Paris

Bisset sat across the Louis XIV table from Pook and Clackprattle and smiled. The room was dark apart from two candles on the table and a few on the walls, some distance away.

“So,” said Bisset, “questions?”

“Who do you work for?” said Clackprattle. Bisset winced a little and then his smile recovered.

“I am confidante and assistant to the most noble Confrère des Ombres,” he said.

“But not an actual member,” said Clackprattle.

“I do not possess that honour, no,” said Bisset. Clackprattle leaned forward.

“So can we talk to the organ grinder and not the monkey?” he said and leaned back, looking around with a bored air.

“I can assure you that I have the full confidence and can act with the full authority of the order,” said Bisset, smiling very wide. Clackprattle snorted.

“So why don’t they speak to us,” he said.

“The brothers are… men of some standing and some reputation within the society of Paris,” said Bisset. “They would rather keep both of those by exercising their anonymity.”

“Well, sir, I wish them and their anonymity well,” said Clackprattle, standing. “Come on Pook, we’re going.”

“Perhaps, Master,” said Pook, “it may be advantageous to listen a little further to M Bisset. He has proved to have some knowledge of our situation and indeed some insight. It would be, I think, an error to appear too hasty.”

Clackprattle snorted but sat down. He waved his hand at Bisset.

“Continue,” he said to the Frenchman.

“I am most grateful indeed,” said Bisset. “As I have answered a question for you, maybe you may do me the honour of doing the same for me.”

Clackprattle looked bored but did not object.

“You are both in league with Draco Viridis, am I correct?” asked Bisset.

“In league?” said Clackprattle. “Our involvement is a little deeper than that. Following the death of that fool Anglestone I personally took control of the whole shoddy organisation.”

“They acquiesced?” said Bisset, sounding surprised.

“Let’s just say I used my powers of persuasion,” said Clackprattle, looking at his hand.

“I see,” said Bisset. “So you are both members of this organisation and…”

“Pook is not,” interrupted Clackprattle. “It’s an order for gentlemen.”

“Oh, so you are…” said Bisset, looking at Pook.

“Indeed,” said Pook, “you and I are on, what we might call, a similar footing.”

“And your hand?” said Bisset, turning back to Clackprattle.

“I believe it’s my turn for a question,” said Clackprattle.

“Just so,” said Bisset.

Clackprattle snatched the map from Pook and waved it at Bisset.

“How does this wretched thing work?” he said.

“The makers of the map, several hundreds of years ago, were fully aware the city would change, physically, but that it would not change emotionally,” said Bisset. “That is they knew the city would have places where people gathered for pleasure or to rage against injustice. Where people would worship God and where they would worship each other. So instead of physical landmarks, which may not persist, they drew a map of emotions that would always exist, even if the location changed.”

“And what does the map point to, precisely,” said Pook.

“I believe it is my turn?” said Bisset. “Your hand, Mr Clackprattle?”

“In the chaos of the botched attempt to make the Summum Mallorum I grabbed the stone of evil,” said Clackprattle. “It would have destroyed any normal man, but I am made of sterner stuff. Some of its powers transferred to my hand.”

“Including the power to kill?” said Bisset.

“Indeed,” said Clackprattle, voice rising, “which is why you will call me Master from now on or face my fury.”

Bisset looked a little shocked and his eyes darted across to Pook who smiled wryly.

“Perhaps,” said Pook cheerily, “we could learn a little more of the map’s purposes.”

“It is…” started Bisset, “that is, it points to four places in the city. These four places each hold part of a key. The key when combined gives one access to something remarkable.”

“Yes,” said Pook, “go on.”

“It gives one access to a weapon reported to be of terrible power,” said Bisset. “The Weapon of Paris.”

Clackprattle grinned.

“Now we are talking,” he said.

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