blasphemous ceremonies before they sacrificed small furry animals, not that she’d actually seen one, but there were stories.

‘Because it all becomes clear when you read it with an open mind!’

This was the limit of her forbearance. A new and sudden determination gripped her for she could feel something whispering to her. Temptation! She would fight back!  She leapt up, hands to her ears, and a new string of prayers for protection from The Evils of The Lascivious and The Perils of the Retributions, then gathering all of her determination and with finger pointing stormed.

‘Dangerous! Blasphemous! I’ll give you just one day to destroy all of this! And burn it, or I’m going tell your parents!!’

Migran shot up, still waving the book, Trelli with a mix of fear and rage swatted it out his grasp, and with teeth clenched dashed towards the volume, snatching it up, making to tear it apart. Migran in turn howled and leapt at her, the impact sending them both onto the bed, which thus avoided any concussions so allowing Trelli the chance to hit him several times with the said volume. His cries for her to stay calm being of no use, as she was given vent to strong pleas for the forces of Goodness and Purity to envelop them.

The discordant duet and rather comic struggle was abruptly brought suddenly to a halt.

As Trelli’s hands began to glow with hues shifting between red and blue.

The brief interlude of shared wide-eyed open mouthed silence was broken by the cries of dismay from Trelli.

 

CHAPTER   TWENTY

 

Merthyl’s urge for retribution was gradually replacing the shock, pain and humiliation dealt to him by a custodian and some savage she-wolf this was all very humiliating, not something he would want known. Nor did he want to be reminded of the last time something similar had happened to him.

 

Nearly two years ago. The first day Silc had been allowed access to the Council’s Manse; ‘allowed’ being also to flexible interpretations; some might have thought ‘friendly demand’ would have been a more accurate term.

Merthyl had spied the large, slow gaited fellow dressed in rather comically common dark browns and greens, thinning greasy hair and dull eyes moving with an animalistic wariness. The young noble had waited until the fellow was out of sight of guards, fussy servants, nervous acolytes and of course Council Members. Merthyl knew all the corners, alcoves, short passageways to small unpleasant rooms. He’d stepped smartly out of one such passageway, blocking Silc.

‘Ah. You must be The New Money,’ he had drawled a supercilious grin sliding across his face. ‘How fortunate for you,’

Silc had looked down at him. Apparently curious.

‘I make my way,’ came the laconic reply, the manner had at once bothered Merthyl who them pressed home, and resting on the hilt of his sword.

‘I am Lord Merthyl,’ Merthyl  had announced, intent upon imposing his air of menace ‘And I bring,’ he had had to step up slightly to reach Silc’s face to breathe out the next word ‘Fear,’

He’d just let loose the end of the word, when a large left arm had shot out, striking against his throat, forcing him back against the wall, knocking out his breath with the pain of the impact, itself accompanied by a stab of agony as a large ugly ring upon the right fist punched into his right wrist, numbing the hand. The left arm had risen drawing his face level with Silc’s. The eyes now glinted with a knowing power, as Silc’s face drew close to his, with its own smile, one of threatening confidence.

‘I daresay that little act impresses the weak, the helpless, and the stupid,’ the voice was low, each phrase a stab of authority ‘Sunshine,’ it had taken about a Five for Merthyl to realise that Silc was addressing him with that term ‘But if I was to drop you and that bunch of snivelling wobblers that follow you about in MY streets; by the end of the day you’ll all end up as gutter leavings, or on the Sanded Lands slave ships as sacrifice fodder or trainee jolly boys,’ the smile had turned into a hard thin line ‘Now. You do what you do. I’ll do what I do. But don’t you get in my way,’ the smile had returned ‘And everything will be roses,’ and faded,’ Understand?’

Merthyl still shocked and finding breath hard to come by had just nodded.

