Friday, July 9, 2010

306 - Stop in the Name of the Law!

How in Hayel has the office of the Serenity afforded skates?  I’d risked enough by having something so expensive on my feet… being mugged for my skates – if any smash and grab thief could catch me… The drum bounced on his back as he tore down Race, the wailing whistles behind him.  Children on the sides of the street squealed and waved while their parents hustled them back out of his path.

The whistles…  in front of him.  If he were fleeing off to the fessas quarter they were perfectly placed to cut him off. It wasn’t being a Dyer or carrying a drum they could arrest him for, but for speaking subversion.

He crossed his feet over, wheeled sideways into an unnamed alleyway off Race that looped back up into the Aitzas quarter where he'd spent most of his skating time.  Of course things had changed, with the conquest and sack and rebuilding but it was still more familiar than almost any other part of the city.

He heard a startled shout from behind and one of the Sereniteers, not as good on his skates, lost it and careened into a merchant’s store-front stand of fine cloths and hand-died hanks of thread.  He grinned, they’d be a while untangling him because the owner wouldn’t abide cutting something worth the man’s weight in silver chains.

The alley opened onto Triumphant and he tucked low over Rill Bridge, moving fast enough that his feet left the ground, even though it was only a little bridge.  Market crowds weren’t as thick here, mostly servants and carry chairs and… a Sereniteer scrambled off Egg and Bacon Street right on his heels, wheels squealing – you need to get those fixed, Ser… An express chair screamed by and he dodged into the chair lane going the wrong way, forcing the Sereniteer to wait for its passing.  He caught an approaching whistle and was close enough to see the widening eyes of the lead bearer as he threw on the chair brakes, raising sparks from the stone as they jerked to a wild halt. 

"If you Sereniteers did your JOBS we wouldn't have near-collisions with such miscreants!" The old man… the old Aitzas in the chair was bellowing at the Sereniteer with the bad skates.  None of them had as good skates as his.

"If you'd let us DO our fikken job maybe we'd catch the fikker!"  Minis had to grin again as the argument faded behind.  He was smaller than all the skate Sereniteers--were they called Skateers?—It meant he could turn faster.  A good thing he hadn’t filled out yet and was slight and slender.  The Sereniteers were, to a man, built heavy.

He hopped out and ducked under a shoulder litter and they stopped in confusion, one corner tipping down and the two women inside shrilling as they started to slide.  “He’s there!  There!  You there!”

Right outside the Royal Ancients Theatre a foot patrolman flung his stick in front of him to try and trip him up.  He jumped that one, swerved around his partner’s black and white thrust out, waist high.  A group of young people… other Dyers, milled to one side. “Skate, brother, skate!” One of them yelled after him and someone pulled out a drum.  He heard it fading behind and risked a quick glance.  He saw them, in the guise of helping, getting in the Sereniteers’ way. He had to grin… they were being so helpful!

There were too many Sereniteers in this quarter, even if he knew it.  A horse kicked at him as he flew by, rider almost unseated, it reared as he used too much bit, the noise fading as Minis dodged past Our Tiny Enlightened Temple, with its white oval shrine and either a badly painted Goddess or an angel in it, arms open, heart bleeding all over its robe.  “You there!”

It’s like skating with my companions, or with my Mahid, all through here.  I didn’t have to pull any of the really wild stuff that Ailadas did to force me to chase him through the Marble Palace to get my lesson.  He thought his grin would split his face, even as his heart raced, thinking what would happen if they caught him.

“Hey, kid! Want a real job? Skate courier?  You’re good enough.”  That was a fellow waving from the Half-Down bridge where he must have had a good view.  People leaned from higher windows now, some shouting direction or misdirection from their higher vantage point.  He was surprised how many were cheering him on.

Three skate Sereniteers burst out of Temple Lane almost on him, he shied sideways, was forced to jump the wash curb and go tearing down the dry water channel along Ripple Street.  One of the Sereniteers tried following him straight and managed to swoop into the same channel.  He came sweeping down the other side and tried to check him as if this was a faib game.

