Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Sequel (Part 3)

When Catelin awoke, nightfall had already come. Her head pounded, her chest and arms ached. Or was it the other way around? It didn’t help that the moment she tried to get up she was jerked back by the two handkerchiefs tying her to one of the tentpoles. At least someone had put a couple of blankets underneath her. The ground beneath was icy cold. She shifted her eyes to those of a cat, immediately being rewarded with a clearer, brighter vision. The tent was empty, the front flap tied shut from within to maintain privacy. A general hexagonal shape with an opening for air at the top showed the clear night sky. The stars were off though, not those visible from Central Europe at any case.

“Almost like we’re in a different dimension,” she mused out loud, feeling her bruises. That had been thoroughly humiliating. She had fought sorceresses, warlords, demons, but never gotten her ass kicked by a random kid. Though at least she now knew that Ahmed was anything but normal. Her hunch had been right. Right but painful. She shimmied out of her restraints by distributing mass from her arms to the feet. She tried once to turn into a mouse or snake, but the had to maintain her natural mass. Her sister, the sorceress and altogether royal smart person of the group, had once babbled about ‘conservation of mass’ and ‘thermodynamics’. Nonsense words that were probably yiddish or something, Catelin had always figured, but the point stood nonetheless: once you turn yourself so small, the rest of you had to go somewhere. Alberic had carried her pieces around in a bucket for more than three weeks until Guinevere had gathered the energy for a reconstitution spell. Good times.

Once on her feet, she rubbed her worn hands, then took stock. There wasn’t much here. Ahmed wasn’t here either. There was a cut in the fabric of the tent though. Had he snuck out? In one corner she found something altogether strange: a bundle of fabric with straps and metal. She opened the flap and heard the two halves come apart with a rip. She moved it in the other direction, closing it back up. Curious. She opened it once more, finding Ahmed’s robes and beard.

Before she could dig any deeper, the cut in the tent opened and a figure stepped in, dressed in black. Catelin twirled around and, trying a different approach, crossed her arms and cleared her dry throat. “Hello, ‘Ahmed’.”

The figure that was Ahmed turned, bringing up a pistol of thoughts and – brightness! Broad daylight, concentrated into a beam, shone in Catelin’s face. She quickly turned her eyes back normal, raising her hands for good measure to block the agonizing beam. That hurt. “Slow and steady now,” said not-Ahmed. Not in the effeminate, cracking voice of a youth but the actual feminine voice of a woman. The beam of flight was averted and Catelin could now see the real person. Standing there, only a few feet away, was an athletic woman, looking 20 but saying 30 with her posture and eyes. She wore black and green, yes, but it was as strange has her rucksack. Shouldering a robe, she had the same metal strips and noise reattachable sticky fabric on it as the rucksack, while also wearing a vest with a good amount of pickets and strange devices poking out. She rolled her eyes. Not again.

“Time traveler?” Catelin sighed before she even knew the answer, lowering her arms. She sat on the ground, crossing her legs.

Not-Ahmed raised an eyebrow and for the first time Catelin could see him, her, for real: black hair, the same dark skin obviously, grey eyes. Attractive, but too muscular and thin for her customers. “You know about time travel?” She lowered her weapon, but did not holster the strange contraption. That made her smarter than most men who had Catelin on the defensive.

“You’d be surprised,” Catelin said, shrugging her shoulders, “ what we’ve seen before. What century?”

“About five-hundred years into the future. Plus or minus a decade. I think,” she answered. “The late 21st century.”

“The earliest yet,” Catelin mused, remembering the golem – what was the world again? Robot? – from a few years ago that had come to this dimension to become a real human. Why one wanted that when one could crush steel with one hand was anyone’s guess. Maybe the sex. “Let’s try this again: ‘Hello, I’m Catelin and not a backstabbing, manipulative bitch. And you are…’.”

She hesitated for a moment, then holstered her weapon. It retracted and shifted into itself till it was tiny and clicked to her belt without any straps. Magnetic? Marvelous, but Catelin tried to look aloof and not terrified as fuck. It always impressed this lot when the primitives didn’t care. “My name is Soraya. Soraya McTavish.”

Catelin wordlessly asked for her to join her on the ground, holding pallaver. “When did you get here, Soraya?”

The young woman shrugged. “A few months ago. I think. I was in Australia for a UN peacekeeping mission…” She trailed off.

“You’re a soldier?” Catelin had to pull herself together not to ask what ‘Australia’ was.

“Archeologist,” Soraya said, looking down at her gear, then remembering that Catelin didn’t know that word, “You know what a historian is? Basically that but I work for a living.”

“Are they also mercenaries?” Catelin chuckled at Soraya’s gear.

