He was hastily interrupted.
"Us, Beadle? Did you say us?" Demurral towered over the cowering, frightened form of his servant. "I fear nothing and no one, and they have every reason in the world to fear me. Tonight, my little friend, you will see who I really am and you will not say a word to anyone. I control creatures that are far more frightening than the thulak. One word of what you see tonight and you will never dare to close your eyes again, or want to see the sun go down on another day. Now, come on, we have work to do; a ship awaits its fate and I await mine."
Demurral took Beadle by the collar and lifted him to his feet, dragging him down the path towards the sea. Beadle could not refuse. He had been servant to the Vicar of Thorpe for twenty years. On his eleventh birthday he had been sent to work for a penny a week, a bed in the barn, fresh straw, and a Sabbath rest once a month. People said he was lucky--stunted, one leg withered, he was not much use to anybody. Demurral was a harsh master: He had a harsh tongue and an even harsher hand. Sometimes Beadle would creep into the back of the church and listen to his ranting from the pulpit. Hellfire, damnation, boiling cauldrons of molten blood, serpents and all things horrible that would await the unbeliever.
Beadle muttered to himself: "Blast, bother, boiling blood, this isn't a job; too dark, too cold, too many --"
Demurral butted in. "Stop your mumbling; there are things to be done. Drag that leg of yours a little faster. Maybe then we'll get to the stone before the ship passes." Beadle slipped in the mud as he tried to obey his master's command. "Be careful with the box, it took me a long time and a lot of my money to find what I've been looking for. Now be careful: We have to get down the waterfall before we find the stone."
Beadle knew that it had not been Demurral's money that had been used to buy the black box. Sunday by Sunday he had stolen from the villagers in rents and tithes.
He thought back to the night when the long black leather case had arrived at the Vicarage. Beadle had peered through the open crack of the study door, which hung very slightly ajar. For the first time in his life he had seen a man with a skin so black that it shone. Never before had such a trader been in these parts. The landlord of the Hart Inn had said that he had come from Whitby by carriage, the sole passenger on the brig Whitehall, which had docked the day before from Spain.
Beadle had watched carefully as the man opened the case and in the glimmering candlelight brought forth a long, shining pole as tall as Beadle himself. From the case the man then took a solid jet-black stone hand in the shape of a clenched fist. Into the grip of the fist he placed a silver dagger encrusted with two pieces of darkest jet.
It was then that Beadle saw something so beautiful that its image was impressed on his soul forever. The man brought out a black velvet bag from beneath his cloak and placed it gently on the desk. As the trader opened the bag, Beadle could make out two gold wings stretching back over a small statue. Before Beadle could see any more, Demurral quickly got up from the desk and slammed the door shut. He and his guest spoke in hushed tones. Beadle pressed his left ear to the door and listened.
The visitor spoke to Demurral in fluent English. "I have risked many things and come many miles to bring you this. It has powerful magic and they will stop at nothing to get it back. You are a brave man, Demurral. Either that or a rich fool."
Beadle heard his master laugh. "What I am, is what I am. Now take your money and go, and not a word to anyone. Fear not that which can destroy the body, but that which can destroy the soul." Demurral paused and then continued. "When does the other Keruvim arrive?"
Demurral's guest spoke softly. "It will not be long; they cannot be separated. The Keruvim will find you." Beadle heard footsteps coming to the door and hid himself behind the large curtain of the hall window.
From Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor. Copyright G.P. Taylor 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.
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