The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Church

Post your Errant Story, Errant Road, Exploitation Now, and Babylon Jones fanfiction here. Please note that Poe is not allowed to read it.

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » April 21st, 2016, 10:16 am

Chapter Forty-nine: Elven forensics and new orders

Meanwhile, in the Elven Territories:

Fewer than twenty elves remained in Praenubilus Astu who had ever practiced what might be termed “medicine,” in a sense beyond first aid, on humans. (There might have been a few more among the rangers, but the odd man who’d gated in with Paukii wasn’t yet judged of enough importance to tap into that resource.) Most of those had done nothing medical with humans since the Errant War. There simply hadn’t been any need for that expertise for a very, very long time; even when the elves started moving in human space again after the Luminosita incident, dispensing medical assistance was far from the first thing on their collective mind, and in any case, even the backward Veracians and Farrelites had made plenty of progress on their own thaumatic medicine. It seemed no more relevant – indeed, probably less relevant – a skill than practicing veterinary medicine on an ox. It accordingly took a long time for the elven military to find the one elf who could look at the weirdly shaped humanoid who had gated into the forbidden territories with the unsuspecting Peregin Paukii. The elven population is small, however, and within a day or two, that one had been found, an otherwise nondescript Sanguen named Assim.

As Rose was gating back to Kiyoka, this worthy was standing over the bunk where the Outlander lay restrained, still in the magically-induced sleep he’d spent most of his time in, ever since Paukii first cast; that was a necessary security precaution, since he’d continued to show distinct signs of violence when he did wake up. Standing along with him were Paukii herself, Councilor Famair, and the captain of the day’s watch. A pair of armored soldiers watched impassively from a short distance away.

They were standing in an old, beat-up shack some distance from any of the entrances to the underground city; again, a security precaution. It had been raining almost from the moment when Paukii and the Outlander stepped off the travel platform, as though the gods themselves disapproved of the arrival of this strange being in the Elven Territories. Of course, a magical screen kept the rain off the group, but it didn’t do anything to lift their moods above the grayness of the weather.

“Not an Errant, you’re sure?” Famair asked Assim.

The Sanguen nodded. “As sure as I can be, Councilor. None of the usual Errant features are present, at least according to the records.” He hadn’t seen an Errant in two thousand years, but he’d seen too many back in the old days. He raised an eyebrow at Paukii for confirmation – she’d seen Errants much more recently than that, obviously – and got a wordless nod in reply.

Famair nodded in his own turn. Actually, that made things a little more complicated. If the intruder had been an Errant, he’d simply be disposed of, no questions asked, without anyone in the world being the wiser – well, there would be a small probability that some Veracian satrap might inquire, if contrary to all appearances the man was well enough known there, but there’d be no problem intimidating the Veracians into forgetting it had happened. That was unlikely; years of careful manipulation had made sure that Veracian officialdom (not to mention the backward public) didn’t get too attached to half elves. But if he was fully human, there might be repercussions if he just vanished, although judging from the state of the man’s clothing, he clearly wasn’t closely associated with anyone too important.

That clothing suggested some lines of inquiry, however. “Where is this guy from?” Famair asked.

Assim shrugged. “Can’t tell. We can be pretty sure he’s not from Tsuiraku or Farrel; very different body type and skin tone. I’d almost guess from one of the cities of the Wastelands –“ the elves didn’t bother distinguishing among the lands of the north, whether Northern Confederacy, Far North or whatever – “based on the ratty clothing.” He snorted. “Even the Veracians don’t usually wear things that beat-up, from what I understand.”

“They don’t,” Paukii agreed; she’d traveled in Veracia for decades, after all. “But this doesn’t look like it comes from up north, either. Give me a minute here, I want to try something.” Her eyes glowed with magic as she cast a sensory-enhancement spell. More importantly, so did the rags the human was wearing. She’d had occasion to use this suite of forensic magic a few times in the past, as she tried to cull an Errant out of a crowd.

She learned something, all right, but it definitely wasn’t what she was expecting. “Ankylus,” she said, using the elven word for an Anuban swamp beast. “There can’t be any doubt about it. Look at this.” She pointed to a swatch of hide across the man’s shoulders that was glowing with a gold color in the field of magic. “That hide comes from an ankylus or something related to it. Nothing else gives that kind of reaction.”

Ankylus?” Famair repeated; it took a moment for the term to register, and for him to grasp the implications, but soon enough, he coughed in surprise. “So this guy is from Anuba?” It was one of those words that meant the same in each of the world’s major languages.

Paukii nodded. “It would appear so.” She shuddered at the thought, as did Assim and the anonymous guards. Even Famair, who knew some things about Anuba that the others did not (notably the fact that there had been a long-running diplomatic effort by the elves to make sure that Veracia did not look too closely at the archipelago, apart from the few islands where a colony struggled to eke out a living), recoiled momentarily, but he recovered his composure more quickly than the others. “Well,” he said, “that answers some questions, even as it raises others. It appears that there may be feral humans living there that we never knew about. I doubt that the Veracians know about them, either, but we’ll need to make some inquiries.”

Paukii rolled her eyes. “I gather that means I should get ready to escort a, um, diplomatic party?” Escort duty was not a favored job for most rangers, and she was no exception.

Famair held up a hand. “One other thing first. We still have a death to investigate – Peregin, I’m sorry about your—“

“I’m over it,” Paukii interrupted curtly. Indeed, she’d gotten over the Aetern Desiderium concept centuries earlier. Besides, what she’d been doing with the late Ramian was no more than scratching an itch, and there were other ways to get that itch scratched. “Is the body being prepared? Or are you hoping that he’ll be able to send us back intel on this guy’s tribe? Hate to disappoint you, but that’s not the way it works.” Her sharp features had developed jagged edges by the time she delivered that last little bit of sarcasm. Famair and Assim winced at the rhetorical cut, just as they would have at a physical one, which after all was why she’d said it.

Famair recovered quickly enough; Paukii’s barb had been in poor taste, but he’d dealt with enough rangers to know it came with the territory. “Don’t worry, we are not going to let his spirit wander Anuba, Peregin,” he said coldly. “The body is being prepared, and as you say, is no concern of yours any more. You, on the other hand, will have a job to do. We want to know why Ramian died in what should have been a routine platform transfer. The crew of the Veracian airship know nothing of what happened.” He snorted. “The Veracians don’t exactly fill their airships with their brightest and finest military minds. But we understand that there were two very unusual nuns on board as well, a young girl and an older woman, who have some – un-Veracian capabilities and got a look at the body. The girl is back in Saus, but the older nun, who we are told is ‘formidable,’ whatever that means to a Veracian, seems to have disappeared. We want you to find her and interrogate her, see if she knows anything important.”

