Saturday, October 13, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 15

It had been a week ago, when they'd caught him.

Or maybe a month.  He wasn't sure, honestly.  It was always eerie, how quickly you lost track of time when they put you in here.  Justice in Maganza lands was a slow and spastic thing--the magistrate put you in gaol if you were caught, and then, they dealt with you, or they didn't, and if you were lucky, they might just let you out when they needed to free up some space. 

That's what he was hoping now.  It had happened before.  And after all, he was just a petty thief when you got down to it.  That had kept him from the axe so far.  He hoped it still would.  Even after the little scuffle when he'd been caught.

It wasn't like he'd killed a guard, after all.  At least, he was pretty sure he hadn't.  No one had told him the man had died so far, and he suspected they would if it had happened.

He heard a scuffle outside the cell.  They happened quite often--someone in one of the upper cells made a break for it, and was usually caught.  Sometimes it was a few friends trying to break someone out. If they were lucky, they were captured for their trouble. 

If they were unlucky, they were killed.  That unpleasant thought was punctuated by a rather shrill scream followed by a bump on the trapdoor that rested on the ceiling.  This was closer than he'd thought it was.  He heard some grunts and groans and then the trapdoor heaved open.  A face looked down, then ducked back up. "There's another one down here!" came a shout. 

The face reappeared.  "Sir are you chained?"

He shook his head.  "Not much need to do it here?"

The face managed what looked like a nod, though the angles involved distorted such things.  "We'll throw down a rope." 

He bit his lips.  "What... what's happening?"

There was chuckle at that.  "Oh, quite a lot.  Can I ask your name?"

"Miggs," he answered. 

"Well, Miggs, welcome to the Alt Army of Liberation," said the face. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 14

Malachel Maganza threw himself on the ground. "I can't go on," he panted.  "I have to rest."

His father nodded and continued walking.  "Very well.  If they catch you, do try to avoid mentioning the direction I'm going in."

"You're... you're not going to stop?" muttered Malachel rising unsteadily to his feet.

"No, that would mean dying, and I'm not fond of that," said Malagriff.

"But... I'm your son," said Malachel.  "Your heir."

Malagriff sighed.  "Indeed, by a mistake of blood you are.  But I do not let that affect my judgment as regards you.  After all, I retain the hammer and anvil to make more and better sons and heirs, should I need to."

Malachel stared at him, mouth agape.  "But... but..."

"Oh, quit your whining," snapped Malagriff.  "It's not like I'm about to kill you.  I won't deny that I've thought of it, from time to time, but mostly that has always struck me as a nuisance.  And I despise nuisances."  He crossed his arms.  "As you've not proven disappointing enough to warrant killing, I intend to keep you alive.  So, keeping moving if you can, you sluggard."

Malachel stood there for a moment, and then began to stumble after Malagriff.  His father gave a satisfied nod.  "There, see?  I knew some proper motivation would get you to move.  We should reach the villa shortly.  There's a couple horses there. Planning, Malachel.  That's how a man stays alive."

Malachel managed a dull nod at that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 13

Wenilo and Glim rushed down the stairway.  "You are sure about this?" asked the Goblin.

"Oh, yes," said Wenilo.  "Malagriff told Malachel to meet him here if something like this happened."

"He said this in front of you?" noted Glim. 

"More or less," replied Wenilo.  "I was in a corner.  They tend to ignore me, except when they want to give me orders."

"I can sympathize," muttered the Goblin.

"Yes, yes, we are two of a kind," declared Wenilo cheerily.  "A pair of neglected ne'er do-wells, making our way through our present misfortunes with a smile..."

"That is most assuredly not me, sir," said Glim.

"Well, it is me," said the Maganza.  He reached the end of the stairway and turned to Glim triumphant.  "Here we are.  Now, we simply tell my cousins to take us along and..."  Glim coughed, and gestured ahead.  Wenilo turned and stared at the brick wall in front of him.  "Oh.  Most bothersome."

