jump to navigation

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter 2, Part 9 (End) October 1, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

The biggest gap in the world is the gap between the justice of a cause
and the motives of the people pushing it.

– John P. Grier


Chapter II.9:  OutSider  (End)

© D. Erick Emert

office

D’Angusio took the signed paper, rolled it up and stuffed it in a carrier. Within seconds it sped on its way.

“Follow me, Briggs.”

They left the office and D’Angusio led him down the long corridor to a stairway. They walked down a few flights and then down another corridor until they came to a set of double doors. They entered a huge room, like a gymnasium. It had a dirt floor. Off to the right stood three men, one in chains between the other two.  Near the men, a sword rested on a small table. Briggs and D’Angusio walked up to the three men.

“This man is a Christian, Briggs, a prime OutSider like yourself. As a believer in Jesus Christ who will not renounce his faith, he has been given a death sentence. You shall carry that sentence out.”

“You want me to kill him? Straight out? Here and now?” Briggs’ voice dropped an octave but remained steady, almost matter-of-fact. He held his head upright and searched the man before him with his steel-gray eyes.

“Absolutely,” D’Angusio confirmed.

Briggs trembled slightly as he picked up the sword. He knew how to use the weapon and had kept one on his former ship. His eyes took on a faraway look and seemed glossed over.

“Please sir, spare my life,” the prisoner cried out. They told me I could live if you spare me.”

The man’s knees weakened and he had to be held upright by the guards to keep him from falling to the ground. For a second, Briggs faltered, lowering the blade. Then, with a swift motion he drove the sword into the prisoner’s chest. The man shuddered once, staring vacantly into Briggs’ eyes. Briggs attempted to remove the sword but it stuck. Briggs brought his boot up to the man’s chest and pulled hard. This time the sword slid out and the man tumbled to the ground. No longer supported by the guards, his life drained out on the prison floor.

Briggs laid the sword back on the table. “Anything else, sir?”

D’Angusio put his arm around Briggs in a comforting manner and led him out of the room. “I’m sorry, Captain. We had to be sure.”

Briggs did not answer and the two men walked back to the office in silence. That night his tears flowed in silence. Briggs dreamed of being cradled in the arms of his beloved Sarah.

*

Three months passed, Briggs found himself again in D’Angusio’s office.

“I won’t keep you long, Briggs. You’ve accomplished a great deal in our care. I’m personally pleased with your efforts. Now, it’s time to consider your future. Have you given it any thought?”

Briggs’ fingers drummed on his knee. “I’ve always been a sea captain.”

“There’s little use for sea captains here; fishing boats, trade vessels, and the like. We don’t have need for a Navy.  Have you ever given any thought to an Army career? Your leadership capabilities would serve you well there.”

Briggs thought for a moment, his fingers continuing their quiet drumming. “If you feel I could best serve Uppsala in her Armed Forces, I would be happy to enlist, sir.”

You don’t have to enlist, Briggs. I took the liberty to forward an application to Officers Training School in your name. I gave you a hearty endorsement as well.  Today, I received word that your application is approved.  Now what do you think about that?”

“I expect to do my best, sir, to prove your endorsement worthy.”

“Excellent, Briggs! I have no fear that you shall not handle this assignment in exemplary fashion. You shall be transferred to OTS tomorrow morning. I’ll have a uniform dropped off in your room this evening. The rest of your material will be awaiting you in your new quarters. Do you have any questions?”

“No sir.”

“Good. It’s been a pleasure, Briggs. You have a strong career ahead of you. Please write me from time to time. Let me know how things are going with you.”

D’Angusio stood up and offered Briggs his hand. Briggs shook it once and saluted.

“I shall sir. Thank you for your encouragement and endorsement.” With that Briggs clicked his heels and exited D’Angusio’s office for the last time.

*

Briggs looked elegant in his new uniform. He wore a dark green shako hat, complete with its bronze eagle insignia, red horse-hair plume, red cord and black belt with brass buckle in the front. His jacket, a dark green shell jacket with red piping and red cadet insignia on the arms, fit smartly. He wore a standard issue white shirt beneath the jacket and dark green trousers.  At his waist he belted a standard army saber and scabbard with bronze handle attached to a black waist belt with bronze buckle. Black boots completed the uniform.

Briggs spent half the night polishing the bronze and his belts and boots to a high shine. Always fastidious concerning his clothing, Briggs wanted to give a good first impression when he reported for duty. He had shaved off his beard and mustache and trimmed his hair, tasks he performed daily during his years at sea. With his steel gray eyes, he looked every bit the part of a leader of men.

Three hours later he stood at attention in front of the desk of Captain Lorenz Piccap, a robust looking officer with a tanned face and graying temples. At a nod from the Captain, his Aide saluted, wheeled and left the two soldiers together, closing the door behind him.

“I hear you’re a prime, Briggs. That’s a bit unusual, you know. D’Angusio pushed hard to get you admitted. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t be standing here.”

“I wasn’t aware of that, sir. Why should service in the Armed Forces be any different for a prime than any other OutSider?”

“Think, m’boy. You live so damn long, who in his right mind would want to risk cutting that life span short in the military?”

“I’m not used to the idea of that kind of longevity, Captain. Perhaps some day it will sink in, but for now I feel no different than I did before I came to Erde. Whatever the case, I’m prepared to give up my life for my country wherever and whenever that sacrifice becomes necessary. I’m a soldier now, sir, and I’ll do my duty without concern as to the consequences to myself. I am an arm of the State and I’ll not falter in my responsibility no matter what the situation, sir.”

“Well put lad. Lieutenant Costo is waiting in the hall. He will escort you to your quarters.”

