Scourage of the Terrablossom
Chapter 6: The Cabinet of Caligary
When Edge woke up, all he could see around him were the people of Tadcaster. Each was brandishing some sort of medical aid; be it herbs, bandages, plasters, they seemed to want to help Edge recover.
Paet was standing right above him.
“Don’t worry, Edge,” Paet said, “We’ve sent some people to the next village to buy some elixirs. They should be back in a couple of hours.” He grinned. “The people of Tadcaster have trained some Stryders to carry them. They’re faster than Coolia, any day.”
Edge felt sore, but he had to say it. “Trained some Stryders!? Stryders are monsters of the desert! They can’t be tamed.”
“Tell them, not me. As far as I know, we’ve trained them, and they’re going to get your medicine, so stop complaining.”
Edge coughed. “What about Spirit? My dragon?”
Paet laughed. “Spirit’s fine. He was awake long before you. He looks totally unharmed; all the marks that Tyrune’s lightning made on him have disappeared. If only they could heal people as fast as they can heal themselves…”
The crowd looked at Spirit, who was sitting atop one of the few buildings in Tadcaster still standing. He was looking at the sky, almost as if he was waiting for something to happen. Edge was amazed. “I thought he was gone…Thank the gods…”
“Don’t mention gods around me!” Paet growled, shocking the crowd. Tadcaster was a simple village, but they were still afraid that the gods would unleash their ire on them if they did something to upset them. A growing mutter started up around Paet, who was looking rather red, from embarrassment, and also sorry he had opened his mouth.
“I’m sorry, Edge. You know how I feel about the church.”
“I have a feeling you haven’t told the people of this village about your past, Paet. Or more specifically, about your father….”
“I HAVE NO FATHER!!” screamed Paet. That remark from Edge had put Paet into a rage, a rare state for the man. “EDGE!!! LISTEN TO ME!! NEVER, EVER, MENTION MY FATHER!!”
Edge guessed that this was quite common for Paet. Even when he knew him back in Zoah, Paet was very anti-religious. He wasn’t an atheist, far from it, but he didn’t believe the gods would protect Zoah. He was, sadly, right. Zoah was blitzed by the Imperials soon after Paet’s father, Vaiman, was elected High Priest. Paet only escaped because of the airship he had been fixing for months. It was an ancient artifact, badly damaged until Paet got his hands on it, but it flew far enough. It got Paet and Bezer, who was the son of the previous high priest, out of Ground Zero and to relative safety. Soon after, the seekers found Paet and Bezer, and tried to convince them to join the seekers. Paet was completely against it, refusing to believe their goal was to save the world, still preferring to believe the hearsay that they were a band of tomb robbers. Bezer was too young to take the loss of his father and his village. Before Paet could make up his mind, Bezer had flown off on Paet’s airship, which had not been serviced since it’s last flight. The ship crashed after flying a fair distance, but Bezer didn’t survive the crash. He was alive when he landed, but not for long after. An’jou’s caravan was nearby the crash site, but they couldn’t save them. Paet never found out about Bezer, as far as Edge knew, but eventually, Paet joined the seekers, at least for the time being. Earlier though, Paet mentioned Gash’s spies in a distasteful tone. It is pretty much certain, Edge thought, that Paet has left the Seekers now. He probably left when they found this village.
As for Paet’s father, Paet hated him. In Paet’s eyes, and in Edge’s, Vaiman was a corrupt, vile, son-of-a-bitch. He used Edge to get to his High Priesthood, which was really more of a mayoral title in his case. Vaiman had absolutely no respect for the church. He laughed at all of the threats to Zoah, including the Empire, believing that the town was protected, but he didn’t give the protectors any credit at all. Zoah was totalled soon after, the gods looking the other way that day(!)
“Paet! Get a hold of yourself! That’s all in the past now! It doesn’t matter anymore!”
“MY HOME TOWN WAS DESTROYED, EDGE!!!! EVERYONE WAS KILLED!!! EVEN BEZER DIDN’T SURVIVE LONG AFTER!!!”
“That was his decision, Paet. Calm down.”
Then Edge did something brave.
He stood up, and punched Paet as hard as he could in the face, knocking him to the ground. “Did that knock you to your senses!?”
There was a hard silence, as the crowd waited to see if Paet would jump to his feet, knock Edge to the ground and start a fight. They didn’t know Paet very well. In fact, Paet’s reaction was to lie on the ground and laugh.
“Thanks, Edge. I needed that. Sorry.”
Edge helped Paet up.
“You punch pretty hard for a kid!” Paet observed.
“I’m a hunter, or at least, I was. I’m expected to be strong.”
There was another pause.
“Tyrune! He said he’s going to attack Zoah! I have to save them! SPIRIT!”
“Edge, calm down. Zoah is perfectly fine.”
“Zoah is fine. They have everything they need to repel a monster attack. And an Imperial one for that matter.”
“Imperial? As in….. the Empire?!”
“Not THE Empire. The Zwei-Imperials.”
Paet sighed. “Edge, come inside. You need to be clued up if you’re going to do anything for this world. Here, I’ll help you walk. Heh. You’re one tough kid. The medicine shouldn’t be too long, don’t worry.”
Once again, we must now leave Edge to focus on the Imperial Capital. It was a short time after Dr Caligary of the Draconian Institute of the Empire gave his presentation to the Emperor, who was now enjoying a large dinner composing of chocas, Coolia meat, and even a Golia leg, with all the natural armour taken off of course. The Emperor was a rather fussy eater. Just as he was biting into a choca, his assistant entered the dining room.
