A True History of The Isles Vol.II Chap 11- The Scottish Way of Managing Things

Forewarned

As previous chapters have covered much of the activities of the Scots and how they upset or distracted the kings and northern nobility of England, there will be some brevity hereabouts

Initial Overview

In the previous volume it was annotated, recorded and generally written about, over the long history of these Isles the folk who lived in the part we call Scotland were wont to march south to raid, enslave, loot or conquer folk in places we now call Northern England. If we go even farther back to about half way through Volume I they did the same to those who were what we would call Welsh, only they were Britons and lived in a place called Strathclyde. Being a fair-minded folk The Scots of the lowlands of Scotland did the same to those who lived in the Highlands or the Islands (as opposed to Ireland, which is another matter). Thus, the Scots in general were a busy and industrious folk who when they had no particularly serious issue with outsides (or Highlanders or Islanders) fought amongst themselves for land, heritage and if they were ambitious enough the Scots throne.

The Perceived Wisdom of the Scots of the Middle Ages

It was an acknowledged fact of Scottish politics that no matter what had been done by whom and when, if the fighting involved the English (or to be precise the Norman Kings and nobles), at least one side was fighting for Scottish Independence, even if they had started it by invading England. As we will see this was used to good effect.

The problem facing those who survived long enough to be a king of Scotland was the number of other folk who wanted to be king and kept on asking some of those Norman lords (aka English) to the south if they could lend them a retinue to bolster the campaign. This became very irritating and Alexander III last of the Dunkeld had some very strong words with Edward I but did not invade, preferring to visit nuns, widows, virgins and in fact any women and as recorded previously died 1286 in a hurry to meet his new bride.

The Rise of The Bruces

Not happy with the other twelve or fifty candidates for the throne or people asking what an English king thought about it, The Bruce family acted. The Bruces from 1306 started by killing John III of Comyn who was Scots but might have wanted to be English

As John had been killed in a church Robert Bruce was quick to say this was only done to protect Scotland from being taken over by the English. In the confusion he then said that all his wars were against the Kings of England and various rouges bought by English Gold and so everything was a war of Independence which gave him the rite to invade not just England but Ireland as well. This worked quite well in Scotland but as noted previously did not do so well for Robert’s brother Edward who died of unconvinced Irish. Robert however defeated the English and their Norman kings, nobles etc at Bannockburn in 1324 on the 23rd June. A peace treaty was signed in which it was clearly stated that only scots nobles could massacre other scots nobles but that Robert could not be held responsible for cattle raiders. He then ruled Scotland but made a hobby of acquiring various ailments and so died in 1329, but the pope at the time said Robert could be buried, so all ended well.

A Time of Turbulence and Then Stability and then Not So Much

Because there was no Son The Bruce, matters were somewhat tempestuous between 1329 & 1356 when David (The II and a Bruce) and Edward (Not a Norman one but a Balliol) disputed who should be king. A lot of time was wasted with small battles, one king escaping from or imprisoning the other until Edward noticed no one was supporting him anymore and he retired.

With all this practice David (The II and no one arguing about it) set to massacring or just punishing disagreeable nobles and inventing a Treasury by which means he was able to prove that Scotland was very wealthy. Thus ahead of the game he cannily died in 1371.

Regrettably there was no David to be the III, so a nephew named Robert but who was really A Stewart was crowned The II. England and France at the time were having peace talks and Robert (The II) wanted to join in. This did not go well with his sons or other nobles and he spent the rest of his life losing his throne to various claimants until 1390 when he expired of coups.

In this unhappy situation Robert (the II)’s son, John said it was in order that he should now be king, because he had had experience at trying to depose David II and/or Edward and also rebel against his father. Although he convinced the Scots parliament to allow him to be called Robert and thus be The III, the nobles were not convinced. Considering some of these had splendid names such as Black Douglas, Red Douglas (possibly an early socialist) or Archibald The Grim it is easy to see why. He was also blamed for failing the pacify the west and north of Scotland where folk were wont Gaelic and opposed to Scots. It is likely he would have been deposed or slewed but for the king of England being Richard The II, The Hopeless and The Deposed. This allowed the nobles in the south of Scotland to raid, pillage, slaughter etc the north of England and not really care who might call themselves King of Scotland. He was to eventually die in 1406 0f ill-health possibly bought on by a series of Douglases.

