Recently, I got some reviews over at webfictionguide.com. I will admit that this has a part to play in my next announcement, but I’m going to go on a hiatus for the story. The reviews weren’t as much as I’d like, but they really just confirmed what I was feeling. I’m quite the perfectionist and, unfortunately, Real Life invading my Internet Life like a rampaging Mongol hoarde (no offense to Mongolians) is really making it hard for me to deliver what I would consider top quality work. I’m going to need to take a hiatus until I can get things sorted out. I’ll leave up what I have, but I’ll probably be taking it down when I do finally come back. I want to have a fresh start and complete revamp when I take my Mulligan.
For those few who have been following this, thanks for reading as long as you have, and I hope that you can find me again when I come back. While you’re waiting, check out Web Fiction Guide. It has reviews of and links to some great fiction.
Samo sat by Professor Lasci’s bed, watching him. It was getting late into the evening. He supposed Tarat had finished his business and gone home, although Tarat was, in fact, still speaking with Detective Giesa. Lasci wasn’t moving, but Samo didn’t want to take any chances. If the man woke, he wanted to be there. If he didn’t wake up, well, Samo prayed that he woke. He had never imagined that he would be sitting at the bedside of the man who hated him more than almost any other, praying for him to wake up and find him there. The nurses and doctors went through like clockwork, taking care of their business as if he weren’t there. He had already received permission to stay there, at the hospital. In fact, the head doctor had practically ordered him to do so. No one wanted him out in the streets right now, not when two people connected to him had been attacked, and one of them killed. As far as they knew, he could be the next target. He may have been the next target, in fact.
He tried to piece together memories of the two men and their connection to each other, but mostly to the Inventors. Gianan, he knew, was a member of the order. Lasci, he wasn’t sure about. He knew that Chancellor Naram was an Inventor, because he told him. He told him? Lasci came to the garage sometimes, and would talk with Gianan for hours. He knew that the two were friends. Naram never came over. Gianan’s favorite dish was roasted beef liver with apple and onions. Yech. Why did he have to remember that? Lasci commented on it once. At least Samo and Lasci shared that in way of views. They both thought Gianan had no taste in food.
As he contemplated, he heard a knock at the door. The nurses and doctors didn’t knock. They ignored him. He looked up and saw Kiara standing there. He smiled and motioned for her to come in. When she sat next to him, he said, “What are you doing here?”
“I heard about what happened, and wanted to come see you.” She wrapped her arms around his and said, “I was scared.”
Samo inhaled and discovered, for the first time ever, what a woman smelled like. Like anyone else, only nicer. Much nicer. She did smell a bit of grease, which he knew was unlike most women, but he liked that. He shook his head and said, “Did Tarat tell you?”
“Tarat?” She lifted her head and said, “What does he have to do with this?”
“He was attacked at Lasci’s house and knows all about what’s going on. At least,” Samo said, put his hand to his forehead. “He knows what’s going on as far as I know what’s going on.”
She leaned her head on his shoulder and said, “And how far do you know about it?”
He sighed. “I—no,” he said. “I don’t know if I should tell you.”
“Samo,” Kiara said, taking his chin between her forefinger and thumb and turning his face to hers. “You can trust me. Please believe me when I say you can trust me.”
“Why are you holding on to me?” He looked down, as if just noticing for the first time that she had practically latched herself onto him. “I mean, I—it’s not that I don’t-”
She smiled and said, “Do you trust me?”
He nodded. “I think I can,” he said. “It’s hard for me. I didn’t know if I could trust you or Kia. I wasn’t even sure if I could trust myself.”
“Why?” She backed away slightly and looked at him, worry streaking her face.
“People call me crazy,” he said. “I’m not sure that they’re wrong. What if I did kill Gianan, and that the man in the night was an illusion? What if it was a hallucination that I came up with to hide the truth? What if-” His words were cut off by his mouth being smothered with hers. When Kiara pulled back from the kiss, he looked at her with shock and said, “Wuh?”
She smiled faintly. “I don’t kiss murderers,” she said. “Now stop talking like that before I’m forced to smack you around.” She wrapped her arms around his torso and said, “I know you didn’t kill Gianan, just like you had nothing to do with Lasci’s attack. You weren’t even there. The guy was probably the same one.”
“Why do you like me?” he asked. As her head was by his shoulder, he rested his head on hers. She was silent for a long time, and his stomach began to knot as he waited. At first, he thought she had fallen asleep, but then realized she was thinking.
She said, “I don’t really know. You’ve interested me since we met, and you just grew on me.”
He said, “So, I’m a lichen?”
“What?” She lifted her head and looked at him. “Where did that come from?”
“I grow on you, like a lichen grows on a tree.” He looked at her befuddled face and smiled. The thought amused him. He giggled at it and stopped, asking, “So where’s Kia?”
She said, “I don’t know. He said he had some business to take care of, someone he was going to meet. I think he may have a secret girlfriend he doesn’t want me to know about.”
“That doesn’t seem like Kia,” Samo answered. Before he could say more, he had a thought that caused him to start enough to jump out of his seat. “That idiot is going to get himself killed,” he muttered. “Come on, I’ll explain on the way.” He grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the room.
