Outline: Arketre is a soldier of the LifeGuard, (a state within a state in the Oakhostian, not so much emperor makers as emperor assessors). Although excellent as a Medician (healer/medic) and easy going when away from conflict; she has a disturbing side, a willingness to embrace battle and retribution as a means to solving what she judges as ‘wrong’ or injustice
Preamble: This ties in with the previous introduction of Karlyn. The man who was cause of the alarm fled and turned up in the custody of The LifeGuard at one of their many outposts, the officer in charge of The Astatheia observations, Captain Dekyria calls on Medician Arketre Beritt to ease the fellow out of his hysteria. There is a brief interlude Arketre is not aware of where Karlyn experiences her first awareness of her.
At the foot of the steps there was just about enough for one pace and there was a door, progress made all the more difficult by the presence of two troopers. Trex with his usual lazy smirk, Myrrek, always doleful, but both sharing a tense alertness which made Beritt inadvertently retreat until she banged her bare heel on the foot of the stairs. Erzns’ men. Sergeant Erzns’ file, the outposts’ Hounds. They never said anything about their activities, you could get banter and you would get sweeping generalisations about how the LifeGuard should be run but never any detail. Naturally you knew they did more than scout and secure the area from interlopers and the Just Curious.
One more loud, chilling scream of fear.
‘I’m hearin’ Fourth Hell’s worth of pain in there,’ Beritt asserted; her sense of service overwhelming any respect of rank ‘They been torturing someone Cap’n and gone so far y’all want me to patch ‘em up?’ agitation causing her accent to slip into its native sudd-hengestatian.
Trex knowingly winked at her in approval, she did not feel in the mood for any sort of compliment.
‘Nothing of the sort medician,’ the captain said wearily, he jerked a thumb to the door ‘In here is a fellow who has been messing about with business he should not have and got in far too deep. You are going to see what happens when someone is careless with The Astatheia,’
For an instant, her body would not move. Even smoothed out by the LifeGuard’s own idiosyncratic official term for The Stommigheid she was still prey to a deep sense of tension at the mention of the stuff. Not even her prior two years being in the religious atmosphere and analytical philosophy of the Devoteds of the Libratery had eased her instincts.
Beritt took in a deep breath; yes, she knew this was one of the reasons why the LifeGuard had the keep. Outpost Dorigen was a Station of Observation. To hold watch on the Southern West of the Oakhostian Empire, and to attend to any problems or threats of the small sorts be they subtle or downright violent. Dekyria’s ‘owls’ usually kept themselves to themselves in their own room with its metal boxes, winking lights and mirror’d surfaces with more lights. There were the requests for ‘something to help with a head pain’, the cause of which you never asked about. So, you didn’t really know what they got up to. This flurry of recollections being swept out of her head when the captain nudged her into the room.
‘Just like The Siege, Stitches ’ Trex crooned to her as he locked the door. She ignored him.
They’d taken a lot of trouble to put as much light as they could; they’d even brought in some decent bedding for the fellow to lie upon. You could almost call it comfy. Though it being obvious the man was in no condition to appreciate this nicety. Erzns lean and hardened by years of service held him by the waist, while his fileman Crylan grasped the shoulders and was speaking in his trademark everyday way, trying to infuse some sort of calm into the writhing figure. Two others stood by and shook their heads.
The man was not listening to anyone. Beritt had witnessed this sort of stare before; the look beyond the people in front of them, the stare driven by the fear running rampant through a head. She’d met it with silly lads who’d not meant to kill someone in a tavern brawl, with soldiers who had their first or one too many battles, folk who’d tried a mysterious brew they shouldn’t have. The LifeGuard did like its medicians to impose into the Community; Maintain a Presence they called it.
The man seemed to be seeing something on the opposite wall, as his wide-eyes were fixed there, another long wailing scream and a stream of incoherence. Crylan turned to Beritt.
‘Hullo Medician, you wouldn’t have something for this awful earache I’m getting would you?’
Dekyria spoke in a, slow, factual, precise way.
‘You are now going to learn something more about my file, Medician. We started noticing something upon the oculators,’ he fixed an intense gaze upon her ‘Oculator, Medician?’
