041 Those Who Watch the Sky - 41
41 – Children Seeking Their Own Sky 8
“So how long are you willing to wait Verdant?”
Rubbing the back of his head with his left hand, Bird turned a cursory glance in the bishop’s direction. The bishop stood calmly with his back to the wall of machine sentries and his hands clasped behind him. He had not taken his eyes off of the operating room door since Balgun had entered, nor had he moved from his current position. His patience would have impressed or amused Bird if he wasn’t so bored waiting in the brick corridor. Fortunately for Bird, the bishop was willing to respond. Shifting his eyes in Bird’s direction the bishop spoke a question of his own.
“Have you so little faith in the card that you have played Bird?”
“I just love the way you slip into your true bitter nature when I’m the only one around. It fits you so much better Verdant.”
“Was your question little more than provocation to amuse yourself Bird?”
“Not at all Verdant. It just seemed the right response at the time. But being more serious, unlike the old man I’ve read the reports already about what’s going on there. Considering how long it’s been how do we know that he wasn’t just burned to a crisp as soon as stepped into those flames?”
“You really do have so little faith Bird. It leaves me imitating you and wondering how it is that so faithless a man ended up with the Cardinal Church.”
“Because my cynicism and general distrust of people with Choir’s pay ended up being a fine combination. I get to travel, meet new people, and make a killing spilling their secrets. It’s a good life normally when I’m not dealing with tough nuts like you.”
“I see… Regardless, Sorcerer Balgun is no member of the Cardinal Church and with his reputation your lack of faith is amusing. Should you be correct however then it is time that I summon a Sa·B·er to execute the girl. Perhaps the Knight Prince would be ideal and rid us of the panic that his meeting with Cardinal will bring should knowledge of his existence reach beyond this cathedral.”
“I assure you gentlemen, nothing of the sort will be necessary.”
Stepping out of the operating room Balgun held his own hands behind his back, a twinkle in his eye and a smile upon his lips. Seeing the little old man Bird sighed with blatant relief.
“Why’d you have to go and take so long? You honestly had me worried you had been killed or something.”
“Now why would I have been Bird. Link is quite the sweet girl when you don’t try to prod her with knives. She’s exhausted understandably from her ordeal and trying to keep the Foreigner from killing everyone here. I’ll be able to get more out of her come the morning once she’s had some time to sleep, and bishop, I will be taking over the research team assigned to the dear girl. She has no intention of speaking with anyone other than myself, but as I have already promised to share what I learn with you then it is in your best interests not argue. And just to prove that I am a man of my word allow me to speak of the Foreigner itself.”
Stepping away from the operating room door, Balgun placed himself before the bishop. Looking up and just over the rims of his spectacles his twinkling eyes and proud smile challenged the bishop to stand against him. The bishop held his silence however and Balgun’s smile grew victorious.
“Hmph! Glad to see you’ve the wit about you to know to let your betters speak.”
Clearing his throat Balgun continued.
“Anyway, the girl is absolutely amazing. A true prodigy and nigh genius if one has ever walked the face of Icarus. Admittedly, Hazel deserves a fair amount of recognition for his part in this and I must speak with the man on his work should ever I cross paths with him again. Ahem. Regardless, the nature of the Foreigner is Ambrosial of nature. The flames that consume what lays beyond that door are not fire but in truth Nectar so dense as to be physically tangible.”
“Wait! Nectar? That stuff is Nectar?”
“Quite right Bird.”
With Balgun’s confirmation Bird’s face paled and he moved wearily away from the operating room door growing closer to the wall of machine sentries. With an incredulous look on his face and panic coating his voice he continued his interruption of Balgun’s report.
“That’s absolutely crazy Balgun! That much Nectar and that dense! It’s a bomb that would make the fall of Lucir look like a scratch compared to a lost limb!”
“Perhaps, but you have none other to blame than those who pushed the girl to this point.”
