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.

One Prologue is Worth a Dozen Chapters

Sometimes your have one volume with a very complicated plot which requires a foundation so the reader isn’t pestered with blank spaces which are filled in some stage down the narrative by one character suddenly breaking into a quite out of context explanation or the sudden desire to give a back story.

There again you may have embarked upon a multi-volume work and are up to your syntax and continuity in characters of various degrees of importance, plots, sub-plots and conflicts of interest. Whereas you may be living a portion of your life in this world you should not expect your readership to so and thus remember whether this character vital to Volume III had had a walk-on part in Volume I.

In these situations The Prologue is a useful device. If you are writing Fantasy…

He’s up to something….No I am not. It’s a prologue of a prologue!!

… it is almost a necessity otherwise you do have characters indulging in long explanations to another character which in normal circumstances the latter would not require, being it is hoped familiar with the nuances of their own world. In this genre you will have enough of a problem fitting in those explanations or discoveries which are generally unknown without having to include a running commentary for the reader. Prologues set the scene. Many successful authors use this device. As did many before The Bard and contemporaneous with Shakespeare. For instance he has a Chorus in the opening Scenes of Henry V and in Romeo and Juliet and you should not quibble over the fact this is one person, it would only sound confusing to have a lot of folk saying the same thing. Thus, if you are paying attention you will have an idea of ‘what’s what’.

A prologue can take many forms, a piece of action or dialogue before the main narrative. Sometimes it can take the form of a potted portion of history, this type should be approached with caution, lest it morph into a style which would be better suited to a factual history book. I had this problem upon reaching Vol III of my Fantasy trilogy….

Here it comes folks!.. Stealth Marketing…. I shall ignore that with all the dignity at my disposal

….. I was simply going to record because the overall plot was reflecting the many facetted aspects of conflicts political and military when more then two parties are involved. There was by then a great deal of detail swirling around and this begged a summary. So I tried a few ‘historical accounts’ by various anonymous writers and none worked (See above-History)

It then occurred to me, at least one character would be in a similar situation trying to make sense of everything. The natural choice was Arketre Beritt, being military and without particular ‘Ethereal’ Powers she would be short of the extra perceptions Karlyn & Trelli have, and since she was military would be wary as to where the next crisis might come from. Thus between us (I always work with the characters, they have a far better insight than I do) we put together an incident where she attempts to chart and list all the possible threats, influences and problems on the various horizons.

Aside from this prologue having an element of acerbic comedy, which is Arketre’s forte, it would also serve to show the reader just what a convoluted hoo-hah everything had become. This state of affairs being a visualisation of the tangle which became WWII, Vietnam in the 1950s-1970s, Iraq in the previous decade and any patch of European history between …..well any time …In short no one was every truly in control or genuinely working with each other. We decided italics would work best to illustrate when she was writing or maybe having particularly vivid (polite alternative) thoughts.

Thus Arketre and I give you…The Prologue (aside from the initial physical scene setting and Arketre’s brief look-back, left out as not truly pertinent to the post). The romantic ending is deliberately left in as that plays several very important parts in the narrative….No, not The Relationship in general, causes for banter, noble sacrifice, tensions and scenes of an intimate nature. You need the book to find out…

Oh Marketing! The Horror! The Horror!

 …….         Late night in the town of Yermetz. The air chill, a reminder Spring was still young. A figure seated at a desk, candle flickering due to a draft whose source still evaded detection.

          As satisfied as she was Beritt was not inclined to be complacent and expect things to go on this easy. There were wars brewing, wars happening, wars in places far away and wars right under your nose, most folk could not see those last sort of wars. Beritt was realistic enough to appreciate she could only see a fraction of them at any time, so all the more reason to make sure she would be alert to anything coming her way.

          It was a simple task really. Sit down with a large sheet of parchment, in the centre draw three circles with their first names written therein, then around them draw more circles with the names of all the organisations and people she reckoned could affect them. Once this was accomplished draw lines from these others to Me, Kitlin and Trelli, then lines which would link each of the organisation or people to each other. It would be like drawing a map, on scouting missions, you just had to keep a clear head and be methodical.

          She carefully inscribed their names, adding extra curves to the letters K-I-T-L-I-N.

          Then those to watch out for. The LifeGuard were, naturally, her first choice, only she found herself writing under its big circle, smaller ones to hold the names ‘Centre of Command and Decision- Drygnest’, ‘Colonel Rachteg’ and ‘Captain Dekyria’, because all three had been in contact with her or once through Kitlin at differing times with differing messages or in the case of the amorphous first trying to incinerate her as an acceptable loss. She didn’t feel inclined to draw lines yet.

