Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Asael X

This is part of my ongoing novel. Think of it as Killer Angels taking place in a musket and magic fantasy world with characters that combine the religious sensibilities of American revivalism with Beowulf-like blood feuds. All this while engaging in Talmudic style dialectics. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” is about to take on a whole new meaning.

Introduction, A Note from the Author, Prologue, I, II, III,IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX

Asael turned to Sion and grinned. “You are in luck; she was muttering about killing what you brought home.” Upon saying that, curiosity got the better of him. “What exactly did you bring home to turn Ima to murder?” Sion turned her eyes upward innocently and clutched the basket to her chest. “Give that to me,” said Asael as he grabbed the basket from her.

“Give kitty back!”

Sion squinted her eyes and puffed out her cheeks in preparation to wail, but Asael gave her a glare that silenced her. “Shut it.” Asael opened the basket to find a kitten, barely six weeks old, inside. It was grey with black stripes across its back and long narrow ears that curved at the top. The kitten, upon seeing Asael, put its front paws on the front of the basket and sniffed upward in the direction of Asael’s fingers.

“Isn’t she beautiful Asa.” Asael lifted the kitten out of the basket to inspect it. “You know you cannot keep this thing. What do you even know about taking care of animals; you can barely dress yourself.” Sion snatched the kitten and hugged it in a way that Asael was certain could not be good for it and started chanting “my kitty!”

“And it is going to be your kitty for about five minutes before Abba comes out and makes you give it back to Qirqisani. That is if Ima does not kill it first herself.”

“We just need to give her a name.”

“Well it is a cat so call it Shunra.” Sion seemed pleased with that suggestion. “That is a nice name.”

“Sion! That is not a name, it just means cat.”

Sion began stroking the kitten from its head to its shoulders as she called to it. “Hey Shunra.”

Asael clutched his hands in exacerbation. “You might as well call it Kitty Stew for all the good it is going to do you.”

Sion’s eyes lit up and Asael realized that he had forgotten to whom he was speaking and had said the worst thing possible. “Kitty Stew Shunra, Kitty Stew Shunra,” she shouted out with delight as she swung her newly named pet around. Kitty Stew Shunra let out a “Meeeeow!” that was impossibly loud for her small size.

Accepting defeat, Asael returned to the business at hand and put his ear back to the cylinder. His parents were still speaking. Apparently they had either not heard Sion’s prancing or had taken it as a matter of course.

“There was one final thing I think I should mention, said Serariah.” Hasan wanted me to get in touch with Tishbi.”

“As in Zichri and Tishbi? I remember you mentioning them to me, but I got the impression that you had not seen hair nor hide of them since you were a boy.”

“Zichri is a jabbering lunatic while Tishbi is a highly articulate one. I honestly have no idea where they are and I have no reason to assume that they particularly want to be found, least of all by anyone from the military, but I fear I owe it to Hasan to make the attempt.”

“Personally I could not give a fig, one way or another, what Hasan thinks or wants. Your friends are your own business Serariah. What is one more scoundrel friend of yours to me?”

“You may not have the luxury of such contempt.”

Hefzibah looked at her husband. His face told her that something was truly wrong. Whatever it was, this matter scared him.

“Hasan gave me some reading material that he thought might be of interest. It was a series of murder reports. Three of them were from Khazaria, others were from Aspamia and Ghassani. There were more than a score over the past year.”

“And why would the military see acts of murder as a cause for concern?”

“The victims were all knacks.”

“Is this government work or are we just dealing with private witch hunters?”

“I only wish we were. All the victims had significant loss of blood, usually with their throats slit.”

“Having one’s throat slit would result in significant loss of blood.”

“The requisite amounts of blood were not found in the surrounding areas!”

It was beginning to dawn on Hefzibah the true gravity of the situation. “What sort of person would do this?”

“At least four were shot through both kneecaps before being killed. Whoever did this likes to incapacitate their victims before getting down to business. Thorough job, we have not recovered any of the projectiles. ”

“You are saying that they did not use bullets.”

“They might have used some type of bullet. All we can say is that the wounds do not match a musket ball, a rifled bullet or any dart or arrow. Whatever it was, it is a lot more destructive than our bullets. This is not an iron ball that enters and you take out with forceps. This gets in and it explodes, making a mess of anything inside.”

“So these killers are soul-men from across the Gaps then.”

“A reasonable conclusion.”

“Hasan believes that Asael might be in danger?”

“I might be in danger too; thank you very much.”

Hefzibah patted her husband on the shoulder. “Yes, but you are a big boy and I can trust you to take care of yourself.” Hoping to make the best of the situation she added: “So there have only been three attacks in this country.”

“Three that we know off,” said Serariah gravely. “Unfortunately, since we lack any reliable information on our knack population, we have no way knowing for certain. A more accurate statement on my part would have been that we know that at least three knacks have been murdered by soul-men in this country.”

“Which is why you need Tishbi.”

“Tishbi keeps track of such things. Except that he is paranoid enough to reject our help. For God sakes, it is his people dying out there.”

“Maybe Tishbi is smart enough to realize that he cannot afford any free help from your military friends. I am sure he has, unlike some other people, asked himself what is in it for Hasan Kochba.”

“How about friendship to me. You may find this hard to believe but being associated with a knack, even in our day and age, does nothing to advance one’s career. If our son makes to eighteen without ending up in that file then it will be in no small part to Hasan’s credit.”

“I pray every night for the safety of our family and that we should be delivered in purity. It seems that Rachmana does not find us worthy of the latter.”

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