Jonathon Postlethwaite and the Seed of Corruption

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CHAPTER FOUR

Jonathon awoke, but did not open his eyes. The paralysis of fear had left him shaken, but he had recovered enough to realise that the threat had passed. His dreams, during unconsciousness, filled with terror. Over and over again they repeated those scenes he had witnessed on his journey here. His experiences with the wild woman and the Black Gaffer, Silus Flax, returned with such a clarity that they would have driven a lesser person insane, but for Jonathon the repetition had lessened the severity of the effect that the original events had on him.

Now, as he ran over these memories in his conscious state, he was able to examine the unfortunate and terrible episode in perspective. He had been unwary, numbed by the countless and shocking new experiences he was having on the streets without his Grandfather to guide and protect him. The intensity of depravity on the surface streets of Dubh had caught him by surprise. He now realised the extent to which Cornelius had sheltered him from the reality of life and corruption of the city which, when he had come face to face with it, had caused him to freeze.

He had known that death and depravity were common place in Dubh, but he had never, until the events of the previous night, realised either the scale of such things or the depths to which human beings had fallen. Jonathon had woken on this morning to the depressing enlightenment of his own isolated position and his purpose in this world.

The face of the insane murderer, who had violated the security of his naive world, still haunted him, though the events had become mere facts now without emotional content. The dark, leering mien of the beast, who had come so close to taking him on the street, haunted Jonathon in his dreams. His dark pit-like eyes had threatened to devour him, his physical death would have been a mere sideshow for this beast.

Jonathon knew Flax would have devoured his soul. His sensitive psyche had inadvertently touched Flax’s soul and been scorched by it, but he knew much about him now, he knew exactly who he was and what he had done and what he planned to do.

This creature that called itself Silus Flax was the embodiment of evil itself in this city, was its emissary, a man manipulated by an ethereal, but sentient force which was at work here in Dubh. This man was the man who Cornelius called the Shadow Man or the Black Gaffer, this was also the man who had been responsible for the death of Jonathon’s parents.

He would lead Jonathon out of this hell as Cornelius had said, fate had now introduced them and their destinies had become entwined. Yes, Flax might lead Jonathon way from this place, but the young Postlethwaite was now convinced that he must also destroy the monster that he knew as Silus Flax, put to an end to his foul ambitions and the existence of the corrupted city of Dubh itself. But as yet, he had no idea of how he would achieve this task.

Jonathon opened his eyes. He was still in the dark, but sensed that the Tallmens’ daylight had returned. He studied his surroundings in the dim light. He was in a small shack, constructed between the two adjacent tiled roofs. The roof of this dwelling was made of rough flat boards placed between them and covered by canvas. The far end of the shelter was closed by heavy dark curtains that were rippled by a breeze which attempted to push them aside. He found himself wrapped up in musty old coats and bolts of cloth and had been placed in a makeshift bed amongst three others. The place smelled dank and dusty, but was warm and reasonably dry.

As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light Jonathon realised that he was not alone. Towards the dwelling entrance, a pile of clothes shifted slightly and two wide round eyes blinked at him. Slowly the pile of clothes and blankets crawled towards him. Eventually he could make out the pale face of a girl of his age, her tired eyes giving the impression that she was about to fall asleep again very soon. She didn’t. She spoke to Jonathon in a whisper that she synchronized with the buffeting gusts of the wind that blew around the shelter.

“Oh my master! You does look like your Granddaddy, you really does! ” She smiled at Jonathon’s surprised expression and continued to give half an explanation of how she knew Cornelius.

“So yes, we knows you’s comin’ here and where’s and when’s to be findin’ you. Your Granddaddy makes sure we does master.” she whispered then smiled again and Jonathon smiled back, infected by the child in her personality.

His Grandfather had instructed him on how to get to the place in Bridge Street and where to wait, but Jonathon hadn’t expected to be plucked to safety from the hands of Silus Flax, in the dire circumstances in which he had found himself. He opened his mouth to speak.

“Who.....” the connection between his Grandfather and his rescuers intriguing him, but the girl cut him short.

“Shush master Jonathon! ” She hissed. ” No speak hear like that, less they down below hear us.” she moved her fingers from his lips. “Speak like us, whisper when the wind blows.”

