I’m sitting and writing.
Probably from my backside.
Gone over it a couple times and will properly edited it tomorrow.
Posted it below.
Laseith didn’t take long to find the gutter although she’d now slit her gown to thigh-high and at a young age was already sizing men up as her mother did. Routani was more restrained but it wasn’t that difficult when compared to Laseith. Like Arturo, when out of the castle Laseith also sought temples although for some reason she chose the elven god – Alf as her temple which swiftly kicked her back into the street and she sought the human’s God – Astoron. The temple of Druncheon already knew her and that was another temple that had kicked her back into the street so there was only Astoron.
The Priests of Druncheon seeing blood on the robes of Arturo also threw him out.
Peter Jamesson still had no real idea who the father of Laseith and Routani was but Griselda and Gereft were both dead, so he would never know but again he had no idea who the killer was – Gereft had been executed as someone had to be but it didn’t tell him who had killed Griselda. Mioned was hidden and would stay hidden although she was now in a long room for most of the day – a table ran the length of the room with two doors at the end if Mioned could ever find her way to the doors.
Mioned with her eyes bound couldn’t see anything but her hearing, smell and touch were now very acute. She’d smelt the candles and her senses felt the heat that would burn her and she also felt the nudges of other Guards as they past to try and throw her into the flames.
Now she felt arms take her very gently and she was moved.
She knew from the smell of air to her left a door was open and she could sense the steep steps and she was released to step out to a different smell and it smelt wet, if not damp. She put her hand out gently and felt feathers.
The stone was cold through her light slippers and many things are – especially the lack of a mother but then, who wants a mother to do nothing more than kill you but now she felt something warm and comforting. She could feel a mind looking into hers. Two people lifted her and her hands were gently guided to its neck, then the voice spoke in her mind.
It was something alive and as hands held her and strapped a belt around her she seemed very light; she vomited as she was lifted into the air and then lost the rest of her stomach as something in her head said, “if I left you behind, you would die. Some of us Rocs made a treaty with the wooden people – the few that still remain after the bombs and I am a Roc and my name is Taren Roc. We still seek a world but now we have to settle for an island; it’s called Dagril. You’ll need to bath and wash your clothes when we arrive, the small lake to the north east is better; I will just bath,” and then we need to find food?
Arturo still had problems with his mother on the rare visits to her and when she was free although she started to say, “I should charge you – they think you are a customer. You’re preventing me from earning money,” but she always kept a truncheon close when she met him and their last meeting was one he’d not forget as he ran away covered in blood – they would think he was an unhappy client.
To think back, Arturo and Princess Laseith first met in a gutter of their choice; knowing and understanding each other from that moment they met 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 with his mother selling herself, his mother had a free hand and used it frequently. He paid for his mother’s timing mistakes but still never knew who his father was.
For Laseith, the supposed daughter of the late Queen Griselda of Toshonia and King Peter Jamesson of Ascania … or maybe not … or of a favourite Guard of Queen Griselda’s troupe of mounts … as was also claimed she was shepherded with Guards surrounding her and reporting back.
She hated as her mother had done and killed as her mother had done, and she considered it her right to dominate and kill.
She knew her blood was pure and nothing ever flowed into her mind but she thought of Griselda: her marriage knife; turning the knife as she wrestled it from her mother into her mother’s rib cage … it was easy then to summons Gereft, shout to the Guards he’d killed her mother – she owed it to herself to come and watch him hung the following morning – he should have pleaded for something as the noose tightened although his silence still annoyed her. History often neatly dovetail’s people’s destinies amidst a mound of bodies and Laseith was doing her best.
Her mother serviced the Toshonian Guards and once wrong on her dates became pregnant leaving King Jamesson more than suspicious as to the origin of Princesses Laseith and Routani.
Griselda thought that the Guard would support her and he did; he was found holding her body the next morning and executed.
Laseith learnt from the streets. Playing in a gutter she often ran barefoot along the open sewage ditch following a body as a soldier floated by whenever she saw one. Later, when Laseith was at a barrack party she stole enough purses to buy 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 he stepped on her outstretched foot, receiving abuse as it was the foot she meant to trip him up with.
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 from his mother and father, attracted as much emotion as Laseith who carefully dressed in rags ever morning; Arturo’s bruises and trouble in walking were also a good entrance when the Priestesses took over in the evening but once again, timing was everything. Whilst the temple of Druncheon – the dwarf god – had thrown Arturo out as a young brat, he now he was older and looking better so they allowed him to enter their temple during the day and study their magic’s as a novice whilst he returned to Astoron’s temple in the evening.
Laseith had tried the same with the temple of Alf – the elven god. They, however, kicked Laseith into the street which coloured more than her opinion and language, and they would never allow her back.
