32 - Pertinent Document Section II

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Recorded from an excerpt of Peacekeeper Camden Briarseal's Travel Log
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I've been very honored today - the Peacock King graced us with his presence this morning.  Words cannot describe my gratitude for this wonderful and unparalleled occasion.

Instead of addressing us in his Court, he took the matter to me directly, meeting me outside in a field we've been allowed to use as a sparring practice 'arena'.  As he'd hate to show off our strength too openly to his citizens, the field is isolated and walled in, located near an older, less-used section of the palace.  Of course, he insists it's for our privacy and for the safety of others, implying that we might actually miss what we were aiming for and cause collateral damage...

...Well, I'll give him that, Jhe Jenny is a part of our group.  But he doesn't know what that means, so it's no excuse.

He came in the early hours of the morning.  The mist had yet to burn off and the light was still gray, the grass wet with dew.  I had come out to the place to collect my thoughts after my morning coffee.  The girls were already in the Mews, and would join me later in the morning.  As sequestered as the yard was, it was at least a quiet place for introspection.

I heard the signs of his approach long before he stepped out, Geillg'a whispering to me of how the sound of his robes shuffling had pricked her ears.  I allow him to reach five paces behind me before turning to face him.  He takes my sensing him gracefully.  I allowed him to get that far so that he would take it gracefully.  There've been days where a person would have had his face hacked off for approaching that close to me without any warning.  I note to myself that I'd really just like to initiate a proper war instead of taking a vacation - it would be a much more welcome respite from all of this mincing about and dancing.

I bow to the Jhe o'Sul, and he nods back to me.  "Peacekeeper Briarseal.  Such a pleasant beginning to your day, is it not?  Does the sun shine brighter in Radia, or do you find the Aurocan clime suits one from the lands of the Hills such as yourself?"

I smile.  "I must admit, Sul has treated me quite pleasantly.  Ah, my pardon.  Audiva Rocale.  Radia's manners of speaking stick long to my tongue."  I give him a short little smile, noting how long it takes for his hackles to calm back down.  That little Radian nickname for this Kingdom never has gone over well with the natives here, and of course I would never knowingly let it slip past my lips if I was worried about upsetting someone.

He nods.  "Forgiven.  Tell me, Jhe Briarseal - is it normal to call so many Armed into a peaceable Kingdom such as mine?  Between your fighters and my armies, we seem to be well fortified.  Is there something you anticipate to happen soon?"

"Your Majesty, I understand your concerns.  The high concentration is not for an operation we planned out - things simply happened this way.  Do our numbers concern you?  I must admit, I did not expect to stay so long in your locale - I had not foreseen how valuable staying here would be to my trainees.  Oh...Jhe Akribastes's appearance didn't upset you, did it?"

He schools his expression well in response, and I have trouble holding myself back instead of penetrating his poker face.  There's the route of mindplay, which he would find me more well-versed in than he expects, and then there's the route of my fist cordially greeting his long Xaillyndesse nose.  I'm not sure which I would prefer more, but neither are an option at this stage of the game.

"It was a surprise to see the Judge's son arrive in my Court, I must admit.  But...it's old news, yes?  I am sure he is faring well in my wonderful country.  To more prominent business...I do say, Jhe Briarseal.  It's very awkward, watching you play these games in the open, and myself being unable to call you on them.  I trust you're through switching around which of the people you've brought into my Kingdom are Armed, and which are your clever ploys?  I grow bored of the shuffle back and forth, and I'm sure your pieces do as well."

I blink.  I don't want to show confusion, but what on land or sea is he nattering on about?  Perhaps there's a game being played that I am not aware of at this time?  "I do what I must, Jhe o'Audiva Rocale.  It is my hope that soon our business here will be cleared up, and we will leave your empire in peace."

"Ah.  Good."  He looks away for a moment, and does the high-and-mighty-ruler version of shuffling his feet, which is more of a cuff-tugging and robe-settling gesture.  "Well then.  I trust there are no others waiting in the wings?  No one whom you are waiting for?"

...He's openly speaking of Gerald to me.  Shit.  What if I called his bluff, then?  Settled this confrontation face to face?  ...No, I'd get us all killed, or end up killing him in the conflict when he tries to silence us all.  "Nothing that's laid out in my orders, Sire."