Jonathon waited for a convenient gust of wind to ask his rapidly multiplying questions.

“Who brought me from the street? Who are you?”

The girl seemed to laugh, although she omitted to make the sounds that would normally accompany her amused facial expressions. She seemed surprised.

“Your Granddaddy no tells you of the Whisperer, that we’s the ones to be finding you?”

Jonathon shook his head. He was surprised that Cornelius had not mentioned these people. The girl looked slightly bemused.

“Well there’s a funny boy, I mean master. I wonder why he’s no telling you, perhaps......” she waited for the wind to rise again.

“Perhaps we not to tell either” she teased

She waited for Jonathon to react. He just sighed, but she noticed his eyes focused intently upon her, and felt his trained mind invading hers. The girl gasped and physically jumped backwards away from Jonathon. He withdrew and smiled apologetically. The girl looked at him open mouthed.

“Wow! You is special like he says you is.” she whispered. Jonathon shrugged his shoulders modestly.

“Tell me your name.” he asked.

The girl shook her head defiantly, but almost provocatively, a sly grin challenging Jonathon to repeat his mental intrusion. Jonathon cupped his hands together and pushed them towards her, cracking all his finger joints noisily, the distraction giving him the opportunity to slip in and out of her mind without her noticing. She shivered and gave him a disgusted look.

“Horrible master! Why you do that? ”

He beckoned her towards her and waited for the wind to rise. “ the wind told me your name.........you’re Milly aren’t you?” he now teased her.

Milly leapt to her feet and, with a look of horror on her face, bolted from the makeshift shelter. Jonathon followed, moving a little stiffly, his muscles protesting after his confinement. He found himself high above the labyrinth of tenements of the Lower City and alone amid a rambling maze of roof tops and chimneys. From here he had a panoramic view of the city, which sprawled out in all directions in a patchwork of irregular roofs, until it dissolved into the blue-grey clouds of smog that seemed to cling Dubh’s boundaries. The strong gusts of wind, which seemed to flow down to the streets below, surprised him with their chill and strength.

Down in the sheltered streets where the stagnant air gathered, the only air movement felt was during a ‘venting’, when the Tallmen opened tiny worm holes to different dimensions, hoping that the difference in air pressures would cleanse the atmosphere. Often it did, but the atmospheric violence which often accompanied it had traumatised the population into the act of sprinting in terror for shelter if anything more than a breeze was experienced at street level.

Jonathon breathed deeply, the relatively fresh air up here enriching his blood and finding its way to his cramped muscles. He slowly took in the new view of the sprawling metropolis which stretched out all around him.

From this elevated vantage point on a large block which was raised high above the others, the roof tops fell away from him towards the black river which encircled most of the Upper City. Behind its dividing walls, the dwellings of the Caste of the Skilled, the Meks, rose gently to nestle under the eaves of the huge, sooty domes of the Halls of Machines. Flax was there, thought Jonathon. In those Halls he moved, lived, schemed. He felt him. They would never be apart now they had been so close, now that he had touched that mind, now that he had tottered at the edge of that well of darkness. They had marked one another for all eternity.

Jonathon’s mind was now attached to Silus Flax in a way which resembled his attachment to Cornelius’s mind used to be. Their destinies had begun to become intertwined. He would always know where Flax was and, if he wished, what he did, but Jonathon would never reach into that poisoned, putrid abyss again unless absolutely necessary, because next time he might not return. Jonathon turned his thoughts away from Flax and returned his attention to the view of Dubh. The Halls of Machines dominated the city. They were immense, crouching like huge volcanic beasts demanding respect from the attentive city. From their summits thick, swirling blue-grey exhaust gases poured into the atmosphere, darkening the sky, half-obscuring the Towers of the Tallmen beyond the Upper City, in a great stagnant cloud that hung over the Tallmens’ abode.

Turning away from the Halls, Jonathon scrambled to the top of the roof above the Whisperer’s home and was staggered at the view which greeted him. The roof dropped straight down into the street below, so far was the drop that he could barely make out the crowds whose voices drifted up to him.

