Of Maze and Mists Folk (July#BattleBlog- Hatch)

The Maze Folk

          Threll, Invigilator Civic to Prince Machthaber of  Dienlich, was a man who wielded calm patience as a weapon of fearful effectiveness. Nobody wanted to be the one who caused him to lose his temper; in his usual demeanour he left an efficient enough trail of woe upon any who suffered his professional displeasure.

          ‘This is most unfortunate,’

          He sounded as if an unforeseen weather event was causing cancellation of an afternoon’s repose in his garden. However the slight furrowing of his brow warned the two before him. One was trying to keep the word ‘grave’ out of their thoughts; it gave a prescient air to matters.

          Both knew not to serve excuses up to Threll. Reasons and self-criticism were your best hopes; no babbling either. Calm and composed, was the way

          ‘Very unfortunate,’ Surveyoress Bekwaam said, contrition in her voice, encouraging her colleague.

          ‘Quite so,’ Surveyor Ervaren agreed.

          Threll considered the two of his senior staff.

          ‘Indeed,’ he said ‘And have you formulated how the deep coded false message to the rebel group to act, thus showing their hand actually contained a warning they had been compromised? It should have been impossible considering our failsafe programmes,’

          Bekwamm straightened clutching the file into the crook of her arm.

          ‘Three separate layers of code, each with their own clerkes did not account for clerical errors being transposed,’ she swallowed ‘We should have considered this,’ and handed The Analysis to her superior.

 

          Some days before.

          ‘Time to unlatch the hatch, and sneak the catch,’ the fellow trilled.

          Ven being the professional thief of the duo gripped the fellow. Palavelle by name, being a rogue Mechanical. His talents enabled him to work through a quadruple lock with three sets of alarms, his lack of common sense allowed him to announce his success to the locality and would have had him march into the final, least subtle but most effect trap.

          Two axes swung down from the walls in a criss-cross motion.

          ‘An’t you lucky,’ Ven hissed ‘I know the classics. Now let’s get in before someone comes to find out who is singing damn silly songs, this far from a tavern,’

          Once they eased passed the still slightly swaying blades Ven had the man relock everything.

          ‘Ah latch the catch. There’s the thing,’

          Why, Ven mused to himself did these rogue Mechanicals have to been so artisy and showy? They didn’t impress nobody down the working end of the City. After this job was done he’d have quiet words with his Guv’nor, Old Fryd about this one. Even if a contract was a contract, and the whole job was for someone, who might be acting for another someone else, if fellows like Ven Jek was caught, the last conversation would be with a rope.

          Meanwhile, get the business done. Hope everyone in the town house of a lesser duke, one Sabatch, placed too much faith in that lock and assumed it was doing all the work. 

          ‘Stop humming. This is no social visit,’

          ‘You should be happy in your work,’

          ‘I save, Happy, for when the job is over. Save all your talents for third door up on the left,’

 

          ‘It’s not a bad piece of work Guv’nor,’ Ven said handing over the ornately carved lapis lazuli statuette. Old Fryd surveyed with work with a veteran’s eye, but nonetheless passed it to the gang’s own antique expert.

          ‘Actually, very nice,’ the fellow said examining details through magnifier ‘Well done young Ven for bringing such a delicate piece out intact. I’ve seen a thousand golds literally knocked off the value through carelessness,’

          Old Fryd winced at the memories.

          ‘How was our,’ he coughed dryly ‘Specialist,’

          ‘Typical talented risk from the Comfy Class, getting his thrills,’ Ven said sourly. ‘Lucky, we didn’t raid some sort of professional Antique collector, not so legal,’ 

          Their own expert pulled a face.

          ‘They do get very cross and usually have accurate ideas where to express their displeasure. Did he pick up anything of for his own collection, a souvenir?’

          Ven shrugged.

          ‘He fiddled and nosed with a few bits; that was all. Shouldn’t use him again Guv’nor. Him and his damn sing-song silly rhymes. As if everyone appreciates them,’  

          ‘I’ll take care of those words Ven. That I will,’        

 

          Around the same time.

          ‘Imagine how embarrassing it would be to have the name of Hatchapatch,’

          Fegdale tightened putting down his newspaper in a sharp movement. The club was a place where one was supposed to sit and enjoy silence.

          ‘The matter has never occurred to me, Wingsleyden. In fact, I would say I couldn’t care two straws on the subject,’

          ‘Even so,’ the man had continued as if the matter were of fundamental philosophical concern ‘It would be fairly hard going for the poor fellow. You could make all sorts of poor jokes at his expense,’

          Fegdale glowered at Wingsleyden, who seemed unconcerned by the sight.