Briggs had an above average intellect and had always been an avid reader.  He could digest a dull text book in hours and his grasp of the principle points proved dynamic. Oddly, his field tactical ability surpassed even his classroom work. In military exercises he proved bold, daring, almost to the point of being reckless, but he never overextended himself. The men of his unit had confidence in his knowledge and abilities and felt his leadership gave them an advantage over other units in the field, which proved to be the case time and time again.  He rose quickly through the cadet ranks and graduated first in his class.

Yet, for all this Briggs seemed to be something of an outcast. In the early days, he refused to join in with his bunkmates telling stories and singing songs. He sat off in a corner somewhere polishing his brass or his boots. When the men would head out into the City on leave, Briggs would intentionally journey in a different direction by himself. He shunned the presence of others whenever he had the opportunity, preferring solitude to companionship.

One night, six months into their schooling, a dozen or so of his bunkmates gathered around him as he polished his boots while seated on his bed. They asked him to join them and when he politely refused they asked him why.

He looked up at them with his steel gray eyes and said, “If I ever have to lead you into battle, I don’t want the nagging impediment of friendship hung around my neck. It is easier to send someone off to die if you don’t know their mother’s or brother’s name or the number of children they have or how they met their wife or girlfriend.”

With that he picked up his other boot and began silently buffing the toe. The group that had gathered around began to break off by twos and threes saying nothing in reply.

Briggs enjoyed one class in particular. Commander Abel Light taught Defeating the Aborigines of the Great Weald. The class dealt with the difficulties of defending the borders and roads of the Rejoinder of Uppsala against the marauding tribes of the Summanari and Riggrathi nations.

“We have little to do with the Telroth and the Sogroth, the tribes of the far north,” the Commander told them. “Nor do we often encounter the Vigroth or the Colarathi, the tribes of the southern rain forests of the Great Weald. But the Riggrathi of the western Weald and the nomadic and vicious Summanari natives create havoc on the trade routes between Uppsala and Sigtuna and in the settlements found just north of the City of Blood and in the swampy Fyri between the Selgen and Fyris rivers.”

Light continued for the next eight weeks discussing the cultures of both the Riggrathi and Summanari peoples. He held the opinion that you could not truly defeat an enemy if you did not understand their background and lifestyle.

“Probabilities and tendencies are critical.” he said. “If you have knowledge of what your enemy is likely to do in any given situation, you are stronger and closer to defeating him. You can succeed with lighter manpower, less material and fewer losses.”

At the end of Light’s classes, Briggs approached him.

“Commander, I am deeply interested in the methods you’ve taught in your class.  What are the chances of being attached to the Border Troops after our schooling is completed?”

“Thank you, Briggs.  Each Cadet will fill out a form requesting duty in a particular city or Rejoinder of Erde.  We, the members of your faculty, will give our own recommendations to the Transfer Board as well. These will be cross referenced with the needs of the Army and within a day or two your orders will be received and you’ll be on your way.”

“Will you be continuing your duties here, Commander or will you regain a field commission at some time.”

“Naturally I would like to get back into the field again, but I am told my duties here are of the utmost importance. It is likely that within the next fifty or sixty years something will have to be done on a permanent basis to rid Uppsala of these costly attacks along our roads. If the aborigines cannot come to terms with the changes in Erde, something will be done to bring about a lasting peace.”

“Could I ask you, sir, to recommend me for a post with the Border Troops?”

“You are one of my most adept pupils, Briggs. I would have no ill thoughts in recommending such a post for you. Of course, I can’t guarantee that the Transfer Board will see it our way.”

“No, I understand that, Commander.  Thank you for your time, sir.” Briggs saluted smartly, spun on his heel and left the room.

Near the end of term, the students turned in their transfer requests. During the final exams, rumors of who might go where began to circulate through the barracks. After the ribbon ceremony for the graduates, the school commandant announced the orders for each man.

Their four years ended by being seated at the front of a large auditorium filled with undergraduates and parents from each Rejoinder of the Empire. Speeches upon speeches flowed from the dais, followed by the medal ceremony. Calling each soldier individually to the podium, the school Commandant pinned the graduation medal to the cadet’s chest, handed him his diploma and announced his orders to the soldier and the multitude. Shouts and wild applause accompanied each declaration.

Briggs awaited his name to be announced, hands in his lap, fingers entwined, kneading. He did not join in the boisterous applause for his fellow cadets. He sat rigid in his anticipation, his mind running through scenarios of what he might do if fate chose to ignore his wish and sent him elsewhere. He thought by making up some physical condition that would necessitate his resigning his commission, he would be free to enter the forests of the Great Weald as a trapper or trader; thereby circumventing fate and…

“Honorary Cadet Captain Benjamin Briggs.”

Hearing himself announced snapped him back to the situation at hand. Briggs stood, his sword clanking against the chair to his left. The sound startled him for a moment. Regaining his composure, he made his way past his fellows to the main aisle, then up the steps to the stage, crossing to the platform. He saluted the Commandant who took his hand, shook it and raised it over their heads as they faced the cheering audience.

“First in Class! Extraordinary!” The crowd roared even louder. Briggs’ cheeks turned scarlet. The Commandant leaned over him and pinned his medal on his chest as the din continued. With a raise of the Commandant’s hand the masses finally quieted.

“Lieutenant Briggs will be serving with Ram Company of the Corrin Border Battalion.” The crowd unleashed another mighty storm of vocal approval.

For an instant Briggs appeared to smile. At least that’s what a few of those present would say later. The rest would swear he stood as stone-faced as always. Nothing could be read from his demeanor concerning his thoughts or feelings. In truth, the pride of having jumped a grade because of his class standing thrilled him. He felt happier still to have been given the post he most desired, and wondered if Sarah would have been proud…

*

As Briggs’ horsemen clattered over a lofty hill, the lights of Taylor’s Villa flickered before them in the valley.

Advertisements

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter 2 Part 8 September 28, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

It is better to be hated for what you are
Than loved for what you are not.

