The Bastille And The Chained Wolf
Maitre Sturgen twirls out through the elevator-doors with a flourish that wouldn’t look strange in a opera. Two of the three new wardens jump; obviously they have never encountered a man in his late fifties, wearing high heels and a live Boa constrictor around his neck.
The Maitre silently confirms their reactions. Jessika Uras neither screamed nor did she show any outward reaction- as expected of a woman born in the Roaring Twenties. Sturgen glances at the dark-skinned man, no he corrects himself, the young man, the youngest of the new wardens of the Bastille. Mikael Fanderson is clutching a doll and he is staring at Sturgen’s hat, a student-cap in pink. The last of the three looms above the rest, but then again ogre blood does freaky stuff to humans. Sonja Wasiko stands two metres tall, with the kind of body you’d expect by someone who wins fitness competitions regularly.
Sturgen snaps his fingers, stunning them once again. “Shall we begin?”
Without waiting for an answer he struts around them and onwards, towards a large metal-studed door. He uses his magic to interprete the small soundwaves between their mouths while he simultaneously unlocks the door with a brass key.
“… the Countess of Gothenburg calls him the Telemancer…”
“… I heard that the Lightkeeper put him here…”
“… why does he wear high heels…”
He enters through the door, and motions towards the group. As each of them pass, a green light flashes by.
“What was that?” Mikael Fanderson’s voice is quite nice, the Maitre realizes. I should probably give him an offer to join the Bastille choir.
“That is nice piece of lifemagic. During your interviews, each of you gave me a piece of flesh, which have been keyed to this facility. Had any of you been a doppelganger or some kind of artificial construct you’d have melted. And I mean it. I saw it happen once in….” the Maitre trails off.
“1789?” He continues. “No, it was 1893”, he adds. “No, that’s not the year. It was a Walpurgis Night… sometime…..”
“What interview?” Sturgen almost laughs when Sonja poses her question. He expects her to have a large and deep voice. Instead her voice is high and thin, almost girlish.
She repeats her question. “Oh the interview I had some mindmagicians erase from your pretty little heads. Nothing personal, but some of those question are pretty… invasive, and experience has taught me that ignorance is bliss”, Sturgen summarizes, neutrally. This is the breaking point for some wardens. Sonja looks pissed, Mikael appalled and Jessika has a good poker face. Damn it he thinks to himself, it is hard to bluff a vampire. They don’t need to breathe, and they can eliminate most tells. Of course, those very same qualities make them excellent wardens- and you don’t have to pay health insurance for them too!
Sturgen trudges on, in a white corridor that curves lightly, with doors following the curve. “This is Level One. Each of these supernaturals have several things in common.” He raises one finger above his head, not stopping his stride. “They did not resist arrest.” A second finger goes up. “They’re not that dangerous, not compared to the inmates in Level Two, Three and abominable Four.”
Sturgen halts suddenly in the same way a tornado will sometimes change its path and turns to the wardens.”Questions?”
“What would be an appropiate responce of force to an inmate of Level One breaking free?”
” Moderate”, Sturgen says, answering Jessika’s silky question. “I expect you to leave them alive. Maybe not whole, but atleast alive”, he adds, musing.
“Any more questions?”
When nobody says anything he leads them through the corridor towards a door to the left. “Ah, that is right. All the cells are on the right, and the elevators are on the left side. If I find that any of you have entered an inmate’s cell without proper authorization, and to answer the question you’re probably thinking of, the only proper authorization in this place is mine…” For a split-second the expression on Maitre Sturgen’s face changes. Something ugly and violent peers out, something that isn’t an egocentric man in his fifties. Fanderson clutches his doll harder, Sonja balls her cannon-sized fists and Jessika’s pupils widen an milimeter or two.
They enter the elevator. “Now some architecture-trivia for you. The reason why the cells were built to the right is because they’re encased in metres of bedrock, with some minor exceptions for those supernaturals that can manipulate stone and the like. The reason why the elevators are to the left is because the Pillar, the interlocked elevator-system we use for transport here in this Bastille is too fucking large.”
“What is the procedure in the case of power surge? And where exactly are we?” If Sturgen didn’t know what Mikael Fanderson could do, he’d dismiss the furtive young man without a glance backwards- really, the kid has no presence at all. “Son, if any supernatural manages to screw with the electricity in the Pillar, we’re already doomed. I am not kidding; we got something like three reduancies and a lightning sprite to provide back-up power. If all those measures fail, you have my permission to break through the elevator and start kicking ass. As for the second question… I don’t know.”
