Friday, August 19, 2016

‘Blood in the Water’

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A Solitary Crow - Golgotha - 4

4
Peleahn


Just a touch of fire in the East, where the pale envious moon was shrinking. Arise pale fire, and slay this other sun, that limpets down a mine. Over wooded hills the Magi looked to the town of Golgotha. Was an enormous relax just to be out of the walls and towers that hung over the place. But he had things to do – so he looked away from the oak trees that were strewn around the road into the dire place. He knew he would be going back very soon.

He shut the wooden blinds, very tightly and latched them – another new innovation which would tell anyone that while the bones of the building were old, there were sufficient number of enhancements. The building had only changed hands a few years ago, and while there was no attachment of the name – their had been a great deal of work done on it. Now it was supposedly an inn, which very seldom had rooms available. Except for certain people.

Naturally, the Magi was one of those people.

Turning his back on the window, he brushed aside the chairs and table – to reveal a pine floor. At which point he began doing designs with a wedge of charcoal, which was one of many things hidden inside his robe. First he drew a very wide circle, in the shape of a sphere, and then within it a pentagram. Than connecting the spokes on the quintette, he drew lines connecting all of the points, and he was within the center. Putting the charcoal aside, he raised his hands above his head and started what seemed like a gibberish chant. But it had a certain rhythmic sense.

Then there was a flash of light, so bright that it gnawed in two every nook and cranny. It had the color of orange, like the Inferno which came from mystically enchanted torches. However it was the after effect of the embers which had a hypnotic sense about it. It stayed on the sphere and gradually formed a ball. Then gradually a face appeared, wrapping itself around the globe, and carry at the Magi with an air of disgust. It was not a human face, but the face of a devil – humanlike but not human at all. Then it spoke:

“You have been using our gifts with great abandon. Do not think that this has gone unnoticed.” There was no form of introduction, just a straight dive in to the truth. This, clearly, was a master to his servant, but it was mastery which had clear and sharp limits. The Magi could go elsewhere if he wanted it, but the loss of power would be tremendous. Both of them knew the limits of their freedom, and the cost to themselves for breaking their contract. Because there was a contract, in writing, though in a script which was not used by ordinary people. It was a script for binding demons, and was difficult to learn.

Jutting his chin out, the Magi began: “ I have done what I have done for both our interests, it is not often that Naveh has sought the out. And it seems that his servants had glossed over certain details, which I should be able to gain recompense. It is over this that I seek your guidance, knowing that what ever I find out you shall know, too.” While his tone was haughty, he was actually supplicating himself – and promising that what ever he knew that the devil would know. It was clear that the devil neither served Naveh, nor Morgath.

“So you think that a gift of knowledge is sufficient for my help?”

“Or you could grant me the knowledge that I seek, if you have it.”

“You know I do not, nor does Thonhexus – the Herald of our clan. Be it white gray or black, it is not known to any of us.” the devil was speaking of the Pantheon of Save-K'nor. Most of whom were white, or at very least gray. But there were a few black members of the Pantheon – because some secrets are twisted. And these are the secrets that the Magi searches for, and guards jealously.

“Then, I suggest, you, all of you, allow me to do my work. Because only we of the living can rip free such secrets.” At this point the human member of this conversation had a very weak smile. He knew that he would get what he wanted.

“What do you want from me?”

“It is not in my power to demand from you.” Slipping aside the rather blunt chance to misplay is hand.

“What do you desire me to consider?” The devil knew that such obvious moves would not work – but he had to try anyway, for the sake of form.

“Since I am going to reach in to a elfin who is captured by the Naveh – I think it would be advisable for me to ask you for a spell. Because that is not within my power, nor the power of such servants as I am given.”

“There will be a price for this, I am not one of the servitors who gives gives out. Certainly not for free.”

“Name your price.”

“I will name the price when it is appropriate. But I have in my debt. Trust me, I will collect.”

The mage new that he was going to regret this, but the alternative was even more ghastly. It is one thing to be in the debt of someone that you serve, it is quite another to be in the debt of someone whose first impulse would be to eradicate you. On the other hand, this had to be a fine secret, because there was no way that the devil would demand such a price on anything less. After all, the devil would have to answer to others if the debt was not appropriate. And the being that he would answer to was not black as he was. How he had gotten himself in to the situation of serving Save-K'Nor the Magi - but it was obviously a large mistake on the devil's part.