It's then that I hear Geillg'a's multiple silver tongues whisper into my ear.  'He's holding Bruce and Wagner now, Tchae.  I can feel them through him.  The lad doesn't have those two boys kept safe anymore...though they keep him safe, it seems.  Gun-stealer.  Hoarding chicken of a half-serpent-blood pomped-up ruler.'  I hold back any reaction.  If the Peacock King has Gerald's Arms, it means Lyric's been compromised.  As to what else of our operation could have been blown...who's to tell?  'I could talk to 'im.  The lad.'

I almost snort in reaction.  'Geillg'a, the poor squirt would shit his pants if he heard your voice between his ears.'

'All the more reason to do it, then, I think.'

The King leans in closer, and both Geillg'a and I have to suppress the instinct to strike.  "Jhe Briarseal?  Is there a reason behind that strange glower on your face?"

"I was consulting with my Arms, sir.  They do make us appear that we have hemorrhoids."

"Ah."  He looks positively made of stone, for some reason, as if talking to inanimate objects were beneath him.  That's just absurd from a man who talks to plants.

"It's just their way.  Sire, are you sure there's no further use that Jhe Cruxradia can be put to?  He finishes clean-up tasks with remarkable efficiency."  Oh, his eyes light up with that idea.  Good.  I need to stretch out some time in which I can further consult with Geillg'a.  I don't want him to suspect any of our interference.  Lyric has been put in far too much danger already.  'Talk to the boy as much as you can while this one isn't hovering over his shoulder, then.  Being alone is probably a rare opportunity for him.  We should be able to find out a great deal from him.'

'Aye, Camden.  I'll ensure that the Spruce Lord here doesn't overhear us through Bruce and Wagner's metal-bodies, but I've the feeling they already have that covered, the dears.  So nice that they've managed to protect the lad all through this.'

I give her a mental nod, then listen as the King cheerfully lists off ways in which Jhe Jaxhelshon could be put to further use on his Palace Grounds.

* * *

Having spare time isn't something I've grown accustomed to lately.  Now that I have it, I'm in the bath, trying to have a private moment.  Of course, that's just not possible.  Not in this place, and just not for me, anymore.  If it's not the nymphs and other creatures that the King has sprinkled throughout my quarters, it's Gerald's blasted guns.  They just don't shut up!

'Aye, I do pity you in that, lad.  You've had to put up with their chatter for days, I imagine.  We think that's why Gerald gets arrested so much - their incessant prattle has made him a little soft in the head.'

I jerk upwards in the water, splashing a wave over the side.  A tiny nymph chitters at me in a scolding tone, then flounces off.

Who was that?  I didn't recognize the voice.  For one, it was female.

'You've met me before, though not truly met, as you've not bled on me, which is probably to your liking, I'll admit.  Camden bears me to and fro where I wish.'

I blink.  I don't understand.  This shouldn't be possible.  Also, I didn't think Camden's Arms would be a girl.  Not...not that there's anything wrong with that... 'I...beg your pardon, miss.  I didn't recognize you.  Is there anything I can help you with?'

'Ah!  Such a dear.  Calling me miss and everything, like a well-mannered boy.  I don't think I've been addressed as 'miss' by anybody who wasn't already on their knees and sporting injuries.  You're certainly smarter than your brother Gerald, then.'  She pauses.  I...I think she lost her train of thought.  'Ah, yes.  Tchae Camden inquired as to your well-being and your brother's.  I found your mind by tracing Bruce and Wagner's trail.  They never do clean up their mess.'

'Ach!  The wench has found us.  Bloody hells and dirty trails.'
'Maybe we should just get 'im arrested again, save us the trouble of talking to 'er.'

Camden's whip sniffs at them, an oddly metallic sound, like razorblades whispering against each other.  'Two fools, the both of you are, and as well-matched to your Armed as any could hope to be.  Let me talk with the poor lad before you make his mind an awful mess with your bickering.  Off!  Off with you!'

I feel the pair of guns shuffle away, the strange smell of gunpowder lingering in my nose even over the scented soap I'm using.  The grumbling tapers off, and I feel a little less crowded.  'I...what does Camden want to know?'

