“Go ahead and sell me out. And I’ll lay your ship bare.” Adele
Sunday June 14th
Thyne-Occo Escarpment, Cathanian Empire, 8:45 p.m.
Two glowing lights moved slowly, suspended in the black treacle of night. Every so often they disappeared behind a clump of gnarled trees, only to reappear closer to the riverbank opposite a small island. The summer evening was curiously void of any sound except a gentle mechanical rumbling from the direction of the approaching lights and the rustling of foliage beneath whatever it was that approached.
A school of rayon-fish appeared in the shallow water of the river, shedding an eerie light over the riverbank. Illuminated in the fluorescence of the circling fish was the polished flank of a stately Rolls Royce hovercar. The two beams vanished as the driver turned the ignition off and the hovercar’s grounding mechanism slid out from the body to support it as it landed gently on the riverbank. The driver leapt from his seat and shuffled in the direction of the rear passenger door. He was a stocky, distinguished looking gentleman dressed in a dark suit with a long, thick coat to protect him from the chill in the air. His back ached from the long journey from Bouldia City but he made a conscious effort to carry himself erect.
An icy breath of wind rattled against the hulking limousine, lifting a miniature flag on the front shoulder of the bonnet. It bore the official emblem of the Cathanian Empire: rich gold embroidery on thick navy velvet detailing a depiction of the sacred Spheera Songbird with outstretched wings.
‘Milady,’ the driver croaked as he opened the door offering a gloved hand to the gaping darkness. The whites of his eyes were luminous against his ebony skin, his teeth flashing as he spoke.
‘Thank you, beloved Gobling,’ replied a soft, melodic voice. Its owner stepped gracefully from the Rolls Royce. She was extremely tall and wrapped in purple and violet silk robes, her blonde hair woven in an elaborate style above her perfectly shaped head. Her skin was smooth and glowed with youth; each feature on her face sublimely sculpted and in harmony with every other.
‘Milady, I –’ Emotion strangled Sir Gobling Galileo’s voice as he bent on one thick knee and bowed his head.
‘Dear, faithful Gobling,’ the lady responded affectionately, looking down at him with dazzling blue eyes. ‘Your loyalty will be rewarded and your support praised in time to come. But now, let us be done with this fearful task before my heart is taken by the darkness that weighs inside me.’
Sniffing back his tears, Sir Gobling led the tall woman to the water’s edge, shielding his eyes against the brilliant glare of the rayon-fish. They stepped onto the water and a gentle humming accompanied them as they glided serenely above the waters of the Thyne-Occo.The humming escalated as the rayon-fish swam faster and faster, transporting Sir Gobling and his mistress across the wide river to the rocky island that loomed ominously in the distance. Once they reached the shore they stepped from thin air onto an elaborate marble pier. Behind them the school of rayon-fish retreated to the darkness of the river, fading beneath the churning water.
A smartly dressed Klatchin with a long pointed nose and elaborately styled wig waited at the other end of the pier intently studying his reflection in a pocket mirror. He raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow and nodded grandly as Sir Gobling approached, his eyes never leaving his reflection. He snatched up the lantern at his side, slipped the pocket mirror into his coat and headed in the direction of the tower.
The small party followed a narrow path snaking its way between razor-toothed rocks towards the Tower of Truths. The pompous Klatchin scuttled ahead of Gobling; his chest puffed out importantly and his pointed nose raised. He was only as tall as Sir Gobling’s knee and had rather disproportionate delusions of grandeur.
‘Neither look nor speak to me, thank you!’ he muttered under his breath, nodding his impish head from side to side. ‘Your business here is of no interest to me, thank you!’ The Klatchin’s squeaky voice was snobbish and offensive and Sir Gobling resisted the urge to kick him into the field of jagged rocks flanking the path. Not wanting to distress his mistress, he bit his tongue and concentrated on guiding her toward the tower. Its shaft soared before them; the intricate masonry becoming visible as the muttering Klatchin approached an impressive flight of golden stairs carved into the bedrock. In the light of the lantern Gobling saw that the tower was built of octagonal stones, each half the size of a small hovercar. The spaces between each of the gigantic stones were filled with a shiny metallic fluid that shimmered as the light of the lantern danced across the surface. Upon closer inspection, he realised that it was pure gold!