Friday, April 29, 2016

News of Arunia: Smoke and Fire

Lo! It is the end of the year 510, and the civil war in the Empire rages on. Mercenaries have been summoned from the Goblin Lands, and chests of silver and gold go to the dark Overking to pay for his troops. Hob knights and goblin archers filter down into the Serpent Baronies and make war on the rebellious lords of the Empire, all at the behest of the emperor's paymasters. The war has dragged on, with the rebels under the Lord of Amvor gaining ground in Colona and the Coast of Scythes.

The Black Wolf, Lucanus of Martel, has been named the Grandmaster of the Order of Miles following the death of Haerus at the Battle of Tabor Bridge. The Knights have followed the Black Wolf for the past six months, and word of his dark blade, Smoke, has run through the lines of the rebel foe. He has been seen on the frontlines with Smoke in hand, hewing through the banners of the rebellion.

At the same time, the Young Serpent, Hydrophis Schoolman, has gathered his clan of exiles and cast-outs, the slaves freed by silver paid to the Overking. He has named them the Schola renewed, and taken up residence in the ruin of the old school. As of last week, the Young Serpent has issued the promise of a lordship and land for any who slays one of the fled Magearchs and returns a stolen fragment of the Schola's library.

Quintis, the Beauclerc, has not been seen in Miles for four years. The healers have refused to follow the army of the emperor, though they have been working day and night to heal those who returned to the city.

The Imperial Tagmata has been battered and torn by the war and now stands badly depleted. Likewise the Escurae Varani, who have fallen in many battles. There are those who wonder at the emperor's power to keep the empire together. Indeed, there are many in the kingdoms surrounding the empire who are beginning to make plans against the hour when its final shattering is at hand. There are even nobles in the capital who believe the Overking is waiting for his moment to strike and destroy the empire, as soon as its weaknesses are made clear.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Upcoming

Lot of stress this week working on A Taste of Vengeance, the next of the Muskets and Magecraft series. It's very long, to the point where I haven't been able to post it yet because it's still being read over and reviewed. In fact, I may wind up sending it out to places like Beneath Ceaseless Skies... so it may not be posted for a while.

My apologies for going dark, my friends—keep fighting the good fight.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fiction Friday: Dark Virginia


George fitzPatrick had a fine name, but nothing else. The knife he wore was stolen. He still owed three pounds for the musket slung over his shoulder, though his creditor were unlikely to demand it; George had seen Seymour Clayburn, for one, killed after the Second Jamestown War. George himself didn't fight because, unlike the esteemed Mr. Clayburn (to whose estate George was still in debt), he knew the measure of the Cahoki. Englishmen, that is to say the men who came over from England and were not Virginia-born, didn't understand the Indians. They thought themselves superior. George knew better.

When Christophoro Columbo returned to the New World for a fifth time to expand his slave-taking enterprize, he discovered Cahokia. The Italian merchant was no match for the wits of the Moundbuilders. His crew, his ships, his entire enterprize was made forfeit; he danced for the Cahoka King much as he'd made his own slaves dance in the courts of Spain. George knew this because every man, woman, and child who'd grown up in the colonies knew it. Don't anger the Indians. This was a cardinal rule.

This is why, when the Cahoki ambassador, Nechuan Rehapok, was killed, George hastened out of Jamestown. He wouldn't have been caught dead there in the weeks that followed. His intuition, which had thrice preserved him from the gallows, was right again. That was the beginning of the Second Jamestown War. Powhatan federates burned half the settlement and scattered the farmers to the winds. George fitzPatrick spent his time hiding in the woods, like a Wampanoag, or some other poor pitiful barbarian. Cahoki treated Englishmen and "barbarian" Indians alike: fit for slavery, or execution as a means of amusement.

When the bloodshed was over, George emerged from the dark fens where he'd lain those long weeks. His frame was gaunt with hunger. Eels and bayfish had hardly satisfied him, and he was afeared to light a fire lest he draw Cahoka hunters down on him. Their magic was strong. They could sniff out Englishmen from miles off. So he rubbed his body with mud and slept in brackish pools. He kept his shotpouch stuffed with redcap mushrooms and silver musket balls. Nothing was more proof against Cahoka sorcery than redcaps and silver, George found.

Stinking, covered with slime from the mire, George had strolled into the wreck of Jamestown. It was there he grabbed his knife from the dead James Bowrey and there too that he saw the face of Seymour Clayburn lying twisted in the muck. He felt like laughing.

Lord de la Warr arrived shortly thereafter to put things aright. He was a dour man, and George did not like him. But, the Virginia Company had put him in charge of the colony, and that was that. Only a handful of men Jamestown-born remained after the fight. George was one of them. Because so many people had been carried off by Cahoki or outright murdered, most of George's bad habits were forgotten. There was no one left to remember them.

He helped rebuild the wall for a few shillings and spent many nights around the fire telling the new men from over the sea what to expect in Virginia. "Shadows," said he to them, "and Indians. And nothing else of profit. No gold like the Spaniards found. Maybe tobacco, if your arms are good."

