Jonathon Postlethwaite and the Seed of Corruption

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CHAPTER THIRTY

On the rooftops, amongst the great domes of the Engine Halls, Flax’s eager army prepared for their sternest test. They darted across the roofs in small groups, clinging to the shadows, aware of the Tallmen and their searchlights and searing weaponry.

But the searchlights remained off and the Towers dim, starved as they were, of the energy they needed to function effectively. It was the same throughout the Tallmens’ city, all non-essential power had been diverted to the field expanders in an effort to sustain the field walls which flickered and flashed threatened to collapse. The Tallmen had observed what had happened in the city and prepared as well as they could, and sat and waited watching the scuttling targets on their infrared screens in the Sentry targets, but knowing that the automatic laser turrets would remain still and useless.

The Tallmen warriors had moved down to ground level to meet the High Hats attack. Their hand weapons were all they had to fight off the human advance. They would be able to, they estimated, manage a dozen or so shots from their weapons before their power cells were discharged, then they would rely on ceremonial swords and shields to attempt in an attempt turn back the insane tide of High Hats burning with the desire to shed their blood for Flax’s gold bounty for every severed Tallman head they brought to his feet.

The mirror armoured warriors, feared the worst. They had seen the effectiveness of their enemy’s projectile weapons and knew that they were also outnumbered, but stood silent and still hidden in the shadows of their City preparing for their final hour.

A brooding silence had descended upon the city of Dubh, broken only by the crackle of electrical static from the shifting field walls and the rustling of clothing and rope as the High Hats descended cautiously onto the great paved area surrounding the Sentry Towers . They gathered close to the walls of the Halls of Machines, a hissing murmuring puddle, awaiting a signal from above. Fingers trembled on triggers, knives and machetes slid, singing from oiled sheaths as their eager eyes surveyed the shadows beneath the towers.

The signal came with the dull thud and flash of mortars falling around the Sentry Towers and the clang of smoke and phosphorous grenades upon the hard slabs. The smoke to hide the High Hats advance and the glowing phosphorus to draw the fire of the heat guided laser turrets.

Santiago grinned as the High Hats surged across the open space and the turrets did not reply. It would have been nice to know if his strategy would have worked had they been working, but it didn’t matter now, it was as good as over. Without their technology the race of the Tallmen was as good as extinct he figured.

From beyond the billowing clouds of smoke the Tallmen heard the heart stopping banshee wails of the advancing High Hats. Random shots rang out as they came only to be drowned out by the rising roar of a thousand pairs of hobnailed boots pounding on stone.

A palpable terror rose in the Tallmen ranks as they as they peered into the smoky gloom for their manic and invisible foe. Then after what seemed an age to them, wave after wave of them appeared, snarling, screaming, eyes widened in hatred and the desire for the gold they would earn for the pleasure of killing.

Lasers flashed and High Hats fell charred, but soon the sea of black cloth and top hats swamped them, guns blazing and blades slashing. In moments of thundering chaos the Tallmen warriors were crushed and cut to pieces by eager bounty hunters.

Flax walked amongst the remains of the Tall warriors who had fell to his army. He had realised that to kill them all was a mistake, he need to know how to work the machinery that lay in the dark buildings at the farthest extent of the realm’s field walls. Without Tallmen to operate it, at least briefly and the knowledge of how it was done he would have no empire to rule.

He called off the majority his horde, sending them back to the Upper City to claim their rewards from his paymasters. Now was the time for diplomacy. The soldiers of his enemy had fallen, so under a flag of truce and backed up by a hundred of his personal bodyguard he advanced toward the pyramid shaped building which squatted at the centre of the Tallman city.

Nothing stirred until he reached the stone structure’s door. He was close enough to touch it when it slid noiselessly open, permitting a dull light to send a weak, yellow shaft into the smog around the city.

Flanked by two tall warriors who bore only ceremonial spears, an ancient, white bearded Tallman studied the grinning human who stood at the doorway. The two leaders stood silently surveying one another for a while before the wizened giant spoke. “Who are you?” he spat.

Flax smiled at him, his yellow teeth glistening in the gloom.

“Why I am Silus Flax of course, new Emperor of this realm, Master of the Two Cities and Master of....” he paused for a while and chuckled. “… and Master of the Tallmen.” There was silence and then the old man laughed back. “HA! Master of Nothing.” he sneered back impassively at Flax.

“If I choose, this place will become less than nothing in seconds; I only have to say the word!”

Flax folded his arms and stared at the Tallman leader and shook his head.

“But you have not, have you? You could have destroyed all this before we got this far, as soon as your soldiers were defeated. Yet you did not. We are still here! I ask myself ... why?” Flax’s eyes narrowed. A poor bluff he thought! He moved closer to the Tallman Elder and stared up into his eyes. “What you should have asked me, was “what you want”? Not who are you. Do you understand me old man?” Flax sauntered inside. The guards lowered their lances, but the Tallman Elder waved them away. “You will not destroy this place while there is still hope. Suicide is for the weak and martyrdom the stupid.” Flax put his hand on the Elders shoulder. “You are neither weak or a martyr.”

The Elder narrowed his eyes. The human was right of course. Had the other Elders met to debate this issue, they would have ended Dubh’s existence, they would not fall to a lower race. IF they had met, but now they lay dead in their chairs around that debating table. He alone had the strongest desire for self preservation; he had only one principle - survival.

The Tallmen still had knowledge this human needed, while they had it, they had power. This Silus Flax,

this self proclaimed emperor, would bargain. That was why was here, unarmed and vulnerable. Both of them would negotiate and both knew it. The Elder smiled at Flax and Flax smiled back at him. They both began to laugh loudly. Then the Elder stretched out a hand and shook Flax’s.

“Come in Silus Flax, we have much to discuss.” he said and then bowed theatrically as Flax entered and signalled his bodyguard to follow.

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