Someone retweeted stuff from me a few days ago and it went out to 16500 people but it was old stuff from before I lost two disks in one day and then found MS10 wasn’t interested in recovering the system. I managed to scrape stuff back but gave up and went back to the earlier story that feeds into the latter.
Needless to say, it is still coming on but twisting my parts when I was in full flow back to start something like Star Wars without the aid of thousands of people.
One reason why I am still not going flat out for it, is that despite Jean and I arguing, I like being married.
When I get the new decent motherboard in a couple of days, both machines will be on Windows 10 Pro but the new machine will have a 1Tb SSD and two 1TB SATA disks.
One dedicated to do nothing but back up my writing – whether it is good enough to back up or not.
Some plot ideas:
Stefen finds out his first wife had planned a falling bath roof scene on top of his new wife – written.
The Human Dastry’s actually started as Dwarf Droga’s. Stefen’s daughter Runnel was married to a minor Droga and was brought out of Stasis when Stefen had his wife and daughter woken up – she forced Droga to let Rafus change his features and he ends up human.
Lets just say I’m working on ideas.
I’m no where near bringing the two together as I’m trying to bring so much together.
You may not like your mother-in-law but after Rafus and Drufus … it will get there.
I’ll do the usual post of everything as even the Chapters have been altered.
A long way to go to even get back to the start I lost.
Chapter I – Arrival
Destraight – an excellent name for a planetary prison – an old unstable planet ideally suited for prisoners the Dwarven race had taken and was quietly moving–on without the worry of them returning at some point so these specially selected prisoners would not be returning – they had become too much of a problem to hold in captivity.
During the years, three Dwarf Armada Class ships – Andromeda with Admiral James Droga; Surreptitious with Admiral Martan Matira, and the Ancient with Admiral David Jamesson – and yes, there was sufficient head clearance for non-Dwarven races – approached; and along with twenty thousand sleeping prisoners/politicians per ship there were Guards, Hounds and hunting Cats to control them and hunt those who tried to escape – no-one was going anywhere they were not instructed to go.
All were asleep and would stay that way until placed upon the planet.
In reality the Dwarfs considered them as disposable, apart from Admirals Droga, Matira and Jamesson, who would return, and that was probably the Admiral’s thoughts as well and no-one else’s as who else would turn their ships around and sleep until their return to Dwarvia, apart from the ship’s crews, still on the ships, and their quarters were armoured as with very little fuel the shields were virtually non-existent but the ships had value and were worth returning to Dwarvia.
Dwarvia had been creating and winning too many wars recently and whilst its empire had been increasing, more and more its cities were encircled by prisoner camps, whilst promotion for its ever increasing numbers of Admirals was matched by the ever increasing numbers of wars occurring, and finally Dwarvia was changing from a planet to a prison, and three of its most aggressive Admirals were now leading the three Armada Class prison ships.
All the Admirals, at five foot four with slate grey eyes matched the Navy’s strength and build requirements, although in two cases the rumours; not spoken in front of them if you wished to live, were of surgery to shorten their height, and their eye colour dyed to match that of famous historic Admirals so it does save the Author from having to invent their build, height and eyes for the Colour Trioptics biography.
Some crew staff would stay awake on the return journey but in five year shifts so they would only lose ten years of their lives. The Admirals would lose, perhaps four weeks of their lives but they were selected for having no dependents and the ships would be virtually on auto-pilot for the return with only ship’s crews exposed to problems – something that had attracted attention in its day but Dwarven clans closed up and nothing, apart from cries and bodies being found, nothing attracted any attention afterwards and as has been said, very good Dwarven Political connections were essential for your career.
The only issues for the Admiral’s now was those lights in the sky approaching the Prison Ships but the planet seemed ideal for the Admiral’s own plans.
Landquakes, typhoons and tidal waves abounded but these all seemed to hit just one side of a planet that turned very slowly and the Admirals would be dead by the time it finally turned and didn’t consider this a problem; the other side of the planet had a distant sun producing a temperate area but for unbeknown reasons the planet seemed to be held in some kind stasis that no-one understood, so its erratic and slow movements were almost non-existence, mirroring the Admiral’s own thoughts as they pondered their careers and a homecoming to no-one but a pension.
The Pension Authorities were, even now, already trying to delete the Space years they spent asleep from counting as service time towards their pension, leaving them with another twenty years service to achieve but with no service available so Bureaucrats could cut their Pensions. They were all active and in the seventies but another twenty years’ service – if they could find the dwindling positions at SITCOPLEB – was not something crossing the Admiral’s minds, except in bright fiery words linked to hell and ‘planet away’ you daft Dwarf Bureaucrats.
The words across the sentinel wires had been caustic in the extreme as the Admirals discussed their futures and the futures of the Bureaucrats if they ever got their hands on them, but the messages would take fifteen years to arrive in Dwarvia and the Admirals could live with that.
On Destraight the Admirals would have authority, once the Vis-Moot took place; Guards; Cats, Hounds and controlled prisoners would be under their control – the only problem was that something seemed to be wrong on the planet and they enlarged the scope of surveillance to watch the prisoners being dispersed to various areas of the country.
The initial aims were to populate the north, south and central areas of Destraight. It would be called Ascania in the north; the main landing areas here would be called Toshonia, and the central area, Stovania. The Admirals in a rare show of co-operation had decided that James Droga would own Stovania; Martan Matira, Toshonia and David Jamesson would own Ascania – no-one was going home – least of all them.
The prisoners were looking at each other as if they had just found something and they weren’t speaking to each other; they seemed to know what others were thinking without speaking.
The Guards were panicking as the Cats and Hounds had stopped taking voice commands and instead of being trained wild animals held by specially trained handlers were walking up to prisoners and Guards and lying down for their bellies to be tickled. The Admirals, looking at the space screens saw something else they didn’t like as objects approaching seemed a lot closer than this morning and they were also thinking, and thinking fast.
It led the Admirals to finally look one another in the face, instead of the boots, gut or anywhere else they usually looked to avoid facing each other. Their thoughts were interrupted by a young aide – she wasn’t even forty yet – something that turned them bright orange, “Admirals, COMSATNEV is on video – signal is only fifteen years old, so it’s fairly new!”
James Droga looked at the young ComSatNev liaison, “this better be good!”
“COMSATNEV has aborted the mission. This planet is on the boundaries of dimensional planetary interplay. There are several black holes and planets are not following guidelines. Trouble at home has started as the peace agreement prohibits dumping prisoners into deep space and this mission is to be aborted and all personnel put to sleep until fuel arrives. Fuel is being sent out and will arrive in forty years but everyone must be brought back and put into stasis again before they return. The signal will wake everyone when the fuel arrives.”
“Well,” said Martan Matira, “it’s a little late, ComSatNev disciple to do this with all the prisoners on the surface and dispersed over the land; the Cats and Hounds seem out of control and some kind of planetary environment is affecting the prisoners and Guards … perhaps you should go down and explain it to them and I suggest you do it quickly. Look at the incoming rocks, ComSatNev, and we have used all our power to arrive here so we have virtually no shields left. For your instruction to be effective we would need everyone back on the ships and be returning before those rocks arrive; looking at my fellow Admirals, I think we are agreed that urgently leaving this ship before it is destroyed is an excellent idea, so please tell that to COMSATNEV after we have made the planetary surface although on second thoughts, we need the power to land and you don’t as you will not be telling people the mission has been aborted,” ComSatNev became a bloody torso as three handguns left her lying on the spaceship floor and the Admirals descended to a life they intended to rule.
The decent side of the planet looked okay; the Guards were just failures, leftovers and of little value without guidance, and guidance from the Admirals would very quickly be there in substance. They would be ruling; not returning home to a pension that wasn’t worth the Geld. The self-build camps were a combination of silicone, concrete powder, air and water dropped into moulds – needing only power to generate the structures and that was already in operation which bearing in mind the objects in the sky approaching, was a good idea.
The sun-shell power nodes were already reacting and the camps were rising although everyone else seemed to be rising as well and looking at the sky before they headed for the still building structures. The Guards were now releasing prisoners against all orders and it seemed more like a riot than a prison camp.
The Admirals had the yet another inkling that as in any battle, all plans became yesterday’s future thoughts and when they Admirals finally landed, they were immediately were met by aides who sang out in unison, “You must Vis-Moot on the planet, Admirals. Nothing is legal without the three of you in Vis-Moot on the surface?”
James Droga looked at the other two Admirals, “We can legally take over whenever we want if we Vis-Moot and tell them that we are appointed to rule … then we rule.”
David Jamesson looked at his fellow Admirals, “Just a few seconds on the Vis-Moot and it’s legal … even if they send someone else here in forty years … we own and control the planet – legally – we never received the recall order and the ships won’t survive to prove us wrong. No-one is going back!”
They looked around as the buildings kept rising. For some reason it looked like the designers had played with castles as children. Walls were going up, towers and baileys were obviously designed into the building as were killing areas – this was being built as ancient history, not the modern world the meetings had planned … yet another screw-up.
Martan Matira was sneering as he realised his fellow Admirals were actually smiling, “You two planned this. Now tell me how long will our high-tech civilisation last with this pathetic nonsense – whose idea was this besides yours? We’ll need the Guards, Hounds and Cats to keep them under control for us to rule if we are now playing with ancient toys. We don’t have any control over anything or anyone without modern weapons! We need authority and modern weapons and you’ve built a children’s nursery!”
“At this distance, Martan, the committee decided that a modern world was unsupportable, so they opted for a historic solution that would not require modern weapons, anyway, the Vis-Moot gives us authority and the Guards will obey instructions or be buried head-first, and with their feet sticking up. A few exhibitions should curtail disobedience!”
“Well, we still have the Vis-Moot to complete and I suggest we complete that as a matter of urgency. I don’t intend to be standing around as those rocks hit those ships and they decide to land somewhere,” It took them some time to find the Vis-Moot area and also to find a slight problem.
There was now a castle and walls stretching from them for a distance of ten to fifteen miles, while walls behind and directly in front of them, bisected the horizon for another ten miles.
Directly facing them were the guards barracks but with some prisoners still milling around instead of being dispersed and swift orders soon had them herded out of the castle and through the gate onto the other side of the killing area and to what already seemed to be some medieval town although completely and artificially built using stone powder.
James Droga exploded, “Where is the Viz-Moot equipment? We need to beam our authority to everyone.”
“Perhaps, James, we just need to control the guards and they are our authority. Everyone knows we rule … perhaps we are better just assuming our roles as leaders?”
“With the Viz-Moot, Martan, no-one can dispute our authority!”
“Yes, I can hear you, James and we can conduct this conversation as normal Dwarfs. There is no Viz.-Moot that I can see but I can certainly see Guards and prisoners and that I feel will have to be our goal. We have our lands to secure and I intend to move towards the castle before those rocks arrive. I would suggest you move to your lands and with haste.”
Martan Matira watched as James Droga and David Jamesson moved towards the two remaining scout ships. They might have enough power to take them to their new lands but he doubted it, still, at least they were away from him but he had plans of his own and the first was to get into the castle before the rocks arrived.
James Droga and David Jamesson kept a very close eye on the power in the ships. James was heading for a town he’d named Zapril while David headed for Ascan – one Admiral in the north; one in the south and James Droga for some reason had gone west. Martan watched them take off and thought that life would be interesting and he was quite correct – only a lot sooner than he expected.
One of the first things, Admiral Matira noticed on entering his castle was that only one floor had been completed. The rest of the castle had been completed but some computer glitch had only then furnished one floor. His next problem was that he’d to walk to the west in order, after a long climb to reach the only inhabitable areas of the castle. The kitchens and food stores were to the east but his bedchamber was hard against the west wall. The map he was presented with showed three stairways to the tower; a gateway that led below the castle and only one way into the castle that he could understand. The internal Guard’s barracks; sleeping quarters and armoury were all linked to his bedroom … there needed to be some serious thought about this, he decided.
He used one of the stairways to the Tower and again felt his eyes drawn to the ever-increasing rocks in the sky which seemed to be becoming larger by the day.
James Droga was also being surprised. As he approached Zapril he saw nothing – no buildings, no people – nothing. He keyed in his destination again; chose autopilot this time, and found himself moving to the north-west and the scout started to land in David Jamesson’s domain.
He checked the map again and his destination placed him in Ascania but on the edge to the north-west of David’s lands and with the scout running out of fuel, he had little chance of avoiding landing and as he landed he could see a castle, manor house and Guards barracks – not the promise he expected to be honoured. Martan and David had carved him up to take the lion’s share of the country. He’d see about that – the Droga’s would win!
As it was, all three of the Admirals were having surprises. Due to computer glitches all castles had only one floor furnished however five castles had been built for the three Admirals but not necessarily near each other, and three into five definitely didn’t go.
An unpopulated four storey block almost half-way between the castles of Martan Matira and David Jamesson was also built, but in the area allocated to Stovania and in addition to Admiral Droga’s castle, a separate manor house and a Guard’s barracks had been built.
The other issue was that no-one was allocated nor lived in the four storey block or the other two castles and the Admirals immediately decided that these builds must be their property whilst the freed prisoners, Cats and Hounds were now spreading out to find land and security before any Guards found them again but already the different types of prisoners were seeking their own refuges and some were below ground but all were as far from the Guards as they could be and they moved they found other buildings, small towns and villages in odd spots but spread across one continuous country and that spread as far as the eye could see or in some cases the tentacles.
