Monday, August 29, 2016

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'I drink 12 to 18 cups a day'

Golgotha - 7


Water was his first conscious reaction. When his eyes were close, but awake in some half-way daze – small drops of water came down upon him. Then he was just awake enough to know that he was in a bed, still sleeping off the energies of the night. It was not the way that the Magi wanted to remember is remonstrances of the night, in two morning. Thus he forced his vision to awake and survey what had happened. Just above him was a distorted face, which he recognized as the slave. In Tharda there were strict rules about who could be a serf, and who could be a slave – here in Rethem, and the free territories which were not free – the niceties were not so heavily enforced. But anywhere in the Western side of Hârn, this man was a slave – and possibly one who could not by his way to freedom. Not that this concerned the Magi, much – if you did not like your circumstance, then you had to seize it. Carpe Diem.

At which point he looked around the bedroom, which was in the Golgotha style of black rock and slightly less black mortar, but with Windows which were quite large – because this was the north side of town, and certain luxuries were part of the air of the place. It reminded the people in the crowded South who ruled them. Because the people in the South would go out to the countryside, and do cruel things for their master – the north ruled the South, and the South in turn pushed around the rest of the free town of Golgotha – save only leaving the games and warfs alone.

At this point the Magi had enough free will to send away the slave, and began to wake up and use the bowl to refresh himself. There was not that much furniture other than the bed, the bowl, and a small bookshelf. There was nothing to slide, hang, or otherwise store cloths. The point was, you did not awaken until your host wanted you to do so. And since the servant was here, and a quick glance showed he had no cloths for the guest, that would mean they would have the conversation – so rudely interrupted by the Magi's need for sleep – right here.

As if on queue, the host was at the doorway – not bothering to knock, but he waited for his guest to enter him in. their was ritual even though it enforced that the host was in charge.

“You can come in, we have things to discuss – now that conscious is bestowed upon me.”

“There was mumbling something with sleep, you must have been dreaming.”

“It was the dream of a young man, deciding what wanted to do.”

“You have an exquisite memory for what you dream.” The words floated, as if they were a nightmare waiting to be awoken.

“Prodigious. But that is not what you came here for.”

“What is liked, and what is needed, are two different things. You do not want to indulge my likes, at the present time.” Dryness was inflamed by his speaking, as if it coarsened the nape of the Magi's neck.

“You have slaves for that.” It was too obvious, the Magi felt that such language was too abrupt for this conversation, but obviously his host was not in the same mood.

“But they don't resist, or pretend not to. Only free humans can truly resist. But have it your own way.” the contractions showed that he was using the guttural language of the slave market. It was not particularly attractive.

“So what are you going to do with me?” a bit to the point, but then the Magi did not like dipping into anything less than the majestic tongue, rather than the slang of the innumerable less worthy peasant dialects. He had a friend who could master at least a dozen in a single sentence. Ghastly.

“Well actually I have been thinking that. And I thought about turning you over to either the Queens guard, or emissaries who report to Morgathi, or to the less known Naveh.”

“It was a waste of your time, because you know that each one of those would want more than just me, and you do not really have more than just me – unless you divulge certain details that we both know that you would not wish to do except under pressure.”

“Yes that was my decision too. That you knew that from the beginning, is a testament to your imagination what would likely happen. As the so much rarer than ought to be members of the continent would say, touche. Or however it is they would pronounce that, you would be more first in that then myself.”

“It was far too obvious, the need to think about it was beneath my notice.”

“What did occur to you, consciously speaking?”

“The same thing that occurred to you, namely that you will help me get out, but you would lay on me a task which I had to perform, if I wanted to leave Tharda by the river, because you have spies almost everywhere. assuming that you knew that my presence graced your docks from the instant that it happened.”

“Indeed, it did.”

It occurred to the Magi that he did not have the say anything, but did anyway. “That is what was expected.”

“It is good that we are on the same page, as the expression goes.” Which was tripped off as if it were made up on the spot, though of course they both knew it was not.

“So what is the task you have?” Feigning a conciseness which he did not possess.

“As a devil might say, only be smallest thing.” Meaning: a very large thing.