His stick came up as he prepared to either catch Minis with it or shove him off balance, eyes focused, when he braked completely and the Sereniteer went howling past, his skates catching in a trickle of water from the street above.  He went careening into the raised wall of the channel. I should start keeping count!  He was laughing now, as much as he had air to laugh with.

Giggling breathless, Minis whirled in place and tore off, back the way he’d come, across the dry centre up the wall on the other side, slap his hand onto the edge of the wash-curb and yanked his skates down onto Golden Alley.  His two partners who’d been keeping pace on the street shouted behind him.  One stayed to check the downed Sereniteer, the other whirled as Minis did and struggled to catch up, but he was on the other side of the channel now, still on Ripple.  My lungs are starting to burn.

Gold Alley was all the shops of the goldsmiths.  Though they might live in the fessas part of town they had their shops here if they were good enough to attract the eyes of Aitzas.  Not so many crowds.  The wail of the Sereniteers whistles just refused to fade behind him.  Now they were ahead of him again. Skate, boy, skate faster.

Even in good training he was getting tired.  Minis almost stumbled the turn onto Chain Row.  A solas bodyguard, probably at his employer’s urging, flung a café-table and a chair, bouncing into the street and he jumped, fumbled the landing as a spinning chairleg clipped one foot, but kept his feet, barely.  His back was going to be black and blue from the stinkin’ drum’s bounce.  He needed to lose them but couldn’t pull off the skates easily.  They took time to unlace.

Chain ended at the Boardwalk and suddenly he was rapping out a beat with his wheels.  Another moment and those whistles will be on top of me again.  Oh… is it big enough?  I’m bigger than I used to be…

He could only try.  His breath came hard now and his mouth was dry, the drum had to come to one side so it didn’t stop him…

Rapapapraprarparaprarparaprarapa my wheels are like a herd of stampeding horses.  The Griffon statue was just ahead.  He’d have to hit it exactly right.

“Stop in the name of the law!”  Someone bellowed from Chain… another moment and they’d turn onto the walk, see and he’d be arrested… dead dead dead.

He vaguely noticed there weren’t many people about.  Instead of walking their dogs and cats on leashes they’d faded away from the approaching noise of  the chase… the wheels and the whistles…

He jumped, his right skate hit the slanted claw of the Griffon and  he pushed off hard, up and tucked.  He was a little low and his shoulder hit just the top of the rising wing and tumbled him in a rough roll onto his back into the hollow between the wings, the drum hitting him in the head before settling… He pulled his feet in close, tucked, put arms around his knees.  Just as he heard the Skateers hit the boards of the walk.  RAPPARAPPARAPPARAPPA, the sharp, high sound of the wheels dropping to a rumble as they slowed.

From both directions.  He lay still, panting, listening.  He could only see the branches of the tree above.

“Did you get him?” “Waddaya mean, did we get him? Does it look like we got him?” “He was between us… I swear.” “You let him slip past you!” “No, you let him slip past you! We never saw him!” “We would have heard him roll by on the boards!”

The breeze off the lake was Selestialis.  He just lay and panted quietly, mouth hanging open so he didn't gasp and listened to them argue.  The niche in the statue was a tighter fit than when he’d hidden here to wait for Chevenga, but was still barely big enough.  It had been built for a heroic rendition of an Imperator or a guard so let him tuck in all his bits behind half-raised wings.  The statue was cool from being under the shade of the tree.

“Sera?”  One of the Sereniteers was speaking to someone.  OH SHEN. SOMEONE SAW ME.   He clenched his eyes and mouth shut and waited for it all to be over.


Just a note in thanks to Karen for humorous bystander's commentary in this scene, particularly the elderly Aitzas chair rider and the Sereniteer he's arguing with, and the job-offer guy!  Thanks, Karen!

And another reminder that I will be vacationing this week before the Muskoka Novel Marathon, where Karen and I will be doing our best to write 'Fool on the Mountain' between Friday and Monday.  It will be a livewriting event so sign up for charity.

All proceeds to go to Muskoka Literacy!  Ten dollars gets you in for the weekend and you receive a copy of the completed work... even if we don't finish it all in four days!

I will return to my regular posting schedule on Tuesday, July 20th.  See you then! 

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