I wish there was a way I could share this perfect moment,
to roll it up in a parchment made of mischief
and pass it along with a smile.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Chapter 12: The End

Dawn broke upon the mighty city of Kital illuminating what appeared to be a killing field. Bodies littered the ground from one end of the square to the other; both islanders and queen’s guard alike, hundreds of them, motionless, as the sun rose above the horizon. On the outskirts of the field lay Emerson Lighthouse and Junie Ginsburg, perhaps entwined in one final embrace. Closer to the centre of the square lay nine year old Gadget atop the big New Nublarian king who appeared to be covered in mud. But most horrific of all was what lay at the very centre of the great square. Between the two ziggurats, upon a makeshift wooden altar, drenched in blood from his neck to his toes, flies already swarming in the early morning light, lay Dominc Lapis, The Great God of the North.


Twelve hours earlier Queen Princess fixed Malus in an unwavering glare,“Sir Martin,” she said “you are late.”

Malus was about to respond when she held up her hand with so much more authority than Emerson remembered her ever commanding when he’d last seen her only four months earlier.

“I will save you the trouble of finding excuses for now.” She turned to Sir Benjamin, “I received your most recent report sent via one of the ART units; apprise me quickly of anything new I might need to be aware of.”

He was a spy?” Malus said with a degree of incredulity as Sir Benjamin stepped to the Queen’s side and quickly informed her of recent developments.

“So naive.” muttered Lapis.

“What?” sneered Malus “Did you say something?” and then, unable to let it go, he added, “I would have won if you hadn’t cheated. Who cheats on the field of battle?”

“The victor.” responded Lapis.

Malus was about to come back with a retort worthy of a sneer when the the islanders, led by their king, began to emerge from the jungle. Upon seeing Queen Princess clad in armour at the head of such a large army the New Nublarians froze, unsure of what to do, wondering if this was indeed be the prophesy personified.

The queen wasted not a moment afforded by their indecision. Stepping forward and speaking the language of New Nublar she called out: “Hear me well citizens of Kital. Hear me one and all. My name is Prosperity!” Her voice rang across the space between the two opposing groups. “I am most disappointed with your failure King D’osay’keiz.” She said addressing the island chief with his proper name and title.

After pausing for effect, having exhausted her knowledge of the New Nublarian language with her well rehearsed lines, the queen turned to the young knight beside her and said, under her breath, “Translate for me Sir Benjamin.”

“Due to your failure.” Sir Benjamin spoke, translating the Queen’s words nearly simultaneous to her speaking them. “I will no longer communicate with you in my own voice, but only through an intermediary.

“I still hold great hope that our people might yet find strength in union. The knowledge, manpower and wealth of your kingdom combined with that of mine, could be a great force and a boon to the lasting peace in the Southern Commonwealth. So I celebrate with you this day our union in a common cause.” Both armies cheered while the Queen’s artillery, as if to prove their strength, let fire a twenty-one gun salute.

“She’s almost as power hungry as you.” said Lapis glancing at Malus.

“But in order to proceed,” the queen continued once the crowds had quieted somewhat, “I understand two things must occur. First, the demon will be taken by my soldiers and punished personally by me.” The queen cast a sideways glance at Malus as he was securely restrained in the grasp of several of the new queen’s guard. “Second,” several more of the queen’s guard levelled their rifles at Lapis as two of the guard stepped forward and grabbed him, one on each arm. “The Great God of the North must be sacrificed.”


“You know, I really am quite excited to see you again.” Said Emerson to Queen Princess. a short time later as they slowly made their way back to the great square. “And to you as well, Maid Marian.” Emerson bowed.

“Actually, it is ‘Sir Maid Marian’ now.” smirked the young former courtesan.

“Marian is my new Queen’s Champion.” Queen Princess confirmed. “Let’s hope she proves more loyal than the last.” She smiled as she noticed the unguarded look that flashed across Emerson’s countenance.

