Target is 1K words minimum. Should have been a free day but life is life and hopefully to be enjoyed.
Some thinking about the Gods in a basic sense and my understanding the Old Stock and how Gods might feel when their believers are wiped out and will they remember back to having believers and then consider, when they have the strength, revenge.
Mi Kee is always meant to be a constantly changing story but almost with the plots changing and people appearing and dis-appearing as much a Detective/Thriller on behalf of the reader.
It’s still raw but hopefully, a little less raw every time I post something.
I’ll talk a bit more.
The Matira’s will tell you they came from the Droga’s but they tried to kill every Droga if they could and some survived with a history of revenge. The Jamesson’s sit in a pickle and it’s not all cucumber – the Droga’s fled and occupy major parts of Ascania.
“I could have saved everyone if I met Sir Charles. He would give anything for a son of King Martan.”
“And if it is a daughter?”
“It will be a son – I know that, Jinny.”
“When do you ever stop lying, Alisia. Had it been a son and Martan had his priests and priestesses checking on you, you would not be on the road nor would Martan be looking for another woman. A daughter, however, could in due course give birth to another son and a challenger for the Kingdom and Martan would not accept that, so you were offering Martan’s daughter to Sir Charles – you are having a daughter and you know that but you would sacrifice all of us for yourself. I keep my honour, Alisia, more you can keep anything. You will reach your refuge and let them deal with you because I have had enough of you, in all senses!”
In the meantime, Alison had chosen to forget his instructions since there seemed little point in following them and was now heading to the west following some way behind Sir Charles and his forces – there was also Jinny’s comments to Alison and that they weren’t meant to survive and Alison intended to.
Of her guards she’d detoured and picked up the other decoys and they now numbered twenty three in total – a sufficient force for safety but one that should be in Spragend and not in force on the King’s roads and there was possibly a problem if they met any of the King’s guards – assuming they lived. Reaching Toshon Village – most of them had thrown off their armour already – Jinny would have spoken to them for that but she’d kept her armour bright and on – well it had taken a few drinks – and in battle, you might need to be free. The slice down so you parried ready as the blade and a few other things happened. She rode up front; they weren’t bandit but the word had obviously gone out; they were dead and she didn’t understand that as they met the first bunch of patrols met who attacked them. How could they be bandits; already they were bandits and if not bandits, they treated as bandits.
Maybe they could make their way to Frania. They always needed guards in Frania.
Kyle was already reeling with a mind entering his and saying, “I have bonded with you.” He’d already had the Women’s Committee virtually accuse him of attacking the woman he found by the road and tried to help. Now he was told he could not hunt Roc eggs unless allowed.
What were they trying to do to him. He’d done nothing wrong. He’d tried to help a girl in trouble; tried to feed the village with old and dead Roc eggs, and caught fish for the village. Were the fish going to start talking to him, now? He went back to the trees he tied his nets too and looked for any catch – nothing – it made, not only his day, but a complete month of isolation – even his toes were giving him grief and Tare wouldn’t touch them until she was pregnant. One thing, however, was dying, whilst his toenails were bidding for freedom, and that was his belief in anything.
It was a hike to Jacque and Mari but Jacque often had some fish left and Kyle could do with a bit of luck after today and getting away from the rocks and the Rocs …?
What a can of life is this when a Roc is in your brain and watching you like a hawk; maybe she, or he watches you like a Roc and the Women’s Council or Committee used every way they could to attack any man who achieves and ‘Old Stock’ – maybe he was ‘Old Stock’ like Jacque and Mari – forced out unless needed; he was certainly ready to leave everything and everyone!
His leaving, however, was subject to getting some fish; walking five miles to Jacque and Mari with his toenails grating the ends of his boots and then back into his toes … perhaps Mari would cut them and he’d see if there was anything he could exchange for a little relief although Tare would yet again, go berserk when she found out his toenails were cut.
Visiting Jacque and Mari took him a good way from the village. They were on the coast and that was not by choice.
