Den & Lauren, c05 e06: The Star

Den looked up from Petal’s dossier. ‘This is a bit thin,’ he said, looking across to Priestess, who sat in the passenger seat.

‘It’s all the information we are allowed to give you,’ Priestess said.

Den dropped the dossier onto his lap, and picked up Nimrod’s. ‘This one’s almost empty,’ he said. ‘Isn’t there something you can tell us about these two agents?’

‘Such as?’

‘Known associates? Habits? Routines they both follow? Patterns we can predict?’ Den’s brow furrowed. ‘You’re more experienced in this than I am, but a person’s pattern is usually what gives them away the most.’

Den looked down at the dossiers on his lap, unaware of Priestess’ smile.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c05 e06: The Star

Den & Lauren, c05 e05: The Chariot

Sunlight warmed Priestess’ face as she sat with Den and Lauren in his Moire Studios office.

She leaned forwards. ‘I don’t think you’ve told me what you do here in Moire Studios,’ she said. ‘I mean, we have some intel, but …’ Her expression was curious.

Den got to his feet. ‘Come,’ he said to Priestess.

She looked at Den. ‘Where?’

‘I want to show you something,’ Den said. He looked at Lauren. ‘Has Tamara set up the training room for today’s session?’

Lauren nodded.

Den gestured. Priestess got to her feet, and followed Den towards the door. ‘Session of what?’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c05 e05: The Chariot

Den & Lauren, c05 e04: The Lovers

Priestess opened her eyes, and found herself staring at another unfamiliar ceiling. She got up from her cot, and looked around. She was in a strange room, with grey walls and a small window, high up, through which grey daylight shone against the far wall.

Priestess faced the door, and gingerly touched it. It opened smoothly – it was not locked. Nor was she bound or shackled in any way.

There was a chair next to the foot of the cot. She saw the clothes she had worn on the ferry, and in the car with that strange guy who had the codename of Chariot.

Priestess slipped on her clothes, and crept out of the room. She found herself in a dark corridor, lit oly by emergency lighting. As she moved, the lights came on, and Priestess froze for a moment, before she realised that the lighting was only active because she was moving. This was an energy saving measure: the building showing off its green credentials.

Priestess held her shoes in her hands, and crept barefoot along the corridor towards the brightest spot, where she could see daylight. She found herself looking at a stairwell leading down to the main lobby.

Den was standing at the foot of the stairs, along with Lauren and two employees.

Den looked up at Priestess. ‘Welcome to Moire Studios,’ he said.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c05 e04: The Lovers

Den & Lauren, c05 e03: The High Priestess

The sun over Holyhead cast the sleepy Welsh coastal town in a golden hue. The Westerly sea breeze lent a salty, fresh tang of wind chill to the early evening air. Seagulls cried out and wheeled overhead as cars emerged from the interior of the ferry onto the land, while other cars awaited their turn to board the ferry to Dun Laoghaire, in the Republic of Ireland.

The foot passengers’ arrivals lounge was almost empty. Den Thompson sat in an ancient orange plastic bucket seat, mounted with five others on a solid metal bar which was riveted to the floor. The old lounge looked, and smelled, like desolation and emptiness. Outside, through the window, Den could see the sky darkening; a cloud was settling over the sky, bringing with it a chill breeze which he felt in this room. Outside, rain began to fall, pounding on the window.

Den looked up at the sound of approaching footsteps. A woman approached him. She was tall, dark, and professional-looking, with her short blonde hair a contrast to her skin. Her business suit was cut severely, with a dark grey blouse, darker grey jacket and business skirt, and black shoes.

The woman approached Den Thompson and looked at him. Den stood, and looked her in her dark brown eyes.

‘Pomegranate,’ he said, giving the assigned password.

‘Persephone,’ she replied, giving the proper response. She extended her hand. ‘I’m the High Priestess.’ Her voice carried some form of American West Coast accent.

Den shook her hand. ‘Come with me,’ he said. ‘I’m The Chariot.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c05 e03: The High Priestess

Den & Lauren, c05 e02: The Magician

The first thing Den noticed was a text alert, as he was going up the stairs towards his old bedroom. He fished his phone out of his pocket and checked it out.

The text was a single picture: Den strolling into the Posta Cafe. The sender was unknown: the number was withheld, the IP address encrypted.

Den pocketed the phone, and continued into his room to read Anthony Jacquin’s Reality Is Plastic once again.

He was just reading the chapter on Magnetic Palms, when his phone sounded the arrival of another text; another encrypted, untraceable message, this one a photo of Den visiting the police station.

Another message sounded: Den in the lobby of the Dinorwic Hotel, chatting with Ayesha. Another pic showed him in Manchester, entering a hotel lobby with Tamara and Shae. Another one showed him driving the Aston Martin towards his meeting with the Backgammon Six in the Moire Studio.

Several photos arrived. Den scratched his head. ‘These aren’t particularly compromising,’ he said. ‘If you are trying to blackmail me …’

The next image showed him in flagrante delicto, with Lauren riding him in a chair as a naked Isao Tanaka watched, naked, entranced.

‘… you’ve certainly got my attention now,’ Den murmured. ‘What do you want?’

The last text arrived. Den entering the house, that afternoon. There was a caption.

LET ME IN
WE NEED TO TALK

There came a knock at the door.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c05 e02: The Magician

Den & Lauren, c05 e01: The Fool

‘I’d like to show you something,’ Den said. He held Lauren’s hand as they walked up along the narrow single track road.

Lauren looked at the dirt track, with its thin strip of grass growing in the middle. On either side, there were low dry stone walls, and old growth trees and hedgerows. Stiles and gates led into fields which had been allowed to lie fallow.

‘Where are we going?’ Lauren asked.

‘Not far,’ Den replied, pointing. ‘Just past that copse up ahead, on the left.’

Just past the copse, the road turned left sharply, and entered a gate. Den led Lauren through the gate, into the courtyard.

‘Like the place?’ he asked.

Lauren nodded slowly. The old buildings were being refurbished by a small army of workers, who’d arrived in a small fleet of panel and transit vans.

‘This is … different,’ Lauren said, looking at the old farmhouse buildings.

‘Everything’s being renovated,’ Den said. ‘What do you think?’

Lauren nodded, slowly. ‘Looks nice,’ she said.

‘I just bought it,’ Den said. ‘I wanted a nice place for myself.’

‘So, you’re not going to be living with Beryl any more,’ Lauren said.

‘Something like that,’ Den replied. ‘I want to spread my wings.’

Lauren nodded. ‘I understand that,’ she said. ‘Want to show me the interior?’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c05 e01: The Fool

Taken Under: On Nobody’s Side

They planned the bid for that evening, when Anathema was strong enough to stand.

As the sun reached the horizon, Anathema and Matilda sat on chairs outside her apartment, taking a good, long look at Nowhere.

