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A Solitary Crow - Golgotha - 3

3
Lyahvi

Air, the stuff of life! It drained out of her lips – like paper escaping. Her face was bruised – on both sides. It showed welts on the left temple, as well as other places. Clearly she had been roughly treated – there was no question that she had been interrogated before. He noted each place, and determined that he would do things quite differently – not out of any form of guilt, mind you, nor out of any form of compassion. His was a cool, emotionless, form of logic. He had to get certain things done, and if brutality were the means to get it – he would happily oblige. But first he would try a series of different things. First was to begin with a question, and with gentle means.

“It seems you have been roughly treated. I wish to make amends for that. If I get you a chair, due you Promise not to attempt to escape? It would not do you any good anyway.”

At that moment, the head of the elf had been down – and then straightened erect. Is still had the same passionate dislike of him, but it finally spoke. Though the words were slightly lisped, and in one case broken. “Who are you? It is polite to introduce yourself, by word or profession. Your companion is a deacon, and we know which kind – you and I. Since you have replaced him, the obvious assumption is that you are drilling for the same information he was.”

The hatred was on display. This was very unusual for any kind of elf – and it meant that the priests of Naveh had done everything that they could to extract the information – without success. So he began by masking his words. And in a gentle tone of voice: “You may call me the Magi. That will do. What am I to call you?” An exchange of what to call each other was a start.

“You may call me Loria. Casting a spell with the name will not get you very far.”

“I would not dream of testing it.” He knew what would happen if he did – it was not a human name, to be cast lightly. There was silence from the elf, so he continued talking. “I assume you were taken here by force.”

“As if you did not know this. Please dispense with what is obvious - it will spare you a great deal of the time you have on this planet. And it bores the life out of me.” If he had any doubt of the prickly spines which were euphemistically common out of her skin, it was confirmed. No doubt she was bright, and he would have two tread carefully. He decided that the best course would be to open her and get her to tell a story. A story which would have as its dénouement that piece of information which he wanted.

“So where were you before the taken?”

“Out of the everywhere and into the here.” The smugness from her voice was apparent.

“Yes, I want information. The only question is what shape will you be in once I gain what my paymasters have it. I assume that you would rather be living and you should start focusing your mind on the conclusion. I am not your enemy – though the Naveh priests are.” He could not help making a slight snigger at that.

“The Naveh priests have hired you to do what they cannot.”

“True. But I can get this the easy way, or the hard way – it is up to you.” She looked at him, and made a decision – but he did not know what kind of decision.

“Shall I begin from the beginning?”

“It depends on which beginning you want to begin from. I am human, thus have a great deal less time than you do.” His dry soul of wit got the better of him for just a moment. But he then settled down, and focused his mind on business.

“Let me start then at the point of Ekall-Anuz. Or rather the point of departure from this world in to the next. Because that is what you want – how to leave by the obelisk of the earthmasters. This has not been told to anyone but yourself. My female human companion and I stepped through the obelisk, and were immediately formed in front of a place which is not on this world.”


-


Out of the everywhere and into the here, goes the rhyme – though where no one know where the rhyme comes from. There are two worlds, both alike in dignity, in fair winds where we lay our scene. On one side is the world of Kelestia, and one the other Yashain. Many worlds conjoin Together, but these two worlds are closest – and have places which could be on either, and both. Kelestia is magic poor, but not so for Yashain – in fact the magic from Yashain bleeds out, and infects Kelestia. It bubbles and boils until from ancient grudge break to new mutiny – where magical blood makes magical hands unclean.

Ekall-Anuz is one of the places which stands in both worlds. On this world you live, and on that world to die. The Kings and Earls and Barons of that world of distant death, are magical creatures – some of which you know by name. And when you slip between the world of life into the world of death, you will know in that instant what the difference is. At that point, we came from Ekall-Anuz on this world, and came to Zuna-lake on the other. On one side we were fighting for our lives – especially from a sect of morgathi. Realize that none of the gods know how to use the earthmasters' technology, and that is something that they alone want to maintain. It should be for gods and goddesses alone to slip between worlds – not for anything made of flesh of flesh do so.

Thus, in an instant, we were on another world and saw very different things. It was night there as well, but that was not given. Instead of seeing the elaborate constructions of the earthmasters, we instead found our selves at the foot of a very long table, made of stone and decorated with runes. But not runes of this world – because those are copies of the true runic alphabet which was there given shape. These stars were different, and formed different patterns much more bright then any that they had seen – and somehow there was a connection between the stars and the runes.