The Church in Scotland    

Whereas the Scots had been properly Christian, they had to put up with the Archbishop of York telling them what to do. What with Scottish nobles raiding across the border this was not always an effective means of religious leadership. The Papacy in 1192 attempted to sort this out by telling Scottish bishops they didn’t have to speak to the Archbishop of York anymore. Regrettably due to a clerical oversight no Scots’ Archbishop was appointed even though the Scots’ church was titled Ecclesia Scoticana which sounded very important. For some obscure reason they were known as The Special Daughter of Rome even though they were more than one and naturally men. Thus, somewhat confused and not a little depressed the church in Scotland generally restricted itself to religious matters.

The Scottish Parliamentary Experience  

As was fashionable in parts of Europe various knights, local important un-nobles and folk with money felt the nobles were having far too much say in the running of things and so grumbled together. Kings liking the idea of having folk who were not nobles around the place allowed them to form parliaments. The idea unravelled a bit when these folk stopped just talking and gained powers.

In Scotland to avoid the attentions of nobles disagreeable or otherwise, these used never to meet in the same place but in various towns, then tell the king what they thought of things. By deft manoeuvring they even managed to gain some powers of taxation and telling the king what his name should be (See Robert III).

Unlike later commoners (see Oliver Cromwell) they were never able to gain an army and so their role was often marginal.

Clans

In the not uncommon circumstance of the various Middle Ages there was no shortage of folk to fight, the Scots very cannily invented the Clan. This was based around the family of a chief. However not only his family, but followers etc could join and all use the same name. This made raids, squabbles and wars a much neater affair as everyone knew which side they were on. Something not always shared in England and Ireland (Wales being in a bit of a sulk). Because the ordinary person gave loyalty to the Clan they did not have to listen to The King. Whereas this seemed a smidge democratic it meant that kings of Scotland developed aggressive tendencies, or went into a sulk neither of which boded well for stable or healthy long-term government. However, as the Clans survive to this day, theirs, it must be argued, was the better arrangement.

France

Because English Kings felt obliged, for many reasons, to fight both Scotland and France it was understandable the latter two should form an alliance. In Scotland, this was called The Auld Alliance, and to ensure everyone Scottish knew who was who The English were titled The Auld Enemy. This arrangement allowed the French and Scots to be very sentimental about each other and when it suited kings of either nation they could join with the other in wars with England without footling about with new treaties.

Conclusion of The 14th Century.

Although far from united, The Scots were able to maintain the argument that whatever they did was to ensure they remained independent from England. This enabled Scottish History to be Romantic so more socially attractive than England’s which was deemed only to be Eventful and Turbulent.

A True History of the Isles Vol II Chap 9 – The Celts A Necessary(Socialist) Overview

Shameless Advertising One ( A Sorta Link)

If you have been following this series and would like to know more then Volume I is available through Kindle 51vnj7ZqupL__SY346_ (Impress your friends, make controversial statements at parties, defy established historians, get sort of educated on the cheap, select your own quotes to use on any occasion, put things in context- throughout history there have been even bigger idiots than the current batch in charge!)

Shameless Advertising Two- (Tenuous Plugging of Product)

Has all this reading of legendary figures, heroic historical events and Middle Ages given you a previously unknown taste for Speculative Fiction verging on the Fantasy side?

Well, then look no further (apart from Patchwork Warriors Part 8 a sample), because there is a book out there which make be just the one you are looking for.

Read of heroes, villains, powers beyond the normal, battles, plots, comic interludes, romances (whichwillcontainscenesofanadultnature-terms and conditions apply) and the triumph of sort of good over sort of bad and the just plain evil. All packaged in a relatively lite format. AsBook Cover 9

Both available at $0.99 or £0.99 or whatever else this may translate into on Amazon Kindle!!

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Of Patchwork Warriors (The Ragged Jagged Book Launch)

Book Cover 9

I apologise that this will probably cause exasperation to those who have managed a successful and professional launch on more than one occasion. I regret the confusion or puzzlement experienced by readers who are new to me and my ways. There may come a time when I will sneak back and change the whole format then those who have purchased this through Kindle will have a ‘collector’s item’. However, for the present finally after much more post-narrative work than has ever taken place in my small part of Creation ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ is finally onto Kindle and if Computers, Fates and Good Fortune keep the gremlins away should be available for sale in 3-4 days, at 0.99$ or 0.99£…and such low prices world-wide.