          ‘Why this sudden morbid interest in such an unlikely name?’

          Wingsleyden waved his own newspaper in response.

          ‘Why? Because I encountered the name in this journal. He’s suffered a ballooning accident at a farm cottage. And the bally paper has made light of it,’ his voice took on an injured tone as he waved the broadsheet in Fegdale’s face, pointing to a small column set aside for trivia ‘Hatchapatch Catches The Thatch In An Inflated Despatch,’

          The irony that one of the biggest fatheads in town was inadvertently blurting out a significance message was not lost on Fegdale. There was no time to reflect on such synchronicity. At least the warning had reached him sooner than the usual network of bemused gossip arising from a seemingly random quirky newspapers items. He grunted his excuse for leaving.

          ‘It comes to something when a fellow cannot find peace and quiet at his club,’

          The bustle of night time mixed with the steady autumn rain would provide distractions and cover. As watchman this was one of his roles. Raise the alarm.

 

          ‘This is very thorough, and it has to be said honest work,’ Thrall said to the pair, at the next meeting. ‘Taking full responsibility for all of your region’s status,’

          Ervaren took the lead.

          ‘We should have been more vigilant with the codes. Both in their drafting and overseeing. Complex systems need constant surveillance,’

          ‘Always a problem,’ Thrall agreed ‘ Balancing a system’s theoretical composition not to be compromised with its efficiency in practice,’      

          ‘Mistakes have been made, I hope lessons learnt,’ Bekwamm added ‘At least the rebels should be relatively easy to trace, with their nascent unprofessional approach,’ 

          ‘Yes,’ agreed Thrall ‘As the old tag-line goes. Good luck, bad luck. Who can say?’

          And sighed.

          The duo laughed, lightly.

          Slightly relieved.

 

          Palavelle relaxed and then only slightly when the coastline slipped from view. Even in uncouth company, being a simple conveyor dropping a message tube into an indifferent vase had been a thrill. All the fuss afterwards though; folk vanishing, strangers come to spirit you out of town. Far too rich a diet for him. Exile it would have to be.

          ‘Do you think he ever knew who he was working for?’ Ven Jek asked from the alley shadows as the ship sailed on.

          ‘Doubt it,’ Wingsleyden drawled glad to be relieved of his public voice.

          ‘Fribbin’ Comfies thinking it’s game,’ Ven spat. ‘Speaking code without checking,’

          ‘You try being one, year in year out chum,’ Wingsleyden said in grim humour ‘Forget your own name in a while, you will,’

 

          Fegdale was carefully drafting his confession, making sure it was officially obvious he had actually been working for the princedom as a decoy agent within the Dukes’ rebellion. That was what he had been told to write. He confessed to being quite wrong, the prince’s administration was very efficient. And was that not what everyone wanted? From his cell window he could see the scaffold. He shuddered thinking on his narrow escape.

 

          Maid Bekwaam comforted by her last herbal tea, walked composed to the scaffold. There was no more to be said. She had been caught in acts of treason. At least Thrall had assured her, her mother would be protected from the threats which had forced Bekwaam into the rebels’ hands. How they had targeted her was still being investigated. She was glad it was autumn, she would hate to be seen sweating.

 

          Bekwaam could remember the rope, it was silken, then the brief tightness. Now she was blinking? Someone was peering into her face with a magnifier. And she was breathing?

          ‘Yes. She is recovering,’ the someone said, her focus returned, he was elderly and maybe familiar?

          Two pairs of women’s hands raised her gently, sweet clear water to her lips, she knew enough to sip, and wait for clarity.

 

          She knew this one; Franzet ‘Old Fryd’ Durchtrieben. In criminal terms equivalent to nobility, always careful in his playing of sides. Thus, not surprising to learn now his network had found out her fate, unbeknown to her smuggled a powerful narcotic into her tea; the resulting feigned death, her coffin switched with another. All an effective rescue. Further details she might know eventually. Until then, be guardedly grateful.

          ‘Hello Miss Bekwaam. I won’t repeat the explanations. Glad to see you looking well,’ he tutted ‘Hate to see good resources wasted. Can’t have that,’

          ‘Thank you for thinking so,’ she replied, still a little croaky.

          ‘We’ll be easing you elsewhere. Five hundred myles south and west to Elinid. I expect you have a working knowledge about how that city is run. We have an agreement with the Silc clan there. They could use someone of your deductive and organisational talents. You’ll like it. Not so stuffy. Still spry enough to start afresh,’ he winked ‘And we’ll arrange for you to keep in touch with your old Mum. We got tender folk are already explaining basic matters to her, so it won’t come as a shock,’

          Bekwaam had to admit, currently this was a better outcome. She could not help but wonder if Thrall had some idea about this. A much broader and deeper game maybe.