George was surprised at the number of indentured that came over with de la Warr. Indentures, it seemed, had grown once more in popularity and there was none more prominent than the black servant to de la Warr's magician. She was called Mary, but the men christened her Virginia because she was icy-cold, just like the Virgin Queen. The company's sorcerer was an affable man named Judas Bylane. George grew to like him quite well.

It was Master Bylane's custom to take ale with the men of an evening. George loved him a good ale, and they became fast friends. Judas told George of the toil of a Man of the Art—the bending of one's good eyes down to crabbed papers and the exhaustion of the mind that must surely follow. George told Judas of the trapper's art, and all—the bending of a man's good will down into the earth, and the exhaustion of the spirit that came with it. They laughed together, drank together, and soon enough George found himself working on Master Bylane's house with him.

This was the first that George saw Mary-Virginia up close. He felled logs with Judas in the wood and hauled them back to where Governor de la Warr had set out the magician's plot. It took them a number of afternoons to move enough lumber to begin building. For the first time in his miserable existence, George fitzPatrick felt that he belonged somewhere. When he was in the wild, he was always afraid that the Cahokia owned it better than he. When he was in Jamestown he had always been irked by the Englishborn and his creditors. But now that his past was gone, he had one true friend not inclined to thievery, outlawry, or banditry: Judas Bylane.

Together they planed the logs and cut notches into them. George didn't even mind the work, though he normally balked at physical labor. Judas lent him a tent to make use of, and George spent the nights by Master Bylane's pavilion.

Mary-Virginia kept the master's pavilion. She cleaned, she cooked, and she brewed ale. She was a striking, smoky creature. George felt ashamed when she caught him staring, but he couldn't help himself. Moors and black folk were not common in the colony, before or after the Jamestown War, but it was more than that. No one would call Mary-Virginia's dusky hues comely, but there was something about her. George couldn't help himself.

Her first words to him where in clear, unaccented, clipped English. "Milk, Mister fitzPatrick?" she asked. It was damned hard to bring livestock across the Atlantic, so only the company governor and his magician had free access to cattle. In George's father's day, the goats and cows held in common had all died of a sickness and George went without milk for three years before more could be brought over.

She held a clay jug on her hip. A ladle protruded from it, promising sweet relief from the noonday sun. George wiped the sweat from his face and patted his beard with his kerchief. "Surely, Mary," he said. Mary smirked, whether from George's form of address (for he did not call her 'Virginia') or because of his unkempt person he could not tell. Rather than hand him the ladle, she drew it from the lip of the jug and held it out. A pool of pearlescent cream shivered in the wind from the bay. "Thankee, Mary," George said, gulping it down. But when he moved to grasp it and drink again, she tapped him on the crown of the head with it.

"Tut. And get your dirt and grime in the cream and spoil it? I think not, Mister fitzPatrick." She dipped the ladle a second time, and again she held the milk for George to drink. He obliged.

That night, over a dinner of wild turkey, George saw fit to speak of Mary-Virginia to the sorcerer. "You know, Master Judas, I find your maid to be most pleasant."

Judas quirked one of his slender eyebrows. "Do you, sir?" he asked. "She has never been a biddable woman, even from girlhood. She was absolutely willful on the passage. Her mother was my uncle's servant, and now she is mine. It is a situation which much recommends itself, in that I do not have to interview or search for domestics."

George said nothing to that. He merely nodded and tried to catch Mary-Virginia's eye across the darkened pavilion. He wasn't sure that she heard him, and he frowned into his plate. He plucked at the turkey carcass and ate another slice with his fingers. Judas grinned.

"I must admit, Mister fitzPatrick, much do I enjoy this rustic life. I would not trade my place here with thee for aught but my Patent." He pressed his hand against the pouch he wore around his neck. George knew it contained his Letter Patent from the King, for all sorcerers carried one such. Those who did not were liable to be hanged, burned, or have their tongues ripped out by the root. This was all academic to George: Master Judas was the first sorcerer he'd ever seen.

The next day they were back to assembling Judas' house. George went out into tidal marshes to collect lime and mud to bind the walls. While he wading through a creek all choked with roots, he stumbled onto a lone Powhatan man. The fellow wore a cloak of green feathers to show his loyalty to his Cohaki masters. He carried a strung bow, and was as surprised as George was. His feather-cloak glittered when he moved.

"I have no wish to quarrel with thee," George said slowly. Had he his musket readied, fuse burning, he might have said something else. As it was, he doubted he could draw his stolen knife faster than the Powhatan could nock and fire. George held up his hands.

The Powhatan sneered. "This is not quarrel," he said. His English was poor, but comprehensible. George had heard worse in the first war. "You English have brought wonder-worker." The Indian spat some other words, words which George could not understand. "Your sagamore match wits with the Cahoka King?"

George shook his head. "No. I don't know what ye mean, sirrah."

"Psht," the Powhatan made a noise of disbelief. "Smell her over you."

"Him," George corrected.

The Powhatan rolled his eyes as though to say, in exasperation, English! "Power. Wonders. These words you know."