They exit the elevator and enter Level Two. “What do you mean”, Sonja asks,” when you say you don’t know?”
“I mean that there are supernaturals here who can access your mind, read intent through walls and stranger shit than you can all possibly imagine. So that’s why none of you, and even I know where this place is located”, the Maitre responds. The three wardens follows Sturgen. “Level Two is very much like Level One, albeit with one small difference”, Sturgen says in a conspirational voice. He waits until the newbies are within whispering distance. “If you see the Men In Black, pretend you didn’t see them.”
The Maitre of Eternity, the man who has jailed kings, queens and monsters start to laugh like a little child as he takes in the faces of the new crop; Mikael looks scared; Jessika doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether she is being pranked or not and Sonja just frowns.
“Just kidding”, he says. “The government has a ‘secret’ project where they recruit supernaturals who have committed crimes, and in return they get some leniency. But really, don’t notice the G-men, it makes them nervous, and if they kidnap you, I’d have to sink Stockholm beneath the waves or something similar”, the Maitre explains.
The three wardens look at him, searching for the hidden joke. When they realize that Sturgen actually means that he would sink the capital of Sweden to rescue any of his wardens, the first seeds of trust are sown. They enter the elevator for a second time.
“Why ‘Maitre’?” Sonja asks.
“Hmm? Why what?” He responds.
“No, I meant why ‘Maitre’, why do we call you that instead of, say, High-Warden?”
“Ehrmm”, Sturgen says, with something that could be embarassment, or perhaps indigestion. ” In the late 17th century, I had a crush on a young French man. The crush went away, but the name remained. Besides, ‘Maitre of the Eternity’ does have a certain cache, don’t you agree?” They all stare at him, somewhat incredulous.
A loud crash alerts them to the fact that not all is as it seems on Level Three. Sturgen starts to run towards the noise immediately, soon followed by the hesitant wardens. “What do we do?!” Someone asks.
“Act confident and get out of my way”, Sturgen replies without missing a beat.
A woman with ashen skin and large serrated teeth comes around the corner.
“Nijas Singh! Halt!” Sturgen declares.
The woman charges him.
“Last call! Surrender or die”, he repeats.
As Singh passes an invisible line, Sturgen makes the call. He blows her a kiss- with an instant response. Singh stops, clutching her chest. There is a ‘pop’ and blood spews out of her ears. She blinks, and in that time her eyes turn red and bloodshot. She gasps for air, but no air will come, thanks to the Maitre’s magic. She falls to the ground, gasping, needing oxygen, but not receiving it. Sturgen makes a final cutting motion, and her head separates from her body. Two other wardens come around the corner.
“Take her body away”, Sturgen orders, not caring what excuses they might have. He turns to the other three wardens, experation coloring his face. “On Level Three you will all enjoy the Warden’s Privilegie- you will have the authority to execute inmates at your discretion- that is to say when they are unruly….” he trails off. “It’s a heavy burden…”
When they make the trip down to Level Four, there are no questions asked, and the Maitre’s demeanor suggests that questions should not be asked.
“So”, Sturgen remarks as they walk over the threshold,” this is Level Four.” He continues. “This is where we keep the most dangerous inmates. The demigods. The magic-users that have attained immortality. Unlike the inmates one level up, these supernaturals are not merely dangerous, they’re lethal. Should one escape, I expect you to kill them. In fact, should one I escape, not killing them would throw Sweden and the rest of the world in chaos, and we cannot have that…”
In one of those cells that Maitre Sturgen mentioned on Level Four, a man sits on a bed, adimiring the beautiful silver. Whoever built this cell for him planned well. Built like a rectangle with a circular area in the center, where the main part of the rectangle is made from hateful silver and the rest ordinary iron, the cell is well made.
The man moves from the center of the cell, his little oasis, and puts his naked foot on the silver. The sizzle that follow hurts, but not as much as it used to. Not like it did in the beginning, some odd twenty years back. It’s quite the irony-by putting him in this cell- the Maitre has inadverntly given him the means of his escape.
He gazes back to the center of the cell, still sizzling. Carved into the floor is a mural, depicting a young girl. None of the wardens nor the Maitre have ever been to Fallowfell. But had they, they would’ve recognized Amanda Skog.
“Söta lilla barnbarn”, he mumbles, his affection clear,” soon we will meet.”