The Way Things Work January #BlogBattle-Dynamic

Out There Navigate

He awoke like wading through jam. There was that rhythm of a brightly delivered  knock on his quarters door.

‘Compositor. If you please,’ and there was the high cheery voice.

After the customary reflex swear word Sylan opened one eye.

‘Yeah. On my way ’ the gruff bark was acceptable in the situation.

As the door slid open a slender face, bright yet with some concern looked up at him, at the caller’s side a large dog stood tongue out, tail wagging. Sylan scowled at both.

‘Lady Ensign Croí Eadrom,’ he said being as civil as possible.

‘This is my dog. Reluctance,’ she said in mock sincerity ‘Thus you can see I am disturbing your precious rest with great Reluctance,’

Sylan pinched the bridge of his nose. Irrespective of her superior lineage, exasperation begged he should empty the nearby jug of water over her. Thankfully her  whimsicality stilled the urge.

‘We have an issue?’ a fatalistic question. This was the problem with serving on a scout corvette, no room for two shifts of Compositors.

She grimaced remaining wide-eyed, again comic

‘A cluster of titchy Depressions. A light year out and closing. Popping in and out. C’mon,’ she said to both Compositor and dog and they followed, Sylan not sharing the carefree easy canine gait. How and from where?  In the meantime he had to consider those fist size version of black holes, darting out of the Four Dimensions seeming not to be adhering to The Speed of Light.  Corvettes could dance away from them, the larger the ship, the greater the time and space needed to steer away from them; hence corvettes, a wide gossamer, scouting ahead, seeking these, the latest unexpected  and broadcasting the warnings.

When it came to the welfare of the World Craft, five hundred myles long and an irregular width at maximum of a hundred myles, warnings had to be  multiplied to scales of years of time to react. Initially all on the shoulders of a few. He supposed that was how it worked. He only dealt in figures, not ramifications.

The Ensign as usual chattered away about how she loved the corvette, the stars, the mysteries of The Universe. She made the whole vista of danger seem, so natural, to be met and respected.

Lorgaire Thall captain of the Corvette Gealbhan was again reading It Doesn’t Work Like That. A somewhat bold treatise on The Ethereal by controversial theorist Maighdean Ardea. Nonetheless he oft referred to it for perspective. Unknown and Unexpected being the trade of The Avant Squadrons. The constant challenge of matching the Four Dimensions with depths of The Ethereal.

‘I maintain this is more evidence of White Hole possibility Captain,’ said his navigator handing him the summary ‘This clutch of Depressions did indeed just appear. Flung out as it were,’

‘The Ethereal was enough of a trial upon The World, Navigator. Out here in the Cosmos these seeming spontaneities would have us believe travel between stars   near impossible,’

‘As we journey we learn Captain,’

‘Indeed we do Navigator. At one Inspiring and Humbling,’

‘Once long ago, around and on The World we The Ard Tiarnai thought ourselves knowledgeable above all. The High King did warn us,’

‘Captain,’

Captain, Navigator and Lieutenant of the Watch all turned. Compositor Sylan, typical of his race could not match their physical elegance, yet his eyes bright and manner alert indicated the dexterity so common amongst The Fiontraíoch folk. Woe unto any of the Ard Tiarnai who thought the Fiontraíoch to be lesser folk.

‘I regret having to disturb your rest time. Master Compositor,’ Captain Thall said.

‘The Cosmos is no respecter of our comfort,’ Sylan replied ‘We should be grateful we got this far,’

‘I respect the gloom of your long-term forecasts Compositor,’

‘It would be nice to be wrong on that score, but I suppose Captain, the more persistent we are the more we reduce the possibility. How may I assist you with these Depressions?’

The Navigator laid out the chart and the information dutifully printed from the Assessor machines, and he appraised Sylan of his own estimations. Naturally Sylan listen attentively. Not his place to interrupt a Navigator.

‘May I sit Captain?’

‘Of course Master Compositor,’

Seated he surveyed the evidence, then with all due respect asked the Navigator to repeat his own estimations. The three officers accepted this; novice ensigns were ever lectured not to ever question a Compositor. Sylan set down his thick pad of paper and with an ancient pen began to write. As he did he spoke. His gruff basic accent falling away as his tones turned to a slow steady litany.

‘It bears repeating sirs, if the opportunity arises, you should visit the hub of the Engines of World Craft. Of course Compositors and our like have to witness this majesty. The many chambers, five miles underground set in catacombs so grand in dimensions that if empty a squadron of  battleships of the fleets could dock in each. Therein are the devices. The towering grey obelisks inscribed with external wiring like long forgotten runes. Their companions, the shimmering black towers, plain, implanting in an observer the feeling they are watching them with hidden eyes. All connected by intricate patterns of piping veins for miles of secret wirings, and leading far beyond to deeper places wherein lie the vast dangerous machines. Heavy and looking deceptively ponderous as they churn, or slowly spin or grind away supplying the World Craft with its atmosphere, tides, weathers, days, nights, shielding from the uncaringly hostile universe, and by magnificent ingenuity its movement at speed belying the bulk,’

Two pages were by then inscribed with figures, small neat script starting in the horizontal, then veering at occasions into vertical, and back again to level until the script became patterns within patterns.

Sylan stopped and slumped a little over his work, from one alcove on the deck appeared the Lady Ensign Croí Eadrom a raven on her shoulder up in a light steps she moved to Sylan and upon reaching him set her hands gently upon his shoulders, in response he absently patted hers. She and her bird looked to her Captain. Before she could speak, he said, with a sigh.

‘Yes I know Ensign. You come with Grave Concerns,’

At mention of  its name the bird inclined its head. The Captain treasured these irreverences of hers.

‘As you wish you may take Compositor Sylan back to his quarters where he may be allowed to resume his rest. Thank you Compositor,’

Mute and now smiling Sylan rose and once more patting the ensign’s hands left the deck. He knew he had been at work, but right now, even though recently formed, the memories were evasive, he would shepherd them in after he rested. The bird hoped onto his shoulder. Her menagerie. Ever the mystery.

On the deck the Navigator examined the figures.

‘Captain. I will need to verify by examination through my two auditors and Assessor machines, but it would seem we need swift evasion of the squadron, alert the sub-fleet on station to act as necessary and to pass this back to fleet command with a strong recommendation they report onto World Craft Naval for them to alert Council and High King that the World Craft should take prompt oblique course from current,’

‘That is indeed a heavy work load Navigator. You must attend without delay,’

Permission given The Navigator left.

‘Lieutenant of the Watch,’ Lorgaire Thall said ‘As we cannot burn up any time waiting, I will be in my quarters drafting the introduction to my final despatch, a task which will take some time. Corvette Gealbhan is now within your charge. Ensure those Depressions are observed for the slightest deviation in path or alteration in speed. Therein will be the only reasons for you to interrupt me,’

Lieutenant of the Watch gave out the necessary orders to all crew on observation duties. In addition to make sure nothing was missed he allocated extra crew to the task. All matters attended to he took his stance, gazing outwards, not action of any use of course; yet you could not help but be drawn to the immensity, a craft had to have its share of viewing ports. No amount of devices could make up for the urge to physically see.

Being alone he allowed himself the luxury of a sigh. There would be no rest for the next five, even ten watches. Any information which suggested The World Craft would have to make even the slightest change in direction would end up being a converted to a political decision. Not just propulsion or direction, but environmental adjustments would be made, even shifts in populations to compensate. How many of the thirty millions he wondered. And there would be those subsequent affects on the productions of support, the shepherding of floral and fauna.

Decisions to be taken upon the entire Dynamics which would start with the information from one speck of a craft. Although the responsibility now weighed upon all of the crew, he was glad to he out here and not back upon  the World Craft locked into the entirety of the administrations levels likely to be tasked with coping of any changes.

A door opened, there were soft skipping footfalls. 

‘Ensign Croí Eadrom’ he said, without turning ‘Is our Compositor settled?’

‘He rests,’ she said drawing alongside, no bird nor dog in sight, in a most  unconventional action she whistled soft ‘How is it possible someone can produce so many figures, so precisely, so quickly, ahead of any machines?’  