– Andre Gide


Chapter II.8:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

training uni

Briggs awoke early, his body and head wet with sweat.  His right leg twitched.  Why am I feeling this? This is not Earth, he thought. Jesus Christ does not exist here. No one died for anyone on Erde. I must bend. I must change to exist.

He got out of bed and drew hot water into the tub. The darkness did not bother him. Somehow, he felt more settled in the dark, it comforted his nerves. He felt hidden from his fears. In the darkness he could be with Sarah.

He settled into the hot water and his mind drifted to her. Her smile. Always he would remember her smile. Her features looked down on him now. Thin lips, brown hair parted in the middle with a small bun on the left side. Large eyes that mesmerized him with their depth of knowing, caring.

I must do this my Sarah. I can see no other way. Peter denied Christ three times and God forgave him. Surely I shall be forgiven as well.

Tears rolled down his cheeks and his right leg twitched again. He sobbed quietly to himself until the light of morning began filling his room. Quietly he rose, toweled himself off and dressed in the baggy green shirt and pants that had been provided for him. He hated for his future to be dependent on others. He hated his own lack of control in this.  He swallowed hard and sat down at his desk, reaching for a book titled Aboriginal Tribes of Erde.

*

Two weeks later, Briggs sat in front of D’Angusio’s desk looking over a sheet of paper he had been asked to sign.  It read:

I, Benjamin Spooner Briggs, do solemnly swear
that I have brought no guns, gunpowder or any
other kind of illegal weapon into Erde. I also
swear I have nothing whatsoever to do with
religion, renouncing any belief in God, Allah,
Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Buddha, or any other God
named or unnamed in this document. I swear my
allegiance to the Empire of Uppsala and the
Empire only shall benefit from my service as of
this day forth. I shall live to serve rather
than serve to live.

Briggs took a deep breath and asked, “Tell me, sir. Is there a chance that my wife and child still live?”

“Of course there is,” D’Angusio answered. “Southern Erde has a long coastline. The other members of your crew could have ended up anywhere. The fact that fisherman picked you up doesn’t mean the rest couldn’t have survived and been found by one of the tribes that reside in the forests to the south.”

All the while D’Angusio responded to his question, Briggs drummed the fingers of his right hand on the table. With the answer concluded, Briggs picked up the pen and signed his name with a flourish.

Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter II Part 7 September 25, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Man has a limited biological capacity for change.
When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock.

– Alvin Toffler


Chapter II.7:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

bathtub

…Briggs thoughts flowed faster than his ability to chew. “But you suggested some kind of natural imbalance could be brought into this world by OutSiders?”

“Yes. We are both blessed and cursed with being able to recall our lives from the past and applying what we knew then to our present lives. Think of the major curses of humanity from where we came from, Briggs. Now imagine being in a place where they no longer existed. Would you allow someone to bring them to that place if you could prevent it?”

Briggs thought for a minute. “I’m not sure what kind of things you’re referring to.”

“Of course you’re not. You haven’t had the time to consider it, have you? Think of things people invented back in our old civilization. Things that seemed necessary, possibly even might have been necessary at the time, but which actually led to the deaths of millions.”

“Like war?”

“War – not an invention per se, but certainly things that are used in war are inventions.”

Briggs’ eyes shot wide open and he pointed a finger at D’Angusio. “Guns!  I just realized. None of the soldiers we passed, none of the guards, no one carried a rifle or handgun.”

D’Angusio nodded, smiling. “Yes.  Guns and gunpowder are outlawed throughout all Erde. If you’ve a mind to kill someone here, you’ll have to face him fairly.”

“But you have archers. They kill from a distance.”

“Yes, but a good shield will stop an arrow. What stops a bullet? We have machines that throw rocks. But how many men will one rock kill compared to a cannon firing grapeshot at close range? We will never allow weapons of mass destruction into Erde, nor the technology that could bring them into being.”

“What you’re saying then is if I knew how to make gunpowder I probably wouldn’t see the light of day outside this building, would I?”

“We are cautious whom we assimilate into our culture, Captain. I think you are beginning to understand our reasons for that caution, am I correct?”

Briggs did understand. He nodded his head as he wiped his mouth with his napkin, having finished his lunch. He wondered what other taboos could be on the short list and if he himself might be privy to some former resourceful knowledge that could either end his life or cause him to be held prisoner for hundreds of years.

“Soul searching, Briggs?”

“Just wondering if I know something I ought not.” He adjusted himself in his chair.  “What if gunpowder is discovered by chance? It happened that way in our own history, no? Surely your people have the means and intelligence to accidentally come up with this on their own. Isn’t it possible this could happen?”

“It has occurred. More than once. And on each occasion we dealt with it immediately, if not somewhat brutally. Guns and gunpowder will never gain a footing in Erde. Not ever.”

The smile disappeared from D’Angusio’s face. His eyes became cold and his stare penetrating. Briggs attempted to change the subject.

“I see your point, sir and concur. I’m trying to stay away from questions concerning government and day to day living. I’m sure you’ll have classes where I will be taught that kind of information. I would like to know if there is anything else I should be aware of in a similar vein to what we’ve been discussing. Is there any other major trespass from my past that could land me in trouble here?”

“Your wife, the daughter of a minister if I remember right? Are you a religious man, Briggs?”

The question hit Briggs between the eyes and he strained every muscle not to allow his facial expression to show his consternation. Briggs had indeed been a religious man. Some looked upon him as a puritanical fanatic. Something in the way that D’Angusio put the question to him set Briggs on the defensive.

“No. No I am not. I attended church for the sake of my wife and children, but it never truly grew in me. I suppose I would say I believe in God but I don’t spend time thinking on Him.”

“I would assume that would put a difficult strain on your marriage, Captain.”