Paukii’s eyes lit up. “Using enhanced techniques?” she asked hopefully.

Famair’s features remained cold. “Preferably not, Peregin. She’s a nun in their ridiculous church, and she appears to have supporters in high places. The Houses still want to be on good terms with the Veracian government and don’t want to screw it up over something like this. So no enhanced techniques, unless it’s the only way to get at what she knows. Meanwhile --” He summoned the guards. “You will take this strange human to the Confinement Vault,” he said. “We’ll put the word out that we have him and are helping him ‘recover’ from a transport mishap, and see what kind of fish the lure draws.” The session with the Outlander was over, and Famair left without another word, leaving Paukii and the muscle to install the human in the cell right next to where, not that many years later, a certain Tsuirakuan half elf would spend some time, coincidentally enough.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » May 12th, 2016, 5:23 pm

Chapter Fifty: Tracks and Millenarians

The elves weren’t the only culture starting to take a look at the disastrous misgatings.

One of the reasons why Elgin Bindiel, also known as “Lieutenant Bindiel” or “Brother Elgin” or simply “The Preacher,” had a loyal following among the Millenarians was that he wouldn’t send troops, or lay followers, or anyone else, into danger that he himself would not face. (It never occurred to most of those Millenarians that good leaders in the Orthodox church would behave the same way; Father Amalric, for instance. That was partly because they bought the propaganda about the corruption of the Orthodox church, but to be sure, there were leaders for whom that propaganda was completely accurate.)

Now he was popping into existence at the suborned travel platform in the Anuban Colonies, the same one where the two Outlanders had embarked only a day or two earlier to their great, and in one case terminal, disadvantage. With him were the two Millenarians, “Bonzie” and “Walker,” who had left the Tsuirakuans here to an as-yet unknown fate, now using their proper Millenarian names of Brother Boniface and Brother Abijah (and still smarting from the tongue-lashing Bindiel had given them for “losing” their prisoners, although in truth, he had a growing suspicion that the Millenarian Church would be better off without them). They most definitely had not wanted to return to this Luminosita-forsaken place, but if the Lieutenant was going, who were they to say no?

“This is where you left them, you’re sure?” Bindiel said as he inspected the ground in front of the platform, getting a terse “yes, sir” from Boniface/Walker. Bindiel nodded at this, and then he said something unexpected. “Each of you, give me one of your boots.” The other two men looked at each other in puzzlement, but they complied.

Walker and Bonzie had more magical aptitude than the average Veracian (which, after all, was a pretty low bar to clear). However, the spells they knew – the Binding and a couple of what might be termed “kinetic energy” spells -- were only useful in military applications, a fact that might have concerned certain people in the Veracian Church if they’d known it. They were therefore as surprised as anyone when Bindiel muttered something under his breath and the disturbed ground started to glow with magic. Even more surprisingly, so did their boots.

BIndiel frowned. “Look at this.” The other men had the typical Veracian’s suspicion of magic unfamiliar to them, but the Lieutenant was someone you obeyed, so they looked where he was pointing. “These tracks, here, are yours.” The magic brightened around the boots, and around several of the tracks on the ground, and then disappeared. “I’m thinking that these –“ he gestured at two more sets of magically-enhanced tracks – “were from the infidels that you two lost. We learned a little about them earlier.” Bonzie and Walker didn’t need to know about Father Reginald and his inn/listening post, so he didn’t tell them how that “learning” had occurred. “And not much doubt about swamp-beast tracks, over here.” Even without the magical glow, those were obvious enough. “But who made these? Or what?”

The remaining tracks looked human in broad outline, a description that fit the Outlanders who had made them. Like the Outlanders themselves, however, they were – odd. The proportions were all wrong, either that or the rough boots that had left the tracks were murderously uncomfortable for the wearers. The feet inside those boots had to have been very short and very wide, and they spoke of a sprawling, duck-footed gait that made the men’s knees ache as they thought about it. The imprints big toes were prominent despite the boots, almost to the point where they looked like –

“Claws?” Walker hazarded. “They be comin’ from down below, where the swamp beast come from. They couldn’t’a’bin –“ he coughed self-consciously – “some kind o’demon, could they?”

“Ain’t no such thing as demons,” Bonzie objected, feeling less sure of himself than he wished. “Not in this world, anyways. Which means –“ He shuddered and made the Sign of Luminosita, not that that protection was likely to do them much good out here.

Bindiel knew something his two underlings didn’t, and he didn’t like some of the conclusions he was reaching. “There’s something about this place that scares the elves shitless,” he mused. “They’ve never said just what it is, at least not in the hearing of any of our people in Emerylon. Maybe what scares ‘em is what made these tracks … in which case it scares me shitless, too. And look where they go.”

That was the really scary part: with the magical enhancements, there could be no doubt that the deformed humanoid tracks led onto the travel platform … and disappeared, just like the Tsuirakuans’ imprints did.

Bindiel reached a decision. “I don’t like it, but we’re going to have to destroy this platform. And then – I like this even less – we’re going to have to hunt down whatever made these. I want you two back out here tomorrow, with enough explosives to make a crater big enough for Luminosita Himself to hide in.”

All the color drained out of Bonzie’s and Walker’s faces. “Uh, sir, you be comin’ with us?” Bonzie asked. “See, if there really be demons from wherever the elves be, we be –“

Bindiel cut him off with a glare and a hand wave. “Of course. But you just worry about doing your jobs. Now let’s get the hell out of here – literally.” Seconds later, the platform functioned, and the scene grew quiet.

It would remain that way until the next day, when a crew returned with non-magical but still powerful blasting materials, and a timer to allow their safe escape before the blast went off … and also to make it so that that blast would coincide with the arrival of a small band of elves, although of course, nobody knew that.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » May 27th, 2016, 12:39 pm

Chapter Fifty-one: Beta testing

Meanwhile, in eastern Farrel, a very different piece of advanced thaumatic technology was being put to use, rather more successfully.