Hours later, Giesa finished telling Tarat about the Inventors and the history of their order. He was surprised to learn that they went even farther back than Sarenti Dacule, the man whose pseudonym gave them their recognized name. In fact, the order was nearly a thousand years old. What surprised him even more, was that Samo had been correct. Sarenti Dacule had gone to Hell and back, and then continued to live on. Giesa explained everything about them, everything he knew anyway. He knew a lot. He had traveled with Dacule, even lived in his home (a location that he failed to mention), and knew him as a friend.
After the detective was finished speaking, Tarat sat in stunned silence for some time to try to sort things out. Many things, he had missed. Many, he simply did not understand. There were a few things, however, that he tried to piece together. Hopefully, understanding them would yield information. So much, so quickly would drown a man’s mind like a rush of water would drown even a man dying of thirst. Tarat was about to speak when they heard the heavy boots of a man walking to the back. They both looked toward the door as Tansu, the bookseller, walked in and said, “There is a man here to see you. He is from the police.”
Giesa closed the books and stacked them. He said, “Which of us is he here to see?”
“Both of you.” His voice cracked—fear, perhaps? He said, “He knows you are both here.”
Tarat looked at Giesa nervously. The detective patted his hand on the air to calm him. He said, “I told someone where I was going. If this is whom I think it is, we have nothing to fear.” He turned to Tansu and said, “Could you take care of these while we talk to the man? I’ll tell you if any customers come in.”
Tansu smiled. He said, “I closed my doors an hour ago. I only let the man in because of his uniform. I’ll stay back here, though.”
“Thank you,” he answered. He motioned for Tarat to follow him as they walked into the main room of the store. Standing at the counter, there was a police officer in the blue tunic that all were required to wear. He had dark blond hair and bushy eyebrows. His nose seemed to have been broken once in the past. Tarat did not recognize him. Giesa, when he saw the man, breathed a sigh of relief. He said, “Well, do you have any information?”
The man nodded and said, “Tarat’s attacker was apprenticed to a candle maker. His name was Delar Naram.”
Naram? Tarat’s head went up at the sound of the name. He said, “Was he any relation to the chancellor of the Academy?”
“Distant,” the man answered. “I don’t have any reason to believe they knew each other, but my sources tell me that they were distant cousins from generations back.”
Giesa asked, “What about a motive?”
The officer shook his head. Softly, he said, “I talked to the man’s master and found out that he didn’t even know who Lasci was, and had only heard of Gianan because of the news. I don’t know why he might have done it. He didn’t even have reason to rob a house. The master was quite rich.”
“Do you think he may have been a fence, or that Delar might have been keeping something from him?”
“Not a chance.” The officer shook his head again. “The candle maker keeps a very dictatorial hold on his apprentices. That’s even how he said it, as a matter of fact, dictatorial.”
Giesa nodded. He said, “Is there any more?”
“No, sir.” With a wave of Giesa’s hand, the officer nodded and walked out of the shop. When the man was gone, Giesa set his elbow on the counter and groaned.
“This is bad,” he said. “This is very bad.” Before Tarat could ask what he meant, he said, “I need to go. Be careful tonight.” Without another word, he was out the door. Tarat stepped toward him, but stopped as the door closed. Tansu poked his head out from the back room and said, “Are you going to be staying much longer? I’d like to get home soon.”
Tarat shook his head. “No, Tansu. You’ve been a great help today. I’ll be going now.” Then, he stepped forward and stepped out into the night.
Five hours after Tarat entered the back room of Tansu’s bookshop, he was still there, reading and studying. Three hours in, Tansu had set up a small table for him and began bringing him tea, much to Tarat’s gratitude. Since then, Tarat had drunk tea nearly nonstop for two hours and needed a break to relieve himself. Coming back, he was dismayed to find Giesa, the detective he had met the day before, standing over the books with his hands behind his back. Giesa looked up at him and smiled. He said, “Interesting reading you have here, officer. I’d like to know what you’re doing with it, rather than burning it according to the law.”
Tarat stepped forward and said, “I can explain, detective.” He approached the books and picked up the one he had open on the table, a manual by Dacule, and said, “These, uh, were to find what the evidence would look like, so I didn’t accidentally burn a book not under the ban.”
“Good try,” Giesa answered. “But I don’t believe you. When you tell a lie, try to know what you’re going to say before you do. Sorry, but Samo is much smarter than you.”
“You know him?”
Giesa grinned slyly and said, “I know of him. I have met him a few times, not that he’d remember. It was mostly to meet with Gianan.”
Tarat set the book down and said, “I’m confused, why aren’t you arresting me?”
“Do you want me to arrest you?” Giesa took a pair of manacles off his belt and held them out. “I wasn’t planning to, but if you insist. I’d suggest against it.”
Waving his hand, Tarat said, “Um, no. Are you one of the Inventors?”
“Hah! No.” Giesa shook his head and leaned against a stack of books that butted against the wall. “I don’t have the scientific head. Gianan was the one for that.”
“He was your brother, wasn’t he?”
