Chapter 36 - Piskandir
"The fifty have been recalled", Muryannan said softly with a look of sadness on her face. Her hair shone golden as the final rays of the sun
streamed from the West. The tall woman sat with Pisky at one of the tables in the courtyard, far enough from the normal evening bustle as possible in
order to avoid being overheard.
Pisky scowled. "It's that
The woman nodded.
"You know you have to answer, Piskandir", came the reply. "Not even the 'Pixy Pilgrim' can deny this
Pisky leaned back against the wall of the Great Hall and sighed.
"It has been too long", Muryannan said, "Far too long". She looked down at her hands, at the skin which was almost translucent, the nails like
mother-of-pearl. "These hands have been idle for too long. So long without the feel of a bow, the thrum of a bowstring. We have become lax,
Piskandir. Frolicing gaily while the earth slipped slowly into perdition. Expecting our knowledge to be a shield. But now it ends, now we return to
She looked up, her emerald eyes shining as she looked into those of the pixy.
"Where is the Court now ?" Pisky asked, picking up a bottle of 'Best Pixyland' and pouring two flagons.
Muryannan picked up her tankard and sipped daintily, "Where else in this time of trouble, but Tintagel ?" She took a deep breath. "Most of what
you call 'Corporates' are still North of the Parrett, however there have been ... 'incursions'". She put her flagon down. "Scouts, if you will.
We have been lucky so far. Their plague killed many of their own people. They needed to regroup, keep the people in fear for their lives. There were
not enough to win outright, but the ... public", here she visibly shivered, "... apathetic, lovers of the Status Quo. Those who don't even know
that their lives aren't really lives
. Just existance. They who obtain their daily dose of propaganda from Faux News. All the same. They are
all the same. They just accepted it. As long as it didn't affect them, they did nothing. And all the time the Corporates were building their empire.
Planning their conquests".
"What about here
?", Pisky asked, gesturing around the courtyard.
Muryannan pushed a stray piece of hair from her face. "The darkness will be here eventually", she said sadly, "Of that have no doubt."
"Then I cannot
leave", Pisky said defiantly, draining his tankard.
Muryannan shook her head. "You ever were a stubborn pixy", she said. And she smiled.
"So what do you think of the 'newcomers' ?", Erisian asked as she tapped rapidly on the keyboard.
Beside her in the Gatehouse, Ravenna sat looking over her shoulder. "Pickwick is ok", she replied, "But that woman is seriously spooky."
"Muryannan ?" the hacker muttered, a frown on her face as she saw that more and more sites had been deleted.
"Yes", came the reply, "I swear, it was as if she was reading my mind."
Erisian nodded, but her own mind was no longer on her companion's problems. "Every news site I've tried to get to has been deleted".
"Look", the hacker said, leaning away from the screen so that Ravenna could see. "CBS, Faux, BBC ... all dead."
"That's strange", Ravenna said, "What about ATS ?"
"Down for maintance", Erisian replied, "Meaning they've had to scarper again."
Ravenna rubbed her eyes, "Reuters ?"
"Dead as the proverbial Dodo", Erisian sighed. "It looks as if every
news site is down."
"What about Rense or Icke ?"
"Rense was shut down a few weeks ago", Erisian said, hitting a key and swearing as yet another error page appeared, "Icke is holed up in the Isle
of Wight somewhere and hasn't been able to update his site for a while."
Ravenna sighed, "Can you do anything at all ?"
Erisian grinned, "Am I or am I not the girl who cracked the 'Beast' ?"
"You got caught", Ravenna replied, "Pisky told me".
"Irrelevant", giggled Erisian, "Give me a few minutes and I'll get your news for you. And then I'll see what I can find out about Isabella."
Ravenna stood and walked over to the window. Outside, the last few rays of sunlight glinted against the windows of the Great Hall. Pisky sat at one of
the tables, talking animatedly to Muryannan as the ostlers settled down the horses for the night. Through the door of the hall, Ravenna could see
Asala warming herself at the fire, while on the curtain wall Loki sat chatting with Pickwick.
Sighing, Ravenna leaned her head against the cold glass of the window. Closing her eyes, she let her mind wander. She worried about old Fingal, even
though he was the obvious choice to accompany Tobias to Chillington. Sword bearer or not, the old priest couldn't be expected to keep up this pace
for much longer and Ravenna hoped that once he returned, he would concentrate on his duties as priest of St. Philomena's and allow younger people to
do the physical tasks. Maybe he would bequeath 'Erin' to her, Ravenna thought. But probably not - Fingal was as stubborn as the pixy and as he had
been given the duty of 'Sword bearer' would perform such duty to the best of his ability, even if it ended with his death.