Carson Jeromiel didn’t even remember the name of the guild that had set up an operation a few miles inland from what he thought of as “Fred’s Valley.” It was one of the many minor, local guilds that littered the Farrel countryside, previously the security force for some small town in the region, now turned to banditry after their term of service had expired (that was the polite word). Normally the Schwarzhammer would not bother with small-scale operations like that, as long as they stayed out of Isabel; just make it clear that their interference in matters in the city wouldn’t be tolerated, with the messy death of an operative or two to make the point if necessary, and leave them to their small potatoes. However, this outfit, whoever they were, had started to take more of an interest in what was happening in the valley than the Schwarzhammer brain trust was willing to tolerate … so it was time to make a point.

The first night after receiving his orders (and after Paukii and Ramian had had their little gating mishap), Jeromiel had taken a minor risk, and crossed over the headwall of the valley to check the place out. What he’d found had been better than merely encouraging; it looked almost ideal for testing the golem. The guild’s hideout was one of the many decrepit, abandoned farmhouses that littered the landscape of Farrel. Almost nothing remained of the farm except the house itself. It was a two-story building, maybe forty feet wide and twenty-five feet deep, just about the right size for the golem’s foot to completely crush. Best of all, the fools who had taken it over apparently hadn’t posted guards or sentries. (Why should they? The nearest human habitation was probably miles away. Wasn’t it?) Jeromiel had watched the site for long enough to satisfy himself that when the lights in the windows went out, nobody inside or outside remained awake.

Good. Let them get one last night’s good sleep. (One and a half, anyway.)

The moon was well up in the eastern sky by the time he made it back to his camp alongside Fred. That was good and bad, but mostly good. His route back to camp was easier to see than it had been earlier, which helped him avoid some cliffs that had become almost fatal mistakes on the hike to the enemy site. (Well, the “marks’” site; he didn’t particularly concern himself whether they were his personal enemies or not, he just did his job.) It would be easier going tomorrow, despite the later-rising moon, for having been there once. Less auspiciously, moonlight would silhouette a 300-foot-tall figure in the east long before it reached the farmhouse if he wasn’t careful. He’d have to work on his timing carefully, to make sure he and Fred got to the house after everyone had gone inside, but before the moon rose, in case anyone was sleeping restlessly and was up and about. That seemed doable.

So now, the next night, assassin and golem were making their way to the scene of the crime – well, “test” rather than crime; there wasn’t much law out here to be breaking. It occurred to Jeromiel that there wasn’t really much need for him to conceal himself on the approach; if the marks couldn’t see a 300-foot-tall golem, they weren’t going to notice a 6-foot-tall man guiding it, either. However, assassin’s habits died hard. He kept to the woods as he moved, using only the smallest possible torch for light. The golem’s movements, he ensured with a careful hand on the controls, were slow to the point of being ponderous; one thing he definitely did not want was for the huge form to take a wrong step and topple to the ground, with what would no doubt be enough of a bang to alert anyone left awake in the farmhouse.

Ah, there it was, the target, just as dark and quiet and unsuspecting as it had been twenty-four hours earlier. The flickering glow of a fireplace was the only light left in the house that he could see. All the better, even better than no light at all, he thought; the embers should be enough to set the wreckage alight once the deed was done, and somehow, giving Fred a hotfoot didn’t seem like something he had to be worried about. The question of why a fire would be burning in the fireplace in mid-summer never crossed his mind.

“Well, old buddy,” Jeromiel smirked to the golem as though addressing a lifelong friend, “let’s show ‘em what you’ve got.” (The golem, of course, made no reply.) Jeromiel’s hand moved over the controls, and Fred lurched forward. One, two, three earth-pounding strides, and it was almost on its target. Jeromiel noticed that a light had suddenly switched on somewhere inside the house, maybe lit by a light sleeper who’d sensed the shaking of the earth under the massive footbeats, but it was too late to matter now.

A thunderous crash rent the still of the night as the golem’s foot stomped down on the roof.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » June 7th, 2016, 11:17 pm

Chapter Fifty-two: Mrs. Beeson

None of these events were known – yet – to Sister Rose, now seated comfortably in the chapel at the Veracian temple in Kiyoka as she went over wedding details with Brother Miguel, Sister Marilyn, Brother Farley and Kristi Yugawa.

Her return to the temple had been enthusiastically welcomed by most everyone there; more “enthusiastically,” even, than her welcome by Argus, although certainly not as … passionately. Father Redmond (“Red”), she was relieved to note, seemed as glad to see her as everyone else. Good; that meant that no complaints, or worse, unpleasant orders had arrived from the Pleasure Dome for him to inflict on her – well, that or he was doing a masterful job of concealing his emotions, and even without her Empathy spell, Rose was pretty sure that Father Red was not one to hide his feelings. Even prissy Brother Jerald, maybe the only person in the Kiyoka temple with whom she hadn’t gotten along, had seemed glad to see her, although what Kristi and Farley were about to say would eventually turn his mood back to its usual sourness.

“So if you don’t mind,” Kristi was saying, “we wonder if we could arrange it so that my piano teacher Mrs. Beeson could do the music for the service. I hope she’s okay, I haven’t seen her for several weeks now. But Farley says she’s fine, just on a long trip out of town. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?” She touched her fiance’s hand, and was surprised to get even a bigger grin back than usual.

“Um, I’d say that’s true,” Farley deadpanned as best he could, while Rose struggled with herself not to break out laughing. (A couple of months earlier, he wouldn't have been able to make that statement, nor would he have understood why Rose was on the verge of laughter. However, much had changed in that time; notably, Kristi.) “I, well, I think she’s back in town now, and I think she’d be glad to help.”

Kristi brightened. “Wonderful! Do you think I could start taking lessons again when we get back from our honeymoon? I really liked her, she was so nice. Er, is something wrong, ma’am – Sister Rose?” Rose’s grin had broadened even further, but a distinct blush had crept into her cheeks.

“Well, I’m pretty sure she’d be delighted to help,” Rose deadpanned in her turn, willing the blush away.

Kristi brightened some more. “Great! Do you, uh, know her? And what’s so funny?” Farley, Miguel and Marilyn were all clutching their sides from swallowing guffaws.

Rose took a moment to compose herself. It’s been a while – let me remember, tidy gray hair, medium build, rose-tinted glasses … yes, it’s coming back to me now. Without another word, she did her shape-shifting magic … and when the blur of not-reality vanished from around her, the piano teacher sat smiling at the two couples where the Reformed nun had been. “Yes, we’re acquainted. I think I can do that,” “Mrs. Beeson” smiled.