They were, in the words of the Women’s Council, ‘Old Stock’ – to be ignored – as if they didn’t exist but you might then ask why members of the Women’s Council walked about eight miles at night to find people who did not exist and one thing you would find were completely blank looks if you dared ask where they going, and where were the rampaging wolves who it appeared, knew better than to face the Women’s Council, still Kyle needed some fish. With no Roc eggs – not allowed; nothing from his nets; his wife not expecting; a Roc bonded with him which would put anyone off mating as three of you would be enjoying it he have even more grief from the women.
Kyle wondered what Gods he’d offended – there must be a lot of them to offend and he’d obviously found everyone, and they’d obviously found him despite his hiding from the Woman’s Council, who acted like Goddesses?
Jacque and Mari lived a hundred yards back from the coast and the Franian Sea and eventually he was almost there. You approached them through a copse of three large pines where their Hawks were based and lived wild. Why they did not fly off, Kyle never knew but the Hawks knew him and so did the large Cat who wandered up and sniffed him with Jacque looking up as Kyle approached.
Jacque didn’t look more than forty years old yet seemed to have been around for longer than anyone knew. Sandy haired like the Cat, blue eyes as opposed to the Cat’s black eyes, Jacque match Mari in everything but shape and height – in strength, maybe they were matched but both kept to themselves, tended their herbs; trained their hawks and fished.
They lived fairly simply but over the years had added to their home and now there were two conical roofs spread across a wooden framework. One had a trough filled with both fish and water to keep the fish fresh and this was just below one open side of one hut. Everything was built on stilts although the water never came this far – perhaps it once did? The two sides of the huts were joined by a wooden walkway but stretched some fifteen foot across by some eight foot in length and there were hooks inside for four hammocks if you were desperate and Kyle when faced with Tare’s renown temper, sought a hammock – often moving at speed. There were steps down the sides to the sand and a walkway from the front of both huts towards the sea – it again looked as if the sea had once swept this far in.
Jacque smiled as Kyle approached, “if you are running from the Women’s Committee, they are already on the way. Mari’s hawks saw them,” Kyle realised that the hawks would have seen him, too.
“Is no-where safe?”
“You seem selected for something, Kyle, but to put your mind at rest, you are not ‘Old Stock, you are merely in the wrong or right place at the wrong or right time.”
“If I am, I don’t know what. I went to find some fish and Roc eggs; instead I find a girl lying by the road and then, when I get her to the village they attack me. I head back to the fish pens and nothing; then a Roc bonds with me and Tare wants me to get her pregnant. Now I have no fish; no Roc eggs and something in my mind whether I like it or not.”
“I always keep a few fish back for you. It’s not easy when you try and help people. You succeed and no-one gives you credit – fail and they’re all on your back, but I’ll tell the Women’s Committee the fish are yours; you are repaying a favour to me, and they can carry them back although the men will get the job. Follow the Cat when he gets back, into the trees, and hide, he’s watching the women at the moment, along with the hawks.”
Kyle looked up as he heard another shout and saw Mari pointing back into the trees, it sounded like, “go, Kyle,” and Kyle wasn’t waiting for the women to arrive; running for the trees like a bat out of hell, with the Cat overtaking him – maybe they crossed the finishing line together and if not, it wasn’t for want of trying. They barely made it before the women arrive with four men carrying a stretcher with a body on it and Mari met them as they arrived.
The Women’s Council were a fearsome bunch. Tare had the tolerance of a snake guarding its young and it was made worse as she felt Kyle was failing in her desires for children. Half the time she couldn’t even keep him awake at night as he roamed further and further afield in his mental search for food. Tare was five foot two inches; blue eyes again and she hated that; as she did the blond hair that marked her and she wanted children.
Sueshar was famous for refusing any man who could not wrestle her.
Greta usually wrestled them with her mouth which never seemed to close.
Tonya, on the other hand, or usually a male, seemed to have no problems with her mouth or men, until she wore them out.
Minine usually worked from where she couldn’t be seen. Causing trouble where she felt it could not be tracked back to her and Stort her husband; leaving Sophia, who considered herself worldly-wise having lived in an isolated village all her life.
Together, they spent more time either fighting or gossiping or in a lot of cases planning for themselves and not the village to be little more than trouble!
They’re were four stumps of trees behind the first hut-like building and the makeshift stretcher was finally laid down there. Tare – self appointed but unchallenged in the Council stared at Mari until her eyes were virtually watering.