“Come now, Sir Emerson, you really didn’t believe I would sit around defenseless and idle while I waited for you to save my kingdom... did you?” though the young queen laughed, she had meant no offense whatsoever; her words simply stated a fact, while her laugh was due largely to the overall good-natured quality of her character.

“You trained an army of women.” Emerson nodded, acknowledging the practicality of her actions.

“You better believe I did.” she boasted. “I rely on no single man but myself.”

“I actually find that most admirable, your majesty.” said Junie Ginsburg.

After a brief pause, Emerson changed the direction of the conversation. “So, your majesty,” he began, “what’s next? You are certainly not going to sacrifice my friend to humour these islanders’ belief in some primitive myth.”

“Oh Emerson, might I assume you are deliberately trying to test my diplomacy with those little taunts you so casually deliver? I know very well you understand there are no ‘little myths’.” She smiled before adding. “And of course I am not going to sacrifice your friend.”


The party was as wild as one might expect of a celebration marking the fulfilment of an eons old prophesy. The drink flowed as the people danced. Food of the most remarkable and succulent variety had been prepared and offered up for any who cared to sample.

At midnight, the Queen, having traded her armor in favour of the brightly-coloured home-spun fabric of the local women, performed a symbolic sacrifice upon Lapis. After reciting the ritual according to custom she next doused him in blood collected from the local abattoir. The symbolism was highly theatrical and highlighted the fact that the islanders had failed in their attempt; though greatly humbled, the great god of the north still lived. Prosperity, as merciful as she was, would still come, but rather than follow she would lead.


A few hours later the queen laughed with Emerson and Junie as she recalled a similar party on her own island only four months ago. They had gathered just outside the square to observe the festive and carnival like atmosphere from a safe distance so as not to get caught in the line of fire. It was raucous. Queen’s guard, Henri Giffard survivors and islanders all danced together with a manic fervor with Dominic Lapis at the centre of it all.

“Keep your title, Sir Emerson, as an honourific, though I have no expectations of further service.”

“That is very kind your majesty though I’ve never been one to concern myself with titles and such.” said Emerson with great seriousness.

Both the queen and Junie broke into laughter at that. “Of course you don’t Sir Sir.” She and Junie shared another laugh at Emerson’s expense before they calmed. “Well now, I’ll take leave of you both.” The queen said. “I have an errant knight to punish.” she winked before turning and departing back to the river.

“I’m not sure I would want to be Malus right now.” Said Junie with a wicked grin.

Emerson was about to comment but just then he was distracted as Gadget ran past sloshing a bucket of muck. “That looked like the same mud we walked through a about a week ago.” He said to Junie, “I wonder where he found that.”


Weaving his way amongst the dancers, Gadget remained focused on the mission at hand. Honour was at stake and vengeance would soon be his. Poor King D’osay’keiz had no chance and in fact never even saw his moment of judgement coming.

“You’re the king of the castle and I’m the dirty rascal!” sang Gadget, spinning several times to build momentum before letting the contents of his pale fly forth. It was a direct hit. Those nearest the filthy retribution became silent. The big king wiped his eyes clear before reaching out and grabbing Gadget. He lifted Gadget high in the air with a sincere laugh to show no hard feelings. The crowd, greatly relieved, resumed their celebration as Gadget and the King continued to spin and laugh until they both passed out in a heap upon the ground just before dawn.


It looked more like a field of battle than the after effects of an all night rave. Malus approached the altar with a look of disgust upon his face. “I always knew you were a bloody bastard.” he said dryly. Lapis opened his eyes and reached for Malus’s canteen as he rose into a sitting position. He took a mouthful of water then spat, cleansing his mouth before taking a deep grateful swallow.

“Have a seat, brother.” a slight wry grin on his lips as he nodded to the space on the altar beside him.

“I’d rather stand.” replied Malus.

Lapis smirked all the more. “That bad was it?”

Choosing for once to ignore Lapis’s taunt, Malus asked, “So what happens now?”