‘I am sure I do not know. In any case it is not good manners, nor productive to question the nature of any race, nor why within each race some excel at one discipline or another. There is no room for such,’

‘That’s true. Just curious,’ she quipped joining in his gazing ‘We all have our tasks,’ another soft whistle ‘Makes you think though, dun it?’ he winced at he mangling of language ‘I mean. Here we are, all in a flurry over titchy things,’

‘Depressions can carve through a planet’s surface if they strike. The damage to something as delicate as a World Craft is ghastly to imagine. Solid objects we can handle,’ he gestured to the depths, the unseen ‘Those Depressions are unstoppable. All necessary actions must be taken soon,’

‘Yer,’ she continued ignoring the requirements of acceptable speech ‘We’re not so grand are we? We have to keep on our toes,’ one hand drifted into a pocket of her jacket and she brought out a small brown and white rabbit, which she proceeded to cuddle and stroke. ‘Always keep alert I say,’

The Lieutenant had been waiting this, she always did this at some stage, but he’d caught her out, surely.

‘That’s a rabbit,’ he pointed out with solemnity. ‘I would suggest there is not even any lerts,’

‘Rabbits,’ she replied with a dignity so heavy as to be comic ‘Are always alert. Hence her name,’

‘Alert?’ he replied sensing defeat.

‘Quite so,’ she said, and with the rabbit settled on one shoulder popped upon a large pocket, the heads of two mice mouse appeared. ‘These are the Concern Sisters,’ she explained ‘I need discuss with the observation crew their morale, I will explain I have small concerns,’

He shared the rest of the crew puzzlement on how she managed to inspire cheerfulness, or level out tensions with such humour. No one of course discussed just why she was here. It was unspoken. To do so might upset the entire system; each unto their own, on this journey vast to them, but a speck to the Universe.

One slender thread in the pattern of Survival. From here on a corvette to Council of The High King on the World Craft. It was how The Dynamics worked.

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These Chartered Yet Unsettled Waters December #BlogBattle-Navigate

Navigation 2

‘Spoofle,’

Queen Gervalene’s muted outburst was as much a commentary as she would allow herself.

Both her grandfather Gerveg (The Rock) her father Gerveg II (The Just) had died early, their bodies giving out through the demands of their spirits and minds. The former through war, the latter at the demands of constructing an iron sure administration. Thus was Greymorell a stable, uniform and secure kingdom amongst a region of still dyspeptic neighbours.

Not one which had previously had a queen though. And a young one.    

Gervalene knew there were many unhappy about this. However, she was the only heir to her father and the laws were quite specific about The Line of Succession. Such were the heritages of her forbearers no one questioned The Law.

The Law, however, would not stop folk nagging her about the Supremacy of her Council, ‘Ware The Ethereal’ and naturally Marriage.

After her coronation she had spent twenty and five days at this wind and sea swept remote bastion. Contemplating. At least people respected that; The House of Nüchtern was ever serious and reflective. She was of The Blood and would do her duty.

Whatever storms. She rolled up her chart.

 

Queen Gervalene’s wish to ride the sixty miles back to Castle Verwaltung was in keeping with House of Nüchtern.

On arrival she was greeted by her trusted Lady of Service Liefje.

‘Your Highness. Chancellor Dringend and council await,’

‘Choppy waters,’ she added.

‘Of course,’ Gervalene said.

‘And sewerage spill,’

‘Oh,’

 

‘Your highness,’ Dringend observed the stride of Gervalene’s entry, still dressed in manly riding gear, gauntlets into her belt. No delay with changes into courtish dresses.

‘My Lords,’ she called as if hailing another in a fog ‘To business,’ 

Murmuring of approval.

Nonetheless Dringend felt it was his duty to ensure this young Queen listened and did as advised. Unforeseen problems had arrived.

‘Your Hghness’ promptness is to be praised,’ as always, he drew breath before he launched into the list of ‘matters’

Taking advantage of the calm before the storm Gervalene steered towards the table bearing a large map and being studied by Duke Krijgsman, commander of the Greymorallench army, of noble bearing, veteran, widowed.

Conventional courtly wisdom reckoned just the right husbandly material for a young untested queen.

All eyes were on Gervalene, evidently she was drawn to him. He smiled, benignly, a good open gambit.

She drew closer.

Finger traced along the map.

‘My dearest duke. I am comforted to see you studying our positions. With the empire still being young, it is necessary to consider our security and make good our loyalty,’ she leaned in focusing on a land two kingdoms away ‘The question of Accession in Unurhig threatens war, thus spilling into our fayre neighbours in Besorgt. Our emperor dislikes squabbles. Please invoke the Treaty of Wohlwollen. Our neighbour King Glücklos will be relieved we come to aid of both Besorgt and beyond,’

Krijgsman appeared conflicted, then resolved. Whereas he had intended to make initial maneuvers for the queen’s hand, going back to his youth he had a particular loathing for the trouble making faction in Unurhig. Gervalene smiled encouragingly.

‘With all due speed your Highness,’ he said heart moving ahead of head and loins ‘Unurhig is a complex land, the campaign will take some time,’ It was, he felt only correct to let her disappointment down gently. As she had steered him to.

‘Good Duke, your attentions to duties does you credit,’ Gervalene said and swiveled to lock eyes upon a small man of attentive and eager poise, ‘Lord Ferris Clerke of Our Offices. Please draft correspondence of Emperor Lexor explaining our intention in this is to support the empire and request our consideration for Duke Krijgsman to be elevated to a General for the Imperial Throne,’

Krijgsman’s beam of pride was equaled by that of Ferris’. Ferris had yearned often not just to record the word of the Throne of Greymorell, but to draft on its behalf. The honour of trust. Oh Joy!

 

Dringend already distracted was caught off guard by the speed and astuteness of Gervalene’s moves which he had to admit were flawless. The marriage matter would be moved down the agenda. There were other sudden unwelcome issues.

‘He’s got the Tightening Nostrils; father warned me about those. Here come the serious squalls, and watch out for flying sewerage,’

 ‘Your Highness,’ Dringend said teeth gritted ‘Our own Arch Expeditor of The Lord God’s Word, Aufgeblasen has been unexpectedly, or so it seems, visited by Imperial Custodian Captain Ondsindet. They approach,’

Ah. The Sewerage,’

Gervalene had to assume Dringend had been, for once, outmaneuvered. There was mutual dislike between the Chancellor and senior fellow in the religious hierarchy of Greymorell. She had to assume this Ondsindet was another of the opportunistics looking to rise up the ranks. The Imperial Office of Religious Purity was full of them. A chancer seeing a new and young queen as easy pickings. Aufgeblasen by association must be trying for an imperial office.

Now for a hard tack into the wind as her old marine bodyguard would say.  

She appraised them in best emotionless regal style as her father had taught her. For when The Time came.

‘Gentlemen,’ she said. There were mental gasps. Displeasure. The Queen was not using either man’s title. When arrogantly challenged that had been her father’s opening response. She had been taught well ‘You concerns please,’

Aufgeblasen at seeing a younger female version of Gerveg faltered, playing for time coughed and cleared his throat, Ondsindet ignorant of the land’s heritage forged on. There was strong evidence of a spready of Whychery into ‘this realm’, it had been simmering but with the death of Gerveg II had moved to seize the prize, he did check himself by adding the words ‘during transition’, but Gervalene caught the message. ‘Instead of Ethereal he had used the abusive word ‘Whychery ’and not just insulted her but her father. Prepare to engage,’

‘Your solicitude is appreciated Captain Custodian,’ some imagined frost was in the air ‘This is weighty indeed. A regent must care for their people. Respect their emperor. But must above all serve The Good Lord God,’

Having made what probably would not be a very memorable statement she curtly ordered the two men to follow her. A glance from her Chancellor and the ceremonial guard fiercely stepped into the herd the two men.

Gervalene did not pay attention to the words trailing her or Aufgeblasen’s puffing to keep pace, anyway she was sure he knew what was coming. They steered the swift tack to port and she led them down a quiet corridor to an rarely visited room.  She knocked softly.