There really was no point in try to out-stare Mari – it was like staring at a rock-face, “Kyle brought this woman to the village and then ran away!”
“You mean that you and these women attacked him without thinking because he was a man and this was an injured woman?”
“No-one attacked Kyle, he ran!”
“Faced with Harpies like you, anyone with any sense would run. Most of you are only interested in yourselves and attacking men. Leave her and go. Take the fish Kyle caught earlier – he cares more for your village more than you ever will! Go before I lose my temper – go!”
To say the Women’s Council ran would be inaccurate. They gathered their skirts to their thighs as the hawks swooped down over them and overtook each other as they left; the men who knew their job, looked at Jacque and Mari, and waited: “at the side of the side; there; put the fish into the bags and I want the bags back – Kyle is helping me and will sleep here tonight. Tell that to this bunch of Harpies!”
Jacque watched them put them put the fresh fish into the bags. He hated this long death for the fish, who would probably be dried by the time they reach the village and suffer the worst deaths you could imagine but the villagers never seemed to think of anyone but themselves.
They finally left and he watched Kyle and the Cat move from the trees as he walked towards Mari and the body – still alive – but not for long he felt.
Mari looked up as he arrived by the body, “She is wandering but there is very little left. Thinks she is a Roc and keeps trying to fly in her mind. Only thing keeping her alive.”
“What Roc is she flying with, Jacque?”
“I have no idea, Kyle … Mari is doing the work …?”
“Tell Mari what you know about Rocs.”
“A Roc bonded with me, Mari. I have never bonded with anyone but Tare; if that was ever possible but a Roc came into my mind as I looked at the fish and told me she had been instructed to bond with me.”
“Then we need to find your Roc. Who she is flying with?”
“I don’t know but if she is bonded she must know of this conversation and her name is Mona Roc.”
“From your description, Mona Roc wasn’t just an outcast from the Rocs who lived here, she is excluded completely – she can’t even sit in the rocks.”
Like Rona, there was a time and family gap and in any case, they were both four hundred years older without the pleasure or experience of knowing it.
Mona Roc was being held liable for mistakes she’d made four hundred year before in moments of panic as everyone’s world failed. Even her own kind didn’t, wouldn’t, and couldn’t know the decisions she made in seconds. There wasn’t a Council of Rocs to guide, just very little, if any time to decide and act.
Now, there was nothing for her and she kept a tight hold on Rona Matira’s mind to preserve her own sanity, and now in Kyle’s mind he saw Rona and the senseless and lifeless state Mona had put her in to.
Mari just gently touched Rona’s head and looked at Jacque, “Often they drive us away because we’d uncover them – too many ‘Old Stock’ in the old areas – maybe we should have gone to Frania … ‘Old Stock’ are prized there and not prised out.”
“The girl needs attention, Mari, not history!”
“History is killing her, Jacque. I need the Roc whose in her mind and I think it’s the one in Kyle’s mind as well. The Roc also feels that Kyle has killed the sick and old – there’s more but without the Roc I can’t do anything.”
Mari placed her hands on Rona’s head, listened and again heard a screaming voice as a Roc forgot there was someone on their back in the sheer exuberance of feeling she could fly everywhere she had been denied and only as she soared did she realise her back was lighter. She turned her head to look at her back and realised there was no-one there. She sought for the mind as it fell and then seized on it as she sped down, aiming at a dwindling speck … maybe … maybe—
“Now we call Mona Roc and she will come, Jacque – she will come and she will join us!”
“How will you call her? We can link to hawks and an old Cat but we cannot link to Rocs?”
“Kyle is linked to this Roc— I know it … I damn well know it Jacque. This Roc has taken over this girl’s mind but the Roc is linked to Kyle and Kyle must call her,” Kyle looked at them once again and ruffled Cat’s mane. What was going on? Everything seemed to be his problem?
The question was swiftly answered when Mona Roc landed in the trees and looked down at Rona lying there. Mona searched around for minds.
Kyle’s she knew but she’d also embedded herself in Rona’s mind and Rona’s death would kill her in agony if she stayed, “then a voice echoed in her own mind. You are killing this girl; leave her or die with her, Mona Roc!”