A bell sounded from The Domes. People began emerging from their apartments, from their little workshops and business premises, and headed up past Matilda’s apartment. The Administration Centre closed, with Alice and Kelvin turning off the lights and closing the door on their way out.

One by one or in small clusters, everyone in Nowhere filed up towards The House of Domes.

Alice and Kelvin stopped outside Matilda’s apartment. Alice stepped forwards. ‘Anathema, are you fit to move about?’

‘I am,’ Anathema replied. ‘I’m just resting, gathering strength.’

‘That’s okay,’ Alice replied. ‘The community’s been summoned. If you’re okay to walk, please come up to The Domes. The Triumvirate has got an announcement to make.’

Continue reading Taken Under: On Nobody’s Side

Taken Under: [Interlude] Denouement

‘Don’t worry, Talbot,’ Doctor Sin said, as he took a step back, only to brush up against the plain white back wall of the outer room.

She looked up at the vents. ‘I suppose they could open the vents now, and flood this room with gas, or something.’ She smiled. ‘I hope they don’t. You see,’ she said, gesturing, ‘we have so much to talk about.’

The guards lowered their weapons. Two of them stepped forwards to grab Talbot by the arms and frogmarch him to the hydraulic treatment chair.

Laura looked at the anaesthesia machine, and then at Doctor Sin, who nodded, grinning. ‘My turn,’ she said, to the increasingly horrified Talbot.

Continue reading Taken Under: [Interlude] Denouement

Taken Under: Pray For Life

When you have lost the need to pray…
Your are a dead man in a world of dead symbols.
Pray for life.
Pray for life.

  • TImothy Leary

All of Matilda’s choices came down to one, in that moment.

‘Oh, Baby, no!’ Matilda cried out, as she saw Anathema collapse.

She rushed out of her apartment, and crossed over to where Anathema lay motionless on the ground. Cradling her head in her hands, Matilda looked at her face, but Anathema was unresponsive.

‘Come on, Anathema,’ Matilda said. ‘Come on, babe, come to me. Don’t go. Don’t escape this way, please! Come on, baby, come on!’

Hands caught her and pulled her away from Anathema. Other hands picked her up and placed her on a trolley. Matilda hadn’t noticed the medical staff turning up.

And then Anathema and the medics were gone, and Matilda sat on the floor, in the dark, weeping.

Presently, someone approached her. It was A. She extended her hand to Matilda.

Matilda looked up, her face preparing to erupt in tears. ‘Is she …?’

‘Not dead,’ A replied. ‘Come,’ she added. ‘Take my hand. Come with me to the Infirmary.’

Continue reading Taken Under: Pray For Life

Taken Under: [Interlude] Interrogation

I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.

  • Robert Anton Wilson

‘I would like to ask you something, Doctor Sin,’ Talbot said, leaning forwards to face the Director of The Unity in the glass cage.

‘I’m under no obligation to answer,’ Doctor Sin replied.

Talbot pressed a key on the panel in front of him. Idly, Doctor Sin looked up, expecting gas to be pouring through the vents; but instead, the floor of the outer room slid aside, and a heavy hydraulic chair began to rise from below.

‘Trust me,’ Talbot said, ‘sooner or later … you will.’

Continue reading Taken Under: [Interlude] Interrogation

Taken Under: A World Of Dead Symbols

But that crucial non−game terror−reverence aweful moment comes…
There comes a time when the ecstatic cry is called for.
At that time, you must be ready to pray.
To go beyond yourself. To contact energy beyond your game.
At that time you must be ready to pray.

  • Timothy Leary

‘How many people do you think are here?’ Anathema asked Matilda, as they strolled along the Promenade, greeting their fellow Citizens with warm smiles and odd finger gestures to their heads.

‘At least two hundred,’ Matilda replied. ‘A who’s who of missing agents from all over the place.’

‘Missing?’

‘We have dossiers on some of them,’ Matilda replied. ‘Some CIA Operatives, a couple from the Five and the Six. See that chap with the frizzy beard sipping coffee in front of his place? NSA Analyst. I recognised his face right off from the dossier. He was the missing spy which brought the Unity to my attention in the first place.’

‘How so?’

‘He came to me, asking for help. Made this one phone call out of nowhere, asked me to meet him at the Savoy. Never showed. I spent an hour there, looking like a jilted date.’

‘Were you?’

‘Was I what?’

‘A jilted date?’

‘Probably,’ Matilda replied. ‘We’d only been sleeping with each other for six months. But then I figured he must only have been into me to get intel on the Department.’

Continue reading Taken Under: A World Of Dead Symbols

Taken Under: [Interlude] Glass Cage

Under the present brutal and primitive conditions on this planet, every person you meet should be regarded as one of the walking wounded. We have never seen a man or woman not slightly deranged by either anxiety or grief. We have never seen a totally sane human being.
― Robert Anton Wilson

Her name, when she chose to use it, was Tessa Chambers. The stage name she used was “Dr Danielle Sin,” or “Doctor Sin” for short. She had one of the most successful stage hypnosis acts in Britain, only surpassed by Derren Brown and Anthony Jacquin, both of whom she regarded as good friends and colleagues in the hypnosis industry.

Today, when she awoke in the underground cell, she was “Unsub One.”

Continue reading Taken Under: [Interlude] Glass Cage

Taken Under: Please Do Not Clutch At The Gossamer Web

All in heaven
and
on earth below
Is a crystal fabric
Delicate sacred gossamer web

Grabbing hands shatter it

  • The Psychedelic Prayers, Dr Timothy Leary

Matilda watched as two Admins marched past her, with an unconscious Agent Anathema lying on a gurney.

A and Kelvin came up behind her. A laid her hand on Matilda’s shoulder.

‘How many times has it been this week?’ Kelvin asked.

‘Three,’ Matilda replied. ‘This time, she didn’t even tell me she was going to try.’

‘That’s a sign that she didn’t trust you,’ A said.

‘That, and maybe she thought that I might have been telling someone, even unconsciously,’ Matilda replied.

‘And we all know that’s not true,’ A said. ‘Come on. We’ll need you to be with her when she comes to in the Infirmary.’

Continue reading Taken Under: Please Do Not Clutch At The Gossamer Web

Taken Under: [Interlude] The Prisoner

“No. 2’s infamous opening line is a double gambit: the Village does not really want information, of course, only obedience. (From their point of view, information is an exchange-value, not a use-value). In fact, it is No. 6 who truly wants information: information on who No. 1 is, where the Village really is, which side runs it, and how it might be possible to escape.”

It happened there, on that empty, lonely London street. There, between the Greggs and the Vision Express in Ruislip’s High Street, the Department swept in and spirited her away.

It was raining, that early Sunday morning. She was walking along the street, dressed in a long blue coat, sensible shoes on her feet, her hair swept up in a tight bun, held in place beneath a wide brimmed hat.