The girl smiled, returning the chuckle. She started to let her guard down. “Austria went down the drain during the Resource Wars. After FIrst Contact, well, point is I went down there with a group from my university to salvage some priceless artifacts before the Australian Evangelical Front blew them up. Long story short: I was caught in one of those dimension portals and ended up here in your dimension. Time. Took me the better part of a year to use my survival gear to get to Africa, from there I went to the Persians, then the Byzantines, then here.”

“Huh,” Catelin said, nodding, “and those Arabs chasing you? That costume?” Continue reading “Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Sequel (Part 3)”

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Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Sequel (Part 2)

Onto part 2 of Le Reject.

The camp at the foot of Camelot was much more permanent in design and intent than the one with the trolls and magical creatures they had passed on the way here. Catelin was leading the group through the dozens of followers, smiths, merchants, foot soldiers, a few actual hedge knights. That much was clear enough from what they had seen with the kid in Paderborn – Knight Johann or something? She had already forgotten. Apparently people were lining up to join Sigurd and his warrior princess bride. No wonder Voigt had thought it necessary to reactivate Pariah Company. Necessary and foolish, she thought, smiling.

Catelin looked behind her covertly, angry that she couldn’t just grow another pair of eyes. Achilleos and Ahmed were following her like nothing had changed. No, Ahmed eyed her suspiciously. He was going to be a problem sooner or later if she didn’t do anything about it just now. Nothing else mattered till then. Giving up Charles had bought her some time, with the Princess giving her word about the safety of her daughter extending it again, but she still needed to get out of here as soon as possible. And that, ironically, meant going in quickly, gaining Sigurd’s trust, and asking for her daughter back.

Sigurd’s lieutenant in charge of selecting the most worthy knights to join the – appropriately named – inner circle in the inner circle of the castle wasn’t hard to spot. Getting there had been more of an issue. Catelin hadn’t seen this much armor and steel in one place for a good hundred years. Not since muskets had proven as equally good weapons against knights and magical creatures, with the added benefit of allowing the meat shields that were the peasantry to carry the main burden of combat.

“It’s funny,” she said aloud, trying to make conversation, “when I first came to this world everyone was wearing chainmail to protect against swords. Full plate came around because of the musket, then went away because of its ineffectiveness against magicals. And now plate is back for some reason. Curious, curious…”

“If you say so, effendi,” Ahmed said. It was the same tone as usual, just off in the slightest intonational difference. “I am no expert in your lands and its history.”

“No, no you’re not,” Catelin replied, keeping her suspicion down. “But will you participate in the contest?”

Ahmed shrugged, but halfway through stopped, pausing. Catelin was seeing cracks in the performance. This ‘Arab’ was about as common as the rug he carried. But what way to catch him? Maybe… He pointed towards the sanded field a few meters away where the knights and soldiers competed. “Pray tell, what is Achilleos doing?”

Catelin turned quickly. Achilleos had moved past them while they had danced their dance, walking tall and wide towards this Sir Thomas. “Good sir, my friends and I wish to participate in your contest to join your Round Table.”

The knight looked him over, unimpressed like he saw two meter tall slabs of meat every day, even ones flanked by a fairy and an ‘Arab’. Catelin wondered if that might actually be the case, judging by the panopticon of magicals and knights running around. The knight, polished and clean shaved like the kid in Paderborn had been, yet a bit older and slightly less dumb, nodded and gazed at the sparing ground. “My name is Sir Thomas. Prince Sigurd has entrusted me with choosing the best warriors to join him. He is a gracious man, willing to show favor to the best and purest of heart. It is not just a contest of strength, but one of chivalry too. If you wish to participate you must be pure of heart.” He looked at them, smug satisfaction lining his lips from edge to edge. “Are you pure of heart?”

“Always,” Catelin said without a hint of irony, while trying to not laugh at the idea of ‘chivalry’. These fools hadn’t been around in the high times of ‘chivalry’. Honor in knights only applied to your enemies’ foul deeds while you did everything in your power to win. Rules are for losers. But she was able to play it straight, considering what she had only just done to Charles. She nodded to Ahmed. “Him first.”

The Arab glared at her, understanding her meaning. Catelin cared more about the knight’s reaction. The nobleman looked surprised, even through a face that could only be be charitably be described as ‘well bred’ if nothing else came to mind. He cleared his throat. “The contest is not to the death. Even if you cannot join the inner circle, Prince Sigurd still has need of you and your abilities. Nor will the first fight decide. I will decided by your performance once nightfall comes on the day My Liege returns,” Sir Thomas said. Catelin wasn’t sure why he was trying to speak so archaic like he had swallowed a copy of Chaucer. Then again, the last century or so were pretty much a linguistic nail in the coffin for ye olden days. The magic was to blame: too modern, too universal, influencing humanity subtle when when not throwing fireballs at their houses.