The three Veracians merely grinned; they’d seen Rose do this kind of thing many times before, even if not to this particular form. Kristi, however, had not, and she sat blinking, her mouth hanging open, for a full minute before she found words. “Sister – Mrs. – Rose – Beeson – who are you?”

The gray-haired woman kept on smiling, but her fingers played across the table, as though playing an unseen piano. “Now, are you remembering to keep your wrists relaxed, but still elevated?” she asked, repeating something she’d worked on with Kristi many times during their lessons. Then she winked, and removed her pink-tinted glasses (something that “Mrs. Beeson” had never done during any of the lessons), revealing the characteristic Nuria emerald-green eyes.

Kristi was still gaping, even as she was starting to figure out what was going on. “But – I don’t – who – who are you?”

Rose/Mrs. Beeson smiled playfully, an expression that Kristi had never seen before on her piano teacher’s face, but all present had seen often enough on the Veracian nun and special-forces major. “Why, I’m myself, of course,” she said. “Hang on a second.” Reality blurred again, and Rose’s usual trim, late-thirties form emerged for the blur, although she was breathing slightly harder than she had been a few minutes earlier.

Farley couldn’t take it any more; he started to laugh, although he made sure to hold his fiancee’s hand as he did. That was reassurance enough for Kristi, who gave him a quick look that muted the laughter and then turned back to Rose. “I – I’d heard you were really good at polymorph magic,” she said, “but I never knew you were that good. Can you do that again?”

The playfulness remained in Rose’s eyes, but she shook her head gently. “I shouldn’t,” she said. “Yes, polymorph magic comes easily to me, whether you call it a gift from Luminosita or a weird genetic trait or whatever. But I still have to burn some energy to do it, and if I did it again right way, I might be so tired that I wouldn’t be able to keep going, and we still have some work to do.”

This, at least, Kristi could understand. She’d taken a basic polymorph class at Sashi Mu, and Professor Seki had cautioned the students sternly not to do anything but the assigned exercises (lengthening one’s hair, small height alterations, and so on) because of the effort and stress on the body involved. Needless to say, some of the students had ignored the warning, and tried to … enhance certain attributes of theirs. Many of those students landed in the Sashi Mu infirmary with embarrassing injuries. She’d gathered that this was a common enough occurrence that the infirmary had a whole wing of beds reserved for students in that class. But –

“I don’t understand how you can do that,” she told Rose. “Even our archmages can’t – oop.” She wasn’t sure she was supposed to talk about what archmages could and could not do, military secrecy being what it was.

It hardly mattered. “Our people don’t understand it either,” Rose smiled. “I’ve been studied by enough professors at Emerylon University to feel like a lab rat. They just think it’s some weird genetic thing.” Now wasn’t the time to talk about the Nuria family genetics, which had produced some other decidedly unusual magical talents.

Not knowing any better, Kristi immediately homed in on another thing that Rose didn’t want to talk about. “But – we were always taught that women didn’t get to play a big role in your society, particularly the magical part. How did you –“

“Most women don’t,” Rose interrupted. “I was damned lucky, excuse my language.” Would that be enough to change the subject?

Marilyn jumped in. “Very capable people have a way of making their own luck.” She’d looked up to Rose ever since she’d arrived at the mission.

“But still –“ Kristi persisted. “How did they know – how did you know – you would be special enough to be that lucky exception?”

She wasn’t going to get out of this, Rose realized. Well, that part of her past wasn’t as hard to talk about as some other parts, just … odd. She took a deep breath before launching into events of more than twenty years earlier. “It’s a long story…”
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » June 10th, 2016, 12:28 pm

Chapter Fifty-three: Recruitment

Twenty-three years earlier, in Saus:

“This is all a waste of time,” Colonel Farkas grumbled to his berobed colleague Father Zadok, as they walked toward the seminary. “Women have no place in Our Lord Luminosita’s military, period, and certainly not being recruited for officer’s training.”

“Probably not,” his colleague agreed. “But His Holiness wishes that we investigate, and we both work for him. I think you’ll agree, the reports coming from Mother Bernadette are fascinating.”

The military man snorted. “Fascinating? I’d say damn well unbelievable. And I don’t believe them. Either this girl is pulling the wool over her eyes, or she’s getting senile.”

“Probably,” Zadok conceded. “But maybe not. Either way, we will make our report to His Holiness, and then be done with this matter.”

The “Holiness” of whom they spoke was the brand-new Patriarch of the Veracian Church, Jeramel, who had sat on Luminosita’s High Throne for only a few months, following the death of its previous occupant, a man who’d held the position to such an advanced age, and with such diminished faculties, that wags in the temple had taken to calling him “The Ancient of Daze” – not to his face, of course. Jeramel, by contrast, was young (then), energetic (although twenty-plus years on the High Throne would cure him of that well before Sister Rose and Argus met), and determined to make his own mark on the Patriarchy. It was he who had received reports of a most – unusual novice at the seminary, and decided that that novice might be worth investigating as a resource for the church, or the military, or both. He pressed this investigation despite the fact that the novice was female, shocking if not outright outraging the older hands in Emerylon. Time, needless to say, would cure him of this near-heresy as well; time, and the established church bureaucracy, which not even a Patriarch could cause to change with the times.

The colonel and the priest shared the misgivings (to use the polite word) of the older hands. However, the colonel knew something the priest did not. Jeramel had also decreed the formation of a new military unit, a “Special Forces” group, that would have unusual responsibilities, and correspondingly unusual composition. Their function would be to work behind the scenes, under cover, blending into the countryside where necessary, to do jobs of a sensitive nature that the usual ham-handed approaches of magical or physical violence could not accomplish. Because they could be called on to serve anywhere, at any time, in any kind of setting, without calling attention to themselves, Jeramel had directed that any and all elements of Veracian society be scoured for recruits – all elements. That meant adherents of the fringe Luminositan sects (Reformed, Millenarian, Calfornican and so on), half elves, even women, although many of the old hands were horrified at that.

Farkas shared that horror to no small extent, but his orders were clear: recruit everywhere and anywhere. (Not to mention do what the Patriarch ordered him to do.) Well, maybe this Nuria girl would be trainable as a low-level specialist under careful (and, of course, male) supervision. He and Zadok made their way into a small classroom in the main seminary building, where a young, rather dowdy woman in janitor’s clothes was busy sweeping the floor.