‘Good,’ Silc’d released his grip, stepping back ‘Oh an’ by the way. If you are thinking about trying to bring some revenge to soothe your hurt feelings, let me warn you this. If anything happens to me. Well, there’s this list of folk I’ve had uncomfortable dealings with. My people will hunt them all down. My people are quite a few. Very persistent, with long reaches. I would do the same for My People. It’s how we work. Loyalty and Respect.  It might take a decan. It might take a year or ten. But they will be found and when they are finally delivered to The Fifth Hell, it will seem like a welcome relief. I put you on that list first news I heard of you,’

With that he had stepped forward, pushed past Merthyl and had not looked back, only to call out ‘See you at the Council meeting,’

 

Merthyl had been telling himself since, the meeting had been ‘interesting’. It had been a case of ‘Forewarned is Forearmed,’ He had vowed he would make the oaf pay, one day.

And the loss of his creatures had scraped red raw that barely healed wound.

One modest salve and part of his own plan was his endeavours to nurture an affable relationship with The Helmsman, let Belacheli fuss and get in the way with his hysterics and Karutorm could carry on as if the man was in the Grand Duke’s army. Merthyl simply turned up from time to time, asking intelligent questions in an interested and respectful tone. It did not do to make nervous a man charged with a delicate balancing act. And so naturally the man was immersed in his own work.

‘Have you any new information Helmsman?’ Merthyl asked, in his most conversational way. The man frowned, fingers moving careful over the display.

‘Excuse me for a ten please Lord Merthyl. There is a slight change in the current, I need to address. Jurd! Address the engine by ten degrees of element!’

‘Attended Helmsman!!’

Merthyl had to admit the Helmsman conducted his staff with exceptional efficiency. His orders were plain and precise. The responses swift and respectful. Merthyl had overheard the man carefully but affably explain the consequences of errors; all resulting in painful deaths because each would allow one or another creature to escape from the Zerstorung through the Helmsman’s realm and vent its nature upon everyone therein.

‘Sorry My Lord Merthyl, some matters take priority. Yes, there is still much turbulence on the far shore,’ he gestured to the far-off scenes of activity ‘Can you see the agitations from that angle?’

‘Oh yes. Seems to be thrusting hosts illuminated by sullen flames. Are we witnessing some sort of battle?’

‘There is little widespread knowledge of the motivations and associations within the Zerstorung My Lord Merthyl. Whereas it can be acknowledged that there is communication; to know the true length and breadth of the dynamics within that place is something beyond my own scope of experience or discernment. My own assumption would be that we are witnessing some attempted rupture of the barriers withholding the Zerstorung inhabitants. Mage Belacheli would be likely to caste you more clarity on this matter,’

Merthyl appreciated the adroitness of The Helmsman’s response. He was at one recommending and distancing himself from a council member. This would do for The Lord, he would now wait. There were credible indications in The Helmsman’s words. He doubted if Belacheli would be able to be so coherent lost as he was in his miasma of fear and belief. Ideal.

 

Silc looked at the object of dark green metal, tubular length of his large hand and half its width and sighed. You had to use whatever you had to hand. Silc turned it over to the area which had twelve small gems, three rows of four. He tapped out a pattern and placed the tube to his ear, tapping his foot and complaining about the hissing in his ear and then the rhythmic buzzing. He sat back in the one comfy chair of the room, of course he would have to wait for the reply. In this case you always had to wait. There came a click, and young exasperated voice gasped out a greeting.

‘Jerreli! Yer, it’s your Uncle Grenaww ! Wot? Well get the girl out of the room now! We got business! Never mind that she’s a Sea Lord daughter!’ Silc slapped his hand about the tube and looked exasperatedly towards Brandgash, a broad-shouldered man, his most trusted of bodyguards, ‘Give him a few ships to play with and he thinks he’s blimpin’ Sanded Lands Pirate General,’ Silc asided ‘Jerreli? Look, never mind the skirt, she’ll stay warm! Now listen I got a job for you and your lot. It’s a sweet ‘un. All you gotta do is transport a snatch and grab team, and pick ‘em up when they’ve done, it’ll only take one ship…. Naw you don’t need to take three. It’ll be noticeable!…Pirates?…But you’re blimpin’ pirates as well. Wot you got to be scared about?’ he put his hand over the device to lament to Brandgash ‘He’s heard Throth The Bloody Shark has moved out of the eastern waters,’ Silc shook his head ‘Look! You’re the one who has been moaning that you’ve not had family business….Well my son! This is Family Business!! Do you understand!!…..Good!!….Now just get your lot together and I’ll tell you more all in good time my son, all in good time,’

He brought one thumb down on the tube, shaking his head.