"Aye, of course," George agreed. "And Judas Bylane is a master of the Star Chamber, duly licensed and full of great might. I do not say we match wits with the Cahoka King—but we will not be abused again. Now, good say sir."

Whatever spirit of mischief had caused George to bristle so to this native federate, it fled him as his speech ran short. So, he sketched a very shallow bow, turned, and ran. He left the Powhatan puzzling over his meaning.

George went at once to see Lord de la Warr at the church where it stood on the spur of the island.  The gloomy colonial governor was oft to be found there. George had to pass through a labyrinth of servants, wardens, and watchers to reach him. At each pass, he muttered his story. Finally, he was admitted to the presence of the governor. He withered beneath the governor's gray gaze. "A creature lurked outside the town," he warned. "Who knew of Master Judas' presence. The Cahokia know." George recounted his meeting with the Powhatan man and all the brief words exchanged with him.

The governor called for Judas Bylane to be brought to the church at once. Judas came. The magician was like a crow, dressed in dark colours and outlined against the afternoon light. George noted his hesitance to cross the threshold of the buildings, and wondered at it. Judas muttered something that George could not hear, and then fell deep into conversation with Lord de la Warr. George was dismissed.

In the evening, George found Mary-Virginia gathered with the governors white servants. They stood around the cookfire with their heads low and voices lower. George approached them, hat in hand. "Mary," he said, "I fear our friend is in danger."

The servants turned to him. George did not think himself very much above any man indentured. He was, after all, as poor as they. He had not even the slightest blush of nobility about him, save his fine name, and his debts, though discharged by the death of their authors, sometimes crowded round his head while he slept and haunted him of an evening. Still, the indentured men glared as though he were an outsider until Mary-Virginia took him by the arm and led him to the fire.

Now, George was not a handsome man. This he knew. His hair was long and greasy. His nose was all together overlarge. His clothing was not of a fine cut, and was tattered with patches. He was all over a man of the New World, and rustic. He had no illusions about his appearance. No, though his fingernails were yellowed with pipe-smoke, and his beard knotted with lack of care. But still, he had cause to hope that Mary-Virginia saw in him not a monstrous creature, but an upright Englishman, as English as (well, perhaps slightly less than) Master Judas himself.

"Have ye heard then?" George asked the servants.

There was one fellow who served as the governor's secretary, to whom the others deferred. His name was John Paine, relative to that Henry Paine who was shot to death for mutiny when George was a lad. But George had not the courage to ask this John Paine why he would come over when his relation was so harshly killed at Jamestown, nor the courage to ask how they were kin. Paine was a stooped fellow, taller than anyone else in the colony, who wore his hair in a long braid down his neck. His clothing was somber black. George had heard that Paine tended toward John Calvin's camp when it came to faith.

This Paine pursed his lips and said, "Sorcery is the Devil's own work, Mister fitzPatrick. But here, at the end of the world, be it not proper and right that we oppose the Devil with his own tools?" There was a general murmur of agreement.

"It's not Master Judas' magic that I fear," George explained. "But rather that the Powhatan know we've brought our own magician over. Word between them and the Cahoki travels quickly, my friends." It was true; insult a Powhatan at midnight, and find a Cahoki curse on you by sunset the following day. "They're the hands of the Cahoka King, and they resent us."

Paine shrugged. "Much good may it do them. The governor intends to send them bibles."

"Bibles!" George sputtered.

Mary-Virginia smiled a sardonic smile. "Aye. Where musket balls have no effect, our good Lord Thomas believes a sermon will do."

"Christ!"

"Indeed, Mister fitzPatrick," said Mary-Virginia, but John Paine scowled.

Another servant spoke: this one, a company chef in the governor's employ, by the name of Aaron Lytefoot. "I do not relish learning what a war with Cahokia would be like."

"I can tell ye that, friend," said George. "It has happened twice before, once when I was no more'n a sprout. It is not pretty, e'en with all the guns on the governor's ships unloaded and set up against the walls. Cahoki need no cannon to make themselves felt here... and beside, I believe the Spaniards have been trading with them. Last I saw, there were many Cahoki men with musket and shot."

Now it was Paine's turn to curse. "God's wounds!" he spat. "Indians with muskets? Do they even know how to use the things?"

George's face blackened. "I'd not expect ye to understand, being straight from England," he said angrily, "but whether they can use 'em or no, ye'd best settle a goodly and heavy fear in your heart. It seems a peculiar disease of men born across the sea not to comprehend the power that resides here. By God, if the Cahokia had good ships that would ride high on the waves, I would fear for every European monarch. By the end of the decade, they would all be chained before the Cahoka King!"

"You speak of this king as though he were a faerie," Mary-Virginia said softly. George shrugged. His mother had often spoken of the Fair Folk and their tricks, but he was not acquainted with the English countryside; he felt no tie to such things. There were no Fair Folk in Virginia; there were other spirits, and they all obeyed the Cahoka King.

When Judas returned from the church, he did not dine with George. He walked the high wooden ramparts with a bowl of water in one hand and a birch bough in the other. The servants watched him with an interest, but George ate by himself in his canvas tent and slept that night beneath the stars. If he had to flee, he wanted as little as possible between himself and the wood.