The woman looked up with odd-colored eyes, and a distinct lack of awe at the obvious high ranks (and resplendent outfits) of the visitors. “Kin I be helpin’ ye, soors?” she said, her accent not one that either man recognized, but obviously betraying an origin somewhere in the semi-civilized wilds of Veracia.

Zadok rolled his eyes theatrically. Tidying up was women’s work, surely, but couldn’t the seminary have found a more – polished woman to do it? He’d have to have a word with the Abbot about that. “Begone, tatterdemalion,” he exclaimed, waving a hand imperiously; a person of such origins wouldn’t know what a “tatterdemalion” was, probably, but the term would establish his social superiority, and the gesture would do the rest. “We have important business here on behalf of Our Lord Luminosita. Inform your masters.”

The young woman wasn’t impressed. “An’ who shall I be sayin’ be callin’?”

“That is none of your business, guttersnipe,” Zadok scolded, but Farkas raised a hand. Something she’d said … he couldn’t put his finger on it, but it didn’t fit. “A delegation from the Great Temple in Emerylon,” he said. “Tell your master we are here to interview a novice by the name of Miss Nuria.”

The young woman smiled. “Thet, I kin be helpin’ ye with. Be givin’ me a minnit, please.”

Before either man could reply, there was a flare of magic in the room; later, Farkas would realize it had started in the woman’s incongruously startling green eyes. When it cleared, the janitor was gone, but in her place was an attractive girl of fifteen years or so, wearing the robes of a novice. She was tall for her age, slender but not gaunt, with reddish-brown hair … and the same green eyes as the janitor’s. She was holding the broom as she smiled at the two men.

“My apologies for the ruse, Your Eminences,” the girl said, her accent no longer that of a country bumpkin but rather of middle-to-upper-class Saus. “Mother Bernadette suggested it. My name is Rose Nuria. How may I be of service to you, and to Our Lord Luminosita?” The slightly ironic smile she produced made her look older than her apparent years, and would be well known to people at the Kiyoka monastery, and then to Argus and Lillith and many others, twenty years later.

Zadok looked like he was going to blow a fuse, but again, Farkas raised his hand to silence the priest; his own demeanor had changed instantly, almost as though he too had been affected by polymorphy. Luminosita’s Nethers … the reports are true. I had no idea. Most sophisticated shape-changing magic I’ve ever seen. And not just that; she has an actor’s skills, still needs a little work on the accent, but she’d convinced us both that she was from the hills somewhere. A little practice, and she’d be able to masquerade as just about anyone and move unnoticed in a country town or a mob, I wager. What a spy she could make! And best of all, she’s got natural poise and charisma, just the kind of thing a military officer ought to have. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was very wrong. Could she really be …

“Colonel Farkas, good lass,” he said, using a term of respect (and just the slightest bit of condescension, of course) and gesturing to indicate himself. “And Father Zadok.” He indicated his colleague, who was still gaping at Rose as though he’d witnessed blasphemy or a miracle or both. “As my colleague said, we have important business here, business to recruit a very capable young person for – unusual service to Our Lord Luminosita, and to her country, or at least to establish that she is worth recruiting for such a worthy cause.” He smiled, more sincerely than he’d imagined possible on the way to the classroom. “I must say, you’ve gone far toward that last part already..."
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » June 30th, 2016, 10:11 am

[A bit short, and leaving the big question dangling, but it's going to be hit-or-miss this summer, so best to get something up, and leave a cliff hanger as needed...]


Chapter Fifty-four: Denominations and weddings

“… So that’s how it all got started,” Sister Rose concluded. “I’d misjudged the situation completely. I figured that with my being a novice in the church, and at that time, the regular Orthodox Church, the priest would be on my side, while the military guy, Colonel Farkas, wouldn’t want to have women in the army. It was just the other way around in reality. The colonel saw something in the military that called for my skills, and he decided he’d back me for some things that were really pretty unprecedented at the time. I have to hand it to him: he was remarkably receptive to new ideas.” She chuckled. “Father Zadok … wasn’t. I think to his dying day, he had misgivings – that’s the polite word – about what was happening, and I know he was greatly relieved when I converted back to the Reformed denomination out of his Orthodox branch of the church.” She chuckled again. “Not as much as I was, though. I’ve never been a very orthodox person.” The chuckle ended with a wink.

“Just in case you were wondering,” Sister Marilyn piped up, indicating herself, Brother Miguel and Brother Farley, “we’re all Reformed too. Most of us out here in the boonies are. It’s easier for us to be comfortable in places like Kiyoka than a lot of the Orthodox people can.” She rolled her eyes. “All the better for us, is the way I look at it.”

“So what’s the difference?” Kristi asked, innocently enough. “Between Reformed and Orthodox Luminositans, I mean.”

All the eyes present turned to Rose, whose most devout wish of the moment was that someone else might come into the room – Father Red, say – who could either answer this question or divert Kristi’s attention away from it. No such savior appeared, leaving Rose to clench her teeth momentarily while she groped for an answer that was true, yet evasive enough to avoid certain … unpleasant … subjects.

Let’s try this. It’s true … if incomplete. “A bunch of theological nuances,” she explained, “largely having to do with different interpretations of Luminosita’s Person.” As in: we don’t think there is one any more, while the Orthodox people don’t worship Luminosita, they worship a light show. No, I’m not going to tell her that… “I won’t bore you with details, but it all plays out in some practical ways. We’re less formal about certain things, including ceremonies like weddings, which is why we’re going to do what we’re going to do. Speaking of which, how many people from your family and friends do you expect, so we can plan seating appropriately?” There; maybe that would get her off the subject of divisions in the church.

Or not. “Just my parents from family, and maybe twenty people from my outfit. But I don’t understand: why do those teo—theological nuances mean the people here are Reformed, and the ones in Veracia are Orthodox?”

Miguel earned Rose’s lasting gratitude by fielding this one. “Oh, we’re a little lighter on our feet than some of the Orthodox clergy,” he said, with a hand gesture obviously intended to give the message “it’s nothing, really” – even though it wasn’t “nothing” in any way. He got an impish grin. “That, and that way they get us out of their hair back in Emerylon.” This was delivered in such a droll way that even Rose was distracted momentarily from the fact that the statement was not a joke, and was indeed true.