          Next came ‘The Libratery’, she had once been a member; a humble Novice Devoted. Take into account Trelli had grown up in one of their orphanages and of late had been at their tuscatalian fortress Altoviani Settentrionali, working for them. Bear in mind, last year when seeking out Trelli, apparently Kitlin had annoyed a Surveyoress Coltello who Trelli reckoned was up to more than she seemed. Thus once more two separate circles under a bigger circle. The lines would certainly take some careful work. Then she remembered The Devoteds had Ragithyl sort of imprisoned or something. So she had to add his name, grunting to herself for he would cause a tangle.

          She then wrote ‘Decoryx’ the land of Prince Atherlin. She had been based in his realm and Trelli came from there, and he seemed to be held in ‘Fond Regard’ with The LifeGuard. Not actually pressing into her space, but worth putting down because for her that was where everything had begun. This was going to be more involved than she had reckoned. Some lines would have to bend all the way around the parchment if they weren’t going to get in the way of others. Some might intersect, she would have to think of symbols to indicate what sort of intersection. She frowned, sipped cooling coffee.

          ‘Elinid’ came next. That was where Kitlin originally claimed she had come from. Trelli had ended up there for a short time, so had Ragithyl while Wigran part of Trelli’s earlier life and deeply involved in the original mess now worked for The Silcs, and when you mentioned The Silcs it seemed they were in contact with Captain Dekyria. Another long line which would have to curve. Now there were several more circles all in a little huddle as if they were keeping a secret from her….Oh yeah and the Silcs were probably involved with that Coltello girl……Frib!

          And while she’d been thinking of Kitlin, Custodian Meradat loomed into her head, he was supposed to be of the Office of Custodians (or whatever they called themselves) but didn’t appear to get on with his seniors. Also neither he, his seniors nor The Libratery didn’t seem to pay any attention to the Official top of Religion The Ecclesiastes. She scowled at the thought of the fresh number of circles ,which in a fit of resentment at this intrusion into her military and civil world she placed in the far away bottom right corner of the parchment ensuring they kept out of her way until she was good and ready for them.

          Of course she had to include Terasonia. Of late the land had loomed large in the three women’s lives, this led to her having to include separate items for the Four Grand Dukes, the new prince, More-Than-He-Seemed Zweideutig and The Terasonian Church. Hoping they were no longer her problem she placed them off to the far left in the middle. Her modest amount of satisfaction at this arrangement soured when she remembered Osavus Trelli’s lover. He would have to be included because you could never tell with love what might happen. Beritt was glad she did not know the name of the girl he was betrothed to.

          And when you mentioned Terasonia, you had to mention The Shadow Lords; she put them next to the terasonian collection. She couldn’t really remember if there was more than one lot of Shadow Lords, she decided not to press the issue. Between that grouping and her, Kitlin and Trelli’s names she placed the evil The Zerstorung, got more confused and found she had had to put a separate entry for each group of them, being Air, Land and Deep. She glowered at the name Ragithyl for his previous involvement with at least two of them and cursed him for reminding her of at least of the Silcs being, possibly attached. 

          At this stage she sat back and huffed, then grimaced in spectacular proportions. Several of the circles seemed to want to be somewhere else. Maybe she should have put all the names on small bits of other parchment and shuffled them about on the larger piece. The ever growing numbers of groups and characters caused her to relate it to the patchwork of The Oakhostian Empire. At this thought she ground her teeth, she now had to make one entry for The Oakhostian as an empire and one for the Emperor Loosiderue because if you were a LifeGuard you didn’t think an Emperor as half as important as the whole. An image of the court and the princes came into her thoughts. Princes made her think of Henrich (The Useless) of Valeneg (her current location) and to his eastern borders, Prince Habgierig of Krenderenberg of whom Prince Atherlin of Decoryx had very unfavourable opinions. More circles. More lines. She shuddered at the notion of just how many little coded symbols at the intersections she would have to make. She forced down other names bubbling up, some from the winter’s activities around Terasonia and others due to the possibilities of ‘unpleasantness’ on Valeneg’s borders. Irritation invited her to vent its smouldering by her petulant drawing on the bottom central edge of a very untidy circular shape into which she inserted the phrase ‘Other wobblers and sheep-chasers of the Nobility’

          This done she dropped her elbows onto the table and her chin into her clenched fists, glaring at the confusion of circles whose numbers and arrangements  had there been any further additions these might have been set to form a mocking grin. She looked to ‘Kitlin’ for comfort and fond memories, only to remember her bride had mentioned that evasive fellow ‘Krongar’ in terms which had suggested his own entry and his presence of course reminded her of the danger of Karlyn’s Shadow Lord’s family. With a growl she found a place far from any other and attacked the parchment, the circle was bigger than that of Loosiderue’s for whom, presently she didn’t give a mouldy carrot. She savagely addressed the circle, got as far as ‘Krong-‘  and the tip of the quill snapped off.

