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.
“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)”