A week later, Thomas West, Baron de la Warr, sent his man John Paine to the Powhatans. He was accompanied by three soldiers of the Virginia Company. They wore breastplates and carried halberds. Aaron Lytefoot said they had gone "to convert the Indians." George took the gift of Judas' tent and moved it beyond the walls. Better to be outside the town, thought he.

The Powhatans returned the soldiers without their weapons, but they kept John Paine for the remainder of the summer. Their emissary, Ottowaniak, told the colonists that Chief Powhatan was much interested in the faith of the Englishmen and would keep Paine close to his heart. But Ottowaniak said this with a cruel sort of smile that gave the lie to his claim. It was George's private opinion that John Paine was no longer in Virginia—that he was traveling for punishment to the court of the Cahoka King.

At the next dinner with Judas, George said as much. Judas was not surprised. "The governor is of a certain mind," said Judas, "and I am of another."

But there was no attack. Judas spent two nights each week pacing the wall with his wooden bowl and wand. The governor raged. The reverend Edward Proctor was instructed to preach to the colonists every morning. Lord de la Warr instructed him to chuse passages about the conversion of heathens, the evil of Baal, and other such readings to put iron in the colonists' souls. The governor enacted a curfew. He conscripted colonists to man the walls. Aaron Lytefoot was beaten for being found beyond the palisade after dark.

John Paine never returned.

The mood in the colony grew ugly. Aaron Lytefoot's public flogging rippled as a shock through the indentured men. George was forced to move back behind the walls. He spit and cursed, but did as he was told. By fall, he and Judas had finished the sorcerer's house, and he was permitted to sleep inside with Master Bylane and his servants.

A Virginia Company ship arrived at the start of the fall. It carried cannon, powder, and shot. It also carried books: crates and crates of books that Judas directed to be unloaded into his rough timber house. George built shelves for the magician to store them. He marveled at the strange titles, writ all in gold or silver. Mary-Virginia laughed at him. "You look as though your jaw will fall off, Mister fitzPatrick."

"I cannot imagine that Master Bylane requires all these books." George was uncomfortable. He did not want to speak overlong on the subject. He could not read the words before him and he feared that the longer they discussed the magician's books, the more likely this would be revealed of him.

Mary-Virginia shook her head. "He does not. But the books make him feel safer, you see." George did not think this was a very forward way for a servant to speak, but had he been raised in England he would have seen it so.

George did not pretend to understand magic. It made him uncomfortable. Judas took on an otherworldly caste. Now, the pacing on the walls seemed less harmless. George saw the magician in a new light; the pouch he wore around his neck was no longer a strange tic, but a sign to mark him like a child of Cain. George spent less time with Judas and more with Mary-Virginia as a consequence.

"How long is your indenture?" he asked her. She told him: Seven years. The same as the tobacco farm servants. "Why not four?" he asked. This was the term for most household servants in the colony.

"Because Master Bylane does not relish the idea of finding new servants."

George began to form a scheme to buy off Mary-Virginia's indenture. He had no money, at current, with which to do it. His work for Judas had made him none. He went to Bill Hitchman and agreed to work in his tobacco fields. This was hard work which he despised; George fitzPatrick was a hunter and a trapper. He liked to spend time in the marshes and the wood. Before the war, he'd also relished time spent with Indians: Powhatan, Susquehannock, Nanticoke. Indians were more sensible than Englishmen, for the most part; they did not begrudge George's habits.

Now, it was not just the Powhatan who had turned agains the English. The wild was no longer friendly. Fear ran through the other tribes. So George made his decision. It was harvest time at Bill Hitchman's farm and he needed more hands. The pay was abysmal, and in tobacco, which then had to be sent to an agent in London for sale. But it was more than George could make selling furs and drinking alone in the woods. Besides, if it were found that he was without the walls at night, he'd suffer a fate like Aaron Lytefoot.

But George didn't have time to make any money while on the farm. By the time he was given his first promissory consignment, the servants at Bill Hitchman's were in full revolt. They had been forced, as had all the indentured farmhands, to pack into a noxious hall in Jamestown each night in order to comply with the governor's decree. One afternoon, Hitchman was castigating a man for mishandling the crop when the servant stood up, took Hitchman's cane, and thrashed him with it.

The General Assembly had ordered harsh punishments for the breaking of indenture, and this was a crime beyond that. The man had no desire to face the consequences, and so he fled. Within the hour, Hitchman's farm was in an uproar. Tobacco bales were stolen from his barn. Good silver plate was taken away into the hills. George watched in shock and horror as his fellow servants flew into the countryside, the wild Indian countryside. Rather than wait for Hitchman to recover, he hied himself back to Jamestown.

The government was in a riot when he returned. Word had spread of the burning of Hitchman's farmhouse, which had been undertaken by a few choice domestics. The governor's men caught them trying to bury a sackful of silver shot in the woods. George came through the palisade at the same time as the platoon of company soldiers with their charges in tow. Governor de la Warr consulted with the Assembly for five hours. By sundown, a decision was made. The offending servants would not be granted a trial. The Assembly named them outlaws, and they were to be shot in the morning.