Gasping and slightly dizzy, Jonathon crept back from the edge of the roof and looked up. Vast expanses of roof tops were visible from here too. Stretching out for miles upon miles the multi-tiered slums and hovels of the Lower City grew upwards, literally a few more feet each day as new living space was needed, towards the glowing Field Wall which was Dubh’s sky.

In some places groups of buildings, like the one upon which he stood, surged upwards like hills above a plain of blackened tile, brick and concrete. A world of metropolitan hills and valleys, buttes and mesas, had evolved out of the undulating mass of brick, tile, concrete and steel.

Jonathon knew that Dubh had many levels beneath the ground, but thought that they stopped at the surface, but it was evident that it did not. It continued upwards, each new level or building precariously perched on the previous one, overhanging the network of gorge- like streets as if they might suddenly plunge down on the milling hordes below; and they often did.

Sitting on the mossy tiles above the Whisperer’s abode, Jonathon felt relaxed and safe. It was so different from life in his Grandfather’s subterranean refuge where terror and fear had always surrounded them.

Here it was almost beautiful, enveloped as he was by the calmness of this roof top world way above the masses below and under the soothing openness of the pseudo sky. But Jonathon would not relax; he had learned that lesson with his recent experiences on the street. He closed his eyes and stretched his consciousness out across the roof tops, searching for the minds of those who might do him harm.

He quickly established that the Whisperers were not the only inhabitants of this roof top world, other small groups and individuals lived amongst the mossy tiles and the damp concrete.

Jonathon detected the presence of huddled forms sleeping or idling, waiting for the onset of night when they would descend into the pits of darkness below to seek out a living. They were thieves, pickpockets - scavengers who found refuge on the roofs here from the Tans. Many were as spiritually sick as the mass of the population below, yet many unconsciously had sought a sanctuary from the forces which preyed upon their human kin on the crowded streets of Dubh.They were not suited to the world which ebbed and flowed with corruption and so sought a refuge and found it in the sea of calm which enveloped the highest points of Dubh most of the time.

The rooftops seemed a safer alternative to the street. Even the dark souls his mind had touched here were strangely restrained. For reasons he could not fathom, Dubh’s spirit of corruption could not motivate them as it did others below, could not physically reach them here. Or perhaps they were just not worth its effort.

Just as Jonathon was about to return to the shack, he spotted two figures moving rapidly in the distance on a route that would bring them right upon him.

At this distance they were merely dark specks, yet moved at an incredible pace. These individuals did not move around in the tentative manner he had done to reach this vantage point, they ran and bounded across the irregular terrain, steep roofs and street chasms seeming to present no obstacle.

They came closer. With giant inhuman leaps they cleared the ridges of the highest buildings until soon they bore down on him. Now only the wide sheer drop to the street was between them and him. Surely they would stop now, Jonathon thought.

At this closer distance he saw that they looked human despite their superhuman performances. He expected them to stop or at least divert from their suicidal path, but they did not. They charged on regardless, hurling themselves towards the edge of the ravine before leaping high into the air above the street to what seemed an unnaturally obtainable height. Once in the air they stretched out their arms to reveal wing-like membranes tied tautly between wrist and ankle. These ‘wings’ stalled their natural fall helping them to glide easily across the open space and land before a gaping Jonathon, who gazed in awe, astonished at their feat.

On landing, their heavily gloved hands, complete with talon like hooks, clattered loudly, seeking purchase between the algae and moss covered tiles. The first recovered himself and stood awaiting his companion on the ridge where Jonathon lay.

He was indeed human. His body was bound in a mummified fashion in leather and padded heavily at the knees and elbows to lessen the force of impact. This man’s face, except for the eyes, was swathed and hidden in dark cloth. The flying man turned and studied Jonathon with his intense blue eyes before moving to sit beside him.

Removing his heavy cloth headgear he smiled a toothless, but reassuring grin at the startled youth who sat on the roof top beside him. He was breathing heavily and rested for a while, continuing to study Jonathon intently while he recovered. Then he spoke, but he did not whisper with the wind as Milly had done.

“Had a good sleep Jonny-Boy..........you feel better now?” his voice remarkably soft and deep, like velvet Jonathon thought, so much like his Grandfather’s voice. Jonathon, still struck dumb by the two men’s impressive acrobatic performances, merely nodded in reply. The toothless man nodded back and sucked in air, he stretched out his taloned glove to Jonathon.