The black, unmarked transit van rolled up behind her, and as it pulled up beside her, the side door suddenly slid open and two figures emerged, dressed in black, wearing gas masks.

A third figure stepped out of a side alley, tapping the woman on the shoulder. She turned, her eyes indicating her surprise.

The third person blew a cloud of dust into the woman’s face. The woman coughed, her hat falling from her head. One of the masked figures caught the woman as she began to stagger backwards, a moan emerging from her lips as the powder began to take effect.

‘Easy, now,’ said one of the masked figures. ‘You are in safe hands. Come with us.’

The woman, her eyes rolling as disorientation mounted, replaced by slack-jawed suggestibility and compliance. The woman’s head began to loll as they helped her into the van. All three assailants clambered into the van, and closed the side door. A moment later, the van drove off down the street, leaving the street empty, the rain pouring onto the slick pavement.

‘Base from Unit Four Seven,’ said one of the figures. ‘Agent Bronze here.’

‘Go ahead,’ came the voice over the intercom.

‘We have her,’ said Agent Marcus. ‘Bringing her to Department M.’

‘Use Entrance K,’ said the voice over Agent Marcus’ earwig. ‘Show me her face for biometric identification.’

Agent Marcus nodded. Agent Carraway stepped forwards and scanned the woman’s face. A moment later, Carraway’s phone pinged and lit up green.

‘Identity confirmed,’ said Agent Carraway.

‘We can see that,’ said the Despatcher’s voice over Agent Marcus’ and Agent Carraway’s earwigs. ‘Confirming capture of Danielle Sin, the leader of The Unity.’

Continue reading Taken Under: [Interlude] The Prisoner

Taken Under: The Man With The Child In His Eyes

I hear him before I go to sleep
And focus on the day that’s been
I realise he’s there when I turn the light off
And turn over
Nobody knows about my man
They think he’s lost on some horizon

  • Kate Bush, The Man With The Child In His Eyes

Matilda and Anathema lay together on her bed, dozing, their breath mixing in the space between their faces.

Their hair was wild, their bodies and faces sheened with perspiration. Matilda caressed Anathema, and kissed her lips gently, resting her forehead against the forehead of the senior agent.

You didn’t have to take this assignment, Matilda said, her words echoing in Anathema’s mind.

You are an asset to the Department, Anathema replied. Talbot sent me to rescue you.

And you ended up here, another prisoner of Nowhere.

There is no backup, Anathema thought. I am the backup.

Then it’s up to us, thought Matilda. We have to figure out how to get out of here for ourselves.

Yeah, Anathema replied, caressing Matilda’s throat. Before they Process us to death.

Continue reading Taken Under: The Man With The Child In His Eyes

Taken Under: Cloudbusting

I still dream of Orgonon
I wake up crying
You’re making rain
And you’re just in reach
When you and sleep escape me

Kate Bush, Cloudbusting

The sun was shining in a flawless blue sky the following day.

Matilda was sitting at one of the small, round tables outside the Hot Cup cafe down by the beach when Anathema caught up with her. Matilda had just finished her breakfast, a couple of Continental style curved croissants, and she was sipping a jet black espresso out of a tiny porcelain cup.

Anathema ducked under the white table parasol and sat opposite Matilda. ‘What happened yesterday?’ she asked.

Matilda looked at Anathema in confusion, her coffee cup halfway to her lips. ‘I remember …’ she began. She put her cup down. ‘Actually … I don’t remember,’ she said.

‘What the hell happened to us?’ Anathema asked. ‘I remember us walking along the coast road.’

‘I remember that,’ Matilda replied.

‘I couldn’t go any further,’ Anathema said, ‘but I remember that the weird feeling cleared once we started back down to Nowhere.’

‘I … I remember that, too,’ Matilda replied.

‘What happened then?’

Matilda sat in silence, racking her brain. She looked at Anathema. ‘I … I can’t …’

‘Neither can I,’ Anathema said. ‘I remember nothing till I woke up the next morning.’

‘I woke up in my apartment, too,’ Matilda said. ‘I got up, put on my clothes, and came out here for breakfast.’

‘I was in my bed when I woke up,’ Anathema replied. ‘But think!’

‘Think what?’

‘What happened between our little walk to the edge of the village …’ Anathema looked at Matilda. ‘and when we woke up?’

Matilda frowned.

‘And why was I naked?’ Anathema asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Matilda replied. ‘Do you sleep naked?’

‘Yes, always,’ Anathema replied. ‘Only … I don’t remember even going to bed last night.’

‘Let alone undressing,’ Matilda said, her eyes widening. ‘The thing is … I woke up naked, too.’ She looked down to check that she was still wearing the clothes she had put on that morning. ‘I also woke up naked the first morning I came here.’

She and Anathema exchanged a long glance. Matilda’s expression betrayed her terror.

Continue reading Taken Under: Cloudbusting

Taken Under: Road To Nowhere

Well, we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen

  • Talking Heads, Road To Nowhere

Anathema opened her eyes, and wondered where she was and why she was looking at the red leather back of a chair. The flashes of dappled sunlight outside, flickering through leaves, was hurting her eyes. She felt her body rocking and jolting, and she realised that she was in motion.

She saw that she was sitting in another chair, upholstered in red leather.

A coach seat.

Anathema looked down, and felt horror. She was wearing something light and flouncy in gingham. Her hands went up to her head, and touched a hat brim. She was wearing a bonnet.

Some people suddenly burst into song in the seats around her. Some sort of hymn, by the sounds of it.

Children of The Unity,
As we journey let us sing;
Sing of our Community,
Glorious in its works and ways,
Glorious in its works and ways.

And Anathema thought … “How did I get here?”

Continue reading Taken Under: Road To Nowhere

Taken Under: Deeper Understanding

As the people here grow colder
I turn to my computer
And spend my evenings with it
Like a friend

  • Kate Bush, Deeper Understanding

Matilda received a text on her commlink the following morning. It read

APARTMENT 40
YOU’LL FIND YOUR FRIEND THERE

WELCOME HER
MAKE HER FEEL AT HOME

C

Matilda took a look around her kitchen before dropping by. A quick text to The Store over her commlink, and twenty minutes later there was a knock on her door. She opened the front door to a flushed, breathless courier from The Store – a young adult male, with close cropped red hair.

‘One standard sized wicker basket,’ said the lad, extending the basket in one hand and his commlink in the other. Matilda tapped her yellow credit card on the black surface of the transactor. There was a ping, and 0.5 work units were shaved off her daily credits total.

‘Nice doing business with you, Kelvin,’ Matilda said.

‘Likewise,’ said Kelvin, a rosy blush spreading across his face.

Matilda took the basket, and began to fill it with food from the kitchen. Unsalted butter, bread, cheese, and two choices of jam – strawberry and apricot.