‘Thank The Goodlordgawd, my poor sister’s not alive to see him,’ he tapped out another pattern, this time not having to wait ‘Kregz!’ he called to someone currently out of sight’ Look, find ‘Oily’ Klee and have him get back to me on the whistler, he’s been moaning about us doing something for him but I need him to make sure something is going to work properly for us first,’

The discourse ended Silc eased out of the chair looking this trusted man.

‘Going to be a very busy time Mr. Brandgash . A very busy time. But old Lady Elinid’ll finally have her day in the sun. With the Silcs looking after her of course,’

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

 

‘Migran! Explain yourself!!’

‘Trelli has left because you argued??’

Migran being with a parent each side of him, felt maybe this had not been such a good excuse after all. But when you are faced with a crisis, well you do the best you can.

‘I may have been a trifle harsh over her recent figure work,’

His mother tutted a great deal and set upon him a severe look.

‘Such a dear girl. She’s worked so hard for us these past five years. You really should not have burdened with all that paper-worked. I did say so at the time!’ she heaved a fatalistically sigh ‘I had best ask Luucresia if she can spare Mollea; the girl is useful, needs watching though. Oh really Migran!’ she reached for her most business like hat ‘Honestly we were away for but five days, just a simple half-decan holiday!’ and thus made to exit, pausing by her husband to heavy whisper ‘And you had better find out ‘nothing’ else happened,’

 

There was a short interlude, his father began to pace.

‘Now look Migran. I know how it is,’ he ahemed ‘Trelli is a not unattractive young woman, and young men, being young men. Well I do hope it was just an argument,’

‘Oh nothing else!!’ Migran cried in horror, (was that with a pinch of regret? He wondered) ‘It was the summary of the last quarterly accounts. You know how hectic things can get in the lunation prior to the visit from the Imperial Assessors of Taxes and Tithes. Speaking of which, I really must get down to the offices and check, aspects,’ with that he picked up his only hat a flat and modest affair ‘I’m sure she will be back, at some stage,’

Then feeling he had said enough left. Very quickly before his father could get over the nervous shock at the news of looming Assessors.

As he walked down the street, on a sunny, breezy mid-morning he reckoned, he had recovered that quite well; when all things were considered, of course.

As he recalled it, as he had also done, when Trelli’s hands had first started to glow. He felt he had managed to calm her down, firstly by letting her cry a lot; girls always cried. He’d then taken her to the kitchen and made her a nice herbal brew, she had said it tasted like dead rats and had cried some more, which had been fine because girls needed to let their emotions out. He then decided to leave her cry even some more while he gathered ‘stuff’ and during the night by means of gloomy alleys had shuffled her off to a safe place. Once he had ensconced her there and, despite her fearful and fearing words had told her that all would be well, he would be back with more stuff. Which he had done so. She had stopped crying. She had become frosty. He had reckoned, again, this was the sort of thing girls did. And all would be fine once she had calmed down.

Now the closer he got to the sanctuary he had some doubts, but hoped they would clear once he found Trelli all composed and ready to explore this exciting new opportunity.

 

The office was a place he could be certain one of the workers would not bother with. Located at the top of the warehouse, by a rickety set of stairs, and facing out to sea it was naturally the most draft-ridden part of the building. Reaching the door marked ‘Family Hendrechan Only’ He tapped on it, gently.

‘Trelli? Are you there?’

