‘Child of Ictis‘ which is evolving slowly. This is the last one of the series ‘After the Fall’ and so the most difficult to write. An understatement! It is almost as if the characters were happy where I left them at the end of the last book and don’t want to get up and go? Hal has been banished, where as Rame and Ros are just getting fat.
(example Chpt) INTERESTING TIMES
The two men made an odd pair. Rame had changed little in the sixteen years since he hunted the Talisman of Ictis with Hallivick Baddon. There was a scattering of white in his long pony-tail of curling black hair. His powerfully musculature was hidden under fat which fooled some people into thinking he had become soft and domesticated.
Rame’s companion Findo Gask was a contrast. The man’s skinny physique seemed barely capable of holding him upright. His face looked to have melted, coalescing into lumps around chin and mouth and leaving craters under the eyes. Yet there was an intensity about the man; somewhere in that wizened frame a fury boiled.
The Tavern was hot and appallingly noisy, with a raucous screeching that passed for music coming from the Gleemen in the corner.
The location, right next to the Market, meant it was full to bursting with drunken Packmen arguing and proclaiming the quality of their wares. A foul smell of unwashed bodies, vomit, wet dog and spilt beer, all combined to make Rame feel at home.
He had to admit that under the ruthless regulation of the High Priestess the countryside was peaceful and some might claim, civilised. The hamlets, isolated smallholdings, and Earth Mother Freyfarms, were all better run than the Trading towns that was for sure.
But Rame had been raised in a rambunctious male dominated town, barely constrained by the Goddess in those far off days and to him this anarchy meant freedom.
Rame and Findo Gask sat at a table next to a blackened oak pillar, embellished with charms and the names of fickle lovers. Its bulk vanished into the gloom of beams supporting the roof and a clutter of nets, brooms and dead things in cages. Behind them was an open door to the kitchen and a stone stairway, route to the Bawd house above. Years ago Rame and Hal had sat in this self-same spot planning their Talisman hunting quest.
Rame was argumentative and Findo seemingly drunk, his pale rheumy eyes watering, thinning white hair damp with sweat.
“Combing the four corners of the land and running after every rumour of this heretic is all very well for you,” said Rame, taking a long pull from his beer. “After all you are a servant of Ictis, they trained you and so you are bound to take up their quest.”
Findo made a disgusted noise deep in his throat and spat on the floor.
“I’m no putrefying servant, I‘m a free man.” He grabbed a passing serving-wench by the skirt and liberated the drink she carried.
“But you are going; so if it’s not for the Priests, or the Sisterhood, then why?” shouted Rame over the din.
“Yes, yes, I admit that I owe Veryan a debt, my life, as it happens, but that isn’t the reason,” said Findo, speaking of the frail man clinging to the remnants of power at Ictis, defended by a few surviving Swords.
The crowd was getting thicker and more boisterous. A couple of arguing Packmen backed into the table where Findo and Rame sat, causing it to lurch spilling beer.
“Mind our drinks you nameless cretin,” snarled Findo stabbing the Packmen in the leg with his needle.
The man turned, indignantly clutching his thigh and swearing, but the cold look in Rame’s eyes stopped his mouth and he vanished into the crowd.
“Story-telling is no way to spend a life for someone who once was a fighting man, you agree?” Asked Findo. Rame looked embarrassed.
“But I do it because it feeds us and it’s what Ros expects me to do.” Rame protested, raising his square thick fingered hands.
“We are told by the holy Sisters it is all the will of the Goddess.” Findo sneered. “Just think a moment how we live. We fill our allocated roles. Those black crows of the Earth Mother Cult, Guildsman, Packman, Artisan, Peasant, Sheela, Serf, Mesta, and even the Gribbin.” Findo was banging the table to accentuate each word, his anger growing.
“What about the damn Nyth-an-Hager?” Rame muttered, but Findo didn’t hear him in the din.
“Of course, the Sisters of the Cult tell us we live in the best of all possible Worlds, everything is arranged to their advantage. Look how they live on the Freyfarms.”
Findo ground his empty bowl into the tabletop, his lined face flushed. He looked up and locked eyes with Rame.
“I go to find a lost Hero of our age. So, do you come or do you stay bleating with these Mesta?”
Rame laughed good-naturedly, his piggy eyes almost hidden in rolls of hard fat.
“No need to call me a sheep-lover, I’m coming for the craic and to recall old times, I just wanted to know about you!” he said stretching his massive shoulders,
The noise, that had been increasing past all bearing, reached a crescendo. Someone threw the first punch and the room exploded into a free-for-all. A surging inextricable mess of cursing, laughing, fighting humanity, furniture, bottles and fists all in use, staggered back and forth.
The cooks dashed from the kitchen, brandishing a variety of fearsome cutlery. The giant Arbitrator from the Bawd house ran down the stairs and waded in with enthusiasm. The brawl was violent but for the most part good natured yet Rame felt uneasy. He peered through the chaos of fighting men and caught a glimpse of Amazons at the doors. Rame grabbed Findo and pulled the small man to the floor. Findo hissed with rage.
“Put that damn needle away, we have to get out of here now. Stay low!” Bent almost double, Rame barged his way through the press of ignorant fighting men, aiming for the kitchen. Findo followed in his wake, skipping and dodging like a reluctant dinghy in a rough sea.
Ros felt a chill of apprehension when the first squad of Amazons loped by her cottage on their way into town. They were a common sight in twos and threes, arrogant and pushy, picking fights with men. It was said they even seized the younger handsome ones for sport. Whatever their fate, the young men never returned.
“Those filth are in battle order, up to no good for sure.” Ros muttered, rinsing the garden soil from her hands and drying them on her dress.
In the loft the air was warm and stale. Chinks of daylight illuminated dust motes disturbed by the draught from the room below. Ros eased her hips through the trapdoor.
“Too much good living my girl, You’re getting fat!” Stepping with care, rafter-to-rafter she reached the hunting bow and its quiver full of arrows, hanging on a peg driven into the ridge timbers.