“You do not tell me what I do. My bond was before your birth!”
“Was it, Mona Roc. How many others were outside of the bubble when it sank. How many were frozen a bubble but did not sink or died as the land sank, and the earth and water swept in, summons for the Matiras in the revenge of the Dwarf. You flew; others fought, died but some survived. Your bond to Rona Matira was a personal choice; our lives were a fervent desire and little you cared for that. Release her, Mona Roc. She will bond again with you again, should she choose – release her or she will die. You now occupy her whole body as well as her mind. There is nothing left in her to provide what is necessary for her to live”
“If I release her, Mari. I will die.”
“How do you know, Mona Roc?”
“I put myself into her body as she fell. It was the only way I could find her.”
“Put yourself into my mind and body, Mona Roc. I need to know your true and complete identity so I recognise your pattern in Rona Matira and by putting yourself into my body you will have another body pattern and then we can remove you from others and keep you alive and you need to leave the mind of Kyle Nonsat was well.”
Mona Roc flew to the raised walkway at the front of the first house and her message to Mari was, “If I leave the mind of Kyle Nonsat the other Rocs will kill me. It is their instruction that I bond with him to stop him killing unborn and sick Roc children. I cannot leave Kyle Nonsat’s mind.”
“Kyle’s wife wishes to be pregnant. He does not want you in his mind when he is with his wife.”
“I will set my mind to only be with him when he approaches Roc’s Revenge. That should satisfy him, but my sin was to let my love of air and flying over-rule my feelings for Rona Matira who was never of Matira stock anyway, but adopted, and then excluded by the Matira’s. I befriended her because she had no-one and it suited me to feel her young mind, and then through my own stupidity I nearly killed her and caused this.”
“Pride is a sin you don’t mention, Mona Roc, and I can do nothing about that but with your help I can save this young girl, although what I save her for, is another matter. Maybe that she was young and abandoned when you found her will save her: you took her as a mother with she as your child but we have no children and you are always welcome; we know of her time with her, so perhaps she will stay and have a life again with us and you.”
“I would like that. What do you want me to do, Mari Hawk?”
“First, you must never utter my real name. I take a risk by even allowing you to enter my mind as it has knowledge no-one must know or our lives are forfeit throughout the land. You must blend your mind and self to me as you did with Rona Matira and Rona must adopt the name of Hawk. She cannot use the name of Matira. I will change her understanding as I use your presence to enter her body, spirit and mind. She must live a different life under a different name – she cannot go back four hundred years and believe she is a Princess.”
“How will you stop that, Mari. I don’t want her mind changed!”
“Then take her back four hundred years, Mona Roc!”
“When do you wish to mind-meld?”
“Now is as good a time as any.”
Mari sat herself by the steps that led up to the fish pool. Mona by some strange contortions settled on the peaked woven roof.
Two powerful minds sought each other and each tested the other. Mona still could not give up herself but she could almost hear a little voice in her head, “please, Mona. I want to live!” Mona wanted and would have sought support from fellow Rocs but none would touch her. She had abandoned Rocs some four hundred years ago and her name was legend as she saved herself and a human, and left Rocs to die.
Any Roc could take her life and would if they found an excuse but instead they gave Mona the role of protecting sick, young and old Rocs. Now this humiliation would be known to a non-Roc and that hurt her.
She was young when she made those mistakes and four hundred years later she must pay for them. She was still young and it didn’t seem fair but she had nearly caused Rona Matira’s death and then occupied her body, mind and soul – leading her to a slow death. She slowly melted into Mari Hawk’s mind.
Mari was waiting but even she cringed at the full knowledge of the Matira’s and the Dwarf –Drufus – as it echoed into her mind, body and soul.
Mari took the colours, blends – the sheer impact of so much emotion, threats and finally, some sort of agreement and then Mari felt, almost like a fragrance in the air, the subtle sense of Rona amongst the thoughts of a young Roc and the temptation to take and own, another body. She could understand why people desired and took over minds and bodies but Mari was from sterner stock and knew that owning someone meant you no longer owned yourself.