“Not at all. Sarah and I enjoyed a close relationship. She sailed with me on the Arthur, on the Sea Foam and again on the Mary Celeste. Her father may have been a devout minister, but she held our marriage in a higher place than her religion.”

Lies. All lies. Briggs hoped he would not begin to perspire.

A knock at the door broke the tension and a young man stepped in dressed all in white.

“Is it that time already? Damn.” D’Angusio looked honestly irritated. “Captain, I want you to accompany Cheston here. He’s going to measure you for your clothing and then show you to your quarters, which also contains a bath.  Please make use of it. There will be some excellent reading materials provided you as well. They will answer a lot of those ‘day-to-day’ questions of yours.”

Both men stood. D’Angusio reached over his desk and extended his hand to Briggs, who shook it.

“I will see you sometime tomorrow morning, Briggs. Cheston will take good care of you.”

*

Cheston opened a paneled door that led into a twenty-foot square room. A bath tub set by the right side of a wood frame bed as D’Angusio had indicated. On the left he saw a desk and bookshelf. A twin light fixture on the ceiling lit the room. Briggs saw it but had no idea how the contraption worked.  When Cheston turned on the light, Briggs startled.

“What is that Cheston?”

“Something new sir. It’s called lectriclight. They installed them on this side of the house four weeks ago, I believe.”

Briggs marveled at it and flipped the switch by the door on and off a few times until satisfied with its workmanship.

“Impressive. I think I read something of this in our newspapers once. You truly are ahead of us it seems.”

“Us, sir?”

“I’m sorry Cheston. Are you a prime?”

“No sir, simply an orderly, sir. Please, if I could take your clothing with me? Have your bath, sir, and I’ll bring back new clothing for you in half an hour or so.”

“Yes. Would you be so kind as to draw the water for me?”

“Yes sir. Glad to sir.”

Briggs went over to the bookshelf to find something to read while he took his bath. The titles that caught his eye included:

History of the Empire – Tyllims
War on Religion – Boscar
Uniforms and Insignias of the Armies of Uppsala – Kettlemei
City of Blood – Snori

“I’ve filled your tub, sir. I’ll be back in a moment to collect your clothes if you’ll just leave them by the door sir.”

“Yes, Cheston. I will.”

As the orderly slipped out the door, Briggs set the four books on the wooden chair and positioned it next to the tub. He slipped out of his clothing and shoved them with his foot toward the door. A small shelf over where the water pipes curved down into the tub caught his eye. He tested the water with his foot.  The heat caused him to ease himself in and he realized how sleepy he’d become. Picking up War on Religion, he started to read over the chapter headings. A half-hour later the door opened and Cheston brought in fresh clothing, which he hung on a rail positioned to the right side of the door. He scooped up Briggs’ clothing and left the room, closing the door behind him.

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter II Part 6 September 20, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

The course of life is unpredictable…
No one can write his autobiography in advance.

– Abraham Joshua Heschel


Chapter II.6:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

microcab-127

The microcab jolted to a stop, bringing Briggs’ thoughts back to the present. He exited in front of a line of tents.  A soldier, standing near, snapped to attention and saluted.  Briggs gave a curt thank you to the driver and turned to face the guard of the watch.

“Tell the corporal of the guard I want my horse saddled and brought to me immediately. Who’s on duty tonight?”

The man rattled off a list of fifteen names.

“Have Martin and James saddled up and ready to accompany me within fifteen minutes.”

*

Captain Briggs and his guards moved their spirited steeds through the city and its gates. Heading north on the Gutar Road, they appeared a throwback to a time that seemed long passed to the great city. Horseback riders amidst electric powered vehicles looked out of place. But upon reaching the North Gate of the city at One, the logic of horses became apparent.

The North Gate appeared hardly a gate at all.  It looked nothing more than a large door. Considering the non-existence of roads to the north, a wide gate became unnecessary. Briggs’ party reigned up and saluted the gate guard.

“Destination, sir?”

“Taylor’s Villa.”

“Fine, sir.  Give ‘em my regards.”

The guard opened the gate and Briggs and his horsemen ducked their heads as they rode through the thick wall. Halfway through, Briggs brought his horse to a halt and looked back at the gate guard.

“Call Taylor and tell him we’re coming.”

“Yes, sir.  Will do.”

The trail leading north looked well traveled. Briggs’ soldiers eyed the dense forest on either side uneasily. The nomadic Summanari ranged throughout central forests of Erde. It would not be good fortune to run into their warriors. No one spoke.  Briggs, feeling safe enough, allowed his thoughts to drift back once again to his first contact with the military of Uppsala.

*

…Charpone D’Angusio, a small man in stature with bushy black hair and eyebrows, a round face, thick-fingered hands and a ready smile, looked up at the man standing in front of him. Briggs knew his name, having noticed a copper strip on D’Angusio’s desk with the name etched on it in white lettering.

“Have you eaten, Briggs?”

“No, not since we left the ship.”

“I’ll have something made and sent up for you. Will gallus hen do?”

Briggs gave him an unknowing look.

“Oh, I’m sorry. You would know it as ‘chicken.’ I get in a dither between the words from time to time.”

“That would be fine, thank you.”

D’Angusio wrote something on a small piece of paper, pulled a cylinder from his desk drawer, stuffed it inside, latched it, opened one of the tubes and sent it on its way. Noticing Briggs’ perplexed look, he said, “You must have a million questions, my dear fellow. I’m quite aware of that. In some ways you will find our land slightly ahead of where you came from and in other ways, incredibly behind it. We will get into all those niceties I promise you. But while we’re waiting on your gallus, why don’t we cover some tedious ground as I have a ridiculous amount of paperwork that must be filled out on you before the end of the day.  Would you mind?”