“I’m Tefkin, it was me who collected you on Bridge Street..........sorry I was a little late, or perhaps in the nick of time depending on which way you look at it. Still, at least there was something left to collect. Sorry to tear you away from your new friend though.” he laughed, his sense of humour confusing Jonathon and forcing him to remember the humourless episode in the hands of the wild woman and then Flax himself.

“Thank you.” Jonathon managed in reply. Tefkin shook his head.

“No, thank Dale here, he threw the brick. Good shot eh?” he turned to his companion who sat a few feet away on the ridge of coping stones, staring across the Lower City.

Dale turned and muttered something unintelligible to Tefkin and waved a friendly greeting to Jonathon. “Doesn’t speak a lot, our Dale, but he’s a good friend to have around.”

Tefkin looked across the roofs he and Dale had just crossed, taking in a few deep breaths to control his breathing, then asked with some enthusiasm.

“Do you wanna eat now our Jonny boy?”

Jonathon suddenly realised how hungry he was, but did not need to answer Tefkin as his stomach chose that moment to answer for him. It groaned pleadingly and both Tefkin and Dale laughed out loud.

A short while later, inside the shack, Jonathon, Tefkin, Dale and Milly sat down to eat the succulent hams that been part of the booty from a roof top foray into the Upper City. Then, after a meal in silence, they sat sipping strong tea brewed by Dale over an open fire in the floor.

Tefkin, minus his flying gear, revealed himself as a wiry and humorous, thirty year old with a weather-beaten face topped by a mat of thin, blonde hair and accompanied by an almost permanent, toothless grin. Dale was a man of a similar age who said little.

He was slightly heavier built than Tefkin, and his long black, but grey streaked hair, having the effect of narrowing his chubby, reddened face and deepening his dark brown eyes. A melancholy man Jonathon thought, a troubled man he felt.

Milly was a pretty, dark haired girl with sad, tired blue eyes to which Jonathon’s attention had immediately been drawn to when they had first met had. She continually reprimanded the men for speaking out loud, for failing to comply with the speaking conventions of the Whisperer, but her efforts had little effect.

“Don’t worry little sister, the Tans will never hear us, we’re safer her than anywhere else” he laughed. “There’s no way they can fly here like us.”

Jonathon found it easy to talk to the roof top trio, although Dale, who never seemed to smile, only contributed in a minimal way to the conversation. His expression was always one of deep sadness which caused uneasiness in Jonathon. Despite his mental powers, Jonathon found the route into Dale’s mind blocked. The memory of whatever caused the shadow to be cast onto his spirit was buried deep inside him and had been made inaccessible to someone like Jonathon.

But there was something more to Dale, Jonathon perceived. He was deliberately concealing something, he had the mental abilities to do so, someone had trained him and his powers of concealment were good enough to thwart Jonathon’s gentle probing.

Dale knew that such an attempt was being made and he knew who was doing it, but, despite an uncomfortable sideways glance at Jonathon, he said nothing.

Tefkin, Milly and Jonathon talked of their lives and past while Dale listened politely, entering the conversation only when spoken to or when there was a memory to be shared. Tefkin informed Jonathon that all three Whisperers, as Milly insisted they were called, had been born and lived most of their lives on the roof tops of the city. Once there had been many more, but one by one they had fallen victim to accident or illness.

Now these three survived by stealing into the dwellings of Tans or Meks, anyone who managed to rise above the desperate, poverty stricken mires in which the majority of the population where submerged. In Dubh wealth and power were shown by the vertical distance an individual lived above the street. There they where vulnerable to the Whisperer’s activities, Tefkin had told Jonathon, and there were rich, easy pickings to be had from the highest dwellings.

But perhaps the Whisperers were the richest and most powerful of all the inhabitants of Dubh, Jonathon suggested, that their wealth and powers were to be measured, not in material terms, but by their freedom from the forces which ruled the city and its society, and because of their uncorrupted natures, which brought broad smiles from them from Tefkin and Milly. Dale merely nodded.