There were soft sounds, followed by a battle with bolts and a lock, the door eased, slightly open, a fiercely disgruntled face filling one portion of the gap. It seemed to a common means of communication between them these days.

‘Yes,’ she said, tersely, then thrust one gloved hand out, waggling it at him ‘I can hardly go about with these can I now?’

Some part of his confidence crumbled.

‘I am sorry,’

‘I wish I had a silver piece for each time you’ve said that this past day. There would be enough for me to flee away back to the Libratery orphanage and offer supplicant payment to the Devoteds; I’m sure they would get me to a special Libratery that could cure me,’

‘It’s not a curse! Please let me in. It is not good for me to be standing here,’

‘And it’s not good for me to be stuck in here!!…Oh spiffle!!’ with exasperation vented she pulled the door open.

He noticed she’d made the office reasonably habitable and draft-proofed with aid of the blankets, cushions, pillows and suchwhich they had gathered in the flight, but he had a feeling she would not appreciate conversation of domestic arrangements. She flung off the gloves and held up the hands glowing from red to blue and back again in a delicate and slow evolution; the barred teeth disturbing the arresting sight.

‘And what progress have you made!!’ she demanded ‘It’s all your stupid fault!!’

Returning to the phenomenon of the spontaneous production of coinage he in turn wished he had a gold piece for every time she’d said that, in between her tears. There would have been enough to have bought passage on a craft for the Sanded Lands, there they would appreciate this sort of circumstance for what it was; an opportunity!  Try telling Trelli that. He’d never realised she had this abrasive side to her character.

‘It’s not very easy Trelli. These matters have to be evaluated,’ his very clear and concise rehearsed speech was evaporating under that accusatory glare    ‘How long is that going to take! Am I expected to stay in this room for years and years? That won’t do, for all sorts of reasons!’ she stalked over to the window arms folded ‘For all sorts of reasons,’ her repetition accompanied by a very disgusted expression

Just for a five, he did not speak. He gazed settled upon the glow emanating from her hands. The steady progression through hues between pale crimson and summer sky blue was setting alluring patterns upon what should have been Trelli’s dowdy servants clothing. His reverie was not destined to be long; her very loud and judgemental sniff shook him back to matters practical. In consequence of the suddenness words spilled out without much thought for tact.

‘I am trying to work out the reason in which The Ethereal was attracted to you. There must be some sort of circumstance within your natures for this,’

She spun on one heel, there was the fierce look again, and oh dear, with her eyebrows narrowed into downward pointing blades and the return to the barring of teeth she did look rather fetchingly wild.

‘Don’t you go try to blame me for this Migran Hendrechan! You’re the one who was fooling about, despite what I said to you!’ tears began to brim again ‘It’s worse than being placed unfortunate! Again, I could have gone to the local Libratery in the broad daylight and no one would have thought of bringing a custodian in on me!! They understand how poor serving girls get put upon!!’

At this juncture, her shoulders began to shake, her head drooped and the tears fell.

‘And to make it worse, I bet you have gone ahead with that stupid excuse and told your parents I’ve run off!’ she looked up anger brimming back ‘You’ve truly messed up my life you have!’ Up shot one summer sky blue hand, finger tips darkening to a thunder shade she pointed to the door ‘Oh go and leave me be! And don’t come back until you’ve got something sensible to say!!’

Once more she swung about to the window.

 

He gently put down the bag containing food, with three bottles of very weak wine, and the small sack of soaps and cleaning waters. And feeling comparable to the worst of sewer rats he quietly closed the door.

This was monstrously cruel; he had pushed the very boundaries of his knowledge and had made a discovery, of some sort. In other circumstances, he would be checking his forbidden works for clues and insights, building upon the initial success. If only the Ethereal had settled within him! Why Trelli? He wished he had the time to work upon the question of Empathy, study the wise words of The Paladinic. Was it not so that Trelli’s experiences were not dissimilar to the initial trials of Shereavan the Wylde Raven of the North, and what a hero she had become!

How would Trelli may able to make use of the forces which were now moving within her?