‘Please enter,’ came a quavery, friendly voice

Theologian To The Throne Geleerd had been middle aged in her grandfather’s years, unofficially he was known as The Conscience of House Nüchtern. It was known, but not spoken of, that he had been the only one who could steer both Gervegs away from some of their more frighteningly harsh ideas. He maintained an unswerving iron resolve to the moderate and could quote from all five holy books in a gentle but deep reproof to his target. Those who thought him a wandering old duffer were swiftly appraised otherwise.

Gervalene took his hands as he rose with greetings to her, his body seemed to rely on resolve to keep going.

‘Your Highness. How kind to visit,’ a twinkle came into his eye ‘And you dear Aufgeblasen,’ then a knowing look ‘A Captain Custodian too. I am honored,’

 Steering around the smidge of sarcasm Gervalene explained the reason for the visit.

‘Dear Master Geleerd,’ Gervalene spoke as grand-niece ‘These gentlemen,’ there could have been more frost and a chill breeze ‘Are concerned over matters of Ethereal Abuse in Our realm,’ one admonishing regal index finger rose as The Custodian began to say ‘Whychery,’ he got as far as ‘Wh’  ‘As your queen I would ask of you to discuss this with them,’

          ‘Of course, your highness,’ he said with much affection.

          He had been her Ethics tutor, he taught with humour. She still thought of him as an uncle.

          ‘I will instruct the guard to stay. To ensure there are no interruptions,’ these words were addressed to Ondsindet.

          And she left, Aufgeblasen full aware that there was going to be a remorselessly long discourse which would leave him floundering. Why he could not have avoided this? She had moved so fast. Ondsindet was on his own.

 

          The muted hub-bub stopped on her return.

          ‘Let us be seated good lords,’ she said ‘There must be more to discuss,’

          Dringend was impressed by her maneuverers, she was indeed of The Blood and presently he was in her wake. At his imperceptible nod others waded in with their own matters.

          As Gervalene could only grasp about one quarter of what was being said but assumed each proponent had his own possibly financial interest. To avoid the shoals of delay she agreed to proposals, although saying pointedly to the clerkes ‘Let the record show: On the advice of- ‘. Thus, when something went wrong, as it probably would, everyone knew who to blame. After the first two had doomed themselves, the others were less intense with their interests. Tax reform reducing the burden on the wealthy was completely dropped.

 

          The council ended. Two remaining. As Dringend gathered his papers Gervalene placed a hand softly on his arm.

          ‘This was all a test? I am sure you could have stifled clumsy Aufgeblasen without my help,’

          Dringend seemed to muse on the question.

          ‘The Regent will ever be the last bastion,’ he replied.

          As cryptic as the reply was she read the undertow.

          ‘I do hope The Captain Custodian is careful with his subsequent commentary. He should know how much in Fond Regard Dear Gerleed is held in our realm. And The Emperor would not like some mere Captain Custodian to upset such a loyal realm,’

          ‘Quite so Your Highness,’

         There was unsaid agreement.

          The Guards would report on words overheard. Agents disguised as peasants would record predictably sour comments made by the fellow on his journey out of the realm. It would all be managed and filtered to the Emperor.

          Ondsindet would be wrecked on the rocks of politics. Aufgeblasen would limp back to his safe habours and be compliant.

          ‘Marriage? Another day then?’

          ‘Quite so Your Highness,’

 

          In the deep night she surveyed her chart, it had served her well, warning of the dangers upon this stretch of the Sea of Life. Look to the Ethereal for guidance but never predictions. When her abilities had surfaced Geleerd was there to tutor her, as he had with her father. She learnt never to abuse the ability only to navigate with it. Her chart, crafted with her own skills. And never make much of this gift. Just a skill like any other.

 

          She slipped into bed welcoming arms enfolded her.

          ‘Long day sweetling,’ sympathised Liefje.

          ‘There will be the marriage thing,’ came the grumble.

          ‘Got an answer. Grand Duke Profugi. Younger son of Maggiore of Cisapline. His older half-brother wants him dead to tidy up the inheritance. It’s not unusual thereabouts. He’d make a good King Consort. The rank and station would remove him as a threat to his sibling. Thus, he would be happy to settle here,’

          ‘There will have to be children, ‘grumbled Gervalene in between yawns ‘I like children and would make it my business to cope with pregnancy and labour. It’s the starting which vexes me,’

          ‘Only a few times a year,’ Liefje said ‘after that he can run free, but discreetly. He will understand. It’s ever such a common arrangement these days. And you can learn to be friends. He is known to be affable and open minded,’     

‘A few times a year,’ Gervalene muttered as sleep advanced ‘Oh the duties my realm calls upon me,’ her hand squeezed Leifje’s ‘Be thou my guide sweet pilot,’ she said and slipped off to sleep.

          ‘Thine evermore sweet Captain,’ Liefje whispered in reply and kissed the sleeping head.

When or Not To. That Is THE Question? November #BlogBattle-Cultivate

Beards

The smallish nation of Unbedeutend located on one side by the bend of the vast river Gewaltig and cossetted on the other by the Zackig mountain range was thus left alone. That was how it had been for three centuries.

However, King Lastig not one to leave well alone. After five years’ tenure of not doing much he decided Unbedeutend needed an image as well, something which would make the men of Unbedeutend stand apart. Lacking a constructive imagination, he pondered another two years then one day an ambassador dispatched from a neighbouring nation for annoying his own king hoping to do something with his miserable lot remarked on the fine impression Lastig’s full beard and moustaches made.

Lastig took this to heart and a spark was set aflame. Unbedeutend would be the home of that most socially acceptable display of masculinity, luxurious and well-maintained facial hair. He voiced this opinion several times and his court who had its fair share of facially hairy men were much pleased, those not so took the hint and within some seventy days not a chin or upper lip was  perceived, on the males that is. Naturally this ceased to be a fashion and more of a friendly suggestion with elements of an edict.

And so many clean-shaven males of Unbedeutend commenced to cultivate facial hair. Those wishing to maintain or obtain status ensured their efforts were maintained to a high standard. ‘Straggly’ becoming a word certain to doom a fellow to mockery or ostracisation. Over the next three years barbers obtained sufficient importance to elevate their once humble Barber’s Guild to The Learned Advocacy of Master Coiffeurs and began to invent all sorts of rules and regulations, obtaining seats of local councils and so forths.

Lastig was very pleased he had set his nation on a path to Status. For did not much facial hair mean masculinity?

His folk along the Zackig mountains thought so, and consequently folk from other three kingdoms who resided along the mountain borders with Unbedeutend had to confront a frequency of by swaggering males displaying their beards, at close range. Concerns were raised by said border communities this could escalate. The kings and their lords thought reacting to Threat By Beard would be seen as excitable and thus did nothing, except look with some suspicion at some of their own fulsomely facially haired men about court. After a while other local matters took their attention and sense prevailed. Unbedeutend, who cared? Aside from peasants on the borders, so what.

In Unbedeutend males continued to emulate their king. Although some in various positions of authority or wishing to be thus looked upon others with facial jealousy and unable to keep pace suggested these others were trying to exceed the king in stature. The consequences were varied and because no one wanted to disturb the king’s joviality very restrained, merely muted as innocent officials on the rise, gently fell from grace, or lesser also innocent folk seeking to rise in court were modestly ostracised back to their estates. It was all very civilised.

Queen Fellyone and the ladies of her court, circle and salon could not, of course, become involved, so they concentrated on flower arranging, which was very socially astute as peasants would not have time or resources to do likewise. Not so with men.

Out amongst the common folk and those elevated, but not invited to Court. matters evolved as the cultivation continued. Those of meticulous and reflective mien grew narrower styles, thus enabling them to finger the hair thoughtfully while saying ‘So’ or ‘Ah’ or a long drawn out ‘Yesssss,’. Some tolerated as outgoing and outrageous indulged in slightly untidy appearances, while military folks’ efforts were by length and width measured according to rank.  Religious fellows attended to the matter according to personal conscience. Books on how to conduct neat and respectable ways of eating proliferated, though those who had long cultivated facial hair felt somewhat insulted by the latter move. An indicator of social pressures which the king’s advisors’ advisors should have taken note of.