“Oh,” Catelin said with a smile, “I’m sure some will certainly get in. Maybe two,” she said cheekily, smiling at Ahmed. Getting rid of him might be easier than she thought without revealing her true motifs.

“In that case face your friend,” Sir Thomas said, instructing his master-at-arms to bring swords. Real ones too.

Catelin rolled her eyes. Served her right for not keeping her big mouth shut. She accepted the first longsword, weighing it in her hand, trying to find out if they were properly balanced. They were. Quality blacksmiths were at hand then. Ahmed also got a sword, but he carried it like a butcher might a knife. The kid was clearly out of his element, clumsy. Was she wrong about suspecting him of plotting against her? Was he just out of his element in a foreign land, did she just project her annoyance with Charles on the kid who had clearly taken a shine to him? Whatever it may be, now it was too late.

“The contest is over once the opponent yields or is incapacitated for five seconds,” Sir Thomas cried. “Begin!”

“Show me what you got,” Catelin said with a smile, gripping the sword properly and positioning her feet in an aggressive stand, ready to lunge. Just because she preferred a good gladius or pistol didn’t mean a sword was either foreign or less-than-lethal in her hands.  

Ahmed raised his sword, his feet moving slowly, deliberately. It betrayed the image of the naive youth he had oozed until then. The sword may be foreign to him, yet he knew the combat stances. It betrayed Catelin’s dulled senses, she had to admit. Too much time laying low, too much time running what amounted to a charity for desperate whores. The kid made eye contact. “Like you showed yourself when you betrayed Alberic?” He lunged, striking from above. Catelin parried, deflecting the blade easily enough, leaving Ahmed open for a killing blow. Her own blade went back to the defensive stance Frederick had taught her a good twenty – thirty? – years ago, protecting shoulder and chest perfectly while she could strike with the pummel. Ahmed recovered quickly, getting his blade up. Out of his depth he was, that much was certain, but clearly not a virgin.

“I didn’t betray him,” Catelin said truthfully, “that would imply it wasn’t the idea from the very beginning.” She struck quickly three times, pirouetting. Left shoulder, faint, center of mass. All of which Ahmed was able to parry. Barely. There were windows open everywhere that would have gotten him killed in a real battle or wounded in a training unit with Frederick. They paced around each other again. “I could offer you to join me, but I take it you imprinted on him already.” One more strike, quickly twirling around the blade to each the pummel and flinging it in a perfect arc in the air, embedding itself in the ground not far away, disarming Ahmed. “But why? I saw you first?” Continue reading “Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Sequel (Part 2)”

Tales from the Bin: Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Rejected Sequel (Part 1)

As promised, I’ll resolve the cliffhanger to Pariah Company Le Reject Version. This one is about 20-25 pages and I’ll post what would have been the conclusion.

If you enjoyed this, please check out my writing on Amazon with books like Historian’s Crusade and Disalienation. Pariah Company and the League of Mandarins, stories inspired heavily by the reject Pariah Company, will release during Q3 2018 and Q2019.

One Infiltration and A Betrayal –  A Pariah Company Story

1

The Multiverse ( Earth 7538) – The Year 1581 A.D.

The heavy iron door hinges squeaked as it swung open. It set the mood quite well. Two pairs of leather boots dragged him into the cell entrance. His feet barely touched the ground. Then they pushed him in. Stumbling, he landed on his face. His good side too, sadly. It was okay though. The cold, moist stone floor broke his fall. His eyes couldn’t adjust to the dimness immediately. There was darkness ahead, a bright sliver of light behind.

“Ouch,” he said slowly. Having seen the inside of many a dungeon it was a well-kept secret that your jailors expected something, anything, in terms of a reaction after this old ritual. Otherwise they’d hurt you some more. Taking pride in one’s work he could appreciate and so he obliged. Now they laughed sardonically and closed the door loudly. The locks went back into place.

A body stirred in a corner. It smelled like damp straw. “Anyone there?” It was a nice, female soprano. The most lovely voice on the face of the Earth in fact. Maybe he was biased though.

“Just an old warhorse with aching bones, thinning hair, and some other ailments,” Charles Alberic said, dusting himself off.

The voice giggled in the most delightfully girlish way that warmed the old mercenaries’ heart. “Hello to you too, father.”

Alberic finished putting himself back together. Now that his eyes were getting used to the darkness, it didn’t seem quite that bad. Yet a cell was a cell. His daughter had made herself comfortable on the straw though. She even had a blanket. Almost a luxury dungeon, he remarked to himself. He let himself fall back down next to her, gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She hugged him back. “What did I tell you again about keeping the wrong sort of company?”