For the first time since arriving in Uppsala, Briggs felt uneasy. The realization that he no longer existed in his own environment began to set in with a harshness he would have thought impossible. He started to feel unsure of himself.

“Not at all. However I can be of help.”

“Excellent attitude, my good fellow. Absolutely excellent! With that kind of sensibility you will assimilate yourself into this culture in a brief time. We shall uncover things you disagree with, I’m sure. There are things we all disagree with from time to time. But let us not allow slight disagreements to overshadow the collective ideals we have in common. Does that make sense?”

Briggs nodded his consent. Like Herkiens, he sensed something concerning D’Angusio that made him feel at ease.

“Let’s get started then. Your full name?”

“Benjamin Spooner Briggs.”

“Occupation?”

“Captain of the brigantine, Mary Celeste.”

“Ahh, wonderful, a sea captain. And where were you born?”

“Wareham, Massachusetts.”

“Date?”

“April 24,1835.”

“Mother and Father?”

“Nathan and Sophia Briggs.”

D’Angusio’s pen flew across his paper. “Married?”

“Yes, Sarah Elizabeth Briggs.”  His voice choked on saying her name. D’Angusio looked up momentarily then went back to his questions.

“Children?”

“Yes. Arthur Stanley and Sophia Matilda.”

“Is your family alive, Captain?”

“The boy is alive, as far as I know. He stayed in Massachusetts with my mother at our home. He was only seven and we felt it best that he attend school.”  Briggs could not help screwing up his face as he reported, “My wife and daughter traveled with me on the ship that sank. I have no idea if they survived.”

“I understand sir. Tell me of your upbringing, what schools you attended, for instance.”

Briggs went on to give D’Angusio all the particulars of his life.  He described his marriage to the daughter of the Reverend Leander Cobb, minister of the Congregational Church in Marion, Massachusetts and their life in their home, the Rose Cottage.

A knock at the door interrupted them.

A man dressed in a white uniform with green stripes down the outside of his trousers wheeled in a cart with a covered plate upon it. D’Angusio motioned towards Briggs and the man delivered the cart to the front of his chair. He turned and faced D’Angusio who motioned for him to leave them.

The succulent smell quickened Briggs’ pulse. He lifted the lid and found a half-roast chicken with stewed tomatoes and a baked potato. Aside the tray set a tall glass of iced tea. Briggs hadn’t seen food like this since Sarah and he had left the Rose Cottage. Famished, he looked up at D’Angusio.

“Go ahead and eat, Captain. I know you’re hungry.  If you have any questions, I’ll do the answering for a bit. What say to that?”

Briggs’ eyes darted up from his meal. “Am I a prisoner here?”

“That’s a good question, Briggs. Please, continue eating while I try to explain. In all honesty it rather depends on the outcome of our little chats this week. There is a delicate balance to life on Erde and we prime OutSiders, as we’re called, hold the key to that balance.”

“You’re a prime as well?”

“Yes I am. I served as a crewman aboard the U.S.S. Wildcat.”

“The ship that went down off Cuba in 1824?”

“Exactly. You know your nautical history. I’m impressed.”

“Nothing to it really, I had a friend who had an older brother aboard her is all. But that ship sank 48 years ago and you don’t look a day over 30.”

D’Angusio smiled. “One of the small advantages of being a prime OutSider, Briggs. For whatever the reason, we don’t age fast here. Some of us live to be over 800 years old. But if you marry and have offspring, even if it’s with another prime OutSider, that child will live only the usual sixty or so years. The other thing is, it’s only a matter of aging. You can still be killed or die of sickness or disease. It’s just that the body doesn’t wear out from it. Diseases caused by the aging process don’t kill here.”

“That’s incredible. The thought of having to bury any child I might help bring into this world is staggering.”

“Yes, but think of the implications. Imagine what good a man of worth could bring to his country, to civilization itself for that matter, with a life span of 800 years. THAT is what I find staggering. Why, a man could start any number of projects without the imposition of impending age to cut his work short. The bounty of accomplishments one could unveil in a lifetime would be formidable!”

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter 2 Part 5 September 16, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

The worth of a state, in the long run,
Is the worth of the individuals composing it.

– John Stuart Mill


Chapter II.5:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

tubes

Herkiens removed his pith helmet, setting it on the seat beside him, and ran his fingers through his thick blonde hair. “You’re a lucky man, Briggs. Uppsala’s at the height of her power I should think. Plenty of ways for a gentleman to make his mark these days.”

Briggs eyed his fellow passenger. Clean, square-cut jaw. Flash in his eyes. Strong, nimble hands. Uniform sharp, impeccable. Boots and brass polished to a high shine. He liked what he saw in this young man. He made a mental note of his name. “Would you mind explaining what I’m looking at? I’d like to know more about the areas we’re driving through.”

“Of course. You’ve never been in the City before, have you?”

“Not this one.”

The lad nodded.  “This area of the docks is controlled by the State for official visitors. That’s why it’s all so posh here and why there’s fewer carriages on the roads.

The street we’re traveling on is Svear, one of only two streets in Uppsala that runs east to west, straight through all five terraces. Right through the Palace itself, if you can believe that. The other, Gutar, runs north to south. The only way to enter or leave a terrace is on one of those streets.”

Briggs listened with intent as Herkiens spoke, but kept an eye on the people and buildings as their carriage passed. A short time later, the horses slowed and they started up a sharp incline. The road led through the first wall by way of a massive arched gate, featuring a double portcullis, one at either end of the wall.

A man dressed in a green uniform similar to the one worn by Herkiens but with a polished silver helmet with a white plume stopped the carriage at the last portcullis, checked his papers and signaled them through.

“I’ve seen hundreds of walled cities in my travels,” said Briggs, “but nothing the likes of this. Doesn’t all this checking of paperwork slow commerce to a crawl?”

“It’s meant to slow it down.”