“Your Imperial Highness, we have news.”
“Is it so important, assistant, that you interrupt my dinner?”
“We thought we’d leave that for you to decide. It concerns the dragons.”
The Emperor spat out a mouthful of water that he was using to help him swallow the rather tough choca.
“Yes, sir. Two of them in actual fact.”
“Do these dragons have names at all?”
“We don’t know yet, sir. We know one has three heads, and is pretty much responsible for taking out a small village on the outskirts of the Garil Desert. The other one is at the same village just now, keeping an eye on the people until medicine gets there.”
“Interesting information. How do we know about this?”
“Emperor, you, of all people, should know of the Empire’s ability to plant a spy anywhere we want. The Village of Tadcaster was just as easy to infiltrate as any other town or village. Oh, but Emperor, the dragons were not the most interesting information.”
“No, sir. Our spy claimed to have spotted a rather interesting youth, clad in a brown, hunter’s outfit. He has a healthy taste for chocas…”
“I don’t care about what food he likes. Why should I care about him at all?”
“Because, your Highness, he has a great resemblance to THE dragon rider.”
This time the Emperor choked on a piece of Coolia meat. After swallowing what looked like a pint of water, he managed to whisper something.
“THE dragon rider? Edge?!”
“If you mean the boy who rode the dragon which took on the old Empire’s command fleet 10 years ago, then you are right. That’s the one. He even had this.” The assistant opened his palm, and revealed to the Emperor an old Impenia coin, complete with battle cruiser/ Emperor design, and unreadable language.
“An old coin!”
“A 15 year old coin, to be exact. After the fall of the old Empire, most people burned their Imperial currency to make metal objects, believing the currency to have no monetary value. This is the first coin of its kind to be seen for about 8 years.”
“Amazing…a rider and a dragon in the same village.”
“Possibly the rider OF the dragon, your Highness.”
The Emperor’s eyes bulged.
“It wouldn’t surprise me, sir.”
“Good grief…. I didn’t really feel like Golia tonight anyway,” he said, getting out of his seat. “Where’s Caligary?”
Caligary was at that moment walking through the Imperial market. Amazingly, he did not stop at any stalls, nor was he enticed by the incredible, on-the-spot desperation offers that most stall holders made up to get costumers. The stall holders didn’t even approach him, which was of great surprise to most people.
Caligary seemed to be walking in a trance, so much so, that he didn’t see the armed soldiers on the wall just to his left. He didn’t hear them either.
“Hey, that’s that flash ponce that was talking to the Emp.”
“His Imperial Highness! Do you want to lose your head!?”
“Hell will probably be better than this god-forsaken dump any day. Especially after we got switched jobs by that Son-of-a-bitch General.”
“Yes, but you want to go to Heaven, don’t you, head private?”
“I work for the Empire, you stupid bastard, there’s no chance of me getting in there. I’m basically a trained, emotionless killing machine. Look.” He aimed his gun at his friend and pulled the trigger. There was a click, and the other soldier jumped about 3 foot in the air.
“It’s not even loaded, bitch. You need to be more observant.”
“Shut up. I outrank you.”
“So I could still kill you and no-one would give a damn.”
“Thanks! I feel really secure now!” said the higher ranked soldier in the most sarcastic voice he could muster.
“Hey, Sarge, what do you say we see if that ponce has any money on him? He works for the Imperial University, I heard. His pay is about 100 times ours!”
“Did you hear that, too?”
“Well, 100 times bugger-all is still bugger-all. Dammit, let’s follow him. If he gets some cash out, we get him.”
So they did follow him. Oddly enough, Caligary didn’t pull out one coin or note by the time he reached the other side of the market, even with a number of ladies inviting him to put some money their way.
“If he is loaded, he’s pretty tight with his money, isn’t he?”
“Dunno. He just doesn’t want to spend it?”
There was a deep sigh from the Sergeant. “That’s what I meant.”
“To Hell with it, let’s just get him when he turns down that alleyway.”
“How do you know he’s gonna go down that alleyway?”
“Because he just did, idiot. Let’s go!”
The head-private (who now wasn’t even significant to have his title capitalised) and the Sergeant walked at a fairly fast speed up to the alleyway, and turned in.
“Hey, Academy ponce! Give us your money!”
The rest of the scene will be left to the imagination. We will return here later.
“So, still determined to go to Zoah, Edge?” Paet asked.
“I must, Paet. I need to find Gash. I promised him I’d meet him after I battled Sestren, but I never did. I need to see him. It’s only fair.”
“How do you know Gash is even in Zoah? He might have moved since that hunter last saw him.”
“Even if he has, I have to go. I have to know. He might even know where I can find…”
“Find who, Edge?”
“Nothing. Nothing… I’d best be going.”
As Edge stood up, so did Paet. He took a book from the shelf behind him.
“Edge, take this.” He handed Edge the book. “It’s a book I wrote while you were away. It contains a lot of information about monsters, the different types, different attacks they have, and so on. There’s a huge section on dragons in there too, at the end. I looked up Spirit, that’s where the bookmark is.” Edge noticed a large, red bookmark between two pages of the book. “Take that book, and it’ll give you some information about any monsters you’ve never met, and probably your dragon’s transformations as well.”
“Good luck, Edge. Just head East, you’ll find Zoah. It’s the village with the large lighthouse-like structure in the middle of it.”
“OK. I’ll be back to see you again. You know that?”
“I do now.”