Together Arturo and Laseith found Astoron good for food, although to them as they ate and praised Astoron, well food was food and the Priests received donations but in Arturo’s case he had another problem.
His mother had recently died leaving him with an absentee father, no money and he’d would have been reduced to the play 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 arrived 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 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 … you 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 runner; 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!”
“I am not a fool, Laseith. I don’t grab at nothing and attack those who would help me.”
“Then produce your pennies, Arturo … that is all you are fit for,” the Priest held his cloth a lot closer than required and he now seemed to shine.
Rosult waved his hand for Laseith and Arturo to follow and left the chamber, “Get you gone from this temple. Never darken it’s doors again. The only reason I don’t call the guard is that both of you have suffered and you will suffer again for this mischief – leave this temple, NOW.”
Laseith, kept from poverty by King Peter … now thought … yes he would do and she plucked Arturo as a willing killer with a history to join her. Laseith always felt she came from the gutter and carried the gutter with her – now she would sure Arturo never left the gutter in his actions.
Queen Griselda, when the mood was on her would slept with anyone and Laseith had little in common with King Peter so it looked fairly obvious to everyone that Laseith and Routani had not sprung from Peter’s loins. Most assumed, in private, they’d arisen from the Guard who was found with the dead Griselda – Gereft with both now dead but people close to Peter were already silently questioning whether Machael Jamesson should be woken from Stasis without Laseith knowing and the guard on him was redoubled. Peter’s health was deteriorating and voices were quietly raised concerning Laseith and the unsolved deaths connected to her. Something or someone had to stop Laseith but no-one was prepared to challenge her or deny her birth.
Gereft was know for his loyalty to Queen Griselda and according to witnesses seemed drugged when he was found with the dead Griselda. He was quickly hung at Laseith’s instigation with a quick change of staff in the kitchen but no-one, who wished for a long life, was prepared to challenge Laseith and live. She might not be a Princess but acted it and without Machael there was no direct descendent from Peter Jamesson to take over and she was trying to stop that however they released Machael from Stasis before Peter died and her personal Guard now counted as nil.
With Arturo and Laseith, people watched in four directions at once as both of them were two faced – Routani however seemed mainly harmless but did everything Laseith told her to. Laseith knew she could make Arturo kill, which suited her because then he owed her for her silence.
Arturo, almost as a means of protection made himself as useful as he could by copying the magic scripts he’d learnt in the temple and sworn to never reveal to anyone.
Laseith on the other hand, or any hand, was prepared to reveal everything but her true self, and yet again people around her seemed to have short lives.
Peter Jamesson also had Guards around him more and more, and his food-tasters were becoming fewer and fewer as the days progressed and his meals became shorter and shorter.
Finally an apple laid him low – produced by Laseith; who received a public whipping for it, and a dungeon, along with Arturo and there they stayed for the next ten years.
The island of Dagril seemed to become a little crowded as Mona Roc and Taren Roc both landed at the same lake on Dagril.
Mioned’s eyes were still bound but Rona found that Taren Roc would speak to her as he spoke to Mioned and he guided Mioned using his eyes to help see colours, walk and swim safely.
Mona Roc tended to take off and look for food and often just flew over Dagril, watching, until one day Taren Roc took off and headed for Ascan and Mona flew down and spoke to them, “we Rocs do speak together and your Guards, Mioned are to be executed by the new King of Ascan. Taren Roc will try to save them.”
“They allowed my escape Mona Roc at a risk of their own lives. Without them I would be dead,” tears slowly touched her face as she looked at Mona Roc.
“He will do his best, Mioned.”
Taren Roc arrived just before dawn and cast his mind around to find the minds of Bonnie Leligan and Brunie Dumie, “I am here and will try and rescue you from the exercise yard and this was broadcast to other Rocs and again and again he heard voices in his head. There will only be one chance of success, he shouted in reply. I cannot ask for the deaths of others. It is my reply and my life to do this, no-one else should die.”
The reply from Bonnie was immediate, “How is Mioned. We knew the risks when we helped her to be free; now we are Traitors to King Machael.”
“Who is this King Machael?”
“Grisalda and Arturo are in the cells for killing King Peter Jamesson. King Machael is deliberating but we’re classed as traitors. There is no proof against them.”
“But there is proof against you. I’ll find a hiding place; I’ll try and rescue you at dawn. When I land there are leather garments on my back, grab them and hang on. Hold under leather; get one leg over my back. If you fail? You fall!”
Being a Roc means you are easy to see and Taren found a large weather vane which now ceased turning but from a distance who would really notice anything and he just sat and waited.
Dawn finally rose to an early morn and Taren had been busy in thought, if not in deed and as the Guards pushed Bonnie and Brunie into the hanging area there were a number Rocs who now swept into the Guards as Taren hovered over them.