Briggs shook his head and watched out his window. Their carriage made slow progress as traffic increased in degrees. A brick hump ran down the center of the street separating carriages heading east from those heading west. At the cross of every main thoroughfare a man dressed similar to the one at the portcullis stood atop a circular pedestal directing traffic, sometimes allowing north-south carriages the right of way and sometimes east-west. No buildings stood more than one or two stories high and had the appearance of shoddy construction. Briggs noticed that those off the main street seemed more rundown than the buildings along the Svear.

People of all shapes, sizes and colors cluttered the wooden sidewalks. They dressed in rags or homespun clothing at best.  Keeping their heads lowered as they walked, they milled around trying to keep out of the way of the carriages and roving packs of pigs that seemed to be everywhere. Few, if any, paid attention to the ostentatious carriage that plied its way through their midst. Could be London, New York or Amsterdam, thought Briggs.  Shops, tenement houses, factories, taverns, eateries, all looking like a stiff wind could blow down the lot.

“It looks like a total firetrap to me.”

“It is,” said Herkiens, “But in this part of the City, it’s easy to rebuild and the people are expendable so it doesn’t matter to the Empire. The quarters on the west-end of Two are cleaner and more respectable. Four thousand years ago, this section of Uppsala contained nothing but trees with corpses hanging on them.”

“The smell never went away, did it?”

Herkiens laughed.

Again a sharp incline led up to the edge of the wall, this time between the second and third terrace.  Now the portcullis at the east-end stood closed and it took longer for the guard to clear them to continue. After a half-hour wait, the sentry told them to move through and park by the carriage waiting on the opposite side. The massive grate opened just high enough to permit passage to where the other carriage stood in silence. They moved forward and pulled along side.

Briggs and his guard accepted a greeting by a uniformed man more strikingly dressed than any he had seen before. The man wore a dark green fez with a knotted gold cord hanging from its center to his shoulder. A light green jacket with swirls of dark green embroidery on its front held gold and white scales on his shoulders. His shirt appeared white, as did his paints. His boots reached knee-high, polished to a bright shine. Briggs noticed a brass trimmed saber with a three-bar grip guard and scabbard buckled to a bright red sash around the man’s waist.

Herkiens stepped from the carriage and saluted by pounding his left hand just under his right shoulder. The soldier returned the salute in kind.

“I’m here to relieve you of this gentleman.”

He reached inside his carriage and produced a field writing kit of pen, ink and straight-board, along with a document, all of which he handed to Herkiens.  After glancing over the page, Herkiens signed and returned the document and kit to the soldier.

“Thank you. You’re relieved. Report back to the Port Administory. You sir,” he looked at Briggs, “come with me please.” He reentered his carriage and Briggs followed him aboard.

The soldier paid little attention to Briggs as the carriage sped forward.  Briggs spent the entire ride watching out the window. They passed division quarters, with their flags presented at their headquarters, and streets filled with rows and rows of barracks, mess halls, stables, smithies, armories, and parade grounds where uniformed men marched and trained in the use of the sword and bow. After an hour’s drive they pulled up in front of a huge multi-storied stone building. Neither had spoken to the other during the entire journey.

As Briggs looked around after climbing down from the carriage he had an uncomfortable feeling. The majority of windows in this building appeared to be barred. The soldier took him by the arm and led him up the steps and through a large set of double doors with what Briggs, who had seen it enough by now, knew to be the state seal of Uppsala on each.

Immense and bold, the receiving hall contained large gas-lit chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Glass cases lined the walls filled with busts of officers and memorabilia. A sculpture of a cavalry officer stood in the center of the hall, brandishing his sword, his mount full of fury. In front of the statue Briggs saw a lone desk, behind which sat a man in a green tunic and pants. Five feet in front of the desk stood six high backed upholstered chairs. Along the right of it, a dozen tubes, two rows of six, curved up from the floor. They looked similar to the ones Briggs had seen in what they referred to as the Administory. Behind the man stood a low bookcase containing a number of volumes and half a dozen containers for use in the tubes.

The soldier marched Briggs up to the desk, saluted smartly and handed the man the signed document he had collected from Herkiens. The man simply said, “Thank you, you’re dismissed,” and motioned to Briggs to take a seat.

Grabbing one of the cylinders behind him, the man rolled up the document, placed it inside and sealed the cylinder. He opened the door on one of the upper tubes. Briggs heard the characteristic whooshing sound of air.  He placed the cylinder inside and closed the door. A slight clanking sound occurred and Briggs guessed the cylinder had sped on its way to its destination.  At this, the man continued to busy himself with paperwork on his desk. Briggs started to feel the pangs of hunger, as he had not eaten since being aboard ship. The clicking of wooden heels on the tile floor also started to make him feel a bit drowsy. A long hour later, a man dressed the same as the one behind the desk came walking toward him.

“Mr. Briggs.  Are you ready to go? The time has come to discuss your future with us.”

The officer smiled and extended his hand. Briggs stood up, shook the man’s hand and followed him up the stairway to the far left of the main hall.

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter II Part 4 September 14, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

I always seem to suffer from loss of faith
On entering cities.

– Ralph Waldo Emmerson


Chapter II.4:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

FishingBoat

Briggs left Jobe’s quarters in high spirits. A microcab waited for him at the bottom of the elegant outer stairway. He noticed the sun setting and from the height of the fifth terrace, the view of Uppsala that spread out before him looked stunning. He could see all the way to the docks on the Selgen River and lights began to dance across the terraces. A cadet driver held the door for Briggs and saluted by thumping the left side of his chest with his right fist. Briggs returned the gesture and slid into the back seat of the cab.

“Third terrace, temporary tents,” Briggs stated to the driver.

“Yes, sir!”

As the cab eased away on a pocket of air, Briggs thought back to his introduction to the Capitol of the Empire.