Kristi laughed, a tinkling, effervescent sound that Farley had come to love; the answer sufficed. (And Rose relaxed inwardly by no small amount.) “Okay, I won’t ask any more questions. So for music, can you, or Mrs. Beeson, play …” The routine wedding planning resumed, the little details of logistics, timing, reception, all that, and Rose relaxed some more …

… Until Marilyn asked the question she’d been dreading. “So are you and Argus going to join us in solemnizing your own marriage inside the church?”
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » July 6th, 2016, 11:07 pm

Chapter Fifty-five: Expedition to Anuba

Meanwhile, in Praenubilus Astu:

“I don’t like this any more than you do,” Councilor Ameurin told Commander Nisotta, “but the Houses have decided it needs to be done.”

The report from Famair and Paukii had caused no small consternation in the elven Council chambers. Even among the councilors, knowledge of the special, secure travel platform network was not widespread, and few knew that there had been a node of that network in Anuba. Fewer still knew that that node had gone out of service in the recent past, maybe fifty years ago. And none of them knew why.

Nor, to be sure, did any of them care, at least before events of the past week. Elves didn’t obsess over the mysteries of Anuba; they just avoided the damned (possibly literally) place. It had been more than that fifty years since elven feet had trod on the forbidden, and forbidding, soil of Anuba … but that was about to change.

It spoke volumes that the map unrolled in front of them was physical in nature, rather than magical, and that it was of human rather than elven manufacture. Apparently some ranger had stumbled across it while making the rounds in Veracia and had decided to bring it back to the underground city. (Probably Sarine, Nisotta thought; it sounded like the kind of thing she’d do, for better or for worse. In fact, the thought was inaccurate, but it didn’t really matter.)

The Anuban Archipelago stretched away from the mainland like a line of maggots leaving a rotting corpse. Most of the islands didn’t have (human) names on this map, nor did the straits and channels separating them, not that the term “channel” was apt for an expanse of stinking swamp water that no sensible boatman would try to negotiate. The label “Anuban Colonies” spanned a few of the larger islands near the mainland, two or three of which were even dignified with names. Those weren’t the interesting islands, because they were where the small, struggling Veracian presence held a foothold, and no elf would ever go there. Rather, their attention was turned to the unnamed mass of islands curving south from the Colonies, collectively labeled “Wastelands,” as though the humans were as happy to forget about them as the elves were.

Some humans, anyway. Normal humans. But the Outlanders apparently managed to exist there … and so did someone who’d been using a travel platform on one of them.

“We think the platform is on this island,” Ameurin said, jabbing a finger at one of the Wasteland blots of land. “There is a cryptic reference in one of the ancient lays to a platform ‘rising like the boss on a shield’ from a large, shield-shaped island. This is the largest shield-shaped island in the chain, from the looks of it. This notation here –“ he pointed to some text in the Veracian language – “seems to suggest it means something to the Veracians, but we don’t understand it yet.”

“Maybe I can help,” Paukii said from behind them; she’d joined the pair so silently that they were startled for a few seconds when she spoke. “Let me see that.” She glanced at the map, snorted. “Anilis’ naked knockers. You’re trying to tell me you can’t read this? It’s clear as day.”

Ameurin started to flare up at the profanity and insult, but Nisotta raised her hand. “Relax, Peregin,” she said. “This is in common Veracian script. You have traveled widely in that country, and you know how to read it. We in the city have experience only with carefully printed diplomatic texts. We will defer to your expertise in interpreting this thing.”

Paukii nodded, mollified for the moment. “Very well.” She squinted at the text; whoever wrote it had had terrible handwriting. However, the meaning was clear enough. “’Landing on this island expressly forbidden by order of the Patriarch,’” she read. Then she snickered. “With an order like that from Luminosita’s Cock-Sucker-In-Chief, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Veracians there, at least.” She got that ranger smirk on her face.

“Probably not,” Ameurin agreed, but something was lodged in the back of his mind, bothering him, that he couldn’t put a finger on. Well, whatever it was, it could wait. “Very well,” he said. “I’ll get someone working on a jury-rig to hook back up to the platform there, assuming there is one. Meanwhile, pull a squad together to go, check things out, see if you can find any evidence of where these ‘Outlanders’ live. Try to bring one back alive if you can. We have some questions for them. Departure twenty-four hours from now, if our platform people can bring it off.” As I have reason to believe they will.

“Yes, sir,” Nisotta said, and she turned to go do her duty, but Ameurin pulled her up short. “Not you, Commander,” he rumbled. “You’re too valuable here to risk going into a place like that.” Then he turned to Paukii. “You will lead the expedition instead, Peregin.”

And Paukii’s smirk vanished in the wink of an eye.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » July 9th, 2016, 11:13 am

Chapter Fifty-six: Diagnostics

On an island off the east coast of the main island of Tsuiraku:

“Okay, let ‘er rip,” the Kado commander said, with one last look at her personal chronometer.

She and a force of other Kado troops were standing in a small clearing on an island that was part of Tsuiraku’s so-called “Special Test Range.” (Well, not so much “standing” as crouching behind some carefully prepared revetments, both physical and magical.) In the center of the clearing were two of the portable warp gates that were the Kado’s stock in trade, along with some instrumentation that very definitely was not. Overhead, two small, obsolete airships were circling slowly, heavily burdened with instrumentation of their own – not to mention two more portable warp gates. She and her troops had been ordered by very high levels in the Tsuirakuan government to set these gates up, along with the diagnostic instruments around them, with the greatest possible haste and secrecy. She had not been told why.

(She and her troops would have been surprised, and maybe a little frustrated, to learn that only a couple of years later, a non-negotiation with a not-quite-terrorist would give Tsuiraku an elven technology that would have made all their hard, round-the-clock work over the last twenty-four hours unnecessary. For now, of course, one simply did what had to be done.)

The small platform at the center of each of the two gates on the ground held various things that were about to be transported to the airships. Included with the obvious instrumentation there were two human-size pigs that had been requisitioned from a very surprised farmer in Tsuirakushita. Considerable thought had been given to magical means for telling these animals apart, to see whether there was any mingling of their tissues in the tests that were about to follow. The farmer had circumvented these, with some small loss of face by the purchaser, by the simple expedient of selling him one white pig and one black one.