It’s my own cover too; with the assistance of www.addtext.com who were so easy to navigate. Now there are those naturally who will think or say ‘Yer whaaa?’ or ‘What the Ffffudge!’ or ‘Oh My God, what was he thinking?’ and such. Yeh, I know, I understand, but if you visited inside my head and watched my tendency after a while to say ‘Arrhhh! So what! Full steam ahead!!’ you would, maybe sigh and say ‘Oh well’

For any reader who is unfamiliar with my blog, this is a Fantasy Work; the 1st Volume of some epic of which I have no inkling where it will go. This is Adult; includes drama, fighting, intrigue, heroics, friendship, humour, villainous deeds, blood and gore (in small buckets), romance (and consequential episodes of an adult nature). And is also quite ‘lite’ in comparison with some of the volumes forged by the best in this genre. This is the ‘blurb’ which hopefully will appear on the Amazon page:

“There came an era when the threat of incursion from the infernal other world realm of the Zerstorung was strong, placing the survival of entire unsettled Oakhostian Empire at risk and thus disparate forces began to marshal, to take up any cause or seize any opportunity.

There in the background The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia just a few names for the force which had arrived upon The World in Ages faded from record. Viewed either as a pernicious creature seeking to control, a power for good, an aspect of Nature to be treated with caution or a means to an end, it remained a constant. With an oft forgotten tendency to engage with the unwilling, the unassuming and the unruly from the rank of lesser folk whose consequential and various struggles would unsettle many a careful plan.

This is the tale of three such, an innocent housemaid, a dutiful soldier and a self-appointed scourge of evil quite unaware the safety of an Empire would soon be resting on them.

They did not take uniformly or conventionally to the task, for that was the way of things, when involved with The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia.”

I wish to thank a lot of folk who in one form or another contributed to the sensible side of this project, but are in no way responsible for my more quirky actions and decisions, so should not be held accountable for any blame- that’s all mine. (Mine! I tell you! All Mine!!….high-pitched laughter): Anyway it could have been very peculiar but for:

In alphabetical order:

Audrey, Dan, Gwin, Jerry, Jill, Lennon, Lisa, Lucy, Rachael, Ron, Sha’Tara & Simon.

All that remains to be said is

I will now return to keeping up to date with other folks’ posts.

Return to the ‘History of These Isles Vol.II’.

Finally read that magazine on how to improve the appearance of my WordPress site.

And of course suffer the attendant horrors which follow self-publishing a book: Such as ‘Did I check everything? What happens if Kindle……? Should I have written ‘that part’ differently? Oh My God what have I done?’ ‘There will be errors I missed, I know there will be’ and other common ailments.

Thank goodness my contact with Reality is tenuous anyhows.

Book Covers Part II. If it was easy, where would the fun be?

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

Book Covers Part II. If it was easy, where would the fun be?

And so to the Book Cover creation processes, thus far…..

In this my intention is three-fold:

  1. A narrative about someone creating a cover, not for self-aggrandisement but addressing those in a similar position to give them ideas such as ‘Hmm. That gives me an idea’ or ‘Well, if he can try it I think I can’ or ‘OK, maybe I can get make my own cover’ or even ‘Oh yeh! I am definitely going to back to those professional sites!’ and especially ’I need to read another blog or six on this subject’ All these reactions and any permutations of them are valid, and you go for it! I’m with you all the way !!

2. Since I now embrace the idea that telling folk about your book before you publish it is important, this is in part giving Of Patchwork Warriors another airing.

3. The case for the defence when the evidence comes under the dispassionate gazed for those better versed in the skill.

Laying Down The Strategy

As previously acknowledged since my skills in this subject are minimal it was essential to include any scrap, sliver or mote of imagery which bore relevance to a central aspect of the narrative while at the same time being very basic. In sticking to simplicity this production would be shorn of any figures or faces, which would place emphasis on the props and the atmosphere. This at one gave a certain freedom of movement while concentrating the mind on the type of items to be placed.

Narrative and Imaging Working In Harmony (Sort of)

Central to ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ are the actions and relationships of three young women set with a task they were not expecting. It is never made truly clear if they were ‘Thrown Together By Chance’ or ‘Manoeuvred By Forces’. What is clear they do not act as others or each other expect them to. This lends an air of the ragged and improvisation which suited my Cover-Work just fine! To reflect this I was relying on these three characters and their backgrounds:

Arketre Beritt– Soldier. Medician in The LifeGuard (medic in an elite regiment). Southern drawl when being intense. Used to roughing it on active duty. Adept at making her own potions.