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

 

‘Hello Flaxi. I didn’t know you liked climbing trees too,’

‘I don’t. But that wound of yours needs checking,’

‘Oooh, you going to do that up on a high branch?’

‘No. You are going to come down out of your perch,’

‘Aww, how kind! Not shouting or throwing sticks at me,’ Karlyn now fully awake stared into the sky. ‘Still about a thousand ‘fore dawn. You can’t wait?’

‘Again. No. I have a busy day. Sergeant Erzns is insistent I make contact with our officers by the time we get into that town, and frib’ knows how long that will take,’

‘Do they train you LifeGuards to climb trees? You look reasonable up here,’

‘Where I come from packs of wolves are not uncommon,’

‘Fair enough. Ssso you are going to play with your box afterwards?’

The joke had grown old after the first day; once Beritt had learnt from the Norvan just what ‘box’ meant in elidian slang; he having, a comprehensive knowledge of obscenities from the length and breadth of the Oakhostian.

‘I could decide to give you a purgative to ensure any remaining poisoning within your body are flushed out,’

Karlyn normally immune to threats felt there was something in the hardening of those round pretty features and narrowing of those big blue eyes which suggested this Hengestatian girl was just the one to do it.

 

Beritt having explained to the jovially inquisitive Fileman Creylan that she had not been converted to tildeltish ways of roosting, then herded Karlyn off to a safe distance before the elidian started to wake up the camp, Beritt sat the girl down at near the bank of the river Herene, slow on its winding its way to their destination of Prendaelyn, Karlyn sitting down crossed-legged, chin resting on hands, she was about to make some mischievous remark when Beritt flint sparked a small candle into light with, Karlyn thought, quite some efficiency.

‘Tilt your head Karlyn. I’m going to be looking up your nose,’ Karlyn’s expression scrunched up, Beritt amused lapsed into her drawl ‘Y’all may grimace missy but there is much which can be discerned from examination of the nasal cavities,’ as Karlyn was not moving Beritt stuck her left thumb under the girl’s chin, ignoring the low grumble ‘. Not that I gain any pleasure from the sights I do see,’

‘Just keep that fribbin’ flame at a distance,’

‘Yeh, yeh. Hmm. Clear. Very clear. I’ll not ask how you keep it so clean. Ears next,’ Beritt shuffled around and flicked stray hair out of her view, Karlyn doing her best to remain dignified and still; she was the one who was supposed to impose flames not receive them. She was then subjected to more ‘hmming’ and a few ‘uh-uh’s, and the discomfiture of heat near her earlobes

‘Very clean. You shovel these out regularly then?’

Karlyn adopted a poise of very heavy dignity.

‘Clean ears and a clean nose are essential in my line of work. I take it there’s no spikey little demons lurking about,’

‘I’m guessing Custodian Meradat would have surmised that earlier. No. I’ve looking invidious infects which are prone to lurk in the orifices,’

Karlyn suffered a slightly involuntary jolt, a stray hair singed.

‘Orifices!! For fribbit! You peer in my ears, you can gaze up my nose and you can gawp down my mouth! But Flaxi, you are not going anywhere else with that candle!!’

Beritt shrugged.

‘Then it will have to be the purgatives, you being obliged to sit in a field at a distance of at least one thousand paces away from decent company for some time, and I’m not thinking Custodian Meradat will suffer such a delay. Thus, he will instruct me to conduct an examination in daylight in the confines of a tent, and us both will subject to predictable and very dull ribald remarks, of which I am quite inured,’

‘Huff! Beneath that sweet and pretty face there lurks an iron heart,’

‘To be correct below and downwards of this pretty face there lurks an iron heart. Now be a good little maid, and Medician Beritt will give you a boiled sugar lump afterwards,’

Karlyn once more grumbled, but she’d not had a boiled sugar lump for lunations.

 

The ‘men’ had gone out on scouting, leaving the ‘girls’ to stay at ‘home’ to observe, one up a tree and one leaning beneath it with an oculartragen. At least that’s how Beritt saw it and was a little surprised Karlyn had not been annoyed about that slight nod to domesticity. But she had she own problems.

