The world of Atenn Pelian:
The Shepherds of Ylamphia
Legend of The Sccarabus
Shadows of Ylamphia
Legend of The Sccarabus: extirpation
At Owls Lar
(A drafty idea for the opening chapter)
At Felling Gar
High in the mountains of Napsay Hin beneath the roaking calls and black wings of soaring Vaalkh, lies the town of Felling Gar. Bitherak Wormsley stood with his aide, known only as Growce, at the junction of three of its streets. Their presence in such a place had been determined by the choice of another who had deemed it a suitable venue for a meeting. Once upon a time, the merits of meeting in this town would have been plentiful, but that was long ago. The only merit Bitherak Wormsley could hope for was a favourable outcome to his appointment. Being a man of order and organisation, he liked to arrive early. The advantage, as he perceived it, of being early had converted his arrival into a minor triumph over the man he was to meet, and he allowed himself a smirk of self satisfaction before turning on foot to investigate the next narrow street in this hope-forsaken and frozen town.
'Best to be thorough.' Wormsley said to his aide. ‘I haven’t been here since... since the war.’ Wormsley drew the hood and collar of his long coat tightly around his ears and neck. The air at Felling Gar was mountain air, shot with meanness. What Wormsley did not know was that the fellow they were there to meet also had reason to be thorough, and to that end, also early.
Wormsley and his aide picked their way up and along the slippery streets until they came to an unlit alley snow-packed between the leaning walls of buildings which were in various stages of decay. Many of those buildings in a state of dereliction unchanged since the war. But there was life here. Signs of it were carried on the air, while others marked and sullied the snow upon the ground. Aromas and sounds issued from gaps in ill-fitting doors and broken window panes and bled into the alley. Smoke seeped into the atmosphere from chimneys high above.
'This is the place.' Wormsley said, pointing.
'People still live here? What a wreck.' said Wormsley's aide. 'I'll bet the night-life's a scream up here, literally.'
'People need to survive here as they do anywhere else, Growce. Believe it if you will, they are a peaceable, traditional folk. Much has happened to them in recent years; stuff that would have your lilly white legs running for the first gondola home. No, there has been no running away for them. You’ll find none of your seedy bars and sordid entanglements up here.'
'Shame.' said the aide, who kicked at an upturned plastic bucket in the snow. It was frozen to the ground and did not budge.
'We're not here for their fine wines and gourmet snacks...the items on today's particular menu will be far from palatable; I would venture, indigestible.'
The town was steeped in a heavy air, almost tangible with the misty fastness of its cold. It held the sound of their voices close, muffling them to a level of intimacy. Growce put his gloved hands to his mouth and blew hot breath through the fabric of them to warm his fingers. His brow curled over his roving eyes in a frown of dis-ease. Too many window panes; too many doors, and not enough people. He felt he was being watched.
Folded wooden chairs leaned frozen against a wall at either side of a door to their right. The chairs had remained unmoved during a season of snow and frost which had layered their horizontal surfaces and ice-welded them to the the building's flaking wall.
'This?' said Growce, with contempt. 'This is the place?'
Bitherak noticed the compacted snow of the street, dirty and more concentrated near the door, and a pattern of countless superimposed footprints leading to and from it. Flaking and faded paint had crackled and lifted from the door's surface, the vibrant green of its original colour having faded to a non-descript hue. Obscure glazing admitted little light to the room beyond. The pale wooden door-knob, however, gleamed with frequent use.
'This is it.' Bitherak confirmed.
The aide tried the door handle.
'Locked. Or frozen shut.' His hand went to the little glazed panel of the door, and rubbed without success, in an effort to clear a patch through which to peer inside.
'Try the shutters.' said Wormsley.
Growce pressed his face to them and saw a movement in the room behind, temporarily glimpsed, as he aligned his eye cautiously to a slit between the frosted laths. A silhouette passing through shadows, but a movement all the same.(MAKE MENTION OF THIS or refer to it later) He mentioned nothing of it to his employer. 'Tables and chairs.' he noted aloud. 'And a bar, by the looks of it. A tavern?'
He glanced at Wormsley, who raised his eyes to a hand-painted sign high up on the wall above them.
Growce stepped back a pace or two and read aloud: ‘The Pelt and Whistle. Now this looks like a place I'd want to come back to.' Growce added, with an immediate change of tone.
'I don't think they would be able to offer you the style and deprivation you are used to.' said Bitherak.
'Your meeting's in here?'
'Later, it is, yes.' said Wormsley.
'Some recce this is turning out to be. It's barely past dawn, everyone's asleep, the taverns are closed...and it's freezing cold.' His tone resumed.
'I like to be early.' Bitherak stated, flatly.
'I like to eat.' said Growce, turning away from the shutter. His own gloved fingers prodded his belly. 'I'm starving!' he said, loudly.
'All in good time. Let me get appraise the lay of the land.'
'Are we expecting trouble?'
'With Weller, you always expect trouble.' Bitherak looked around the street behind him and then up at the roofs and chimneys. 'I want you here before me. Have two men sit by the door inside. Unobtrusive, natural. The best you can find. Pay them well.'
'You want me inside?'
'Certainly not. No. It would be best if you find a place down the street, out of sight, and wait there.'
'I can be nearby. If there's trouble...'
'Have you met Weller?'
'No. Never.' Growce said, a little too eagerly.
'It's best we keep it that way. I can handle him, almost. Don't get close. Weller is not stupid. He will expect me to have someone with me, and he most certainly will not be alone. You are my eyes, Growce...don't be looking elsewhere...at the ladies, for example.'
'If I was looking,’ Growce declared with emphasis, ‘I wouldn't be looking for a lady.' A lecherous grin followed.
'Don't look at all!' snapped Wormsley. 'This is not a game.'
'You can rely on me, boss.'
'Right then, let's find somewhere to eat.'
The twisted mountain town of Felling Gar offered few choices to its visitors in the way of accommodation and places to eat and drink. The hour was as early as the rising sun even though the sun could not be seen nor the effects of its rays felt. Only a small Silt bar with no name was open to trade. It was serving the traditional beverage of Lam Tree Silt served hot in mugs with a slice of black bread. Their needs, in terms of anonymity and nourishment, were catered for in one sitting. Bitherak welcomed the distraction from his task, but found he could not eat. They talked for a while and Growce ate his employer’s share of the bread. It was time for Wormsley to leave.