There were however other pressing issues, the one most close to Lastig’s heart being his only son and thus heir Prince Gravierend, unlike his father serious and reflective also not prone either socially or worse physically to displays of facial hair. He was capable at arms and took an interest in military matters, so no one was inclined to jest with him at not joining the era of beards, nonetheless an embarrassment to his father and as some courtiers suggested a possible focus of discontent. The solution was relatively simple. The neighbouring southern nation of Beunruhigt was now suffering from a few ill-disciplined barons. Gravierend, was only too glad to go with a volunteer retinue of sober and able fellows, who began to shave as soon as they crossed over the border.

For administrative purposes Lastig’s nephew Earl Schleichen was made nominal Prince of the Office, in order that someone be princely for all the required ceremonial duties of the said rank. Schleichen had for some time been maneuvering to get A Position. He was aided by others who thought they could control him and with him shared a dislike of Gravierend who they thought merely affected his serious disposition. Wars it had been agreed were serious things and who knew what might happen to a young prince. Lastig distracted by various issues relating to beards did not notice.

At least half of the court should have anticipated the first problem would come from The Church and within the Church. To begin with the issues were minor. The most boring and to be avoided priests and bishops got into tussles over the theological implications of long or short beards. In rural areas congregations found over enthusiastic priests indulged in hair to the extent their sermons were quite incoherent coming from behind what appeared to be small bushes. This led to neighbouring priests who had issues with the excessively hairy associate to suggest an excess of hair was all vanity, some even began, with congregational support, to shave. This allowed wives and mothers weary of shedding of hair, unpleasant sights at meals and discomfort at times once tender and intimate to lend support, and everything became schismatic.

The disruption spread to more urban areas and in the tide those men who had long nurtured facial hair and were expert in its management were wont to voice distain at less expert fellows and the disrepute they were bringing upon the art.

Vocal disputes became more frenetic and louder, thus hair was tugged, which accelerated and riotous behaviour became common, bordering of Unrest. Lastig, like most folk of genial dispositions when thwarted and deprived of uncomplicated options lost his temper and became dyspeptic.

To begin with he commanded his lords to stop the violence, without telling them how, and demanded his government to issue edicts and laws. As each official had been told personally each went away with different ideas. The results were rather obvious, the lords had opted for the simplest solution; Hit People, as the lords were the ones with the soldiers, so things simmered down; except that the lords now thought themselves rulers in their own realms claiming they ‘understood’ the local situation; which most of them didn’t. The Church weighed in with a bewildering number of contradictory opinions thus even the schisms had schisms. The most extreme example being ‘The Sisterhood of The Equal Hair’, a group of women who partook of secret potions which encouraged facial hair growth; whether this started out as a religious, political or satirically ironic movement was lost in the confusion of the times, needless to say the results were unsettling.

Lastig now started to make very uncomplimentary and ungenerous remarks to folk in his court, mostly to do with their competency, although peppered with barded observations on their own beards. He said he would sort it all out and locked himself away in a room wherein he worked for five days and nights drafting The Royal Decree of Stability. When it was produced no one understood anything of its nature, while Lastig seemed to be unable to offer any coherent clarifications. In later years in Universities Professors of Politics, Philosophies and Rhetoric would offer up this work up as the prime example of why drafting without ideas was a bad approach, some radical and naturally covert institutions used it as a reason why kings should never be involved in formulation of law.

Even so Lastig insisted upon its application, the first, to profit were lawyers, the second being Schleichen. It was noted that whereas Lastig began to display evidence of Straggliness, Schleichen’s beard was more luxurious and maintained, thus even though he was growing more obnoxious he felt confident enough to drop the ‘of the Office’ part of his title and experiment with passing his own edicts, all to do with the accumulation of his own authority and wealth. Such was the chaos very folk noticed.

Elsewhere, actually in Beunruhigt, King Travach was grateful for Gravierend’s efforts, the surviving ill-disciplined barons were wishing they had not listened to their deceased associates. Surviving assassins sent curt letters of resignations to those in Unbedeutend who had sent them.  Also daughter of Travach, Princess Leilanna (The Studious) and Gravierend had formed an attachment. As there was no more ill-discipline in the realm he escorted her to visit her favourite widowed aunt whose border lands were in the shadow of the Zackig Mountains. It was there the pair and their loyal retinues encountered a large but furtive band of ruffians and men of the Zackig mountains on the Unbedeutend side, seemingly engaged in transporting large sacks. The encounter from the viewpoint of the disreputable groups was not a profitable one and the survivors were ordered to hand over the contents of the sacks.

Human hair.

On severe and persistent questioning there were general confessions the hair was for the manufacture of false beards, of which there was a flourishing market in Unbedeutend. Gravierend with Leilanna at his side and retinues following was swift to ride back home and demand explanations. The first folk of rank he encountered, were found with large amounts of unexplainable gold, they tried to protest and bluster, in doing so raised other suspicions and were found with false beards.

Gravierend raised the matter at court, as he had a battle hardened retinue no one tried to stop him, in fact several arranged to be elsewhere. Naturally a scandal broke involving nobles, bishops, some merchants and The Learned Advocacy of Master Coiffeurs, more unexplainable gold and false beards were revealed. Prince Schleichen was involved, was forced to flee the kingdom, those of his family who could, disowned him. Lustig suffered a collapse, pulled his hair out and retired to an undisclosed remote tower, Queen Fellyone repaired unto a spa town five hundred miles south west and stayed there, for her health, Gravierend, with some fatalistic reluctance took the throne, married Leilanna, spent a year knocking heads together, putting down inept rebellions, placing unexplainable and confiscated wealth into civil and civic projects for the good of the ordinary folk and drafting the following edict.

‘Beards. I could not care less,’

Most folk got the message, there was much rejoicing and men who had had beards most of their adult life felt dignity and sanity was being cultivated again. ‘The Sisterhood of The Equal Hair’ under the stern examination of Queen Leilanna, confessed that the whole thing had indeed been an ironic jest and were glad it was all over.

And those who wished to, shaved happily ever after.

On The Matter of Asking (a sort of follow up to ‘A Singular Circumstance. One Summer’s Day’) September #BlogBattle-Eschaton

End of Days

Storms whose furies dwarfed the worst of winters past, driving the might of seas up rivers and into the least streams. Lands turbulent, restless as fever haunted sleepers. Mountains in anger threw down rock, snow and ice or hauled up worse from the depths of the earth. Disease flourished in the resultant death. And in the terror came myriad small wars.

For those charged with remaining calm and analytical the evidence led to one plausible conclusion. This in turn begged further examination for this conclusion flew against hard won rational beliefs founded in the sciences and many a mighty machine.  Yet all pointed to lore based on creed of the heart and ephemeral faith . The urgency of the matter compacted what might have otherwise been years of debate into mere days, for the process envisaged was innovative, an appeal to Devine Agencies. Across the breadth of consensus, there was, however, no other option. As one put it.

‘It’s worth a try,’

‘Lady Betrügerin? The Ghost of?’

‘If you likes Custodian Vastberaden. I’m  not fussy. Thanks for recognising me though. A girl likes to have a bit of a reputation. Quite a bit of effort there, getting yourself noticed by us. Took a risk. I could’ve nobbled you without discourse,’

‘It’s a time when risks don’t matter,’

‘I suppose it would be fer you folk, down on the ground there,’

The brief conversation concluded as the mist cleared, and light blue passageway ended with a simple wood arched door. The woman of youthful appearance and three centuries notoriety, knocked with deference, but spoke otherwise.

‘He’s ‘ere Guv’nor,’

‘Thank you Betrügerin,’

Opening the door and with a less than sober gesture of invitation Betrügerin stood to one side allowing the Custodian to pass through.

‘Best of luck with your pitch mate,’ she said and passed back into the mist.

Although the atmosphere of the room seemed clear Vastberaden discerned more mist, of a soft coastal sort, the variance made the task of focusing on the man at the other end of the room, problematic. The only detail The Custodian was certain of, the fellow was tall and studying a map laid out on a table, which might have been bigger than first inspection. Vastberaden supposed there would be challenges to the senses when meeting someone who was arbiter of the fate of the world.