“We go home, brother.” replied Lapis, noting Malus’s discipline. “After that it’s up to you. You’re a man now.”


Two days later The Indiscretion, recently reacquainted with her crew, steamed down the river accompanied by the Royal barge, The Spirit of West.

The companions laughed as they passed around Maynard’s last bottle of black rum exaggerating tales and discussing the complexities of time lines.

“Does that leave you enough time to get home for your self-imposed deadline?” Asked Rose Smith sitting next to Sir Benjamin on the railing of the Indiscretion.

“Who knows...” Emerson waved his hand dismissively. Suddenly he went silent and cocked his head to the side. Wrinkling his nose he said, “Hey, do you smell that?” Looking around, he spotted Gadget crouched down suspiciously in the corner of the wheel house. He narrowed his eyes. “Gadget, you better share that!”

“That’s right, you better.” Said Lapis reaching out to intercept the pass. “I’ve never tried one of these cigars. I can’t help but wonder if they are worth all the fuss.” After taking several puffs and exhaling deeply he nodded. “This is pretty good shit.” He said smiling at Emerson’s look of disbelief as he tossed the remainder over his shoulder and into the river.


As the journey progressed, the mood continued to ride high. Sir Benjamin loaned Lapis a ukelele as the two of them strummed out an old favourite of Queen Princess’s and the whole crew sang:

You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a month, I've been drunk since I left
These so-called vacations will soon be my death
I'm so sick from the drink I need home for a rest.

The End

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Chapter 11: The Amazons

First they will cleanse him in preparation for the sacrifice.” said their new acquaintance, the Queen’s Guard whose name they were to learn was Sir Benjamin Lovett, son of Mumford.

“Evil!” cried Gadget. “It’s not enough to kill ‘im, they ‘asta torcher ‘im first. Poor Mister Brother.”

“After he has been cleansed they will await the setting of the sun. If they sacrifice him while the sun still shines they risk incurring the wrath of Prosperity and the possibility she will not follow… something they would never dare hazard.”

Emerson took pause, there was something odd in the young knight’s wording and inflection that struck him as curious. However, present circumstances did not allow for further questioning.

“Help me drag Malus behind the temple,” said Emerson to the Queen’s Guard, “before someone gets it into their head to verify whether or not this demon is really dead.” Sir Benjamin was strong enough that he was able to hoist Malus up over his shoulder without assistance.

“Gadget,” said Emerson, “grab Lapis’s satchel.”


“Commander Malus’s instincts were sound.” said Sir Benjamin as he lay Malus on the ground behind the northern temple. “These people have built and sustained a nation in one of the harshest places on earth. They are disciplined, Malus saw that in the precision with which they built this remarkable city... all without the benefit of steam or modern technology. They have a desire to spread beyond the confines of this island, however, this prophecy of theirs must be fulfilled in order for them to proceed. They could strengthen the commonwealth of Queen Princess should they so desire. They just need the right... encouragement.”

“That’s nice.” replied Emerson only half listening to the knight who seemed to be chattering on incessantly. “Now, we have to revive Malus.” he said, searching through Lapis’s satchel. “I know it is in here somewhere.”

After a few moments, he found what he was looking for. “Wow, when I told that guy to bring enough sugar to last the trip he took me seriously.” Emerson pulled out a leather pouch that contained no less than a pound of Lapis’s white powder.

“How much should you give him?” asked Junie.

“I have no idea.” said Emerson, “but I want to make sure he wakes up. Here, Gadget, hold my cigar.” he said, handing what was left of the Sagrada Lucia to the boy before reaching into the bag and taking a pinch of the powder which he then blew in Malus face. Nothing seemed to happen. After a moment he reached into the bag again and took a small handful which he once again blew at Malus’s face.

Two things seemed to happen at once. First, Malus in a fit of coughing sat bolt upright looking dazed and confused; second, the heater on the end of the cigar stub upon which Gadget was puffing flared up momentarily in a remarkable sizzling blue flame.