“Protecting the Princess of Greater Brandenburg isn’t exactly keeping bad company, father,” Philippa Stahlhand replied, her tone similar to her mother’s in moments like this.

“You’re still imprisoned though.”

“As are you,” she countered, then paused. “Why are you here?”

He shrugged his shoulders. Body language was hard in pitch black dungeons. “Saving you.”

“Be honest now, dada. You never lied to me,” she paused, remembering that time her pet imp ‘Mr Impy’ died after she forgot to feed it the souls of damned mice and Alberic had told her he had gone back to the 6th circle of hell. Good times, he remembered.

“True,” Alberic said with a slight smile, “Alright. I was hired to retrieve the bratty Princess. But I only took it because you were here. If you wrote me sometime I’d have found out sooner.” He was not bitter that his only child didn’t write more than once a year in the age of the express pigeon. Not one bit at all. “That was when we still thought she was kidnapped, not working with the Dragonheart.”

“‘We’,” Philippa said curiously. She took the ‘throne in the dungeon’ experience extremely well, immediately picking up on a well-established routine, well too liberal for polite society, with her father. Then again at 28 years of age, the half-fairy had been there from the very beginning. Pariah Company’s little baby shapeshifter. Born during the rise, raised during the height, coming of age during the fall.

Alberic shrugged again, mostly though to get his shoulders uncorded from the harsh treatment of the guards. “Brought a couple of fresh recruits. Also your mother.”

“Aw,” she said mockingly. Clearly an influence of her mother’s lack of respect for man’s society. It was all the trickster fairy blood. Having been raised by social outcasts couldn’t have helped much though. “You stopped hating each other to rescue little old me?” She smiled, mockingly touched. “How is mother?”

“At this moment probably enjoying herself way too much,” Alberic stated disgruntled.

*

Continue reading “Tales from the Bin: Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Rejected Sequel (Part 1)”

Pariah Company (Part 5)

Here’s the last-ish version of Pariah Company Le Reject Version. Thank you for sticking with me this far. Yes, it’s pretty much a reject version and it ends on a cliffhanger. I’ll post what I managed to get into the second part after this and basically my cliffnotes on how it will end.

This is still the basic concept for the real version of Pariah Company, which will come out some time this year, mostly likely Q3 2018. Enjoy.

5

“Alright, let’s saddle up.” Charles Alberic moved up from around the house as he buttoned up his trousers, feeling much lighter than when he had woken up with a splitting headache just an hour ago. Nobody liked rising at first light, whether it was the farmer attending his fields or the military man gearing up for battle. Then again that comparison broke down once a drinking buddy like Achilleos came into play. Once you decide to join a man like that in toasting fallen or absent friends, family, foes, old horses, ships, monsters you have slain, and the weapons you have slain them with, there was no turning back for a peaceful night’s rest.

The others had already turned out in full force. Achilleos had actually found time to gear up in his best adventurer gear. Being a hero from antiquity this apparently involved a skirt and lots of butter. The big sword and shield he carried on his back above his green cloak make somewhat up for that. Alberic had to admit that it was a strange yet magnificent sight. Wherever the Greek hero seemed to go the wind always found a way to sweep up his hair dramatically.  

“We’ve been waiting for a while,” Catelin remarked. When Achilleos had finally come out in his gear she had quickly warped her simple jacket and trousers from yesterday’s prison break into something more ostentatious.

“I’d be ready within five minutes of getting up as well if I could transform my clothes,” Alberic replied. He was quite happy that Ahmed was still wearing his bulky, unbecoming robes. Even in his best work clothes, the green tunic and feathered cap, Alberic looked woefully underdressed when compared to Catelin and the Greek. “Ahmed, have you lost something?”

The young Muselmann was sitting on the carpet, his outstretched arms pointing west as they touched the floor and he mumbled something. No answer. Maybe he hadn’t understood Alberic. That was probably it. As good as his German was, there naturally had to still be simple communication troubles. So Alberic restated his question, this time louder and slower: “Ahmed. Have. You. Lost. Something?”

“I think he’s praying. Leave him be,” Catelin noted.

Achilleos noted. “Yes, it is a peculiar thing these Arabs. Five times a day they pray west to their holy city.”

“Five times? I hope we won’t have to stop underway,” Alberic mumbled. The journey would be annoying enough without having to stop for prayers four more times. “Also, how do you know this stuff?”

“I read,” Catelin offered with a sharp glance in his direction, “It’s called the information age.”

“I don’t trust books. Mass production can’t be good for quality,” Alberic said, half joking. Reading and writing was something for contract negotiation.