Though not particularly subtle, Balgun still turned his gaze from Bird back to the bishop to emphasize his point. The bishop’s cold look did not change but Bird became quite riled as he turned his attention onto the bishop.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done Verdant⁈ One wrong move and Foothold will just be a smoking hole in the face of Icarus!”
“Yet Master Balgun is quite at ease Bird. I am certain there is good cause for your lack of concern sorcerer beyond accepting the inevitable.”
“You’re a smart lad it seems when you’re not being a straight fool. But in simpler and less demeaning words. Yes. As I said, Link is quite astounding. She beggars belief to be frank and I am absolutely on my heels with excitement to learn more about her.”
“I’m really hoping something in all of that nonsense you just said means she’s not going to wipe Foothold out.”
“By the time Icarus’ Eyes close again after tonight Bird I can have her as darn near human as any Sa·B·er can hope to be. And that is because the daft girl can’t even cast magic using her own gate, no less open it.”
“You’re losing me Balgun.”
Bird was more willing to verbalize his confusion than the bishop, but the narrowing of the Bishop’s eyes spoke volumes. Amused by the ignorance of the men he shared the corridor with, Balgun further explained.
“Link doesn’t cast magic the same way the rest of us do, but a rather different way due to her training as an engineer craftsman.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“If you’d stop interrupting Bird I could explain easily.”
Though he spoke with obvious offense taken and rubbed the back of his head, Bird offered no further interruption beyond his single word apology.
“Now, where was I? Yes, I was speaking of how Link casts magic. It is quite extraordinary I must say. The girl does not open her own gate and does not even know the sensation of her own. She is far too used to interacting with an Artificial Gate Generator since her earliest memories and in turn is only used to the feeling of an Ambrosial Gate being outside of her own body. As a result she casts magic by spilling in Nectar from Ambrosia by forcing the Foreigner’s Ambrosial Gate out of it and opening it. It was that very same method that she used to turn on the dam you spoke of Bird and the Dolmen. Forcing her will onto it she even overrode the pilot recognition system so that way Elliot could pilot it. It was absolute brilliance on her part and I can’t wait for the girl to get some sleep so we can talk some more. I would also love to see if I can’t teach her to recognize and open her own gate. If she could and open it within the Foreigner’s…! Hm, hm! The possibilities the, possibilities.
“I am quite excited gentlemen and must thank you both for this opportunity. I lost my hands the last time I sought to experiment with opening a gate within a gate and now a fine dear of a girl with the strength of will to control the density of Nectar that could be summoned that way has appeared before me. I’m sure with everything that I can learn for both of us that you have no complaints at all letting me take over in Link’s case?”
“No. No, not at all Master Balgun. I look forward to what more you can learn from the girl as well as the applications such knowledge can be applied to.”
“Hm, hm! So even an ignorant fool such as you are willing to learn, eh?”
“Perhaps Master Balgun. Perhaps. If you’ll excuse me however, there are arrangements I must make tonight to accommodate your position as the new lead researcher into the nature of the girl’s Foreigner.”
Turning away the bishop stepped past the machine sentries and soon disappeared down the corridor. Neither Balgun nor Bird followed him immediately as they had words yet to exchange with each other. Naturally Bird led off with his typical discourteous sarcasm.
“You really pulled his choker Balgun. I can’t help but think that he’s going to make my life even more difficult now for getting you involved.”
“That will likely be only the beginning of your troubles Bird.”
“I really don’t like the sound of that…”
“You’ll like the sound of what else I have to say even less, though it is best I speak such words away from this place. At most I will ask you if Choir still owes me a favor?”
“I’m already liking this less and less Balgun, and you say it’s only going to get worse?”
“Quite, but we best be away from this place should we speak on it more.”
“I get the feeling I don’t have a choice in the mater. Yeesh. I really hope all of this is worth it.”
Bird was not alone in his feelings about the trouble that bringing Balgun into his investigation had caused. The bishop was equally hopeful for the best results he could attain from Balgun’s arrival. To accomplish such he would, like Bird, have to rely on his own network of shady informants and the next day around midday he had summoned a number of such individuals to his office.
