The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 8 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)The S. S. Windemere didn’t arrive until Festuary eighth. It had been waylaid in the Mulliens with a damaged boiler. Still, Saba Colbshallow had been at the docks to meet it and one passenger in particular. Mr. Brockton didn’t look like a secret agent, not that Saba knew what a secret agent looked like. He was a short, slight man in his mid-forties with a brown handlebar mustache and thinning hair beneath a brown bowler hat. He looked over Saba for a moment then shook hands.

“Governor Dechantagne Calliere asked me to meet you and see that you have a place to stay,” said Saba.

“Very good,” said Brockton in a thin nasal voice. “She indicated in her correspondence that she would send a representative that had her complete trust.”

Saba tried not to let his surprise show.

“I’ve got you an apartment on the militia base.”

“Won’t that be suspicious?”

“Probably less than rooming anywhere else, unless you want to spend the next week in a tent,” said Saba. “Those are basically the two options for new arrivals. We don’t have a hotel or rooming house yet, though there are a few people who let rooms. The apartments and rental houses have quite a long waiting list.”

“The militia base it is then,” said Brockton with a thin smile.

Saba led the way up the hill from the dock yards.

“I’m going to need a day to get my land legs back,” said Brockton. “Why don’t we plan on meeting tomorrow and I’ll go over what the Governor needs to know with you then.”

Saba nodded. “Fine. I’ll have some supper sent over if you like?”

“Good.”

The following afternoon just before tea, Saba met Brockton outside the building that had been designed to eventually be part of the base’s barracks but which, since its construction, had been divided into ten small apartments.

“The best place to eat is back at the dock yard,” he said.

Brockton raised an eyebrow.

“They have food carts.”

Making their way down the hill, they took their place in the queue for sausages. Then they sat down on a bench at the northern edge of the gravel yard and ate the thick sausages, which were served on a stick.

“Not much in the way of dining in Birmisia, eh?” said Brockton, then waved off Saba’s reply. “I expected as much really. I ate so much on the voyage that I probably gained ten pounds anyway. This is fine, and so were the fish and chips you sent up last evening.”

“Good. So what is the information you want me to relay to Governor Dechantagne Calliere?”

“She is aware, though you might not be, that I am with His Majesty’s Secret Service. We have people working around the world, but right now our focus is in Freedonia.”

“Aren’t we at peace?”

“Ostensibly. But a great many things can happen. And I don’t mean war, at least I don’t mean just war.”

“What else?” asked Saba.

“ Klaus II fancies himself a wizard and he’s immersed himself in the wahre kunst von zauberei. As a result, the wizards of the Reine Zauberei have replaced most of the non-wizards in key positions in the Freedonian government.”

“Don’t we have quite a few wizards of our own?” asked Saba. “Yourself for instance?”

Brockton smiled a thin smile.

“Well spotted young Corporal. I’m a first level journeyman from Académie Argei. But you have to understand, these Reine Zauberei are not just wizards. They have their own peculiar ideas.”

“Their magic is different?”

“No, as a matter of fact their magic is almost identical to my own. It is their belief system that is different. They believe that the Freedonians are the master race and that they are destined to rule the world.”

“Isn’t that sort of jingoism pretty common?” asked Saba. “After all, patriotism is a great thing, as long as the fellow who has it is from the same country that you are. I know quite a few Brechs who think that if you’re not Brech, you’re nothing.”

“Do they want to kill everyone else in the world?”

“Um, no.”

“There you see the difference. These Reine Zauberei believe that everyone else must serve the Freedonians or be eliminated. Completely.”

“But that’s just insane.”

“Yes it is.”

“And it’s not possible.”

“There you may be mistaken. They’ve already started their plan. The first victims are the Zaeri.”

“I know they’ve been treating the Zaeri badly– forcing them out of their homes and such. The Zaeri have been treated horribly for centuries though– in Brech and Mirsanna too, not just in Freedonia.”

“There is more to it than that. In fact the Freedonians have stopped chasing the Zaeri out of the country and are now rounding them up and putting them in forced labor camps. And there are rumors of other camps– camps where the Zaeri and others are being murdered by the hundreds.”

“That can’t be true,” said Saba.

“We don’t know for sure whether it is or not.” Brockton took the last bite of his sausage and tossed the stick at the dustbin next to the bench.

Saba looked at his half eaten meal and decided that he didn’t want anymore.

“So what do you want with the Governor?” he asked.

“There are several things actually. First she has been, for her own reasons, chartering ships to bring displaced Zaeri from Freedonia, here to Birmisia. We want her to continue, and we are willing to subsidize her if necessary.

“Secondly, we believe the Freedonians are up to something here. We would like her help in finding out what that is. We don’t have the resources to send one of our operatives here for any length of time.”

“You’ve come.”

“Yes, but only for a short while, a bit shorter than I had planned actually, thanks to the Windermere’s boiler. In two weeks I’ll take the Osprey west to Mallontah. We have more pressing problems there. We believe the Freedonians are arming the locals and encouraging them to attack our people.”

“Anything else?” asked Saba.

“Yes. She needs to keep an eye on her husband.”

“The Professor? Why would she need to do that?”

“We believe he has some Freedonian sympathies, as well as some Freedonian connections going way back. And considering the potency of some of his work…”

“You mean the Result Mechanism?”

“Precisely. Even discounting its use to create magical equations, it is a powerful device. I don’t think that anyone has divined its true potential yet, and my superiors are inclined to agree with me.”

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