After pursuing its prey to a satisfactory conclusion, the Turkanschoner did as was expected of him, he began an obedient journey back to his kennel in the city of the Tallmen. He did particularly like the idea, but his conditioning carried him back as far as the Tallmen Crypts before he sensed something strange and stopped in his tracks.
He was a beast trained for the hunt and his latest task had been an unusual one, he thought to himself and that free reflection in itself, he realised, was what made this return journey different as well. It was not that unusual to be rewarded with food rather than be allowed to dine on his captured prey - but to remain alone and off his steel chain was. His restricted, yet intelligent brain, puzzled over his present situation. The master had not returned with him, a new and different master who was not a Tallman and did not speak with a whip. Who spoke with words inside his head instead of pain?
The Turkanschoner felt the tapestry of scars which where woven across his skull, he liked this new master. He liked the freedom he had given him. He liked him more the than Tallmen who gave him his life of pain. He hoped he would call him again with the words inside his head because he, the Turkanschoner, would readily respond.
There was still a mental link between the Turkanschoner and Jonathon, even though there was no telepathic contact between them at the moment. The beast’s deprived senses had also resulted in the heightening of his latent psychic abilities, a small strengthening of them which resulted in the Turkanschoner being able to retain a mental link with his new master despite Jonathon breaking his connection.
Even the beast was not fully aware of this bond, since it was at a subconscious level, yet part of him clung on to it like a lifeline, that part being the soul or spirit that was submerged below the Tallmens’ conditioning. It was something which would drive the Turkanschoner after Jonathon because the brief spiritual and psychic contact which had been made between the two had already begun to unravel the Turkanschoner’s conditioning and eventually, would enable the being chained inside the killing machine to resurface.
Even now the beast intuitively knew that the new master must not be lost. It just knew that the master was a better alternative than the Tallmen and it deduced that returning to the Towers was not a good idea or even a necessary one any more. The unravelling of the Tallmens’ conditioning had begun.
In the meantime Turk roamed the Tallmens’ Tombs around him. The smells of long dead Tallmen intrigued him. He pushed open the nearest door and lurched in, his nostrils flaring to examine the odours around him. A death scent was here, but a different scent than that given off when he had killed his prey in the past.
The Turkanschoner entered a tomb and leapt on to the bed of the dead and ancient Tallman who lay here. He examined the dusty bones as the large, sightless skull regarded him impassively. He scratched the dome of white bone with his razor sharp talons and listened to the bone scream and then felt the mass of thick scar tissue of his own scalp.
In his mind something snapped, anger flooded through him, dim memories slipped through the net of conditioning, memories of his real past; dim, distant memories of a free and past life. War and destruction! Capture! Torture! The pain, so much pain! A new life of pain and nothing else! They did it, the Tallmen.
Anger swelled inside of him and his muscles twitched, filling with blood, fuel for the venting his anger. He tore the mocking skull and its frozen, arrogant smile from the neck vertebrae and hammered it against the wall repeatedly until it disintegrated. The Turkanschoner then turned his attention to the skeleton and proceeded to break each bone with a great satisfaction.
His anger was slowly diffused. He laughed a hollow, satisfied laugh which amused him. His own laughter had been an alien experience to him in the hands of the Tallmen, yet he had heard their cruel laughter on every occasion they had replaced the sealing wax in his ears. He thrust a talon into his ear and levered the hardened wax out and suddenly cringed expecting pain to follow. But then he realised that he was alone now, there was no one here to punish him.
He laughed again and the noise of these
long absent hollow vowels came echoing back from the walls of the crypts. The sound was so different from the noises that came to him through the bones of his skull – so much more vital. He unplugged his other ear and listened to the long lost world of sound in stereo. Suddenly he began to realise the true nature of his existence as a being that was part of a world, rather than being a closed world to himself, alone with only his thoughts and his feelings. He existed, he was! His spirit soared with this strange revelation. He was! And he could be more again! There was another sense which he was deprived of too, his sight. He knew that his eyes still functioned, the Tallmen had never blinded him.
The difference between light and dark had always registered through his eye lids, but he had never needed this information, why should he? He was a beast who could smell the time of day. But there had been brief moments when the stitches which had held his eyelids together had broken, giving him a tantalising glimpse into the world of shape and colour.
The Tallmen had never blinded the Turkanschoner permanently because they had used his sight as a channel through which to condition him and re-condition when the time arose. With the use of hypnotic lights and patterns, the past was buried and the mental entity that was the Turkanschoner was sewn into his mind. He was conditioned with images of torn and motionless corpses This was death. This was his task. He was a Dealer of Death, their detterent for traitors.
The Turkanschoner gently pulled at the stitches in his eyelids. It hurt fearfully, but the pain did not deter him. Blood dribbled down his cheeks and onto his snout. His nostrils flared in recognition. The pain was intense, but nothing to a beast who had inhabited a world of pain.
One by one the stitches were removed from his sore and bleeding lids. He howled when his talons accidentally poked into his eyeballs, blood and tears streamed down his cheeks, yet he persevered because the reward would make it worth it. Finally all the stitches had been removed and his eyes were fully open, but he could see nothing. He hammered on the floor in a fury, the pleasure of sight had been taken away from him. They had blinded him!
He leapt to his feet and began to tear the room apart. The infuriated beast began to hurl all that his claws fell upon against the walls and floor of the sunless crypt, revelling in the glorious cacophony of breaking glass, a symphony of smashing pottery, the crunching of bones, ringing metal and splintering wood.