Around the table were 12 figures in chainmail, and with all of the allegiances and crests, that one would expect for the most rarefied strata of knightly adherence. Each was, in a different way, an icon of some aspect of chivalric virtue. They each in turn had varying gazes – for each one was either a demigod, or slain mortal hero, of Larani. In the dark, they all stared at the interlopers – each one with a different expression. Finally, one male knight, with a worn helmet, asked:

“We know who all of you are, why did you come here?” The voice was soft and resonant.

“I know you do not like to have the earthmaster obelisks, but that was the only way that we could contact you.” She leaned on her two hand sword.

“Perhaps we do not wish to be contacted.” It was hard to tell which one of these had said this.

“Perhaps you do not, but you must make allowances – especially for one who is the bridge between Siem and your lady.Especially since the emissary knows how to control the forces here on Yashain at least a little.”

“Our lady wishes it, so we must obey. Yes we have noticed that you take the same form here, where as most common very differently in aspect. However, even using the obelisks to transport yourself between moments on your world is bad enough – were still is coming from that world on to this.”

“I will remind you, that the world which I came from is not mine. I have been for a very long time absent from my homeland – never to return again. And it is largely in your service that I do this.”

Then another knight spoke up, she was a demigod – one could see this by her height, which was almost 7 feet. She was slender, and had red hair – and many more sigils than the others. “It is disconcerting. But what do you you want?” Even the demigods cannot read the inner thoughts of mortal creatures; it is a skill only for those who bargained with even lower demons.

Out of the corner of the table, the other mortal figure spoke – and she was shorter than either the elf, or the demigods - “We need three things – to hide the mystical knife, which belongs to one of the foul creatures; to deliver a message to the brother, which in our cause was killed; and two return.”

The lady then asked: “What is this to us?”

Loria replied: “You know we are in your service. If you do not want to help us, we can give the blade back to the dark God – and let him do with it what he wishes.” For a chivalric goddess, her servitors were like pulling teeth to get a from. She also noticed that there was a translucent shape to them, as if they were not quite entirely there. Things were different on Yashain – it was truly a magical world. Every figure from her ladyship was both here and elsewhere; they had much to do.

A third figure than spoke: “And what do you want from us?”

By this point, Loria crooked her neck down to her chest; then brought it up again, and clearly enunciated: “ if you can hide the knife, and place us within a day's reach of the brother, that would be sufficient. Since you do not want to give any more effort.”

“That is because you should do yourself.”

“Point taken.” Which was rather abrupt – especially for Loria - but the air was somewhat different here. Then she realized this was but a dream, reality was long ago. She was imagining the meeting, because she could feel the Magi. And she did not know him at the time. But that was all right, it was part of her plan – which could still fail, mind you, because her opponent was more than clever. But, he was not a God – or associated with one. There was a reason for this, but tread softly or the game would be up.

She awoke, because no more was important.


-


This was not what the Magi was at all expecting. He could feel the wind on Yashain, though he did not know how. That the obelisks could transport people from one point to another on Kethira he knew. Now, he knows that Yashain truly exists, that at least some of the gods and goddesses exist. 

These were both confirmations rather than discoveries. But that here in his presence was a person who knew how to operate a cross world enchantment was unexpected. More so, because the Naveh had not told him that this was the piece of information that they wanted to have. It was also apparent that there was another one, whose whereabouts were unknown.

Throbbing coming through the floor, but he did not know from what. It concerned him, but he had more pressing things on his mind. Eventually, he would have to speak to the deacon – because this was a piece of information far more valuable. And it was just the beginning. So he had to put the elf to sleep, but that was not a problem. Because in the vapor, was an elemental which he had conjured. It was almost invisible, and clung to his tail. He had made it for just such an occasion, when he wanted to put the elf into unconsciousness. Sliding away from the chair and putting his back to Loria, he reached up to the air elemental – and with a gentle cooing, made it known that the elf should have less oxygen – in his circles that would be known to sleep almost anything. Among the ordinary folk, such a gas as oxygen was unknown. Because while the elites knew much about many things, it was discouraged to tell almost anyone else.

Sleep, dear elf. Sleep. He intended of course, to wake her because there was more questioning to be done. He knocked on the door, and once it was opened whispered silently to the guard that he wished to talk to the deacon.

He did not like to be deceived, and unfortunately deception was one of the priests more powerful aspects. He not only would have to question the elf, but would have to be very meticulous in his bargaining with the deacon. There would be no lapse, because on all sides there was enemies afoot.