Momentarily, if all went according to plan, the two platforms would fire almost simultaneously, but not quite. It was known from time tables on the warp-gate network, which of course had been kept by the Tsuirakuans for decades, that two adjacent gates could function within two or three seconds of each other without any ill effects; this was done routinely in certain ceremonial procedures, and no one particularly worried about it. Once one they into time separations of the order of milliseconds, they were in less explored territory. Gu theory predicted that there should be no interactions between gates down to a millisecond or so apart. Beyond that, the theory and its practitioners would make no statements; there was no reason to believe there would be a problem, but no certainty that there wouldn’t. And that was the space that the Kado were here to explore. This first gating, to check procedures and do some safety tests as much as to get real data, would have the time interval at a relatively languid ten-millisecond separation. Others would follow that were considerably more … adventurous.

“Commencing countdown,” the commander’s underling intoned, her voice magically amplified and audible all over the island (yet thaumatically dampened at island’s edge so observers on the mainland wouldn’t know what was going on; that was part of the routine at this site). “Mark minus one minute … fifty-five seconds … fifty …” As the count proceeded, careful eyes were cast to the skies to make sure they were clear of flying things. Repulsive fields had been set up to keep anything larger than a mosquito out of the test area, but they’d be taken down with five seconds to go so as not to interfere with the diagnostics. The skies remained empty as that moment was reached. “Five … four … three … two … one … mark.”

The characteristic WHSSHHHH of warp-gate operation filled the air, coming from two sources in the clearing rather than one, just as had been planned. Human ears couldn’t resolve the sounds, but the instruments, of course, could. The payloads on both platforms vanished in a flash of magic. A tiny fraction of a second later, both airships sagged slightly in the air as new mass appeared in their cargo holds. The commander fancied she could hear an indignant squeee or two from the ships, as the pigs registered their outrage at suddenly materializing in such an un-porcine compartment. Useful; that would mean they’d survived their magical journey. Hearing the squeals was probably just her imagination, but a call from one of the kado monitoring the diagnostics reinforced that perception in more concrete form. “All payloads successfully transported, ma’am. Sensors confirm that both animals are alive and well.”

“And one still black, and one still white?” she asked; there’d be more sensitive tests later, but she had to admit, the bumpkin who’d sold them the pigs had a point.

“Yes, ma’am. All telemetry normal.”

She wasn’t sure whether that was good or bad – good, probably. There shouldn’t have been any interferences between the gates, and if there were, it was going to be bad for business. On the other hand, she and her people were here to find anomalies, and they hadn’t found any yet.

She glanced at her chronometer again. The whole Tsuirkauan warp-gate network had been put on hold for a fifteen-minute window so that “heightened security procedures” could be tested, as the public messages on Crystal-net had said. That had been enough to keep discontented travelers at bay; the Tower of Artifex Incident was still fresh in the public’s mind. That window was going to close in five minutes, though, so it was time to end this particular test. “Okay, bring ‘em back, Ms. Hashimoto,” she commanded her underling. (She wondered how the public would react to the knowledge that two highly adept portalmages were more than enough to do these transfers, without the pomp and ceremony of the commercial warp gates. Not well, probably, but she certainly wasn’t going to tell them.)

One “aye, aye, ma’am” and two WHSSHHHHes later, the increasingly indignant pigs were back at ground level. The commander nodded approvingly. “Well done, people,” she said. “Next window opens in three hours. Plenty of time to check data, make sure the pigs are okay and intact.” (A continuing barrage of squeals left little doubt about that last point, but studies would still be done.) “Next time we’ll get the gap to one millisecond.”

And who could tell? Weave willing, that experiment might get interesting.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » August 4th, 2016, 12:03 am

[Both short and weak; I've been pretty badly writer's-blocked on this one, and may do some editing on it later. Now that it's finally up, something more action-like will follow in the next installment.]


Chapter Fifty-seven: Armor-piercing questions

“So are you and Argus going to join us in solemnizing your own marriage inside the church?”

Sister Rose really didn’t want to address that question.

She’d anticipated it, of course, as one anticipates that a trip to the dentist will involve discomfort, and maybe outright pain. She’d rehearsed an answer, which she now gave … even as she knew it was lame. “We don’t see a need for it. After all, we met the Gorielian standards for being married, and our country and the Northern Confederacy have some treaties about honoring each other’s traditions and social rules, even when we don’t like them.” The snort that followed this last part was genuine. “Which certainly describes many of the Gorielian social rules. Marriage is at least one where we can agree, more or less.”

That seemed to satisfy three out of the four listeners, based on the smiles and nodding heads. Sister Marilyn, however, was sharp enough to sense an evasion when she heard one, and young enough to have no compunctions about going after it, even if it was made by a friend. She followed her first armor-piercing question with a second one. “So just what happened up there?”

Rose had an answer prepared for that one, too, an answer that the “debriefing” session when she and the others got back to Veracia had given her no choice but to prepare and use. “Marilyn, I can’t talk much about that. All I can say is that some people inside the church were doing some very un-Luminositan things, and –“

“Pfft,” Marilyn interrupted with a hand wave. “I don’t care about any of that cloak-and-dagger or swords-and-sorcery stuff, so you don’t have to not tell me about it. What I mean is: what happened with you? And all those people around you?” Armor-piercing question number three … and this one would be hard to evade.

As Rose struggled to find an answer, Miguel, bless his heart, jumped in. “Sweetheart, I was there for the parts of it that happened – down south, before Rose and Argus and the others went to the Northern Confederacy. It’s – there were parts of it that I don’t understand, parts that were jarring to our faith.” (Bingo, thought Rose.) “But a lot of people of good character got together, and some started falling in love with each other while we – it sounds trite, but while we saved the world. I can’t think of another way to put it.”

It didn’t work. “I mean your marriages,” Marilyn persisted. Armor-piercing question number four, or perhaps 3A. Well, at least she hadn’t said “weddings”.

Rose felt a brief flare of anger rising, tamped it down. I should try to give her a better answer, she thought. Like it or not, I’m pretty senior in the local church. Marilyn looks up to me. But … what can I say? Particularly in view of … the parts I’m not ready to tell her about yet.

Let’s try this.
“Marilyn, we’re not going to re-do getting married just for the sake of having a ceremony in our church. We agreed that the differences in our religious beliefs and practices weren’t going to be allowed to get in the way of our loving each other.” She noticed that Farley, and particularly Kristi, were nodding at these words, which made her feel better about them herself … never mind the uncertainty about whether the “getting married” part had ever happened even once. “You and Miguel are better off than we are, in not needing any agreement like that.” She produced a forced smile. “But don’t rub it in, okay?”