He laughed when he picked up a new and heavy object. He would destroy this too, what sort of noise would it make he wondered? The new object was strangely familiar in his hands, recognised at a different level of being, an unconscious level. At one end he felt a leather pommel and above it a cross piece that prevented the object from sliding down and out of his hand. Gripping it tightly, the Turkanschoner hammered the object into the wall. It did not break, but the ceremonial sword sent a shower of golden sparks flying into the air. The room flashed into light for an instant and the Turkanschoner was suddenly paralysed.
He blinked in the darkness. He struck the blade against the wall again and the steel and stone surfaces combined to repeat the feat and sent sparks flying onto the clothing strewn across the floor. A small flame was born, it flickered unsteadily, unstable, as yet not fully established amongst the dust and mouldy fibres. New impressions entered the Turkanschoner’s brain.
Now he understood why he could not see before and laughed a laughter which was manic and hysterical ironically reverberating in the tunnels around the tombs of the Tallmen and drowning out even the hum of the engines above, as the Turkanschoner was born again amongst the resting places of his dead masters.
The small fire was growing amongst the shredded rags of a funeral shroud in the centre of the room. The Turkanschoner examined the flame. It seemed to him to be alive, it was eating the cloth and turning it into thousands of floating ash particles. He experimented cautiously with other materials when the flame seemed to be dying. It could not eat bone or glass, but wood and leather were consumed steadily and made the flame stable.
The fire grew larger and hotter as he added more consumable material. He learned how to control the size of the fire by rationing its fuel. The bright flames fascinated him. He watched for hours, seeing shapes in the flame, faces even, some familiar, some grotesque and frightening. Lost memories were stimulated and flickered into his consciousness. A city was burning! He wondered if the fire would attempt to eat him and he thrust his hand into the flame, withdrawing it with a yelp as his flesh blistered.
Memories clawed their way back. The Tallmen came and cities burned. He was angry at the fire. He had given it life and now it repaid him with pain. The Tallmen were in the city, flames reflected in their mirror armour as they came and they killed.
He howled at the flames in derision, but they just crackled back at him in mockery. He grinned a hellish grin. Very well, he thought, he would let the flames starve. The Turkanschoner’s attention drifted from the ungrateful fire and he began to study the broken articles around the room. All the dead Tallman’s possessions had been laid with him in the tomb and most of the breakable items had been broken.
He examined golden jewellery and silver chain and discarded as useless. He was searching for something. He picked up a sword from the floor. It was plain and functional, smaller than the great heavy ceremonial sword of the Tallman.... Swords were no use against the blood fire of the Tallmen..... it felt balanced and familiar in his hands. He swept it through the air this way and that..... unless you got close.....and he had.....He knew how to instinctively use it. It made the air sing, it made him happy, feel more complete, he would take it.....like they had taken him and forced him into a world of pain.
There where throwing knifes here too, in a shoulder scabbard, nine of them and the Turkanschoner knew this was right. His face darkened with recognition. These were trophies. He took them back into rightful hands.
Looking around him, the light of the fire illuminated a life-size relief of a Tallman. The Turkanschoner mimicked the pose as best he could, before hacking off its nose with his sword. He picked up a short leather tunic and put it on. It felt good, it kept away the chill of this place. A suit of finely linked chain mail was discarded - too heavy. He selected a leather helmet with huge, curling ivory horns and put it on, expertly tying up the complicated leather buckle beneath his chin.
A large leather belt was next to be donned, after he had bored extra holes so that it fitted around his thin waist. He recognised the sword’s scabbard and attached it to the belt and slid the weapon home.
A brass bossed shield was soon slung over his back and the Turkanschoner felt relaxed. He felt at home with these swords, shields and daggers, they felt part of him, part of what he was... had been. He had lost so much.
Home, a misty memory came to him of open vales surrounded by tall, cloud topped hills and dense pine forests. Men, dressed as he was now, ran towards the columns of black smoke on the horizon, they shouted in fear. Bells tolled.
“To arms, the Gate has been breached!” Swords and shields flashed in red light of a rising winter sun. He was with them. He felt their fear and their excitement. They shouted and screamed as they ran.
For a moment he was there again. The memory faded. The Turkanschoner sighed deeply, tears welling in his eyes. Such memories had tormented him before, slipped away from his grasp and he had remained incomplete. But today they had been more vivid and prolonged. He knew that part of him was lost, buried within in him, the Tallmen had taken it in exchange for their gift of a colony in their empire of pain. He shrugged his bony shoulders and chipped away the rest of the Tallman’s face from the relief. He stood silent and stared at the faceless Tallman, then spat on it.
“Bad, all bad.”
The Turkanschoner moved over to the bed and lay down. He was tired, today had been a strange day. His head ached. Something was happening to him he realised, doors had been briefly opened in his mind, doors that had been bolted and barred for as long as he could remember.
He sat upright and dozed, the past still filtering through from where it had been buried and now manifesting itself in the form of dreams, some which caused him to growl and hiss in his sleep, others which caused him to weep.
He awoke with a start. A subtle shift in consciousness alerted him to the fact that his new master was awake and moving. The now clothed and armed Turkanschoner trotted into the corridor and sniffed the air. He glanced once at the way which led back to his cage in the Towers of the Tallmen, then the hunched backed warrior turned and lurched into the dust and darkness which would lead him back to the well shaft, his shield beating like a battle drum against his bony shoulder blades. He knew he must not, could not, lose contact with his new master for he held the key to all the Turkanschoner had lost. Already precious memories had begun to escape into his consciousness. He had a vague idea of how he came to be here, who he was and what he had lost to the Tallmen.
But there was more. His master Jonathon would open new doors for him he knew and, in gratitude, theTurkanschoner had already sworn a secret silent oath of undying loyalty to him.