Covering the basket with a tea cloth with a red and white check pattern, Matilda made her way out of her apartment. The sun was out, and a light breeze from the shore ruffled her hair. Matilda ordered replacement food from The Store as she walked, tapping her card to her commlink to spend the work units. The courier would not need to take her details on delivery: they only needed to leave the items on the doorstep.

She approached Apartment 40, which was on the far side of the community. 40 was a rotunda, its walls painted in a light blush pink, its door and window frames picked out in a deeper magenta. As with all the windows and doors in the community, they were arched.

Matilda saw the net curtain twitch as she approached. She paused for a second, then reached for the door to knock.

The door flew open. There was a blur of motion. Matilda felt the pressure of a sharp edge against her throat.

‘Tell me who you are,’ hissed Agent Anathema, ‘and where the hell I am, or I swear I’ll slit your carotid artery on the spot!’

Continue reading Taken Under: Deeper Understanding

Taken Under: Love and Anger

You might not, not think so now
But just you wait and see, someone will come to help you

  • Kate Bush, Love And Anger

One Day Ago

‘I’m Matilda,’ said the Department M Agent to the Triumvirate members who seemed to have just appeared in the room. The closest of the three was a woman, who appeared to be of subcontinental Indian ancestry. She was the one who had just spoken to welcome Matilda.

‘Come,’ said the woman to Matilda. They gestured towards a round table and four small chairs. Surrounding her, the robed figures led Matilda to the table and took their seats, seating Matilda facing the door.

‘Do you have names?’

‘We do,’ said the woman. ‘I am A. My colleagues are B and C.’

B, a black man, clean shaven and bald, nodded graciously. C, a younger white woman, gave that odd forehead salute gesture. C pulled down her hood. Her close-cropped hair was bright purple. Her lower lip had a piercing stud.

Matilda looked at the curious tea set on the table between them. A clear pot of water sat on a titanium stand with a warmer unit beneath it. Four tiny porcelain cups, in white with decorative blue floral chasing, without handles sat on the table beside the water pot, and a small bowl of long, rolled green and yellow leaves sat beside a contraption which looked like a porcelain bowl with a wooden handle and a matching floral design, and an inner bowl with a lid.

‘That’s an unusual teapot,’ said Matilda.

‘We ordered it special,’ said C, reaching for the contraption and the bowl with the leaves. ‘Shall I be mother?’ she asked, with a smile.

‘What’s that?’ Matilda asked, pointing to the leaves.

‘Bai Hao Yin Zhen,’ C said.

‘White tea?’ Matilda replied. ‘I’ve not tried that yet.’

‘We know,’ C replied. She placed some of the long tea leaves into the inner pot and poured in water from the clear pot of hot water. Then she placed the lid on the inner pot and left the leaves to steep.

‘Why was I brought here?’ asked Matilda.

‘We’ll answer all of your questions,’ said A, ‘after we’ve shared tea.’

Matilda frowned. ‘The last cup of tea I had,’ she said, ‘knocked me out.’

‘Not this,’ C said, touching the handle of the contraption. ‘We would never ruin white tea.’

C began to pour tea into the cup closest to Matilda, but she placed her hand over the cup. ‘Please,’ she said; ‘you first. I insist.’

C glanced at A and B, who nodded. ‘Very well,’ C said, pouring A’s tea first. Matilda watched as C turned the handle, letting the outer bowl rotate while the inner bowl remained horizontal, rocking gently. White tea poured from the spout on the side of the inner bowl into A’s cup, and then into B’s.

Matilda watched C place some fresh leaves into the inner bowl before pouring tea into her own cup, and then finally Matilda’s. Warily, Matilda took up her cup and rolled it between the palms of her hands, inhaling the light fragrance before taking a sip.

Her eyes rolled up. The flavour delivered everything the aroma promised. A light floral body, with an almost unnoticeable aftertaste. She looked at the cup in her hands, feeling its warmth, and the tiny mouthful of lightly-coloured tea remaining in the tiny cup. She looked at C.

‘I told you,’ C said, proffering the contraption. ‘It would be a crime to doctor tea like this.’

Matilda watched A and B slowly sipping their tea, their eyes closed, their expressions reverential. She accepted the refill and drank slowly, focusing on the glorious aroma.

Time passed in respectful silence. The only sounds were the wind outside, and distant sounds of people. A light shower pattered against the window panes.

All four placed their cups down on the table. Matilda looked at the three members of the Triumvirate.

‘I have questions,’ she asked.

‘So do we,’ C replied.

Where there’s tea, there’s hope.
– Arthur Wing Pinero

Continue reading Taken Under: Love and Anger

Taken Under: This Woman’s Work

One Day Ago

Give me these moments
Give them back to me
Give me your little kiss
Give me your…
Give me your hand baby

– Kate Bush, This Woman’s Work

Agent Anathema entered Matilda’s London apartment, locking the door behind her. Methodically, she went from room to room, checking the corners, noting where the tiny closed circuit monitor cameras were, until she found herself standing in the centre of Matilda’s living room.

Anathema looked around the room. ‘Now let’s see what sort of an Agent you are,’ she said. She turned slowly, to take in the living room in the smallest detail. ‘It’s the little things which will define you.’

Continue reading Taken Under: This Woman’s Work

Taken Under: CHIMES

Hold in reverence
This great Symbol of Transformation
And the whole world comes to you
Comes to you without harm, and
Dwells in commonwealth
Dwells in the union of heaven and earth

Offer music…..
Food…..
Wine…..
And the passing guest will stay for a while

  • The Psychedelic Prayers, Timothy Leary

One Day Ago

Matilda had found some clothing waiting for her in the walk-in closet in her room; dark phthalo-coloured blazers, pairs of pants, pair of shoes. White panties in drawers. White bras, hanging up. These items of clothing looked identical. They looked like a uniform.

She stayed in her apartment the whole of her first day. She stared out of the window, fighting fear and confusion, waiting for someone to come for her. Nobody came.

There was tea, coffee, fresh bread, milk, eggs, and a choice of white or brown sugar. Matilda poured herself some water from the kitchen tap. She didn’t feel any strange symptoms. The water wasn’t drugged. Well, that time. For all she knew, they could slip something into the water supply at any time.

Matilda found a screwdriver in a tool drawer, and opened out the air vents in the rooms of her apartment. They looked dusty, dark, but empty. She shone a flashlight into the vents, and saw nothing. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t flood the thing with gas through some hidden pipe.

When she was hungry, she opened the packet of bread and the fresh block of butter. There was a toaster and a cooker in the kitchen, along with a fridge freezer, a washing machine, a dishwasher, and an overhead cupboard for tinned food and sauces. Not a brand name to be seen on anything.

‘Well, there’s one nice thing about living here,’ Matilda said. ‘A life without branded name products. They should advertise this place. Bring in the tourists.’

The cupboard beneath the kitchen sink held various bottles labelled BLEACH, SURFACE CLEANER and so on, along with various wash cloths, a dustpan and brush, and other assorted cleaning items.