Giesa sat in the chair that Tarat had previously occupied and said, “Perhaps I was wrong about your intelligence. He is my brother. You may just be a good detective someday.”
“Well, Samo is much smarter than me, so it’s not that I took it as an insult. He’s much smarter than everyone.” Tarat carried a nearby stool to the table and set it down. Sitting, he watched Giesa look around the room. It was apparent that he was no illiterate. The way he looked around at the books, one could tell that he was comfortable enough around them to barely notice them and to be fascinated by them at the same time. It was not the books he loved, but the information inside. Then, Giesa took a small book, brought it to his nose and sniffed. Tarat’s mouth fell agape as Giesa then inhaled deeply through the nose and smiled contentedly. He said, “What are you doing?”
“Hm?” Giesa looked at him and chuckled. He said, “Have you ever smelled a book? I know you’ve smelled one, but have you ever purposely smelled a book? To get the scent of the musty paper, or the new paper for that matter. You could even tell the approximate age of a book by the smell, if you know enough about it. The mustier the smell, the older the book. Of course, variable use of the book can have an effect. The more it’s used, the sooner the pages break down.”
Tarat shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He pulled the Dacule manual closer to him and bent over it nervously. Was this man insane? He said, “Maybe Samo should have been your apprentice rather than Gianan’s. You’re as crazy as he is.”
Giesa gave a belly laugh and said, “Heaven help us. If Samo were to learn from me, that would be-” He paused. Looking down contemplatively, he thought for a moment. Then, looking at Tarat with a look of stern determination, he said, “Do you know why I’m not arresting you?”
Because you’re Gianan’s brother? Tarat did not say that, but instead said, “I don’t know.”
“Because it’s a foolish law written by foolish men and enforced by fools.” He took the manual from Tarat and said, “I’m not a scientist, but this is amazing work. Sarenti was an amazing man. He was, before he died.”
Tarat leaned against the table and said, “Did you know him?”
Giesa shrugged. “Well, he was always a very secretive man.”
“You should have laughed and told me he died decades before you were born.” Tarat smiled as Giesa looked up with a face full of shock and anxiety. He took the book back and began leafing through the pages. Casting a furtive glance at Giesa, he bent over and sniffed the book. It smelled very musty, an odor that Tarat had never enjoyed much, but then again, he was not used to the smell of a book, even when he was reading them. He sniffed again, understanding why someone would enjoy it. Looking up at Giesa, he saw amusement and anxiety fighting for supremacy in the man’s complexion. He said, “I already know what happened to Sarenti Dacule. Why don’t you explain? Did Gianan know? Is that why he was killed?”
“Well,” Giesa said. “I truly was wrong about you. You will be a wonderful detective someday, if you are not already.” Then he began to explain what he knew.
Not wanting to seem like he was hurrying, which he was, Tarat kept his pace as even as possible. He needed to find some way to understand what was going on. He didn’t even know where to start. The libraries at the Academy were the best source of information for just about anything related to the sciences and to history. Unfortunately, they were for the Academy. The public could use them freely, but patrons needed to sign their names into a roster in order to utilize it. He didn’t want to leave a trace of the fact that he was looking for information. He also didn’t want to ask Kiara for help. Even Samo didn’t know if he wanted to do that. Kia wouldn’t have been much help if he had asked. He was an painter. It wasn’t as if he knew anything about politics.
Then, as if he was hit by a second blow from his dead attacker, he stopped in the middle of the street. Bringing his hand to his forehead, he groaned. Then he started running. People paused to watch him pass; it wasn’t uncommon to see someone running, but many of them knew who he was. He was one of the more popular of the police, since he was still new and had not yet become hard to the people from whence he came. They also knew that Tarat, specifically, did not generally run unless there was some reason. He always tried to remain calm and composed, unless there was a reason to avoid that. Now he had a reason.
He skidded to a stop on the brick sidewalk and recomposed himself, straightening his tunic. He wasn’t in uniform, but it still paid to be as unwrinkled as possible. Opening the door, he walked into the bookstore. Tansu, the bookseller, was sitting on a high stool behind the counter. When he looked up at Tarat, he gasped and stepped down, saying, “Back for more books? I have nothing illegal here!”
“Calm down, sir,” Tarat replied, raising his hand to calm him. “I’m not even on duty right now.” He leaned on the counter and stared the man in the eyes. Tansu had a nervous look, but it seemed to be a perpetual nervousness. He tapped his pale, wrinkled fingers on the counter and clicked his tongue impatiently. As Tarat stared into his gray eyes, he saw the unrest that was asking him to leave. Tarat smiled and said, “Do you have anything by Sarenti Dacule?”
“What?” Tansu shouted. He stepped back and said, “I thought you said you’re not on duty! I don’t have an-”
“I’m here for Samo Diarcha.” Tarat interrupted him and continued, “I’m helping him with something. I need to find any information that I can about or by Dacule, preferably written by him. If I were to tell anyone at the guardhouse, I’d be arrested just like you.”
Tansu looked at him suspiciously and said, “Why should I trust you?”