‘Custodian Vastberaden,’ the voice was quite ordinary, paradoxically Vastberaden would have been disappointed if he had been addressed in majestic echoing tones, the business to him would seem to have smacked of ostentation. ‘You did not journey here of your own volition. Sent at the behest of eminent and intelligent people, though you did volunteer,’

No questions,’ thought Vastberaden, ‘It would also be disappointing if he had to ask. He is supposed to have a quite comprehensive knowledge,’

Then there was the silence. Vastberaden concluded he was going to have to do the talking.

‘Correct,’ the fellow said ‘You are here to state the case for Preservation of Your Civilisations’ Status. In the light of evidence to the opposite,’

‘Of course, he can hear my thoughts. But speaking can be more coherent,’

‘After all the study and conclusions based on investigations over the past century. We discovered this link or pathway, and felt a direct approach was the correct thing to do. After all the effort in forging our civilisation, fatalism could not be countenanced,’

There was a sigh.

‘Whereas your response can be considered positive in its level of determination, you must appreciate against the weight of evidence the achievements are outweighed by the mistakes, abuses and of course hubris,’

‘We are aware of the shortcomings. We are not complacent or uncaring. I would also point out that the current amount of suffering of the innocent is comparable to several of our more profligate wars. We struggle to see The Justice, nay even The Example being set by Higher Authority if I may use such a term,’

The figure looked up from the map, Vastberaden discerned emotion, though which one he found he could not make out.

‘You appear not to have perceived the disadvantageous changes you folk are bringing unto the World,’ one hand drifted across the map ‘Here, these are plain to see. For Humanity is not the only concern. Other Life. And Other Dynamics. They have precedence,’ there was a brief neutral gesture for Vastberaden to draw closer. ‘Come closer. You may be able to discern why things are unravelling the way they have been,’

Vastberaden looked down upon a map, whose basic outlines seemed distantly familiar, although total perception was made difficult by the movements and interactions of shapes, some geometric, some reminiscent of clouds or oceans while others tested the senses to comprehend. The Custodian shook his head in bafflement, at this one hand rested lightly on his shoulder, and in a jarring interlude there was a focus, albeit blurred.

Life was a part of The World. A factor which lived under the sway of forces able to sweep lands and oceans clean of it, and yet in its own various dynamics capable of causing those forces to react in ways folk had not expected to react. Many forms found balance and accord, some did not. Humanity appeared to be one such, and thus forged an extreme example of unbalance. Vastberaden considered the panorama and the circumstances unfolding, no the correct word be ‘unravelling’.

He looked up into a face saddened.

‘You understand something of the problem. You folk with such inventiveness and ability have this talent for making things worse,’

‘Aye. This much is obvious. We made great efforts to seek out something which when it was staring us in the face,’

‘There is the irony. Consider your example. In your urge to find a practical and rational answer you did not rely on convoluted recitations, nor some of the more questionable religious practices. You worked on the evidence of activities of my,’ here Vastberaden detected a slight laugh ‘Own band’s extended efforts. Concluded there was a distinct pattern leading to some intelligence beyond your own realms. One combating malevolent people in your fields and cities. Thence was a most dangerous bold strategy of placing your people as potential false targets sought to establish contact,’

‘It cost us several brave folk,’

‘It was unfortunate. Some of my own have not yet, even ever grasped the subtleties of operations against the corrosions. Lady Betrügerin, though as ruthless as any is possessed of a certain whimsy which saved your life, physical. Know this here is an opportunity of insight. We have our own missions against Ignorance, Fear and Intolerance and despite our seeming apparel of celestial power, in the scheme of things are but talented dedicated, small folk. We cannot stop these events you have brought upon yourselves,’

In his career Vastberaden had known many disappointments, some defeats and a fair number of those designated as insurmountable challenges. To avoid shock and dismay he had prepared himself for this endeavour to be one of the latter, mixed with something of the first. Speak calmly, though. Good manners cost nothing.

‘You did, still allow me to have audience. Would you then, by definition have some advice?’

‘There is always advice. This would depend on whether the listener truly wants advice no matter how unpalatable, and not just an alleged solution?’

Vastberaden thought this reasonable. The one facet which had weighed heavily upon him was the notion of making an appeal to a celestial being. After all such folk would not necessarily have the same moral compass, thus what might seem a heartfelt appeal to you could be laughable or worse objectionable to them. And as for advice, well you could listen to as much of it as you wished, then filter through the whole flood looking for gems.

‘I would always listen to advice,’ Vastberaden said, as he often had, for many folk had taken this statement as willingness to wholeheartdly accept what they would say.

The conclave which had debated and finally acquiesced to Vastberaden’s mission walked into the most secret of chambers to discuss and speculate what had, was and might be taking place.  Such was their immersion in the whole venture none of them were truly surprised to find him already seated there. He was quick and economical to advise them he had journeyed to where intended, he had met with someone in authority and had positive news to give them. As was their experience in grave and weighty matters none of them hurried him along, even though a nearby substantial river, had driven by great rains broken its banks, rushed upon and caused the collapse of a castle.

‘There is guidance,’ he said, thoughtfully and told them of the great map and the information thereupon ‘The responsibility lays with everyone.  It is not a spiritual, but a physical matter. The resources of the world cannot be taken granted as servile, it is necessary work with the land, rivers, seas, yea even skies. New disciplines and means have to be learnt, old ones adapted. The great forces once thought to be under control are not, much study is necessary. The work will be hard and long. Everyone must understand, bend their minds and bodies to change,’

The first to speak was a graven military fellow, versed in the ways of war and state security, thus with the shortcomings and weaknesses of territories, rulers, influencers of rulers, those who would be either and of course the mentality of mobs and rumours.

‘This will be a very difficult task, like trying to turn around a great vessel in a narrow shallow when a tide has gripped it,’

‘Indeed,’ agreed Vastberaden, then speaking guardedly added ‘The folk I spoke with can offer some assistance,’

At this a woman appeared at his side, she smiled waved, a cheerful little gesture.

‘Lady Betrügerin,’ she said.

‘The Death Maiden?’ asked a man of theological scholarship and thus rather interested ‘Not legendary then Vastberaden?’

‘I can speak for meself.,’ she snapped ‘Quite real thank you. So is he,’ she pointed to someone turning from a mist to a more discernible figure robed, features hidden by a cowl, and in a thin hand holding aloft a scythe. He was silent. Vastberaden took up the discourse.

‘Those whose representatives you see here, are willing to take some time out from their allotted task purging evil dabblers in demonics, to assist as it were. In expunging those of arguably a more important threat. The ones who will not listen either through greed, ignorance or stubborn intransigence,’

‘Of course we can’t be everywhere at once,’ Lady Betrügerin said and the cowled figure nodded agreement ‘And we can’t go taking everyone of the world. Be a bit drastic. Things are bad enough anyhows.  Only the worst and most loudest, let the others learn. Y’know you can help there, by telling folk the ones taken was smited by Devine Judgement,’

As the cowled figure nodded so did the military man and the theologian; it seemed a reasonable approach the pair thought.

To be fair to the assembly being mortal there was a brief hub-bub, but general agreement.

‘Strange times. But necessary requirements,’ said the current chairman ‘You Custodian Vastberaden must be escorted to and speak with the emperor, in secret of course,’

Vastberaden seemed a smidge abashed and hesitant, Lady Betrügerin sniggered and nudged him.

‘G’wan,’ she enthused ‘Tell ‘em,’

‘I visited him first,’  Vastberaden confessed ‘He was annoyed. Said it would interfere with his gold mining enterprises. He was my first case. He’s gone from this mortal realm,’

Vastberaden rose, out of the chair and into the air with Lady Betrügerin and the cowled figure.

‘Initially I did display great doubt, myself. Then Lady Betrügerin, educated me, as it were. It didn’t hurt at all. Think on it, gentlemen,’ he said.

And left.

A Singular Circumstance. One Summer’s Day (August#BlogBattle- Peculiar)

 

https://bbprompt.com/2022/09/02/september-blogbattle-eschaton/

A Singular Circumstance. One Summer’s Day (August#BlogBattle- Peculiar)

Ware the Maid

        Hochtrabende The Tormentor was despicable. And cared not. He committed beastly acts all in his quest for final approval of The Nameless in Ascendancy and the subsequent bounty.