'Testy, you are.  Common for any that deal with my Armed.  You'll get used to it.  He's concerned for your safety.'  I have the strangest sensation of being sniffed over by something that shouldn't very well have any sort of nose.  '...Boy!  Are you wearing his collar?'

I shrink down in the bathtub.  It doesn't come off, no matter what I try.  My fingertips are raw from it.  I even tried the bullet on it, to no avail.

'Could have lost a finger doing that if Bruce and Wagner didn't like you as much as they seem to do.  Come, boy.  Don't hide it.  We worry for you.  The boys, at least, seem to have blunted it from stealing over your mind.  How ill do you fare, wearing it?'

I curl a little in the bathtub, then decide to start scrubbing again.  I still feel so dirty.  I don't want to climb out of this tub ever.  'I pretend to follow orders.  He thinks he has me pretty well controlled.  I could disobey, if I wanted, but he's more dangerous if he knows I'm free to do as I please.  I don't let him know.'

She nods, and I hear thousands of razors chime against each other.  'Clever.  Admirable.  Keep focused on your will and don't let him take anything from you.  How does the animism fare?'

'Faun is tired, but fares well.  He's talked to me much about the Peacock King.  I have a story to share, if I ever make it out of here.'

'You have many stories, I am sure.  Tell me one of yourself.  The King has Bruce and Wagner now.  He's obviously found you out.  How much does he know?'

I look down into the water and tuck my knees up against my chest.  'He's...he wants to believe I'm loyal.  He still needs me, I think to train Faun.  He thinks I helped Gerald because I knew him from Radia and didn't want him to get hurt.  He also thinks Gerald blackmailed me, which he sort of did, since he threatened telling Daddy about me being here.  I made it all sound like it was the truth, which was easy, because it was.  I'm a little afraid, but I think it's working.  I just don't know how I'll be able to get out and keep both Gerald and I safe.  And uh...Gerald...'

She sets her attention closer on me, making the hairs on my neck raise.  It's like being aimed at.  'Yes?  What?'

'Gerald's working in the King's labs, except he's under a non-binding contract.  The King tried to force him into a servitude contract by threatening Jenny.  Except the King thinks Jenny's Gerald's wife, so it didn't quite--I'm sorry?'

She keeps making this choking, grinding noise, like wrenching metal.  I realize it's the Arms equivalent of a belly-laugh.  'I'm sorry.  That's very amusing.  Please please do go on.'

'Gerald's alright, since the contract had a clause in it about Gerald's wife, which he doesn't have.  He's pretending to be under contract and he seems to be alright.  We're all...okay, I guess, but I have no idea how long it will hold out, and I don't know how to get us all out of this without getting someone hurt.'

'Aye, but Tchae Camden will, so you just act as you have been and keep talking to Bruce and Wagner.  They'll keep you safe however they can.  As will the rest of us.  Even though you don't believe that at all, do you?'

It's chillingly like being questioned by my Father.  'I...I'm sorry, but Camden put me in this position and it was the bullet that caught me.  I don't understand why he didn't just keep it.'

'Because that's how Camden did it, the silly git, and he'll kick himself enough for it before you ever get a chance.  Talk to him about it if you want.  You'll have the chance soon.'

I blink.  'I will?'

'We won't let him take you or the animism or our Armed, even if that Armed is a stupid wretch who winds up in a cell every other week.  Chin up, lad.  Arm yourself however you do that, and keep writing.'

'I haven't written any of this since I left your company on the way back to the Palace.'

'Well, you will write it, because I can feel the words m'self.  So don't fret.  Tah!'

I scrunch my eyebrows.  "...Tah?"

'She's always that flouncy.'
'Not as bad as some others I could mention.'
'Aye, there is that.  But even then, she's flouncy.'
'Can't be helped.  Camden's a fancy lad.'

Then they both chuckle between my ears while I pretend to have some solitude for once.

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Recorded from an excerpt of Peacekeeper Camden Briarseal's Travel Log
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Pulling at the echoes of their tinny voices in Lyric's head, Geillg'a homes in on the guns and closes in before they can throw a guard up against her.  Silent as a feather falling over the blade of a knife, she regards them where they rest.