Karlyn Nahtinee– Mysterious. Self-appointed hunter of evil (aka Whychery). Acrobatic. Uncanny sense of smell and empathy with Nature. Adept killer. Skewed and whimsical. Vulnerable (And a heck of a struggle to stop her being read as a Harley Quinn ‘knock-off’- Frustration was ….I thought of her prototype before I started reading Batman again).

Trelli– Housemaid by profession. Thanks to the incautious effects of the household son’ Infected’ with the ‘power’ aka ‘The Ethereal’. Tracked and rescued/abducted by Arketre and Karlyn (long story). Trying to maintain her composure, control this intrusive power and not be overwhelmed by Arketre and particularly Karlyn.

The dynamics of the trio’s journeying, overcoming tribulations and growing relationships comes to dominate the narrative as they become the effective opposition to destructive powers. Therefore, a cover which illustrated their collective and individual passages upon a landscape would be a valid and importantly an attainable image.

On Taking Holes and Adjusting Them To Fit Pegs Into

So three folk travelling. Campsite. Ideal to scatter items around which should also figure as signatures of the circumstances and maybe the characters. This actually turned into a two-way street, when it struck me that if I bought a cheap, plastic prop sword it would look like a cheap…plastic….prop..sword?  And what was with those cheap fancy dress pirate boots?, They shone like something….cheap. Some thought was required. Back to the Campsite:

Small Fire?-Of course. And naturally some battered mugs-easy we have a surfeit of old mugs, just paint them dingy. These were folk travelling a long road in an uncertain situation so it was all in the rough. Trelli being practical would have the others reasonably clean, so socks and shirt/top drying after a sort of wash. Arketre making potions, one discarded pot would not come amiss. Trelli being bothered by the Ethereal which manifests in Red and Blue, so scatter some red and blue bits. Karlyn what about her? No sword, well I have a wooden stave in the house from the time my son was practicing some martial art stuff. Yes that would fit. Just do a bit of a re-write to include a stave, in her weaponry, which made sense since she liked to sit up trees and a big sword while balanced on a branch does not seem a good idea. And I can build in Trelli’s slippers (my wife discarded a pair recently, I smeared them with some goldish paint). Yeh, that all fits.

Best of all it hopefully it will look odd and make folk wonder…..I hope(d).

That’s All Very Well But Does It Fly?

Well, let’s look shall we……….

And my back garden/yard in its ‘wild’ theme (gardening is not our strong suite)

Cover 4

(This is one of the 30+ shots taken on a damp early autumnal morn…..problem one the events are taking place in the spring. Can’t wait. Karlyn is given the statement that some trees are confused, which is useful, underlines her unearthliness. But green and brown. Does it look interesting enough for Fantasy? My wife said ‘No’ and I trust her implicitly with colour sense. (I kept Karlyn’s lines in anyhow)……..)

Since Reds and Blues figure in the theme I took what was available in the editing process in Word and tried a blue.

Cover 5 

Ok, so everything I wanted to appear is appearing and the atmosphere looks somewhat unusual, and you can’t see anyone., not seeing anyone leaves the appearance up to the reader’s imagination. There’s a bit of a pathway showing; one important chapter does take place in ruins, but is this ruined enough? So I tried to edge it out with some paintbrushing, lines of red and blue (Ethereal or officially titled ‘Stommigheid’)

Cover 2

Yes, so there are these two pronounced patches of red and blue. Question is. Are they too cartoony? Do they look unreal enough?  If I put my author’s name in that corner would that distract? Should I leave the red and blue out and use the previous picture? I’m something of a believer of ‘Leave it settle. Come back in a few days and look at it again with fresh eyes’ Thus the project is left for those few days. I have to admit to a certain degree of satisfaction. Let’s hope to the Good Lord God (that’s a phrase you’ll find in the book, or variations thereupon) this will translate onto an Amazon Kindle format and the title will fit. Anyhow some more tinkering maybe required, that’s assuming this Windows 10 format can handle it 

At least I know how my characters feel, having to make things up as they go along.

Book Covers- Part I The Journey Begins

Of Patchwork Warriors Part 1

“Of Patchwork Warriors” – Let The Book Be Launched

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Covers- Part I The Journey Begins

 

Book Covers

51vnj7ZqupL__SY346_ (actually this image has nothing much to do with the post, it’s just a shameless plug…..on sale on Kindle, the first volume in a peerless work of history of the Isles of Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland- yeh!…. and also how to use a stock photo and almost get away with it)

This is a post of two parts.

For ease of navigation and convention you are reading the first part.