The computer glitches appeared to have ‘gone to town’ in the screw-ups and apparently built towns without rhyme or reason and there were sixty thousand prisoners interested in them.
Perhaps they should have been interested in the rocks in the sky that were becoming bigger and closer but had they more interest themselves than in just surviving.
It might also have interested them that back on Dwarvia: yet another coup had occurred; the War Party were ruling again; planets were being invaded, and a build-up of prisoners on Dwarvia was occurring. It didn’t take long before old ideas were forming again and some Armada Class ships started to be constructed again. The general consensus was: we’ve already colonised this planet; if we build five more ships then that is another hundred thousand we can rid Dwarvia of, and we have five admirals who will be ideal for the project.
The vote was unanimous and five names were volunteered to lead the relocation: Marcel Droga; Stefen Matira; Peter Jamesson; Percival de Bowed, and Argus du Storme.
Back on Destraight the prisoners moved away at speed from the castles and there was almost a feeling of euphoria although how long that lasted for was another question. The land was new and even if it wasn’t their land there was no religion, politicians, or newspapers so life was good, or so they thought but Destraight stretched for hundreds of miles and travelled more towns than a politician in a bus so there must be so land free for them?
Their species ranged from magical to rock, bird, horse, human, dwarf, elf but did include a killing element, apart from the politicians who didn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves however, they could live as and where they chose.
Some above ground, some below – others became the ground as they sunk into a life that beckoned and they knew.
A lot of the people found they could communicate by thought and their image of the King or Queen in her or his chamber seemed to be defined by the thoughts of the people.
The Admirals and Politicians might feel they ruled within Destraight but these people felt they lived the land and would rule it although a politician ruling in Destraight would need to be in tune with the people and that was never going to happen as the people decided who would rule them but they started to consider their own existence as the rocks in the sky became larger and larger and the sea started to rise. Areas that had been dry for miles were flooding as the sea swept in.
The Admirals were also losing touch. Their scouts were out of power, and whilst they’d never really spoken to each other unless forced to, now they couldn’t speak to each other, or the ships still circling above the planet.
They were as marooned as the Guards and prisoners – whether they liked it or not. All they had were the Guards assigned to them and desertion was already rife as the Guards realised they weren’t being paid, and if they were paid, there was nothing to spend it on with no food and life was definitely going to get harder with the rocks in the sky getting bigger and with sea levels rising but at least some lakes were forming and with them some fish were being swept in but life appeared to be being swept out – moving from prisons to a long forty year sleep then deposited on a world they didn’t know with no support, food and still chained made you need to remember the only thing these people had in common was being captured and imprisoned by the Dwarves and they were now facing death and slowly.
Some were human; others were stone; some were Dwarf politicians who supported the wrong political parties. The War Party of Dwarvia had attacked any planet and any people it didn’t like and often those they claimed to like. The dwarfs used planets that contained nothing more than war engines, troops and weapons to attack peaceful people.
The War Party had ruled for aeons on Dwarvia and as long as the wars were fought somewhere else and the wealth returned to Dwarvia, most didn’t care until other worlds learnt to fight; developed their own weapons and body counts started to appear in Dwarvia as Dwarfs found their families dwindling and prisoner camps springing up across Dwarvia; questions were being raised and then raised again as the War Party labelled dissenting Dwarfs as traitors but that didn’t change anything of the Dwarf’s attitudes nor of their complete lack of thought for defeated peoples.
One Dwarf is an opinion; two an argument, and three a war.
Some of the prisoners had their wings clipped to stop them flying; some were still sealed in their own private prisons as fluid but compared to those whose beaks were hooded so they couldn’t eat or drink, a lot seemed free; apart from the plastic chains on their lower extremities.
Destraight encompassed all races the Dwarfs had fought and captured, and these had been sent to die but freed prisoners were freeing others as they found them; their main attitude however, was to find Dwarfs and extinguish them from life … the Guards were not of a retiring nature but retiring seemed to be the order of the day, night and any other period of time you wished to consider your life. The Guards moved as fast as they could to the castles in Ascania and Toshonia, and they were running fast as birds rose in the sky to repaid them for the suffering they endured.
The computer programs for some reason had built all castles with just one habitable floor and one of the castles was mostly buried in the ground but still with one floor as the computer glitched, yet again.
David Jamesson actually smiled as he sat in his formal dining room eating a piece of pig that had been happily running about some hours earlier.
He’d made sure that more than enough supplies were delivered to his castle before he left the Armada Class ship but to find a live pig and eat recently killed meat was something David could live with, although the pig obviously was living with anything.
David Jamesson’s castle was worrying him a little however; previously bordering on the ocean it was now landlocked for some twenty miles to the west and the southern half of his land split by the sea sweeping in to some ten miles south of his castle.
Martan Matira felt the same about food although in his case it was beef that he found, or something very close to it. His only issue was the prisoners being split between his land and David Jamesson’s. The thousands drown as the sea swept around the lodge with the water slowly climbing to just below the fourth storey was unfortunate but he could always find new prisoners.
Martin had heard reports of his land to the east growing by some four hundred square miles although he wasn’t personally supervising it, but his land was now cut in two and he didn’t supervise that either, still he was isolated from the other Admirals and that was good. That there was no longer a western or northern area to his territory was something for the future as he was cut off but stuck in the middle and he watched the red rocks in the sky moving closer, wondering about the flashes from where the ships had been and the waves now sweeping in behind his castle to the south.
Not all questioned everything – one dwarf – a distant cousin of Martin’s was at Martin Matira’s castle and to him the magic there felt alive as he accepted it.
Rafus had convinced himself, he could feel a magic field anywhere and he felt the magic as everything moved and this created magic in Toshonia.
He stood on the battlements with his books as they charged but their charge on Rafus was that he could only feel magic – he was completely useless when he tried to use it.
James Droga was on survival rations and remembering he hated dwarf politics and the incestuousness breeding of the major families more than anything but by the time James realised the food supplies on the ships needed raiding they had been stripped of everything.
He had people out hunting and already some fields of what seemed to be corn had been found plus some rodents that would go into a pot, no matter what they were or where they came from and he had no problem sharing a rat stew with fellow Dwarfs.
James Droga’s claims to virtually half of Destraight would make life interesting although the prisoners, currently some eighty miles away and heading in his direction could possibly make things even more interesting.
He also stood there watching the red rocks that continued to increase in size as they moved closer but he also watched water that seemed to be boiling and now comprised two lakes.
One issue, unbeknown, still united the Admirals although there was little else that did.
All of them felt they hadn’t been sold a pup but a monumental suppository, placed strategically, and it was still climbing up as the rocks were still climbing closer, and now the land was starting to rise and meeting the seas rushing in.
The lands rising were hot and the seas meeting the rising lands were generating a fog to the south of Martin Matira and a hundred to a hundred and forty miles to the north. For David Jamesson, the seas were so close he needn’t bother taking a bath, even if he had been inclined to do so, whilst James Droga was finding his starched uniforms were becoming pliable in the damp atmosphere all of them could not remember this in the briefing notes. This side of the planet was stated quite incorrectly, to be stable and unchanging.
Martin was also hearing reports of a steaming and fast cooling causeway between the east and west of the land he felt Toshonia and he owned. The causeway was hot but the sea was sweeping over it and cooling it; however his reports also recorded that the causeway was growing into a rocky mountain and still hadn’t stopped. It now looked as if he would have a range of mountains to the west of his land … still it should stop those prisoners from arriving at his castle – the meat from those animals was his, not the prisoners who could never win, and certainly wouldn’t if he had his way but he needed their work and suppression to achieve his goals and that must be his ultimate aim no matter what else he was forced to agree to.
For the crew on the ships it had been fast. No fuel; no shields, and the strong survivor suites lasted as long as it took to lick some sweets.
Those ships the rocks didn’t hit; the gravity of them spun the Armada Class ships around until breaking beams hit into survivor suites and oxygen followed the rocks in escaping. They never had a chance to consider survival before becoming just more space debris with their bodies mingled with the dust no matter what wanted to be.
On the ground the demise of the ships wasn’t missed by the Admirals, who’d never intended to return to Dwarvia, anyway, but as good Commanders lied to everyone for their own ends but they now started to worry as it appeared that their own ends were approaching, and at a greater speed than they would have chosen.
There was some protection built into the castles, which at the moment were swaying and shaking – the castles and the protection – but for Martin Matira a more urgent problem was the seawater sweeping in from the east as the rocks in the sky approached even closer. His castle might stay upright but it was becoming surrounding by seas and Martin ran towards the causeway where the area to the north stayed flat, however, the causeway to the south was rising as hot rocks rose from the seas to the west; still with waters flooding in behind him, his land was reducing to about fifteen miles from north to south, and some thirty five miles east to west; he was effectively living in a diminishing empire.
A further irony for Martin was that he potentially had prisoners heading from behind him to the causeway, whilst on the other side of the causeway, he could find more prisoners waiting … life was becoming interesting for Admiral Martin Matira and his crew. He was already thinking of how he could blame his fellow Admirals for the treatment the prisoners had received.
It was going to be difficult to do but at least he was taking the livestock with him and that must be some bargaining point – providing the Guards held together and with the heat from the causeway, their boots as well.
It took a day before Martin Matira saw the causeway for himself and the prisoners were first – he and his guards outnumbered by some two to one. The odds would have higher had less prisoners died when the seas swept in around the Lodge and their camp.
The Guards in an all-out battle might win until their guns ran of power but Martin was already trying to organise a meeting with the prisoners; in the end he just cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “We have food and we’ll share it. If we work together we can survive, if we don’t, we’ll all die,” he watched as several of the prisoners nodded and began to speak to others.
Fairly obviously there were some prisoners here who still didn’t need nor had the ability for speech and that could mean the bonding was failing. Looking at them he could see prisoners from every planet he and the others had fought on, and the tentacles, arms, fists and faces remembered him and he automatically moved back into his squad of personal guards – not that it would make any difference if there was trouble.
Someone now handed him a small hailer, and he waited as he tried to get some saliva working around his jaws. Dribbling to be honest, seemed a better bet but he put his hand over his mouth whilst he thought of anything and everything that would make him salivate and also give him some idea of what to say to survive, and finally he gave up on trying to be smart.
He needed them to co-operate and they needed him to acknowledge he needed them there were a lot of needs!
He finally realised this and his thoughts started to do more than buzz around like mattock flies over a battlefield.
He used the small hailer again, “We have plastic boats that will get everyone, eventually, the ten miles to where the land starts again or it is only five miles to the lodge but there is no food and our food is alive but I don’t how we can take the animals with us. Do you want to take the risk or just wait until the rocks eventually cool and we can all move along the causeway. The main problems are we’re two miles from the sea sweeping in around the Lodge and ten miles from the sea sweeping in from the south. We have a fifteen mile gap between the seas closing in. They may stop; they may not? We can try and get to the Lodge and wait it out there, or here, or we risk the causeway and getting burnt.”
“If I may speak, Admiral?”
“Who are who?”
“Rafus Matira, Admiral – a distant relative.”
“Speak, Rafus, but quickly and briefly.”
“There is a cooling spell in my book. I cannot say how long it will last and for how long along the causeway it may function. The causeway is nearly fifty miles long. If we wait until the seas close in from the north and south, we could as a last resort use the spells to lower the temperature, even more – it might work, Admiral? It would buy us time.”
“With these rocks getting closer to the planet, Rafus, that may be all it does buy us, but I don’t have a better plan and no-one wishes to speak for the prisoners.”
His planned speech was interrupted by a rangy seven foot shape moving forward, “My name is Tolan.”
It’s feet and lower half were difficult to describe but its legs appeared to be wood and the lower areas above the legs stretched about five feet to its rear, but its chest was a foot in width but two foot in length and whilst it possess arms, they appeared to move as they wished, however its voice possessed a clear timbre and those arms if swung would deliver more than woodworm.
“We don’t have your style of Government, Admiral. We decide together what will happen.”
“What have you decided?”
“The seas haven’t reached us yet. The causeway is too hot. You have food and we all need to live – we wait and we will never be friends but we may be able to suffer each other. Some of our winged friends may extract meat from your herd but at a minimum and they will repay that. The choice is yours, Admiral, not ours. We need you but you surely need us more than we need you.”
“Your summary is correct although I don’t know what food we have to offer you?”
“Human flesh will be fine Admiral,” Tolan looked at Admiral Matira’s face, “I was joking Admiral, I actually each forest insects, which are actually very tasty. I suggest we make camp as best we can – some of us will be monitoring the movement of the seas.”
If Admiral Matira’s neck had stretched even more he would have looked like a newly born ostrich as he tried to draw himself above his five foot four inches but instead he look like someone who spent too long in the starch laundry. By now the prisoners were laughing; Guards were raising weapons and Tolan raised his hand, “The countryside is trying to kill us. Do we need to kill each other before it arrives?”
“Once again, Tolan, your words make sense. Let’s wait. We can always kill each other if the sea and land doesn’t?”
“We’ve tried enough times, Admiral Matira. If the clock was turned back and we could defeat your weapons, you would be dead but we all live or die together on this planet now! The planet is already trying to kill us which makes a change from your troops.”
“We need to come to an arrangement, Tolan.”
“We already have an arrangement, Martan. You took us – prisoners; shipped to a dying planet; killed, and we don’t trust you as far as I can eat a tree insect in the winter!”