…The old fishing boat entered a sharp turn in the Selgen river where the Aros or mouth of the Fyris River began. The ships captain had explained to him that the OutSiders who founded Uppsala over 5,000 years ago felt the land reminded them of their home in Sweden. The land south of where the Fyris and the Selgen met contained impassable swamp lands called the fyri, which is why the ancients founded Uppsala on the north bank of the river on more solid ground. The river took its name from the swamp. Straight across from this combined waterway the docks of Uppsala stretched for miles to the north along the Selgen.

The chubby captain of the fishing boat stood beside Briggs at the rail. “Magnificent, in’t she?”

Briggs acknowledged the corn, nodding his head, his eyes taking in the splendor of the City of Blood.

Uppsala spread out before them on five concentric walled and high terraced hills. The first terrace housed the docks, warehouses and fisheries. As it spun around the perimeter of the city it also contained the granaries, market places, taverns and shops necessary for doing business with the outside world. Near each of the five gates and by the blue dock could be found the administrative offices of the government, which allowed or disallowed entrance to the great city.

The second terraced area contained the homes of the poor and lower classes located in the west near the docks and the middle classes in the eastern sector along with the taverns, markets, shops, schools, factories and work places of these inhabitants.

Units of the Army of Uppsala maintained barracks within the third terrace, along with the armory, smithies, lower courts, law enforcement personnel, administrative hacks and the jail. A parade area adjoined the front of the fourth terrace whose wall contained balconies for the use of the Lords of the Upper City to review military pageants and other popular events. Soldiers referred to these three terraces as the Lower City.

Inside the forth terrace resided the manor homes, elegant shops, spacious parks, lakes, entertainment houses, offices and markets of the Lords of the Upper City, high ranking military personnel and government officials with offices in the palace and their staffs.

Finally, the fifth terrace contained the immense palace of the Empire including the High Council, the War Council, and the various other bureaus, departments, ministries, and organizations that ran the Empire. The fifth terrace also enclosed the homes of the Grand Court of the Upper City and the living quarters of the Proctors along with their servants and staffs.

In the center of the bustling waterway set a small booth supported on pilings and covered with a thatched roof. The fishing boat followed a line of vessels moving slowly just to the right of it. The captain, along with Briggs and two other fishermen made their way to the starboard side of the craft. When they pulled along side the booth, a tall man in a green uniform shirt, filling in a log book in a frenzied fashion, bellowed from the booth, “B411458. Homeport?”

“Hummel,” the captain answered.

“What’s yer cargo, please?”

“One prime OutSider.”

“Length of stay?”

“Til we get paid.”

“Move her into green dock six.”

The ship nudged forward again, moving a half-mile upriver. Once she’d birthed, the captain, Briggs and the two fishermen disembarked. A second officious looking gentleman in a starched and pressed uniform met them on the dock. He wore a light green shirt and darker green pants with a white belt around his waist that had an extension running from his left hip over his right shoulder. He glared out at the captain from under a pith helmet.

“We don’t get a huge number of fishing boats visiting the green docks. What’s your business sir?” His eyes riveted on Briggs. As he spoke they remained searching his features.

“We pulled this man outta Riga Sea. Got good reason ta believe he’s a prime.”

“Yes, the cut of his cloth certainly doesn’t look familiar, does it?”  The man walked around Briggs, touching his clothing.  “Some sort of heavy blue jacket, blue pants.  You might have him shave that ridiculous beard off.  It would be better if he reached Three clean shaven.  In any case, you’ll need to take him there. I’ll send along a man to escort you. Come with me and I’ll get you the required paperwork.”

At the end of the green docks a wooden sidewalk ran north to south alongside a dusty brick roadway. Across the road another walkway ran in front of two or three story plank buildings, most of which had large glass windows on the lower level with various flags flying above them. Every quarter mile a road cut through to the west. This set the buildings off into blocks, one of which contained carriage sheds and a long stable area.

Briggs’ party crossed the street and entered a corner building to the left of pier nine. They entered into a foyer. Ignoring the stairway to the right that led to the upper floors, their guide opened the double doors to their left, leading them into a large rectangular room. The front of the room had chairs set against the walls and a long banister separating the waiting area from the desks of the workers. Upon entering, their guide signaled for the captain, Briggs, and his guards to have a seat while he met someone at the rail admitting him through a swinging gate and escorting him to a desk near the right wall of the office. The workers all wore similar style uniforms to the man who had met them at the dock.

A singular strange piece of apparatus located in the back of the office held the attention of Briggs and his group. Here some 80 to 100 metal tubes curved from the high ceiling to an operator’s desk. Papers deposited into carriers and then sealed and placed into the tubes could be sent to different offices throughout the building. They heard a whoosh of sound as the carrier whisked away. The same sound signaled a returning carrier, followed by a muffled thump. Extracting the paperwork from its carrier, the operator gave it to a young boy who ran it to an appropriate administrator’s desk.

After some time, their administrator came back to the rail. He signaled the captain to meet him. “I need you to place your mark on this paper, please.”

The boat captain looked over the paper and then back at the man who handed it to him. “What is it?”

“It’s simply a document remanding your catch to my custody. It’s necessary in order to get you paid,” the man replied.

The captain took the pen and applied his mark on the paper. “N when will that be takin’ place?”

“You’ll take these papers and your boat to yellow seventeen. Tie up there and feel free to enjoy the hospitality of the port. I will expect you back here in three day’s time. I’ll have an answer for you then concerning any reward you may have coming.”

The captain snorted. “I may have comin’ eh?” He signaled to his crew and started for the exit.

“Please take your leg irons with you.”

One of the men stooped over in front of the still seated Briggs and pulled a key from around his neck. He unfastened the leg irons after which the captain and his men exited the office.