This part serves several functions:245px-1271754717_william-e.-gladstone

It is a useful read for those who have not yet considered book covers, as it is a frank account of the dilemmas you will encounter.

Me

For folk who take the production of book covers seriously it is an insight into a mind of someone who would take the production of book covers to a respectable level if someone thwacked him about the head.Gunner Sargeant Hartman

Fans of whimsical posts which skirt with Reality are invited to My World.manners

Students of Human Nature are allowed to reach their own conclusions.imagesKUX2E4NS

Facing the Unavoidable

Once upon time, I resided in a frame of mind which abjured the harsh realities of making a book known to the public. When a narrative had been framed into chapters and reached a conclusion that was that. The book cover was something to be chosen from a limited supply of publishers’ free covers; the notion being the irony of my choice would be so obvious to the public they would clamber to purchase my volume(s).

NNQP Vol 1(No kidding folks, that’s the cover of Vol I of the Nearly Not Quite Paladins trilogy…..a comic fantasy work)

Sad, isn’t it? (don’t go there, one day it will turn up on Kindle…free)

Anyways, having signed up to WordPress and read a number of intelligent, informative and helpful blogs the truth finally sunk in.

Take the cover as seriously as the writing yo-yo!

Thus, ever lurking in the middle of my mind was the inescapable finality; I would have to have a unique cover to my book otherwise the best part of two years would wither or worse go perrffft!!

Oh What To Do??

The Professional Approach

A few posts went into practicalities of paying for a design. Now this made irrefutably good sense, after all established and successful writers aren’t renowned for designing their own covers? There was a problem there- the budget did not extend to cover such a cost. It could be argued the capital spent would be an investment. A fair enough argument for many and I would not stand in their way; but Ah me……the paradox and the conflict of not being able to justify my expenditure on my work.

The Skilled and Artistic Approach

Much to my surprise and fascination there were indeed numerous folk out their designing covers for their own books, and the skill I could only admire. One example; Rachael Ritchley whose YA series of book glow with imaginative and beautiful covers.

I concluded, therefore this was for me, I shall design my own. All I need is to find the write….sorry….right format/programme/something-or-other.

The…Uh?….What Do I Do Next?…..Where Do I Save This?…Where’s the Other Half of The Cover Gone? Approach

When faced with the process of choosing the right format/programme…etc, there was my usual problem. In studying these formats etc I have the attention and perception span of an adolescent male attending a history class dealing with the politics of choosing a 14th Century Holy Roman Emperor while said male has just witnessed the school cheerleaders in practice.  In short I…am…very…..annoying. (If it is any consolation to those who have the maturity to handle the serious production of book covers I am equally annoying to myself).

Once more…’Thus’ did follow the usual internal debate as to how to circumvent this.

I desire a book cover which reflects the content.

But, like hey man, all this procedure….Like man, it’s too heavy for me, y’know. Like too intense man; too far out.

Usual answer, Do It On The Hoof and See What Happens.

Here We Go Then….

Within these strictures I set to work, solidifying ideas swilling about my head for months

I had a notion on the nature of a cover which would represent one central facet of the narrative. I had worked out an image, which was possible to replicate onto a photo.

I had a location.

I had a thematic to work with.

And I had Windows Gallery, which I could work with.

All on the proverbial Hoof fitting in with:

My intention to produce a book cover

A workable format

A system

In the next post will be a narrative of the progress, so far.

 

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!

Advice on Publishing, Markets etc- Look Somewhere Else

There is nothing of value I, personally, have to offer on the practicalities. There are probably intelligent, dedicated and astute writers and bloggers out there in WP who despair of, who are irritated by or have given up on my approach, or lack of when it comes to:

Firstly- The very art and determination in ensuring that their work is as polished as they could humanly manage.

Secondly- The associated effort in spreading news of the forthcoming conclusion to a work they have embarked on; particularly in the correct and effective use of the opportunities afforded by Social Media

Thirdly – The professionalism required either to market by oneself or by contacting professional folk who can assist in this way.

I can evoke, lyrically I might add, the reasons why someone should write. I pride myself on being able to ignite a spark or breath life back in the fading embers of a lonely and uncertain soul wishing to write. I can, allegorically, stand on a podium and thunder with all the passion of a wrathful preacher; railing against badly strung critical reviews; professional critics; the snobbish sorts who look down their noses at self-publishing and anyone else who tries to stifle a new writer. I would sit on the edge of the nest of the nervous person about to start upon those excruciatingly difficult first words and gently ease them into spreading their wings to take flight amongst the breezes and breaths of Creativity. All those come rushing into my mind and my spirit, they are clarion summonings to bear aloft the banner emblazoned with those inviolable words ‘You Can Write’.