Alberic and Catelin spared with each other non-verbally for another minute when Ahmed stood up, his prayer concluded. “I’m sorry for the delay, we should go now.”

“No worries, friend,” Achilleos laughed jovially as he got on the carpet, taking a seat, “your god is quite sensible enough. My Gods require the sacrifice of a young goat and other gory gestures, so I must admit in the practicality of your rites.”

Ahmed looked at Catelin as if for guidance but the fairy simply shrugged and placed herself on the carpet as well, only looking back to see what Alberic was doing.

Alberic, meanwhile, was stuck at the edge of the carpet, unwilling to get back on after yesterday. Catelin first looked surprised, then mockingly. “It is quite alright, you know?”

Alberic did not answer.

“You have been on this thing before. Yesterday in fact.”

Alberic did not answer.  

“Oh you have to be kidding me. You have stared down demons and gods from above and below, stared down mechanical men from the future, and fought a metal chariot, but you are afraid of an oriental rug?” She paused for a moment, considering her words. “This isn’t still because of the Aerial Screw, is it?” She sighed, already exhausted. “Look, if push comes to shove I’ll turn into a giant eagle and I’ll save you first. Deal?”

Alberic did not answer. Yet slowly, tentatively, he stepped on the rug, sitting down as far as his stiff legs allowed. “Thanks,” he managed to muster.

He almost caught a flicker in Catelin’s face, almost as if she was about to utter another of her snide remarks. Yet she hesitated and, finally, mentally stepped away from it. She placed her hand gently on Ahmed’s shoulder instead. The youth flinched for a moment, recovering quickly though, or at least quicker than yesterday. “We can go now. Slowly though if you please.”

Ahmed nodded as he manipulated the carpet with his hands, speaking to it in Arabianic or whatever the language he spoke was called. Alberic barely noticed the rug taking off. Just like yesterday they were high in the air before he had even noticed it. Catelin was right: this was much more comfortable than the Aero Screw. Probably because, unlike Leonardo, Ahmed was not a drunk while driving. He decided to breath again as his ears started to pop.

“Which direction?” Ahmed tried to keep the carpet steady, but it was obvious that it wanted to finally move, not unlike an anxious horse.

“Three hundred miles north-east is where we have to go. Just keep flying in the general direction and eventually I’ll give you exact coordinates.” Still disgruntled, Alberic pulled out a map from his jacket and slowly unfolded it along with a sextant and spyglass.

Ahmed nodded and with that the carpet set off, flying at an insane speed when looking down, but completely still from the relative point of view of the travelers. A modern marvel to behold, except probably an old one for the citizens of Arabia where they originated. Alberic imagined as much, though it wouldn’t do to ask. He needed to seem knowledgeable about these things in order to appear like the veteran adventurer and mercenary he was. Until Ahmed decided to volunteer these informations around a campfire he would have to make due with speculations. Shaking off the distraction, Alberic went back to studying the map and the landscape.

Catelin raised an eyebrow as she saw the map in his hands. It was a nice one too, all wrapped in leather and worn from constant use. “I didn’t realize you kept it.”

“I try not to throw a gift away,” Alberic replied with little enthusiasm. He was too busy checking the route. “Besides, it’s a good map.” That was an understatement and Alberic knew it as much as Catelin. Being enchanted the map would show you what you wanted to see, enhance it. Every detail, every street. It was a few years out of date now since Alberic couldn’t afford the services of a high-level sorcerer anymore.

Catelin looked over his shoulder, curious. “What are you looking for?”

“It isn’t so much what I’m looking for but what isn’t on the map.”

“Anything you want is on that map.”

Alberic looked up and smiled, happy to have a leg up on her for once. “Not if it was hidden by magic.” Catelin simply raised an eyebrow while Alberic smiled at her with a supreme sense of superiority. It wasn’t something he could always do so he might savor the moment. After a while, finally, he decided to say the magic word. “Yes. We’re going to Bielefeld.”

While Ahmed was still trying to keep the carpet under control and thus unable to participate in the conversation much, Achilleos was not and gladly did at this point. “What is this Bielefeld?”

“It’s a mythological city,” Catelin said, rolling her eyes as hard as humanly, or rather humanoidly, possible. “We’ve been trying to get there for a mission before, but gave up after a couple of weeks of searching. There persists this rumor that about, what,” she glanced at the map Alberic was graciously spreading out on the carpet now, “three hundred miles north-east from here is this city that appears every couple of years out of nowhere and then disappears again. In these lands it’s known as Bielefeld.”

Alberic smiled. “While you may not be familiar with our lands, you probably know it by different names. Back before the rise of the oceans you see…” Continue reading “Pariah Company (Part 5)”

Pariah Company (Part 4)

Onto Part 4 of Pariah Company Le Reject version.