She could not make contact. Crocked thing!!

Beritt was still not clear just how this oculartragen worked; hurried instructions; a leather-bound book, the small print of which was not conducive to reading by night and the occasional message sliding across its screen. These were not up to the standard of instructions a medician expected. More the equivalent of ‘Oh a quarter of the leg hacked off? Just put something on it to stop the bleeding,’

And what the High Holy were they going up against? For ferrkit! The lads had been lucky to put down demons with those falconades and then the custodian had said those weren’t proper demons and small stuff. Well suppose they came up against the ‘Proper Demons’. Fine if you were one of Erzns’ hounds, they would reckon a ride through the Five Hells as a jaunt, while custodians did this as a matter of course and Karlyn was tending to swagger about her own victory. But whereas medicians carried powders to kills fleas and rats, and lotions to deal with infections Beritt didn’t reckon those were quite up to the requirements. If things got really Fifth Hell, she might find herself having to stick close to the elidian girl.

As if hearing a summons, the girl alighted from her latest tree, soft footed and having been told all ways well with her body was now back her cheery disposition.

‘Hi Flaxi’ Beritt supposed she was stuck with that reference to her hair, but if any of Erzns’ crew tried to call her that… ‘Any luck yet?’

‘What’s your nose telling you?’ she replied; maybe she’d get more sense from Karlyn than from this mule of a device

‘Nothing new. Same ol’ oil and sea. But this time I’m going to be ready for any uglies that that any hell can throw at me,’ she peered at Beritt. ‘Do you want to go and bathe in the river while the lads are away?’

‘Just what are you inferring?’ Beritt asked and then unconsciously scratched at an armpit

‘Nuffing!! I just thought since the lad are away, we could have a nice private social bathe,’ Karlyn outrage turned to a pout ‘S’what girls do together,’

The strength of the sigh would have levitated Beritt’s fringe even higher than normal, but for the brim of her hat.

‘It’s a pleasant thought. Sadly I can’t leave my duties here,’ she gave the edge of the device a swift slap ‘And particularly not while this thing!’ another slap ‘Is being cussed!’ a muttered swearing. ‘You go if you want. I’ll keep an eye roving for you,’

‘Naw,’ Karlyn slumped back on the ground scratching her untidy brush of hair ‘Wouldn’t be the same Flaxi. S’been a long time since I had girl-company,’ she picked a long strand of grass and began to chew on it while looking about. ‘When we get to that town, what you think our chances are of getting a bit of free time, and attendant,’ she rolled her tongue about her lips ‘fun!!’

Beritt snorted and stabbed a finger at one of the gems, it blinked back in a way she reckoned was outright defiant cheek.

‘LifeGuards on duty don’t get…. Fun!!…No time for it. All senses alert to dangers,’

‘So you don’t get a chance to steal off with one of those lads, and ease your fears away,’

Karlyn thought for such a small girl Flaxi could make a lot of noise in one single dismissive bark.

‘Fun with any lads? Hah! A girl should sooner amuse herself with frbbin ’tree twigs rather than any of that crew of raggedy dogs!! They put theirs where I wouldn’t put my scraithin’ boot!! Had to attend to two of them for Particular Boils not two lunations ago!! Enough to make any girl loose interest in dongers for the rest of her jolly-time days! I always was particular with the fellows’ delicates !’

Karlyn frowned, then was all accentuated outrage

‘Oh dearie Flaxi! The mouth on you!’

There was a pause, then a shared outburst of spluttering laughter. Karlyn tugged the brim of Beritt’s hat over her eyes, Beritt could not help other than to smile warmly in return.

‘That’s better Flaxi! I think you’ve been working too hard,’ her nose twitched ‘You got a faint aroma of weariness about you, like Spring damp dawn mists and daffodils at the end of their blooming,’

Beritt was about to ask….

