“MAD EARL FAZ” CHAPTER 21 (A PAINFUL TASK)

18 06 2014

[The Inspector is having you what?] thought Warren.

From a rickshaw, the Earl watched the bustling Meridian Bulwark Route pass.

[I have to walk the ten miles of the Secure by twenty-hour tonight. I am riding down to the Enthus Gate now to begin. Inform all that I am safe, but that I shall eat dinner as I walk.]

[I am glad of your safety, my liege. The walk will be inconvenient for this afternoon.]

[Eh?]

[The contemplators are pressing Calzjha for details of the Ijkallas.]

The Earl grimaced. [You would think that he – she! — she would take just a moment from rubbing people to read a god-poxied army report!]

[Indeed!]

[Tell her that I will try to communicate some various hints to her as needed. Remind her to stay on what is already known about the islands. Tell her that the Ijkallans are excited about joining the Kingdom, and try to turn it into a conversation about the Kingdom.]

Before the trotting rickshaw driver, the dark brown Enthus Gate loomed. The Earl gritted his teeth and sighed.

[And tell Calzjha to read the god-poxied army reports!]

[Yes, my liege.]

The rickshaw pulled out of the wheelgrooves and onto the sidewalk. The Earl paid the man, who eyed Fazgood’s gritty, blotched hands with distaste and took the coins delicately. Ignoring the contempt, Fazgood looked to his right at Eximus Quayfort, a keep shaped like a mushroom rising from a jetty in the Quand. Before him was Enthus Gate, and to his left, with another sigh, he confronted Meridian Bulwark Route, the direction from which he came. The Route was a paved upward slope the width of four rickshaws. The entire of it was busy with carts, rickshaws and pedestrians, but would soon it would be thick with people.

The Earl trotted to the corner where the Secure ended and the entrance to the Quayfort began. He tapped it and began his walk at his usual brisk pace.

The Route’s course took it along the base of the Secure for most of its length. Every two hundred paces, a food vendor would be positioned to selling to crowds; pickleballs or shimmercake for humans and Exult, or a page of sonnets for the hungry Adactoid. The colors of the city were of the sort found in nature, or at least a very muddy nature found along a river; the people wore duns or browns or yellows or dark blue. The police wore the same maroon as maple trees in autumn. The wall itself was a glittering, granular copper.

Hrikinik had bored Fazgood with details regarding the stone which comprised the Secure . The Adanikarese were greatly jealous of the unique stone. The stone withstood strikes from catapult and Booloob screams without so much as a scratch. Yet if one managed to chip a piece, it felt light in your hand like pumice. It would stay like that for years, decades. But if one attempted to deduce the qualities of that piece through experiment or magic, even closely examining that piece, that chipped stone would collapse into dust. Examinations through proxy, such as having pathetics test and describe that sample, left them with dust.

The Adanikarese were vexed by what they considered a divine practical joke; they called the stone “God-clot.”

That brought Fazgood’s mind to his conversation with Hrikinik, and to the Temporary God seeking the Earl.

He swore to himself in several languages.

The Secure terminated at the Citadel, and beside that was the Terhane Residences. Inside the Residences was the game of jezr-ji, the soul of the Temporary God, and every poxied lotcaster in the province.

Keep alert for those banners, he thought.

The keeps along the Secure were spaced one at every quarter ri. The Earl’s knee started aching again. An ambulatory rumbled and whined past, which made the Earl scowl with jealousy at the gentility, the smartness of such travel.

[My liege, I hate to disturb you at your labor.]

[What does Calzjha want?]

[Calzjha is about to give her presentation. She is quite nervous.]

That is quite satisfying! But no, no, I have to help her! But why? It was being distracted by her testicles that got me – Blast I should have worked alone!

The Earl edged along the sidewalk around a sonorous crowd at a sonnet-stand, [Did she read?]

[She did, but she preferred that I contact you, and convey promptings.]

He bumped into a burping, reciting Adactoid and apologized. Jingling metal rang from somewhere.

[So she didn’t read very much,] Fazgood thought.

[I would doubt it, my liege. Still, I consider her caution to be sensible.]

[Very well. Tell her she should make begin with a recitation and speak slowly. Fluxion! I have to dodge!]

[What?]

Along the wall, directly toward the Earl, came a throng of clamoring brown jezr-ji players. The red and yellow streamers fluttered in the breeze, caressing all around the banners as they passed.