4

Ten minutes on a magic carpet made Alberic decide that he didn’t much care for flying. It was an odd feeling. The carpet didn’t particularly move while they were on it. It didn’t vibrate or cruise like a bird might to keep himself in the air. One felt a stream of air in one’s face of course, similar to being on a horse or on the deck of a ship. Yet there was no feeling of motion and this in particular was what Alberic’s brain couldn’t comprehend.

“Charles, are you still with us?” Cateline put a hand on his shoulder to bring him back from the edge. Literally, as he had been staring off into the distance below. The people, fields, animals, it all looked so different from this perspective that it had a weird hypnotic effect.

Now Alberic managed to free himself from the edge and returned to the middle of the carpet where everyone was seated except for Ahmed who was seated at the very front of the carpet, steering it by pulling on the edges like one might do with a horse. All in all the carpet looked much bigger than it had rolled up in Ahmed’s hands. But then if it could fly and so oddly at that the perception of relative space was not something worth noting. “Yeah, thanks for getting us out of there, Ahmed.”

“You are most welcome,” the young Muselmann said in an earnest tone but still couldn’t stop his voice from cracking, “I am glad to have been of service.”

“Why were those people after you?” Alberic didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but curiosity was necessary in cases like these.

“They want the carpet back. I took it when I fled my home,” Ahmed finally answered.

Alberic tried to look him in the eyes and face but the Arab subconsciously managed to avert his gaze at every opportunity without making it look unnatural, more like a series of circumstances. Arabs sure were odd, Alberic decided. “I see. Need a job?”

“Oh come now, Charles, you don’t need to drag him into this too,” Catelin protested. Had their ride not been carpeted, she might have stamped her foot on the ground.

“It’s good to know, that this means you agree to join.”

“I never said that. Just that I’d hear you out once we were done in Trier,” Cateline said innocently.

Alberic looked long and hard at this woman with which he had shared many adventures over the last twenty years. When she said things like this, looked at him with that peculiar smile, that air of confidence so rarely seen in the fairer sex, he couldn’t help himself but be infatuated all over again. But then maybe it was her fairy charms so he tried to clear his mind again. “Okay. I owe you that much.”

“Friend Greybeard,” Achilleos now made himself known again. The giant of a man had been sitting quietly on the carpet, seemingly asleep. How one as big as him could just disappear from your mindscape puzzled Alberic just as much as the mysteries of the carpet and the charms of his former paramour. “We have traveled these past eight days, yet I do not know our mission myself.”

Alberic nodded. “I wanted to wait until we had a complete unit. Now we have so I might as well tell you.”

Catelin raised a curious eyebrow, only adding to her other-worldly charms. “Wait, three people is your entire unit for this mission?”

“Four,” Alberic said eyeing Ahmed, “I assume the kid needs a job. Equal shares of four as per the usual arrangement will certainly help with whatever you are fleeing from.”

Ahmed looked up. “I’m not sure. I should go on.”

“Your countrymen found you in Trier, the ass-end of nowhere, they can find you anywhere,” Alberic quickly replied. He saw the opportunity to close the deal. “With the kind of money I’m offering for a couple of days work you can do whatever you want, get a new life.”

The young Arab looked unsure, eyeing Catelin, who gave him the most unremarkable nod. Almost like her charms didn’t work on him. Curious. “Very well,” he finally said, “but I’m not a good fighter.” Catelin gave him another look that was the closest Alberic had ever come to seeing a mental stab in the ribs. Ahmed quickly added: “Once I know the mission?”

“Son, you have a magic carpet at your command. That is all you will need,” Alberic said smiling and friendly but once again Ahmed averted his gaze just as quick as he had turned around in the first place. “Okay, here’s the mission.” He sighed and paused.

His compatriots looked at him, waiting. “And?”

He looked around, then down below. “Is there a tavern anywhere close? I really need a table for this.”

Continue reading “Pariah Company (Part 4)”

Pariah Company (Part 3)

Part 3 of Pariah Company Le Reject Version.

3

The city’s stank carried up river by the brisk wind coming from the tall hill all around the. Charles Alberic hated the city of Trier. Founded in Roman times – first Roman times – as obnoxious bureaucrats and historians reminded the people these days, the city lay on the banks of the Moselle river, and was likely one of the most mundane cities in existence. Subsisting on trade and wine, usually the city would be an ideal place for Alberic to ply his trade as a soldier, be it professional or for hire, or his side occupation as pest control, yet the city was unique in a very bad way for a man like him and his craft. Due to some overly eager mages, a smudge on a book of magic, and a head of cabbage during the last War, Trier was utterly mundane, its background magic obliterated. Overt magic in these parts, native one at least, now cancelled itself out, making the city the most normal place in the entirety of Western Europe. He hoped glimmers and jinx stilled worked, holding tight on his protective charm stolen from a skeleton rider of the Second Invasion. Good times.