But I cannot give practical advice. I know not why, and sometimes do confess wretched sluggard that I am, not to caring to either. For me, the thrill is the creating, the crafting and the completion and then as some person caught up in the joy of a festival or event, once those final words, as chords in a musical event are done, away go I with fond memories. Ah, dear harmless fool; jester for the more focused, sensible and ultimately successful. You have your day amongst the words, the posts and the comments to posts, but the rest will always be vague stumblings……………………..

Errrrr, not too sure where all that introspection came from, but since I spent a good few minutes of my time crafting it, here it is and here it stays. Take it or leave it folks. Be warned. It could happen to you.

Anyway……

To the most important part of the post.

There are many energetic, inventive and determined folk in the WP Community who are kind enough to share their thoughts and suggestions on the matters of actually getting your words out there to the public. These come in all shapes and sizes, differing approaches, particular details, varying personalities; in fact across the myriad of the positive sort of Human Effort. They all have one thing in common though. They are taking very, very, seriously the business of getting their work known to the public. At times, it seems as if once the book is completed then their Hard Work begins. I salute them, I marvel at their adroitness in navigating all the pathways.

Thus, for all the new and uncertain writers there is a treasury of guidance and advice here in WP, without you buying a suspiciously self-aggrandising book by some ‘name’.

I cite you a few examples from posts on this subject which just had to be reblogged

So You Want To Be A Writer

3 Rejection Letters Indie Authors Receive

The Thing About Writer’s Block

When Your Writing Issue Is…

Newsletter BlitzNew Feature: Writer Rants (with host Dan Alatorre)

Useful Tips for Self-Editing a Manuscript

Let’s Talk: Grit as a Writer

Now some of these links might not actually cover a point in your journey as a writer, but they will guide you to folk who have a wealth of experience, talent and drive and are some of the people you should be reading. I apologise to those who I have left out, ragged that I am.

There we are folks, as the old saying goes

‘Get Weaving’

All the very best in your endeavours, now go and read someone else’s blog for pity’s sake.smile

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.

A True History of The Isles Vol II Chapter 5- The Status of Women in the Middle-High-Middle Ages.

In this chapter we shall take a break off from kings, conniving nobles, fussy church folk and those who liked to pretend they were any of the aforementioned and consider the status of Women in the Medieval era. The reasons for this lurch is that we have just left Edward II who may or may have not been killed by nobles, but there seems to be a common misconception even to this day at that at the bottom of his fall was his cold cruel wife Isabella of France who being a mere woman also fell under the spell of wicked Roger Mortimer.

At this stage, the author of this work would like to say ‘Oh! Grow up!’

So, let us look at the matter in more detail.

The Basic Details

Women suffered from a bad press. Men in general, irrespective of intelligence and education were not inclined to understand the poetical and allegorical nature of parts of the Old Testament of the Bible so blamed women for Eve, or vice versa (it was a source of great theological debate). Also, if they did get around to reading stuff from the Elderly Greeks and Roman which of course had to be classical, these works were all about men apart with a few devious or hysterical women thrown in for dramatic effect; these works being written by men. It was thus concluded women were weak, devious, incapable of thought, emotional and not to be trusted out of your sight.

The fact that this could be applied in equal measure to your average male, in particularly the nobility and the higher officers of The Church was of course blamed on outside influences, especially women.

Thus, women were allowed only to get married and have children, or failing that enter convents. For anything else they had to have the permission of their fathers, brothers or husbands. If they insisted on surviving all male relatives then they were expected to marry the nearest available male. If he was already married she would have to seek another male; the one exception being the nobility; they were allowed to ask a bishop to find out a reason why the current marriage was illegal, immoral or inconvenient.

The Social Structure

Peasant Women.

These had less rights than their male counterparts, which was a bit of a problem seeing as in practice the male peasant was quite devoid of any rights. The law could be very harsh; if it was found out a woman had a child out of marriage, some male peasant had to pay a large fine to the local lord, irrespective if the lord was the father of said child. In addition to having children, cooking and keeping the hovel free of rats, they were also expected to work in the fields, forest etc. Those who survived all this to the ripe old age of thirty-five might be suspected of witchcraft.