Briggs stood as the administrator walked up to him and asked, “By what name are you called?”

“Briggs.  I’m the capt…”

“I’m not interested in your story, Briggs. It will be heard by others at a later time. What I am interested in is your gentleman’s agreement that you’ll not try to escape us.”

“Where would I go?”

“Exactly. Where indeed? But, if you are not what those men claim you are, I suggest you take up no more of our valuable time, exit that door and run as fast as your legs will carry you back to wherever it is you came from. If you leave now, nothing will be held against you, but if you stay and are found out later, you will be hung.”

“As I said, where would I go?”

The administrator nodded and signaled to a younger man waiting by the rail. As the man approached, he handed him a courier bag and said, “Accompany Briggs to the intake office in Three. Your passes are inside. They are expecting you.” He then turned to Briggs. “This is Herkiens. He will escort you to your future. Welcome to Uppsala, Briggs. Here a man lives to serve or serves to live.  Choose wisely.”

With that the young man waved his arm in the direction of the double doors. They left the office and stepped out into the sunshine. Minutes later, a green carriage with an emblem on its door similar to the flag flying on the building behind them, pulled to a halt in front of them. Herkiens opened the door for Briggs and the two of them climbed into the vehicle…

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter II Part 3 September 12, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

If men recognize no law superior to their desires,
Then they must fight when their desires collide.

– R. H. Tawney


Chapter II.3:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

wife

The massive door to the council chamber swung open interrupting his thoughts. Briggs stood to attention as Marshall Jobe entered the room.

“Sit down, sit down, Briggs.”

Jobe motioned Briggs to be seated as he squeezed his own bulk into a plush chair across the table from his officer. Briggs sat down wondering what brought the politician back, a thought Jobe read in Briggs’ eyes.

“I returned to find out your real concerns, Briggs. The kind you wouldn’t mention in a room full of royal Proctors. We need to trust each other, you and I, for this thing to work.

“Briggs remained quiet for a moment, taking stock of the man seated across from him. Jobe had a reputation for being the most cunning politician in all Erde. That he held the position of Proctor of the Rejoinder of Uppsala could be no accident. He understood a man’s thoughts as if he heard them spoken aloud. Did he, in fact, expect Briggs to trust him?

“I will fulfill this mission, Marshall Jobe.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure you will. What’s more, I’m sure you have no idea why you are being assigned to this task, do you?”

Briggs answered the question with a blank stare.

“How long have you been in Erde, Briggs? A hundred years, a hundred-fifty?”

“A little over a hundred sir.”

“Yes, as I thought. And still not used to the idea of living this long, are you?”
Briggs shook his head to the left.
.
“The orders for this campaign came from him, Captain.” Jobe pointed to the jeweled Empty Chair under the State Seal. Briggs’ eyes widened.

“That’s impossible. No one’s seen the man in over six hundred years!”

“Watch your tongue, Briggs.” Jobe spoke without losing his smile. “I’m allowing you into a confidence here and you’d best appreciate that. You came from a place called America, did you not?”

“Yes, sir. I called Massachusetts my home.”

“You had a book called the Bible there, didn’t you? If I remember right it tells of the Nephilim who walked the earth in the days of Noah. Did you know that Nephilim is an ancient word for the peoples who populated the Weald?”

“No Sir.”

”It’s obvious that  a time arose when our lands shared a more accessible link than they do now. But I digress. You may remember that the ancient peoples of the Bible lived remarkably long lives, some up to 900 years. Why, then, do you find long life so unnatural?”

Briggs’ mind left the conversation. For an instant he stood aboard the Mary Celeste with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Sophia. Just as quick he sensed himself staring into the eyes of Marshall Jobe again.

“Sorry sir. It will not impact on my ability to carry out my orders.”

Jobe’s eyes pierced into his soul. “There is something else, isn’t there? Speak, man! Tell me now!”

The long thin fingers started beating their rhythm on the table again. He acknowledged this unexpected line of questioning. He must tell this man the truth.

“My wife and daughter, sir. I believe they may be among the tall peoples of the Weald. It is still my desire to locate them if they are alive.”

“Interesting, Briggs.  How old was your daughter when you came to Erde?”

“Two, Sir, and my wife was thirty-one.”

“And how old would they be now?”

Briggs’ face screwed up like a knot.  His features eased as he began to answer Jobe.  “The wife would be a hundred forty-two and the daughter, one-twenty.  I would not recognize either of them if I saw them, I suppose.”  It still hurt to think of speaking their names out loud.

“This assignment will give you an opportunity to find them will it not? I knew you would be the correct officer for this project. Remember he wants these native villages annihilated. They are the last known threat to Uppsala left in Erde. These people must be killed or removed.”

“Threat, sir?”

“Yes, threat. I’ll not speak of it here, Briggs. Meet me in my private chambers and I’ll explain it to you in depth. I could use some chilled wine.”

Marshall Jobe pushed away from the table and rose from his chair but his eyes remained on Briggs.

“Captain Briggs, there is no man in the service of Uppsala that I trust more with this mission. You know that in battle men will be killed and yet you have no qualms concerning leading your men into the fray. You have a combat prowess unequaled by any other commander in this army. You may have been a seamen in the other place, but war suites you, Briggs. The men you command testify to your bravery, aggressiveness, calm demeanor and instinctiveness in the fluid conditions of a fight. They both fear you and admire you. They know when you set out to destroy an enemy, you lay hand on him as soon as possible, and never remove it. You accept a battle’s terribleness because, for you, it is a clarion call. Now you must merge a soldier’s duty with your personal quest and answer this summons with the ambition, fearlessness, placidity, and nerve with which you face life.”

Briggs could not meet Jobe’s eyes. Expressionless, he rose and followed the Marshall to his chambers. He could hear himself saying, “We will spill blood for Uppsala our victory will be just.”