“You shouldn’t.” Tarat smiled and set his hand on Tansu’s sleeve. “Now,” he said. “I’ve been a pretty nice guy, haven’t I? I haven’t taken advantage of my position, or authority. I haven’t been too harsh with people, because I haven’t seen any reason why I should be like that.” He patted the man’s arm and said, “I’ll tell you what’s up. This is a pretty serious deal here. I know that you have something on Dacule, and if I don’t see it in five minutes, I’ll start messing things up around here. You don’t want that, do you?”
Backing away, Tansu said, “You’re just like the others.”
“No I’m not.” He grabbed Tansu’s sleeve and drew him across the counter so that he was a few inches from his own face. He said, “I’m actually doing this to help people. Now get me those books.” He released Tansu and looked to the door leading to the back. Tansu backed away from him and started for the back. Tarat followed him, both to make certain that he didn’t run and to go to the books. In the back, Tansu looked among stacks of books and occasionally back at Tarat, who stood with his hands on his hips glaring at him. Finally, Tansu let out a cry of relief and brought down a small stack of five books, which he brought to Tarat.
He said, “Here. Three of these were written by the Inventor. One is a chronicle of the war and the other two are schematics manuals.”
“What are the other two?” Tarat asked.
Tansu backed away nervously and said, “They were written by his enemies. One of them was by Creas.”
“You actually have a book written by that sorcerer?” Tarat stepped forward menacingly. He said, “What possessed you to keep one of those?”
“It’s a history!” he replied. “A history, a political diary. It is not a spell book. Believe me. If I found one of those, you would not find it in my shop.”
Tarat nodded. This was good. He’d hear from both sides. He said, “I’ll read these back here so no one can see me leave with them.”
“Good luck finding something you can use.” Tansu nodded to him and skirted his way past and returned to the front of the store.
I’m going to be changing my update schedule from Monday through Friday to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sorry about that, but it’s an attempt to keep up the quality and my own sanity. Thanks for everything.
When Tarat walked into the hospital, he expected to hear the screams of surgery and moans of people in recovery. He was disappointed to find that he was correct. He had heard about hospitals, especially the war time hospitals that his uncle worked in on distant shores. Never getting sick or injured enough to need one, he was usually glad that he never had to go to one. As he walked down the corridor, he tried to block out the sounds and smells. Antiseptic and antibiotics did exist, but many Qatarans refused to use them. After all, they had been invented by followers of Sarenti Dacule.
He stopped a nurse to find where Professor Lasci was being kept and went down the corridor where he was directed. When he saw three officers standing outside a room, they let him in without question. These were men that he knew, and who knew him. Inside, he found the battered Professor Lasci laying, still unconscious, on his bed. Someone was sitting on a stool by the bedside and praying. Tarat was taken aback when Samo looked up with tears in his eyes. He began to speak, to ask why he was there, but stopped when Samo spoke first.
He said, “They’ll think I did this. Lasci hated me and blamed me for getting him fired. They’ll think I did this. He was a friend of Gianan, and they think I killed Gianan. I didn’t kill him, Tarat! I didn’t do this!”
“I know, buddy,” Tarat said, stepping forward with a soothing gesture. “I was there. Did they tell you that?”
“No, they didn’t.” Samo shook his head. “They told met the officer was attacked. Was that you?”
“It was. My captain told me to take a few weeks to rest. He’ll still be paying me, but I’m not to get into a uniform in that time.” He took a second stool and set it beside Samo. He said, “I came to give him your message.”
Samo smiled. He said, “Thanks, but I’ve been telling him since I got here. He hasn’t woken up, but I think it may be getting through.”
Tarat leaned on one knee. He stared hard at Samo and watched him. Samo wasn’t moving, but he could see that a lot was going on in his mind. Samo was someone who could appear to be doing nothing, but doing a lot at the same time. Tarat put his hand out, not sure of whether or not he should tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. He didn’t want to ruin whatever processes were going on in the man’s fertile imagination. Deciding that he needed to know, he set his hand on Samo’s shoulder and said, “I’ll help you in this, but I need to know something.”
“What do you want to know?” Samo didn’t turn his head as he spoke, and bore the same look of concentration that told of a deep plan. “Do you want to know who I’m talking about when I say he’s back? Is that it? Why should I trust you? I don’t even trust Kia and Kiara. I don’t even trust myself at this point.”
“Trust me.” Tarat gripped his shoulder. That prompted him to turn his head and look him in the eyes. Samo narrowed his eyes to thin slits and opened his mouth to speak. Tarat cut him off and said, “Trust yourself. If you can’t do that, you’re worthless. I know you didn’t kill Gianan and didn’t have anything to do with this attack. Trust me. I won’t tell unless you say to.”
Samo nodded. He gently brushed Tarat’s hand off of his shoulder and stood up. Walking to the other end of the room, he crossed his arms and faced the wall. He said, “Sarenti Dacule didn’t die when everyone thinks he did. In fact, he never died.”
Never died? Tarat stood and walked to him. He brought his voice to a low whisper and said, “What are you talking about?”
“He’s a Hellwalker. He went into hell and came out immortal. That’s how it works. He went in for some reason. I don’t know why. It wasn’t for his sins, but he came out, and he’s now immortal. That’s why these things are happening. That’s why his followers are being killed. I’m surprised Naram hasn’t been murdered yet.”