She could feel a sore that ripped and tore into her as she absorbed more than she would ever want as spiracles of colour remonstrated with faint slivers of feelings she couldn’t catch but must, as a faint sense of a fragment of Roc mind passed her by but Mona Roc still fought the mind-meld and giving up her control of Rona. Finally it was not Mona Roc melding with Mari but Mari melding with Mona as Mari tried entering Mona’s mind and body, Mona fought her – Mona could not or would not fully release or meld with Mari unless it suited her and as Mari tried to take her over she now found strong resistance.
Mona had embedded herself so much into Rona Matira that they were one person and if Mona died then so would Rona. With the resistance from Mona it would kill Rona if she kept trying force the meld and Mari stopped; pulled herself out of Mona Roc, and staring at Jacque said, “I must leave this girl and Mona Roc. Mona would rather die than lose control. We can do nothing!” They both walked away.
Mona still sat on the roof – she couldn’t let go but Rona would die if she didn’t, and she knew that. On the one talon she was in control; on the other claw … what was she playing at. She could have melded with Mari Hawk and it would have been finished but she’d fought the meld and then fought Mari Hawk melding with her.
She looked at the body lying across the tree trunks on some kind of travois. She could see the heart was just beating and flew down to the body where she sat looking at Rona Matira. She didn’t have the sensitivity of Mari Hawk and she now offered the mental thought to Mari, “I am finally ready,” Mari was in her in seconds before Mona could even think of anything else.
Mari had identified the string of colours connecting Mona to Rona before and immediately followed them down into Mona’s brain. Roc’s had always had some mystical being and now she followed Mona’s colours down into Rona and found the knots in the brain that tied her to the Roc. Mona had taken no risks when she fully bonded and now controlled virtually all organs without understanding that humans aren’t birds. Now Mari followed the coloured stream to Rona’s heart which to Mari’s surprise was actually grey and began untying the knots that bound her heart to Mona. Now slowly but surely she followed all the other colours and shades. Some to the lungs; others to the legs, and many to the brain. All knots she carefully and slowly untied.
She watched Rona as she worked and started to see colour move into her face and her chest began to rise and fall more easily. There were still other areas and she now worked through the body until there were no colours connecting Mona to Rona Roc. By now Mari had sunk to her knees and was held upright by Jacque who watched her with more and more worrying looks – finally she stopped and only Jacque now held her upright; he finally cradled Mari in his arms and carried her into the second hut and onto a bed. For hours afterwards he sat and watched her, wiping her face with a damp cloth and feeding a thin broth he’d eventually made.
Mona sat there with an overwhelming sense of loss. Rona had been almost like a daughter to her and now she was gone. Mona no longer had a tribe to live with and she had nothing. She flew up to the top of a tree and sat there watching. She could at least watch over Rona who was now also being fed broth by Jacque – it looked as if Rona would now live and also have a life.
At least Alisia had the good sense to keep her mouth shut for the five mile walk to the next piece of water. She and Jinny were like two cats with their tails tied together and it was a relief to find the next boat was where it should be although Alisia once again bridled at having to pass over five golden pieces for the boat and trip, but at least the Drunk had someone to row with him.
The exit from the inlet to the Matira sea was virtually non-existent and all of them stood on land as the men manoeuvred the boat across the rocks, possibly scraping off more than a few barnacles until finally the ladies decided to seat themselves as far away from the oars as they could. They finally pulled away, carefully watching the shore to the north and the island to the south – the island was only a mile long but an odd shape and a hundred yards across. Once they passed it, unless they went deeper into the Matira sea, they were relatively safe, providing they weren’t seen from the cornfields and they should be okay as the corn was already two foot high.
Sir Charles had watched them row away with almost a feeling of peace. If they were rowing into the Spragend sea, good luck to them and let them die – the seas were as dangerous as the shores – if he had his way with it. He’d enough to worry about without Alisia and her baby bothering his thoughts – let her die for all she was worth.
His next question to himself was a simple one, ‘What do I do until Routani marries and kills Martan?’—I can’t sit around all day waiting for that … even with these guards, we only number forty and already there is some dust on the road behind us—not a time to hang around … I think. With Alisia dead or captured I might have had some sway with Martan as he doesn’t want a daughter at large but she’s escaped and all I now have left are believers and forty guards. Time to head back to Charguar and a good bath.