          In fact due to impact coupled with the snapping the word looked like ‘Kronpf’ which was a type of honeyed oat cake favoured in the most central regions of the Oakhostian and suggested she might be the clerke for a bakery cartel which had a ridiculously grandiose idea of marketing.

          Cursing quills in general Beritt turned her anger into determination. She had spent precious bedtime on this, her investment would not be lost. She would not cut up the parchment into strips for use in the privy, something Trelli disapproved of, saying used parchment aside from being rough left ink stains on places you did not want ink stains. Also Beritt resolved she would not take the infernal work outside to tear into small bits, an act which might provide interest to the local cats out on nocturnal patrol. No, she could take up her charcoal stick and draw fribbing lines!

          But first to inscribe in angry charcoal letters ‘Kitlin’s Fribbing Interfering Family’.  To anyone else a rather enigmatic statement perched in the top left corner.

          After sometime of trying straight lines, curved lines, lines which went into loops and lines which gleefully forced her to have them cross over each other and despite the invention of symbols still became confused as to their direction; after the appearance of lines, which on other occasions, possibly when drinking wine, might have been seen to form amusingly vulgar shapes Beritt broke the charcoal stick in two and threw it at the wall.

          Obviously the whole business was not one suitable to sane folk. Folk who when attacked by someone simply hit back until that attacker either ran away or stopped moving. Folk who stood ‘here’ and if they had to go ‘there’ went in the least dangerous way. Folk who once in a while would like a very simple set of orders which had a start and a finish. Folk who had not been transferred and thence trained to work in one of the select LifeGuard units. Such as The Office of Expropriation’s Leopard Company, whose members after rigorous training and only having a casual acquaintance with sanity, went out to spy on suspect groups or burn down suspects groups’ habitations or slay as many members of the suspects groups as necessary and slip away, without anyone noticing; all the while not really caring who the groups were or why this group had been selected when a lunation ago the group had been considered allies. 

          No, she would not scrumple up, stamp on, nor tear up or even bite chunks out of the parchment, each urge briefly considered as feasible. She would roll the whole stupid mess up, tie a piece of string about it and place in her backpack for later use. Either as a point of reference, or if the need arose to symbolically wave under the nose of any senior officer who asked her for a report, or in very trying situations she would threaten (at some later stage) to insert up their backside if they dared asked her some damn fool question when she was otherwise engaged.

          The lesson learned. She would simply have to stay alert for danger from all sorts of directions, trusting only in her friend the ever maturing Trelli and, smiling fondly in the direction of the bedroom door, her darling, funny, caring, wonderfully unpredictable Kitlin.

          And she would go back to the easier task of studying the manual on infantry company tactics which she had found in The Translator Pastoral’s library. He had feigned surprise at it being there. She did not ask. 

          Stowing away the parchment roll in a less than tender manner, and disrobing she padded to the bed. She paused to smile fondly at her Kitlin. Maybe the girl was of Shadow Lord’s blood. So what? She was still a beautiful woman, and Beritt congratulated herself on having ensured the girl had finally discarded those concerns, dismissing the pleas made by folk they had encountered who claimed to be relatives. Yes, her Kitlin had spouted off some references to her heritage and expanded on that to those Shadow Lords soldiers but that had all been a bit of an act to scare them. Of late discussions on the subject often ended in Karlyn assuming the role of a haughty princess and Arketre Beritt in other guises, all play with one objective.

          To fall into bed laughing. And then for loving to begin.

          All hers, made formal by a patronising yet useful ceremony. Once more relishing the irony Beritt then as she often did when Karlyn had gone to bed earlier stood and enjoyed the sight.

          Her love was in deep sleeping, arms wrapped around Beritt’s pillow. She gently eased the pillow from out of the embrace; there came a whimper of protest, which she stilled by taking the pillow’s place causing a murmur of delight and a sigh of satisfaction. As she settled in, her Kitlin’s long, lithe arms slipped around her accompanied by a sleepy kiss on the back of her head. Beritt managed to get the pillow back in place and falling into the rhythm of Karlyn’s breathing, joined her beloved in sleep.  These nights she didn’t even need the candle still burning. Her Kitlin’s arms would keep the doubts and fears away..………..

End of Prologue……

If it has worked readers will now be prepared for the lot of tangle, and a fair idea as to the number of who are doing the tangling (or untangling)….

PS: Any long term followers and kind supporters/contributors to my posts and books are more than welcome to ask for a PDF version in advance of the official publication: All enquiries to nnqp1863@yahoo.co.uk