“How did you put all that together?” Tarat set his hand on the wall and leaned in toward Samo’s face. He whispered harshly and said, “Do you know what this would mean? The war would start again, and it would start here, in this city!”
Samo turned from him. “It’s already started.” He stood at Lasci’s bed and stared down at him. “Gianan was the first casualty. Lasci was the second. You were the third. The man you killed was the fourth. Naram may end up being the fifth, or me, or you again. Kia and Kiara may be next, just for knowing me. Heck, that idiot Lora may even be next. Dacule is back, someone knows, and someone doesn’t want him to be.”
Tarat leaned against the wall. A pit in his stomach opened, making him feel like he was going to vomit his lunch on the floor. If people discovered the Sarenti Dacule had faked his own death and had even become a Hellwalker, which many believed were simply legends, they’d riot. They would burn everything associated with him, including the Academy. No, change that. They would especially burn the Academy. The city would be destroyed. He repeated his question, “How did you put all that together?”
“I’m a genius, remember?” Samo chuckled and turned to him with a wry smile. He shrugged and said, “I can’t explain it. I’m just that smart.”
He was right about that much, Tarat reasoned. He said, “What do we do now?” He walked toward Lasci and knelt by his bed. They may try again. The officers out there may not be enough. They won’t be if people hear about this.”
“Well,” Samo said, kneeling next to him. “We can’t let them find out. You have ways of learning things that I don’t. I want you to use them. Did your captain say you couldn’t do anything while you’re off duty?”
“No, he just doesn’t want me in uniform.” Tarat laughed. He said, “I guess it’s a good thing I was attacked. Now I can do more than I could have otherwise.”
Samo nodded. “I want you to meet me here after supper tonight. If you can go get started, come back and tell me what you find out in that time. If you see Kia and Kiara, tell them to meet me here, but don’t tell them why or what you know.”
“Are you going to tell them?”
Samo looked hard at him and said, “I don’t know. Get going.”
Tarat stood and walked out of the room. He wasn’t used to taking orders from someone like Samo, but he decided it may be a good idea to start getting used to it.
Samo looked around the shop nervously. It was late, so Gianan would be in bed by now, if he wasn’t staying up waiting for him, that is. For most normal people, it was hours past when he should have gone to bed. For a young man of eighteen, it was horrendous. The worst part was the reason he was late. Coming in from walking the streets with his friends in the middle of the night would have gotten him scrubbing the floors of the garage for a week. He hated that job. Praying that the creak of the door would not be heard, he slunk through the garage. Everything was neatly put away, safe where it was. There was nothing he could knock over in the dark and make such a racket that he woke Gianan and revealed his tardiness. Not like the last time. Even the remnants of the engine Kiara accidentally blew up were put away.
He approached the stairs to his upper room and stopped at Gianan’s door. It was open, and he stopped to see if he could hear anything. No snoring. Gianan did not snore that often, so no big deal. He wasn’t coming out to scold him for being so late. At least that was good. Samo set his hand on the railing and stepped on the wood board. He cringed as it creaked loudly. Pausing, he set more weight on it and moved to the next step. With each board, the creaks and groans seemed to get louder. He walked, holding his breath and hoping that he would not be heard. When he reached the landing at the top, he breathed a sigh of relief. It never creaked up here, and he was about to be free and clear. Just then, he heard a noise.
The sound of shuffling feet came from Gianan’s room. Samo stood still at his door. His hand was on the latch as he turned his head to see a form, tall and male walking toward the door of the garage. He whispered, “Master Gianan?” The form turned to him and looked up. Samo couldn’t see his face, but he could see the man resembled Gianan in form, tall and somewhat muscular. Of course, just about everyone seemed tall and muscular to Samo. He started down the steps and said, “Master Gianan, I-”
When the man put his finger to his lips, Samo stopped. The man looked at him again. He said, “Master Gianan? Is that you?” He started down the stairs again as the man turned and walked to the door. He shouted, “Who are you?” He raced down the stairs and jumped over the railing when he was still six steps from the bottom. Grabbing a heavy wrench, he chased after the man, who ran out of the garage. “Stop!” he shouted. “What are you doing?” When the stranger had fled, he turned back to the garage with a sick feeling in his stomach. He whispered, “No.”
Dropping the wrench on the ground, he ran into Gianan’s room and found him lying on his bed. He rushed over to see his master laying there with his hands at his sides and still dressed in his work clothing. He sometimes fell asleep in his clothes, but this was different. This was so very wrong. He wasn’t breathing. “Master Gianan?” Samo crept closer to him and set his hand on the man’s chest to feel for movement, for anything. There was no breath coming through his lungs. As he teared up, he set his ear to Gianan’s chest. His heart had stopped beating. Samo screamed.