 

          Ervaren brooded into the into the glass. He should have helped Bekwaam and not been instrumental in laying her upon Strategy’s bloody altar, our sacrifice of gratitude for a bountiful harvest of the treacherous, all to ensure our prince slept well.

          Without the usual knock the door to his study opened. His servant, a solid veteran entered, three men followed him, stern. Ervaren was familiar with the type, those who did not need to be obvious. He managed a harsh laugh and swilled his wine.

          ‘And so, the covering of the traces. My turn then,’ he raised his glass in a sincere salutation. ‘Make it quick and dignified. And Lave here, I bear you no ill-will,’

          One man of iron-grey short hair afforded Ervaren a softening of his expression.

           ‘Surveyor Ervaren. Your remorse and the urge for self-chastisement are understandable. However, these are pragmatic times. The empire’s stability always paramount. Invigilator Civic Thrall is willing for your talents to be seconded,’

          ‘Seconded?’ the effects of the wine flushed out by professionalism.

          ‘Yes,’ the voice was now shielded ‘The Invigilator understands he is too close to be effective on one issue. There are concerns regarding Prince Machthaber. Being the subject of avaricious potential rebellions does not exclude a prince from suspicion on other issues. You will receive instructions on methods of reporting,’ a thin smile ‘All for the stability of the Empire,’

          Later, pondering, Ervaren could not help but feel it could just as easily have been Bekwaam receiving those words. Imperial Stability was such an amoral concept.

 

          Duke Sabatch was vexed. Another occasion of Court People trampling through his town house. He would vet his staff better.

 

          Thrall made fresh entries upon the map of relationships and alliances. It would not do to lose track of who was who and what was being hatched by all sides. At least Sabatch was consistent, The Useful Idiot.

 

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37 thoughts on “Of Maze and Mists Folk (July#BattleBlog- Hatch)

    • Thanks Annie.
      My previous story was a bit grim with shades of Apocalypse Now.
      So this was a mash-up of an an espionage / caper tale with everyone kind of getting out with ‘mission accomplished’ or just a sort of slapped wrist.
      About as ‘feel good’ as you could get in the circumstances.
      (Heavy load to write though-why do I do these things to me?)

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Just what a covert break in needs… a slightly mad mechanoid singing along. Quirky indeed Roger. I rather like Thrells no nonsense disposition thoigh. A lot of politicos could learn something there about being direct and weaker on the prevaricating to say absolutely nothing.

    Nice to see Bekwaam does survive to the end mind…as Annie said above.

    There could have been a GOT cast cleanse going on leaving just the singing lock pick and Threll haha.

    Nice job given it fought you all the way!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you liked it Gary (sorry for the delay, our son came to visit yesterday, all usual routine went out the window).
      Talk about a fight!
      The only way out of this one, was to embrace my inner John Le Carre, but with a family friendly series of denouements.
      The BlogBattle continues to stretch and torment me…..Which is a ‘good thing’

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries Roger. Time and the real often intrude upon a writers “whims”. The obligations (not really haha) of reality do intrude on the routines.

        Hope the visit was good though.

        I think sometimes when it’s a fight things can get a tad over indulgent. Cramped almost. When it’s flowing well things (I find at least) slot together more aesthetically. If I do things hit and miss then continuity suffers, I end up over editing and more often than not starting all over again!!

        Next month I will wager more than a few reach for a dictionary first 😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great visit thanks Gary😃

        ‘Hatch’ was an experience I’m glad to have been through.
        Firstly I was quite stumped. Then I tried with a weird doggerel of words rhyming with ‘Hatch’- remains of which figured in The Mechanical’s sing-songs and the Newspaper column.
        Secondly, a brick wall, which had me ‘shut down’ so I could not write anything, even replies to blog posts. My muses and brain were in conference behind closed doors.
        Thirdly. Along came the. ‘Oh bother! (well maybe not ‘bother’) Let’s run with this,’ breakthrough.

        That’s been happening a lot this year. Maybe my writing as become more selective or maybe because I packed so much into a trilogy it’s a challenge not to repeat themes.

        I agree all sorts of obstacles can arise when things don’t flow well. There again we can secretly love that struggle to the ‘sunny uplands’
        (As in Hatch).
        Writers?
        No, I can’t explain what makes a writer. I wouldn’t have it any other way😃….
        So 5th August then!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve had shut down too. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice and suffered a writing hangover because of the word count intensity. The last one left me in the wilderness for nearly 12 months. It left me reflecting on whether it was for me.