“Whoa!” said Gadget, “What’s in that stuff?”


“Calm down son, focus.” said Emerson.

“Where did she come from?” Malus’s eyes were wide as he spoke in rapid disconnected sentences. He rubbed his nose and slapped at his cheeks. “Why can’t I feel my face? That bird... did you see it? SO unfair... Lapis... you!” he stopped, slapping his cheeks long enough to point an accusatory finger at Emerson Lighthouse. “YOU brought him here. And then mother.... somehow you had a hand in that. But how did you figure it out? This is not fair. He cheated. It was all going so well. I was winning. I would have won. I would have... calm... calm...” Malus shut his eyes and made an effort to control his breathing. “0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657....”

“Malus! Snap out of it!” Emerson grabbed him by the shoulders and started to shake him.

“Do you mind? I am calculating.” he continued. “46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811...”

“Listen son, is there any other way into that temple?”


“Is there any other way into that temple?” Emerson repeated slower but with more urgency.

Malus looked up. Emerson followed his gaze and saw an opening about 10 feet above the ground. It looked like the opening to a shaft, about two feet by two feet square.

“Does that lead up to the temple?” asked Emerson with a hint of hope.

“Yes, but you’d get stuck, it’s too narrow. It was meant for the child labourers who built this city.”

“That’s fine, Gadget could fit.” said Emerson trying desperately to figure out an exit startegy.

“I think I might be able to fit.” offered Junie.

“And Dominic is a little man... he’d probably fit too. Okay... I sense a plan starting to come together.”

“Sir Sir,” said Gadget excitedly, “do you ‘ave any more of those cigars?”

“Gadget, I’m wearing a sarong, where would I put a cigar?”

“Here,” said Malus interrupting his litany to reach into his pocket. “I have one.” He looked at Emerson with a sneer. “And it is the last one.”

“Wait, isn’t he too young to smoke?” said Emerson staring hungrily as the last Sagrada Lucia passed from Malus to Gadget.

Gadget took the cigar, stuffed it in Lapis’s satchel which he slung over one shoulder then said, “Come on Miss Missus.”


Years on the streets of New Babbage had taught Gadget how to break into a building as silent as any shadow. Holding his hand to the side he signalled for Junie to hold still and not move. He then dropped to the floor and crept over to Lapis who appeared to be in some sort of trance.

Gadget looked up. There were two guards but they were just outside the entrance of the temple looking out rather than in. In the corner, still dressed in her metal bikini, Rose Smith was bound and gagged. She looked at Gadget with wide eyes. Bringing his finger to his lips he motioned for her to stay still.

He then looked back and signalled for Junie to join him. “Cut them free.” Gadget whispered, slipping a knife from the satchel and handing it to Junie. “Then take Mister Brother and Miss Rose down the shaft, make sure they get out quick. I’m going to fix it up ‘ere so there’s a bit of a rumpus.”

Junie nodded, Running over to free Rose first and explain the situation. They then crept back to Lapis who quickly appeared to be regaining his senses. As quietly as they could they cut the leather bindings.

Meanwhile Gadget busied himself. From Lapis’s satchel he removed the sack of white powder. He then twisted it until it was as tight as he could get it forming a ball about the size of a large orange. Then, on an impulse, he took the lamp from the table and soaked the ball until it had absorbed all the oil.

Once he saw that Junie, Rose, and Lapis had already started down the shaft, he took the Sagrada Lucia and broke a quarter off the end which he proceeded to light with the flint he kept in his pocket. After a few puffs to ensure it was truly lit he attached the cigar stub to the oil-soaked ball of powder, left it near the back of the temple wall, then crept to the shaft. He leaped for the opening but he was just a bit too short to reach, missing getting a hand hold on the bottom edge of the shaft by a good six inches. “Oh Bugger!” He took a breath and jumped again...