He dropped to the floor and crawled away, still screaming. He wasn’t sure when his screams of terror and distress turned into screams of “Murder! Help! Murder!” He did know that, by the time he ran out into the street, he was screaming those words repeatedly. Soon, his neighbors were looking out their windows and some were coming out to see what they could do. Before long, police officers had arrived and were trying to calm him down. He had lost all recognition of what was going on. Soon, a young officer with mutton chops was wrestling him to the ground and prying a wrench from his hands. He didn’t know when he had picked up the wrench. Before he knew it, more officers were arriving and he was tied up against the wall of the garage. Tarat, his friend—was he?—was standing by, arguing with the officer who had tied him up.
When they took Gianan’s body away on a stretcher, Samo began screaming again. He tried to get up, but the ropes around his wrists cut into him, and he fell again. He curled his knees to his chest and bucked, trying to get out of the ropes. Tarat pushed the other officer out of the way and knelt down to him. He help him to sit up and yelled, “Samo! Samo, it’s Tarat. It’s okay. You’ll be okay.”
For the rest of the night, Samo sat there, waiting to be let go. When the police questioned him, they believed his story for the most part. Of course they would, it was true. Finally, Tarat untied his wrists and took him to his own apartment. Samo woke the next morning to find everything had changed. Gianan was dead. It would never be the same again. He just didn’t know how.
Chapter Three turned out a little shorter than the first two, so here is the second of three flashback stories. Hopefully, they’ll provide a little more insight. Enjoy
Kia sped up as he tried to keep pace with Kiara, much to his chagrin. He was being beaten in a foot race by a girl. Granted, that girl was his sister and she did have longer legs than he did, but he was still being beaten by a girl. She was five yards ahead of him, and gaining. They did not usually race each other, mostly because he didn’t want to be seen getting beaten by a girl, which he would. In fact, they never raced just for the sake of racing. That wasn’t why they were running. Kia yelled out, “Kiara, wait for me! He’ll still be there!”
Kiara turned and said, “No, you’re just embarrassed you’re getting beaten by a girl.”
Pulling his face into a grimace, Kia huffed as he raced forward, gaining five yards on her. Then, as the ten-year-old ran, his foot struck a cobblestone and caused him to fall. He howled in pain when he landed, as his knee had struck a stone. Sitting on the stones, he sat there and cradled his knee. Kiara marched up to him and said, “Oh, get up. It’s not that bad.”
“Yes it is!” he answered. “My knee’s broken! I shattered my tibia. My kneecap is cracked.” Kiara crouched down and roughly jabbed a finger at his knee. He whimpered in pain and said, “See? It hurts to touch it.”
“If it was broken,” she said, as she put her arm under his and pulled him up. “You wouldn’t have whimpered like that when I touched it. You would have screamed louder than mom’s cat.”
He limped forward. “It still hurts.” When Kiara put her arm around his shoulder, he said, “Thanks for waiting, sis.”
“Oh, I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t leave the little baby on the ground like that.”
He backed away. “What did you call me?”
She gave a mischievous smirk and said, “Nothing. I called you absolutely nothing.”
“That’s more like it.” As they walked, with Kia limping on the knee he smacked on the stones,he said, “Why were you running, anyway? Going to meet your boyfriend?”
She smacked him on the shoulder and said, “He’s not my boyfriend! I just think he’s interesting.”
In response, he squawked a laugh. “Interesting? He’s an athlete, and a boring one at that!”
“Who are you talking about?” Kiara stopped and stared at him. She set her hands on her hips, something she had recently picked up from watching her mother and aunts, and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” As she tried to imitate the adults, even Kia could tell how far off and childish the imitation was. He chuckled as he watched her.
He said, “Weren’t you going to see Tarat?”
“No,” she said, glaring at him. “I mean, Tarat’s nice, and he’s cute, but he’s boring! I’m going to see Samo.”
“Oh.” Kia’s absolute lack of enthusiasm practically dripped to the ground as the word came from his lips. “That guy.”
Kiara turned and stalked away. “And what’s wrong with Samo?” she asked.
He followed after her. “I don’t know. I don’t think he likes me very much, and I got hit with one of the mud balls that his machine was throwing around.”
“Well, you deserved it!” She whirled on him and said, “You and your friends!”
“I didn’t do anything!” Now it was his turned to stalk away, causing his sister to giggle at him, which caused him only more consternation. “It’s not like I ever did anything.”
She followed him and put her arm around his shoulder. Gently leading him down a side street, she said, “That’s the problem. You’re friends were picking on him. You did nothing. Therefore, you were picking on him. That’s the way he sees it.”
“And how do you know the way he sees it?” He looked around the street at the houses. He had never been on this road before. It was narrower than most, but still wider than the paths of the Old City, where you could barely walk fifteen people shoulder to shoulder. “Where are we?”
She answered, “We’re going to see Samo.” Then, as if remembering that he had asked a question before that, she said, “Oh, and he told me that’s how he sees it.”
“He told you that?” Kia began to get nervous. “How often have you come here?”
“This is my third time coming. We’re almost there.”
Before he could ask anything else, Kia was shocked by a crashing noise coming down the street. It sounded like a young boy shouting and hooting as a forest of…something, followed after. He was shocked even more when, around the bend, came what looked like a young boy shouting and hooting as a forest followed after. Rather, he was on top of it. The thing that the boy rode was built of wood, with metal joints, and appeared to have six legs. Bars and axles hung between the legs, pulling them and making them walk. In the middle, where they were joined, it looked like a wood-built insect. The body was truly more like a spider’s body than and ant’s however. The boy in the carriage was small and blond. His face was covered in grease, and so was his blond hair, making him almost a brunette.