Matilda looked up at the ceiling, where she saw a very small security monitor peering down at her. ‘You do know that I could use these to make some horrifyingly effective chemical weapons,’ she said. She glanced at the front door, visible from the open kitchen door. Nobody came.

And then she got cooking. A few minutes of fussing and fiddling over the stove, and she sat at the dining room table with a plate of toast, two eggs, sunny side up, and two rashers of bacon from an unopened pack she’d seen in the back of the fridge. The bacon had been wrapped tightly in greaseproof paper, not plastic.

Matilda rolled her eyes at the first bite. The food was heavenly. She peered at the CCTV monitor camera.

‘You know,’ she said, to whomever it may concern, ‘you didn’t have to abduct me. If you told me about this place and sent me an invitation, I might just have been tempted to come here under my own steam.’

Continue reading Taken Under: CHIMES

Taken Under: By Hook Or By Crook

Two Days Ago

Therefore the Master
can act without doing anything
and teach without saying a word.
Things come her way and she does not stop them;
things leave and she lets them go.
She has without possessing,
and acts without any expectations.
When her work is done, she takes no credit.
That is why it will last forever.

‘What are you reading?’

A Technician in a lab coat entered Waiting Room 3. It was empty but for a brunette sitting at one of the many lounge chairs scattered about the place. The woman wore a grey suit over a black satin blouse. She was a brunette, and her hair had been styled in a French bob.

‘Agent Anathema?’ the Technician asked.

Agent Anathema looked up from the book in her hands. She held up the cover.

‘Oh, that,’ said the Technician. ‘I’ve never read that. My Dad used to tell me it’s all hippy dippy nonsense.’

Anathema looked at the Tao Te Ching. She glanced back up at the Technician. ‘It’s about understanding how the world works,’ she said. ‘People and Nature. Senses and things. Perception and reality.’ She proffered the book to the Tech.

‘No, thanks,’ the Tech replied, gesturing as if to ward off evil.

Anathema looked at the Tech’s ID on its lanyard. It read “STEVENS, A.” ‘What does the A stand for?’ she asked.

‘Amy,’ replied Stevens.

‘Interesting,’ Anathema said, standing up. She towered over the petite Technician. ‘We all need something to get us through life. I’m speaking for people with my level of clearance.’ She showed Amy the book. ‘I read books like this. The Tao Te Ching; the Art of War; Machiavelli’s The Prince; and every book written by Robert Greene.’

‘You do a lot of reading,’ Amy said to Anathema, as the agent took her seat again.

‘It opens the mind,’ Anathema replied. ‘You should try it.’

‘I haven’t read much since my graduation,’ Amy said.

‘Psychologist Tony Buzan once pointed out,’ said Anathema, ‘that most people’s reading capacity peaks during higher education, and then drops to the level of sixth graders following graduation.’ She smiled, and put the book down beside her on her chair. ‘Nobody’s perfect,’ she said.

‘And you?’

‘My love of reading never declined,’ Anathema replied. ‘If anything, I’ve read more in the last six months than I read in the entirety of my time at University.’

Amy’s eyes widened in surprise and awe. ‘I would have thought that …’

‘What?’ Anathema said. ‘That I preferred spying and conniving, shooting people and playing baccarat in Monte Carlo?’ She grinned. ‘That’s for burnouts.’ She rose to her feet again and took a step towards Amy. ‘What do you have?’

‘I was told to let you know,’ Amy replied. ‘Talbot has been brought down to Interrogation. You may go to him any time you are ready.’

Anathema nodded, and shrugged off her grey jacket to leave it beside her copy of the Tao Te Ching on the seat. ‘Take me to him,’ she said.

Continue reading Taken Under: By Hook Or By Crook

Taken Under: That Would Be Telling

Three Days Ago

Matilda slowly opened her eyes, and tried to focus them. For some strange reason, they seemed unable to focus properly. She tried to get up, but her body was too heavy and clumsy and she lay back on the bed, her head swimming.

Her mouth felt odd: dry, like sandpaper. Her breath felt hot. She didn’t like the smell of her breath when she cupped her hand and sniffed it. And still, she couldn’t focus her eyes properly.

Presently, after another doze, Matilda opened her eyes again. Light was coming in through a window on the other side of the room – presumably, the window was facing East, and she was lying in an East-West orientation, with her feet pointing in the direction of the window.

Her eyes were now able to focus again, and her body no longer felt so clumsy. Grateful that her condition was not permanent, Matilda rose from the bed, sat on the edge of the bed for a while until her head stopped spinning, and rose to her unsteady feet.

As the lethargy and clumsiness fell away, Matilda began to realise that something was off. Her body had been so busy fighting off this odd clumsiness and leaden feeling that it had not been paying attention to the signals which her unconscious mind had been screaming at her since she woke up. Everything was wrong. This was not her room.

The carpet was a hazelnut Berber rug, laid over bare polished floorboards. Her room back home boasted a full-floor sapphire blue plush carpet. The bedsheets were cotton – hers back home were linen, and the top sheet was a shade of ultramarine blue, rather than her comforting cream.

The room’s aroma had light notes of citrus, rather than her preferred floral lavender with a woody end note. There was a vintage mahogany camelback side unit with an oval mirror beside the bed. Walls and ceiling were plain, off-white. Matilda’s apartment walls back in London were wallpapered.

Matilda tried one of the two doors in the room – it opened onto an ensuite bathroom with tiles in shades of team, bathroom furniture in shades of mint, and fern rugs on the floor.

The pounding of Matilda’s heart intensified as she crossed over to the window. Her chest felt a spiked of fear when she pulled back the lacy net curtain and saw the vista outside.

She saw trees climbing up a distant hillside, beautiful little whitewashed houses arranged around a central plaza with a pond, with cobbled streets. The houses had rounded gables, and strange-shaped windows reminiscent of eyes. People milled about, wearing oddly archaic blazers, straw hats, and carrying brightly-coloured parasols.

Matilda felt the fear course through her system. She stared out of the window long enough to sttract the attention of two beautiful young women, a brunette and a blonde, who looked up at her from the path below, waved, smiled, and moved on. There was something odd about the wave – it was accompanied by a gesture, the tapping of the side of their head.

The brunette looked back, pointed at Matilda, and said something. She could not hear her, but Matilda could lip read.

The brunette was saying “Get dressed.”

At that point, Matilda turned, and looked in the full length mirror to the right of her. She looked down to confirm the awful truth that she was stark naked.

Continue reading Taken Under: That Would Be Telling

Taken Under: On Whose Side?

One Week Ago

Matilda did not know what hit her.

She was at home in her London apartment when it happened. The time was 19:41. The kettle was boiling. Matilda put the teabag into her mug, poured in water from the kettle, added sugar, and then the milk.