          This, he calculated would be last required location, another pastoral idyl to be despoiled by heinous cruelty to an innocent. Their suffering the last pieces to be set in place.

          He sat in unholy meditation, savouring hideous memories preparing himself.

 

          Kaltblutig was cruel; to be objective Life had been cruel to him from childhood. He was thus an effective henchman. He reasoned his cruelty was quicker and more efficient than Life’s version, so it was a sort of service. Had he met the right sort of philosopher they would have had interesting conversations. Currently though he was working for a necromancer, arrogant of course, but paid well. 

          Young Anfanger, dithered at his side.

          ‘She’s a looker,’ he giggled nervously ‘Think he’ll let us,’ he would have nudged someone lesser than Kaltblutig, instinct warned him not to ‘Y’know,’

          ‘Not supposed to be anything left to…Y’know,’ came the growl. The veteran looked to the door to the chamber, doubt nagging, he could say why. Only an odd feeling he was on this side of the door.

 

          ‘I am Lady Betrügerin. Youngest child of House Krachen. My father, two brothers, my betrothed and my prospective in-laws all predisposed to violent solutions will visit upon so much woe upon you,’

          Acolyte Glucklos winced. The kidnapped girl was possessed of speech characteristics and a variability of tone which made listening to her somewhat grating, the words ‘and’ and ‘so’ at a pitch and drawl to hurt the ears. Worse, despite being ambushed while walking through a wood, roughly manhandled, then tied to a table in the presence of a hooded man she did not appear a’feared, only annoyed and defiant. Peculiar. 

          And then she giggled

          ‘Why do you wear that silly hood? Are you possessed of a peculiarly shaped nose?’

          The suddenness of the question caused him to respond directly.

          ‘There is nothing wrong with my nose,’

          ‘Says you,’ her nose twitched ‘ I bet messing about with all things which give off these funny smells is causing your nose to grow upwards. That’s it. You have a sticky up nose,’ she giggled again, this time accompanied by an intense stare ‘A piggy-wiggy nose,’ she chirped.

          Glucklos was thrown into confusion. These were not the right responses of a kidnapped maiden. Suddenly he did not know what to do. He was gripped by an urge to rush to his master, Hochtrabende.

 

          Hochtrabende heard not the usual pleading, crying or general distress you would expect from a kidnapped maiden. Only a winsome voice, a protest from his acolyte and… girlish laughter? That was peculiar. Maybe hysteria. Yes, women did get hysterical. He would have her sing a different song. He strode out.

          Finding Glucklos had not laid out the ceremonial knives, nor lit the thick blighted yellow incense. He was in debate with the victim over his nose.

          Hochtrabende roared his disapproval and ordered the acolyte to attend to the preparations.

          ‘And here’s another hood,’ trilled the girl managing to waggle one finger in an accusative gesture ‘What’s your peculiar penalty? Droopy earlobes?’  

          Hochtrabende made to loom over her, malignant eyes glaring through slits. This one had a singular capacity to be annoying. He squeezed her face.

          ‘Cease your babble,’ he snarled ‘You are here to satisfy The Nameless in Ascendancy and bring forth Their Horror upon the world,’

          ‘That was very rude,’ she chided with heavy dignity and a slight sniff ‘And I don’t believe you. You are just some silly inadequate with paid bullies and a deluded fellow,’ she twisted her neck and batted her eyes at Glucklos ‘Poor piggy-wiggy here,’

          ‘There is nothing wrong with my nose,’ repeated Glucklos.

          The irregularity of the situation threw Hochtrabende into another bout of precipitate action.

          ‘This is but a taste of suffering to come in your journey to The Nameless in Ascendancy,’ he rasped drawing a curved blade down her arm, blood seeping from the thin line.

 

          Kaltblutig had much experience of screams. Fear, Rage, Defiance, Confusion, Thrills and so forth. That one was different, as if the door did not matter. Aside from the volume and the highest pitch he’d ever heard, there was an odd quality, he would reckon a warble. A right strangeness. His troubled, thoughtful scowl stifled Young Anfanger’s expectant tittering.  

 

          Unlike Glucklos who had hands to his head, all of Hochtrabende’s resolve was channelled into not wilting under the shriek. When finished the girl scowled

          ‘Well that’s a fine how-do-you-do,’ she wriggled her bloodied arm, muscle blossoming ‘This will not go well for you when my rescuers come,’

          The smugness in her voice was harsh, mocking. Hochtrabende had never encountered such distinctive affrontery, which fuelled his rage beyond his usual cold delight.

          ‘Wretch,’ he spat, unaware his vocabulary was narrowing ‘Know you, I have others in the wood ready to ambush any attempt. You are lost,’

          She stuck her tongue out. He had no response but to assail her other arm.

 

          ‘There’s that warbling scream again,’ Kaltblutig muttered ‘Downright peculiar,’

          By now Young Anfanger, influenced by the elder man, shuffled.

 

          Lady Betrügerin examined both arms, clenching her fists.

          ‘My favourite walking out dress torn and badly stained,’ her voice censorious ‘Whereas I normally avoid the propensities of the male where retribution is involved in this case pinches and punches will be considered,’ she glowered at Acolyte Glucklos ‘As for you  Piggy-Wiggy, there will be a severe nose straightening,’

          Maybe it was the imperturbably assertive voice, perhaps the sense his master was losing authority or mayhap whole unreality of the situation which caused the young man to tear off his hood and pointing to his nose scream into the supposed victim’s face.

          ‘This is a normal nose. An average nose, curse you!’  

          Hochtrabende was about to yell the lad was not supposed to reveal himself however this was hindered by the gasp of surprised outrage of Lady Betrügerin

          ‘Cadet Lord Glucklos. Third Son of House Raffgierig. And your father, Duke Bestechlich titular patron of the Cheese Mongers and Purveyors Guild of  Handelsknoten.  The scandal. He will have to stand down and lose the substantial stipend as they find another noble mascot,’ she tutted. Gluckloss howled and intended to strike at her face but bungled the business, she jinked her neck, he missed and as his palm flew by she savagely nipped his little finger, drawing blood.

          By then Hochtrabende had composed himself. He dragged the youth back to the corner swinging him about to view a table with tomes of evil lore.

          ‘You fool. This girl is either insane or possessed of some latent manifestation. Calm yourself and we will consult the Foul Volumes,’   

 

          In his long career on unpleasant actions Kaltblutig had never known such a bunch of oddness.  Hochtrabende usually indulged in malevolent pretend aloofness. Not ranting Self-preservation told him orders forbidding witness of what went on behind the doors no longer applied. He peered through the usual space twix’d locked door and frame.

          ‘Nah,’ he groaned ‘Don’t turn your backs on her,’

 

          When master and acolyte turned back, their intended victim was sitting up, busily untying the ropes to her legs. She paused to waggle her bloodied hands.

          ‘Blood does so slicken ropes and skin, allowing hands to slip out,’ she explained with an air of domesticity.

          Hochtrabende, in horrified desperation, mind filled with impossible answers to this situation began to chant a plea to his patron, hoping fervour and faith would do in place of sacrifice. Glucklos charged in clumsy scamper waving an ornately curved blade, an inappropriate weapon for the thrust.

          And he was felled by the promised punch to the nose.

 

          Hochtrabende lowered his gaze from the usual upwards chanting pose. The girl was not in front of him.

          ‘Yoo-hoo,’

          She was above, impossibly at ease on no particularly visible perch.

          Her eyes bright, teeth sparkling in a cheerful smile and arms outstretched she swiftly descended.

 

          On seeing the girl slip loose Kaltblutig had exited, only to find outside of the previously abandoned abode bodies or soon to be bodies of the lot Hochtrabende had hired. Waiting were ten men in the very dark green of the dread LifeGuard and adding to the dread two in the night black habits of the Custodians of The Lord God’s Will. One of the LifeGuard pointed at Kaltblutig.

          ‘Ah Master Kaltblutig. Yes. We’ll keep him,’

          For a man steeped in cruelty and its consequences, the words were as good as it got. He surrendered.

