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  1. Since this was too long to fit into one post it had to be split into two parts. You can read part one here

    **

    ‘You do a good job here, Brother Jonathan’ Tyer said, attempting to comfort his fellow priest but the words sounding hollow, even to him, nevertheless Jonathan responded.

    ‘We try, but all too often people don’t make it. The others, well we patch them up a best we can, sometimes they even make full recoveries, but mostly all we do is help them endure a little longer’

    Tyer, not knowing quite what to say, opened his mouth to speak ‘You do what you can, that is all Ketch asks of anyone’

    ‘I appreciate the sentiment, but no Tyer we do not’ he replied as the corridor opened out into another ward, as he did so sidestepping a man who was in the process of being violently sick into a bucket. It was almost full and its contents were lapping against the edges, occasionally spilling over into rivulets of translucent green liquid that oozed down the vessels side and dripped onto the floor.

    ‘Too many our patients die from the preventable and everyday’ Jonathan continued dispassionately as they made their way down a narrow flight of stairs ‘had we got them earlier they might have, they would have, been cured. But they do not see our hands extended to assist them; they see the corpses emerging from the back door and stay away until it’s too late’

    The words shook Tyer. Fool, he chided himself, what did you expect, Sudan incarnate striding majestically through the slums healing every ill with a single touch? Underfoot the stairs creaked loudly. Neither spoke. Eventually they reached a landing, which opened out into a makeshift corridor, the walls nothing more than sheets strung up along two ropes that ran parallel along the length of the room. They walked along it.

    ‘Tell me’ said Jonathan, changing the subject ‘How go things in the Salventine. It has been many a year since I have walked its halls.’ And there was a look in his eye that suggested it would be a long time before he would walk them again, Tyer understood it completely, ‘I hear Nestor is head of the middle council now’

    ‘A lamentable decision’ Tyer said, regaining, for the first time since he had enter the hospital, a tentative hold on his composure ‘but perhaps it will teach the council that next time they should elect someone based on their fitness for the job rather than the perceived ease of which they can be manipulated’

    ‘I take it things have not gone well then?’

    Tyer chuckled; there was no humour in it. ‘You have no idea. Councillor Nestor is well on his way to dragging us back to the bad old days of the inquisitors.’

    Jonathan lips curled downwards, his brow furrowed. Underneath his grime flecked skin muscles tensed.

    ‘Look’ Tyer continued his voice wavering ‘I don’t blame him, not entirely; in many ways it is the council who is at fault. They used him, every faction, every player with even the smallest streak of ambition, whispering honeyed words and thinly veiled threats into his ear until he couldn’t take it anymore.

    ‘Now he sees plots and treachery everywhere. He feels every mistake, every breach of church edict, is somehow his responsibility and must be rectified. The middle council has been purged; the few dissidents that remain keep quiet or else have been demoted to the lower council where they attempt to block some of his holiness’s more extreme motions. Sometimes’ he lowered his voice ‘late at night when all is still you can hear the screams; no civilians yet, thank Sudan, only those in the church who refuse to bend to his will, but I fear the time won’t be long in coming’

    Tyer paused to let the impact of the statement sink ‘Of course the high council refuses to intervene’ here continued bitterly, flexing his fingers ‘they sit and debate their theology, as they should’ he added quickly ‘but they forget that beyond that which out immortal soul is destined to enter there is a realm of flesh and blood, and that it too is their responsibility’

    ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ Said Jonathan as they entered a small room, furnished with dozens of wall mounted shelves sagging under the weight of hundreds of well thumbed leather bound tomes. ‘I ran errands for him you know, when I was starting out; Collecting parcels, delivering letters, transcribing meetings, the usual novice chores. He encouraged me to set this up’ he made a motion with his arm that encompassed the space surrounding them ‘put in a good word for me at the council and procured me the funds, even reached into his own pockets when even that wasn’t enough. I was pleased to hear of his promotion, his more compassionate, humane approach seemed like just the thing the council needed. He was good man’

    ‘Yes...he was… Once upon a time.’ Tyer reflected.

    ‘Well Tyer, here we are alone.’ The door clicked shut. Jonathan’s hand retreated from the handle. ‘Now what was it you wished to tell me that you couldn’t in the presence of Brother Anderson?’

    Brother Tyer cocked his head and considered his next words. ‘I believe some of it I have just covered; however unintentionally’ he hesitated again, a little longer than might be accidental ‘the church rarely pursues Doom-mongers like Brother Anderson. And for good reason, they tend to be cranks and raving lunatics best, deceitful charlatans at worse, and above all are far more dangerous to themselves than to anyone else, as evidenced in the case of Brother Anderson. People do not like bearers of bad news at the best of times, but they especially do not like them when the news they bear is false’

    ‘Councillor Nestor, I take it does not agree with this’ Jonathan said.