Glim stepped forward, inspecting the wall carefully. "That's one way to put it, yes."

Wenilo folded his arms, and considered things.  "Well, we are in trouble now, no doubt about it.  We will have to use every resource we possess, every ounce of cunning and ingenuity to get out of this."  He was silent for a moment.  "Glim, have you got any ideas?"

Glim paused in his poking of the wall's bricks.  "A few, sir.  What about you?"

Wenilo made an apologetic shrug.  "I'm sort of stuck on 'plead and beg the rebels for mercy'." 

The Goblin considered things for a moment.  "I'd definitely put a pin in that one, sir."

"Oh, I knew it felt like I was onto something," said Wenilo.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 12

Seguin and Girart were playing hounds and jackals when Duon entered the main chamber--or rather arguing about their game.

"That landed on the floor!  It doesn't count!" bellowed Seguin.

"It does too!"  shouted Girart.

Duon glanced at the pair, and then looked over the rest of his fellows, most of whom were drinking or eating, though Old Garin was proving an innovator for once, and was sleeping.  Duon frowned to himself, and coughed.  No one paid any attention to him.  He coughed again, slightly louder.  It made no difference.  Finally, he took a deep breath and spoke.

"I fear I have bad news," he stated. 

It still made no difference.  Everyone kept doing what they had been, which in Old Garin's case was yawning and breaking wind.

Duon cleared his throat and began again. "I said, I have bad news!" he shouted.  A few looked at him, so he decided to continue.  "River Mouth has been seized by a mob of radicals associated with the Merchant's Emporium."

The others stopped for a moment.  "Wait, what?" said Lady Iphis, putting down her mug of ale. 

"Radicals have taken River Mouth," said Duon. 

"But... but that is the nearest town on the mainland!" she declared.

"Yes," said Duon.  "As I said, it is bad news."

"Perhaps the Emporium can fly us out," suggested Girart.

"The radicals are associated with the Emporium," said Duon.  "I said that earlier."

"What did he say?" asked Old Garin waking.

Duon shut his eyes as everyone else in the room attempted to explain it to Old Garin.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 11

The Hanging Rats had held sway over the White Corner to the Five Milkmaids for generations beyond counting, with the occasional territorial diputes with the Torn Collars and the Sons of an Honest Father.  Of course, prior to the present unpleasantness, this had not meant much.  They were a Collegium of the Alts, and like all the little Collegiums, they held their territory, collected their dues, protected their territory from crime and committed crimes against those who didn't pay their dues, all punctuated by the occasional loud funeral for members who had died in disputes. 

But now this cheery little existence was thrown off-balance by the horrible things that had occurred.  Which the Hanging Rats had taken part of, back when it was just setting things on fire, and beating up Belfior guardsmen.  But now--now the Belfior guardsmen were mostly gone, things remained on fire, and people wanted someone to put them out.

And somehow, they'd decided the Hanging Rats were the ones to do it. 

At least, from White Corner to the Five Milkmaids.

Pal Oddhand shook his head and tossed the various written requests to take care of business he'd gotten in the last few hours onto the board that was serving him as a table.  It was taxing to be the Collegium's First Man in most circumstances--now it simply seemed more so.  He wondered if he was up to it.  There was a knock on the door--the special knock.   Pal stood up and knocked back, then waited.  The three swift knocks in reply came back. 

Pal opened the door.  Wat the Wit stood there.  "Well," asked Pal, "have you gotten word from the Collars and the Sons?"

Wat nodded.  "They're interested in that truce you proposed, and are willing to send men to chat it out."  He walked in, and poured himself a drink from Pal's stores.

"Hey, that's mine as First Man," snapped Pal.

"Need to moisten my throat," replied Wat.  "I've got more news.  The Emporium's interested in us."

Pal blinked.  "The Merchant's Emporium?"