“Of course we will send people to investigate your finding a way to Yashin, though through another entrance that we have available to us.” The “We”'s did not go unnoticed.

“Go on.” There was an aura of annoyance in the voice.

“We would of course not risk you in such an endeavor.”

“That is so kind you, what to you truly want?” even the tremor of annoyance did not touch the Magi's brow. This was the negotiation that he expected. After all, losing the elf was jejune of him, so he had to make up the difference.

“In your lands, the local cult which presides over this city, is, to say it bluntly, banned. So you can tell a few people who should not know of it, and be reasonably certain that if it pops up here, then someone would be remiss in telling.”

“You want me to tell people, slightly different stories, and see who told the Morgathi.”
“That is the gist of it, yes.” As was expected, his host had taken the – let us use the word which he would have – bodacious way of getting to the mission for him to undertake.

A simple nod.

“Thought it would take some convincing.”

“It is not like there is an option.”

“True. But you could betray.”

“And then one of your guards will stop me, or at least report. Because you have quite a number of them.”

“Also true, but he did not think that would be on the forefront of your calculations.”

“That would have been unwise if you.” it was not that his host was unintelligent, but that there was great deal on his mind – whereas his own mind was quite free to think on every point imaginable, which had to do with his survival. Call it an advantage, he was sure that if his host thought of it it would be in those terms.

The Magis noticed also that the “We” had not been used, so there was some distance between the cabal which he was a part of, and his own interest. But, he was sure that there was no way for him to take advantage of that. In fact, he was sure that that would be part of the secret of his hosts plan, so he decided not to think about it. But he wondered when was the point where he would reveal secret, which would surprise even his host. Though he knew it was not time for that. It was, however, close – very close indeed. It was well known among the people that there gods and ancestors were sometimes long suffering, and would deliberately allow a man to go on defined them. But even in such cases they sent their limits. And this was one of them, as his reply showed:

“So how long does the calendar hold for the accomplishment of this mission?” There was only the smallest hint of uncertainty in his voice. It was of course, totally prepared.

“When the door to where you live opens up and sees a small band of warriors, you will know that your time has run out.” In other words, he would really not want to know, because in straight up combat, he was decidedly at a disadvantage.

Then the conversation did not stop, per se, but wound its way to a pause. The light dimmed because of the clouds outside. It had done so previously, but there was something different about it. Previously, the clouds only dimmed for a moment, and only faintly. This was the sign that it was only the light fair-weather clouds. This time it was longer than that, and darker. The dimming ended, but it was a sign that rain would be coming, probably in the night.
Then the host began again: “Do you want to stop this?”

“Only if you are leaving, otherwise we will be involved in negotiations until then.” He recalled that, while clearing his throat, that it was certainly true that a child belongs to his father, until he beats him and then the child will seek sympathy in its mother's arms. But then when he can not get sympathy from his mother, he turns to negotiation, and even to intrigue. He realized that he had done so quite long ago, so long that he did not even realize when.

“Point taken.” And with that he left. Giving the Magi time to think, and perhaps even plot. Though by now he knew that there was only one thing to do - but where to do it, and when, it became the sole provocation in his mind. The plot hatched.

The broad slave came in, eventually, not bearing cloths, but a thin sheet of parchment which detailed how he was to get out. There was both running and a map, which detailed the means of finding a hidden door, and opening it. But there was no detail beyond opening the door. In a sense it said to trust the maker of the map – which was hardly a good idea. And that was the point: he had to trust his host with the means of escape, even though he did not want to. In fact, he did not want to more and more, because it certainly smelled like a trap. If it was a trap, however, he at least knew that it was, and he would have to balance out whether it was wise to kill him immediately, and what use he could be in future. He decided that, on balance, it was better to let him escape – even if it meant creating some excuse how he got out to his host's friends. Which, in general, were not particularly bright – though his host was. For a moment he thought about having friends who were as bright as he was, and he dismissed that, if for no other reason than this tête-à-tête. A few friends were more than sufficient.

More than sufficient, at least. But he came here because there was no other means to escape, including the bright – well maybe not friend – but at least acquaintance, who knows how his mind worked, and in turn whose mind was open to him.