George heard these men's names for the first time at Judas' house that evening. "Thomas Godby and Richard Briars," Mary-Virginia said. "I saw them in the gaol."

"What ever were you doing there, Mary?" Judas frowned into his soup. He had been at the Assembly all afternoon, standing by the governor's elbow.

Mary-Virginia shrugged. "Seeing what there was to be seen."

When the sun rose on the following morning, Thomas Godby and Richard Briars were marched to the seaside. A line of the governor's soldiers leveled their muskets. Wicked white smoke burst forth from the guns. Fire leapt from their muzzles. George wondered that the governor should be so wasteful of powder and shot when the Cahokia threatened war. He watched as Thomas Godby's forehead came apart like wet bread. He flinched when Richard Briars chest and leg exploded with gobbets of gore.

In the afternoon, the General Assembly declared the renegade servants to be rebels against the Crown. Everyone who had worked on Bill Hitchman's farm and later fled was to be killed on sight. The Cahoki needn't have worried, thought George to himself beneath a spreading willow. We are engaged in a fine effort to kill ourselves without their help.

George sought employment in the governor's house. With Judas' recommendation, he was granted it. It was now impossible to hunt, to fish, or to trap outside the colony. Fleeing servants had gone over to the Indians. Four, on hearing they had been named outlaws, banded together and killed Bill Hitchman. They broke into his farmhouse and beat him to death with tobacco hooks. The wood became a battleground between the so-called rebels and the men of Jamestown. George stayed mostly indoors.

It was while he worked in Lord de la Warr's kitchen that he heard Aaron Lytefoot first speak of escaping the colony. "It's not so far," he said while preparing the lord's dinner, "to the Bay Colony. All we need fear is the Indian. And he seems much less inclined to do us harm than our own governor."

This idea had merit to George. He had long been a fan of escaping his troubles with flight. Had the war not broken out and killed Seymour Clayburn and his friends, George would have made the trip already. As it was, he spoke with other servants on't. The imprisonment or death of John Paine on the governor's foolhardy mission, the deaths of Thomas Godby and Richard Briars, the inhuman quarters... all these weighed on the indentured men.

He spent his days dreaming of breaking one indenture alone: that of Mary-Virginia. It was late one night when he came to Judas Bylane's house to speak with her. "Mary," he said, "Aaron Lytefoot, myself, and a few other men are planning to leave this place."

Mary-Virginia smirked. "And where will you go?"

"The Bay Colony," he said. "I can speak some Algonquin—enough to see us safely there."

Mary considered the night. She considered the little house of Judas Bylane near at hand. She considered the trees, tasted the air, gazed at the sea. George thought that his heart must burst if she did not speak. At last she said, "Very well, Mister fitzPatrick. But I will not cook for you slovenly men, nor do your washing."

George laughed. "Let the rivers be our washmaids, and it is not so hard to spit and grill a fish."

He was transported. The secret compact of indentured men and George fitzPatrick planned their escape for four weeks. They would leave just before winter; the weather would prevent the governor from sending anyone to find them. By the time winter was over, they should be most of the way to Massachusetts.

They left on a cold November night. Mary-Virginia wanted to steal Judas' mule to help carry supplies, but George would not allow it. "Master Bylane has been a friend to me," he complained. So they went, each laden with food, with shot, some with stolen muskets, others with pilfered hanger swords, knives, torches, rope. One among their number had spent the afternoon ensuring the postern gate would be warded by slovenly and drunken men: he fed them oysters and beer until they could barely stand. The conspiracy slipped from Jamestown beneath a shrouded moon.

Their northward progress was slow, but steady. George reminded them to keep the sea to their right, and they could not go amiss. They did not burn lights for the first few evenings, for they feared the Powhatan federates might find them and spirit them away to the unGodly regions in the heart of their terrible country where the Cohaka King reigned.

Each night, Mary-Virginia went back over their path. She had a special stone tied to a length of twine which she swung back and forth where they had stepped. George had seen the rock before: it was a lodestone, and had a place on a shelf he'd built with his own hands in Master Judas' office. "They will try to follow us," Mary-Virginia warned.

Two weeks, they were out, when she woke with a start in the middle of the night. "They are coming," she said.

"What?" George asked, groggy still with sleep. She shook him.

"Get up. Get up, George! They are coming!"

He did not ask how she knew. He roused the camp. Aaron demanded to know how she could be so certain. "Because, Mister Lytefoot, I have ways. You do not live overlong in the service of a magician without watching, without knowing!" When they packed up their gear to leave, George saw that the little lodestone was shivering in Mary's purse.

They hurried on and now no longer took their time. Each day was hurried and frantic. Each night, the lodestone trembled more and more violently. When they reached Potomac, they had to move upriver to find a crossing. On their third night following its sluggish course, George spake to Mary-Virginia.

"I would have worked to buy your indenture," he said.

She smirked and her eyes gleamed in the darkness. Again, they had been reduced to nights without fire, for fear their pursuers would see them. They cooked only in the mornings, and ate their food cold in the evening. "Master Bylane would never have sold it," she replied, simply.