The Earl noted the good cheer that the players instilled and, with a smile, picked his way across the rickshaw lanes to the other sidewalk. The players passed safely by.

[My liege! She has taken a question!]

The Earl choked, then gritted his teeth and walked faster. [What was her god-poxied reason for doing that?]

[Calzjha is too ready to please others: the question is “Tell us about courtship and marriage in your land.”]

[Tell her to use her own traditions as an answer. Leave out the sex changing!]

Fazgood bumped into an Exult, who squawked a protest.

“Humblest apologies!” the Earl said, and received a ruffled flap in reply.

[She is answering well,] reported Warren.

[Tell her to ask about Rahsic traditions! Then get back on her talk!]

[Yes, my liege.]

Another keep passed. Other ambulatories prompted more scowls. The Earl’s stomach growled. He considered calling out to a distant vendor and passing money and food as he walked by, but all the vendors were crowded. In his blazer pocket was his bottle of relish; he knew from experience that a little Lava-God’s-Revenge would give more life to his step and make him forget his pains.

A crowd knotted in a side courtyard. Unseen, a declaimer’s cadence rose above the crowd. A woman with steely voice cried:

 

“From the parapet of his besieged manse,

surrounded by the Imperial Army,

surrounded tighter by the Earl’s treacherous subjects,

so shouted the Earl:

‘Do you think you have me? Go slap yourselves!

‘’Twas your treachery brought the army to besiege!

I committed felonies within my Emperor’s tolerance!

You stole without regard!

No jail…”

 

Voices in the crowd joined the declaimers:

“‘…was built for me, especially not the jail meant for you!’”

The voices cheered and laughed at the Earl’s hubris.

Of course I was clever! Damn it all! I was broke and betrayed! I lost my home! What did I have left except to curse them!

More people stepped from the tight buildings onto the sidewalk, making the Earl stop suddenly and jar his knee. The sidewalk was now bustling.

Fazgood muttered, “She must be getting along well. I haven’t heard from War –“

Then he clenched his mouth shut. Zhazh will notice —

[My liege!]

Fazgood suppressed a curse to that wretched god. [Tell me.]

[“What is the history of your government?” It’s from the Mezzo-Barritone!]

[Monarchy! People understand monarchy!]

[The reports say the Ijkallas are a sort of republic!]

[Fluxion! Convey this to Calzhja! She is to say. “Enlightened thinkers set up laws to live by.”]

[Done! Next!]

The crowd was quickening, and Fazgood limped to keep pace. [“In a time beyond reckoning…”]

[Yes?]

[“…the thinkers looked to create a society of peace and understanding. But they knew that dream…”]

The Earl struggled, his pace slowing to tiny steps. [“…required the continued striving of the populace to become closer to the perfection of the all-knowing gods.”]

[Yes!]

[“Our Ijkallas grew in peace and plenty, and did not need the desperate intervention of our gods. Our gods have seen fit to guide you to our shores to aid us in this quest for enlightenment.”]

Fazgood waved a hand in declamation, which drew agitated glances from the maids beside him.

[All are very pleased, my liege.]

[Now! Tell Calzjha to suggest that she dance!]

[They accept the invitation!]

The Earl nodded in satisfaction, imagining the murmurings of a contented crowd. Gods, I miss politics!

The crisis in the keep passed. Calzjha performed “The Wooing of The Doe Princess”, which was always pleased an audience. Fazgood found that dance sweet and sopping and too long to finish; he was glad to avoid its performance.

He considered glumly, It is the gummy toast of Calzjha’s dances! How can persons of any accomplishment enjoy it?

Despite his knee, he reflected upon his comparison and enjoyed it.

The Earl passed keep number nineteen-or-twenty, which began the third tier of Harmonium. The route crested and flattened, and his legs were thankful. He began his walk to the Plaza of the Superb.

His stomach tweaked from hunger. The Earl made arrangements with Warren to have some beannuts and bread ready to seize when he passed by Greatsergeant Keep; the nuts would be good to eat while walking, and the bread he had plans for.

He walked past guildhouses and memoriums, noting the guildhall of the masons, whose brick latticed walls resembled a river from one angle, then as one walked, the brickpattern resembled faces of resilient and noble anonymous citizens. He sighted the keep, the twenty-fourth-or-fifth along the Secure.

Outside the keep stood Obdurate. The Earl slowed his pace enough for the adjutant to give a bag of beannuts and a large chunk of dark bread.

Obdurate confirmed that Calzjha’s performance was splendid.

“Would you permit me to walk with you?” the captain asked.

“I would enjoy the company,” said the Earl, “but it is best we were not seen chatting as friends. The lies we’ve told depend upon your public hostility towards me. We will talk tonight.”

Obdurate nodded and bade the Earl an affected, gruff farewell. The timing of such curtness was well. Fazgood spied across the square a short, vulpine deputy, the one who mocked him after being Obligated, watching the soldier’s departure with interest.

The Earl remembered the Inspector’s instructions to register with whichever deputy was observing the square. He proceeded at a diagonal path through the crowd toward the brigade scout. Fazgood waved to the deputy.

The deputy turned his back to Fazgood, as if noting a detail in a demon’s face within Lanthornmount mosaic. Suspecting some mischief, the Earl rummaged in the bag and found a good, flat beannut the size of his thumb-knuckle.

Called the Earl, “Scout Deputy! Hello!”

The deputy was very plainly ignoring him. The Earl rolled the beannut around in his right palm. Fazgood had to keep walking or violate his obligation to Merhiazadapt, and decay even more. He edged one foot ahead of the other, taking the tiniest steps.

“Deputy…Tlezjoy! Is that not your name?”

The deputy turned and walked away to the east wall of the Square, from where Fazgood had come. Fazgood could not reverse direction without breaking his obligation; the deputy doubtless knew this, for he had mocked the Earl as those commands had been made.

The Earl snarled at the cruelty. He sought an opening in the crowd. His hand whipped. The beannut flew through the crowd and struck Tlezjoy on the base of his neck.

Forgetting himself, the deputy wheeled around. His hand fished within his collar. It found the beannut and he looked around in rage.

He saw the Earl through the crowd, thirty paces away.

Fazgood put on an affable smile and waved the bag of beannuts. “I register!”

The deputy pressed through the genteel crowd with apologies muttered through his teeth. He stood in the Earl’s path. Fazgood made his steps even smaller.

“I register,” The Earl slumped into Pehzpersist’s meekness again. “Would you like a beannut?”

The deputy made to smack the bag from Fazgood’s hand. Fazgood snatched it out of his reach. Fazgood continued tiny steps to within Tlezjoy’s breath. They stood, Fazgood’s nose to Tlezjoy’s chin. Fazgood stopped walking.

Said the Earl, “To impede someone who is obligated from fulfilling that obligation is considered unregulated torture. For a scout, that is low treason. Will you call the policeman on the corner, or will I?”

“You have that wrong, aspirant. I do what I may.”

“Ah! I believe you have that wrong, deputy. Please step aside.”

“You would call the policeman? I know enough of your situation that you would want to stay out of the light, bunglerpox.”

“Know enough”. The Inspector keeps his deputies ignorant. Of course he does.

Said the Earl, “I believe your boss would become very upset about any attention drawn to me.”

They stood button against button. Fazgood looked past Tlezjoy’s shoulder. Both of them saw a policeman waving through pedestrians some twenty paces away. The Earl opened his mouth and took a breath. The deputy knew a forthcoming cry of distress when he saw it, and stepped aside.

“It is well!” Tlezjoy grinned. “I meant only to joke!”

Such as it is with bullies. But if there were no crowd, he would have tried to thrash me.

Said the Earl, “One would not think you as a man of humor. You are dead of expression, and I must confess, intimidating. If you will excuse me, I must continue.”

Fazgood proceeded to walk slowly, chin held high, at a slow pace. The deputy joined his walk.

“Did you throw that beannut?”

“Yes.”

Tlezjoy looked back to where he had stood when the nut had struck him. “That was a sharp throw. Through that crowd!”

“Watch.”

He waited for a gap, then whipped a nut. It arced through the pedestrians and struck the policeman’s hat.

The policeman turned around. With practiced chicanery, both the Earl and the deputy began walking and feigning a conversation. Seeing nobody through the crowd, and not seeing the projectile on the ground, the policeman continued on his way.

Tlezjoy’s eyes narrowed to a brute jealousy. “How can you throw so well?”

“A knack from when I was little. I spent my youth in the wilderness.”

“Ah,” said the deputy. He became thoughtful, as if reminded of something.

“It is in the wrist,” Fazgood showed how his wrist whipped. “Like this. It is not difficult.”

The deputy looked at the hand, but did not emulate. The Earl knew the deputy would try later, when there was no one to see his mistakes.

“Would you walk?” the Earl asked.

“No. I stay here. Off with you, bunglerpox.”

“Then hold to the wall, good deputy. I was about to spread some relish on some bread. But if you’ve no interest in it, that is well.”

“That ghastly stuff!” the deputy walked alongside. “It’s still in my nose from last night!”

The Earl was struck with an idea.

Back in Adanikar, Hrikinik used soul distillations as a party trick. The distillations from maniacs would be slipped into the food of those attending sophisticates, and those who ate would be inflamed with passions or rages. Hrikinik’s parties sometimes ended with the marble floors covered with bodies; whether those bodies were rutting or bleeding made no difference to that eternally bored and callous Prince.

The Earl tucked the bag under his arm, and broke the bread. He gave half to the deputy, then brought out the bottle. He tapped a tiny amount of the viscid yellow stuff on each of their pieces.

Fazgood gestured to a nearby fountain, which they approached. “Note this: the trick is to let your mouth and throat dry through deep breaths, then let it slide down quick.”

The Earl chewed and swallowed. The scorching and scalding scraped down to his stomach. He felt a flush of heat, and the pain in his knee ebbed. He puffed and panted, and the heat ebbed.

The deputy hesitated. “I am not eating that.”

Do I remember how Hrikinik prompted? Yes!

“Your Inspector did so. He said he was the only scout tough enough to do so.”

“How did he do?”

“Gasped and choked, but he took it.”

Tlezjoy grunted at that challenge. He took the proffered bread, took some breaths, then popped it into his mouth. His eyes bulged. He ducked to the fountain.

“Do not drink! You will make it worse! Just let it ebb!”

The deputy choked. “Ugh! But…I…believe it…not as bad…as expecte-e-ed.”

This last came out as such a strangled squeak, the Earl almost laughed.

The man began sniffing, as his nose had started running freely. Sweat popped upon his brow. He grasped his stomach as the bread struck it, but made that he was adjusting the waist of his pants.

Now what would Hrikinik say? “You learn well!”

The Earl slapped the man’s shoulder. “The Inspector underestimated you! But there must be so few times that he is so rude.”

The deputy started, and his face reddened. Fazgood knew what stirred him: the man was under the influence of Fazgood’s hatred of Mehzadapt. At Fazgood’s mentioning the Inspector, the slights Mehzadapt had inflicted upon Tlezjoy from months gone by were now racing through the deputy’s mind.

But his effect would only stay for a few days, with a dose so small. Only I would be permanently affected by a small dose.

The deputy’s eyes narrowed. “People in charge sneer. That is how things are.”

“Does he sneer?”

“He yowls and glares like a wet cat! ‘Keep your council.’ ‘Mind your behavior.’ He gives you a favor and never lets you forget.”

Fazgood nodded with sympathy. “I am sorry I mentioned the tyrant. But do tell him I send my regards.”

Deputy Tlezjoy snapped. “ Send him your own regards! He is in the Headquarters back in the plaza!”

“I am sorry,” said the Earl meekly. “May all be well.”

Fazgood walked away. The deputy stood with grim face and clenched knuckles, casting glowers back to the east, where the Inspector stayed at headquarters.

Ah. It would seem I owe Hrikinik for more than just the ability to smuggle myself.

He quickly considered what had transpired with the deputy:

Did he see the captain waiting with the refreshments? That would not do. The timing was too perfect, and no messenger went into the keep to tell the captain of my impending arrival in the square. The deputies strike me as cruel wretches, but not as fools.

If Mehzadapt asks, I hired a messenger to meet the captain at the keep. That may satisfy.

He walked from the square along the Route, the fire in his stomach causing the pain in his thighs to withdraw. He walked over the breambridges, bridges of infinite sturdiness yet balanced that a single tug on a chain would withdraw them, and he contemplated the pools beneath as he passed over. The shadows drew long across the open lawns. The traffic dwindled to few pedestrians and rickshaws. His thighs and knee began aching again, his aches causing a slow recitation of profanity, but in all he was proud he could still walk such a distance with little warning. The Earl finished the beannuts and licked coarse sea-salt from sweaty fingers.

Ahead was the rose-colored wall of the Terhane Residences.

Should I drop by the Birqmuir embassy and present myself? 

He chuckled at that. He had not rejected the nobility, the touch of godliness, that the Emperor had bestowed upon him. However, a nobleman who a decade ago had tried to start criminal organizations, almost helped start a civil war, then run off without appointing a steward would probably not be welcome.

He walked to where the brown wall joined the rose-colored wall and without flourish touched that corner. He walked back to the route and looked around for a rickshaw.

[Warren,] thought the Earl, [I am done and it is early still. I come home to nap.]

[My liege, find a rickshaw. I imagine you could not walk another step.]

[I would if I have to, squire. Thankfully, I do not.]

Metal jangled. He looked up.

The Royal Cumulid loomed overhead, half-as-large as a keep, casting a deep shadow over the wall. From the huge, fluffy body cascaded long streamers. Shadows of men spiked the top of the great, floating citizen; all of the men jangled metal bells. Around the gliding mass, the Cumulid’s attendant breezes squirmed and flitted, lofting a flock of cackling, flapping Exults.

The streamers writhed down in a path as wide as Lanthornmount Square. They slowly bore down the Route toward him.

Fluxion.

He swore viciously all the way back down the Route, the Cumulid drifting happily behind.

Then came the thunder for the sixteenth-hour rain.

 

*         *        *

 

From the doorway of Greatsergeant Keep, the conspirators watched the Cumulid drift overhead. In the sheets of rain, the waving streamers waved beneath like a moving copse of young ablewood trees, filling an eighth of the square. Children dashed in and out of the rain and cloth, cheering the lotcasters high above who were huddled under parasols on the Cumulid’s back.

In the foyer on the stairs, Fazgood sat drenched and gasping for breath. Beside him sat Calzjha, who cooed with sympathy over the Earl’s horrid durance. Such was Fazgood’s exhaustion that he had could only wheeze angrily and thrash a wet hand at that show of pity.

“Let me adjust your knee,” said the helpful associate.

“That would sting,” the Earl panted.

“What is that on your cheek?” asked Calzjha.

“Nothing! You would distract me so you can wrench my knee!”

Obdurate turned to them, mindful of the servants. “They are quite determined to have everyone in jezr-ji. The longer they go without finding someone who knows answers, the more demanding they will be.”

Staring out the door, Respiration said, “Soon they would want organized events, where all will be required. They may well just have the city line up and touch the ribbons and interrogate that way.”

A maid watched from the top of the stairs. Fazgood looked to her, and saw tight anger and suspicion. Calzjha wrenched the knee with a loud crack! The Earl yowled.

Calzjha said, “Does it not feel better?”

“But for the sharp pain, it would!”

“Get out of that wet blazer!”

Past the figure of Respiration in the doorway, the cascade was lit by the purpling dusk. She was still and silent. Obdurate walked to her side. Their postures were stiff and straight, like those of the condemned on the dock awaiting the pyre.

The Earl said to them, “Another day has ended just as it should end. All one can do is feed and rest and prepare for the next.”

None seemed consoled by the obvious, though.

“I would clean up and go upstairs to rest.”

With a groan, the Earl rose and trudged upstairs. He passed the grim maid, and went to his room for fresh clothing. Warren snored on the bundle of cloth he had come to use as a bed. Fazgood stepped lightly around his dozing compatriot and gathered his goods. He walked back down the stairs. The maid had left to prepare the public room for the next morning. The Earl shuffled to the washroom and past the desultory group.

She followed the Earl.

“How fare your legs?” she asked tersely.

“A bit achy, but still attached.”

“Your complexion clears, I think.”

“Does it?” He looked at his hands. “Splendid!”

She whispered close. “You would have more to tell us, I think.”

“No, you think wrong,” said he.

“That inspector knew you at the door day-before-yesterday. And you said last night that he had been a smug ape as a child. You say his name as if it scalds your tongue.”

“How much camle-zre did you drink?”

“It is good that I drank as much as I did,” she growled, “otherwise I would think you had foul history with him.”

“I swear that I do not know what you speak of. Tired, tainted ears hear wrong.”

“There is nothing wrong with my ears,” Respiration declared.

Fazgood looked into her eyes, and saw she would not be dissuaded. He looked around the dark hallway, behind her to the bedchamber. “How did you of all people end in this situation?”

“Men with bottles of spirits just seem to complete an evening.”

“No. How did you end in this situation? With the Greatsergeants.”

“I thought I could save a man from his family’s fate. Imagine my surprise. How did you? There was the whole world from which to choose. How did you end here?”

He shrugged. “Fled the city, went upon a quest, helped kill an Abomination, tried to start criminal brotherhoods, was duped into a civil war, tricked a family of wizards into ransoming their castle, angered some gods –“

“I’ll read the book,” Respiration interrupted. “Your shrug is performed as well as a citizen. But I assume you refer to gods in grace with Enthus?”

“Indeed. My customarian would allow me no other.”

“That is good. I have enough risk of profaning my ears by speaking with you.”

The Earl swallowed a laugh. “Perhaps I should carry myself away then.”

“You should. You are gritty, and need a good wash.”

“Good lady,” the Earl smiled. “You have described my essence.”

Down the stairs, laughter echoed against the stone. It separated and trailed into Calzjha’s musical notes and a guffaw barely recognizable as Obdurate. Both Fazgood and Respiration turned to the sound with curiosity.

Fazgood noted the good lady’s expression. “Has Calzjha’s…assistance gone well?”

She was distracted. “Yes. Your associate is so disarming and…candid. It puts one at ease. But you must know that intimately.”

“No. Truly.”

“That is surprising. In your associate’s current…guise, it is supposed men would adore someone so exotic.”

“My associate knows very little of the world, and has very little sense.”

Said Respiration, “Most men would find that appealing as well.”

“What of your captain? He is enthusiastic.”

She noted that change of subject, then her expression warmed. “Yes. He is.”

The Earl laughed.

Respiration’s mouth opened in amused shock. She struck Fazgood’s arm. “He is enthusiastic in all things. He is curious about the world, and loves much.”

“He seems awkward.”

“The army does not tolerate awkwardness. He simply is curious about the world and cannot wait –“

More laughter. Both Fazgood and Respiration turned, their expressions pinched.

“I shall speak with you later,” Respiration walked to the stairs.

“Yes,” Fazgood stepped to follow, then seeing the situation would be well modulated by the good lady’s presence, he turned back to his room. He did take a glance back to watch Respiration’s back as she descended the stairs. She was strong and handsome.

It was much later that evening, when all had gone to bed and risen again, and all had set aside their deceptions of the day, that they whispered freely in the hot, close dark of Respiration’s bedroom. All events of the day were shared, except Fazgood’s conversation with the deputy. Calzjha was congratulated for her deft performance, though all suspected the Mezzo-Barritone seemed dissatisfied with the answer he received. Fazgood swore to Calzjha his aid in developing more convincing lies for the next contemplation.

No one needed to speak of the jezr-ji. It would need only a few of the contemplators, or a few of the customary class to be touched by those streamers, and the Temporary God would know of two strangers with a animal of unusually conscious demeanor.

All sipped their drinks. They found that a sip of caml-zre made a following sip of tziembroask more palatable.

“I do wonder,” said Calzjha, “what the general is thinking.”

Said the Earl, “It does not matter what he thinks. It only matters what options we leave him. For example: tomorrow’s sympatile.”

Respiration sighed with dread. “Yes.”

“You will not go.”

All were surprised.

The Earl elaborated, “Obdurate will tell the General that Respiration refuses the General’s request.”

The adjutant laughed with disbelief. “No one says ‘no’ to General Greatsergeant.”

“I must have powerful confidence to disabuse him so,” the goodwife said.

The Earl smiled at her deduction and nodded. “The adjutant will have overheard the Foofaloof saying that the lifting of the curse is at hand.”

Even Warren at the door turned at that raising of the stakes.

Calzjha gaped. “What would he do?”

Obdurate put his arm around Respiration. The weight of that dusk’s jezr-ji bore upon them more.

Fazgood found cold in the pit of his stomach and swallowed the remainder of his tziembroask. “Are we certain that the General has no means of communicating secretly to another in the city?”

Obdurate shook his head. “There is no means of communicating other than through official dispatch, and those take days to be carried by instructed breeze. Weeks by ship.”

“He has no other sympatile at hand? No spirits at his call?”

Respiration looked to the Earl closely. “If he had such means, he would have boasted to me long ago.”

“Then we begin. Remember: you will be free, Respiration. Obdurate, you will have your lady. The kingdom will be safe.”

The referenced lady thought aloud. “We must all improvise as Calzjha had.”

“Before a greater audience,” said the adjutant. “but for how long?”

Not much longer, thought the Earl.


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