That, finally, got through. Mariyn was not lacking in social sensitivity, not by any means, and at least, and at last, she realized that she’d pushed this line of questioning as far as it could be pushed, and probably beyond. She blushed slightly and subsided. “Okay. And I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable.”

Rose’s smile was a little more genuine. “Don’t worry. You didn’t.” Not at all; I was plenty uncomfortable about it before you spoke up. “So let’s get back to the music and logistics…”

The wedding planning resumed … but the questions had struck home, and Rose wasn’t going to sleep peacefully that night.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » August 9th, 2016, 11:21 pm

Chapter Fifty-eight: The Hoot-Owl

One key skill for a mercenary, Carson Jeromiel had always thought (he didn’t really think of himself as a hit man), was the ability to saunter – to look relaxed, innocent, non-threatening as he went about his business. He’d practiced that skill diligently, and now he put it to use as he, well, sauntered into the Hoot-Owl Bar, one of many such establishments in the middle of Isabel.

He’d done what he could to cover “Fred’s” tracks, not that there was much he could do to conceal the passing of a three-hundred-foot-tall golem, and to make sure he’d found a hiding place for it in the valley that could be covered with brush and dirt – the golem’s own earth-moving power had helped greatly with that. Then he’d “borrowed” one of the horses from the compound they’d destroyed and ridden back to the big city, to report to his higher-ups and find a comfortable bed for the next night, preferably equipped with a hooker. He’d found the bed easily enough, but no bedmate yet; what was the world coming to, he wondered, that one couldn’t even find a decent whore in a seaport? No matter, he’d been tired enough from the busy night before that he was more or less happy to just sleep if he had to. He hadn’t done anything to “sanitize” the destroyed house or remove evidence of what had happened there. What was the point? The enemy guild would find the place soon enough, regardless of what he did to it, but since there hadn’t been any survivors, there would be no danger of him being recognized.

He was wrong about that last part.

It was still early in the evening; early enough, he thought, that there still would be a chance of picking up a bedmate at this bar; he knew from experience that it was usually possible to find someone here. Actually, the problem was that it was still too early for the whores. The crowd was sparse, and more eating than drinking was going on. That was fine with Jeromiel too; he’d been eating road food for long enough that a good bowl of Hootie’s stew, and a beer or two (or three or four), would go down quite well. Almost by reflex, he made a quick scan of the bar, looking for familiar – hostile – faces. There weren’t any that he could see; a ragtag pair of what looked like drifters at a table near the bar, a couple of tables of what probably were sailors (they might be rowdy later in the evening, he thought, but he’d be in bed, with or without company, by then), and a large, bald man watching silently from a far corner. That, he knew, was Fergus, Hootie’s bouncer (and son). He’d exchanged a few words with him on occasion, not enough to honestly call him a “friend,” but enough that he was pretty sure Fergus wasn’t an enemy, either. Either way, Fergus was an imposing enough presence to suppress overt violence in the bar. Thus satisfied of his security, Jeromiel sauntered up to the bar and ordered a bowl and a brew.

Most of the clientele didn’t seem to react at all to the Schwarzhammer man in their midst, and those that did simply noted his passing with a shrug or a nod and went back to their food. The beat-up men at the door, however … their reaction was different.

One of these two was in a careful disguise, well tooled up with implements of violence that did not meet the eye, and considerably more alert than his half-drunken demeanor might suggest. The other one felt just as beat-up as he looked; riding hard through the latter half of the night, sleeping fitfully by day in a haystack to avoid discovery, and then pushing on unwashed would do that to one. However, he too was alert, and it was he who spoke softly to his companion after Jeromiel was safely out of earshot. “That’s him, the bastard that burned down the safe house. I’m sure of it. I’m gonna hit his ass.”

The disguised man put a curiously gentle, but plenty strong, hand on the speaker’s arm. “Not here, you’re not. No fighting in Hootie’s. That’s a hard rule. You know that.” The pressure from the hand grew perceptibly.

The tired traveler sagged. “Yes, boss. But –“

“No buts,” the disguised man interrupted. “Tell me again what happened, and why you’re sure this is the man.”

“Not much to tell. I was ridin' up there for the night, was down the road a couple hundred yards when it happened." (If Jeromiel had heard that, he would have cursed himself seven ways from Sunday for his carelessness.) "That big golem we’d been hearing rumors of? It’s real, and this bastard controlled it. It just stomped all over the house, knocked the shit out of it, then it walked back into the forest while the house burned. There was a fire on, and a torch – Philo was stayin’ up, waitin’ for me…” The lights in the Hoot-Owl were dim, but ample to reveal tears on the traveler’s face now, and he shattered the empty glass in his hand with a clink loud enough to startle a few people at nearby tables, although Jeromiel was too deep in “negotiation” with a barmaid to notice. The bouncer did notice, however, and focused a glare on the two men that might have caused them to burst into flame if he’d known any magic.

“We’re not going to hit him, not here, not now,” the boss repeated, uncertain whether the statement was loud enough for Fergus to hear, and whether he wanted it heard. He dropped his voice a notch just in case, because he definitely did not want the next part heard by anyone but his drinking companion. “For one thing, after losing the people at the safe house, we’re not strong enough to risk an open fight with the Schwarzhammer, not even close. For another, if we hit him without figuring out how he worked the golem, we can’t use it ourselves.”

That point got home; the first man got a thoughtful look on his face, tears or no tears. “Yeh, I see what you mean, boss,” he said softly. “But – Philo – Philo – I want the bastard dead.” Fergus definitely heard that part, and he didn’t like it, but it still wasn’t enough to get him to throw the two drinkers out of the bar.

The boss nodded. “He will be, but not by our hands. Come on, time to go see some people.” He lurched to his feet (the drunken derelict act was still working, at least as far as the other people in the bar knew, Fergus possibly excepted) and left a surprisingly large amount of money on the table, then staggered to the door. His drunken gait persisted until the two were a safe distance from the bar, but then he dropped it and their movements became considerably more controlled. His voice remained low, however, as he continued, “This is the kind of thing the Gewehr is for. We’ll talk to some people, who will talk to some other people, and then it’ll get done, and our hands will be clean.” Then his voice softened. “I’m sorry about Philo, Chill. I know how much he meant to you.”

“Th-thanks,” the man now bearing the “Chill” name answered, and for a while, mercenaries or not, tears and comforting took precedence over arranging an assassination.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6700
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

PreviousNext

Return to Fanfiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron