Beyond Falcon's Reach

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Hi. There are some edit differences between this Booksie version and the final published version - available from Amazon, etc. Hope you enjoy! J

Chapter 13 (v.1) - Chapter 13

Submitted: March 16, 2018

Reads: 5

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Submitted: March 16, 2018

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Pastor-in-Chief Lustrus was at his wit’s end with these contraptionists. They were in no position to be difficult - not with their families at proverbial knife-point - and yet at every turn they found another problem, some excuse to delay. He considered getting Dizendra involved but to plump her self-esteem even higher seemed unwise, and she was too focussed on Dartingvale to risk diversion. It was a great worry. The effort of these ingenious slaves and Dizendra ‘s special work was entirely enmeshed. Failure in either project could render the other obsolete.

Requiring Hydront power, the second Autom was located deep among the musty crypts of Gorshallum. Lustrus knew the late Gregorius' squeamishness over the realities involved, but now that he himself was a regular in the workshop, its environment seemed fairly tolerable, like working at a strong cheesery he imagined; one just had to grow a thicker skin to these things.

The male subject, somewhere in his mid-thirties, was a wealthy Paleancine portrait artist who had defied eviction from his Farr City villa by chaining himself to its railings. He was in much greater restraint now, screaming balefully and reaching a low blood-grade through unceasing torture. Again, the contraptionists were leaving this part to their dwarf assistants. This was untenable. They could be missing something vital. "Report!" Lustrus demanded of a brown-smocked technician. The pig-man shuffled on his sandaled feet. "Come on, out with it or I'll drown you in magma.”

"Only low grades reached,” said the midget. “We not know why. We not makers of Autom … they are!" He pointed towards the annexe where his superiors had shut themselves away.

"I've had enough of this." Lustrus stormed through an iron door to face the contraptionists. "All three of you … outside!"

The silver-haired female of elder years and aquiline features stood with slow deliberation. For all the agonies resounding, she somehow composed herself. "We refuse further co-operation with this evil. You have condemned us to damnation and we can fall no lower. Do what you want to us." Sweat poured from Lustrus’ brow. Harsh measures were in order. The dwarf shaigoth lacked the skills to rebuild this fiendish device no matter how many schematics were shoved in their faces, and with Cullis dead - so much depended on these obstinates.

"Mazinger, I believe your family is rather unconventional, is that not so?" Lustrus wormed.

Her turquoise eyes seared. "What do you mean?"

"About twenty-three annums ago ... how charitable of you to adopt a landfolk baby girl. Andita, that's her name isn't it. All grown-up now, and don't they shoot up these landfolk. Of course, in your heyday you liberals did all kinds of odd things ... nothing like impressing the neighbours with bountiful displays. Awful to imagine how your Andita, after all her cushioned annums, might fare in something as unforgiving as the Autom, don't you think?"

The contraptionists stood in horror as the Pastor-in-Chief hammered on. "Before I count to ten, all of you shall stand in direct view of the Autom and you shall watch, and watch, until I say it stops. Is that clear?" Still they did not move. "I would do it Mazinger. I can have Andita here tonight.”

Like a beaten chain-gang the three snivelled in line to the torture. To the shorter man Lustrus whispered: "Hear all evil." Energy cracked into the victim’s temples, driving his screams to ear-shredding pitch. "See all evil." Lustrus shoved the other contraptionist along, forcing him to view the digging action of the spinal clamps. As the immense pain was about to send the man unconscious, an ether bubbling into his neck-valve brought him back.

Mazinger was saved for last. "Speak all evil,” Lustrus hissed, his warping concealed from the world outside. A private playground of darkness. An overwhelming drug.

“What do you mean, Ovus-filth?”

“I mean you approach the artist and command him to paint your portrait during a short interlude."

She could barely comprehend. "Do it!" Lustrus yelled.

A pact had been struck as they ascended as one. "I said Mazinger, not all three!" spluttered Lustrus, but the contraptionists weren’t listening. With a quick pull of a lever they ejected the man from his restraints, then, with the Paleancine clear of the apparatus, Mazinger reached for an exposed temple-bolt. "What are you doing?" squealed the Pastor. He mounted the steps and yanked at Mazinger before realising he was in their grip.

"Join all evil," uttered the senior, wrapping her fist around the temple-bolt to receive the full energy. The chamber blazed in scaled blue lightning.

The Paleancine writhed on the floor, half-conscious, but the dwarf technicians were more interested in the petrified tableau of carbon. Coughing on smoke they considered their predicament. The Autom would not be finished and blame will fall as always to the lowest in the food-chain. What they needed was someone strong - someone who wouldn’t cower behind closed doors but face this matter head-on. What they needed was a good Matrioch, if only the sharp-faced one, if only Dizzy, was for up for the bonding.

___

Another summons to the Sanctus Supreme raised Dizendra's confidence to greater heights. They believed in her, respected her, and they were waiting at the summit of Gorshallum Basilica.

From Sal.Mantrok’s Promenade she walked to the holy edifice with excitement and trepidation. Its cloud-bursting splendour was such a marvel, even as a beggar she passed the structures every day just to witness their special show of light. Today was no different. Gorshallum’s outer spires shone out in timeless gold and silver, like a blessing of past, present and future over the city. So much power. So much promise. She longed to be part of it.

All the towers had undeniable beauty, but Dizendra was always drawn to the central spire: the widest, tallest, and, unlike the others, of natural origin. An inner magma-surge created its legendary conic shape so that it was essentially a capped volcano. Challenging as it was to accept this phenomenon in the absence of violent quakes or fiery outbursts, only the steam-plumes which coiled like gaseous serpents and occasional ground-shudders were testament to its geology while each generation was assured the structure was safe. People had been living and working in Gorshallum for millenons, made habitable with its myriad tunnels, caverns and chambers. Resembling a vast termite-nest, the landmark was always growing taller from the mounded base - little by little, centron by centron.

Dizendra skirted Gorshallum by the immaculately paved Promenade and paused to let warm spray hit her cheekbones. There, across the steaming expanse of Gorshy’s Pot were the great Falls which roiled so dramatically at the thermal base. Invigorated, she made a sharp turn to the steps of the prestigious Halzander Gate. Destiny was smiling. If she could show the Sanctus what she can achieve, who knows! Then she cut the chain of her thoughts in case the excitement might cloud her judgement.

She was dismayed not to meet Lustrus in the Chamber of Usherance but some lesser figure. Something was wrong, she knew, as the elevator cage took her upwards to the Light-casting Lensator. She pulled its activation cord with deep unease. When the Sanctus manifested, she genuflected accordingly.

"Dizendra, we summon you with great urgency," said the genderless one.

"How can I assist, your Worships? I feel a tragedy has befallen."

"Your instincts are correct. Lustrus was murdered at the hands of suicidal contraptionists. All of them are dead. We trust you understand the impact of this loss. Speak freely with no hindrance of title."

"I am full of sorrow to hear this, and not only for Lustrus," said Dizendra. “The Autom's main components are from the Falcon's Reach model, but that machine was badly damaged. With Cullis and the contraptionists dead, even if I bring you Tianna Fell ..."

"...all is lost," finished the voice.

Would they demand a solution? Blame her? Dizendra's mind frenzied through the options before a riper personality took over. "A report from Redmayne's shamanic forests has come to light, Senad."

She responded with care. "I assure you we sent scouts to Redmayne should Cullis survive. All possibilities were accounted for." 

"This diligence was invaluable," the old voice admitted. "One of our Redmayne spies returned with intriguing news. His comrade was slain by a person of massive strength, enough to wield a tree like a club. The killing was not directly witnessed but the evidence is clear. The agent spotted a man fitting Cullis' description mixing with shamen. He must have survived his fall under influence of the Immaculate Condensive because none other could defeat a Shadow agent in such a way. There are permanent side-effects, Dizendra … even when the blood is no longer ingested and its other properties wear off. Our holy texts refer to these as animocraphies.”

"This calls for great urgency," said Dizendra. "If the Mourde still lives and is no longer our ally, he will most likely move on. Restless ... brilliant ... I can't imagine him moping among those skull-rattlers forever."

"Where do you think Cullis will go?" probed a female. The Senad had to catch her breath. This Sanctus seemed beautiful beyond measure - even through the Lensator’s distortion - and her voice cut sharp as a beam through a perfect prism.

"A fugitive from the Ovus would make for Helgeron," Dizendra answered.

"Arrange new searches between Redmayne and the northern capital,” commanded the woman. “We must have the Autom in full working order and only Cullis remains with the technical mastery. Remember, the Mourde is a prize as crucial as Tianna of Darting.” Dizendra bowed, cupping her hands in the sacred egg. "Return both, my formidable feline, most worthy of your kind, to receive the honours we can bestow … to come closer to our fold as you expressed in your first Summons.”

Dizendra nearly fainted. The Sanctus woman admired her – offered exclusive familiarity. As the faces vanished she curled a fist. This dream was a potential reality she would pulverise both moons to gain. Rippling with excitement, she resolved to celebrate with Pultzer on his colossal bed. My formidable feline. Yes, tonight she will arch her purring body over silken sheets and lap the bastard dry.

___

The Sanctus left Counsel through impervium doors built to resist the strongest heat. Lava came in periodic blasts from below, beneath the foundations of Gorshallum and the crust of the world. Once each hour the molten artery bled upwards through the central spire, through its vertical shaft and then into the summit’s receiving chamber the width of a bathing pool. When the current turned from push to pull, the flow seeped back through lesser channels also sealed with crystal impervium. The robed ones moved to a secondary chamber where a hollow sphere of the same invincible substance floated on a bed of liquid fire. The next scheduled backflow would take the pod down and beyond.

Who but the highest of the hallowed dynasties knew that Gorshallum’s main lava-shaft was modified not only for pressure control but the most exclusive transport ever created, used by the Sanctus alone so that no commoner would see them as they traversed the city’s thermal underbelly. The wily ones were not so foolish to pin themselves to a single point; they had many palaces concealed among the Stygurs, all connected via secret tributaries from the lava channels and cable-carriages through unseen mountain tunnels.

Though the globe’s canopy sealed them tight, Counsel Dissolution had rarely known such insecurity. It tainted the mineral-air and unhinged their calculating minds. The genderless one questioned: "Was it wise to intimate an impossible reward?"

The beautiful female replied: "Did you not see Dizendra’s exhilaration?”

"You were flattering her ... playing with her," accused the oldest. The sphere was dropping now, sucking through the lava at great speed.

"For good reason. Dizendra is a remarkable piece of scum. Intelligent, talented and hard-working!"

"So?" he shrugged. "Many shantens exhibit the same if given the right chances, but we are not a vulgar meritocracy. Our power is in our nobility, and nobility comes from lineage. We cannot allow one so lowly into our fold. It was ridiculous to intimate such a thing!”

The woman remained calm. "Do not be vexed. Dizendra is driven by pride, and the more she feels it the more she achieves, as from the dung-heap to her present status. She craves our recognition and by stoking her fire with this prize, I tell you … Dizendra will stop at nothing to achieve our goals."

The senior was unconvinced. "I shudder to think how the hellcat might react if she fails, knowing what will be denied. Conversely, what if she succeeds and is still refused the ridiculous gift, as it surely will be? A raging fire consumes much in its path before it dies. Have we lost our common sense?”

“My dear friend, common sense is for commoners. It is not for aristocrats to follow familiar paths but to set them. A new world lies just out of reach, but by lifting Dizendra to great heights, she will take us there … of that I am convinced.”

“So, you would admit a shanten to the Sanctus?”

“Do not be so foolish. You think I have lost my mind?”

“I did a moment ago, but I thank you for this assurance. Soon, all shanten will be starved out of existence, and that will mean every one of these semi-ferals, understand? Every single one!”

___

Pultzer swore he was paying his hirelings too well. These stage-hands, prop-makers - whatever they called themselves - were too slow for his liking, so he paced the boat-silo with the zeal of a drill-captain and the frustration of a genius. Incompetents! Amateurs! Only by shouting and screaming could there be progress and there was a deadline to stick to. Of course, the only person he would admit it to was himself: he was having the time of his life.

"Just hold the winch steady as the egg descends! Can't you see it swinging around? Any damage will be deducted from your wages!" he yelled, watching his ornate prop sway precariously on the rope. The strain was emancipating … glorious. Pultzer’s larder had seen much less of him since returning to the dramatic arts, as if the blubber had muffled his creative spirit. He should have listened to Dizendra earlier. The life of the idler was poisonous to one so brilliant.

Pultzer’s golden space-egg was roomy enough for one person, namely a glitter-costumed god. Its role was to enact the moment when the Progenitor deities awoke from their star-spangled cocoon and gave rise to the mountain-people. It was a richly patterned thing, larger than life as typical for the stage, while the ship’s fat-hull was not yet the gaudy colours expected.

“We must work faster. I want this boat painted by the end of the week!”

He couldn’t wait to see its finished state, if only these plodders would hurry up. There was little choice because established professionals were avoiding him. Too ground-breaking for them, Pultzer guessed. Cowardly mediocrities! This play was going to be a satirical masterpiece and they knew it.

"How many times do I need to tell you dolts … the egg splits open to starboard. It’s facing the wrong way. Pull it up! Pull it up!" Two exhausted shanten boys locked the winch to let the egg dangle while an old carpenter dared to explain. All ghetto-dwellers were good as dead after the Ovus had removed their blood-banks. Now they were resorting to goat’s blood, and who could survive on that shit without severe weakening. "They're useless to me,” Pultzer snapped. “Half a day's pay then I want them out of my sight. I need healthy stage-hands." Pultzer knew his ruthlessness but nothing was to stop him. He would be a Dizendra of the dramatic arts and match her at every step. 

The crew turned the egg to correct position. "That's it!" shouted Pultzer. "Where's the night-sky backdrop? I want to see how it looks behind the egg. Do I have to crack my voice for anything to get done?" Workers quickly attached scenery sections to a second winch.

"Are you the one in charge here?" A wobbly-helmed Enforcer in tatty leather jerkin and carrying a document pouch had entered the silo unannounced. Pultzer sighed. "Yes, I’m the one in charge. Yes, this silo is legally rented. Yes, all my employees are of the mountain-kind, and yes, I have a performance licence. Now piss off!"

The Enforcer stood impassive. "Just doing my job. We’re checking content now and that goes for all Flotilla Masters. You’re required to show me all itineraries and scripts immediately."

Pultzer thanked his ancestors for show-business gossip. So, the Ovus was hunting for heresy everywhere: under the stairs, in the sock-drawer and between the bum-cracks of every Flotilla Master along the Eshe. "Apologies for my rudeness ... so much to do and so little time," he simpered and bustled the Enforcer into a partitioned office. Pultzer took out a wadge of papers. "It's an unusual project. A proper play. I don't go in for animal displays and slime-wrestlers."

The Enforcer thumbed through. "Rejoice in Rain Relinqus. All seems very virtuous. Reads more like a sermon than Flotilla entertainment. You sure you know what you're doing?"

"By my ancestors! You come snooping for heresy then say my play is too religious? What makes you the expert anyway, or have you Enforcers become drama critics?"

"Don't get your trousers in a twirl ... only trying to help. People have short attention-spans these days."

Moments stretched with each page-turn until verdict was reached. "Well, I can't see any harm in this, though it's very boring. You should rewrite the whole caboodle if you want my opinion."

"As it happens I don't want your opinion. This play is based on sacred text. I'm the one who should be reporting you for heresy!" Pultzer sniped, and after watching the clod make a few marks in his file, or colouring-book for all he knew, he waited until he was well out of the building.

Congratulations. The decoy script left the moron cold and now Pultzer could rehearse every line undisturbed. Not another soul would know the real play until first performance, and of this even the stage-hands were kept in the dark. Spotting a new horror, he rushed to the boat. "No! The egg’s upside down. Pull it back up! Pull it back up!”


© Copyright 2019 Jay Northearn. All rights reserved.

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