Kia and Kiara ran out of his way as he charged up them. Passing, he shouted, “Hey Kiara! Sorry I can’t stop. I forgot to add that part!” He turned around the next corner, shouting, “I’ll see you back at the garage!”
Kia gaped after him as Kiara giggled. He said, “What in the thrones was that?”
“That was Samo, silly. You know him.” She tugged at his arm, pulling him toward the garage. Just around the corner where Samo and his machine originated, they found the old mechanic, Gianan standing at the open door. He said, “Ah, Kiara. Good to see you again. Samo should be back soon.”
“I know. We just saw him.” Then, as if remembering something, she stopped and said, “Oh, this is my brother, Kia. Kia, this is Master Gianan.”
Kia bowed slightly and said, “Hello, sir.”
As Gianan was commenting on his politeness, Samo came careening down the road and pulled the machine into the garage, forcing the three bystanders to run out of the way. Then, for the next five minutes, he wrangled with the controls to try to slowly bring it down without completely crashing it. When he finally got it to the floor, he jumped out and shouted, “It works! It works! I knew it would work!”
“Yes, son,” Gianan said, indulgently and proudly. “You were right again. Now, we need to figure out how to make it so you don’t run people over.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of important,” Kia said.
Samo turned to him and glared. “Oh, you. I see you got the mud cleaned off.”
Kiara said, “That’s kind of why I wanted to bring him here.”
As Gianan walked to the back of the garage, Kia said, “Yeah, I don’t really want that to happen again.”
“Well, maybe you should pick your friends a little more wisely.” As Samo spoke, the three children heard Gianan snort with laughter. Samo beamed proudly and said, “Master Gianan tells me that a lot.”
Kia nodded. Stepping forward, he reached out his hand and said, “Truce?”
“Keep your friends away from my blueprints?” Samo stuck his hands in his pockets and said, “Do that and we can have a truce.”
He kept his hand out and said, “What friends? You just said to pick my friends wisely. I’m doing that right now.”
Samo smiled and pulled his hand out of his pocket. Clutching Kia’s hand, he said, “Stay away from them tomorrow. I’ve got a real stinker set up for them. You don’t want to get caught in it.”
“Samo, no!” Gianan called across the garage. “Use a ladder!” He dropped his wrench and hurried over to the shelves where the twelve-year-old was climbing to a can of oil. Gianan was getting up in years, but he could still move. As he sprinted across, Samo turned to look at him, losing his balance in the process and falling the fifteen feet to the stone floor. Or else, he would have fallen to the stone floor has Gianan not caught him and spun around to keep from falling himself. Gianan let go of the boy’s waist and set his hands on his shoulders. He said, “Always use a ladder when climbing up there. The Academy wouldn’t like it if one of their students died on my watch.”
“Then why would you surprise someone who’s fifteen feet up?” Samo replied, with an ironic smirk on his lips.
Gianan set his palm to his face and groaned. He said, “I hate it when you’re right.” He turned to the engine he had been working on, a new design of his, and said, “I think this excitement has tired me a little. Let’s take a break for lunch.”
“Food?” Samo asked. “Food sounds good. I like food.”
Chuckling, Gianan mussed his hair and said, “Well then, let’s go get something at the market. There’s a little coffeehouse on the corner for which I’ve been trying to find some excuse to try.” He turned to the barn-door opening to the garage, and started out. Just then, a man in gray robes embroidered with silver thread entered. He stopped at the entrance and looked around at the greasy area, not disdainfully, but still refusing to enter and ruin his clothes. The man was dark, with tan skin and black hair cropped close. The hood on his robe was down. His features were those of a man who had seen hardship and had stood to face it, but he did not seem to be a hard man. In fact, his smile was almost pleasant. Almost.
He said, “Is this the mechanical garage of Gianan se’Duas?”
Gianan stepped forward and said, “Yes, and I am Gianan se’Duas. Can I help you with something?”
The man stepped forward and let the hem of his robe brush against the oily floor. Samo stared as the gray fabric became black on the lower edge. The man looked at him and said, “Is this your son? I had not heard you were a family man.”
“No,” he answered. “Samo is my apprentice.” He put his arm around Samo’s shoulders and drew him closer. “I guess you could say I’ve sort of adopted him, though. We were just about to get some lunch. Can you come back later, or will this be quick?”
“I have a message for you,” the man said. “However, it must be told only to you. Is there somewhere we can talk?”
Gianan nodded. “Samo,” he said. “Plug your ears, close your eyes and hum.” When the boy complied, he said, “Go ahead.”
The stranger raised an eyebrow, but continued. After giving the message he had come to give, he left without another word. Gianan caught Samo’s attention by tapping him on the shoulder. He seemed different to Samo. Somewhat distraught, in fact. Samo said, “Is something wrong, teacher?”
After a moment, Gianan shook his head and gave a weak smile. He said, “No, no. Let’s go to lunch.”