 

          He was bound, set against a tree and informed he would be telling the LifeGuard every last detail about long list of his employers, locations and deeds.  Meanwhile the body of Young Anfanger was carelessly hauled out by one LifeGuard. They formed a perimeter at the entrance and the Custodians went in, sometime later they hauled out Glucklos, he was alive though, holding his bloodied nose and babbling protests about its state.

          ‘We’ll be keeping this one,’ a Custodian said to a LifeGuard ‘Regrettably all we found of that wretch Hochtrabende was a pile of ashes. Again too late. These debased amateur meddlers thinking themselves able to deal with unquantifiable forces.

            ‘So our unseen allies, they evaded us. Again,’

            ‘Aye, just those hints of screams, barely audible,’ he patted the dog at his side  

          ‘And the locals will be grateful we tracked and apprehended a group of recently arrived bandits before any harm was done. To them, anyway,’

          The two men shared a brief, cold, knowing laugh.

          Kaltblutig shuddered. 

 

          The return was ever the demanding exercise, and therefore a slow rise from the crouch was best, as always the warmth of the greeting washed over them.

          ‘How good to see you returned intact. Still in the female form,’ the voice was gentle and thoughtful ‘Your preference?’

          ‘I do confess to an ease. I feel a may have been such before my original arrival,’

          ‘Aye, there is a likelihood. To return to current matters. Indications are of a complete cleansing. Can you confirm?’

          ‘The tracking and the luring were quite easy and the clues sufficient for the authorities. The rest fell predictably into place. He was left naught but a pile of ash. The evidence was balanced as directed. Sparse enough to ensure mystery but sufficient to encourage study,’

          ‘Others will be returning from their missions. We will gather and evaluate both progress and influence. This recent trend is most distracting. The misinterpretation of an ancient account elevating some ill-fated and obscure dabbler to the level of an evil deity would be farcical, if there were not the suffering many and promotion of negligible individuals to popular notoriety. It is not be tolerated. I daresay some philosophies would be the basis of condemnation on our methods and goals, and yet when faced with the corrosion and nurturing of such evils what is to be done?’

          The returnee sighed, straightened, then made their way over to a bench from where they could look down upon the world they had just left in all its combinations. As they mused their hair darkened and the clothing took on a more basic appearance, they absently scratched their neck. When they spoke their voice was more of the crowded streets of a city.

          ‘It’s a peculiar old state of affairs an’ no mistake,’      

 

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.

 

From Unexpected Places (Something Concerning Odd Motivations)

Inspiration and Themes

It’s another ‘You know how it goes’ . You’ve finished your latest work, truly finished. The end was reached the several re-writes, editings, and other associated efforts have been navigated. (Including the occasional episode when the book cover was being put in place, the artist adds a little something and you thought ‘Wow, I have to fit that into the narrative!! ‘ And under the spell of the image you unravel some little part……). All this attended to by one means or another your work is then made available to the public and belongs unto the Ages.

Thus, should follow an interlude of rest and repose. Working at a factory pace does not suit Creativity or Perspective. A writer should not find, one morning their writing has become a chore they feel they must do. Writing should either come from the joy or the restlessness to see ideas taking shape as words. A ‘Because’ not a ‘Have To’.

So time to look at a Fantasy idea. There might be promise there. I would attend. I started.

And stopped. Basically, although there were a couple of amusing bits, it was not working; the word ‘Re-hash’ kept cropping up whenever I read the day’s output. Ah well, something to be left for another day….

Time to revisit the Quantum Space Opera project. On to the opening chapter. There was that word ‘Re-hash’ again. Seems I had invested so much time and effort into my previous project my creativity was still running on the loop. BlogBattle challenges were welcome, making me move elsewhere, but left to my own devices I was running in that loop. The one hope I had was another word… ‘Screwball’ as in 1930s and 1940s Comedy Films, in short when stuck, look for something outside of Serious. There was inspiration here because when scrolling through the Audio Book selection of SF, and seeing the endless lists of Genocidal Aliens, Ancient Long Forgotten Evils, Another Colonial Marines / WH40K Space Marines series one phrase kept popping into my creative mind when relating to the evil protagonists…. ‘Their heads fell off’; it broke the monotony. Thinking there might be a start of a way out, I pondered on this phrase. Now obviously such a gem had to be used sparingly, or if the pace was very fast with mocking frequency. The plot still eluded me though. Even the great Robert Sheckley would not build an entire book around heads falling off, maybe a chapter or paragraph here or there but he was a master of his art / craft. No, the whole structure needed more thought. Still, it was a start.

Buoyed by this slender hope, the musing phase started, as to what would prompt such a statement and where would the exclamation or discovery fit it. Musing on such an aspect does not require a serious frame of mind; irreverently speculative would be a better turn of phrase. Such a state is of course very volatile and unpredictable. In consequence it was with some delight, although not surprise, that bursting into the musing came a small scenario drenched with very inappropriate and excessively farcical humour based on a misunderstanding in verbal translation. There were inane sniggers, for it is a fact of Male Human Nature that no matter their age, life experience, social standing or professional achievements no man ever rids himself of that adolescent streak. However, this ‘situation’ arose, the attendant, events leading up to, social interactions, ramifications, motivations etc were causing the dust of musing to coalesce. The original slender thread of the plot began to take on shape, birthed by an urge to place both comic ideas into some context. They would only be additions of course to a deeper and wider narrative, but in doing so gave some basis and inspiration for getting there. ‘The plot became the thing, wherein the comedy I could bring’ (sorry about that Mr. Shakespeare- no apologies to you Hamlet, to me you always were a royal pain)

Now the words and the possibilities are forming with some ease. Being of the ‘Pantser’ school I have not much of an idea where this particular project is going to go. But if I did, where would the fun in that be?? No, I’m just going enjoy the whole uncertainty happy in the security of the knowledge someone, somewhere, will be involved in a humorously unfortunate incident and some group with suffer from sudden detachment of heads.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering. The Quantum aspect? In comparison with starting a plot for a book, simply no trouble at all to fit in.

Here’s to Inspiration, no matter where or how the dear muse should turn up.

And I do believe I have inadvertently created a template for a book cover.

Those Jagged Remedies (June#BlogBattle-Scar)

Scars

Intent: cold and raw. A precise mix sufficient to clear your senses. Visceral, held in check by the focus which in turn fed back on that which it supressed. All was balanced for the work ahead.

The figure finally moved out of its cover, slow, patient progress to the campsite, watching the two slouching, complacent guards. The figure did not take anything for granted though, only moving when the guards shuffled off away from the interloper’s planned route.

The plan was clear enough, its execution requiring enduring caution, stealth and concentration. Acceptance of a long night essential.

‘Medician.’

Eight years’ service, Principal Lieutenant Vragen by custom accepted an audible oath as the first sound to leave the lips of a soldier dragged out of sleep. Even dodging the small pillow, sent with some accuracy, considering the dispatcher’s eye were still closed. Eyes widened on seeing the target’s rank.

‘My apologies, Principal Lieutenant. Albeit deep in the first sleep after two days and nights of toil. That was indefensible. What are your orders sir?’

By the time the disciplined apology seasoned with an excuse had reached his ears the soldier was out of bed at an attention which despite the baggy nightgown would do credit to a parade ground. Remarkable recovery, but not swift enough to tame the twinkle in the eyes and the faint twist to the right corner of the mouth. Working the arts of interrogation and investigation gave you an edge in observation.

‘Place yourself at ease Medician. I shall overlook the pillow. Reflexes in the best traditions of the LifeGuard.’ there was a brief exchange of restrained grins ‘I am here to call upon your skills. We are required to supply a miracle. In this case the saving, not taking of a life,’

He was but half way through the opening of the explanation when she uncaring of his presence, pulled off her nightgown, and began to dress into uniform clothing. Her body marked with scars of service and personal shaves with death.

‘Somebody of note Principal Lieutenant?’ she asked.

‘Lord Lemp’s son Idjel,’

‘I thought,’ she said combing fair hair into order ‘he was out somewhere learning,’ -a sarcastic tone entered her voice- ‘a soldier’s trade?’

‘His father purchased a commission, in The Hounds Vigilant,’ their sarcastic exchanged continued, her next contribution a harsh bark of a laugh.

Dressed and gathering up her medical supplies, she continued.

‘Learning how to avoid proper combat and which are the best villages to terrorise and sack, all in the name of the Emperor,’

‘Still not deemed of official concern to the LifeGuard I fear,’ he said in finality.

Their arrival was greeted by a flustered Lord Lemp, the close presence of a LifeGuard outpost being a very mixed blessing to lesser nobles. To his due, Lemp currently embraced the blessing aspect with effusive thanks for their swiftness. Vragen was all diplomacy, any opportunity for investigation was to be grasped. His medician however was for grim efficiency. With a brief, civil request to ‘see the patient’ she set the lord and his senior officials scuttling off, she at their heels like a shepherding dog, her officer in their wake.

At the door of the bedroom, coat and hat removed, hair secured under a tight cap, while hands washed in an astringent of her own, and ignoring the initial goggling that there was a woman here, her emotionless interrogation of the circumstances began. Where had he been? When did this come to the attention of his father? Had they given him any treatments yet?

‘Hmm. Down in Hegohel. Yes. There are three strains of plague there. A day out from coming home with escort? Really? Staggered in by himself? Principal Lieutenant sir. The previous camp needs to be traced and eradicated sir. Expeditiously, sir,’

And having given that command to her commander, she entered the room. Alone.

Yes, a befouled mess, already. Facial skin reddened in patches. Lost in a delirium. Sweating. Threshing too. Not even the lowest of servants attending. The word Plague was enough to let The Fear out. Even mild ones which left the suffered scarred and thus marked. She hitched on her face mask and eased on her slender leather gloves. To work then.

Since there was no one around she dealt with the threshing by kneeling her full weight on his chest, in other situations a man would pay good money for such treatment. In a perfunctory manner she clutched his face, twisting it to right and left, leaned in, he inadvertently helped by screaming in pain, allowing her a good view of mouth and upper throat. In equally unsympathetic manner she examined other parts, his weakness stifling true resistance. Yes, definitely 

Outside she deftly removed cap and gloves, dropped them into a nearby ornamental urn and having washed her hands in astringent emptied some into the said receptacle. She regarded the assembled quartet.

‘Carmine Furusio,’ she announced and raised one hand to still panic ‘It does not travel by air, not even casual touch. Uncleanliness is the cause. It’s curable. The problem is with cadavers, other illnesses can fester. The camp and burn everything, Principal Lieutenant, especially bodies, no survivors. The Good Lord God knows what else mercenaries carry under their skin. Now please, Principal Lieutenant, sir,

Witnessing the prompt exit Lord Lemp, was taken a’ back at the authority these Medicians carried. He did not even question her peremptory tone when she addressed everyone as to what she would require for assist, nor confirmation she would attend to this alone. There was relief on that score.

First, the sight of the carrion birds, then the audible sound of flies, of course the stench and finally the stillness of the camp. Vragen did not have to command the party to halt. Taking a page from the Medician’s book, on dismounting he covered his face and hands, approached slowly, studied the first body. By the distance from the perimeter he guessed the fellow had tried to flee. Some of the horses had broken from tethering, others had survived by reducing the grass around them. No sign of plague. He let them loose, they made for a stream. He returned to the first body avoiding the others. All very sudden, this attack of plague.

He gave the order to collect the first kindling, to start an initial fire allowing safe ground to build a bigger base for another ring of fire,  moving over more scorched land, poking roasted bodies closer in, until the dead were piled into one place and the last great fire started. The Medician had trusted him with the overseeing. The men did too.

Upon returning he found Lord Lemp in a mixed state, agitated, relieved and concerned all at once. If there was not such an air of death about the sight might have seemed comic. Without waiting for the dismount he addressed Vragen.

‘My son lives,’ he said, although the joy was tempered with distraction ‘The Medician remained with him all the past day, night and this day too,’

A loud keening came from the room one flight above them, Lemp glanced upwards, his mouth working while his brain sought words.

‘It seems he must lose one leg. A pernicious infection, she told me. She is about the business now,’ a hope born of desperation into his voice ‘She assures me he will not feel too much pain, there are potions y’see,’

Smoke drifted across the courtyard.

‘She is most meticulous. Insists everything is burnt; to ashes. Says it will halt any progression. We all have to wash our hands too.’ A nervous laugh followed. She’d unsettled the man, Vragen was certain. A signature trait she forcefully employed when encountering negligible but unpleasant folk. The thin mouth, cold remote tone, and dark eyes, the unrelenting stare could curled you. Even more damned unsettling when you knew how cheerful, chatty and mischievous she could be with most folk.

The sound pitched to a sharp screech and as quickly into a moan, and silence. A small audience look upwards, expectant, waiting for the announcement. No doubt, Vragen reckoned, as ordered.

The window flew open, the face gaunt and severe looked down.

‘The leg has been successfully removed,’ she called out, clear and composed ‘Just above the knee, the area cauterised. Squire Idjel has lapsed into acceptable unconsciousness. I require assistance in cleaning and cleansing. The risk of Plague transference has ceased,’

And the window was closed.

The Medician stood before the Lord Vragen felt the rolls might be reversed. She presented two bottles of dark wine coloured mix.

‘Your son will live. Though, Lord, he will be without the vitality associated with a man of his age. This is Extract of Herstel. Ensure he has one quarter wine cup of this each day until both bottles are finished, this will aid his progress. Some would say you should give him a stronger dose. The LifeGuard does not recommend this.’

The duo rode away, they examined the ground scored by fire. The Medician grunted some acceptance. Vragen asked her if Idjel would truly live.

‘I cannot say for certain, Principal Lieutenant, sir. The fellow was weakened. It depends on the care he now receives. In body, heart and soul.’

Vragen was writing his report, based upon The Medician’s own brief, terse account. He was musing not just on the sparseness but her reply to his question of Idjel’s survival.

Vragen’s experience tapped at him. In this case, by her tone and expression she might as well have said ‘Don’t know. Don’t care,’

Some might have admired her composure and dedication dealing with any plague victim. Yet her actions did fit with her attitude, in particular to someone who had ridden with one of the most undisciplined and battle-shy mercenaries of the empire. Consider The LifeGuard’s institutional acceptance of medicians’ inclinations to be covert executioners of folk they judged unworthy to live. She had had ample expert opportunity to ensure the fellow died. No local would have suspected. Instead, she had left with gratitude about her.

Long enough in one area of expertise could leave you agitated as well as alert. Investigation work enabled you to know which references to go to.

Even an outpost of LifeGuard held a sufficiently basic reference library of works, political, cultural, religious and medical. The latter being of his current interest.

‘Carmine Furusio,’. The ailment was indeed one of the more modest afflictions; practitioners opinions seemed sanguine. The symptoms did remind him of encounters in his career. He moved to chapters on poisons. ‘Cremisi Astuto’. Both tuscatalian phrases alluding to red, the former plague, but the latter, no, translated to ‘astute’. Ideal name. Similar symptoms. Only always deadly. Made more sense. Plague camps had bodies lying in parody of repose; this one, they had been scattered, fallen, giving impressions of prior staggering.

Someone had struck, carefully at night. Cooking pots, wine barrels. Revenge upon one group or just a targeting of mercenaries. How had Idjel survived? Easiest part. His own supplies, the last victim when poison was running out. Fleeing in fear at the sudden deaths. Whoever could answer was long gone. A fair reasoning.

The Medician would have surmised the difference too. She covered for them adding her own nuances on the survivor. Had the amputation been necessary? What weaknesses had been left to pervade? A miserable fate. And her parting words, a LifeGuard caution on medication. Most nobility chaffed at LifeGuard strictures. Her words a positive dare to do so. A carefully planted verbal toxin; belated execution by circuitous default.

And evidence burnt.

Motive? Swift undressing had revealed four close, long, narrow pale scars down her arm. A woman’s nails. Medicians made light of small injuries unconsciously inflicted by patients in torment. Dying of multiple rapes, or sadistic injuries, driven mad at death of children..

One man’s prolonged torment both symbolic justice and a balm for scars to limb and soul? How many other applications? Before and to come?

https://bbprompt.com/2022/06/03/june-blogbattle-scar/