George thought on this. "Will you stay with me, when we reach Massachusetts Bay?" he asked.

Mary-Virginia brushed her hair back from her face. "What do you ask of me, George fitzPatrick?"

He told her. "I ask you to be my wife."

She laughed. They were not wed, but that night they slept as man and wife do.

They did not cross the Potomac. They were racing to its fords when they saw a ship riding low on the water—an English ship. It was not one of the powerful ships-of-the-line, but a little company barque called the Godspeed. George's heart died in his mouth. Mary-Virginia was near at hand, and he heard her whisper Judas' name.

"Turn about!" George bellowed to Aaron Lytefoot. "It's Master Bylane and the company men!"

Mary-Virginia drew a small iron ring from her sack. George pulled at her arm, but she broke free of his grasp. She began to whisper into the ring. She drew a lock of hair from her purse and tied it round. She made to throw it, but before she could it began to sizzle in her hand—white-hot. With a shriek, she dropped it into the dust. "He knows!" she hissed.

All was panic. Aaron Lytefoot ran. There was a cra-a-a-ack as a servant named Richard Bowen was shot through the arm. A company musketman emerged from the verge of the forest in a cloud of billowing white smoke. Mary-Virginia stopped dead, still and silent. George stood by her, though his body demanded that he run. His feet betrayed him; they wished for nothing more than flight. Sweat poured down his forehead and through his armpits. He shook and trembled, though Mary stood straight as a ramrod.

"MARY VIRGINIA!" Judas' voice called. "YOU HAVE TAKEN MY BOOKS!" More company men poured from the woods. They wore swords and carried halberds. Some held muskets with smoking fuses. Judas, in a slashed black doublet, strode out of the woods holding a sword with its point ready for battle.

Mary did not give fight. She unslung her satchel and threw it at Judas Bylane. The magician snarled and reached down to pick it up. "Round them up," Judas said. He refused to look at George. George stared at the satchel as its mouth came open; books he had seen on Judas' shelves were hidden beneath a blanket. He glanced at Mary but her eyes were locked on Judas.

"You worked a counter-magic," she said to him.

Judas produced a set of iron manacles. "Of course I did, thou inconstant woman. Did you think you had learned all I had to teach? Your natural aptitude for sorcery cannot overcome studied attention! While you were scrubbing floors and cleaning windows, I was hard to learn its occulted mysteries." He clapped the manacles on Mary-Virginia.

George stood forward. "Leave her be, Judas."

"Do not cross me, George," Judas said. He would not look George in the face. Instead he stared fixedly at the ground by George's feet. "We are friends, so I'll enforce my right against thee for conniving to steal from me." George wanted to reply, but his fear kept him silent. He did not know, now, what Judas could do, nay would do. The sorcerer turned away.

They were marched onto the Godspeed. The indentured men were put in iron. George was guarded by two soldiers. Judas did not speak to him on the journey home, nor was George permitted to see Mary-Virginia. She was kept in the hold.

The rebellious servants were brought back to Jamestown. The governor and the General Assembly held a council to sentence each of those who broke their indenture. George watched them all. Each man, from Aaron Lytefoot down to the crippled Richard Bowen, had their indentures extended by five years.

When it came Mary-Virginia's time to stand before the Assembly, the people of Jamestown boo'd and hissed at her. She stood with her head bowed before Governor de la Warr. The House of Burgesses was filled with the smoke of pipes and cigars. Wizened, powerful, farmers watched as Mary-Virginia was hauled to the center of the floor. She did not speak. She did not look down, but rather straight at the governor in his seat above the Assembly.

"Mary Bylane," said the governor, calling her by Judas' surname because she had none of her own, "you are sentenced to permanent indenture under Judas Bylane as his servant."

The approval of the burgesses was made clear by the stamping of feet and the thumping of fists upon the chairs and floor. Walking sticks and canes pounded against varnished wood. Mary-Virginia still did not speak. George howled, but his voice was lost amidst the thunder. She was led away.

George staggered back into the world. Mary-Virginia was property of Judas Bylane. The Powhatans surrounded Jamestown. George didn't care. He wandered into the wild. The governor's curfew meant nothing to him. George fitzPatrick had a fine name, but nothing else. The woman he wanted to wife was locked into an indefinite indenture. What else was there to do? "The Indians are more civilized than this," he told himself. "They would at least have killed her for her crimes, not forced her to serve a man who hates her."

What matter that the Cahoki might kill him? What matter any of that? George fitzPatrick returned to the woods.

He spent the winter in the wild. His beard grew to his waist. He traded with Powhatans and Pamlico. He ate raw fish and bathed in icy streams. He hunted deer with his musket, but he did not bring them to Jamestown. He sold them to Powhatans. When spring came, he did not return. Jamestown was too painful for him.

All this while, Mary-Virginia was ensorcelled with wards to keep her from leaving the circuit of the walls. Judas took clippings of her hair and wove her secret name into the walls. He carved angry symbols on the lintel of the door and buried a pig's heart beneath the palisade's gates. When George finally came back in the summer, he heard all these things in the market.

He heard other news too; three more of Bill Hitchman's servants were taken. Their indentures were extended: for the white domestic, by two years. For the two black field-hands, they were made indefinite just as Mary-Virginia's. George scowled. He went to Aaron Lytefoot at the governor's house and sat with him for a time. His excuse was selling turkey to the governor's kitchen.

"How does she fare, Aaron?"

"She fares poorly," he told her.

"I wish ye to take my words to her."

Aaron sighed. "I will make excuse to call upon Master Judas."

"Do not wait too long."

By nightfall, Aaron had carried three messages between them. Mary-Virginia told George, through the governor's cook, that she would soon escape. She told Aaron (who told George) that she had designed a way to break Judas' wards and guards of spellwork. George told her (through Aaron) that he would wait for her to break the spells and then spirit her away. They would live with the Indians, free of the false law of the Englishmen.

Mary-Virginia spent long hours working counter-sorcery to Judas' work. She read his books in French, English, and Latin while he slept. She carved secret words into the packed earth floor. Of a night she sat up beneath the moon and whispered words of unworking on the wards that surrounded her.

George waited for Mary-Virginia every evening by the palisade gate. He sat beneath the darkened sky and smoked his long-stemmed pipe. He counted the stars when the heavens were clear, and nodded in sleep when they were clouded.

The night Mary-Virginia escaped there was a strange light above the walls of Jamestown. She worked her spells as fast as she may, speaking ancient words that were handed down from Akkadia, Israel, and Simon Magus. Judas stirred uneasily in his sleep. Mary-Virginia paused and snuffed the candle she held aloft. The deed was done.

In one hand, she hefted Judas' sword. If he lived, he would follow her. He would unmake her spells, follow her to the ends of the earth, and see her indenture served. He had been kind and cruel in turn, so it took her a long moment, staring at his sleeping form in the moonlight, before she brought the blade down. It bit deep into the bed frame. Judas gasped, but he could draw no air through the steel and blood. Mary-Virginia watched until she was sure he was gone.

She crossed the threshold of Judas' door; the spells did not stop her. She walked through the palisade gate: the company militia were asleep at their post. They were in the grips of a sorcerous slumber and would not wake before the dawn.

When she came upon George by the nearest fields, he said, "The walls are shining."

Mary-Virginia looked upon the wall and frowned. "That it is. I do not know why."

As they left Jamestown behind, a call came from the walls: "The wards! The wards have been dispelled! To the walls! The Cahoki come!"

The Cahoki were not coming—not that night. They climbed into the hills and hid beneath the shelter of the tall sycamore trees. There they stayed for many days, enshrouded by Mary-Virginia's magic. George kept his rifle primed and filled with silver shot, lest a magician should come upon them. It was ready to fire at Judas Bylane.

When the Cahoki came, they passed over the Jamestown wall with ease. At first, Mary-Virginia whispered that a Cahoka sorcerer must be with them. Cannons thundered, and still they came. But George remembered that strange light over the palisade walls. It was that night that Mary-Virginia had worked her magic; could it not also be that night that the spells failed? "You said ye tore down Master Judas' wards," George whispered to her. "Mayhap ye did it all too well."

George and Mary-Virginia watched the settlement burn.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Song of Sir Christopher



Oh lord, and ye oh maiden fair, the dance is now begun
The ships have all been laid to waste beneath the New World sun,
And Christopher of Italy carries no more the chain,
It’s him and his fine brave men who will go down again.

Oh Christopher of Italy, five times he crossed the sea,
Four times he made a valiant trip, but now no more does he.
And Christopher of Italy filled hold with spice and slave,
But Christopher of Italy, no man now can ye save.

For Christopher upon the shore was caught all unaware
And the mighty spells Cahoka bore took him far from there.
His men shot off their Spanish guns, his ships set sail on tide,
But as many shot as Spaniards fired, so many Spaniards died.

For Christopher, he did not know the realm was not his own,
Christopher had thought the world was Europe’s all alone.
But oh lord and maiden fair, harken now to me,
For Christopher has come at last to the high palace lee.

The chains he used were strapped on him, and bound about his arms,
Manacles were shackled tight and wrought with iron charms.
The King looked down from earthen hill, and at him he did laugh,
He bid the merchant caper still, or he’d be cut in half!

Oh lord, and oh ye maiden fair, the dance is now begun!
Christopher will caper there until his days are done!
He dances day and dances night, with spells upon his feet,
He cannot pray, he cannot fight, he cannot yet retreat.

Remember ye Sir Christopher, who to his god was true,

Remember ye Sir Christopher, or else he could be you.