It had been in the milk. They had come in while Matilda had been working, injected the drug into the open carton of milk in her fridge, and left.

At least she had got through most of the tea before her mug fell from her slack, nerveless fingers, rolled off the arm of her favourite chair, and bounced off the thick shag pile carpet in her living room.

Continue reading Taken Under: On Whose Side?

Sorcerers’ Isle, c19: Defence, Part 2

‘What are they saying?’

Holgnar looked at Athia. ‘We have to wait till Exa comes out of her trance,’ he said.

Beside Holgnar, Exa, and Athia stood Kalinna and Kolar. Rans and Sande stood near the main entrance, peering out through a narrow opening in the door.

Exa disconnected from the cards on the table and looked at the Exans. ‘They are on their way,’ she said. ‘Axan and the others are on their way. Kasto and Kathos are bringing up their ships to blockade the harbour.’

‘Against Maha’s palace ship?’ Holgnar said.

‘And Lady Arotha says she is next, as soon as Mera gets back from the usual place.’

Athia looked at Kalinna. ‘The sisters’ home?’

‘I do believe so,’ Kalinna replied. ‘That is usually where Mera brings her guests.’

Holgnar looked at Kolar. ‘We need you to run,’ he said. ‘Run like the wind. Make for the Kareides’ place.’ He reached out. Exa placed a water flask in his hand. Holgnar gave the kid the flask to drink. ‘Don’t drink it all. Same some for the end of the journey.’

‘There’s water at the destination,’ Kolar replied. He shook the flask. It sloshed. ‘But I’ll keep some in reserve.’

‘Good,’ Holgnar said. ‘Wait till Rans and Sande give you the signal to run.’

Sande opened the door. Kolar braced himself.

‘Now,’ Rans said. Kolar bolted.

Kalinna looked at Holgnar and Exa. ‘Shall we give the alarm now?’

Exa nodded. ‘Already done.’ Bells began to sound out.

‘Is everybody ready?’ Holgnar asked. Everyone nodded.

Suddenly, Exa grimaced. ‘Oh – one of the raiders has just arrived at Skull Bay.’

‘The bay around the other side of the island? On the Southeast coast?’

Exa nodded. ‘The one guarded by Sentinels.’ Her face took on an expression of distaste. ‘They have been triggered.’

Athia nodded, her expression grim. ‘I suppose that means there won’t be any overland assaults coming from that direction,’ she said.

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c19: Defence, Part 2

Sorcerers’ Isle, c18: Defence, Part 1

The door of the Kareides’ house opened. The sisters entered, followed by Arotha, Revna, and Holgnar.

Kila closed her eyes. A moment later, she looked at Mera. ‘There’s nobody here,’ she said. ‘I don’t feel anything.’

‘Let’s look anyway,’ Holgnar said.

They split up, Kila and Mera leading the rest to different parts of the house. There were no signs of life. Bedchambers lay empty, the beds unmade. Food sat rotting on kitchen tables. A thin layer of dust covered everything in the house.

Mera ran a finger across the dining room table as Arotha and Kila entered. Kila shook her head.

‘So Maha has taken her,’ Mera said, looking at Holgnar.

‘The staff must have been dismissed,’ Holgnar said.

‘We only had one member of staff in the house,’ Kila replied. ‘My Father employed one of the old women from the village.’

‘What was her name?’ Arotha asked.

‘Shora,’ Mera replied. ‘She lives in a town house down in Karmo, close to the harbour.’

‘Is she still alive?’

‘She was, the last time I checked,’ Mera said. ‘Akro is down there with Master Axan, going to her place to see if she is there, and if she can help.’

‘Where would she be taken to?’ asked Revna.

‘Maha has a house in Karmo,’ Kila replied. ‘He has dealings here.’

‘Debt slaves,’ muttered Mera.

‘The more important question, however,’ Holgnar said, ‘is not where Rhia is, but why Maha has taken her.’

‘You did say that he had no interest in her,’ Revna said, glancing at Arotha.

‘He still doesn’t,’ Kila replied.

‘I know,’ Mera said. ‘Which means only one thing.’

‘It isn’t her,’ Kila said, looking at Mera. ‘It’s us two.’

Mera nodded. ‘Maha knows that we’re still alive.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c18: Defence, Part 1

Sorcerers’ Isle, c17: Messenger

Master Axan opened their eyes, and listened in the darkness of their chambers. They could hear a clamour in the distance, drawing closer. Axan rose from their bed, the light muslin sheets falling away from their bare flesh.

Wrapping a sleeveless robe about themself, Axan entered the corridor and wandered, barefoot, along the corridor and down to the main entrance. They opened the door to the cool night air. Dawn was approaching to the West, the sky beginning to lighten over the as-yet unexplored island of Exa.

Lights approached the Observatory. The bearers of those lights were the source of the approaching commotion. Axan waited until the crowd was at the doorstep.

‘Speak,’ Axan commanded.

Holgnar stepped forwards, his face lit by the lantern in his hand. ‘We have a problem,’ he said.

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c17: Messenger

Sorcerers’ Isle, c16: Defenders

‘It is time,’ said Exa.

Exa stood in the main hall of the Observatory Annexe, awaiting Master Axan as they descended the stairs. As Axan approached Exa, they extended their hands, palms down. Exa’s hands were palms up. They looked at one another in silence for a while. Then Exa separated from Axan.

‘Tell me what is happening,’ Axan said.

‘The Imperials,’ Exa said. ‘They have completed what they set out to do. They are leaving.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c16: Defenders

Sorcerers’ Isle, c15: Communication

‘You don’t have to do that,’ Lady Arotha said.

‘Personal touch, Ma’am,’ said Audet. ‘I want to do the best job possible of cleaning this floor.’

Arotha grabbed the broom handle. She looked at Audet. ‘My staff are efficient,’ she said. ‘This is what I pay them for.’ She took Audet’s hands off the besom, and propped it up against the wall.

‘I know,’ Arotha said, her voice soft. ‘I know what she means to you.’

‘Is it that obvious?’

‘I’ve always known,’ Arotha said. ‘She’s told me often enough what you mean to her.’

Audet blushed deeply. ‘I can’t keep anything from you, can I?’

Arotha smiled. ‘Not when it concerns your happiness.’ She looked up, as if reading the skies for storm clouds. ‘They’re coming back.’

Arotha and Audet took some steps back to the edge of the room. Arotha checked the space they’d opened up in the centre.

‘Any moment,’ she said.

A breeze arose in the room, blowing outwards towards Audet and Arotha. A moment later, and Mera stood in the centre of the room, embracing someone.

The second person stepped away from Mera. Audet broke out in a huge grin and rushed across the room to embrace Serenet.

Arotha waited until Audet and Serenet separated. Serenet turned to face Arotha, and presented her with a wooden box.

‘Is this it?’ Arotha asked.