The spell took no visible sign, but all could feel its presence. The devil then removed himself from his predicament. And the Magi thought about his next move. It would have to do with the now they deacon, and a precise calculation of what he could get out of him – and what he promised the devil. 

He was not sure that he would turn a profit on this – it depended on where the deacon had a limit to what he could give out.

Then all at once, the Magi was extremely tired – it had been a great deal of effort to control the sphere which the devil had appeared on. Because the devil had wanted to break the sphere, and probably wanted to consume the Magi. This would not do. So stretching his arms high above him and a little bit to behind, he wanted to go to sleep. But he suspected that the Naveh deacon would be knocking on the door, and in a very polite way, asked to see the person who had just checked in. by “asked” he really meant “demand”, and the innkeeper would know that, and direct him upstairs to the correct door.

And just as he could not stand being awake, he heard very dimly on the outer door, three pairs of knocks, which he knew by their intonation belonged to the deacon. That the primate was not sent meant they did not feel this was important – that the price he was going to ask for was within the deacon's latitude. He noted that, and would push for as much as he could. Not that the deacon was going to tell him how much that was.

It was obvious that he would wait for the deacon to come up to his room, and then cast a spell so that no one else could listen. But then, almost all of the residence were magi or some variant upon this – and even if something trivial was to be discussed, charms would be a melded to keep the proceedings quiet. He heard footsteps of the front staircase, and then very quietly along the corridor to his room. Then there was waiting until finally three knocks were delivered to the doorstep to his room. The knocks were from footsteps not hands, but the Magi knew that his hands would be focused on incantation, so were not available for other things.

“You can come in, the door is now unlocked.” Having just removed the incantation.

“Walk over to the door and opened it please.” Because the door swung out, a further sign that his hands were busy. Perhaps he had been sent to exterminate the Magi. This would be a bad move on their part, because the spell he had gone from the devil was very powerful indeed, and part of its presence was that it would not be known until it was activated. But he would rather not use it this quickly.

It was at this point that the Magi bluntly stated: “If you are arms are positioned in an incantation, I am ready for it.”

The door then opened outwards. The deacon moved with a great deal of stillness, and shut the door. He folded his hands and pointed them downwards, as if to say he would not be using a spell upon the Magi. Or at least one which did not use incantations.

The deacon began with a direct question: “So why do you want more than asked for? And why do you think I will grant it?”

“We both know that it is in your power, as to why, the piece of information is a great deal more valuable to you then you implied. That means that the risk for me is higher. Which means that must pay a fair market price for it. Or I will have to go to other interested parties, and bargain for what I do have. It really is a simple choice: you can try to quash me – or you can renegotiate how much I shall be demanding, with an eye to its true value. It is not a good idea to delude me in this matter. Though you have tried many times. Which makes me wonder, why our doing this to me – knowing as you do, that I am a great deal cleverer than your normal folk.”

“We wanted to be secret.”

“That could believed once, but once was several times before. Tell me the real reason, because I am not in the mood for negotiating when the other party is given to lies.” an edge crept up in to his voice. It was not really that he was tired, or in any way losing control. Is just that he felt that smooth negotiation was not getting him any place, so he moved to crass negotiation instead.

Bending has had down, the deacon knew that this would be a challenge. He would have to decide what to do, because telling him more than once necessary was not an option. Then lifting his head, he began: “You have to understand that much of this remains secret. Therefore I am not given to answer many questions that you might have.”

“You work for the lord of lies, and that has been on display. I do not want what is not mine to have. But I do want my security, against which parties which use magic are involved, against which parties which work miracles are involved. I have to know to protect myself.”

“If you want assurances of your protection...”

“You have shown that you do not have my protection in mind, and a miscalculation of the threat of various parties – including myself – that are involved.” He needed to get the deacon fully involved, and a bit angry – but not too much. It was obvious that this man was a fool – which was not easy for the Naveh, because they were very small in number and therefore were generally among the smartest – and most devious – that they could find. He wondered, remotely, how a blunderer such as this could rise so high in the hierarchy. But he had more important things to worry about, so he kept to the project of getting past this dullard, who worshiped deceit and deception for its own sake.