Ravenna shivered at that thought and wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to force away the cold,
"So how long have you known Pisky ?", Loki asked as he sat beside Pickwick on the curtain wall.
"Since we were babies", came the reply, "My mother and his are close friends."
Loki grinned, "I can just imagine him as a baby", he said, "I bet he looked just like his avatar"
Pickwick laughed, "Many a true word is spoken in jest", he said, opening a bottle of 'Best Pixyland' and taking a drink. "Not bad", he said,
smacking his lips, "Not real
Pixyland cider of course, since that would require apples from Pixyland, but it's good enough."
"What's this 'Piskandir' stuff then ?" Loki asked.
Pickwick wiped his mouth and belched. The sound echoed around the courtyard and Loki looked at the man with new respect.
"Pisky wasn't content to stay where he was born", Pickwick explained, "He needed to wander the world learning new things. The first time he came
back to the village of his birth, his grandmother called him 'Piskandir' - it means 'Pixy Pilgrim' - and it just seemed to stick."
Loki grinned. "And what about Muryannan ?", he asked, "Who's she ?"
"Lady Muryannan of Hexworthy", Pickwick explained, "Is a handmaiden - a 'lady in waiting' if you will - to Joan, Duchess of Cornwall."
Loki looked perturbed, "I thought Prince Charles was Duke of Cornwall. Wouldn't that make Camilla the Duchess ?"
Pickwick grinned, "Ignore the Windsors", he said, "I'm talking about a much older lineage. One that goes back farther than the Roman
"But what's this got to do with Pisky ?"
Pickwick took another drink, "Lady Muryannan of Hexworthy", he said with a grin, "was Pisky's dyscajor
"His what ?"
Pickwick grinned embarassedly; "Sorry", he said, "I forgot you don't speak Cornish. 'dyscajor' means 'teacher'."
"Bugger me !", exclaimed Loki, "she doesn't look that
Pickwick smiled. "You'd be surprised", he said.
"Got it !"
Ravenna turned at the voice. Erisian grinned. "I managed to get through to the Reuters secure server", she said as her companion joined her at the
computer. "The news goes there first, then is edited and put on the live website", she explained.
"Now then, lets see what we will see ... ", Erisian bit her lip, "... Current news ... now this is
interesting ... not
to be released
to public under pain of ... wow !
Ravenna leaned across, "pain of death ???
... what on earth can be so important that ... oh !"
"Exactly", Erisian replied, "No wonder the corporates don't want this little gem to get out just yet."
"At least not until they can use it for propaganda purposes, I daresay", came the reply. "List of casualties of recent meteor storm
Ravenna followed the list with her finger as she read out the tally of dead and injured. "Sidney, Australia - 100,000 ... Johannesburg, South Africa
- 180,000 ... Dallas, Texas - 57,000 ... Look at this !!!
Erisian jumped up, startled. "What ?"
"Las Vegas was wiped off the map !!!", Ravenna's face went white. "A whole city."
"London got hit too", Erisian continued the list. "The Houses of Parliament had a direct hit. Note here says that Tony Blair was recuperating at
Chequers after his recent 'illness' - meaning when Pisky strung him up by his balls from Tower Bridge - But Prescott copped a piece of meteor up
"I'm sure Pisky will be please to know that", Ravenna interrupted. "Is there anything else on the site ?"
"Not much. Testing for some new biometric chip is almost completed. Thats about it."
"OK", Ravenna said, walking over to the printer, "I'll just print this off for Pantha and we can get on with the 'Isabella' stuff"
Erisian nodded and started the search.
It was almost dark when the two travellers reached the village of Brewood. Few people still lived there, a legacy of the plague and the corporate
takeover. Most of the village's population had either succumbed to the modern version of the black death, or had moved to the nearby city of
Wolverhampton where they could at least attempt to live normally. Now, as Tobias and Fingal rode through, few lights could be seen. Far into the
distance the woods surrounding Chillington Hall showed as a blacker patch against the darkening sky.
"That way ?", Fingal asked as Tobias consulted his map.
The soldier nodded."Normally I'd want to wait 'til morning before going in", Tobias said as they rode through the deserted streets, passing the
church of St. Mary and St Chad where generations of Giffords were buried. "But that's not an option here".
The old priest nodded his agreement, his hand dropping to Erin's hilt. "I hope they're alright", he said softly, "All of them. Whatever caused
Angover to snap like that, I'm sure we can sort it out."
"I certainly hope so." Tobias replied, replacing the map into the pocket of his jacket. "The sooner we're back in Stokesay, the better."