Serenet nodded. ‘We can communicate with the island with this.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c15: Communication

Sorcerers’ Isle, c14: Untamed, Part 2

‘They came through here,’ said Kila, ‘and went that way through the forest.”How can you tell?’ Arotha asked, shouldering her backpack to let it settle on her shoulders.

Kila pointed to some low-lying broken branches and a few blades of grass. ‘They all point in this direction,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how I know this, just that I can see it clearly and it is so obvious.’

‘Serenet?’

‘I was thinking the same,’ Serenet replied. ‘My father taught me everything I know about hunting, and Kila is right. The branches bent in that direction. Up that slope.’

‘Six people came through here,’ Kila said. ‘The first landing party went that way.’ Her hand chopped the air in the direction of the broken bits of undergrowth.

‘Then let’s follow them,’ Arotha said. ‘And stay alert.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c14: Untamed, Part 2

Sorcerers’ Isle, c13: Untamed, Part 1

Dawn light broke up the hot, oppressive blackness of the clouded night. The timbers of the Blue Shell creaked and groaned as she rocked gently in the harbour. All was peaceful.

Lady Arotha, Captain Kathos, and Kila stood on the main deck, looking out at a wild, uninhabited coast, surrounded by primal forest.

‘How old is this place, again?’

‘Less than forty days,’ Kila said to Lady Arotha.

‘Hard to imagine,’ Arotha said.

Mera emerged from belowdecks, and approached Lady Arotha, Kathos, and Kila. ‘What have I missed?’

‘Not much,’ Captain Kathos replied. ‘The landing party is late reporting back.’

‘That’s a problem,’ Arotha said.

‘Indeed,’ Kathos replied. ‘As far as we know, there are no humans on this side of the island of Exa. Not even the Exan visitors.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c13: Untamed, Part 1

Sorcerers’ Isle, c12: One Hundred Breaths

Thirty six days passed.

Master Axan made their way up from town, along the road towards the Temple of Healing. They travelled in darkness, past Imperial troop patrols, utterly unnoticed by the guards.

Their bare feet barely made a sound as they walked, guided by the stars and the light of the waxing Moon. Halfway along the road, they stopped at a house on the side of the road – the house given to Kila and Mera, upon their arrival.

Master Axan looked both ways. There were no humans on the road in either direction. This part of the island was silent but for the wind, the trickling of the waterfall behind them, and the distant sounds of the sea.

They closed their eyes for a moment, smiling, enjoying the silence: then Master Axan touched the door, feeling it open beneath their touch. They entered the dark space within. The door closed behind them.

The interior of the house amplified the external sounds. In the centre of the echoing main room, Master Axan closed their eyes again, concentrating. Light sprang from numerous sources within the room, brightening it. Axan looked about the room, before moving to one of the corners. And there, they waited.

They did not have to wait for long. There was a whisper of sound like an otherworldly breeze; a momentary dipping of the light, as though a shadow had formed. A moment later, a woman stood in the centre of the room, dressed in a long, black robe, and carrying a dark leather bag slung over her shoulder.

The new arrival looked around in confusion. ‘Axan?’

‘Here, as arranged,’ Axan replied, stepping forwards. ‘Welcome home, Mera.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c12: One Hundred Breaths

Sorcerers’ Isle, c11: Darksail

‘Captain?’

Imperial Fleet Captain Kasto awoke. He looked up at the face of First Mate Loriac.

‘Report,’ Kasto ordered, taking his feet off the desk and getting to his feet.

‘On approach to the hostile island,’ Loriac said. ‘Orders?’

Captain Kasto reached for his cover, and put it on his head. ‘Bring the ship about,’ he said. ‘I want her stationed across the harbour. Then prepare the ground troops for landfall.’

‘Aye, Captain,’ Loriac said. Kasto heard the First Mate’s footsteps heading topside, followed by barked orders. Presently, he felt the Darksail change direction as she prepared to come about.

He clambered topside, and made his way astern to look at the tiller crew. Kasto felt the Darksail turn underfoot, heard the creaking and groaning of the timbers, the rushing of the water, the luffing of the sails, and the protests of the masts. He leaned forwards over the railing.

‘Stay sharp, crew!’ he barked, as a rope slipped. ‘Watch that loose end! Cravan, you landlubber, trim that!’

Kasto watched as the crew scurried about to carry out his orders. He looked at Loriac. ‘She’s sluggish,’ he said. ‘When this is over, I’m putting the crew through a few drill exercises.’

Loriac nodded. ‘Any further orders, Captain?’

‘Yes,’ Kasto replied. ‘Once in position, all stop. Rig for station keeping. Then rally the men-at-arms. Bring them up from belowdecks. Assemble them topside. Let them see the target. Tell them to prepare to seize the enemy port.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c11: Darksail

Sorcerers’ Isle, c10: Library

In the morning, as the sun rose late over the capital Exa, Kila and Mera wandered down from the Observatory, into the bustling town. The locals had already risen, and were getting ready for a day’s work.

Over in the distance, the Blue Shell was still in port, and one of the ship’s boats was still on the shore – it had now been pushed up onto the gentle slope of beach pebbles.

Kila looked at Mera. ‘At least some of the crew are still here.’

‘Most of them must have gone back to the ship during the night,’ Mera replied. She touched her forehead and closed her eyes.

‘What is it?’

‘I felt something,’ Mera said. ‘Not a voice … like a thought, touching my head from the inside. A strange thought, not one of mine.’

‘What do you mean?’ Kila asked. ‘What thought?’

Mera looked down the road. In the distance, past the Hall of Black Domes, she saw a taverna. Someone had spread out tables and chairs in front of the taverna entrance. Mera pointed. Kila followed Mera’s finger, to where two people sat at one of the street tables.

One of the figures turned to look back: Revna Thyrasdottir. The other, facing Mera, waved at the sisters.

Mera looked to Kila. ‘Hers,’ she replied, waving back at Lady Arotha.

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c10: Library

Sorcerers’ Isle, c09: Changed

‘So,’ Kila said, ‘you’re a sorcerer.’

Mera stared at her hands. ‘So Master Axan tells me,’ she replied. ‘I can’t even imagine what that means for me.’

‘It’s a surprise,’ Kila said, ‘to say the least.’

‘You’re telling me,’ Mera said. ‘Shall we just get some sleep now, before the sun brings us new problems to add to yesterday’s?’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c09: Changed

Sorcerers’ Isle, c08: Mera

‘This is odd,’ thought Mera, as she walked along the plain white corridor. ‘I don’t remember how I got here.’

The corridor was long and straight, with columns either side supporting a vaulted ceiling. Despite having no windows, the corridor seemed to be in daylight. Mera continued to make her way down the doorless corridor, her bare feet cold from contact with the checquerboard tiled floor.

Eventually, the corridor opened out onto a great circular open space; an empty amphitheatre, where rows upon rows of marble benches swept upwards in all directions, beneath the open air. At the highest level, columns supported nothing but the sky.