Something More Than Peasant Women, Women

Although their status was something similar to Peasant Women, due to legal loopholes some women could keep some of their own property and income. They could also organise their own businesses, as long as a man knew about it. Women could be brewers or butchers, until men started to get queasy about the concept of that the person who brewed their ale could also wield a large axe.

Women Whose Husbands Were Commoners But Wealthy.

Whereas these women were still expected to produce children, they could have servants to boss about. When The Old Man was away for some reason, The Wife was expected to run his business. Sometimes the community and business partners found out she could do a better job than he could and his return might be difficult. Sometimes robbers waylaid him and no questions were asked.

Women With Titles

Generally, a daughter was set up to marry someone by the age they were four. The whole business being to organise alliances between families and of course produce male children. If they survived this they might be chosen to be lesser lady to some higherborn noble woman and either be loyal or insufferable if they were older than the said higherborn. Having a title allowed them at any stage to say they wanted to be a nun and get out of the whole messy business. There were many convents in those days.

Noble Women

Noble women basically had to have male children. If they didn’t it was their fault. If the poor mite died it was their fault. If the kid grew up and became a disappointment it was his fault. The father always wriggled out of the deal.

Very noble women were allowed to rule while their husband was off making a nuisance of himself somewhere or other. This was known as a regency and was a status not a style of ornate fashion. They usually ruled quite well and this was very unsettling for their hubby when he came back. They were also allowed to accompany their husbands on a crusade, whether they wanted to or not. Some were even more noble about it than their husbands. Therefore, it can be seen why some nobles felt more comfortable with their fluffy young mistresses.

Despite every male telling every other male that this was the one time they should listen to the teaching of The Church, there was still the sneaking suspicion that some women were alarmingly capable.

In England whereas the nobility had recovered from the shock of the Age of Matlhildas & Matildas (See Vol I King Stephen), there was still the worrying evidence that The Eleanors were still prevalent. Everyone still remembered how Eleanor of Provence had been worryingly more capable than husband Henry (III and a bit weak and wet) no matter how rude they were about her. Then the Dynamic Edward the I (and very grim) was supported by and so fond of Eleanor of Castile that he didn’t bother with mistresses and mourned her when she died (the fact that she was a canny and ruthless property dealer suggests he, being an invader and subjugator found she was of a like mind and therefore the ideal wife and helpmate). Naturally as both women were intelligent, well read, and capable they were not popular with the nobility who told their peasants why they should think the same way, but neither woman came as close to vilifications as……

Isabella of France (some time in 1295 – 22 August 1358), Edward II’s wife. As it will have been noted in the previous chapter being married to an Edward The II could not have been easy. Isabella and Peers Gaveston (Favourite the I) did try to work together by being so complicated that the barons never knew whether they liked or didn’t like each other. In 1311 she went with Edward on his campaign against the Scots and thanks to Edward nearly was captured by the Scots which did cause some marital strain. After Gaveston was murdered by Lancaster (the noble not the city) or welshmen she did try to raise Edward’s spirits by giving birth to a son. But this didn’t work as he lost a little war to the Barons and then the Scots and Isabella was nearly captured by both. Even if she did give birth to another son, it must be assumed some of the glamour was fading from the marriage, particularly as she, like the rest of the country suffered from the Dispensers. And around this time thanks once more to Edward’s ineptitude was nearly captured by the Scots again!

By now understandably fed up of Dispensers, Scots, Barons and Edward she fled to France where in order to invade England she and Roger Mortimer became lovers, raised troops, invaded England, dispensed with the Despensers and probably enabled Edward to flee England as live and uncomplicated life. She then made a big mistake of trying to rule England with Mortimer without being Just, Fair and Noble and was duly removed justly, fairly and nobly by her son Edward (the soon to be III), though the same courtesy was not extended to Mortimer.

Although she’d been instrumental in getting rid of the hated Dispensers and shoving her hapless and inept husband off of the throne because she was a woman and not allowed to do such things she was thence vilified. Had she been a man she would have simply been a chapter. Of course Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘Edward II’ has not helped, as there are folk who will take plays as actually history. There again being a character in a Christopher Marlowe play is hardly helpful to anyone’s public image.     

Women Who Took Up A Religious Life

Some of course did this out of conviction, others having seen what happened to mothers, elder sisters, cousins and so forth were quick to hitch up their skirts and scamper off to the nearest convent. This was the one course of action a woman could take without men interfering, as to do this might incur the Attention of The Church, which no one really wanted. This is only mentioned to illustrate the option and will be looked into in more detail in a separate chapter of The Church and other religious aspects.