—Traditional Colonial Folksong

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A History of Europe and Her Peoples: Introduction



Simon LaGrange Bridewell
INTRODUCTION

THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
No understanding of European history would be complete without addressing the Kingdom of Israel, from which the Christian faith flows. In Distant Antiquity, the Kingdom was founded by priest-kings and protected by their exhortations to God. As aught else in our fallen world, at some point the shield of God was not enough to protect Israel. King David appointed six sorcerer-rabbis to ward his land: one at each of the Kingdom’s four corners, and two in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Israel thus resisted Persian conquest (but not becoming a Persian client state during the reign of King Aaron ben-Judah). However, in the wake of Alexander of Macedon’s conquest, the Six Rabbis were disbanded. The First Rabbi of Jerusalem, Ashur ben-Avrahem, refused to put away his rod and book and took to the hills to join the Maccabite rebellion. It is written that Rabbi Ashur’s magic was used again at Massadeh to combat the invading Latin army some generations later, allowing a single Rabbi to successfully resist a Roman Legion until eight Roman Augurs caused the fortress to collapse in a landslide.

GREECE AND THE PERSIANS
The City-States of Greece had little defense against the might of the Persian Magi. It is written that they were the very first of the sorcerers to master their art and send spirits against their enemies. The Greeks were not prepared for such overpowering art, and though they banded together they were ultimately overwhelmed.

A period of Persian peace settled over Greece and the greatest philosopher of the Ancient World, none other than the thinker Aristotle, received an appointment to the Persian Capitol in Babylon where he built the Skeptical Academy and where he raised the young Prince of Macedonia, Alexander, who would eventually overthrow the Persian Yoke and establish the largest empire the world has ever seen.

The court at Babylon has become the model for all magical societies in the Western World; the so-called Circle of the Magi served the Persian Emperors, Emperor Alexander, and later were divided amongst his successor-generals.

ROME AND THE ETRUSCANS
The foundation of Rome is traced back to the warrior-king Romulus, who is said to have made a sorcerous pact with the spirit of the Tiber. Her conquest of neighboring tribes was swift, particularly under her priest-king Numa. The Italics were subjected to the power of the Latins. Her only formidable foe was Carthage, city of the Phoenicians. Strife between the Wolf and the Elephant bled both, but Hannibal Barca was eventually victorious at Cannae and drove the Wolf before him. With his great army, he marched through the gates of Rome—when the Tiber frothed at its banks, ran up onto the shore, and bore the invader away.

With the defeat of the Carthaginians, the great Republic was unopposed for many centuries. In the time of Julius Caesar and the Sorcerer Octavian, the Second Civil War consumed the Republic. It was divided between the Province of Gaul and the Province of Italia, and sorcerous warfare decimated the land for a generation.

The Republic lasted for another three generations, until a Senator by the name of Gaius Junius managed to conquer the long-lasting Gaulish rebellion and unite the shattered states. Emperor Junius remains a watchword for political cunning and power.

THE COMING OF CHRISTIANITY
The Roman state reached its apogee under Emperor Julian the Wise, who conquered the Persians and struck peace treaties with the Hindus, the Jain, and the central African kingdoms. Throughout the period following the Rebellion of the Julii and until Julian’s successor, Antonius Gracchus, took power, a Jewish mystery-cult spread through the underclasses of Roman society. This was Christianity, which had a profusion of forms in those days. It was outlawed by Emperor Junius and had a number of advances and setbacks in the centuries following. Emperor Julian banned Christians from serving in posts of imperial office following a rebellion in Antioch.

Antonius Gracchus, however, was elected by approbation of the Aegyptian Legions, and was, though not himself a Christian, a Christian apologist. In the same year, a pagan emperor was elected at Rome by the Senate. Gracchus’ policy was of acceptance. His opponent, Quintilian Junius, continued the Julian persecutions. Gracchus was ultimately victorious. He converted on his deathbed, and his son Theodosius was a Christian when he was crowned.

The Theodosian Reforms saw the reduction of sorcery in the Empire. Jews, Arabs, and other non-citizens who could not attain imperial office were permitted to continue practicing but not teaching new students. In the space of 100 years, sorcery was effectively suppressed throughout the empire (discounting its brief resurgence during the threat of Attila the Hun, when a cabal of multi-ethnic sorcerers—Jews, Africans, etc.--was hired up by the Senate to combat Attila’s personal cadre of wise-men and seers).

THE COLLAPSE OF THE EMPIRE
Theodosius moved the capital to Byzantium to deal with the Bulgar, Scythian, and Hunnic threats that had appeared on the imperial borders. He instituted a system whereby five junior emperors were granted their own capitals throughout the empire.



This division ultimately led to the disintegration of the West under the secret paganizer Theoderic, king of the visigoths and magister militorum of the western empire until he declared himself Emperor, and his barbarian advisors. A series of brutal wars rocked the Italian peninsula when Emperor Justinian unleashed his slave-general Belisarius on the Western Empire. Theoderic was executed in what is recorded as the first magical execution in Western History—in order to prevent his resurrection and use of magic, his hands were cut off, his head removed and burned, his body buried at a crossroads, and his head sunk into the Tiber in a silver-lined case bound with cold iron chains. Prior to his execution, his tongue was ripped out and his eyes put out, to enable Belisarius to keep him safely. This procedure became the standard medieval punishment for sorcerers and was codified in Boethius’ End of the Sorcerers, published posthumously from notes kept while he was magister militorum for Theoderic.