The Aterland Chronicles

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Chapter 34: New Order

“Enter,” Ka’s voice boomed out towards the thick oak door.

Since his transformation, the virtue of patience eluded him.

Baroque entered, giving a cursory nod before approaching. The Senior Custodian carried a book so huge that he struggled to lift it. The volume’s scalloped pages were edged in gold leaf.

“It is done?” Ka had little respect for the Senior Custodian, but for now, he needed him.

“It is, my Lord,” Baroque appeared to avoid meeting Ka’s gaze as he placed the Grimoire carefully on the Fyre Meister’s desk.

“Am I so hideous that you cannot bear to look me in the eye, Lord Baroque?” Ka approached him, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth as he sensed the Custodian’s trepidation. “Perhaps I should have left you in the dungeons, where my officer’s found you…”

“No, My Lord,” Baroque fingered his Apis pin, “I have always been your loyal servant, and I am eager to continue my service under your New Order.”

“Indeed?” Ka turned to look out of the balcony window. Ribbons of fire leapt from the top of a gigantic cloud of black smoke surrounding the domed building adjacent to the Ascension Basilica. “We no longer have the need for a library of books filled with lies. When the next Ascension Dawn arrives, the novices will learn that there is only one book of any importance to their education. Only when they have mastered the teachings of The Unification will they be granted access to the magic contained within the pages of The Grimoire.”

“As always, I look forward to the next Ascension,” said Baroque, “this time even more so. I consider it a great honour to be playing my part in the foundation of the Oratory’s New Order.”

“Good… good,” Ka watched as the domed roof of the Oratory Library crumpled, disappearing beneath a towering wall of smoke and flames. “I am gratified to hear you say that because I have something important to ask of you.”

“Anything, My Lord.”

Ka turned to face Baroque, smothering a smile as he noticed the Senior Custodian’s discomfort as he forced himself to meet Ka’s gaze. The man is as weak as a wet flea.

“Today, during my conversation with the Sooth, he imparted two rather interesting pieces of information.” Ka rested his scaled hand on Baroque’s shoulder, immediately feeling Baroque’s instinctive shudder. The man’s open display of fear, for some reason, irritated Ka, though he was not about to give Baroque the satisfaction of knowing that.

“According to the Sooth, Lady El-on-ah was recently captured by Aurum refugees led by Lord Dux. She is being held by his centurion guards at Isingwild. He continues to assure me that at around the same time a Whyte perished on the shores of Knucker’s Bay. The implication is that it is Lady Rose. However, he does not refer to the Whyte as such, and that makes me somewhat suspicious. We are holding Lady El-on-ah’s Pukis in the guardhouse. The beast should have no trouble locating its mistress. I need you to accompany the animal to Isingwilde and attempt to free her if possible. If Lady El-on-ah was successful in completing the task I set, then she has items that I need. I also want you to confirm the Sooth’s affirmation that Rose the Whyte is no longer a threat. If he is lying by omission, as I suspect, and Rose survives, then you are to return here immediately with the articles you redeem from El-on-ah. Baroque, this mission is vital. I am trusting you to bring me the means to destroy Rose of the Whyte - do not let me down.”

“Just to be clear my Lord,” Baroque’s voice shook, “You are asking me to bring you the components of fractionation venom?”

“Indeed, and if you cannot retrieve the ingredients from El-on-ah, then you must source them yourself. You will not return here without them,” Ka motioned towards the Grimoire resting on his desk. ”The recipe for fractionation venom is on page seven hundred and ninety-three. Make a list.”

“A list of what?” It was Shevanna, and her curiosity was evidently piqued.

Ka had not heard her enter the room. His irritation grew. Can I find no peace from this woman…

“Nothing to worry your beautiful head about, Sheeva,” his jaw tightening as he greeted her with a small peck on the cheek. “I am sending this Ascendant on a mission to find some rare delicacies for our table, I’ve been neglecting you recently and wish to remedy that situation. In fact, Lord Baroque, we should not delay you from completing your task. Commander Zelron will provide you with everything you require for your journey.”

Baroque gave a small nod and turned to leave.

“One moment,” Ka gestured to Baroque.

The Ascendant halted, waiting beside the open doorway as Ka joined him.

“Something for your trouble.” Ka took a potens ring from the purse on his belt and pressed it in Baroque’s palm, “for El-on-ah,” he whispered.

Baroque lowered his eyes, responding with a barely visible nod.

Finding this reassuring, Ka smiled to himself as he re-joined Shevanna. Baroque understands what he has to do.

“I am counting on you,” Ka called over his shoulder as Baroque left the room, “and I am sure you are aware how very unwise it would be to disappoint me”.

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