Alison saw the dust rising from the cornfields. She’d finally managed to turn her guards around and now with a warrant from the King she’d amassed almost a hundred guards. What she hadn’t amassed was food or money and she felt there was no choice but to head to Frania and she signalled to the guards to head along the road – just as Sir Charles and his glorious forty finally erupted from the cornfields in front of them.
They attacked without thought as Sir Charles and his guards ran and King Martan’s guards followed and attacked them – the hindmost were cut in their hinds as they ran and finally thirty of Sir Charles’ guards headed back into the cornfields towards the start of the Matira sea.
Alison called her guards back as they started to pursue, “Don’t follow! They can ambush us.”
Johan: previously number four in the hierarchy; now number two to her; looked at her, “there is nothing but the sea there. If we follow them, they have nowhere to run. We can kill them all.”
“No, Johan. If we can get to the Franian coast then we can get a boat to Frania, freedom and riches.”
“We are sworn guards of King Martan, Alison. You are asking us to betray our oaths!”
“Your king betrayed you, Johan. None of us were meant to survive.”
“None of us, Alison?”
“No. Jinny told me that King Martan wanted Alisia dead; he’d told Sir Charles where we were; the direction we were taking, and then Alisia, who thought if she sacrificed us to Sir Charles would live, was the last straw. We can’t go back to King Martan nor to Matira Castle. We were a sacrifice as if we no longer had a right to live. Martan broke his oath not us!”
Johan looked around the camp. Over a hundred guards had heard that statement and eighty of them were king’s men and road guards. It was likely to get nasty and the king’s guards could easily overcome Alison’s guards and take them back for execution if they chose.
Johan looked at the guards and Alison noticed that they looked to him rather than her, “Choose, guards. Did your King betray you or did Alison, Jinny and the Drunk betray you? I watched Alisia hold us up so we would be caught by Sir Charles! I watched Sir Charles know our secret routes and follow them at speed! I watched deceit and treachery lure us to destruction! I say, Frania! I am too fond of my live to sacrifice it for deceit!”
Alison and Johan watched as guards unsheathed swords. Some rested blades on their shoulders whilst others rested across their horses saddles while they watched, and they almost smelt the air as they watched.
The Drunk and Smashroot with their backs bent were trapped between the island and the shore as the remainder of Sir Charles’ guards finally reached the sea bank in complete panic and then with horses rearing to avoid the water saw the small boat between them and the island half a mile from the shore – out of range of bows and now the boat with screams from the women closer to the island.
Of all the luck, Sir Charles thought. I lose them and then I’m driven into them but too far away. They are obviously going to out somewhere so we’ll ride along the bank and see where it ends. They must come out of it somewhere and then we have them, “Ride along the bank until the water ends, then we wait up.”
“They can wait for us, Drunk and we’ll be like Trout for a tickle.”
“Smashroot and myself were not planning a fifteen mile paddle while you ladies just sat there and gave directions. Once past this island we move to the north west and a piece of land sticking out in the sea. Horses are already there and by the time Sir Charles and his guards have moved along the bank and failed to find us, we will be in another boat crossing the Toshonian sea and then with fresh horses we hit the Toshonian road whilst Sir Charles can either wait for us on the bank or follow the road until it is too late to catch us as we head from Toshon Village.”
“Nicely thought, my Drunk.”
“I do have some uses, Jinny.”
The Drunk was expecting Alisia’s tantrums but funnily enough they didn’t happen and finally the made the outcrop and Jinny stood there open-mouthed as a wooden carriage was hitched to four mules and the boat manhandled onto it; looking at Jinny’s lower lip flapping, the Drunk laughed, “We didn’t know what we might find and thirty miles is a long way with Sir Charles trying to outdistanced us. This way our thirty miles are more like his forty five miles and then he is too late, once again. I wouldn’t want to be within reach of his temper.”
People thought Sir Charles was a fool, but not usually twice. Once again he watched his prey escape and herded his guards to the gap between the Matira and Toshonian seas. The gap at the top of the land space was only ten mile but he didn’t believe they could be that stupid – perhaps it was time to let the hounds run and then return to Margo Desay but he still have this bunch of guards trying to ride him down – could Martan be that intelligent? Would Martan have really been able to think like that?