‘Those dark grey metal boxes, with bright gems on the surface and black stand up mirror’d surfaces’
‘Well some might say you know too much already,’
‘Medicians end up being everywhere with everyone Captain,’
‘Fair comment. Anyway, we observed series of bright sparks jumping. It’s called grasshopping,’ he gestured to the tormented fellow’s thick grey brown leather belt inlaid on each side of the buckle with five large pale green gems ‘And this is one of the Jordisk devices they use. These allow someone to pass in and out of those places beyond the World Physical; just of the edge of the Zerstorung. Hazardous. Normally only the most daring, or insane use it. This fellow, I think, was just panicked and was desperate to get away. On his journey, he probably saw and was touched by other things way beyond nightmares. Some pathways take in all The Hells and more Medician, ‘
The man’s breath began to come in short desperate keening sounds, Beritt reckoned he was trying to say something important, but his terror was shredding his sanity.
‘What would you like me to do Captain?’ not at all certain of what was expected of her; she was still trying to cope with grasshopping and places beyond the World Physical; Zerstorung? The place where the demons lived and lurked.
‘Calm him down and get him to make sense, please. Y’see the noteworthy factor, from what we can trace is he started off on the south-eastern border with neighbouring Valeneg and now arrives two hundred and fifty myles south and west from there here in Decoryx’s mid north. Ending up a suspiciously close two myles from the outpost which is a bit of an upset seeing as how this part of our presence is supposed to be very secret. However, it is as if he knew where and who we were. Sergeant Erzns’ file was sent to find him,’ Beritt assumed the selection was intentional and not because they happened to be hanging about.
‘Screaming and crawling in circles on his hands and knees,’ the sergeant volunteered ‘We had to tie him over a horse and gag him to bring him in,’
Somewhere along a road separated by some distance and a small notch of time Karlyn twitched and sniffed.
‘I smells other horses an’ dirtier gags. But there’s nothing of fun. Hmm,’
‘No wonder he’s in a distressed state,’ Beritt suggested as she tried to come to terms with having a sort of contact with The Astatheia; while reckoning Stommigheid was the much better sounding.
‘Nevertheless,’ Dekyria interposed ‘I need to know if he truly was looking for us and why,’
‘Excuse me for asking Captain but does The Major know?’
‘He’s in contact with Drygnest, medician,’
‘Squirtz. The Castle Drygnest. Oh gladsome day. If Ah do something wrong, Ah will get Drygnest dropping a big midden right on mah poor little blonde head. Frib. Ah’d rather be midwifing a lord’s wife again. This is more a job for an Andliga, except for the LifeGuard keeping all its religious officers at Drygnest studying old texts,’
‘You’ll have to tell the sergeant and the fileman to let him go Captain. His restraint is agitating him,’
Neither man felt her suggestion was a good one and expressed as much with slow shakes of the head. The captain looked at Beritt, she looked back, he winced; she was right, but his authority was still required. She continued her fixed stare. These medicians did believe they had the right to address ethical issues to anyone, irrespective of rank.
‘You’ll have to tend to your own injuries if this goes wrong,’ he warned her. ‘Sergeant Erzns, Fileman Crylan when the medician is ready let the man go,’
‘Oh wondrous, the art of the shifting the responsibility’
There was little enthusiasm in the sergeant or fileman’s faces; in addition, the other two; Norvan and Drell who had been at rest against the far wall, eased off of it and moved in, poised. As Beritt drew closer the man twitched and again screamed. She was certain he was trying to speak, but she would have to try to break through the barrier of terror to get any sense, so she knelt before him, cold stones at once assailing her knees; his terror, this familiar sight.
The trick was to gift them normality.
‘Hello,’ she said softly laying emphasis on her sudd hengestatian drawl, accompanied by a manufactured gentle smile.
No scream from the man, just a grimace of fear and a pleading look. She thought it might be a start. Suddenly the man shot up to a crouch and Beritt was left kneeling before someone who previously had been struggling against two very capable soldiers. As he ground his teeth together and hissed in his breath, she was struck by her own sudden fear he would bite her nose, aside from the pain she would have to put up with endless jokes on the matter, particularly from Norvan and Drell, the pair now a little closer, even if they would be like lightening on the fellow should he bite her. Mixed feelings. She would press on with her work then.