As their ferry crossed the river on the eighth day of their journey, Alberic was ready to throw up. Maybe it was Achilleos’ wine or the fact that the man, so galant in combat, so boisterous in defeat, was starting to grate on him. Badly. “Friend Greybeard, I have enjoyed our travels immensely so far,” he shouted from the back of the ferry where he was entertaining the peasant children making the crossing for necessary supplies. The children laughed and clapped both widely and loud, making Alberic wish for the return of the Black Death or lamenting that the wrong half of the family’s children must have died in childhood.

“I am glad you’re enjoying yourself, Achilleos, but you might want to get yourself ready. We’re almost there,” Alberic said as politely as he could still manage. He was already casting a good look at the city’s exterior, thinking of where to find the first recruit for the mission ahead. Because of its mundanity, Trier hadn’t experienced any of the rapid advances the rest of the Empire, or anywhere else for that matter, had. There was still a lot of crumbling arches and columns standing, but the city had been knocked about during the past few centuries just enough for newer, less impressive, architecture to ruin the nice view. One thing he appreciated about the resurgence of the Three Romes was their taste in architecture.

“Friend Greybeard, pray, what are you doing?” Achilleos was now coming aft with him where they had stowed their gear. Here Alberic was busy changing his tunic from the green-grey huntsman working clothes he had worn before to something brown and unflattering, yet wide enough to hide a pistol and a wide-edged knife, leaving his anti-wyvern musket and long sword concealed in his pack.

“Preparing to meet our first recruit. And, if we’re lucky and she doesn’t kill me, the only one we’ll need,” Alberic answered deliberately, while rolling up his other jacket in his pack and carefully storing it in his rucksack. He looked over Achilleos. The man was dressed like a pirate with his high boots, expensive shirt and leather trousers, as well as a single earring in his right ear, all the while wearing flowing golden locks and showcasing more of his chest than a common street whore. He sighed, considering his life’s choices for the blink of a second that let him to this point, then nodded. “It will have to do. You look just obvious enough to blend in perfectly.” Either that or he would deflect attention from Alberic, which suited him just fine.

The ferry landed right outside the city’s gates and the passengers disembarked, all making a beeline for the entrance to have their passports checked. Alberic showed his quite readily, it was after all one of many he carried for this specific purpose, all collected over the many years of his dealings with Voigt.

“Reason for visiting?” One of the guards eyed him suspiciously. Alberic was glad to have grown his attempt at a beard. Last time he had been in town things had not gone according to plan and he was known here, if more by reputation than anything else.

“Price fighting,” he said and slapped his closed fist into Achilleos’ chest, immediately regretting it as flesh hit stone. “Good Wilhelm over here is the unbeaten champion up north.” Alberic’s attempt at a North German accent had become quite convincing over the years and so far south he wondered if the practice had even been necessary, but the guard was highly motivated and eyed Achilleos suspiciously.

“Does he speak?” The guard looked over Achilleos’ clothes with the amount of attention Alberic had hoped for,

“I do, good sir, and would like to hope you come and see me fight tonight. Front row seats for both of you, if you want them,” Achilleos suddenly said in his heavily accented German, sounding somehow both high born and drunk. Alberic was ready to pull his purse to make the two men an offer like civilized men, but they only nodded.

“Maybe we will. Pray thanks for the invitation,” the one guard said, stabbing the other in the side with his elbow and exchanging funny looks. He handed back the passports, barely having looked at them. “Move along.”

They said their goodbyes and hurried inside, disappearing into the midday going abouts, everyone rushing from and to the the markets and shops. Alberic took a deep breath. “Next time keep quiet, I had it under control.”

“I’m sorry, Alberic,” Achilleos apologized profoundly, almost sounding like he was mocking Alberic, but meaning every syllable of it. They moved slowly to the crowd. There was a hectic here that Alberic hadn’t seen outside major urban centers. Trier was usually less busy, even in a good season. Something was amiss.

Alberic kept quiet for a while until the crowd dispersed a bit as they came to wider streets. He tried to reorient himself, but couldn’t remember where the main markets where. All around him were just three and four story high buildings, all looking dangerously eager to fall over at any point. It was at this moment Alberic finally admitted to himself that he was too used to the open forests and genuinely modern cities of the German lands. He grabbed himself a passing child and handed him a small coin, probably more than he had seen in his entire life. “There is a small in overlooking the bishop’s grounds. How can I reach it the fastest?”