Perhaps he could. Sir Charles still didn’t know where his Spy Master was, or why all the recruitment had been of the worst and lowest caste with all the funds disappearing. That could not be an accident. Someone had been turned and badly, but who? Margo and her family seemed loyal but again, Margo kept everything under her and her son’s control. He would find out in time and then quietly take his revenge as his leisure but there probably wasn’t anything to do but wait at the gap; let the hounds lose see what turned up.
That probably mirrored the Cat’s thinking, who didn’t like water and had swiftly turned himself around in the Spragend sea and headed back to land. He was fairly attuned to the Drunk, however and could follow him on land as the Drunk and company slowly made their way. The Cat did make sure he hitched a lift behind the mules on the boat but took the long way around as the boat, once again went into the sea. It was more fun on land and there were a lot more trees.
The Cat finally caught up with them just after the road that turned north to Soshea. There were lots of trees and the Cat felt at home as he blessed as many as he could – what was urine for if you couldn’t spray it everywhere and now he took a short-cut south-west, leaving them to follow the road.
The Cat liked a quiet life and from the sound of Alisia, that was the last thing she wanted and judging by the sound of horses behind him, something else she wasn’t going to easily get. He thought he should turn back and help but the vibrations he was getting from Alisia, Jinny and the Drunk meant it was time to explore as only a Cat can and he carried on running.
Alison kept pushing them hard; that way they didn’t have time to talk or argue, or fight. This way they were too tired to do more than sleep.
The only piece of luck was blundering, yet again, into the same set of guards they attacked before and another brawl had used their tempers.
There were only twenty left of Sir Charles guards after they’d met although it had certainly sorted out her weaker guards who were now left behind – some still alive.
Alison was enjoying leadership and the sight of the Cat did not enthral her as it padded along beside her horse. Wherever the Cat was, the Drunk was; so where was the Drunk, but wherever the Drunk was, Jinny was – they never parted, nor came together – why was the Cat was just marking time. She needed time for thought and before they turned south was probably the time because she now had her command and Alison was not giving that up for anyone.
She pulled up again as the Cat re-appeared, and as crossbow bolts rustled, then she saw the Cat rustle behind several trees. Johan knew the Cat and nodded to Alison but Alison wasn’t the only one feeling hot in their armour today, although Alison’s armour was a lot better that it had been and on straps as well, since the new armourer was allowed to make adjustments, and there was some talk about that, and the measurements but the rest of them had bouncy metal that smashed the shoulders.
Johan did like Alison but he wasn’t being controlled by anyone who couldn’t have his respect and Alison had been turned down by everyone until one day, the Sergeant, scratching a long area that he seemed unable to reach, told him to look after Alison.
For some reason the Cat liked him but not Alison, and unlike Alison, the Cat seemed to know his thoughts but Cats did that. You never knew who you were with a Cat, and they knew things you never understood. They always seemed to know where everyone was for a start and he did as well.
He was told of some many of his problems and one of his biggest problems was his mouth and now he was learning to keep it closed, however, the way Alison was feeling, a bolt is his back was a fair result for her feeling and the Cat would take her throat if she did and somehow he knew that.
Like the Drunk, Johan appreciated the Cat and over time learnt to ignore the Cat when it wanted to be ignored. Alison finally rode up to Johan, “I’m not paying you to sit here, Johan!”
“You’re not paying me at all, Alison. You disobeyed orders several times, and killed guards. The Cat is there and he will take you. Move away from me. You are not a Leader and the guards all know that – you are not a Leader and even the Cat knows that.”
“So where are our Leaders, my second?”
“On the road to Frania, Alison. Jinny, the Drunk, a guy called Smashroot and a concubine called Alisia. You’ll reach them in two days.”
“And how do you know that, my second?”
“My problem, Alison … shall we move on? And they know to expect us?”
“Well they won’t expect you, my second,” and as the sword rose to cut at him, so did the Cat – whether it thought before it jumped from nowhere was another matter for another time.
The Cat jumped; Alison fell, and her sword drew blood as she landed on the hilt which penetrated under her rib cage. Johan climbed down and moved his horse away – he’d never wanted this but Alison was prepared to kill him to control everything and he would never know why.