“What do you want me to do? We were soldiers obeying orders.”
“Well this is an order, Martan Matira. Release the bounds and the mind-bonds you have placed on the Minuets. You have bound two of their eight legs and their telepathic abilities. Free them, so they can fly, see and help us. Free the Rocs as well. You have bound them so they cannot fly and cannot talk to each. So many of them Martan Matira, you have killed.”
“We didn’t know their needs as prisoners. We are Dwarfs.”
“Who attack innocent planets, enslave their people and don’t understand anyone’s life including your own?”
“We can argue all day but we need to decide something.”
“Free them, and then we decide,” then was a long pause and finally Martan managed to pull a long chain over his head and handed it to Tolan.
“Touch the jewel in the centre to each. Slow but it is all I have. It will free all bonds and restrictions.”
“There are thousands of us; this will take forever.”
“Then the sooner you start the better.”
Tolan handed the chain to another Tron, “notify everyone and use it to free them.”
Turning to Martan Matira, he said, “You keep your part of the bargain and we will keep ours. As soon as they are freed, the Rocs and Minuets will take off and check the sea-levels, flooding, and the heat of the causeway. That will tell us which way and how soon we must move. Now my people must seek food,” and with that brief statement, Tolan’s wooden feet made an almost clip-clop noise as he trotted back to the prisoners waving the chain and jewel.
“Touch this to your chains and then learn to fly again. Your muscles will probably be weak, so move slowly,” and he watched as the chain was applied by Yogush, his son to those bound in chains. Slowly chains started to fall off but Yogush held tightly to the chain – there were rivalries between the prisoners and Tolan did not want the chain and jewel withheld because of infighting.
Martan watched as well as wonder how David Jamesson and James Droga were managing. He had two sets of prisoners to handle; one with him know and another set on the other side of the causeway unless they had headed north. David Jamesson’s were only about ten mile from him but could held north towards to sea or west towards James Droga. The main issue for him was he’d watched the Armada Class ships explode and the rocks in the sky were still there although it looked as if they were now leaving this area but what the effect of them leaving would be was another matter.
The prisoners to the west had now managed some fifteen miles, moving towards the north but already the were bordered to the east and by a stretch of sea some twenty square miles in area, leaving them with a narrow escape of some eight miles before the seas to the west began. They finally halted and once again it was the Trons who took control, and stopping the march the spoke by telepathy to those could still hear and weren’t blocked.
“There is some land to the east which has not flooded and also a causeway is being raised to further lands to the east. It might be a better decision to head that way. If the sea sweeps in any more we will drown. This way we might survive and escape the seas.”
“I don’t know; perhaps for non-forest dwellers we might find fish but there are some four legged animals and my people are herding them towards us as we speak. Perhaps some of our Wolfen friends could butcher for us.”
At that moment from the Wolfen friends, Masketh the Tron received a very irate telepathic message, “We are not butchers; we only kill at need and we all have our front two legs in shackles. We couldn’t jump and bring down an animal if we wanted to but we will share your food.”
Masketh replied as quietly as he could using his telepathic abilities, “Does anyone have any weapons. We need to kill these animals humanely.”
“Then keep them away from the Dwarf butchers. They’d kill anything and anyone.”
Masketh stood there quietly. It was not going to be easy. He was still stood there when a Rock Troll finally managed to reach him. Once again the Rock Troll was shackled to prevent him from moving at speed.
The Rock Trolls were some eight foot in height and when they spoke you could almost taste the dust, “We don’t eat meat, Masketh and there are enough fresh stones for us but we can kill your animals for you.”
“Thank you, Strogged. We need to feed as many as possible. Your; and your friends assistance is very welcome. I suggest, given the speed we can move at, that we move to the east to meet the herds and away from the seas.”
The prisoners to the north-east were still arguing amongst themselves. Some wanted to move south to David Jamesson’s castle – which was closer, whilst others chose to move west towards James Droga’s castle but food, once again was a problem and in the light of this they decided to move south to Jamesson’s castle some seven miles away. There were still twenty thousand but all still shackled and they slowly made their way south towards the castle.
The prisoners to the south had lost a third of their number when the seas rose around the lodge but the reality of the flooding was that Destraight was virtually cut in two with only a gap of land to the west of some five to ten miles still intact at the midway point and the rocks might have passed overhead but they were in the sky; still moving to the west and what happened after that was any creature’s guess – even the Admiral’s. Martan decided to slaughter some of the animals so at least he appeared to be keeping his word but it was a long night and the noise for the prisoner’s camp seemed to increase by the minute as they regained their abilities.
By the morning the Trons, who for some reason did not have their telepathic abilities interfered with by the manacles – possibly because they were wooden and it interfered with the signals to a nervous system that was unknown – had communicated with the other prisoners who were now heading for the causeway.
Admiral Matira’s key was already releasing their leaders and the Wolfen – who took over the killing; Rock Trolls were very humane in their killing but the impact of the fists left traces of stone in the animals they killed although the Wolfen tended to kill the animals and then eat them – a compromise was being looked for and another compromise was going to be needed as one of the rocks left the sky and hit an area near James Droga’s castle.
It didn’t take much for them to see the red fire spring up, or to those who could fly – to fly – the seas started to sweep in towards but the causeway started to rise even more and it was hot. The prisoners saw the impact, and manacled, they tried to run. It took some time until the waters swept in towards the heat of the causeway.
They had felt the impact and watched as the skies darkened with the land vibrating; heat erupting; the seas swirling, but it looked as though the rock had missed the land and hit the deep sea.
Not to say it didn’t change the world but there seemed to be some protection in West Toshonia where the land had risen and was preventing the seas sweeping in from the south and the west but the water sweeping in from the north were low – the rocks were saving the prisoners who couldn’t fly around Martina Matira.
To the west where every prisoner was manacled, there seemed little that would save the prisoners as the waters carried on moving towards them. They wouldn’t need to worry any more about food, or fresh water and they watched as the waters moved in but their horror became worse as a torrent 10 foot high swept over them and headed towards the causeway. They were swept to the east and few who would survive in these waters would be smashed into the rocks.
James Droga in his castle watched at the waters hit the wall and swirled around. The walls held and he felt he would be one of the strongest left but with little more than his guard he didn’t fill that strong. Still, he was alive.
David Jamesson’s castle also held, making his problems were less. The prisoners approaching his castle also lucky. They were enough from the sea to survive unlike the prisoners to the south-west as they moved away from the sea to the west, moved towards it to the south and north where it had swept in and the rocks affected the tides and land.
Martin Matira watched the waters hit the causeway which now steamed. He could see bodies washing up and knew few would survive. That left some twenty thousand prisoners to the North; about ten thousand near him and maybe a few hundreds to the west, if they were very lucky. Already the air was full of Rocs swooping above the causeway and returning with anyone they found still alive. Eventually they started to return with dead animals which they dropped by the remaining prisoners.
Out of the sixty thousand prisoners who’d landed, there were probably thirty thousand still alive but worrying for Martin was that they would be allied to David Jamesson against the ten thousand allied to him, still the pleasant thought was that James Droga had nothing but his guard and could be taken at their leisure.
David Jamesson’s thoughts, however, were certainly different as he watched the prisoners approaching his castle. They might be slow with their manacles but there were enough to surround his castle and starve him out, and already some were herding animals to the front of his castle and starting fires.
He finally decided to face them and ignored the noise as he left the castle without guards. Once again he faced a Tron.
“My name is Sallesh. I have been appointed to speak for my friends and enemies.”
“You are in need, Sallesh, and so are your friends and enemies?”
The timbre of Sallesh echoed as he spoke, “We are not in need, Admiral Jamesson. We have food; the waters haven’t moved. We haven’t lost people and you have the key to free us, and we know that. You Admirals planned to keep every prisoner bound until he accepted you as his Lord and was freed from his manacles. You and your brethren would use us as slaves and then we would be your bondsmen. You need us – we don’t need you.”
“I don’t have a key to free you. That was on the ship.”
“We know Admiral Matira had a key and he has released that to his prisoners. If he had a key then so you would and Admiral Droga. We will split our forces and send some to Admiral Droga but some of us still have telepathic abilities and we Trons can speak within a certain distance to others and we will do that. You find might honesty of more use to you, Admiral Jamesson. We will eventually be freed, with or without your key.”
David Jamesson stood there, saying nothing. What the hell was Martan Matira doing. Each prisoners was supposed to accept personal bondage before being released. That had been the plan. Each of them would then have twenty thousand bond-men to work the lands and be ruled. Now they were aggressive, communicating with each other and already knew or had guessed at the Admiral’s plans. All because of Martan Matira; still the Matira’s had always been weak.
Jamesson now turned on his heel and surveyed his castle – with only one floor completed, he needed workers.
He could probably managed a hundred armed guards but they wouldn’t stay armed for long without power to recharge the side-arms and against twenty thousand prisoners … no … it was probably better to give the key up. There wasn’t much left anyway after the floods and who knew how badly the north had been hit. Let them be free – there would be time to rule.
Reluctantly he pulled the chain and jewel over his head and passed it to Sallesh, who took it, released his own manacles and then moved amongst the prisoners, who like the others just stood there looking dazed; the Rocs especially, who not had a chance to use their wings in some sixty years.
Some forty light years away, orbiting Dwarvia, five ships were being loaded with a further group of manacled prisoners onto the Armada Class Prison ships. The Admirals were once again chosen for their political affiliations and connections to the top families. They were also chosen as the High Council felt they were causing more wars than Dwarvia could afford, and with twenty thousand prisoners per ship, they were rid of another hundred thousand prisoners from Dwarvia.
Marcel Droga captained the Lloap; Stefen Matira the Mastra; Peter Jamesson the Noctra; Percival de Bowed the Speca, and Argus du Storme the Mightnare.
The types of prisoner were standard. The Trons – 7 ft by ft telepathic wooden creatures, considered peaceful by the Dwarfs, who still invaded their planets. The Minuets – 6 ft telepaths but with eight spindly legs. The Rocs again were telepaths but only 4 ft high, which did not prevent from carrying men and animals off to a great height. The Wolfen were again telepaths but 3 ft high four legged bunches of often violent fur. The Slurms were the most dangerous in terms of ferocity – they preferred darkness but Snake-like and almost transparent – they were the most feared and were covered with what seemed like a bag but were treated with extreme care as an escaped Slurm would cause havoc on a ship the size of the Armada Class. The remainder were Humans, Dwarfs and Rock Trolls who no-one could miss, and very seldom did.
The Armada Class ships were finally loaded and moved off.
As prisoners started to be freed and fed several of Martan’s new colleagues finally took off and landed by the Lodge – now completely encircled by water and containing some four thousand of those who’d landed with them. Immediately one took off to find the release key.
Ten thousand of them had been caught by the floods and with limbs bound, those who couldn’t find debris to float on, sank. Four thousand of those nearest to the Lodge had survived but survival was all they could manage and when they learnt that the Admirals could have set them free there were instant cries of vengeance.
Tona the Roc, finally managed to transmit a message to those who could hear her, “Barely a few survived of the twenty thousand to the west. They were dumped and left whilst James Droga headed to the north-west. They didn’t even have the option of the key. The crooks are Jamesson and Matira … I think they wanted everything and even betrayed their own. With yourselves there are probably thirty four thousand of us left and we need to work together to stop these Admirals from controlling us and using us as slaves.
David Jamesson watched the prisoner’s faces as freedom finally happened. Houses had been created around all of the castles and most of them were now under or near water but the rocks, apart from the ones that landed had now left this area of the sky and the waters were receding.
All that was left for the prisoners was the support from the land and the animals roaming it that had survived but even rotted carcases were being eaten by the Wolfen and this helped to keep disease down. Reluctantly half of the prisoners moved towards David Jamesson’s castle while the other half started the long journey to James Droga – some seventy miles away. Some mistook another castle from James Droga’s and detoured ten miles to the south to find it unoccupied although the gates were open and one floor of it was furnished. At low tide they were able to enter through the gates but didn’t linger as the tide started to come back in. They did find some fresh water lakes, however, en-route and that allowed them and the animals they were driving to drink.
It took about a week before James Droga looking out from his Manor saw ten thousand prisoners approaching. Due to yet another computer glitch, the build of his castle was some five mile away on the coast to the north-west from his Manor whilst his barracks were built some ten miles to the north-east, leaving the Manor completely isolated and defenceless … something that hadn’t escaped his attention and nor did ten thousand prisoners suddenly appearing on his doorstep; still they did have livestock and with no defences he decided to meet them and their leader – Sallesh, who having dealt with David Jamesson was selected to deal with James Droga.
James, who’d already received reports that most of the country allocated to him had been virtually washed away was not at his happiest when Sallesh demanded his chain and jewel to free the prisoners, still manacled but faced with instant death if he didn’t he didn’t bother to argue … it seemed to be his only chance of survival. He knew he’d been set up; either by the Admirals or the politics of Dwarvia.
The political parties of Dwarvia were so devious that families rose and fell in esteem and his was one of the foremost in invasion and wars … a lot of Dwarfs disliked the power his family possessed and he felt this was their revenge against his family by the weaker families of Matira and Jamesson.
The key was instantly used and Sallesh looked at him for a long time before speaking, “The other Admirals tried to bargain. You haven’t?”
