Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Unpleasant Journey

Steelhead Adventure: Silver Poison/Return to Fusang

Imperiequeritis, tria pendent...

I have to
think, have to clear the cobwebs.. what in the world was the source of this infernal lassitude that gripped me... a concussion? Perhaps.

corpora ramis dis meus...

They have me in chains, no joy there-- no quick dash for a porthole.

et gestas in media et divina

The food clearly had opium or some form of narcotic in it, that much was for certain.. otherwise I would not feel so.. docile.. when they bound my wounds and saw to bodily needs.

potestas dimeas clanator

So. They would keep me in this rathole for the entire trip, they couldn't afford not to. They suspect(and perhaps it is true) that I would rather leap over the side than take my chances on a happy reunion with old acquaintance.

In lucid moments, I start to make a plan.. this isn't the first time I've broken out of a jail. One starts with an inventory of what one knows to be true.

Manpower: one guard, maybe two, outside the door in the hallway. Rifles, more likely sidearms in a closed space. That meant in holsters, with flaps. Likely least alert at night, but who could tell what time it was in here?

Manacles: Stout steel. Impossible to thwart without tools.

Tools: none in sight.

The Itinerary: Docking at Kowloon, if they are in a hurry. Then a long trip upland in a junk, or steamer if they are in a big hurry, which they sound as if they are.

potestas dimeas clanator

Unless they've dredged the river, this route should get us within 100 miles of Fusang.

They aren't stupid, I've seen ample evidence of this. The Society would never risk placing me on a horse, even with my hands bound-- I could hardly blend in, but I can make an astonishing distance with a good horse under me. So I will likely be placed in some conveyance for the final leg of the journey. A wagon? Some form of aerial transport?

sed jetas as astra levarut..."

They will likely bring me before Lieng for a nice long gloat before I am executed. Or whatever it is they have in mind. I know him. He'll want to spit in my eye and strike me (safely tied up) before I provide the night's entertainment. He'll want to take his time with it, after all, he's spent a lot of treasure and time bringing me in front of him. Killing me outright won't be his style. At this point, he'll be as close to me physically as he has ever been, these last 20 years. THAT might prove my best chance.. if not to survive, then at least to drag him to hell with me. I grinned, in the darkness..

Imperiequeritis, tria pendent...

That might suffice... that might just work after all..

corpora ramis dis meus...

I close my eyes, letting sleep start to touch me.. puzzling, wondering why the shade of Ward persists in invading my dreams at night.. why would a man twenty years dead bother with me in a dream state?

et gestas in media et divina

Twenty years earlier, in a dreamstate...

We run down the dock at Fooking, feet pounding on the rickety dock, the dock hands running in panic as the mob from the mission runs ahead of me. Sergeant Buchanan, Forrester, and Holman, the engineer's mate, are with me, the militia had fled. Behind us, the Student Coalition run by Lieng and the Bandit troops are firing sporadically. "Thank you, whatever clod footed Frenchman taught YOU boys to shoot", I think, as the bullets whistle overhead harmlessly.
potestas dimeas clanator

Suddenly, a red star appears on Holman's white duck jumper, and he sits down with a grunt. "What happened?" He breathes... then his eyes roll back and he is dead. Forrester, shot through the calf, makes the mistake of stopping, and they are upon them, hacking and stabbing. I turn, firing the last two bullets, hitting one ugly customer for certain, then throwing the pistol. Buchanan does not stop, fleeing in panic, he makes the gangway, moving the crying and exhausted civvies ahead of him.

Oh well.

I pull the parang out of my belt and rush the crowd over Forrester's body, screaming in Gaelic as hard as I can manage, feeling the rage take hold of me.. GOOD.. STRONG! KILL! Chop, Chop, klang, klang.. one of them folds, then another... and there is Lieng in front of me, impossibly young now, his eyes dark and furious. He holds the Temple sword from the earlier altercation-- still red with gore. He leaps for me.. I counter. He is fast, and not unskilled, but he fights with the graceful, gliding cutting strokes the Orientals favor. I learned fencing with a heavy cavalry officer's sabre, and my wrist has never lost the strength.. a counter. a counter. a thrust. a counter. a counter... I come up under his guard, and slice him across his face.. deep, deep down to the bone. He screams, girlishly, and holds the wound, blood covering his hand. He steps back, and the look of hatred he gives me then was something I should have paid more attention to. I let him retreat, stupidly.

In the here and now, I muse on the suppression of pain for a bit as I hold the lump on my head the rifle butt left.
"One mustn't give them the satisfaction" I thought. But it hurts like the blazes. The attempt had gone awry from the start. I had found a metal object, a flat carpenter's nail, under the cot. It took an hour to get the manacles off-- I had not lost that skill at least. I had waited until what I judged was the early evening. Picking the lock was easy enough-- but as I charged out into the corridor, I discovered they had calmly been waiting for me. Even with four Tong guards on me, I made it to the gangway door at the end of the passage. Not bad. I call that a good start.

Later, Lien Bao visits me again. An evil smile plays across his face.

"You exceed our expectations, Colonel. The Dragon who Waits instructed me to establish this test for you to gauge whether you had lost your skills with the passing of the years. I am pleased to be able to report to him that you have not grown less lethal with age. Your cell had the nail planted in it in advance, of course. We have been observing you work on your escape attempt for hours now. Now, please to accept my assurances that you will not be allowed to make a second test. I regret that you find our hospitality lacking, but you must bear it for at least a week more."

My mouth works, trying to emit something more meaningful than a croak.

"Sod off, you great Chinese Goblin, ye! I won't provide your damned floor show, you mark my words!"

It's posturing, and we both know it. We both know it. He laughs, almost pleasantly, and bows himself out.

A week more? How much time has passed?

1 comment:

Her Grace, Eva Bellambi said...

*finds herself silently chanting an ancient spell for protection and healing after torture*

I think I'd better find my grandmother's dusty volumes of healing journals........

Oh - there's the MI5 aetheric teletype buzzing. I'll get to the journals later.