Mera stood on warm, soft sand, her toes feeling the sand crunching and squeaking between them, and wondered where everybody was. The sky overhead was blue, and a gentle breeze blew against her bare arms.

Mera heard footsteps behind her. She turned, to see a robed male figure approaching her, a mask on his face.

‘You should not be here,’ the man said.

His voice was familiar. ‘Who are you?’ Mera asked.

The approaching figure stopped, his feet bare on the sand, his hands open. He reached for the mask, and removed it.

Mera stared. ‘Father?’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c08: Mera

Sorcerers’ Isle, c07: Shirae

‘Where are you taking me?’ asked Lady Arotha.

‘Outside,’ Master Axan replied. ‘The signalling lantern has arrived. You may now signal your ship.’

Arotha and Axan made their way down the stairs of the building attached to the observatory above the town of Exa – the marble-walled building claimed by Master Axan as their residence on the island.

‘Come with me,’ Axan said, turning left as they exited through the side door. They walked across the flat gravel yard which surrounded the observatory. At the edge of the yard, a low wooden fence formed a guardrail with a steep, grassy slope beyond. One of Axan’s acolytes stood there, carrying a lit lantern in her hands.

‘Thank you, Sutec,’ Axan said, taking the lantern from the acolyte and handing it to Arotha. The young acolyte who Axan had called Sutec nodded, and exited.

‘Here,’ Axan said to Arotha. ‘This can be used to signal. The flame burns very bright in the chamber, and this lever operates the shutter.’ Axan operated the shutter lever, and left Arotha alone to signal.

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c07: Shirae

Sorcerers’ Isle, c06: Delegation

Axan looked at Kila, Mera, and Sutec. ‘You; with me,’ they said. ‘Holgnar, we need you to send word to prepare for our visitors.’

Holgnar nodded, and headed to the building of the black domes. Sutec and the sisters, looked at Axan.

‘We need to get suitable clothes for you two,’ Axan said. ‘Sutec, fetch two acolyte robes, please. I saw a workshop with some mannequins outside, not far from here.’

‘At once, Master Axan,’ Sutec replied. That left Kila and Mera, looking at Master Axan.

‘We are not your acolytes,’ Kila said.

‘Today,’ Master Axan replied, ‘you are.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c06: Delegation

Sorcerers’ Isle, c05: Impossible

‘This place,’ said Kila, as they approached the capital, ‘is impossible.’

Master Axan turned back to look at her. ‘How so?’

‘You only arrived here a short time ago – and yet there are homes here, and roads, and buildings, and old growth trees.’ She looked at Axan. ‘And people – strangers who know nothing of Mid-Sea, or our politics.’ Kila glanced at Mera, before returning her gaze to Master Axan. ‘Who ever are you?’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c05: Impossible

Sorcerers’ Isle, c04: Coast Road

‘Try to stand,’ Master Axan told Kila and Mera, as they reached the end of the corridor. ‘You need to exercise your legs and build up their strength. Walk with us to the capital.’

Kila and Mera stood on shaking legs. Mera looked at Axan. ‘Capital?’

‘Yes,’ Axan replied. ‘Apparently, not only do we have an island, but this island has villages, farms, and a capital.’

‘I’m confused,’ Kila said. ‘Only yesterday, this island didn’t exist. Nobody has had time to construct anything here. How did buildings come to be here?’

‘They came with the island,’ Master Axan replied. ‘Come. Explore with us.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c04: Coast Road

Sorcerers’ Isle, c03: Legally Dead

First Mate Revna Thyrasdottir opened her eyes, and looked up at yet another unfamiliar ceiling – this one a dome, whitewashed. Blinking, she rose to a sitting position, and looked around the room. She saw her clothes lying in a pile on top of a stool. Revna looked down. She was naked.

‘Where is this place?’ she said, her voice scratchy.

‘Lady Arotha’s home,’ said a woman’s voice by her side.

Revna looked at the dark-haired stranger lying beside her, looking up at her. ‘My name’s Revna,’ she said.

‘Serenet,’ came the reply. ‘Your Captain is sleeping with my mistress. Pleased to meet you.’

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c03: Legally Dead

Sorcerers’ Isle, c02: Isle

‘They ought to be dead, Feran.’

‘Indeed, sister, neither Kila nor Mera Kareides was supposed to survive their voyage across Mid-Sea.’

The image of a new island floated atop a blue-green sea, the image being the only light source in an otherwise darkened room.

‘Everything has been disturbed, Talea,’ said Feran. ‘All our calculations now mean nothing. Not for them. Not for anyone.’

A pair of long, wizened hands reached for the image of the island. It swept through the image, which vanished into a pool of undifferentiated white light.

‘The newcomers have interfered with the true course of fate,’ a third voice said; a voice as old as the hands. ‘Talea; Feran; we must prepare new calculations.’

‘Yes, Latos,’ said Feran and Talea.

The pool of light went dark.

Continue reading Sorcerers’ Isle, c02: Isle

The Chronicles of Shirae – Sorcerers’ Isle, Book One

And so, it came to pass …

… that the lives of the inhabitants of the Isles of Mid-Sea were disrupted by a new island, joining Moranas, Nakaros, Karmo, Tiraya, Kaphon, Pralo, and distant Kahil standing vigil at the Eastern Gates and the Broken Lands beyond the sunrise, and The Thousand Nations on the continental landmasses in the North and South.

Indeed, the inhabitants of the mysterious Isle of Sorcerers, at first secretive and mysterious, would soon begin to extend their influence to shape this little corner of Ovolo.

Continue reading The Chronicles of Shirae – Sorcerers’ Isle, Book One

Hiatus

Having now posted the teaser, I’m taking a one week hiatus.

The Chronicles of Shirae will begin on November 21st, 2021, and continue to the end of the year, with something planned for January 1 2022, and more Chronicles for the first 12, 13 weeks of the New Year.

The Skies Opened

After dinner on that hot, balmy night, they had planned on a night’s lovemaking.

Arotha had not even needed to use much of her sorcery to get her lover for the night, Kathos, to agree to this: a little glamour to enhance the curvature of her body, a little deepening of the shadows, and a dab of one of her more enticing perfumes on her wrists and behind her ear. Arotha had picked out what she was going to wear for the evening – a wraparound robe of a fabric so diaphanous that her body could be seen through seven layers of it.

Arotha reached for the bell pull and gave the rope a few tugs. One of Arotha’s staff, a young woman with swarthy skin and short black hair, and dark eyes set in a pleasantly narrow face, entered the room. The woman wore a short dark green tunic which denoted her status as a servant. Her legs and feet were, accordingly, bare.

‘You rang, Lady Arotha?’

‘My belt,’ Arotha said. ‘Bring it to me, please, Audet.’

‘At once, Lady Arotha,’ Audet replied, leaving the room.

Continue reading The Skies Opened