Thrusting and fainting with words continued for some time, but at last it was obvious to the deacon that this Magi wanted to see his superior – so he bent down and assured him that it would be done, if only the Magi would follow him to the river and board a hidden boat. The Magi new where the Temple of Naveh was, of course, so it would not be a faux pas to take him there. With only a few things in a knapsack, the two departed from the house and walked south. There under the rushes, by the river on the south end, they were directed by the deacon to a black and low skiff – which was special even though unordained. And then they departed Golgotha, though they entered by a different portal, on the south east – in two the canal known as Ukedela. And it was the blackest and most mired of the waterways, even the portables contained the largest rats that anyone on the island of Hârn had ever seen. The deacon polling left and right turned the corner and then stopped, directing the Magi to the left of a narrow back entrance. Then he departed, knowing that the Naveh were watching every move. Through the black cobblestones, uneven though they were. Since the daylight Extinguished, gradually a low forming cloud had come in, though there were still a few flecks of stars. But there was no moon.

With his eyes set upon the road, not at all on the deacon, he was watching for the entrance, but did not see it. Instead he was grabbed from behind as he walked down the alley way, by at least two men which he did not see, and nothing about them was no noticeable. Even the smell was indistinct. Suddenly he stepped on a cobblestone, beneath the windowless walls, and help himself stumbling downwards into a pitch black room beneath the street.

He was jabbed in a direction, and moved forwards under the extreme pressure from a gloved hand. Then after about 30 paces a light began to shine.

It was very dim, and he could barely recognize the man who was seated on a plainly adorned throne. 

There was no spindles, just a seat and manchettes. Apparently any priest who could not maintain himself was not supposed to be on it anyway. There, though it was just dimly lit, the man who sat on it present himself almost regally. He was tall, thin with only hair along the sides of his head and was white. For all of that, his features were proud and. He was just on the north side of 40, and still had many years left in him. He might have made an elixir to keep himself young. He was dressed in a simple, but elaborate, rode – with elaborate designs made of white fabric intertwined.

Coldly he began: “It seems you are decidedly set on getting what you want.”

“If you wanted someone who would kill themselves by slitting their own throat, you should have taken one of your own. In case you missed it, I am not one of your followers. You got a hired hand, nothing more.” The little words flowed out of his mouth, just to be sure that he was understood. 

Because in all of the machinations, and flowing details of negotiation, he wanted to be sure that there was complete understanding. A cold crystal understanding, as his opponents voice had been.

He wanted not only sound and fury, that signified nothing – that would be merely soldiers pay, with mosquitoes dropping in – but to direct a flag in the dust, where they could negotiate again. Because, even if as he lay dying, he would build a sanctuary, a pylon of his own device . But this time with both parties knowing exactly what they were getting. This would be his un-vanquished triumph, even if he forgets thee. It would almost be like the hamlet which he constructed. No matter how they go down – they would be left like an intruder in the dust, speaking a requiem for a nun, as if a fable.
If he were just a lone man, there would be no chance of his getting that. But he too was backed by a greater God – one who did not like being fooled with. So Naveh would have to negotiate on terms unfavorable to the Lord of Lies.

So the negotiations began again, but this time the two parties were equal. The Magi knew what a difficult situation this must be for the primate of Naveh – to be humiliated on the ground which he was used to being lord and master of – but the spell which the magi had on him did not broke for any differing interpretation. The devil was almost always right when he cast a spell.

The reason he negotiated with the primate, was that lower order deacons would try to back out of the deal – which would be unpleasant for them. But, the primate knew what position he was in – and easily came to a new agreement, which would be better for the Magi. This was because the primate knew what would happen if the agreement was not held to. Because the morgathi would happily offer much more.

About the negotiation, they dickered, and the Magi hoped for the last time. He could feel his spine loosen up, now that Naveh's priests would not just be able to stick a blade when they had what they wanted to. And while there was a price to be paid by parties, he felt that an agreement would be held to – not for the truth, but for the lies both parties had on the other. Because his own God dealt with lies to, Harlequin though they may be.

What he did not mention was that the fire elemental would stay here, unnoticed, just for assurance. And if he found any plot from the Naveh, he would combust himself and take everything with him, or die trying. Not that the Magi thought that the fire elemental would do so, but there would be enough damage to warn the Lord of Lies that was not playing with a man, but with another God.
A God who was watching him from the inside.

When the negotiations were over, the Magi was herded down the corridor, and up to the darkened night sky – and to face again the elf. Because the information was still locked inside, like a tin drum.

-

Away near the capital of this kingdom of Rethem, some spells were cast by a secret sect who worshiped fire. The spells ruptured, and while they did not know the cause, the direction was from Golgotha. There was nothing that they could do, but it was a sign that something was happening, so they put the word out to the King, and told him to be careful. But the King did not receive the message, because he was in go Golgotha itself.



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