“What is the point? I’ve been betrayed as much as you have. What do I have left? You have livestock; I have very little. My castle is miles away, as it my barracks and I cannot face ten thousand people, even if I wanted to.”
“At least you call us people; your other Admirals call us prisoners.”
“I accept life … they think they control it.”
“Where are the towns and other villages that other castles have.”
“I originally landed where I thought I should be but the scout ship had been programmed to bring me here. There are castles to south-east and south-west. They are probably swamped with water by now but the waters are starting to recede, I hope, and once cleaned up should be habitable but I wonder whether this planet was ever truly mapped. How many more rocks will arrive in the sky?”
“I don’t know, Admiral Droga but it looks as though you are as much a victim of Dwarvia as we are. There is fresh water here and in return we will leave some beasts. You gave your key willingly and for that, at least, we will consider there is an offer and our acceptance and that is an agreement. Do not break it!”
“Go in peace, Sallesh, the agreement will not be broken by myself.”
Sallesh looked around and saw that already fires were being lit; animals killed, and he looked towards the nearby forest for his own meal. They would wait and then head to the other castles.
Chapter II – Betrayal
Left to their own a life of sorts started to evolve. The Slurms essentially disappeared; the Humans, Dwarfs and Trons lived above ground although the Trons preferred the forests as did the Minuets who lived in the trees. The Rocs, Wolfen and Rock Trolls headed for the rocks and mountains. With telepathic abilities they were in communication at times and this left everything fairly peaceful. The one odd thing was Rafus Matira – a distant relative of Martan Matira who joined the prisoners heading for the lodge and onwards to David Jamesson’s castle carrying his books of magic.
Unbeknown to them, however, five Armada Class ships with a hundred thousand prisoners and a bunch of war hungry Admirals was on the way and this time the Admirals ensured they wouldn’t be landing in Scout Ships with a few guards. Each Admiral’s entourage was a thousand strong and their Scout Ships were Gunships. They were looking forward to resistance.
Life finally settled down in a spirit of co-operation. The floods receded, the causeway remained and, if anything, seemed to be wider – it was now ten miles wide and fifty miles in length, escorted to the south by a mountain range now inhabited by Rock Trolls and Roc birds.
Some green areas rose from the sea and still stayed above sea-level; a stretch of water from Jamesson’s castle to virtually the coast with Matira also stayed firmly in place.
The Lodge was now accessible to the degree that it was inhabited by four thousand prisoners and a thriving town was building up around the Lodge as other prisoners flocked to it.
The ex-prisoners still called themselves the prisoners – it seemed a good name and especially when dealing with the Admirals.
Martan Matira had now moved to Toshon and was trying to build a castle in front of the rocks to the south bit for now, life seemed to have settled.
Thirty light years away, five Armada Class prisoner ships halted.
The crews were now waking up the Admirals and the news was not good.
The engines should last the forty light years to reach Destraight after they had virtually failed, leaving five Armada Class Prison ships with malfunctioning engines some ten light years from Dwarvia meaning if they turned around, it would take forty to a hundred years to return to nothing or one hundred and forty to four hundred years to reach Destraight.
An emergency meeting of Admirals assembled on the Noctra. Marcel Droga from the Lloap; Stefen Matira from the Mastra; Peter Jamesson from the Noctra; Percival de Bowed from the Speca, and Argus du Storme from the Mightnare.
“Who did it?” Shouted Marcel Droga, “and to all our ships—”
“Someone fixed these ships before we left – they put degraded parts into our systems and they will degrade more as we travel. In essence, we’re abandoned in space. Forty years to a hundred years to return to nothing; one hundred and forty years to four hundred years to reach our target system and rule.”
“Thank you, Peter, but we already knew that,” Stefen Matira looked around the table, “who set it up?”
“What does that matter, Stefen. It was done, and before we left!”
“It matters to me, Peter! Who would have the ability to sabotage our ships to break down after we are too far from help but reduced to a crawl to reach any target and what target are we reaching for?”
“Anyone of the peace party, Stefen. They don’t want us to make people respect force; they want control and to throw away all we achieved … this way we are out of the way for between forty and four hundred years and by that time we returned, if we chose to, they expect to rule with no-one to challenge them.”
“Damn Politicians. We have the ability to blast these traitors on Dwarvia—”
“What would be the point, Stefen? It would take forty to a hundred and twenty years to get there and how would we prove they’d destroyed us and we don’t have the men to attack Dwarvia.
“—We’re fighters not politicians. We might as well sleep and make our own world to Destraight – we’ll just sleep a little longer. It won’t take much to clear it out and we have enough prisoners to start planet life as we decide. At least this time, we have brought women with us to make sure this world breeds good, healthy, dwarfs who will produce good, healthy, children and we will build our own empire.”
“We just destroy everyone else?”
“Then we might as well sleep, Marcel.”
The Admirals returned to their own ships and sleep. The crews put the ships on automatic and settled themselves down. They would either arrive or not and no-one monitored anything as they slept on a journey set for an unknown planet with no arrival time.
On Destraight, Martan Matira slowly built his new castle in Toshon with the rocks to the south of his castle and a town to the north. His new castle was fairly elaborate although it could improve with a good manager but unlike the computer glitched builds from the first planet landing, it possessed more than one habitable floor and its castle walls seemed to go on for ever in every direction.
Martan’s castle now nestled with the rocks stretching from the south-west to the south-east for as far as the eye could but with the salt lake, there was only a single person path to Matira and the east side of what was now known as Toshonia. Two people could use the path but only if they were very close friends. One was rocks you could climb over, the other side a salt lake you could paddle. The only route left in reality was the other end of the salt lake by David Jamesson’s castle.
David Jamesson had called his territory Ascania whilst James Droga spent most of his time trying to hang onto his undefinable properties to the north-east and the only names he thought of are those usually paraphrased using the 2nd level of the keyboard.
Between the three Admirals and the prisoners there seemed to be a quorum. The reconciliation board, when it met, comprised the three Trons who represented the prisoners, and the three Admirals with six Minuets taking notes for both sides.
Tron leaders also acted as telepathic links between the Admirals which frightened them to a degree as the Trons didn’t edit the true thoughts of the Admirals before they past them on but it worked. Honesty, when all the subtle games you thought to play are made public and documented by the Minuets as everyone laughs and you don’t like to be laughed at.
Life moved on, and people – a generic term for People on Destraight – built their own kinds of life and worked to build their own dreams.
In space however there were five ships that might interfere with those thoughts! Or then again, might never arrive to interfere.
Revenge is often a dish that changes much but often festers; distorts, and is disjointed as it moves through emotion, vision and belief until it almost becomes religion in its festering state and those Armada Class prison ships were as silent as the grave but the desire for revenge was never stronger. They slowly moved on with the engines failing by the day and it looked as if four hundred years for the journey was optimistic but everything and everyone was shutdown to save energy. The shields were still at full force but it seemed only a matter of time before they began to fracture although with everyone in stasis and everything reduced to a minimum, the power might last out or they would never know if it didn’t!
On Destraight life was fairly simple. The town around the Lodge was booming. The planted some kind of wheat, trees and had herds of animals held in pens whilst the united to force wolf like animals from the land and they were helped by the Wolfen, who were three times the size and communicated with the Tron leaders who everyone accepted. The Trons also communicated with the Admirals via other Trons and ensured issues were discussed and solved.
After its initial failures the land was finally developing. Mines were being opened up and quartz, iron and minerals were being hewn.
Destraight, however, wasn’t that careful and a lot of mines and deep holes were being left as they dug holes and left them. There was ore running into water supplies and contaminating them, and some of the mines were dug too deeply and poorly supported with them collapsing leaving miners buried underground and a meeting in the main plaza was being held as I write.
It wasn’t only the Lodge that was two hundred foot high; various element to the west and south were two hundred foot high. The town itself was a semi-circle around the Lodge which was its centre but like all of the computer builds from the first landing – odd.
There were streets, a court, some other buildings that range from a hundred foot to thirty foot in height. It had evolved as its people evolved and like them, seemed a mess but it helped as they led real and not fictitious lives. Some of them were strange and no-one asked the wooden Trons about their young or the Minuets – they both essentially lived in the forests and were only seen at meetings – and being telepaths often didn’t need to be anywhere but both were fundamental to the working of Destraight and were tolerated and trusted, even though they didn’t mix but life moved on, on Destraight and it did this for nearly five hundred years until once, they its people saw five red objects appearing in the sky and headed to their bunkers.
After the loss of life when the first rocks appeared in the sky the people of Destraight had, almost as a religion, created and buried supplies of water and food. This was changed regularly and used as animal feed. The safety buildings were designed to be watertight and could take, in theory, the earth moving, with emergency tunnels and exits leading from them.
The aim was to allow enough people to survive. The Trons being wood, would float, and the Minuets and Rocs could fly but the Rocs and Rock Trolls had taken refuge in the high mountains and should be safe against anything.
The biggest danger was to the Wolfen. No matter how people adjusted, they had never adjusted to the Wolfen who were now virtually driven to extinction although people claimed to have seen them at times.
The Wolfen for their part, could also claim to have seen people at times but they kept to themselves and the old ways and they knew how to hide, often calling themselves ‘the Old Folk’. They tended to only speak to the Rocs, Trons and Minuets so it wasn’t that surprising that they seemed to decrease in numbers.
Life just slowly moved on as Destraight worked; there were problems but when everyone is told what the leaders are really thinking it embarrasses everyone and agreements were usually quickly made.
Chapter III – Destruction
Finally five red ships arrived in the sky and scout ships descended.
The Admirals stayed in the skies and the scout ships mapped the territories and reported to the five Admirals who sat in a conference which like a lot of meetings where the same person takes the notes moves in one direction – as domination by the Admirals … the Admirals weren’t even interested in Government bullying via a democracy; they would build their empires and dominate them, as they had, dominated so many other planets and there were a few relatives safely sealed up – not all volunteers as the Admirals later admitted, but only to themselves but you look after your family even when they don’t want you to … they would thank you later, if they were woken from a stasis sleep and you thought they wouldn’t kill you before you killed them.
Control was absolute and Admirals would rule, in between arguing with each other.
There was to the Admirals, only topic on the table: where to put the Clean Bombs.
They didn’t want their planet messed up; just everyone cleaned out but as with every plan it is always fine in theory, however the prisoners weren’t in their correct positions and that made the Admirals uneasy.
There was water where land should have been and a dispersed population which interfered with their ideas of clean bombs and a clean slate. It had taken a while for them to decide to use a Clean Bomb; most of the Admirals favoured dirty weapons and coming back at some much later point when they had destroyed a planet; there was no coming back to this planet so they agreed to change the texture of the bomb casings.
This way, when the thermonuclear explosives are detonated, the power would not be contained within the warhead but move ahead of the warhead and explosive force thus reducing the main force but putting the radiation ahead of the bomb while weakening it so the radiation killed people but left the buildings standing and the Admirals loved this idea as they could immediately move in and so it wasn’t Scout Ships that were scouting Destraight but attack ships seeking the targets.
The people of Destraight watched as the ships circled above them and most immediately panicked and run for the bolt holes – the politicians ran for their castles and the bombs reigned on the castles; the prisoner drop points and because at least one Admiral could not resist destroying, lethal bombs also rained as he turn the air and land into something no-one could endure … his name was Percival de Bowed – a name now remembered.
The various races had already moved as much as the could but the Trons above ground were burnt alive and so were the Minuets. The Rocs and Rock Trolls had protection but the bombs of the other Admirals penetrated and killed whilst Percival de Bowed’s bombs destroyed the land and the races.
Those who’d managed to get deep enough survived by instinct but a land and its people were being killed for glory and possession.
Four of the Admiral’s bombs were targeted at the Castles to kill everyone in them but Percival de Bowed’s bombs seemed to be random. One was between his and James Droga’s castle with a second and third to the north-east of his castle and ten to twenty miles away. He had in fact cut himself and the Droga castle off from everything but a route to the east.
A fourth bomb exploded near the prisoners camp some ten miles from Toshon castle and the final bomb landed some ten miles from the Lodge. The Admirals had not known of the move to Toshon but by accident Percival de Bowed had nearly destroyed it whilst Matira, deserted in the floods some four hundred years before had been cleaned bombed. The computer built castles had protection build into the structure and would survive but a dirty bomb had already taken out one prisoners camp, whilst another hit the area around the Lodge.
The power of the Attack and Scout ships however, was a drain on the Admiral’s space support systems and as power now dropped to various low levels tubes automatically appeared onto the planet without waiting and prisoners and associates were dropped in, in more ways than one, before the Admirals realised.
Where the clean bombs had gone the old prisoner camps still existed – kept almost as monuments – but where de Bowed’s dirty bombs had gone there were now large radioactive holes.
The four Admirals faced disaster as their power ran out and they were running for the tubes with protective suits on and down to the polluted planet as all the ships started loosing power but one Admiral also had nuclear protection and a very limited lifespan if the other Admirals found him and Percival de Bowed was already at a castle to the north-west.
The new prisoners and associates were dumped at the site near Toshon; the one near Ascan and near the Lodge. The Toshon site some miles from a Percival de Bowed dirty bomb but the sites near castle Jamesson, and between the Lodge and Matira were clear.
Once the prisoners near Toshon had been wiped out – four hundred years by the sea sweeping in and now by a dirty bomb but already the waters were sweeping into the hole left by the bomb and debris, bodies and radiation were floated together. Toshon once again was a seaside castle to the west.