“Miss Rose,” bowed Sir Benjamin, as the young socialite emerged from the opening. “I am so relieved to see you safe.”

“Thank you Sir.” Rose smiled as she reached out to take his hand and accepted his assistance.

Next came Lapis whose glare matched that of Malus’s though they both held their tongues. Junie emerged next, dropping to the ground and joining the group in looking up, nervously waiting for Gadget to appear. The tension mounted.

“Surely...” Junie started but she was interrupted by a tremendous explosion from the temple up atop the ziggurat Though their angle wasn’t good for a clear look, it appeared the roof has collapsed in upon itself in tons of rock and plaster. From the shaft on the wall of the Ziggurat black smoke came billowing out.

Refusing to believe the worst they remained in place, staring up, hardly breathing for worry. Suddenly a small figure appeared coughing and coated in soot.

They all laughed as he climbed down the side to the ground. Gadget spit on his hand and wiped it across his cheek. Bringing his hand away a smile spread across his face as he saw the dark smudge of soot. He raised his arms in the air and shouted with triumph, “I’m cured!”


“Are there any ships on the river we might be able to use to escape?” Emerson asked Malus and Sir Benjamin.

“There are a few rafts, we might be able to take one of those.” said sir Benjamin. “But don’t forget, all the Queen’s Guard and Henri Giffard air ship survivors are still here. They are probably not in any immediate danger, but it is not right to just leave them behind.”

“Let’s get ourselves out first and figure out what to do about them once we are safe.” suggested Emerson.

“I agree.” said Lapis. “Though I swore no allegiance to this queen,” he cast an accusatory glare at Malus, “I do not wish to leave her defenseless and at the mercy of any scoundrel who wishes to take her kingdom.” He paused, calculating. “But Emerson is right. We do no good to anyone if we are caught.”

There was no further debate. The group started into a run, making their way through the rain forest. As they broke through the last of the jungle foliage, emerging before the great river, they suddenly came to a stop trying to process what they saw.

Floating upon the waters of the River Dharma, having arrived during the distraction of the fight, spread out as far as they could see in either direction, were barges, more than they could count. And on the bank, facing the jungle like she meant business, was an armour-clad Queen Princess leading and army of no less than 1000 heavily armed women.

Chapter 10: The Fight

In ancient times, back in that epoch when New Nublar was still known as Old Nublar, grandmothers used to spin tales of terror to entertain the village children as they drifted off to dreamland. In hushed and prophetic tones they spoke of conspiracies and controversies… of a future age, when the Great God of the North would do battle with the Fire Wielding Demon of the South.

What crazy road had brought our two priests, men of the modern age, rational in their ideology, residents of industry and progress, to this place where they’d become the protagonists acting out this primitive island’s apocalyptic bedtime tale?

Down the steep steps of the opposing ziggurats the two combatants descended; down to the field of battle to carry out their celestial war in the world of mortal pain. The multitudes had parted, freeing the entire area of the Great Square in order that the two New Babbage brothers might to do battle unimpeded.

On the north we have Martin Malus, tall and lean, his sword gleaming in the late afternoon sun. On the south we have Dominic Lapis, compact and solid, his chest hideous and scarred with fearsome burns. His sword less ornate than his opponent’s, perhaps in need of polishing, but no less deadly. In silent concentration they approached the center of the square until they at last come face to face. A slight nod from Lapis; a slight sneer from Malus and the battle is about to begin.


Though they glistened with perspiration, panting with sustained effort, Emerson and Junie pushed on. They were so close... just a little bit more and they would be there. Jungle drums drove them on, setting a pounding rhythm with their frantic beats. They couldn’t see up ahead through the lush foliage but they felt a rush of adrenaline knowing it was all about to come down to this moment. Digging deep they maintained their pace until they heard a great cheer. Only then did they slow somewhat, drawing deep breaths. Clearly some moment of climax had occurred.