"The one and only," said Wat with a nod.

"Hmm."  Pal rubbed his chin.  "This is... well, it could go places..."

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 10

Duon glanced at the sheet of parchment before him.  He had already read it, but the words were so awful that his mind had, in some sense, failed to register them, and so he was now hoping in his heart of hearts, that if he read them again, this time they would say something different. 

They did not this time.  Much as they hadn't the other four times he'd checked.  "Well," he said at last to the Goblin standing before him, "this is a pickle, isn't it?"

"Maybe, sir," said the Goblin, holding his--or possibly her--hand out.  "Maybe not.  All I know is your man in River Mouth paid me to get the message to you."  The Goblin raised an eyebrow significantly.  "A Herald's does what a Herald is paid to do."

"And I'm very thankful for that," said Duon.  He smiled awkwardly.

The Herald smiled back and raised his (or her) outstretched hand.  Duon stared at it for a moment in silence.  Finally, the Goblin sighed.  "If sir, I could bother you for a bit of customary remuneration..."

"A what now?" muttered Duon.

"A bit of money!" snapped the Herald.  "When a Herald delivers a message, you pay them a bit of money!"

"But I thought my man paid you already?" asked Duon.

"Not much," replied the Goblin.

"Well, you're not getting anymore from me!" snapped Duon.  "Do you think I'm made of money?"

The Goblin looked puzzled at that.  "Well, you're a Maganza."

"Yes, but I'm not rich," said Duon.  "Most of my wealth is either land, or things I get from the land."  He pulled open his vest.  "The shirt I'm wearing has holes in it.  And this is my good shirt!" 

"Oh, I didn't realize..." began the Goblin.

"I should say you didn't, Mr..." began Duon.

"Miss," corrected the Goblin sharply.

"Miss Herald," said Duon.  "You've just brought me terrible news and now you want me to pay me for it.  When I already have, more or less."  He grumbled, shook his head, and walked away.

The Herald watched him go, and then realized she hadn't gotten her payment.  "What a jerk," she muttered.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

To Sit On a Throne of Ebony--Part 9

The winds whipped over the parapets of Belfior.  The banners of the Belfior Maganzas flew proudly.  Pinabel Maganza grumbled to himself, then glanced over at the Alts.  To his utter lack of surprise, he could see the billowing clouds of smoke rising.  He sighed, and wondered how much of the Twin Cities were on fire.  He suspected quite a bit more than he would have liked.  Taking a deep breath, he cupped a hand to his mouth and began to shout.

"Bilet Maganza, Seneschal of Castle Belfior, I call on you, in the name of the Regent, Fiordespina Maganza, to surrender the keys of the castle to me, her agent and marshal, as you are required to do by the laws of the Ebony Throne!"

Bilet Maganza peered over the edge of the parapet, his always present squint seeming more severe than ever.  He seemed to consider matters for a moment, then cupped his hand to his mouth.  "Shan't," he said flatly. 

Pinabel bit his lip.  "You are outflanked, outnumbered, and there is no hope of relief from the Alts.  I beg you, Bilet, to surrender, rather than waste the lives of your men and mine," declared Pinabel.

"And I tell you to stuff it," said Bilet.  "That degenerate chit of a girl you follow is regent of nothing and I will wait for this naked thuggery to fail, and for my brother to be recognized as the true Erl King of Goblins, and your treacherous head will be struck off." He shrugged.  "So again, stuff your talk of surrender."

"I faced harder men than you, Bilet," shouted Pinabel.  "And won!"

"And perhaps you will do so again, and perhaps you won't," yawned Bilet.  "I suspect not."

Pinabel nodded to himself and walked back to the line.  He took his marshal's baton from his belt and waved it.  The catapults and mangonels began to fire once again.  He sighed.  Belfior had been built strong, so this would likely have little effect.  Still, it would at least relieve some of the frustration of talking to Bilet Maganza.