I suppose, if you were alive, life became interesting. Dwarfs normally live very long lives and now Marcel Droga was meeting an old James Droga; Stefen Matira was in Matira whilst Martan Matira was in Toshon and Peter Jamesson was meeting David Jamesson. No-one was meeting Percival de Bowed however that was by his choice and although Angus du Storme’s castle was shielded by mountains, his castle had been bracketed by two of Percival’s dirty bombs.
When the Admirals thought about it looked fairly obvious that Percival’s main target for his bombs had been to destroy the Droga and Du Storme castles; leaving his own as the castle in the north-west. Percival’s dinner invitations had now reached zero and the only punch served would come from a fist.
One other result of Percival de Bowed’s actions was the bomb by the Lodge also destroyed the sea defences and while the water sweeping in hadn’t touched the Lodge it had cut off the north-east and north-west sections of Destraight. Matira was cut off, apart a narrow causeway to the west.
The prisoners in the camp were now literally prisoners with in theory, no where they could go and that was for nearly forty thousand people. They couldn’t touch the fish as they were radioactive and whilst the explosion site was now under the sea, and they were forty miles from the bomb site, they were now eight miles away from the water and they as their predecessors had been, were manacled; unable to move at speed or with any precision.
The Trons had nowhere to escape as the forests burnt, nor did the Minuets although the Trons ran for the water and Minuets tried to fly to safety.
The Rocs in the mountains near Toshon were partially shielded from the blast but not the radiation however the people in the towns near the castles were obliterated where they were within range of the bombs.
The castles had protection designed into them from the beginning but outside, the towns had none and whilst the buildings remained intact, the people died; the food, the animals and those who hadn’t bolt holes or didn’t bolt became the Admiral’s main destruction dish of death.
No-one had ever told them that clean bombs killed everyone but not the buildings.
Dirty bombs normally kill by immediate blast and then by radiation, either directly or carried on the wind that the bomb creates.
The castles survived but everything else either died immediately or slowly, afterwards – there was no clean solution. The sea swept in at various places and once again the country was cut off as if it were strategic bombing and several bombs did in fact miss their targets completely. Over the next twenty four hours all bomb sites were flooded as the seas poured in however a new map of Destraight would show Percival de Bowed’s castle surrounded by water with the nearest land some ten miles to the east as it seemed to have been detached from the land.
Droga and Du Storme’s castles just escaped but De Bowed’s castle was not even on land any more and the prisoner’s camp outside Toshon was under water however a De Bowed dirty bomb had killed them before the waters flowed in so at least it was probably quicker than drowning.
The major issue for James Droga and Marcel Droga was that both were alive but now in the same place.
With the dirty bombs having been launched, Argus du Storme wanted revenge and Percival de Bowed might not think he was lucky, stuck in sea but the other Admirals wished to stick him somewhere else and preferably below ground.
Stefen and Martan Matira still didn’t know the other existed and Stefen was locked away in the south-east of the country, in an abandoned castle with only one habitable floor created four hundred years ago.
Chapter IV – Settlement
The Admirals were not achieving their goals and already the old keys were passing amongst the some of the new prisoners near David Jamesson’s castle – freeing them from the manacles as the Rocs managed to communicate and used the keys from previous Admirals.
The new Admirals were not only losing their ideas as the previous Admirals had but a slave force supposed to be bonded to them for being released from their manacles wasn’t happening.
Dwarf politics were not only vicious but also often terminal and they started with James Droga and his small guard overwhelmed; the same for David Jamesson – leaving Droga castle with Marcel Droga and Ascan castle with Peter Jamesson as leaders – in their own eyes at least.
Two Dwarfs, they say is an argument, three, a war, Marcel Droga and Peter Jamesson upped the ante!
For Argus du Storme however, all he needed to do was concentrate on his castle which like the other computer glitched castles was all laid out on one floor but this time underground. Cursing computer glitches he’d already started work on vents to the surface and getting air into the vaults but creating vents was a chicken and egg process with the people running around as if they were … well … chickens.
They had wiped out the Trons and Minuets telepathy so anyone’s knowledge of the true thoughts of the Admirals ceased … yet some of the Trons and Minuets with their telepathy survived in the north-east and the north – there were rumours of them around Toshon as well but they were hunted and killed by Griselda almost as a hobby.
Stefen, however, seemed unaware that the Minuets could fly, and the Trons – being wood – could float, whilst the Wolfen could shape-change, so some of the old races were finding refuge although one of Percival’s dirty bombs had landed some twenty miles from the Lodge which is where most were heading for and Stefen laughed at what they would find.
Had he know that the Lodge had refuges and bolt-holes and when the sea swept in – yet again – it diluted the radiation as the bomb hit some twenty miles away – near the sea – and the floods protected the survivors in various ways including sweeping the radiation away he would have thought more but most inhabitants of the Lodge were now completely underground although the radiation affected some and who knew what that affect would be in years to come.
Above ground people scrabbled for life and anything else they could find.
Chapter V – Love
Rafus – once one of Griselda’s lovers, and with Griselda you were either be dead or a ‘Lover’ if she sought you; and love was always with a knife at your throat for performance or in it if you failed or lacked interest … with luck you could managed both … escape? Speed was often of the essence and you’d better be fast, although not too fast in bed … time to think … it was a tricky endeavour as Griselda never sought intelligence, just absolute dedication to the jobs she wished fulfilled.
Stefen Matira decision to wake Griselda Matira was with a degree of trepidation and a lot of spewing up – strategy decisions were never his strong point and his wife was a strong point … an assassin … probably a necessity in clearing out the deadwood and death was probably a necessity in her … if he ever could manage it. Griselda was good at wood clearing but near himself he wondered whether he wanted a woman who put a knife to his throat whilst making love or in a lot of other throats as a hobby.
He’d also had Runnel – a daughter from Griselda – woken up but the more he considered Griselda, the more he considered marrying a second wife as Griselda would rather kill than make love.
He also wondered whether there was enough killing to keep even Griselda happy.
Again and again he found reasons to keep Griselda from his bedchamber – the male equivalent of a headache as he used his guards to make sure he had one, and to a degree, honesty was there, for a change … Griselda would give anyone a headache.
It had all seemed so easy to wake her up until he realised his mistake. Stefen’s thoughts at this time also move to his thinking about Rafus with a degree of gratitude for keeping her occupied … Rafus seemed to be a dedicated Dwarf in all areas.
Stefen considered Rafus as he would a useful – Stefen didn’t really like the term but it was appropriate for Rafus – King’s idiot. In Rafus’s case … pet dog seemed a little cruel although perhaps not that cruel … Rafus had behaved like a dog with Griselda, which kept her and her knife away from Stefen and was very much appreciated.
It might be a custom for a wife to wear her bridal knife when vows were exchanged but there was no custom for wearing in bed or gently blood-soaking the linens when making love. Stefen had possessed enough scars before he met Griselda, both in his head and on his body but he owed Rafus something for taking them in his place from Griselda but the name inspired fear and kept his people regular in the mornings and Runnel’s first would be called Griselda to keep the name and he already had another replacement as a killer and she might also be renamed Griselda – perhaps Royalty beckoned for another killer but one he didn’t have to sleep with.
To Drufus, his magic was an escape and he liked it – that it never really seemed to work was a problem. He kept the scrolls in a chest in the castle and at times he would just sit there looking at the scrolls although he preferred Weena’s chest. Whether his allure worked its magic over a long time with either, was debatable.
He heard that the scrolls needed to live off each other but most of the time, everyone seemed to be living off him. That was probably fantasy as Drufus didn’t have anything for anyone to live off however he believed in the scrolls as he believed in Weena but sometimes you can be wrong twice and unfortunately for Drufus, his habit was to be wrong on every occasion.
Weena was usually wrong as many times as Drufus but whether this was due to Drufus or Weena was between themselves; she plied her trade through the streets narrow, and narrower, but that was usually because she felt she was worth a lot more money in bed: she would need a long life to prove that statement to be true; others however preferred narrow streets and darkness and cheap women. Dwarfs usually lived a long time unless they’d met Griselda, and to Rafus, any night was a bad night when he met Griselda but Weena took the little gold he offered. She didn’t worry Rafus that something might be stirring inside her. The chances that it came from Rafus was very little?
The one thing that was bothering her, though was the rumours of his involvement with Griselda. If he was involved with Griselda then having a child by him would be rubbing her face into the dirt and she knew that Griselda would look for another notch on her knife plait if she found out.
Still the child could be anyone’s and he could find the street; how would she know who’d she slept with … the money talked and so did his legs … slam, bang, gold now, ram. Maybe she needed to vanish and quickly?
Drufus often vanished, although usually mentally when faced with life, still he was performing in a variety of ways which often gave him time to research some magic in the temples of Druncheon – a bit like digging through tonnes of silt to find a diamond in the sky.
He could have done with a lot more magic and a lot less Griselda but the world sometimes just gets that thumb’s up sign reversed.
As far as belief went … it seemed to find its own avenues but it was flooding in and drenching the priests in their new robes. A lot of prayers raised: resulting usually from meeting Griselda and people were building temples – Gods appearing, or so the new Priests claimed; especially after several fiery occurrences that Rafus knew were the Priests inspiring belief and questioners facing a fiery furnace if they argued.
Priests could really live from inspired belief in Gods, but a bacon and sausage sandwich in the early hours when you’re really praying for a bite to eat was where you really found belief and they had now started charity kitchens for those wondering the streets … what Gods the priests inspired by doing this, might seem a subject for discussion as they bit deeply into the supplicant’s offerings but the Gods they these people offered their thoughts to, were the guys with the trays who ran the late night service to the temples.
Druncheon was held to have appeared as the Dwarf God although his shape made him looked like a puppet god and Gods don’t usually wear slippers, but he was present in some form or other although most people seemed to have the own Gods – usually viewed from the gutter at this time of night.
Humans looked to the God – Astoron – who seemed to be available on some occasions … often in a mask, surrounded by priests holding him up but belief, usually after a bad day’s trading … especially when you were caught for short measure and short-changing. Hanging by your thumbs while you balance on your toes encouraged prayer, usually to avoid to hanging the next time by your neck.
An Elven God had also appeared according to rumour although no-one saw any Elves and the Elven temple never saw anyone but Priests; still it kept them off the streets and there was obviously money coming from somewhere.
The was no God for the Old Folk who spent too much of their time ducking to consider a God as a defence – they, not Gods, were usually the target … well what use is a God to hide behind when he is transparent.
They knew it wasn’t that easy to tell who they were anyway but people who were ill tended to find them and their culture was to help those who needed help which also protected them – you might get ill tomorrow as well and those little jars that eased problems were always welcome amongst a lot of earning people.
Rulers usually complained about the Old Folk as they couldn’t control them but it’s difficult to have laws for people you can’t find, so the Clerks were ordered to tidy up any deaths … still it was often difficult to deal with folk who don’t really fit in.
The People who usually lived underground were attacked on sight for being different and they attacked right back … not easy for the Trons and Minuets who couldn’t survive below ground.
They could fly and float but when Griselda’s teams spread out to kill anything she could find an excuse to kill, all they could do to hide was to have countless young which diminished them, and hope they wouldn’t be easily seen as they buried them in various underground areas – Griselda’s killers to a degree would just kill animals and tell her the blood belonged to whatever she wanted to kill but when the hounds came in there was little they could do but seek the Cats who were telepathic and attacked the hounds.
Others who survived and did stay above ground might be Wolfen or just new and old prisoners the Dwarfs hadn’t killed yet; the Dwarfs in the main, didn’t really seem to care who or what they killed but they weren’t quiet and enough Old Stock were still about to watch as they rode out from the castles and send the word ahead to waiting minds.
The Dwarfs were now realising their ideas of killing and dominating those left wasn’t really working and also claims of Elven Temples being created worried them.
Elves were barred from the ships. They were vicious, bureaucratic destroyers of life. At one time they had made up almost all of Dwarvia’s Uncivil Service.
They lived for the mundane and words; at one time an error on a document led them to order the complete destruction of a planet.
One thing the Admirals had agreed upon, was no Elves.
Everyone hated them as they seemed to be everywhere and in everything.
The Admirals hated those who claimed they had Elven connections and blood, but in loading people into the Armada Class Prison Ships they’d had robots checking for Elves as the Elves and robots seemed to have a lot in common in their behaviour … like Politicians on that funny world – Crapen.
It seemed, to a degree, to be a mind-blank for the Admirals. There were no Elven people on Astoria and as the Admirals decided they’re weren’t any … they’re wouldn’t be any. So, someone had sabotaged the engines – any Political Party on Dwarvia could have done that. If there were any Elves on this planet, they would be sought out and destroyed but since they didn’t exist, there was no need.
Rafus, yet again, made his way slowly to the Kings Gate and out of the castle … he couldn’t see Weena who told him she was under pressure to meet targets and needed him to be flexible, so he took his time and headed for the Druncheon Temple. As he moved, he saw the narrow alleys and the young bodies – still alive … Griselda hadn’t found them yet … he supposed; he checked before he moved into the centre of the way. Carriers would drive through a Dwarf!
They might wear manacles themselves but on a horse and cart; the horses didn’t and they could wound as they swung the manacles from their arms.
Rafus made sure he looked in all directions and then a bunch of horsemen were galloping people down and heading for the castle; he ran to an alley and hid as best he could.