The Tans knew of the Flyers, as they called the roof top dwellers, and of the others who sought refuge there beyond the limits of their domain, but could do little about it.

Occasionally concerted efforts were made to bring the roof tops under their jurisdiction, but always ended in death and despair for those not physically or psychologically adapted to the alien environment which was the world of the Whisperer.

Physically life here was very demanding, journeys across the vast hills, valleys and roof top plains, crisscrossed with the maze of street crevasses, needing a special athleticism which was evident in the physiques of Jonathon’s three new friends.

The Tans, when they came here, struggled to cope with the terrain with the ease that those born to and familiar with it could. Psychologically, a very special courage was needed. The nerve to leap from building to building without hesitation was the difference between life and death. Such nerves and confidence in their own abilities highly tuned from whole lives doing such things as second nature, made the Whisperer unique and masters here in what was truly their world.

The Tans could never succeed, unless they had the qualities that the Whisperers possessed. But the process of obtaining them was usually lifelong, hard and dangerous. After many failed and humiliating attempts to bring their special kind of order to the roof tops, the Tans conceded defeat and now rarely ventured there.

Tefkin elaborated when Jonathon pursued the ‘magic’ behind the superhuman feats he had witnessed earlier.

“It’s not magic, we know where to jump, how to jump. We are normal people, a little stronger and fitter perhaps with heads for heights, but it is our skill and knowledge which give us the power to fly where others cannot.” he explained modestly. “We always use the same runs, we now them by heart, we make sure we are never surprised by what we find and what is needed to run them we know is never beyond our abilities. There are some places we cannot and will not jump. Where we sit today, we are surrounded by very wide streets that no-one can jump unaided. The Tans cannot approach us across the roof tops and below us lives a leper colony. No Tan will venture there.” he looked towards Milly.

“So we’re safe here Milly, aren’t we?” Milly said nothing, but gave him a black and unconvinced look.

He returned his attention to Jonathon.

“If I were to try to leap from this building to the others normally, I would fall to my death. But we have secrets which allow us to become birds for the few seconds that matter.” His eyes sparkled and became intense.

“You are to become a bird Jonny-Boy, I will teach you our lore, as your Granddaddy has asked me to.”

Jonathon broke in speculatively and a little apprehensively.

“The wings tied to your ankles and wrists. Is that your secret?”

Jonathon ventured. Tefkin nodded his head and smiled. “Just a small one. They help us to guide ourselves and stall our descent, the secret lies in our knowledge of where to jump and know that we can safely cross.”

He reached under Milly’s bed and pulled out a large metal frame about five feet square, its legs shorter at one end than the other which set it at an angle to the floor. The metal frame supported a thick, canvass sheet connected by means of thick, short metal springs to the outer frame. Tefkin thumped the centre of the canvass sheet and the energy stored in the tension of the springs propelled his fist away.

“Trickery and skill. We hide these at the places we have to jump on our runs, but they are set up at the correct angles so when we hit them at speed they increase the distance we can travel through the air; this technique, our skill, our strength guides us across distances the ordinary man cannot leap.” he smiled broadly,

“The Tans think we are birds! “he chuckled. He looked back to Jonathon.

“You have none of our skills, but you will have. It will be far from easy, but it will happen eventually. You are still supple and young enough for me to mould you into a flyer Jonathon and believe me I will, I owe it to Cornelius. Even if I have to make you hate me Jonathon, I will see you fly.” Jonathon was mortified, he could not visualise himself repeating the feats he had seen that morning and his Grandfather had asked these people to make him a flyer, why? He shivered, a compulsion to flee gripped him, but he knew that unless he wished to be confined to this rooftop refuge forever and renege on his oaths, he had to learn. He had no choice.

Over the months that followed Jonathon was put through a rigorous and painful training programme by Tefkin. For hours he ran around the roof top island that he knew would become his prison if he did not succeed. At first the going was difficult, the padding at his knees and elbows restricting his movement and producing a multitude of sores and blisters to go with his permanently aching muscles, but, on the many occasions that he fell headlong onto the unforgiving surfaces of tile, brick and concrete, he realised the necessity of the padding.

Soon his youthful and responsive body adapted to this new regime of running and jumping, his young muscles becoming accustomed to the unfamiliar exertion of Jonathon’s new life and environment.