I didn't think she'd be able to trace their location without calling the Peacock King's attention to it.  She chides me for underestimating her ability, and I return that scold with my praise for exceeding my expectations.

Jenny may love that whip, but I don't think she'll ever get Geillg'a to purr like I can.

'Aych.  Look at the two of you, all chained up and hooked up and...what is that on your trigger, dear?'

Wagner glares at her through his barrel.  'Careful it doesn't slip and I fire at something you might miss.'

'Tut!  No need to be excessively cranky at me, dear heart.  The King's the one what hooked you up to this, correct?'

'Aye, that be so.  Gerald's almost got it better off than the two of us, at this point,' Bruce's dusty voice crackles to Geillg'a.

Geillg'a has a rage in her so fierce that I have to block it from the Peacock King.  I don't blame her at all.  He has the Arms chained to a metal table, strange cords and wires threaded through them and down their barrels.  I can feel the equipment buzz even through her, and it sets the hairs on my neck on end.

'Warn the Judge.  That collar 'round our Armed's neck is trouble.'

Geillg'a glares.  'For what reason did you permit this indignity to yourselves?'

The guns are silent for a moment.  Wagner answers.  'We have no reason to answer to yer demand, but an answer we will give: we did not have the compulsion to fire, so we did not shoot that turkey-arsed bastard.'
'He means the Peacock King, not the Judge.'
'Ach.  Yea, the Judge be a bigger, meaner turkey than this tarted-up poultry trollop.'

Geillg'a is silent for the moment.  She is restraining herself from whipping two young pups.  It would cause too much commotion to make it worth it.  'That is sufficient, but if you let Gerald or that lad slip into any more trouble, gods help ye, I'll Aim at ye for it, and I will not miss.'

'Aye, as per usual.  A fine day to ye.'

'And just what does he plan to do by twining you about with that many wires and bits and...whatnot?'

'He's attempting to measure us.'  Wagner's voice is choked, as if he's trying to hold back laughter.
'The Law is strange to him and must be quantified, it seems.'
'Gerald is his true target.  For now he only investigates.  He will eventually attempt a bind, one beyond a badly-worded contract, on our Armed.  We will turn on the cocky regent then.  His days are numbered, as it is now.  Pity he doesn't realize that.'

I let my concentration slide back to myself, and after such a statement, it's strange to look at the King in the eye.  I still do.  He doesn't manage to hold my stare for long.

"So I suppose that dispenses with my concerns.  Thank you, Jhe Briarseal, your comments and suggestions were most illuminating."

"Always a pleasure.  Ah, Jhe Akribastes."  I delight in the tiny little jump the monarch makes as I say that.  Gerude walks into the arena from behind the King, then makes a smart, proper bow to him.

"Your Grace, it is a true honor that you visit our hallowed training grounds.  And thank you, at that, for giving us these hallowed training grounds."  I almost kick him for that, the fop.  Just like his twin in the worst ways.  But Gerude's grin catches the King in ways that make him exceedingly uncomfortable.  I can see the sweat begin to bead on his brow.

Beginning to feel guilt, perhaps?  Or at least realizing that retribution may come upon him for his transgressions?  ...Too much to set my hopes on.

"Your gratitude is most flattering, Jhe Gerude.  Please, go about your morning routine.  I do wonder," his gaze skirts back to my eyes, "may I be your audience for a time?"

...Odd.  I'd expect him to scram back and attend to his seedy little plottings--

'Geillg'a.  Send an alert to Jenny, and keep an eye on the boys.  He's planning something.  I think he's keeping me here on purpose.'

She radiates a smug smile.  'Little does he know that my reach extends even farther than his grasp.  Shall we dance here, then, while I also dance with other couples?'

'Always.'  I make a bow to the King.  "Of course our host may watch the sport."  I then turn without another word, unsheathing Geillg'a as I do so.  I know it chills him to be so close to her when she unfurls, the many-jointed tail of cold silver whispering through the air.

Gerude only grins, watching me approach, and waits to see just what game I have in store for the morning.

It will certainly keep everyone on their toes.

1 comment:

  1. Flouncy and fancy :) Somehow I'm amused by Arms that refuse to end a sentence with a preposition.