‘Y’all are safe now,’ she said, plainly, but heavy on the apparent confidence. You had to make them believe in you. Truth be known to do this you had to make yourself believe in you.ke them vook their headsg farmer and made muffled howls. The Custodian scowled. He was an ol’occaisonal hub-hubin He set his attention on her as if only now aware she was there, his expression confused, his breathing turning to a simple panting as he looked down, now trying to make sense of this person kneeling, in apparent calm repose.
‘Y’ should sit with me an’ we can talk some ‘bout what troubles you,’ she knew this was a risk, patching up wounds was one thing, getting into the twists and turns of the mind was quite another, having the possibility of six soldiers ready to pounce and afterwards call her a fool was not helping. She took some solace she was still wearing her undershorts, so if she did end up sprawling backwards, all would remain hidden.
The man’s mouth worked, wordlessly at first, then he sank to his knees as if the effort to speak sense was draining him. Thus, face to face with Beritt who was in turn trying to feel she had this all under her control while not letting on she was making everything up as she went along. She patted his shoulder encouragingly, then the man suddenly lurched forward, and Beritt was glad she’d not crouched, after all any sort of sprawl was not dignified.
‘They…they…. they,’ he said, which she reckoned was a start, so she reached out and took his face in her hands.
‘Are not here,’ she hoped the words had sounded as a statement and not a suggestion. Also, she had a problem as she wanted to reach for something out of her supplies while keeping him calm. Never mind the rest watching. Concentrate. She lowered one hand to his chin, fumbled backwards to the other, assuring him all the while he was safe now.
‘The dire screams and the burning iron sun,’ the words came in short bursts, punctuated by more keening breath ‘Then I think they saw me. I saw dying…dying innocents, tortured, and knew I would be next. They loped. They slithered, they reached,’
Beritt with one hand brought up the slender wood, wrapped in leather tube. Using her thumb, she flipped open the top and passed it across the man’s nose, while holding her own breath, it would not do for the two of them to slip under its soothing vapours. Easing her other hand from his chin, she swiftly sealed the tube. The man blinked, swayed slightly once more surveyed the room, this time his eyes in focus, comprehension taking place of panic as the vapours did their calming work.
‘Safe,’ she said with a little more confidence ‘Secure,’ she added. Now to get him settled as her feet were freezing and knees protesting; so, with an inspiration born out of the memories of when her mom used to have her to care for her baby brothers she leant forward to carefully place a light kiss on his forehead. The shock of sudden tenderness caused him to sit down, blush and run his hand through his hair in surprise.
‘Goodness,’ he said suddenly ‘An angel,’
Drell muttered a complaint about how she’d not done similar to him when he’d been afflicted, causing Norvan to ask who would want to kiss a boil on the arse, particularly Drell’s ugly hairy rump.
‘What’s his secret that other men an’t got,’ grumbled Trex ‘I never had one,’
A glower from Erzns stifled any further commentary.
Meanwhile Beritt was trying not to fluster herself with surprise at her own precipitate action.
‘Oh no sir,’ she said to the man ‘Just a medician in the LifeGuard,’
‘Then I have arrived?’ he said, trembled and tears of relief began to flow down his face, as he took hold of her hands ‘But please don’t give me anything to sleep. Not sleep, they might find me in my dreams. I want to stay awake, there is much to be said,’
Beritt holding his hands rose. She would have to put her socks on. Once they both stood, she turned the man gently towards Captain Dekyria.
‘This is the officer sir you should talk to. Captain Dekyria is a fair and reasonable man,’
‘She’s obviously willing to kiss a captain’s arse,’
‘I heard that Trooper Norvan,’ growled Erzns.
Beritt with her back facing the sergeant while looking at trooper Norvan extended her right hand’s middle finger up the bridge of her nose indicating she’d heard him too. Dekyria had either chosen to ignore lower rank business or was concentrating upon the fellow and although not possessing Beritt’s capacity for gentleness none the less spoke in his own calm respectful way.
‘You’ve obviously had a very troubled journey sir. We will get you some refreshments and we might have some conversation. May we know your name?’
‘Bleymore, Svenlorn Bleymore’ he said.