Out in to the weakening afternoon, where the buildings had covered the dimming sun. it was becoming cloudier, though there were still peaks of light through the tangled clouds. He had not really surveyed the inner most city. But it was entirely different from his native land. Here they are were canals plumbing from the depths. Of the inner city five of sides are loosely aligned with a hexagonal – the only place out of sort is the Caer Chaftar which is set about 30° off to the left. In the inner city itself there are two canal ways which dominate their sections from the north, the northern Haven – which effectively is the blowing off of the northern wall – protrudes inward by the Shemeda Canal. It runs south until it forms a pool named Golgotha with the Eshone , and up from the south west, Ukedela from the South East – and the Caldis canal from the north west. There was also the Rusu dividing off a triangle of land for the most exaggerated villas which were available. Outside on the east – outside even of the gates themselves – the long Haikune canal forms a gateway to the outer town, with its Pamesani stadium and its market named for the Royal presence. The Royal presence at the moment is Chafin, who names the Boulevard on the north part – whence it rumbles into the East Haven.

On the matter of money, the tender of the kingdom is so debased that it is often called “Chafin Honour”, because the coins from Rethem are truly debased from the rest of Hârn that there is even an exchange to convert local to more acceptable coinage – such as the Thard Republic uses. Within this morass of roads and canals, there are often things which even the very generous allowances of the state will not approve of – but that does not mean that the state does not extract its share. The coinage is debased, and so is the sinew and muscle which the coinage was used to bargain with.

He had walked to the outer gate, to have some food – but he was careful what he selected from. One did not really know if food grown in Rethemi farms was any good – and he had more than sufficient money not to test this assertion. It was just common sense. Thus he walked to a tavern, whose music said that the clientele was from out of the city. All the same, and eyeing the contents showed that almost all of the food was from up river from Tharda.

He could see that the faces were changing around the tables– the figures of the day, while not particularly honest, were at least doing the business of getting merchandise to sell in time, and to get certain objects which were not allowed in Tharda – because the local constabulary did not like people to turn up dead. But now and again, he could see faces which were calculating and conniving. They had deeper plans, and their faces were fresh – because they were night creatures, and one would question these for services. He left with a flour pancake and entered on to the street.

Here to, he could see that the day creatures were shutting up and hurry home. Which was all right because he was here to talk to a representative of the deacon – which he knew would be around the eastern market. The small southern dock was only to disgorge and load passengers from the ferryboats, often to wait for a sea going ship. Everyone was to obvious, there was no place to blend in. the northern docks were for military vessels, with only a few boats for provisions. Thus, the employees – even of Naveh – came to the Eastern docks, which were just outside of the city, and underneath the stadium. Finally, just for sunset, he spied what he was looking for. The overt signs were completely different, but the figure was the same – this person had been on the boat with him. He wanted to set up a meeting, partially because if he set one up with the deacon, there was no telling what would be done with him. After all, he was negotiating for a higher price – and that would not go down easily.

Gradually he moved cautiously, and then more quickly once his target knew that he was there and recognized him. The extreme dexterity of the Magi would even make an assassin blush had its nimbleness. It took a good few minutes, because they did not want to contact where others could see them. Eventually they rendezvoused in a small building, which was deserted – it said so by the sign, assign without letters mind you – because most of the inhabitants did not actually read.
Once inside, they communicated by sign language – another gift from the Lia-Kavair, who were to thieving what the known guilds were to achieving. It is all a matter of perspective. But the conversation could be rendered like this:

Magi: “I have found a great deal.”

Ruffian: “Why have you sent for me? The deacon is ready for reports.”

Magi: “ I was not given a larger picture. I wish to renegotiate.”

Ruffian: “And you would like me to place this in a neutral spot.”

Magi: “Yes.”

Ruffian: “Stay away from the baggage.” The Ruffian, of course, meant Loria.

Magi: “Come to me and we shall meet outside the city. She has a great deal more information than I was told. The price will be much higher.” He did not want the deacon, who might very well have had him strangled. “Only you, not the deacon.”

The mechanism of talking was blunt, and to the point – couched as it was in gestures and changes in the face. With that the Magi exited himself, and spent time getting new rooms outside the city – to wait for their decision. If it was not enough, he could always go to the followers of Morgath. But he did not think he would have two do this. The followers of Naveh were more urbane than that. What the ruffian did not know was that the Magi had brought his air elemental – and used it to suck oxygen. This meant that the ruffian could not easily think of how to get out of the predicament. There were numerous ways, and they would come to him – after he had enough time to get his wind back. The Magi did not think that he would be the source – or at least, there would the no way to identify him, even if the ruffian suspected. And thus it was time to wait, far outside Golgotha – and the numerous dealings that it hid at twilight and beyond.

Late at night, he closed his eyes and dreamt a dream. A dream of strangling the elf when he was done. It was pleasurable in so many ways – even sensual, it was a ritual, to his profession. He had not had such a vision in a long time, nor one as intense. He did not often remember his nighttime visions, but the rapture was overwhelming. He would have to do this in the flesh.



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