Chapter VI – Escape
Suddenly he saw Griselda on her way to reducing the Barrack Guards by those numbers who failed to satisfy her but something else was creeping into his mind … he knew she was searching for and he leapt down an alley as a bunch of Guards with Griselda suddenly rode past him. One foot in a midden was scent compared to Griselda.
Griselda felt him leave the castle and decided to harass him as if he owed taxes.
She’d had decided to let him go … thinking it might be more fun that way with another person to manipulate – almost as much fun as sex – but losing something she owned wasn’t going to happen – she could bear to let someone or something out of her control.
No-one could say Griselda wasn’t even handed – she killed with her left or right hand and Rafus still had some uses for her.
By now Rafus had both feet skimming the middens as he ski’ed back to the castle and settle down in a bath before the Griselda call.
Needless to say, Rafus was up all night and crawled out of the castle the following morning. Finally managing to stand upright he left the main castle gate, and passed a high wall on the left with heads hanging in baskets from it.
The heads which were small and shrunken told him Griselda had watched the Guards using shuriken on the prisoners before their heads were boiled – the bodies seemed to have been misplaced somewhere – probably fed to the hounds to save steak, knowing Griselda.
Rafus Matira had made sure his eyes were grey and his height was five foot four – it wasn’t difficult.
All babies in the Matira Clan were operated on at birth to ensure they met the Matira definition. Those who failed; usually failed terminally but some were dumped alive into boxes for the rubbish to dispose of, and in Rafus’ case, his mother hid the modifications until the scars healed but the stigma stayed – once it was known – and he was never a ‘true Matira’ after that.
Sometimes he dreamed of being a real Matira … sometimes he dreamed of being free … sometimes he dreamed of escape; mostly he dreamed of Weena and his liaison with her, and what he thought was his magic as a dwarf but he daren’t let Griselda know of that, and it was difficult as Griselda, who Rafus felt should never have been woken up, effectively took over the castle and have Dwarfs watching everyone and it seemed, especially him.
Weena could give him a child and he would rob and kill for that … including Griselda if he thought he could but most of the time he tried to stay out of the way and in Weena’s procession of men.
He needed something, and Weena was happy to take the money and supply it but as much as he tried to buy her, she twisted and turned – a regular client was fine but her Pimp would never let he leave and he worked for Stefen.
She’d worry about the consequences if anyone ever found out but to Weena’s thinking … she could always get rid of the baby, and probably would – Rafus would never know but it should keep the gold flowing as he sought the next child, and it could be a good earner providing Griselda never found out.
For Griselda, however life was becoming a little tricky and not settling down as she had planned. There was no empire for her. She could harass and stalk Stefen as much as she liked but too much stalking and he treated her like a Tax Collector. Far too much stalking and Stefen turned on her, especially as his people died at her hands.
Griselda, however, was now moving north at speed. Towards the waters around the Lodge to begin with; west first but people watching her now ride out were confused and they prayed as she passed, dropping down to their knees in the mud and the middens so she couldn’t see them.
Griselda had, had problems with her plumbing, and plumbers talk, although usually about how they will take a month to arrive and then sucking through their back teeth before they quote a price for their turning up but this plumber knew which side his gut was buttered on as they draped him over an ant-hill, and he was seeing red ants while he talked, so it might have helped if the bathroom hadn’t been completed.
Stefen’s new lady wasn’t occupying a bath to the north-east of the castle which had collapsed onto the plumber’s wife, who have been enjoying the new bath when the ceiling dropped.
Nugent was in fact to south-west where the Admiral’s bath was highly guarded and adjoining his bedroom.
A very clean Lady later joined him without the bath roof falling on her, which is more than could be said for Griselda who found herself placed in the bath earlier and left to watch the ceiling after it had been winched up – the soap suds weren’t there but the remains of the plumber’s wife were.
Unfortunately, Stefen believed that people such as Griselda learnt from lessons; he was wrong and Griselda headed north as fast as she could move with Peter Jamesson’s castle as her target. Griselda’s people propelled themselves in the same direction she had taken.
Chapter VII – Births
Runnel eventually gave birth although Stefen still couldn’t find who the father was but once again she was from Griselda’s line and Stefen would have the baby watched like a hawk if, in fact, he didn’t have it laid out for the Eagles.
Back at the castle, Stefen now had different plumbers, who were carefully replacing the bath and in the main things stayed stable with Rafus fussing around Weena who had decided to have the child and live off Rafus and life for the next few years seemed settled although as time moved on it seem to also move backwards as Runnel’s Griselda displayed more and more of the habits of wanton cruelty that her Grandmother had loved and more and more Stefen had Guards watching Griselda as she moved more and more out of control.
For Griselda’s part, as she developed in age she also developed in trying to control and to remove anyone she thought might be in her way and especially Rafus who she decided had too much influence with Stefen. She’d already told Stefen of his relationship with Weena and the child, planning on Stefen bringing them in the castle where they would be a better target.
Stefen knew that Rafus could just about used the name Matira but was adamant that Weena and the child stay out of the castle and to a degree Griselda appeared to accept that as she planned to make sure there wouldn’t be any more Matira’s to thwart her future.
Chapter VIII – Magic
Drufus might be only four foot seven inches long but he learnt ruthlessness and truthfulness as he watched the Matira’s dance around anything that mattered to his country, and he felt it was his country.
Everything else but themselves mattered to the Matira; their desires were everything for themselves and no-one else; especially from Griselda.
Drufus always told himself he was always honest but he told himself a lot of things in those days to suit his brain’s demands; always loyal for a given degree for the term and value, he felt he’d been taken for a frog; kissed by the Matira’s as a toad and had never made Prince … probably not a difficult decision in their minds. Could he ever get a belief back or one he knew to be true …?—who remembered his love …?— was he really Drufus or something the Matira’s had created! He was no-one’s pawn: king; queen, or anything they felt they could use.
Roseen had told him the Matira’s wanted to control him and they banned him from seeing Roseen to emphasise their control of him, and more often than not, another woman was in his bed at night. They stuck pins in him until they melted his feelings but he would never be owned by them.
He looked at the water in the bowl and put some oak bark into the mixture to colour it. No-one would see him in this magic as everything was natural and he watched his minute magic scrolling circles spread; they would pay. He watched the spirals move out until they seemed to climb out the bowl and spread before his eyes.
Roseen always said, ‘his magic was the best and the Matira’s would find that out’. They’d killed Roseen when he wouldn’t stop seeing her now they would pay for his loss.
Drufus was always different from other Dwarf’s – his eyes were blue and at four foot seven inches he was tall for a dwarf and his beard was merely bristles. He just wished he concentrated more in the temple but magic was still in him … he slept with it every night as he felt the tingle of power and he bound his own magic to protect him against Griselda’s ferocious attacks but Roseen wouldn’t let him protect her.
At times he wanted to kill Griselda but it was too easy and he wanted her to hurt as she had hurt him.
Griselda’s emotional temper and neurotic attacks also made her an easy and recognisable target to base his scrying on and Griselda was never one to wash too often so he didn’t really need to worry too much about indelicate situations and he moved quickly away when her wash basin was moving – dwarf’s stomachs are supposed to be strong but seeing Griselda naked turned his stomach more than anything and made him head for the privy at a rush although when she was there, he could sense her ideas, plans and listen to her as she instructed her menials and cronies however at times … her thoughts; he just couldn’t understand. He knew he’d never understand a woman for whom dominating, controlling and killing were a goal for their own ends.
He would have his revenge and slowly – she would rot and die and all Drufus wanted now, was to get on with a job and Griselda to want to slowly die, yet live knowing she had lost everything.
In a way it was his protection as his ideas made him stand up to meet Griselda’s abuse, demands and threats.
There was nothing now that he wished to save, as there was nothing left to save and was there was anything for him beyond this life …? Now for Drufus the greatest passion of all was revenge. In that feeling he could feel the worry if he failed.
Griselda hated him and would executed him immediately if King Stefen didn’t stop her but King Stefen was as besotted with power as Griselda and he knew that Drufus alone, wrote the scrolls and the scrolls were power to Stefen and he had Drufus’ word that he, King Stefen would be safe. The Droga’s who called themselves Matira’s, now sat on thrones that Drufus thought of as commodes and judged their actions accordingly and in truth, was seldom wrong as to their motives or the residue.
Drufus, as someone plotting his revenge, the tortures and deaths as the keeper of the Scrolls, had found the last three months exceptionally stressful as he laboriously copied and edited every magical scroll. He was sweating so much now, he was thinking of changing his vest.
Drufus’ mother, who was in reality the magic Magistra, dedicated her son to the temple of Druncheon. She felt he could be educated there by someone who would oppose her husband’s hatred of her son. The father with his black eyes always distrusted his son’s blue eyes and she knew a blue eyed dwarf Priest who would train him. Drufus swore a lot of oaths in those days, especially from the cold wet dawn his mother dragged him into; the beatings for not paying attention by the Priests and his mother, and then again by his father, who needed little excuse for beating him.
After a while Drufus realised that Druncheon was a missing God, if a God at all but he swore the oaths to please his mother, although there were a few others that she never heard swear but one was to never to tell his father of his training and eventually he’d started dying his eyes black; telling everyone he was growing up and once he done that he was treated much better.
Dwarfs with blue eyes were a throwback to Old Stock – black was acceptable in a dwarf!
It was at the temple he met Roseen; a Priestess in the making with the same degree of interest in Druncheon that he did – very little.
They came together more and more as they grew up physically and mentally, often alongside each other and no-one else in Druncheon’s temple.
She taught Drufus more than anyone else in the temple.
Now Roseen was dead and he felt he died with her.
He still couldn’t understand why she’d died or why she wouldn’t let him protect her: killed by assassins; paid for by Griselda but his only regret was that every day he couldn’t hear Griselda’s screams as she was buried four hundred foot below in a bubble for the next four hundred years, and then the bubble would disperse, leaving them still underground but without any protection from Destraight or anything and then his saliva dripped.
There were, obviously problems with Ascania and Destraight but Toshonia would not rule the world despite King Stefen and Queen Griselda’s belief that they should.
It took time but with sleight of hand, Drufus ensured the originals and not the copies were in the rider’s saddlebags as the soldier left the castle – and the remaining copies were not true copies. They would have a surprise when he read the scrolls.
Given a choice, Drufus would have been the rider and possessor of the magic. His revenge would not just be against the Matira’s or Droga’s.
People would be in limbo in a great big bubble; unable to see more than themselves for the next four hundred years … they would stay in that bubble, not knowing it would burst – four hundred foot below the surface of Toshon and they would blame the Matira’s and the Matira’s would be there to be blamed – possibly briefly.
Destraight would find a way in as the bubble decayed and he would have his revenge.
Drufus didn’t feel taken now; he had taken the Matira’s. The Matira’s would find their level and he’d made sure they would sink to it.
Rona watched him run and then kick her sandals off as she walked along the battlements.
She watched them fall into the castle grounds beneath … someone would bring them back?—they usually did. She felt dirt gritting her toes but not her mind as she kicked them off and then relaxed as she walked barefoot feeling something that felt real. She felt turning her back on the sun wrong and turned to the West as Mona Roc settled on the battlements and spoke in her mind, “Yes, I like to see the sun set as well but you are even more disturbed than usual and Destraight is not for you!”
“I don’t know what is for me?”
“Do you know anything of what Destraight is, or what it might do to you?”
“It couldn’t be worse than here.”
“It could be, Rona. Firstly, the only place for Humans in Destraight is Dagril, and that is 400 foot down in darkness and you must reach Dagril and find your way down first and that is not easy. A lot of people didn’t die when they were attacked – we call them Old Stock but the magic of Destraight is never constant – you can never rely upon it. Their Queen or King is an idea determined by belief and constantly changes as does the magic of Destraight; it is little more than a mouthpiece at times and often a great source of magic that used without thought.”
“But they fight the Matira’s?”
“But do they win, Rona. Why do you think those prisons cum dungeons are alongside the Barracks? Why do you think Toshonia refuses to let it’s people move to Ascania or Destraight?”
“I don’t know, Mona Roc.”
“Benevolent rule though it may be called, King Stefen is a Dictator—”
“He works to mix races – he tries to mediate – he tries to bring peace and prosperity?”
“No, Rona: it is trade; disharmony affects trade, and within his own designs, he works to mix races, mediate and to bring peace and prosperity: as it affects trade.
“He makes sure that his own family only marry within their own race but he adopts and forces his ‘non-birth’ children to marry other races … he does not force his ‘birth’ children to marry non-races.
“A lot of old scrolls are attuned only to the Matira; held in magical chests but they are also copied and distributed only to Dwarf’s. He does not allow any other magic and kills anyone with magical powers who is not a dwarf. He battles with Ascania and Destraight – they have magic and he fears that as he fears challenges. He needn’t challenge them, but he does. Destraight’s magic lies in the belief of it’s multiple denizens; be they of any type; several are evil and roam at night such as Rock Trolls, Orcs, Wolfen, Ogres – I could talk for ever on such creatures that you would not wish to meet and that it is not only those who often attack above-ground dwellers. People are forced to accept King Stefen’s policies and pay for soldiers for protecting them and the livelihoods – they do not challenge him unless they wish to end up in prison camps.”
“So what do I do?”