As time passed his baby fat dissolved as the exercise was increased and the boy that was Jonathon Postlethwaite grew slowly towards manhood. Jonathon was soon taller, stronger, fitter and leaner than the whelp the Whisperer had rescued from the street.

After a year of rigorous exercise and tuition in the secrets of the Whisperer lore, Jonathon thought himself ready to leap the ravines. But now Tefkin declared that Jonathon must continue the exercise regime with heavy, brick filled backpacks and with weights strapped to his ankles and wrists. He was not ready yet Tefkin declared and the physical agonies began again as his muscles bled anew and grew.

Many times he felt like giving in, but was always driven on by the thought that somewhere below the roof tops the man that had destroyed his parents, and very nearly himself, still preyed on new victims each day and each night. Jonathon had sworn an oath to himself to destroy Flax and could not, would not, go back on it for the sake of his Grandfather, his Father, his Mother and the other countless victims of this creature.

His training routines carried on and the months now become years. Jonathon was becoming a young man, no longer a boy with a declared destiny and goals. Tefkin was right too, Jonathon did hate him at times for the boredom, for the pain, but during his years of training he had one other ally who, through her devices, ensured a break from the boredom and eased the pain.

Milly antagonised Jonathon most of the time, laughing at his misfortunes, which actually spurred him on, but attended to his cuts, bruises and grazes on the occasions when the padding of his clothing proved ineffective.

She too had grown physically, but retained her childish language, game playing and juvenile insecurity. But Jonathon had penetrated this veil and glimpsed the warm and caring woman who grew behind her self- imposed disguise. She allowed his mental intrusions, there was little he did not know about her thoughts and feelings and she wanted him to know them all. He knew that she feared Dale for some reason that she felt and feared the City’s foul spirit that had managed, briefly, to creep up here on occasions and taunted her. But she was strong enough to resist it.

Milly was far ahead of Jonathon in her mastery of the rooftops, advantaged by being brought up into the world of the Whisperer. She had learned to use the trampettes years ago and now hurtled across the roof tops with the others and, to the dis-ease of all, alone.

When she ventured out alone, she flew across the roofs with a reckless abandonment of the rules and guidelines of the Whisperer Lore. She did not always run the familiar routes and leap where the trampettes enabled easy and safe crossings, instead took risks, and explored the roof tops in many places where Tefkin and Dale had never ventured.

Consequently, she had many scrapes and close calls with what she laughingly called the ‘Biggest jump of all.’ Despite the constant dressing downs and lectures from Tefkin, she continued her dangerous lifestyle. She was a free spirit, living on adrenalin and could not be restrained.

One day Jonathon approached Milly, intent on giving her a lecture of his own, having watched her recklessly, but gracefully, and speeding homewards from a foraging expedition on her own. She leapt the space which separated the Leper Castle from the others that surrounded it and landed with an elegance the men could not emulate. Jonathon confronted her, anger burning in his eyes.

“Milly! You break every rule in the book! You’ll kill yourself!” Milly laughed and shook out her long, raven black hair from its bindings. Her twinkling eyes, which at this moment seemed almost black to Jonathon, met his.

“I likes the danger! It makes Milly, happy. Alive! ” she sang.

“It’ll make you dead you idiot!” Jonathon retorted.

Milly laughed loudly.

“Ooohweee! Who’s a little Tefkin now! ” she mocked, moving closer to Jonathon and looking upwards the six inches or so into his eyes. Jonathon was furious but his anger was abating rapidly as she inched closer. Her smile disappeared as she looked at him from under long, black eyelashes.

“Why?” she asked softly.

“Why what?” Jonathon replied trying unsuccessfully to escape her imprisoning gaze.

“Why you worry about me....really?” the faintest hint of a smile moved her lips and sparkled in her eyes. Jonathon hesitated.

“Well Jonathon?”

“Well, just because......” Jonathon managed to stammer. “Go on.” Milly continued to hold his gaze, prompting a full answer.

“Because I love you Milly’ he croaked and closed his eyes. As he did so Milly planted a kiss on his lips and then began to sprint to the edge of the building, shouting as she ran.