Leaving the outskirts of the village, the pair joined a small lane that wound its way through the first trees of the woods, heading towards an open
area of now overgrown lawns which surrounded Chillington Hall. According to the map, before they reached the grounds, they would come across a small
house in which the gatekeeper once resided. It was before this house that a large wooden cross stood, erected in the sixteenth century, ostensibly to
commemorate John Gifford's rescue of a woman and her child from the claws of a ravening panther. Or wolf, depending on which account was correct.
Whatever it was made no difference at all to Tobias, whose only wish was to discover what had happened to three of his charges.
As the moon rose and the stars began to glitter in the darkening sky, the soldier and the priest rode on.
Ravenna watched as the homepage of the Vatican Archives appeared on the screen. Biting her lip, she scanned the page, finally selecting the 'search'
option and entering the name 'Isabella'.
A list of names appeared, from Saint Isabella, through to Isabella Rossellini and everyone in between. Finding the correct one, Ravenna selected the
line and clicked the mouse. Instantly a biographical report was displayed, including a rather unflattering portrait painted in the fourteenth
"OK", Ravenna said, "Lets see what we've got here ...
Isabella of France.
1296-1358, queen consort of Edward II of England, daughter of Philip IV of France. Married Edward in 1308 ... nourished hatred for the royal
favorites, the Despensers, who were responsible (1324) for the confiscation of her estates ... became mistress of Roger de Mortimer ... plotted with
him to invade England ... Edward II was forced to abdicate and Edward III enthroned early in 1327, Isabella and Mortimer caused murder of Edward II
and began a corrupt rule of England. Finally rebelling against the couple's flagrant misgovernment, Edward III seized power in 1330, had Mortimer
executed, and imprisoned Isabella in Castle Rising. Supposedly died in 1358. Known as 'She Wolf of France'.
True nature discovered in early sixteenth century, after multiple deaths in and around Brewood, Staffordshire. Isabella later killed by Sir John
Gifford of Chillington, standard bearer to Henry VIII.
"Oh shhhiiitt !", Ravenna said, hand flying to her throat as she read the words displayed on the monitor.
"Research with regards to Isabella's true nature as ...
" She spun around to face Erisian whose own expression was one of disbelief. "This
is ... I ... my god, Eris, Fingal ... Tobias ... They don't know !!!
there was something", Ravenna said breathlessly. "It was the dates. If she really was
Edward II's wife, then by the time
Gifford 'killed' her in the early sixteenth century, she would have been at least Two hundred years old !"
Pisky ranted foully in a mixture of Cornish and English as the new knowledge permeated his brain. "Bollocking hellbags !!!", he shouted, pacing
around the room, "I should have fecking known there was something iffy. Feck !!!!"
KayEm laid a comforting hand on the pixy's arm. "None of us could have known", she said calmly.
should have fecking well known !!!", the pixy snapped, "It's medieval history for fex sake !!!"
KayEm looked into the pixy's eyes. Her own brown orbs sending out waves of calmness. "No one could have expected this", she said, "Not even you.
Now what we need to do is get word to Tobias and Fingal."
Pisky looked through the high windows of the Great Hall. The moon shone through the darkness. "We'll be lucky to get there in time !", he said.
"If Isabella is released before they get to Gifford's Cross, feck knows what will happen to them ! We need to start out right now and hope for the
Muryannan stood, her long dress swishing as she walked gracefully to where the pixy stood. "Take Kelyonen", she said softly. "He
you there faster than any horse in your stables. I will follow on later."
Pisky looked astounded. Pickwick even more so. "Take Kelyonen
? ... take your horse ?"
"Yes. Go, Piskandir. Save your friends and return swiftly." Muryannan smiled.
"Feck me !" the pixy said, still shocked that his old teacher would allow him the use of her own horse. He well remembered what had happened years
ago when he had pixy-rode the same horse, much to Muryannan's annoyance. He nodded his thanks before turning to Ravenna. "I'll need some stuff from
the kitchen. You know what. Ask Asala to get it ready. I need to pick something up from the Gate House." And with that he rushed off out of the hall
and into the courtyard, calling to the ostlers to ready Muryannan's horse."
By the time Pisky returned from the Gate House, all was ready. Ravenna sat on her own horse which, alongside Kelyonen, the ostlers had readied for
travel. "I'll meet you in Chillington", she shouted as she cantered through the gates. "I have something to do first." Pisky shook his head and
mounted Kelyonen. The horse turned his head and glared, daring the pixy to make a wrong move. Pisky grinned. The horse snorted and pranced around as
KayEm strode from the hall with a satchel of food. Handing the package to her husband, KayEm smiled and wished him well. Pisky grinned, and with a
wave, galloped through the gates into the gathering darkness.
[edit on 28-11-2004 by Pisky]