“Been a long time Yer Holiness. Hard to think that ye have work for ol’ Boulder Shrew that doesn’t involve an immediate and bloody outcome.”
Strutting across the bishop’s office Boulder placed a hand on the desk within and leaned his weight into it. The wooden desk groaned under Boulder’s weight but somehow managed to support the massive chimeric man. For all of his posturing however Boulder had no effect on the bishop’s typically cool demeaner. Resting his chin on his interlaced fingers the bishop looked up at Boulder and offered his explanation.
“It is not that I even believe you capable of more Sa·B·er, but your reputation and circumstances make you a fine fit for the work I need done.”
“As condescendin’ as ever I see Yer Holiness. But still, a job’s a job and seein’ as I’ve takin’ an apprentice under my wing, ‘avin’ a good one or three is a good thing for them and me.”
“As your apprentice is one of the targets of this job it would be best that you keep them ignorant.”
“What’s that I’m hearin’ Yer Holiness? You best explain quick to as I don’t very much like the sound of it.”
The jovial mirth disappeared from Boulder’s voice in an instant as Melody was revealed to be a target for whatever scheme the bishop was brewing. Glowering down upon the bishop and bearing his full girth intimidatingly Boulder deigned to get the bishop to talk. It was unnecessary as the bishop already intended to and could easily ignore Boulder’s hostile aura.
“You need not fret about their wellbeing Sa·B·er. As long as they continue to serve mankind as a Sa·B·er the Cardinal Church would never allow harm to befall them.”
“Ain’t the church I’m worried about Yer Holiness. T’s yeself.”
“And I assure you I have no reason to harm a valuable source of information. And I assure you I need information quite readily from your apprentice Sa·B·er. The information I need though requires her ignorance lest your frequent business partner Bird and the sorcerer Balgun learn of my awareness to their actions.”
“Ah~. Now I get it Yer Holiness. This involves the three kids on a whole and whatever little game you an’ Bird ‘ave been playin’ with ‘em.”
“A crude, but acceptable interpretation Sa·B·er. But as you seem to have grown comfortable working with others, I believe it would be in all of our best interests if I introduced you to who you will be working with for this job.”
Boulder wasn’t sure how the bishop signaled for the doors to his office to open without moving at all, but as they did he picked himself up off the desk and turned to face the entrance to the office. He visibly paled as two icaran men walked in, garbed in great coats matching the other’s hair and their own eyes over long boots and waistcoats topped with jabot neckties. The two ornately dressed men appeared more so as posh noblemen than those who would be involved with the dirty work of which Boulder was accustomed. The weapons the held braced against their shoulders spoke otherwise however. For the silver-haired man with the long twisting lock hanging beside his left eye, the flintlock riffle butt with but a hint of a barrel that supported an unusually long saber blade was his weapon. His curly, red-haired companion’s weapon in contrast was a massive blade bent like a boomerang with an odd gem set in its pommel. As they strode into the office Boulder visibly trembled as he gnashed his teeth together with both rage and fear shaping his words.
“The Mouser brothers! Ye’ve gone and brought in the damnable Mouse Hunters fer a simple observation job. Do ye think I’m that deep into Bird’s pockets Yer Holiness, or is there soemthin’ else to this job I should know a pinch more about?”
“This job requires the finest finesse Sa·B·er. I need you to be encouraged and motivated to not just strive for it but achieve it flawlessly. Do not worry however, these fine Sa·B·ers have a great deal more to do for me than watching over you, so you are free to warn Bird if it makes you feel less trapped.”
“Ye’ve taken a real nasty spill of late Yer Holiness if ye’re playin’ like this. But don’ worry. Ol Boulder Shrew is game to play if for no other reason than to not lose ‘is ‘ead.”
“I’m so glad to hear it Sa·B·er. And now Bird, we can pit our next hands against each other.”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater
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