The child explained the way to him in great detail, all the while fixating on the coin. After Alberic felt convinced he could remember the way, he let the child go and continued his way.

“Is this city always so up and about?” Achilleos was an odd fellow, but his observation was true enough. The people reminded him more of scared chickens running about aimlessly, unsure of every step they took.

“Not the last time I was here,” Alberic admitted. “Mind you that was three years ago, but a city doesn’t change so quickly even in our interesting modern times. You saw where we landed, not enough ships and boats to justify everyone being so busy, never mind the lack of horses and wagons coming in.”

They made their way in silence towards the inn the child had described to them earlier and it only took them twenty minutes to do so. The inn was overlooking the south side of the Konstantin Basilika, with a remarkable look at the palace grounds. The Kurfürst was oddly still around. Alberic would have imagined him to have left for the Imperial Diet last week at the earliest. It didn’t matter though as this was a quick in-and-out operation to grab a new member of his unit, not a guided tour of the city for the amusement of Achilleos.

Achilleos, meanwhile, was slowly but surely turning into a liability. The people of Trier were betraying their headless-chicken-ways to admire the big world wonder which was slowly making its way through their streets and Alberic was now really regretting having bought him at all. He looked around for street signs just a few meters away from the inn. He grabbed a small purse he kept for bribes, just out of sight of his actual money, raised it in the air, and shouted: Continue reading “Pariah Company (Part 3)”

Tales from the Bin: Pariah Company (Part 1)

Since I don’t feel like wasting my reject writing projects anymore, I thought people might get a kick out of this. So I have this 70-ish page novella lying around that’s basically the A-Team that I’m not going to continue in this fashion, so I figured I might as well share it over the course of a month or two to generate at least some regular content. So have “fun”.

Pariah Company

The Multiverse (Earth 7538) – The Year 1581 A.D.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Hermann Voigt of the United Kingdom of Greater Brandenburg stepped into a stinking wyvern turd. It had just lied there, directly in front of his office. The upper-mid level bureaucrat glared left and right. Men-at-arms, handmaidens, smiths, all seemingly aware of what had just occurred and simultaneously busy looking innocently elsewhere. Voigt sighed, counted silently to fünf, and continued his walk, hastening his pace.

The city of Hamburg had never been intended to be a capital of a kingdom, and it showed these days. As such the fourth most important bureaucrat in the state had to be content with walking to the palace on foot, as the streets were blocked by cavalrymen, wyvern riders trying to pick up fair maidens, and the city watch trying to keep – and failing to – keep order. No way a litter could navigate the streets in the middle of rush hour and so he had to both walk at a brisk pace and stop every few meters to try and get the remnants of wyvern lunch from his best leather boots while not trying to step into any more.

Voigt cursed under his breath even has people made way for him, which was hard in the winding cobbled streets between all the carts and mustering soldiers, but they managed to make it worth. “Make way, make way for the deputy vice chancellor,” some helpful voice screamed in the local dialect that Voigt barely understood in anything but vague meaning. As the streets cleared for him as best as they could he could finally dare to raise his eyes from the filthy streets of hay, stone, and feces, to look up ahead where the main donjon of the new castle stood proud in the distance near the harbor: Lindwurm Keep. It was a magnificent side for all the squalor and grimness of the port town’s city center, a shining beacon for the future yet to come. If it was to come at all. It was why Voigt had no idea why the leadership had called for him at this point. Every moment away from his papers, reports, and charts was a moment the city wasn’t growing, a moment the realm was in danger of running out of money, and other hyperbolic statements he was currently preparing to throw at their lordships’ faces if it was another meeting about the gentry and merchants complaining about the new zoning laws.

The walk to the magnificent Keep took Voigt another twenty minutes in which both his boots had been cleaned by the rough streets, and his temper had cooled once again. As he approached the guards at the main gate, he was glad to see at least some of the troops had been issued with the new flintlock muskets from the Helgoland mission. They stood at attention as he passed, hiding his smile under his broad feathered hat. Last time they had asked for papers as they had not been informed that Voigt had followed the current trend of appearing clean-shaven before court. That had been fun for at least one party involved.

He was quickly ushered in through the gates and up through the several staircases, side doors, hallways, more doors, more staircases, and the grand hall itself, brightly lit at all times, as servants walked around with baby wyverns and candles in one hand and a bucket of sand in the other. What a marvelous modern age it truly was.
The footmen saw Voigt approaching from over a hundred meters away, but waited until the last moments to turn, knock, and then open the doors just as he nose came into reach, shouting: “His lordship, Hermann Freiherr Voigt, Deputy Vice Chancellor to his Majesty Leopold…”
“In, Goddammit, in with him!” Continue reading “Tales from the Bin: Pariah Company (Part 1)”