    ‘No, he most certainly does not. He believes that they out to undermine all the church has achieved.’

    ‘You see more of Brother Anderson and his ilk around than you used to’ Jonathan mused ‘He may just have a point.’

    ‘And do you really believe that?’ Tyer asked his pitch rising.

    Jonathan shook his head still trying to reconcile his image of the kindly, if a little absent minded, old priest with the paranoid madman Tyer had presented him with. ‘The same thing happened when Emperor Julian was crowned. Doom Mongers have always gravitated around important dates and events, only to vanish almost immediately afterwards when the skies fail to rip asunder, and the all encircling sea to break through and wash all traces of life from this physical plain.’

    ‘Well put’ Tyer sounded relieved ‘but Councillor Nestor does not see things the way someone like you or I would. Which’ Tyer let the word linger in the air, tuning his head swiftly from side to side before resuming ‘brings us to the current predicament of Brother Anderson, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time if ever there was one

    ‘If it had not been for the riot he would have no doubt met some of Nestor’s men in a darkened alleyway, in fact I believed they tracked him down, or began doing so, once the ruckus was underway. The man that died, he was one of them, the others… Understand’ he was stumbling over his words now but appeared not to notice ‘that amongst those opposed to Nestor are a many just as questionable in their methods and it would come as no surprise to me if it was they, or men in their employ, who egged the crowd on and that when the madness was at fever pitch took the opportunity to capture some of Nesters underlings. Not that any of this helped Brother Anderson, as you yourself can attend a raging bull, once released, is a difficult beast to contain.’

    ‘A question’ Jonathan interrupted causing Tyer to flinch and clench his fists ‘Brother?’

    ‘Certainly’ the other priest said relaxing slightly.

    ‘Why do you tell me this?’ Jonathans tone was slow and measured, designed to calm and reassure as much as communicate ‘Surely such speculation is best kept to oneself?’

    Tyer didn’t answer straight away. Instead he looked off into the distance, his pale blue eyes somehow seeing more than the four walls that surrounded them. The tips of his fingers withdrew from his palms, the white skin beneath returning to its normal soft pink hue.

    ‘True’ he said morosely ‘but there are knives in the confessional box these days, ears in every shadow. Accusing tongues bestride the corridors’ and how well I know it, he thought, and then speaking aloud said ‘I am under no illusions of what will happen to Brother Anderson once he arrives at the Salventine and it is wrong, but nevertheless I shall still deliver him to his executioners. I do not wish to share in his fate. I wish forgiveness Jonathan. No, perhaps that is too strong a word… I wish’ sweat beaded on his forehead ‘…I wish understanding. Grant me that at least.’

    ‘I understand’ For some reason Jonathan’s response left Tyer feeling worse than he had done before, nevertheless the put on a gracious expression and replied ‘Thank you. I have men waiting outside, you need not trouble yourself with shifting broth’

    ‘I shall have one of my assistant’s show them the Andersons room and provide them with a stretcher’ Jonathan interrupted ‘I assume you know the way back.’

    ‘Yes’

    ‘Good, you can make your own way then. It does not do to dwell on those beyond salvation’ Jonathan said, and later on reflection Tyer wondered to whom he was referring ‘and I have patients to attend to. Fare you well brother’

    He left, Leaving Tyer alone, hands trembling.

    **

    If you enjoyed this you can check out other excepts here
  2. Because a little self promotion never did anyone any harm...

    Here's a piece of my novel I submitted for review a couple of months back, alas long since vanished into the thread void.

    **

    Father Tyer picked his way through sea of threadbare beds and mattresses and their even more threadbare occupants. His long flowing white robe pulled up nearly to his knees lest the garment’s gold embroidered hem brushed against the layer of inground dirt and filth that coated the hard wooden floor.

    His guide, a scrawny half-caste boy, who had introduced himself by some barely pronounceable islander name, but had then added that most folks round here just called him Charles, had no such problems navigating this, the realm of the sick and infirm. His dark skin and grubby clothing rendering him nearly invisible in the smoky half light, the youth ducked and weaved his way through the maze cramped rooms and narrow corridors, pausing all too infrequently to allow Tyer to catch up.

    Dozens of pairs of eyes followed his progress. Some angry and resentful, others probing and curious that one such has himself, a pillar of the church, should be here in this place. A few didn’t see anything at all as sight was not a given amongst the hospitals occupants. Still, those who were able would sit up and tilt their heads in the direction of the priest’s echoing footfalls. The sightless gaze of their eyes either swathed in bandages or glazed over grey with blindness, prickled the hairs on the back of Tyers neck.