“Emerson, look at the crowd up ahead.” Junie said slowing from a run to a walk. “I think we may be too late.” Suddenly they heard the crowd cheer once more. Even at this distance the sound of steel clashing with steel rang out. “By the Builder Emerson, they’ve started. We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to help Lapis, don’t you think? What other way can there be for us all to get away safely if Lapis doesn’t win this?”

“Well,” Emerson hedged, “I’ll concede Lapis has grown on me since you and I tossed his guitar over the side of the Indiscretion and blamed it on Kerchak. But I still like Malus. He and I went through a whole adventure on our own remember; I hate seeing things go south for him like this.” Emerson paused, his lungs burning from the run. He noted with relief the Sagrada Lucia he’d clenched in his teeth since back at the hut was still burning. After relishing a few puffs he continued. “It must be rough losing an empire and a godhood all at the same time. Besides, you just know he’s going to be over-the-top sullen and derisive after he gets his ass kicked.”

As they neared the square, Junie and Emerson noticed island villagers exchanging necklaces and other items of barter. “Incredible,” said Junie somewhat shocked, “I think they are betting on the outcome.”

They continued to press through the crowds, trying to break through in case they might be able to take some part in shaping the outcome. Alternately they could hear the crowd gasp and cheer but for whom they were cheering remained unclear.

“Look,” pointed Emerson as he and Junie found a slightly less dense area of the crowd. “It’s Gadget.... ” Junie followed Emerson’s point to see Gadget riding atop the shoulders of one of Malus’s men, formerly of the Queen’s Guard.

Gadget, catching sight of Emerson and Junie waved them over with great excitement. “The two misters is fierce at it Sir Sir.” he said with great excitement before glancing back towards the field of battle.

“Oh Mister Brother’s down!” Gadget shouted pointing out over the top of the crowd. “Down... OH COR this is good! Mister Brother’s back up he’s spinning and jumping and Bugger if that wasn’t close ! OOOOOOHHHHH...... “ Gadget lost himself to a series of colourful expletives as he started to bounce with excitement atop the soldier.


“Your footwork has improved somewhat. It’s not as,” Lapis paused, as if searching for the precise characterization... “chaotic as it once was.

“You must be senile old man. To disbelieve what is so plainly on display before you.” And then Malus paused before saying with a familiar sneer. “Clearly I am the master now.”

“Such a claim requires proof.” replied Lapis.

“If it is proof you want it is proof you shall receive.” Malus lunged and thrust. Lapis shifted and though the strike had shot wide it was closer than it should have been. “Your powers are weak old man.”

“You see only with a superficial eye. I would have expected something more elegant from a god.” Lapis found an opening and struck, slicing a shallow cut into Malus’s side.

Malus looked down, then looked up with a look of utter loathing. “That,” he paused, “was a new shirt. You shall pay, oh yes, you shall pay dearly.”

Malus pressed the attack, each thrust easily parried by Lapis.

“Surely I taught you better than to employ the Moonwall Maneuver,” scoffed Lapis, “Such a lack of finesse.”

“Are you really that forgetful? You were the one who discovered that the Moonwall Maneuver when combined with the defensive stance of Scorpio’s Hammer Feint improves one’s chances of prise en fer when engaged with one of disadvantaged height.”

“Your flourishing tongue is as bad as your flourishing hand.” said Lapis. “It’s a shame you were apparently napping when I explained that the success of that combination falls apart when employed by a natural left-hander such as yourself.”

Yet Lapis was not afforded an opportunity to capitalize. As he backed up he stepped on a child’s wooden toy dropped when the crowds had taken to the margins of the square. Lapis’s stumble, combined with an opportune push from Malus, sent him over backwards landing him on the ground. The crowd appeared equally divided between cheers and gasps as Lapis rolled, narrowly avoiding being stomped on as Malus sought to take advantage of Lapis’ misfortune.


“Emerson,” said Junie, “can you think of any positive outcome should Malus win this?”

“I have to admit I am a bit stumped. It would seem the only way for Lapis to save Malus is to kill him.”