        The only solution is to get back on the horse and go for a metaphorical ride.

        Trying not to repeat themes is tricky. One reason I occasionally dip out of Dragon Stone. Horror and supernatural was my starting point but it got taken over. I went back to horror last month and am hitting Sc-Fi for the next prompt. Which isn’t the dictionary one as I’m ahead and it’s my next word not yours haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      • A writer must be prepared for interludes with Angst and Existentialist-Crisis. Two folk who don’t have the come decency to tell you they will be visiting. The room (ie mind) can get pretty messy when in bursts at least one of the Muses and with most un-lady like language demands what do they think they are doing and then suggests (in rather forceful tones) that they leave now.
        Thus, you tidy up the clutter and as you say Gary go for a ride. (or alternatives).

        Trying not to repeat but not wishing to side-line a lot of ‘stuff’ I’m writing these days in the same World but at different ages or locations. The problem there is no to assume that folk know what a world-built term means!

        In the meantime back to the SF project, while I await the next Friday.
        And, priority read what everyone else made of ‘Hatch’

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s one of my soap boxes. Writing looks easy… try it then. Build a world with no background or thought and see how your muse disintegrates into gibber jabber with virtually no cohesion.

        Interruptions too… I write by zoning into the world. If I don’t then again it stumbles stop start. To zone in means leave me alone or you will indeed feel ignored as I’m paying attention exclusively to the world and it’s characters. It’s not being rude, it’s the way of the writer. More rude is not to recognise that and go ahead anyway.

        As for same world writing… odd you said that. My horror one skirted into my main world build on our plane of existence with the dip into Houghton Fengrave which is core even in Dragon Stone. That place has already got 2 books, The Bequest and Black Marsh. My first book also has that town as it’s focus too. Dragon Stone itself connects via the folly mentioned too. I guess now you’ll spot those upon reading this months effort.

        Fortuitously the Sci-Fi remains outside these. And, so you know before it’s published I Am Corona was written before the pandemic. The piece is an extension of the original one. I tried hard to avoid these as my work on The God Flu seemed full of foresight and to name Corona as the AI again demonstrated writing as a potential power of futurism…. One reason I focussed on DS was to avoid anymore potential world crises haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My wife Sheila who writes poetry zones in at certain times of the day, usually 9.30am to 10.30am and 5.00pm to 7.00pm, although there also other times of the day. Anyway those two times I do not bother her; creation is taking place.

        Me; I’m more start-stop: start-stop- which seems to work for me as my imagination batteries need constant re-charging and perceptions re-evaluating.
        Whatever works best I guess.

        A sign the world build is a strong one, is the ability for it to absorb or fit other narratives into its boundaries. I believe this is working with your DS world. For cannot there be horror in any world?

        The title I Am Corona is a very evocative and prescient. You never know when that narrative will display indications of merging with DS. One thing about our worlds is that their time flows move in many directions and the borders constantly extend.
        Who knows where they will all end? If they end at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wise decision. I can see eye rolling from here should you choose to interrupt.

        Stop start I find hard, but often unavoidable. Life sometimes gives little choice when times tight. I found that more since I started doing beer cellar consulting. It’s half a day, but trims down writing to a schedule. I used to do it early morning but it’s not possible now.

        The DS world has been in my head for a very long time. Ever since Originalis when I walked with Wayland and found him drifting to the Blacks world as his body in ours became locked in. From there the Amanuensis became the glue that merged it all together.

        I am Corona will be the linked post next month that goes to the original piece. I’m guessing most will assume it’s a sentient pandemic virus now 😳

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not so much eye-rolling. More tight-lipped ‘yes dear,’. Which is warning enough.😟

        “The DS world has been in my head for a very long time. Ever since Originalis when I walked with Wayland and found him drifting to the Blacks world as his body in ours became locked in. From there the Amanuensis became the glue that merged it all together.”
        I do like that paragraph, there is an air of an introduction to a tale of legend, of yore.

        Will be interested to read ‘I Am Corona’, and how that evolves 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • And there’s me no good at writing synopses haha. Perhaps I should keep that paragraph for reference to add to.

        Corona is something else I am fascinated by. Rather like learning a sky net corporation exists in China 😳

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, good idea. I ought to save things like that more as often they come out in general banter more than sitting trying to deliberately craft them 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know that feeling. I also have acres of notes. I have probably got three books of back story shorts. All used to create the world build. Thing is it’s so big I’ve forgotten half of it 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha. The books are all stored in manuscripts. The notes for DS are in a folder. Two years ago the backstory sat at 90K words. I dread to think what it is now

        Liked by 1 person

      • I saw a George Martin interview saying he’d written three GOT books before realising his story was getting lost due to no real backstory. He compared himself to Tolkien using an iceberg. His was the bit poking out of the top whilst Tolkien’s was the unseen mass underneath. It made him stop and start creating his character trees with stories to support them deep in GOT history.