    ‘Trough here, sah’ the boy said, his strong south sea accent slurring the words.

    The priest nodded his thanks and stepped through the doorway.

    The man was dead. That was the first impression.

    He lay in the bed, naked, torso covered by a light brown sheet speckled with crimson, his skin a gruesome mess of red welts, dark bruises, clotted blood and other assorted juices. The rhythmic rise and fall of his chest was so slight it was almost invisible. Now that, Tyer thought, looks like a man who has been beaten to within an inch of his life, perhaps even further.

    ‘He’s better than he looks’ said a voice.

    Father Tyer, thankful for the distraction, looked away, turning his head to face the speaker, but finding no-one. ‘I… I should certainly hope so’ he replied, still scanning the room for the voices owner.

    ‘But how rude of me’ the other man said, and now Tyer saw him, kneeling next to the bed dabbing the injured mans forehead with a damp cloth, his mop of long dark hair obscuring his features. ‘You know of me but not, I think, by my face, name of Jonathan’ He replaced the cloth in the bucket next to him, and stood up ‘Forgive me if I do not extend a hand to greet you, mine is not the most savoury of occupations you understand, ahhh yes I see you do. And you brother would be…’

    ‘Tyer’

    ‘Of course. And this’, Jonathan motioned to the man on the bed ‘is Brother Anderson.’

    ‘Oh…’ Tyer froze and looked away.

    ‘I assume you did receive my letter?’ Jonathan said, his eyes following Tyers darting counterparts ‘Of course you did’ he continued, answering his own question ‘how foolish of me to ask, else you wouldn’t be here’ their eyes met for instant ‘Did you wish to say something Tyer’

    ‘Yes’ said Tyer avoiding his gaze ‘but could we talk somewhere else? Somewhere private?’

    Jonathan looked around the small cramped room. Apart from themselves and comatose Anderson it was empty. ‘Certainly’ he shot Tyer a curious glance ‘This way’

    Charles was still waiting in the corridor slouched against a wall, his fingers drumming tunelessly against its uneven wooden surface. Jonathan coughed meaningfully. The youth instantly straightened up.

    ‘Yes Fahder?’

    ‘Myself and Father Tyer here have some business to discuss. We may be some time. Would you be so good as to keep any eye on Father Anderson for me? There is a cloth in the bucket next to the bed. I’m sure you know what to do.’

    ‘Yes Fahder’

    ‘Good lad’

    The youth quickly vanished through the door. The two men continued in silence.

    Presently they passed a young woman fending off an imaginary attacker in her nightmare-laced sleep, their silence mingling with her screams and the doctors soothing words. Tyer noticed Jonathan shift slightly in her direction, his speed slowing to a shuffle until they turned into a corridor deserted save for the ever-present aromas of soap, bile and blood.

    **

    To be continued....
  3. First blog. Woo hoo! Okay now that’s over and done with…

    Thoughts on writers block


    When I have a scene that is really giving me hell I’ll often try to write it out on paper. I find that word processing software encourages an edit as you go approach, which most of the time is fine because it is conducive to how I write. But there are times when you’ll write a few hundred words, realize that they’re crap, delete them and repeat the process again.

    The lesson is this deleting stuff on the computer is easy. On paper it take several furious minutes with a rubber, so therefore I’m more inclined to press on past these bad bits, and hopefully get to those good bits beyond. And without those squiggly red and green lines compelling me to fix every spelling and grammar mistake (I know I can turn them off, but I don’t think I’m that strong willed) I find I write faster too.

    Another piece of advice I can give concerning writers block is don’t write yourself out. There are days where your inspired and you write until you can’t write any more. You fell great at the time, but then next. You sit down, have a glance over what you did last session and despair. Did I really do all those words, you think to yourself, where is that writer gone? I have no idea where to start? Over and over again, until eventually the dreaded “I give up” surfaces.

    The best way, for me at least, to end a writing session is with a few ideas buzzing around in my head, that way I’ll have somewhere to begin next time. I also find it useful to finish up on a cliffhanger or hook. I don’t mean the “Stupendous Man has seconds to deactivate the timer and thus prevent the thermonuclear destruction of the planet Earth! Will he do it in time? Find out in the next enthralling episode!!” type of cliffhanger, think a little smaller. Usually a character introduction, or arrival of an already introduced character, or a shift in location (say a character gets out of a car) serve the purpose quite well, but all it needs to be is a point where you can pick up easily from.

    Anyway that’s what works for me, maybe it will for you, maybe it won’t.