“OOOOHH...” Gadget pointed “Sir Sir, Miss Missus, Mister Brother’s down again.”

Emerson and Junie finally managed to work their way to the front of the crowd. They ran across the field of combat as Lapis, lying on his back upon the ground, appeared to be at the mercy of Malus.

“He wouldn’t dare... would he?” called Junie as she and Emerson continued to run.


“You’re lucky I am merciful old man.” said Malus, his sword held steady and unwavering the blade tip mere inches from Lapis’s throat. All I need do now is declare victory as the last one standing.” Malus raised his voice for the benefit of the crowd. “Let it be known! I am…” but Malus’s proclamation remained unfinished.

“MARTIN!” a commanding baritone voice called out.

Malus’s eye’s widened as if struck with a great jolting shock.

“MARTIN!” the voice called out once more, sending shivers down the spines of all who heard. All eyes shifted to the Temple of the North.

Perched upon a bust of Malus just above the temple door sat ART Hoo. The clockwork owl regarded Malus for a minute, its eyes appeared to see deep into his soul to a distant time of suppressed memories. He remained silent for what appeared an eternity before his fish lips once more became animated and he spoke with the commanding voice of Elvira Foehammer.

“Martin, you were always such a good boy for mama. Martin, what happened? As if running off with that beatnik Lighthouse wasn’t enough of a blow to your poor mother’s righteous pride.They tell me now you have taken up a life of deviance, full of hedonistic indulgences of such vulgarity that I refuse to give voice to such perversions. Marty, my dear, dear little Marty… come home to mama.”

“Mother, puh-LEEES! Can’t you see I’m winning?” said Malus, looking quite bewildered by this unexpected turn of events. Suddenly he staggered nearly losing his balance. “What’s happening?” he asked to no one in particular. He staggered again and barely managed to remain on his feet. Suddenly he understood. He glanced at the cut along his side.

You!” he wheeled around and pointed an unsteady finger at Lapis. “You did this!” his sword dropped from his hand. He turned again and staggered back towards the steps of the ziggurat only to stumble again. He would have fallen had he not chanced to grab a torch, planted at he base of the steps, for support. He appeared to watch the torch for a moment, flickering wildly as the flame caught the air’s eddies. Pulling it from the ground he then staggered back to where Lapis lay.

He hesitated as he heard Junie Ginsburg say. “They would have slain you Malus had you won.”

Lapis did not waste the moment of Malus’s distraction. Swinging his leg, he caught him just behind the knee. Malus’s dropped to his knees. He glared at Lapis as he struggled once more to rise. But it was futile. He went down on his face in the dirt. He made one last effort to get to rise when Lapis rolled on top of him, grabbed him by the pony tail and slammed his head into the ground. The crowd silenced instantly. “Your proof has a big fat hole, Squire.” said Lapis as he looked down at the still body of his former student.

“Cor!” Gadget exclaimed, as shocked as anyone by the turn of events. “I think Mister Brother just killed Squire Brother.”

The next series of events unfolded very quickly.

“Look,” pointed Gadget, “There’s that nasty bugger wot got me with the soap.” Gadget jumped down from the shoulders of the soldier who’d been his perch and ran across the field to join Emerson and Junie. The large islander was shouting to the people who responded with joyous cheers.

“What do you think he said?” asked Junie.

The Queen’s Guard who had been supporting Gadget had joined them. “I am familiar with their tongue.” he said. “That big man is the former chief of these people. He said: ‘All ye bare witness. The Great God of the North has defeated the false god, known to us as The Malus. In truth, The Malus was the Fire Wielding Demon of the South come to beguile us. All praise the true god whose blood shall bring our people prosperity.’”

“Well this is an unexpected turn of events.” said Emerson. They watched as the former tribal chief, along with two of his brethren, grabbed a struggling Lapis. holding him securely they started dragging him up the steps of the ziggurat, to the Temple of the North and its sacrificial altar.