A medieval singlewoman

This was not a unit of counting the population for statistical purposes, but a woman who was not married without being a widow or religious. Usually without a family they were obliged to find their own dowry. This being a system whereby the family of the woman paid a large sum of money for someone to marry her; today there are many parents of teenage daughters who wished this was still common practice. The Singlewoman was obliged to save up for her own dowry, which in some cases could be a pretty good excuse for putting off the event. There were also women who didn’t bother with such trifling excuses, such as Cecilia Penifader of Brigstock (1295–1344) who made a announcement she would remain unwed, whether this was made as a statement with dignity or followed by a vulgar noise has not been recorded, but she has had a book written about her and lived beyond 30 years of age.

Women of Low Virtue

This only applied to women who did not have titles or of nobility. These lower class women were naturally called whores and other demeaning names, which didn’t stop brothels from making money. This class of women couldn’t have been that ill-considered as their testimony in court was valid, particularly if it was embarrassing to some fellow whose rivals were sharp operators.

To say a woman of high birth was as such, was simply asking for you to get to suffer pain in all sorts of manners, unless of course you were a noble yourself and she was involved with a rival. Normally women in such circumstances were known as mistresses and were generally approved of particularly by wives who hadn’t cared for their husbands in the first place. As long as they didn’t try and influence him politically mistresses of kings were very much accepted, particularly if you were lucky enough for your wife to be one; this opened all sorts of doors for you. Sometimes the children of such relationships muddied the accession circumstance, but some nobles found this a useful way of upsetting rivals or even creating a Pretender to the throne; otherwise they were called Fitz-something and given some land somewhere and told not to get involved in anything.

Education

Whether men liked it or not some measure of education was necessary so that wives could look after things when The Old Man was somewhere else. Some nobles insisted their daughters were very well educated not just to impress others, but so they could spy on their husbands for Dad. Some miserable types complained that if women could write they would spend their time sending passionate letters to lovers. These were just sour-pusses because they didn’t get any of that type of letter.

The Church was naturally suspicious, but grudgingly accepted nuns who could write, just so long as they wrote favorable comments about Christianity and more importantly The Church. Any women who started to speculate about questions of theology were looked upon with concern for the sin of Female Independent Thinking and would be made to submit their work to a Bishop who would then get picky about their use of Latin Grammar.

Religion

This will be looked at in more detail in that separate chapter on The Church. Suffice it to say The Church with its Eve fixation was very suspicious of Women as being weak, devious, lascivious and other words they could fit into Latin. Generally, there were two schools of thought:

Younger members of The Church having read Genesis feared that women would either leap at them and tear off their clothes to force their attentions upon them, or by seductive female means would achieve the same end. It was best therefore if women were not allowed to do anything outside of the house, and religious men should only go into the houses when other men were there. These men also kept their bedroom doors locked, just in case.

Elderly members of The Church had the same opinions, they were of a grumpy stony outlook because in all their years they had never been in such dangers and thought that ‘typical’ or whatever Latin word they cared to use. They had given up locking their bedroom doors      

Some members of The Church had more moderate outlooks. They also kept their bedroom doors locked, for quite different reasons.

Warfare

Noble women often gathered or led armies when The Old Man was either doing that somewhere else or the fool had got himself captured. A few women were quite good at it, though men did not care to see it that way (See Vol 1- The Matildas). The English had had a narrow squeak with a welsh princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd earlier on in 1100-1136 who used to go around with her husband sharing raids and chopping Anglo-Normans to bits, but generally in this era in these Isles women did not often get involved with handing out the business end of sharp bits of metal; unless of course they were legendary. Whether any independently minded young women disguised themselves as boys, went off to war and subsequently unsettled hardened leaders of men who found themselves strangely attracted to the new lad is a matter to writers of fiction.

Conclusion

These days, although some men won’t admit it, they yearn for these simpler times, and have to be more subtle and inventive; unless of course they are morons in which case they say they are exercising they right to free-speech (and presumably exercising something else, which is why they keep their bedroom doors locked).

 

In the next Chapter we shall consider the Vigorous Edward III, which will no doubt be of relief to those male readers who are insecure (work it out for yourself for pity’s sake man!)

Edward II, And What Others Did About Him 

A True History of the Isles Part 21- 1135-1154 Who Is Who and Who is in Charge of England Anyhow?

A True History of The Isles Part 27-Eleanor of Aquitaine-Yes Mam! No Mam! At Once Mam!