        It takes time yes, but for me it helps writing. You know the plot links already and why A or B does what they do. Seems to avoid situations where a mega weapon suddenly appears for no good reason 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Worth all the effort if you ask me.
        Also avoids that part in the novel where the villain, hero or stronger support character stops all the action / narrative to ‘explain’ something.
        (Can work as humour though. My characters would wonder if they would encounter some old fellow with a dented pointed hat who would explain everything to them- Later one of them feels mortified to suspect she has become such a person; while another thinks they have met such a person, but observes he doesn’t have ‘a floppy’ hat’ and the conversation is more like a post-match football discussion in a pub)
        All good fun😃

        Liked by 2 people

      • Very true. I can see value on the other bit as humour mind. I’ve kind of written Naz as the one that, outside rock and stone, struggles with the other “arts.” The out takes are often where I’ve drifted off into eye rolling humour haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s good.
        In many an account of tragedy, war or challenge there will be interludes of humour. Maybe not, at first, to the reader, but when seen from a character’s POV at that time in the narrative will come across as understandable.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I believe it’s a very English thing. Humour in adversity. Not that it has to be just English mind. I guess it’s another form of sink or swim. In those crisis moments maybe it is natural to find mirth in order to get through them??

        Liked by 1 person

      • The American cartoonist Bill Maudlin of the American army newspaper charted the exploits of two unshaven, ragged front-line GIs in WWII- ‘Willie and Joe’.
        Viewed from some perspectives the humour can look grim, but the American soldiers loved it.
        As you say Gary, ‘find mirth in order to through’

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: #BlogBattle Stories: Hatch | BlogBattle

  3. Very cloak and dagger offering you have this time! Everybody is into something, and keeping track of all the threads is something of a challenge. The part about the newspaper headlines tweaked my quirky sense of humor – made me think of characters who peruse the tabloid rags because that’s where the real news is. 🙂 Glad to see you won since you said this one fought you the whole time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A Muse told me to embrace my John Le Carre!
      Reading histories of those eras when all manner of groups piled in eventually came to my rescue. In particular the Cold War era where some of the more astute locals played the big powers off against each other.
      Happily, the two thousand words limit kept me in line.
      The newspaper headline interlude I owe in part to Jerome K Jerome’s style of characters’ conversations and WWII British Intelligence sending coded message to resistance groups.
      To all those strands are sent my thanks for getting me through!
      (In retrospect it seems ‘fun’)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I thought this was excellent, Roger. It reminded me in some ways of P.G. Wodehouse, or also of Chris Dolley (who is also a UK writer, and whose series like this starts with “What Ho, Automaton!”). The flow was excellent, the humor was excellent, and I enjoyed it very much.

    (Mind, I don’t know what a blog battle is. But if it promotes this sort of writing, I’m all for it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Barb.
      Many thanks for your kind comments. The story was very much influenced by John Le Carre’s ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,’ And then some.
      This particular Blog Battle revolves around a ‘word’ of the month- usually coming out on the first friday on the month. The challenge being to write a 2,000 word story based on that word (usually within 2 or 3 weeks)
      Link: https://bbprompt.com/

      I joined up in Feb and it’s been great fun learning to hone my writing. Normally my style is ‘Never Use a Sentence When a Paragraph Will Do’ The standard of the ‘old hands’ is very high and inventive.

      (PS: Sorry I’ve not been around recently to visit your blog; summer times always mess with my focus and these days energy levels – trying to catch up)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your stories are always filled with such a large cast. Everyone is up to something, and there is a lot going on, which AE pointed out – might make it a bit more difficult to keep track of. However, these tales are great for envisioning in my mind. A full-length movie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Sam🙂.
      My writing is influenced by reading history; the most common theme being that no matter who thinks they are in charge on appears to be the central character in fact there are a myriad of folk who make up the narrative.
      ‘Hatch’ as a prompt fought me all the way for days, until I went for my John Le Carre mode merged with a common fantasy scenario…a ‘cast of thousands’. In my febrile mind ‘Hatch’ meant ‘Plot’ and ‘plot’ means lotsa folks. So yeah it was a bit excessive, Annnnddd I think ‘satire’ snooked in too.
      Febrile me…. It’s why I never post up ‘advice’ on writing promising careers could be ruined 🤔.
      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the trip.😃

      Liked by 1 person

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