At this point, he slept. It was the only thing to do. Though he woke up repeatedly, he went back to sleep until it was truly dark outside. In this climate there was a long period of twilight, and between waking he had nightmares. This was not his usual practice, and once he did not know if he was awake until lightning struck outside, and made a fluttering of the windows. At this point he resolved to follow the plan to the letter. He looked over at the chair, with its long oak arms bearing the cloths that he brought in – neatly dressed. He thought for a moment that there were advantages to the way of slaves, but that was not enough to keep one for himself – there were certain rules that he followed, and keeping slaves was one thing he did not even think of doing. Again, if he needed a reminder, watching every moment was enough. He did not want to be distracted as to the whereabouts, and what they were actually thinking. Because even the slowest of slaves had only one thing in mind, and in most cases the slave sought peculiar pleasure in a fantasy, a fantasy which would be extremely unpleasant to fulfill as his master. He had seen what happened when this occurred twice. Both times, the master and wife and children were disemboweled, with extreme prejudice.

While he was thinking of these thoughts, his body was going through the motions of getting dressed, and checking what objects were still there. There were still that were not, and some that were. Obviously the slave pocketed the missing objects, but there was nothing important.

Boots were the last thing he slipped on, which were leather and with ornate designs that he dictated to the maker. We were precise instructions, that which he gave when he cared about such things. And boots were definitely one of the things he cared about, most particularly that they not squeak. He slipped them on, and then stood up, and quietly tread across the floorboards. He was down in the back hall, again silently, and down to the hidden door. Ever so gently, he opened the entrance to the hidden part of the basement, using both hands to guide himself down.

Dirt, he was at the bottom, and realized he was down at the bottom. Thus he slid down the portal, taking as much pain as he could. It was dark, darker than he could imagine. He wondered why there were no tallow or wax candles, because he would reason that the Agrikan hordes would like them in their basement. He stopped for a moment, and tried to decide whether this was important. From the inside of his sleeve, he used to fingers to gather a piece of chalk, and made a mark that would clearly visible – the feel was all that it took.

Luxury of thinking that hard was not an option, and took up the task of moving through the basement with due care. After at least a quarter of an hour, he saw a glint of light, and immediately preceded to duck – which was a good thing, because something hurtled past him, though he did not know what. You realized that everything ruled there household with every hand. Everything screeched to provoke a terror. He realized in his mind that something had been thrown at him, and thus needed no more attention. It was the front that drew his eyes onward.

Tensing, from his right sleeve gathered a dirk, though he did not yet know what he was fighting – or even that he was fighting. But, better to be sure. It was as if the last match was between the silent leaders, who crowded around him like silent members of his team. He imagined that this team would rumble down in front of him, allowing him to score. He then realized it was a delusion, created by his mind. He was alone, not one of many, and he was trying to escape. He reached through the lashes of the truly night of the tomb, but slowly he walked out of the true darkness, and into the darkness of night.

There were no stars in the sky because there was a rain cloud. Fireflies went about with their tiny green lamps, which only made the darkness more profound. Between outbursts the night was alive with the shrill tremor of forest insects moving into the darkness.

He was living. And the water had drenched him clean. As if he had a bath in the bowels of the earth.
Outside, he still did not know who had thrown the object, though he had suspicions. There were two ways of killing someone. One is by stealth, with no body to the sound. The other one is to have a messy corpse, where all would see the dubiousness of escaping. He realized that the second one was destined for him, and it was probably the host who was planning it. Though taking part in this plan was, in any other city or town, slightly perilous. But it was here in Golgotha, where such things would be seen as the coupe-de-grace. That was the nature of this place – top was bottom in the matter of morality and style.

  Through the branches of the trees, through the bushes, he finally saw his host with some form of bladed ax. It was time to find out was better at killing. Though he rather suspected that it was not he. Though he had a secret in his mind. But he knew that that secret must be closed to the rest of his mind, just yet. Because if even a hint displayed on his face, it would be as if a normal man shouted it. Such was the relationship between these two men: the merest hint would stand out. But the body was going to be a loud exclamation point, or rather a series of them.

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