But there was the sound of distant hooves.

‘There! They’ll be back and expecting results!! Now let me battle with this cussed machine and you go and sit up your tree and talk to bees, or something,’

‘The bees have told me all they have to say,’

Beritt looked up meaningfully.

‘You mean that, don’t you? You do talk to bees,’

‘Yer,’

And then being perverse, Karlyn remained annoyingly silent, choosing to stand up and walk about, whistling cheerfully while kicking twigs.

And the mirror’d glass seemed intent on continuing to be obstinate. Pressed for results Beritt gave way to understandable frustration and having given up on the mild slaps shook the device while swearing with so much vehemence as to draw Karlyn from the other side of the tree, placing hands on Beritt shoulders, and leaning over her.

‘Frib!’ breathed Beritt.

The blankness had suddenly given way to a storm of swirling myriads colours, devoid of shapes other than the swift flow of flooded streams in random directions. Some colliding and creating new shades; defying any sense, threatening to cause confusion upon the spectre.

‘What the scraith Flaxi!’

‘Lady Green Vixen; Captain-Sister-to-Us-All!!’ despite her plea and solid efforts to make any direction, the images continued in their chaos; now shot through with blood red, explosions of lurid orange and a growing back ground of night. The display taking place just as Meradat and the LifeGuard arrived; Karlyn promptly scrambling to the custodian.

‘You’ve gotta see this guv’!!’

Meradat now fatalistically attuned to her ways did not comment directly to Tildelte Karlyn but strode over to where Beritt was working the gems with frantic glances to the book, and resultant words of exasperation at the lack of any useful guidance. He stood, thoughtful for a while.

‘Can you dismiss that device from continuing its display Medician Beritt!’

Since this was phrased as something of a command, Beritt ignored whatever protocols she’d been told by Dekyria, and tugged loose from the left side of the oculartragen a deep azure gem, at which point all conjunctions and contacts with The Astatheia ceased, the mirror’d surface taking on a rather sullen dark grey. Meradat thus satisfied addressed his small congregation.

‘What has been witnessed here is a manifestation of The Zerstorung, as its creatures’ sense opportunity as the predator smells fear and blood!!’

Beritt thoughts were sour, it was fine for Erzns’ pack to look grimly ready for a challenge, and Karlyn to grin, they were all not conversant with Sanity. She whispered a sanctioned Lifeguard prayer for forbearance in the face of Severity. She took a smidge of comfort from Meradat’s brief nod of approval, thence to continue with, she reckoned, a certain amount of relish.

‘Now let us be clear. There are no such things as views into The Future. This is known only to The Lord God. But the capricious Stommigheid takes its own malicious delight in vexing us with lurid warnings. These are not to be dismissed, for with diligent caution and faith in The Lord God, even this untrustworthy circumstance and be brought to serve,’

‘Nice to know,’ Beritt wisely kept the words to herself. The custodian was in full flow.

‘The confusion of colours indicates much unwise activity with The Stommigheid. The lurid reds, oranges and night-shades reveal that those of violent and ill-intent are drawn to its maw and will bring woe upon that town. We must therefore be quick, ride there in teams of two, meeting at an agreed location, then hunt down the miscreant and extract them before destruction falls upon that unhappy place,’

‘Does that mean we can’t even burn down a titchy bit as a warning?’

Karlyn was to complain to Beritt for some time afterwards that it had been a reasonable question and she’d not deserved scowls and the custodian’s instruction to be silent.

 

Meradat concluded with an insistence that all kneel and follow him in prayers and solemn reflection. He was naturally expecting the usual mumbling and stumbling through the correct responses, but as he’d hoped  the medician was far more conversant and attentive in the devotions. This was a relief to him, she would have a measure of protection against the wiles of the Stommigheid. When he was satisfied he had imposed some measure of sobriety upon the task at hand he turned his attention on her.