“Whatever you choose to do, Sister Rona. We of the Rocs do not mind-meld with humans unless the feeling is there that allows us to. I found you and your mind and you accepted me. We are bonded as if I was a new chick.”
“Yet your ideas, at times, frighten me, Mona Roc. I will not be sacrificed to an ideal but I need an escape from here and my forced marriage. They prevent me from listening to their plans but they plan to destroy all their enemies; to keep a bubble around themselves and this castle and to unleash something that will destroy everyone. They seek absolute domination. Where could I go and survive?”
“It is a long trip but most of the ‘Du Storme’ estates are underground already and more widespread than you would believe.”
“Why would that matter?”
“Sir Raglan du Storme’s property can not easily be invaded or defeated although flooding does cause problems at times and Destraight’s denizens below it’s grounds would cause a lot of trouble if they could get into his castle but whilst his property is mostly underground it is not part of Destraight and is well-equipped to survive.”
“Will he take me? What of the rest of our world?”
“I’m not I understand your comment? Du Storme will need to be stopped from taking you! He’ll want you!”
“What do you mean?”
“The Du Storme’s are not known for gentleness. They’re not being part of Distrait but that does not mean he doesn’t follow their habits, beliefs, manners or their worst behaviour. He will consider you to be prey. He will also understand that if any harm comes to you, he will never go above ground again. We will discuss this with him, when we arrive!”
“When do we leave. Will you be there with me?”
“Rona,” exclaimed Mona Roc, “I am always with you but I have my own loyalties – you have never needed to be loyal to anyone but I am a Roc and my loyalties are my own; I chose my bond-mates and carefully. You are young as I was, once.”
“I need to understand more, Mona Roc!”
“The plans of King Stefen are those of a Dictator who thinks he will escape the results of his actions … he will not? Nevertheless, I am bonded to you and I will ensure you are respected.”
“May I watch the sunset for a last time, Mona Roc. I ask for little in this life but I like to watch the sun rise and set.”
“The sunset is always there, Rona Matira … wherever you are!”
“No, Mona Roc. The sunset is a vision of a day ending and perhaps, my life!”
Rona turned to watch the sun slowly sink over the province of Frania with the wind sweeping in from the sea and rocks to the South blowing the long blond hair she loved into her face … for some reason she often felt the wind was caressing her ideas as well touching her innermost words and feelings. To Rona, in her mind, she felt this was a time to love and forget emotions – emotions had never meant love – she felt the truth of herself but somehow it was emphasised and enforced as wrong: her mind seemed to emphasise they were wrong; emotions were never love.
From the castle walls she could see and hear the barracks below but she could also hear the dogs that circled the walls to prevent people escaping.
Behind her to the South was the smell of the sea and the rocky plateau that stretched to the East and West as far as her eye could see.
In the front of the castle was Toshon Town. A bustling thriving place mainly built of wooden houses. The Dwarf’s preferred the West side, the humans the East, and the Elves the North. They lived and traded within their own areas although for certain items they would visit; often heavily cloaked and at night.
Stefen had tried to overcome this by adopting a human girl and now Rona had a dwarf father, mother and sister, and was expected to marry a dwarf.
That she was human did not seem to matter to anyone. Being forced to marry, mattered to her; no matter who he was. King Stefen ruled with an autocratic hand, foot and mouth and he expected people to stay where they were put and enforced it. People were expected to stay where they were. The dogs surrounding the castle made sure that no-one left, unless authorised and the prison blocks adjoining the barracks held those who had unsuccessfully tried to ignore those rules.
Rona wanted something real; something that made her feel that she was real; that her feet were real and they could feel reality and she knew why she kicked off her shoes and let dirt grind into her feet. Just to feel alive and not the target of the political marriage …? It felt wrong and so were the Dwarves plotting and playing magic as if they had invented it – it was wrong!
It wasn’t as if she had someone to love … she wasn’t allowed near anyone – nor to see anyone: the only place she could be: here; on the battlements; watching dreams fade; here with nothing but the sun sinking, as she was.
The sun would rise again but would she? Rona felt desperate; she felt as if there was no one there …? no-one she could turn to. She was like the sun sinking but would she re-appear in the morning.
She hadn’t seen Mona Roc in days but maybe she didn’t understand Mona or what drove Mona but Mona was a magic that knew her inner being; knew it … believed in it and Rona envied her.
Rona tried to help her to understand ‘she could be free’ but what was this freedom when Rona had only the trappings of nothing she cared about and already she could feel magic building within the castle and it seemed to crawl over her.
Rona looked to the South. Mona lived in the rocks and stood on two claws with a height of 6 feet and a bulk that could be fearsome if she chose. Rocs were fearsome birds but they could enter your mind if they wished … or you wish them to’.
They were to a large degree, magical birds and they decided who they will match to, but Rona had another problem, now.
She felt the fear of the stones beneath the feet as they vibrated and she didn’t like it. Looking around she jumped again as she found Mona Roc perched on the battlements behind her; Mona must have glided in and Rona knew the sound of her wings was hidden beneath the castle’s vibrations. Now Mona perched and waited – Rocs have more understanding than you will ever know and Rona and Mona were side-by-side as the sun sank and Rona’s spirits rose.
Mona Roc look at the trembling Rona Matira and if a bird can smile then perhaps she raised her beak, “we must leave. The magic starts and you must be outside of the castle before they complete this spell.”
“What spell is that, Mona Roc?”
“On my back, whilst we speak, Rona Matira. We must be airborne and high enough to avoid this spell. It covers this castle and Toshon … they’re starting the magic and we must leave before they complete it and encapture us as well.”
“What about my shoes?”
“They will join you in death if we don’t leave—”
“What is happening below? Someone is riding out of the castle gate.”
“Then let them ride. He is carrying the Matira’s treasure but maybe, we have time to alter that ploy; but not if we stand here and are caught up in this magic.”
“What are they allowing to leave the castle?”
“The magic legacy of the Matira’s. The scrolls are being moved from the castle before the words of the final spell are spoken. It gives us time for something; let us go before we are bound here forever,” Rona Matira climbed onto the Roc and put her arms and feet around it’s long crop.
“Not too tight, Rona; my crop gets a lot of use. Now we must fly,” and wings now extended for a few beats that took Mona Roc into the air following the rider as he left the castle before swooping down and neatly removing the rider from his horse to then gently drop him as she followed the panicking horse and finally measured her beat and space, settling her claws around the horse and rising into the air; carrying the horse for some distance until she dropped it into a closed valley from a few feet. She settled herself as the horse ran off with the scrolls on her back.
Looking at Mona Roc, Rona thought for a while …? Mona, “I think that could have gone a little better … in a lot of ways … still …?”
“Still, at least we are free of the spell, Rona?”
“What spell, Mona Roc. You keep talking of a spell; I want freedom!”
“We are free of the spell? Haven’t I taught you enough.”
“You have never taught me, Mona … you exclaim, demonstrate, but you never teach me. For how long are we free of the Matira’s spells, Mona Roc, whatever they are?”
“I don’t know Rona Matira …? You tell me; you bear their name?”
At Toshon Castle, a soldier looked, yet again, at a pair of sandles that had bounced off the Barrack Roof and thumped into his helmet leaving him with his ears ringing.
It was that bitch again who stalked the towers and kicked off her shoes; she didn’t gave a damn where they went.
He turned to resume his sentry duty … let her come down and find them – he’d had enough of this.
King Stefen and Queen Griselda were arguing, “What do you mean you can’t find Drufus. He’s the expert on scrolls; he should be here to read the final scroll … it has to be perfectly read.”
“Any idiot can read it, Stefen! I’ll read it.”
“Griselda! If this final words go wrong we will be protected but what will be left!”
“I’ll read them, Stefen. I’ve heard Drufus stammer over them, enough times; at least I have my own teeth.”
“No, Griselda … we need Drufus!”
“Moria, Gazia, Etplna—”
“What have you—?”
Stefan’s voice slowly died as he watched but nothing seemed to happen.
He ran out and up to the top of the tower to look, as he had often done before but never running and nothing seemed to have changed. The sun had set; he could hear the noise from the kitchens. The sentries were patrolling. The dogs always pleased him as they howled in hunger. The spells had failed but He could see a shimmer in the air above the castle as some kind of mud started to ooze inside the castle walls but he could see suns in the sky magnifying as lights and red lights hurtled towards Toshon and as he watched he started to see the ground ripped up into the air and the mud spread over the castle grounds. Stefen’s mouth moved as he watch but words failed him; he hoped Queen Griselda’s feelings mirrored his silence although nothing seemed to shut her up. Looking up Stefen watched a mountain of earth descend upon the bubble darkening his vision and he now truly sank into the depths with the only light from the bubble surrounding the castle and town. The colours vanished as the land descended, spitting down on something it didn’t want and then all he could see was his land and it stretched as far as he could see and that wasn’t very far. The only light was from the bubble which seemed to have some radiance that shone down but there was no sun any more, just a radiance from the bubble and below was just a castle and a town lit by a glow from above.
Stefen remembered Drufus promising him, I will add a magic phrase at the end to bury Griselda with her dreams and for you to have your desires but the spell he added at the end was to take him to Sir Raglan du Storme and the Du Storme castle and to let them sink.
The spell broke the world apart; destroying it. Tidal waves and land-quakes moved as the Matira’s discovered Drufus’ Nuclear Option. A disaster destroying half the world’s civilisation and down in the dark, the circle finally settled over the castle and Toshon Town. King Matira still had his close echelons; the barracks; the prisons but not the sky; they didn’t see it finally turn into a fiery red as if a failing love affair had been highlighted in the Dwarf Press. Griselda didn’t see clouds of white, grey and violent red, gusting on winds roaring; fighting each other as much as they fought the binding that forced them to be there. Winds howling above them worshipped the sky: plummeting down to caress the land but the bubble protected the King, Queen and their subjects in castles and towns that were still alive but now approaching a low level as they slowly sunk. It spoke with a blazing fire that ripped the stomach of the world from buried pits to bury people in torrents of sea and melting iron as it swept in. Unprotected people watched fires from below and above meet tidal waves that fought before engulfing them; sparing no-one. Toshon Castle with its shining countenance found it’s real level – some 400 foot down, taking its Dwarf Magic lovers with it to Destraight’s level.
Griselda with Drufus’ spell changes propelled Astoria into the devastation that lasted some four hundred years, and courtesy of Drufus’ modifications, all under Toshon’s circle of protection sank four hundred feet down but the point that Drufus missed like an ego-tripping programmer was that there were two stages to his magic and he hadn’t connected them together. One spell protected people within the area – the other sank the Castle and town four hundred feet down in the area of Toshon Castle and village but not all sank. Another point was that those who were subject to both spells sank but others, outside of the confines of Toshon when the second spell started were only subject to the four hundred years stay of life which froze them.
Mona Roc attempting to resume her flight; crashed down.
Rona froze as she walked through the stirrup high grass, following the path beaten down by a frightened horse that had been given some basic lessons in flying by Mona Roc.
Yes, Drufus was someone who actually wrote magic scrolls believing he’d delivered magic code that obliterated half the world but his problem amongst his others, was his inability to actually write decent magic code that did exactly what it said on the scroll. Those outside of the area he decreed still had the protection of four hundred years in a bubble but, and it was an almighty but; they didn’t sink four hundred feet down, instead they lived in bubbles as people do at times, including Drufus after he arrived at the Du Storme Castle.
The Du Storme castle was unusual. The only piece of it, really above ground was the Gate-tower abutting the Storme Inlet leading down to the Storme Sea. A bad pun but the du Storme’s had always been bad at everything. The rocks, high in front of the Du Storme Gate-tower had been piled there by fierce tides from years immemorial; a few bodies had already swum there as well, although not willingly but Du Storme Castle was different from any other Castle on Astoria. It was mainly underground for a start.
It’s reputation was of another life. It possess lakes; waters but the Du Storme’s built their home as a Dungeon and whilst you might dance under a ball of lights at the Du Storme’s castle, your dance would often find a few more meaningful lights. Drufus arrived to find himself between a lake, a tower and just outside an open door as soldiers surrounded him and herded him to an entrance hall: forcing him against a wall – he was still there as they watch him stiffen like a stuff chicken as the spell took over; leaving him in the same position for another 400 years although his arms sticking out were used as a chain mail hanger.
Sir Facid du Storme liked to obtain fresh air from time to time although this was not really an option within his castle. He seemed to own or control half of Ascania – owning more than the king earned respect but most of the land and respect had been underground for a long time but with the turmoil of last four hundred years the rest of the castle was completely underground – apart from one tower – Sir Facid just had light filtering in from above these days and everything stank. Sir Facid’s castle had been buried even more in the turmoil but this allowed him extensive planting land and already the corn, vines and woods were feeding the demand for food, drink and furniture for a large area and that fed his treasury and the Guards he needed to defend his treasury – paid a bonus for the damp and smell.
Sir Facid possessed sheltered harbours to the North and South if he and Sir Charles could stop fighting over the Northern harbours but as Sir Charles had little money; few Guards and the need to buy food from Sir Facid, it meant more skirmishes than minor wars and Sir Facid’s territory/control now stretched to about two thirds of Ascania and his relations with King Machael were a little touchy but Sir Facid liked to visit what he considered to be his personal ornament.
A Dwarf had arrived outside the castle some four hundred years ago and when herded into a room by soldiers the dwarf froze and had stayed frozen ever since. He’d been guarded ever since and Sir Facid often found himself staring down as the immobile dwarf to try and understand what he was thinking.