Bonnie and Brunie fought the downdraught of winds as they grabbed the leathers and cocked a leg over the back of Taren and were away as the other Rocs took off in a mighty flapping of wings.
Bonnie and Brunie both felt they knew each other pretty well but were still clinging to each other like grim death on Taren and seemed a good idea.
Matters between King Stefen – as he styled himself, and Princess Grisalda – as she styled herself were never harmonious. Grisalda behaved like a Queen and his Queen was Natomi; his daughter was Runnel, he didn’t know who the father or fathers of Rona and Grisalda were, who were technically his Grand-children. Rona he’d sent away to save her from Grisalda’s machinations.
Now she had taken up with a Roc bird and vanished … deep down he wished he’d put Grisalda on a mountain and left her liver for any bird who was hungry. In the absence of a male heir he’d also been forced to wake up Martan Matira from Stasis and that was another problem he didn’t want but with Weena and Roseen were good spies but Grisalda was already looking to kill him and them, leaving her as the sole Princess.
Roseen watched her back. Maybe that didn’t reflect her concern although she heard the footsteps which hesitated in the mud as they slithered and slid.
She’d believed Natomi when she said she was protected.
She’d believed Weena who told her she was hidden but belief didn’t seem to have much value now.
She was surrounded; used with false promises by everyone and then Grisalda appeared from an alley, “I wanted you to know it was me.”
“I always knew it was you, Grisalda. You’re your mother’s bastard spawn!”
“You’ll die for me and for that. I could have used you? I still can.”
“Instead of men between your legs!”
Griselda raised the jewelled wedding knife.
Where did you steal that from you gutter bitch.
Griselda looked at Roseen, “I will kill you slowly and you will die bitch,” a crossbow bolt took Roseen in the back.
Griselda screamed, “who fired that shot. I want him killed slowly. I wanted to kill that bitch,” and she said this to the Guards who ran up to her, “find the Guard who did this; flay him alive!”
“The bolt is not one of ours, Princess. We don’t use these bolts.”
“Then find who fired it or you will face his destiny!”
Jinny looked at the drunk, “the wind took the bolt but I save Roseen from Griselda.”
“Roseen is still dead, Jinny. I might be a drunk, but I don’t killed people who don’t attack me. You said to stay away and you would sort it … while I can still think … what did you sort, Jinny?”
“I meant to hit Grisalda. She deserves it. I missed … and that is it.”
“It might be for you. You’re still alive!”
“Let’s move. You’re attacking me but you took that Lord and broke him into a heap against that wall?”
“Man to man – it was personal! I didn’t become as Assassin and miss. I broke him for trying to run you, the Cat and myself down – it was personal.”
Dusti was never much of anything until she learnt to kill without thinking – whether this was from her father or mother was optional: both had considered killing for a living before Stefen, who never stayed the axeman when he thought it was necessary for both Griselda and Grisalda moved her away from everyone. Stefen killed when necessary for the Kingdom he was building; Griselda killed for pleasure.
Stefen still remembered Alisia Smith – it was before he was forced to wake up Griselda.
He remembered her gentle walk; the way she moved; her soft hair that she spent so much time brushing every day, and she’d never let anyone else touch her hair; shining in the sunlight when the effects of the bombs had gone and sunlight now penetrated the haze.
Stefen still remembered the day she died; he didn’t realised how deadly Griselda was but Dusti was on her way to Jacque and Maria – eventually – the path would be Spragend then Uguar and Toshon to join with Rona – only now Rona had taken off with the Rocs and Dusti with the Hawks but she would come back.
Alisia was his love, his mistress and someone he should have protected against the liars, smarms and con-artists that offered everything and delivered nothing but by the time he found he dead in his bed it was too late. He arranged for the daughter as they called Dusti who always ended up covered in various things to be taken to Spragen. Steven thought she would be safe and then Nata pushed her towards the wall as the killers called – just crossbow bolts that sprang out from the framework of her room and into her attackers. You don’t attack a sex-shop, twice.
Dusti by next morning was on her way to Uguar and a few others were dead … Grisalda’s people were dying but that would never stop her.
Uguar was a little more sophisticated as they poisoned the food and Dusti did had stomach trouble that didn’t ease until she arrived in Toshon and Jacque and Maria Hawk who lived by the sea.
Jacque and Maria Hawk lived as they chose or survived. They down on the western side, between the western end of the Toshonian coast, where the last magic had broken the countries apart.
Frania was some ten mile away. The castle with all its exploding qualities had imploded.
Drufus would extract a revenge that buried a lot of things but not himself, but we deal with now, and now was something that Dusti, Jacque and Maria left, but they were old folk who Stefen often promised to kill.
Somehow the old folk survived. Who the old folk were, or what they were, was something Stefen had never understood but he took their potions when Grisalda was too close.
They took Dusti into their beach-hut as their own and they tried to see if she could fly.