‘Child, in your heart, you are still a good sister-in- faith,’

Beritt was not feeling particularly juvenile, but took the words in good custom, with a brief thanks and an affirmation she would place her trust in the Good Lord God. This earned a grunt of approval, and then Meradat was away to discuss with Erzns something or other, which no doubt she would learn about soon. Meanwhile she awaited orders

 

Chapter 6. Of Patchwork Warriors.

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 6

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

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

CHAPTER. SIXTEEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

coming from?’

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

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

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

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

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

Merklin took on a wolfish smile

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

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

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

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

Merklin’s face clouded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

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

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

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

 

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

 

Frib! There’s that damn particular hue!!

‘Sergeant Erzns,’

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

‘Medician,’

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

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

 

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

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

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

‘Do you know where?’

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

‘Scraith! They!-they!’

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

‘So what do we do?’

Meradat picked up his axe settling it tight in both hands

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

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

‘One must always be ready,’

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

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

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

 

Merthyl winced in surprise. He had felt that!

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meradat did not look surprised, just thoughtful.

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

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

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

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

‘Seems uncommonly dangerous,’

‘Yeh,’ she drawled, her grin unhinged.

‘Foolishness is a sin Karlyn Nan-’

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

He turned to Karlyn one finger raised in warning.

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

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

‘Say nothing,’ he repeated.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The last was a definite statement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beritt shrugged; there were always the tetchy ones.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karlyn screwed up her face and sniffed

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

Beritt shrugged.

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

‘I’d like to see you try,’

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

‘Medician Beritt!’

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

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

‘He’s got wounded too?’ Karlyn asked.

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

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

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

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

Somewhen following Karlyn and Beritt’s meeting…

 

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

Into the blessed familiar shadows and shapes of her room.

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

The thought of which nudged her into crossness.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Dreams? What dreams?’

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

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

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

‘I don’t know! I just did!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

‘Hi Flaxi! Thanks for the ministrations!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Stommigheid?’

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

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

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

‘What’s them squiggles mean then?’

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

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

‘Reported in medician?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Err…my assessment Your Diligence?’

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

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

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

‘Custodian’s looking at you,’ Beritt said

‘Thank you Medician,’ he said

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

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

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

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

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

‘’Til what, who when?’

Beritt ‘tutted’

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

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

‘Well you got him on our side medician,’

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

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

 

Of Patchwork Warriors Episode 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 5

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

CHAPTER TWELVE

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

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

And they fell for the little monster every time.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Merthyl waited.

He did expect results rather than simple exultation this time.

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

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

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

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

The vista was blocked by something.

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

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

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

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

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

“Ffoooood,” it groaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

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

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

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

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

Not forgetting of course Voices from the future.

 

Another dawn…

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

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

Voices from the future, for one thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bears repeating,” Dekyria managed a genial smile.

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

 

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

And was gone.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Show ya!” she cried

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

She was suddenly noticing something.

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

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

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

There was some more babbling in reply.

That annoyed her.

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

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

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

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

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

“And I squished it and burnt it!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that stage, the lad quite understandably fainted.

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was then she fell off of her horse.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER  FIFTEEN

“Master Bleymore,”

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

And speculation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“….so much weight as to bend Time…”

“…to disappear as so as they appeared…”

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

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

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

“And if this continues?”

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

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

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

“Drygnest will have to follow us Captain,”

Dekyria thought a reasonable statement, he continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Mid-morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

“These are orders straight from Drygnest,”

“Scraith,”

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

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

“Are you supposed to telling this?”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The analogy emboldened Beritt; she could speak from experience.

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

“Bear that in mind then medician,”

Why! An approving grin from a captain!

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

Followed by the thoughts natural enough for any trooper.

“Why me?”

“Your turn,”

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

 

Of Patchwork Warrior Episode 4

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 3

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 manners

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

“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.

Wobblers!

But useful ones, if goaded the right way.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

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!”

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

“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’.

 

And so….

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!!!”

“Of Patchwork Warriors” – Let The Book Be Launched

Of Patchwork Warriors Episode 1

Of Patchwork Warriors Episode 2