Both of them stood immobile, almost trying to outdo one another.
According to his Guards, Sir Facid won every time according to Sir Facid but all Sir Facid ever met, as had others, was a piercing blue eyed stare but still he stood and stared. You didn’t become a knight by being out-stared by a frozen dwarf. Sir Facid didn’t know the name of the dwarf although insects and rodents had obviously bypassed the Guards from time to time and his clothes were now very ragged with two cats that often slept at the dwarf’s feet adding to his state.
Sir Facid could not image them staying awake for nearly four hundred years … eventually someone had cut up an old tapestry – a small one used for – by the smell of it – for various purposes and decorated him … Sir Facid’s nose could not turn up even more than it did but that was his birthright although he felt it trying too, looking at the dwarf.
Apart from the smell of the dwarf, Sir Facid had his standard problem in that his castle smelt.
It had been underground for too long and with the ploughing and seeding the only time the roof’s were opened was when the rain, snow and freezing water could come in, however, that seemed almost like a relief as it penetrated his underground castle.
Wine went off; often with an appropriate explosion; grain and meat went bad; cider became vinegar … Sir Facid might as well have inherited a burial site as a castle but looking at the dwarf as many forebears did; trying to understand the dwarf’s look of puzzlement, he realised he would never know until one day; the dwarf suddenly opened it’s eyes … “this place stinks – can’t you find a window to open … I know a spell that will take out the smell.”
“Who are you and why have you been stood here for four hundred years?”
“My name is Drufus and I need your Jakes, and urgently!”
“Then Poofus is probably a better name—”
“I need the Jakes!”
“Fine. Go West; South; follow you nose for fresh air and shout Bluenose as you go. Today’s password … the sea and rocks and mountains await you”.
Drufus found himself facing strong winds and a stormy sea but after four hundred years he couldn’t be too delicate. It was some time later that he finally returned and explained to Sir Facid what happened. The look on Sir Facid’s face indicated that he might as well have saved his breath since nothing of it was believed. It wasn’t helped by Sir Facid’s joke that he owed him four hundred years rent.
Sir Facid’s final question to him was, “do you really know magic spells?”.
“I invented them but dwarf magic means you must have spells written down and physically hold the scroll when you read the spell. The magic I was taught was at the temple of Druncheon. My mother wanted me to be a priest but when she died the money dried up and so did the teaching and I served King Stefen of Toshonia until the great troubles.”
“Yes, Drufus. We were lucky that most of our castle was underground so we could farm but we did receive a large amount of land deposited on top of us.
“The good point is that we did not receive great waves – the rocks protected us but virtually the whole of my castle and rooms might as well be in my deepest dungeons.
“We have openings in the roof but these must be closed in the planting season and can not really be opened again until after the harvest has finished leaving rain, snow and winds to dampen every horizon. If you can write a spell to clear and perfume the air, I am sure we can come to some arrangement for your future.”
“I would appreciate a bath and a change of clothes, first, Facid; if that can be arranged, but I am sure I can write some magic to clear the air?”
“I am sure we all would appreciate that, Drufus, especially as you have been there for four hundred years. My people will attend you and perhaps the spell? Haste would be appreciated.”
The same could not really be said for Rona, Mona and the horse they were following, especially the horse, but the wolves had died? They were now on an island and it was an island you could enjoy but Mona wasn’t …? Thoughts crossed their minds about food however lakes, cornfields, trees abounded so, maybe, above all, freedom beckoned although given the size of the island it was not very much in terms of freedom.
What didn’t seem to beckon was four hundred year old food. It might have been protected along with them but it seemed to have aged more than they had but right now all Rona wished for was privacy. Mona Roc could get rid of waste as she flew without caring where it landed. Rona on the other hand …? On the ground … some trees near some large leaves beckoned her urgently.
Rona was making her way back as Mona Roc landed and threw a bone from her beak into the cornfield before heading for a tree where she decimated a branch as her beak lost the remains of breakfast cum lunch.
The mental note sounding in Rona’s mind from Mona said, “I can’t find the horse. I know I put her down somewhere but I can’t find any trace of her?”
“That was four hundred years ago, Mona. If she is alive she’s probably hiding from you. She thinks you want her for a meal?”
“She couldn’t have got far?”
“Assume she was swept into the sea and woke up in water?”
“I’ll check, Rona.”
Some miles away the horse finally left the lake. Like everyone else it wanted a bath and seeing the Roc in the air it went as near underwater as it could manage – finally climbing out on the West side of the lake and heading for some fresh grass.
It could smell more water to the North and could see some shrubs and it made it’s way over to find a pond with grass, fresh water and over on the over side of the pond some trees to hide in. No Roc was picking her up again – not even for a date.
Mona Roc and Rona, after a good hour finally decided to follow the hoof prints … just one small problem – everything had been washed out – there weren’t any, but they needed to explore the island and once again Rona climb up onto Mona who then spread her wings and took off, leaving Rona pleased for once, that there wasn’t anything for her to eat and she wasn’t pleased when Mona Roc suddenly descended in a screaming dive and launched herself on a small deer leaving Rona’s hands blood soaked as she struck, “sorry about that Rona but it was too good a chance to miss. If you skin it, build a fire and roast it, you can eat.”
“How do I do that, Mona. The castle cooks did that; I don’t cook!”
“You’d better learn if you wish to live.”
“I don’t even have a knife!”
“I have a beak, Rona. Call it skinning,” Rona turned her head and put her hands over her ears as Mona Roc attacked the deer’s carcase, “now build a fire and roast it.”
“How do I do that, Mona?”
“Gathering wood would be a good start, Rona.”
“Can’t you do anything, Mona.”
“Can’t you do anything, Rona. I’ll have a look around for a large branch,” and Mona Roc took off again and flew towards the small lake to the East until out of the corner of her eye, amongst shrub and grass she saw something and swooped down.
The saddlebag lay there or the remains of it did. Scrolls lay tangled in the shrubs. Mona Roc took one look and took off again to gather Rona who was still trying to work out how to light a fire, “leave those large branches alone, Rona. I found scrolls which are in better condition than the saddlebags they were in. It looks like some kind of coating.”
“I’m hungry, Mona!”
“Then come and look in the saddlebags, after you gather up the scrolls. I’ll pick wood but the saddlebags should have some means of lighting a fire, even if you don’t have any idea. Let’s look at those scrolls! Climb on my back.”
“I’d rather walk, Mona. I don’t have enough food to be sick with.”
“In your thoughts of distance, a mountain range is in the way of direct path; forests adjoin the small lake – to save a long conversation, Rona – get on my back!”
“I can’t face another flight, Mona Roc … I really can’t.”
“I will fly gently. You need to eat and the smell from that place is evil. Let us find those scrolls and then I must read them and find those of my people who still live. They will probably attack and kill me but I need to try and ensure these words are not forgotten … my beak is not suitable for catching scrolls … deer I can catch, so climb up and we will learn.”
“Please go gently, Mona.”
Mona Roc’s flight was an upwards ascent. In later times, had Rona known it, it was like an express lift that only stopped as your food met the roof. Having climb enough to rise above the trees and mountains, Mona Roc then realised her friend had fallen off. Mona Roc spun on her wings to look for a distant falling spec of something in the sky. She had bonded with Rona but failed to pay any attention to her bond-mate as she rose far beyond any height she needed to be. Too late she cast her mind to her bond-mate and now plummeted down to try and find her, hurtling down after a speck still falling and almost tree high before she managed to get her claws underneath the body and slow its flight with her large wings beating madly as she tried to avoid both of them plummeting into the ground. Poking a body with a claw was never a good idea. The body was too soft and the claw too hard. She waited for Rona to show some signs of life.
Arturo and Princess Laseith first met in the gutter; knowing and understanding each other from the beginning although Arturo couldn’t shake off his life as a young dwarf hated by his mother for looking like his father and as his father was never there, his mother had a free hand and used it.
For Laseith …? History often neatly dovetail’s people’s destinies and a mound of bodies. Her mother serviced the Toshonian Guards and once was wrong on her dates becoming pregnant. She thought that the Guard would support her: he did; her body was found the next morning by Laseith. Laseith learnt the streets. Playing in a gutter she ran barefoot along the open sewage ditch following a body as a soldier floated whenever she saw one. Later, when Laseith was at a barrack party – it was usually safe – she lifted enough purses to buy better rags so she could beg as an abandoned child.
One day as she was begging in the street, she tried to trip Arturo so she could rob him after he fell. Arturo as usual had no thought for anyone but himself as he made his way and stepped on her foot, receiving abuse as it was the foot she meant to trip him up with.
Yet another beating from his mother, and this time his mother had a list of things for his father to beat him with as well until he could hardly walk.
Eventually, time found both of them at the temple of Astoron, who would feed them if they bowed to Astoron, and Arturo, who could hardly walk in a straight line after the beatings, attracted as much emotion as Laseith; the bruises and trouble in walking were also a good entrance when the Priestesses took over in the evening but once again, timing was everything. The temple of Druncheon – the dwarf god – had thrown Arturo out as a young brat but now he was older and looked better, allowed him to enter the temple during the day and study their magic’s as a novice.
The temple of Alf – the elven god, kicked Laseith into the street which coloured more than her opinion and language; it would never allow her back.
Together Arturo and Laseith found Astoron for food, although to them as they ate and praised Astoron, he seemed a more absent god than most but food was food and the Priests received donations and so did Arturo and Laseith which improved their lives but in Arturo’s case he had another problem. His mother had recently died leaving him with an absent father, no money and he’d would have been reduced to the level of Laseith if not for the clothing donated to the temple of Druncheon.
One night as they gathered at the temple of Astoron, one of the Priests who was on night duty for a change, took pity on him, “as your mother is recently deceased, you can still speak to her spirit?”
“I thank you, Rosult, but my mother seldom spoke to me before she died, except with her hand or a stick, and I cannot see her speaking to me now!”
“Arturo! The Priest is trying to help you!”
“To do what, Laseith?”
“Your mother must have had some money hidden away. Ask her and she will tell you … we can share it!”
“Do you have an offering for Astoron?”
“Rosult; I do not have an offering for you to speak this magic but I would plead that you ask my mother for help.”
“You are in his temple and Astoron always cares, Arturo and in more ways than you will ever know. The ways and thoughts of a God are beyond our understanding and thoughts—”
“—so what does he care about?”
“You take his charity, now let us see if you can take his blessing—”
“I don’t want his blessing—”
“You both take Astoron’s blessings on a daily basis, yet both of you do not accept the sacrifices that feed you. You treat this temple as a food-source and we tolerate that for the pain you have suffered; unlike your ‘Alf’ temple, Laseith, or your ‘Druncheon’ temple, Arturo. They knew you for your worth immediately you arrive and you still haven’t learnt, Laseith. You still haven’t learnt! My God is different and through his benevolence, we feed you and help you to leave the streets; you, Laseith, still drag the streets with you … we don’t ask for rewards … we have a saying in this Temple … ‘what goes around, cometh around.’ It will come around for you, Laseith.”
“And what does that mean, Rosult?”
“As you take, you repay although I don’t think the concept means with a sword, Laseith!—”
“Can I talk to my mother, Rosult?”
“Let us see, whether your mother wishes to talk to you, Arturo!”
“I will make preparations … it will take some time and I suggest you purge yourself of unholy thoughts, if that is possible!”
Rosult moved into another chamber and eventually green vapour filled the chamber. The chamber was some twenty foot high and the altar billowed green and then it began to move to red.
Arturo peering around the corner now saw the font in front of the alter turn orange as if it was a furnace that had moved from red-hot but it did not seem to need coals for it’s heat and the colours now merged with the green and red to create an aura of stillness.
Rosult looked over his shoulder to the doorway where Arturo and Laseith peered through, “as you cannot wait, come in and stand before the font. You will see your mother’s face and hear her words. Having heard some of her words, I suggest you prepare yourself but do not touch the font … if you do, you will join your mother on the other side and there will be no return!”
They both moved to stand in front of the font and looked at the image of Arturo’s mother.
“You killed me, Arturo!” Was the shouted accusation.
“I did not kill you!”
“You killed me with an axe, my beloved son.”
“Did you kill your mother, Arturo?” And Rosult’s voice rose as he looked first at the image and then Arturo.
“She was beating me again. I picked up the axe to defend myself … I did not mean to hurt her.”
“… you killed me, Arturo!”
“It was Laseith. She gave me the axe.”
“You fool. You’re admitting you killed her. Shut-up, Arturo – she deserved it. She was beating you. You were defending yourself. Shut-up!”
“You forced me … gave me the axe … you made me kill her, Laseith!”
“No-one makes you kill an unarmed woman, Arturo,” and Rosult looked at Arturo with disgust, “although I can feel the power in Laseith and you’ve dabbled in magic, Laseith … bad magic. For you Arturo, you are just a weak man who will commit evil for anyone stronger. You are weak, your spirit may recover but I doubt that. Your life will be that of an errand running; a killer of the weak; a dwarf you do not trust at your back!”
“She kept beating me, Rosult. She would never stop. I was only defending myself.”
“My God tells me you are lying, Arturo.”
“Don’t pay any attention to him, Arturo. You must know how to live from this world … you are a fool, but with me, I … we will rise and I’ll not forget you!”