All through lunch, however, Samo could see that Gianan had been upset by the news he was given. He was silent most of the time, staring out the window at the pedestrians, horse-pulled carriages, bicyclists, and a few attempts and horseless carriages and motorized wagons. As they were beginning their dessert, Samo asked, “Was that man a doran?”
“Hm?” Gianan turned his attention to Samo and said, “A doran? Perhaps. I’ve heard there are a few councils left that actually dress their priests in robes like that. I’ve seen robes like that before, and they were dorans.” As Samo asked him more questions of the priestly orders from before the Council Wars hundreds of years before, Gianan smiled faintly and answered his questions. So far, none of the questions were troubling, just what you would find in a history book. Then, there was one.
Samo asked, “Do you know anything about techmages? I wonder if he was a techmage.”
“Why do ask?” Gianan’s stomach seemed to drop as if the question was a stone.
“Well,” he replied. “Those were some pretty fancy robes, but when he found out who you were, he didn’t seem to mind getting them greasy. I don’t think anyone but a mechanic would be that way. Techmages are mechanics, aren’t they? Magic through science?”
Gianan shook his head and laughed. “You are amazing. Yes, I believe you’re right. There’s more to it than, that, however. Much more.”
As they continued, Samo asked, “Did someone die? Is that what the message was about?”
“No, Samo,” he answered. “No, it was not about someone dying.” Gianan chewed his lip as he thought, trying to parse the message for what it meant, and for what it forebode for him for him, and for Samo. He leaned forward and said, “I’d like to tell you a story.” Lowering his voice, he glanced around the room. “You need to promise me,” he said. “That you will tell no one. Not even your friends. No one must hear of this story.” When Samo leaned forward to hear more clearly, he said, “I want to tell you about Sarenti Dacule and the Order of the Inventor.”
Back at the guardhouse, Tarat stepped into the room where Samo was being held and leaned back against the door, barring it with his frame. He looked at Samo, still sitting on the stool where he was before he left. He didn’t seem much different. Tarat wondered how he would react when he told him what had happened. He hadn’t received orders to be down there. In fact, he hadn’t even received permission. Forget permission. He had been attacked on account of this guy. Samo looked at him dumbly, expecting him to say something, but Tarat remained silent. Instead, he simply crossed his arms and glared at him.
Samo was the first to speak. “What’s up Snake? Shedding season?”
“No,” Tarat answered, ignoring the hated nickname. He said, “No, it’s not shedding season. Who’s back?”
“Tarat, I ca-”
Tarat marched on him and shouted, “Tell me! Do you want to be shipped off to the mental home?”
Samo shrunk back. Turning his head, he hissed, “You wouldn’t.”
“You’re right about that,” Tarat answered. “But I wouldn’t be the one doing it. There are some who want it. Now, Professor Lasci is in the hospital right now-”
“What happened?” Samo asked, interrupted.
Tarat ignored him and continued. “-with multiple injuries and I got a metal bar across my shoulders, the same bar that was used to beat Lasci to a pulp! You want to know what happened to that guy? I killed him!”
“It must have been horrible,” Samo said. “To have to kill someone, especially when he wants to kill you. It must have been horrible.”
“It was.” Tarat backed away and said, “I need to know. Whomever you’re trying to protect Lasci from got to him before I could, if it was more than just a simple house robbery. I need to know.”
Before Samo could answer, the captain walked into the room and cleared his throat. Tarat whirled around to face him. The man looked agitated and angry. He said, “You’re not supposed to be down here. No matter, though. We’re letting him go.”
Samo let out a whoop and slipped out of the cords around his wrists. He stood and walked to the door, saying, “See y’all later.” When he was gone, Tarat turned to the captain and waited for the rebuke he thought imminent.
Instead, the captain groaned and said, “What were you doing down here?”
Tarat straightened his back as he came to full attention. “I was trying to find out information. I wanted to know who the “he” in the message was.”
“I see,” the captain replied. He said, “So I guess you were trying to beat it out of him?”
“No!” Tarat stepped forward menacingly—at least, he tried to be menacing. When the captain backed away and reached for his sword, he stepped back and said, “Excuse me, captain. Samo is a friend of mine. Or rather, he used to be, anyway. I don’t really know how to describe it now, but if anyone tried to beat anything out of Samo, that person would be next on my list, even if it were you, sir.”
He had expected the captain to glare at the threat, fire him from the force, or even lock him in the cell as a prisoner himself. Instead, the man smiled. He said, “I see. I have a few friends like that. I understand. I want you to do something, though. Take your own advice.” When Tarat looked at him confused, he said, “Don’t underestimate him. He’s very dangerous.”
“I understand that, sir,” Tarat said. “Is there any more?”
“Yes.” The captain folded his arms. “Take a while off to relax. Take care of that shoulder. I was hit like that once. I don’t want to see you in a uniform for two weeks. Don’t worry,” he said, as Tarat began to protest. “You’ll still be paid, but I want you to rest. That’s an order.”
Tarat nodded. “Yes sir. I understand.”
“And I understand,” the captain added. “How rookies tend to have a problem obeying orders.”