“Nothing I can do, Alison,” he said, and he spoke to a dead body as the Cat carefully ripped her throat out and drank the blood.
Johan looked at the guards; several were already leaving whatever meal they last ate and half were reining their horses around him.
“Alison would have killed you as well as me! You were prepared to kill me and so was she! Turn your horses around and ride off! Jinny is ahead and I am going to find her! Choose!”
Johan climbed back onto his horse which didn’t seem to mind the Cat at all and rode away, leaving a milling bunch of riders with no idea of their next move.
Eventually a general agreement arose. They’d followed Alison as she held King Martan’s mandate. They’d deserted their duties; watched their remaining leader killed and a Cat drink her blood!
The King’s dungeons didn’t have room for all of them and by cowardly desires they didn’t wish to meet their makers – always nice to cover your odds, especially when you are on a roulette wheel and betting on zero.
The Gods of Astoria were Astoron, Druncheon and Alf and they’d existed when Drufus decided to destroy Astoria for his revenge.
Those Gods had the belief of the people who lived then, but after Drufus there were very few people left to believe in any Gods and those people who survived were then attacked by the Matira’s, Droga’s and Jamesson’s so often they found themselves praying to any God, most of whom were now so weak they might as well have been dead.
The Dwarfs who virtually ruled everything kept their belief in Druncheon. The Elves that survived kept their belief in Alf but the humans split between those who believed and survived, and those who came later and didn’t believe, until again they were hunted and then their belief created another God called Astoron, leaving four Gods and being a primitive world they didn’t believe in major Goddesses unless it was fruitfulness, love or a good harvest and at certain times their prayers were really intense but the ‘Old Stock’ believed in Astoron and their belief became stronger and stronger as they were forced to hide even more.
To a degree Sir Charles’ guards probably felt the same way as they looked. As a force they had once rivalled a patrol of forty guards. Now fifteen fit and five wounded remained.
Twice they’d been attacked with odds of a minimum of two to one against them, and without warning as they emerged from the countryside.
The woman the sought had escaped, with another woman attacking them.
It had become a joke.
Attacked when they didn’t seek battle and then unable to find battle when they were seeking it. Already the looks at Sir Charles should have removed any need he felt for a razor in the morning. All Sir Charles had managed was to make their pockets a little heavier and that was from half their number who’d fallen and for that, fights were often breaking out as they sought the money from the fallen and fought amongst themselves.
Sir Charles was still some fifty to sixty miles from Charguar using the roads and his guards were looking nervously over their shoulders as the dust rose behind them, they’d lost too many battles and even Sir Charles was accelerating although his bluster seemed to be matching his rear wind and neutralising his impetus.
Alisia together with her escort of the Drunk, Jinny, Smashroot and occasionally the Cat finally the outcrop on the Toshonian sea and abandoned all but the horses and mules. It was still another fifteen miles to make the turn in the road to Toshon Village and once again it was through cornfields.
Johan; like the Drunk had given up wondering whether there was one or two Cats. For some reason he knew where this Cat was but also there seemed to be another Cat ahead of him and somehow the Cats communicated and then this Cat told him what to do whilst the other Cat told the Drunk but it was disconcerting to be receiving commands from a Cat. Somehow that there were two Cats and both had adopted a man. From the Cat Johan knew he was eighty miles from the Drunk’s Cat and didn’t want to meet the remainder of the guards Alison had been attacking and who were now milling around like chaff from a cornfield. He moved off road and overland, and yet again through yet another cornfield – if someone offered him bread in future, their heads would go – which eventually should cut the distance in half and he should meet up with the rest if they were moving more slowly than him. He looked behind at the road and could see dust rising. He wasn’t waiting to find out whose dust it was and he made his entry into the cornfields as gentle as he could and headed down to the sea.
Eventually he see did a boat heading towards the west but unless he could fly, he wouldn’t be catching it.
Tare finally found the limits to her pride. Some might have considered it a lifetime’s work for her to find her pride’s limits but it was something she rarely contemplated in her life and she was determined that Kyle Nonsat would pay for her walking eight miles to get him and bring him home.