“Well then Jonathon, if you loves me, best to learn how to fly with me quick. Come live for real........ and then you won’t worry no more ’cos we’ll both be alive together, you’ll see then.”

Jonathon heard her and opened his eyes to see her soar easily and gracefully across the gap she had just crossed on her incoming journey and disappeared amongst the roofs again. His heart pounded inside his chest and butterflies swarmed madly inside his stomach.

He could still taste her on his lips. He would fly soon, he needed no better motivation. He did not want to let Milly out of his sight again. Ever.

And so it was. Jonathon had no hesitation when Tefkin decided he was ready for his first leap across the forbidding and deadly, brick walled gorges which had imprisoned him for years. He was ready and willing to take that nerve shattering first leap to new freedoms.

Within months of that maiden leap Jonathon was completely at home on the roof tops. He now saw that, out in the world of the Whisperer, the Tans and other city dwellers, including many who found refuge here, but did not have the Whisperer lore or training, were no physical match for them.

Jonathon’s now superb athleticism allowed him to travel far and wide across the city, high above its crowded streets, with same relative ease as his friends. No place was safe from them, particularly Milly who broke the rules and took risks to gain access to places which few, if no other human beings, even in this overcrowded place, had never seen.

The Whisperers came and went as they pleased, scaling walls like flies, dropping down from the roofs into the narrowest of recesses and chimneys to help themselves to the necessities of life wherever and whenever they wished.

The dwellings of affluent Tan leaders were their favourite targets. They were always rich in bounty, they supplied the needs of the Whisperers easily and always with the added pleasure that the Tans, the tyrannical rulers of the Lower City, were virtually helpless to pursue them.

Jonathon was happy with his new, free lifestyle, but always in the back of his mind was the spectre of Silus Flax who, Jonathon knew, would haunt him until he had fulfilled his oaths against him. Jonathon would hunt him down and destroy him, but not yet. He would wait until Flax’s had his beloved dreams in sight and then deprive him of them just as he had deprived Jonathon of those he loved.

Flax loved no-one, it was an emotion which he could never feel. Just as many of the inhabitants had lost the ability to love and now lusted for power and pleasure without inhibition, so had Flax. But the intensity of his lust for these things was magnified by the malignant soul of Dubh which was using him as a tool, as a proxy of the physical self it desperately tried to achieve.

But Flax was not merely its a puppet. There was corrupt empathy, a resonance, between his dark soul and Its own spirit which united them. He had his own ideas; his own plans and It relished them too, gave him the motivation and helped to provide the right conditions in the city for Flax’s dreams to germinate. Jonathon aimed to frustrate the lust that drove Flax towards his dream. Just when Flax had all he needed within his reach it would be snatched away.

The more Jonathon observed in his travels across the city, the more he was able to learn of Flax’s activities and the general moral degeneration to which humanity had sunk in Dubh. The corruption and human degradation that the newly fledged flyer saw made him more determined to see it all, and Flax, destroyed. Dubh was spiritually diseased, a corrupt cyst waiting to burst into the healthy tissue of the surrounding dimensions and the life which existed there. The extent of Jonathon’s mission was widening and becoming clearer. As long as corruption remained here, confined, isolated, it might eventually destroy itself. But Jonathon knew, from the minds of his Flax’s minions that these High Hats sought a ‘door’ from this world to others. If, and when they found it, the malignancy that multiplied here could escape to realms beyond. Jonathon would not allow that to happen.

At the moment he could only outline the solution. So far he had neither the knowledge nor means to carry out his oath to foil Flax and limit the corruption to Dubh. He resolved to find a ‘door’ too, he would follow Flax forever if necessary, and hadn’t his Grandfather said that the `Shadow Man’ would lead him to his own destiny?

All he really knew was that somehow he had to prevent Flax from pursuing his goals outside of Dubh. He would destroy the city and Flax together after he, and those he loved, had escaped through the ‘door’ that his nemesis would show him. At present he did not know how this city was sustained, but he would find out, and then he would take Flax’s dream from him in exchange for all those he had loved and lost. Jonathon Postlethwaite had extended and reasserted his oaths, Flax would provide him with what he wanted and then would die with the world that had spawned him.

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