Asterion: Thale & Glauce

Another extract.  Yay!  And if you’re joining for the first time, this is from the novel I am writing now, which is a sequel to The Little Queen.  It’s a smart sci-fi adventure with some humour and fun, mostly female, characters.  But this time, we’re again meeting the main ‘baddies’ I suppose.  Of course you won’t understand all of what they’re on about now.  In the finished story, things will be explained and revealed gradually.  In the meantime though you’ll have to use your own imagination.

Thale & Glauce

Thale was a given name, but not the name she was given when she was born.  Like all the sisterhood, she’d undergone an initiation which had ended with her being given a new name to call herself.  Who she was before didn’t matter.  What happened now was that she had been given a mission, the first she’d been given that involved having to venture into the wider world.  The mission was to convince General Glauce, who had spent the last decade chasing a rogue their superiors had long ago lost interest in, to return with her unit to Bensala.  And she would not fail.  After all, she carried the authority of Lord Locke, holder of the lamp and keeper of the ancient mysteries.  Anyone would have to listen.  Thale was undeterred by the fact Glauce had ignored every other order she’d received until now.

Of course, she had been well orientated on what to expect to find out here.  How the men would treat her very differently from those back home, and all the other bizarre customs and prejudices.  Still hadn’t quite prepared her for the full stench of reality. Her nose wrinkled as a dog urinated on a wall next to a sleeping tramp.  Why Glauce had arranged to meet here was beyond her.  She was late too, and Thale was growing impatient as she paced under the bridge convinced she was digging a canal.

Finally there was a light. A vehicle trundled through the mud and grass to pull up next to her.  But it wasn’t what Thale was expecting.  Two men wearing suits stepped out and there was no sign of the general.

“Excuse me… miss?” One of them asked, flashing a toothy smile.

Thale felt the little hairs on her neck stand up as her body tensed, but she answered, “yes?”

“Bit of an odd place to be hanging around at night, wouldn’t you say?  Doesn’t seem safe.”

“I’m… waiting for someone.”

“General Glauce, I presume?” He presumed correctly.  But who was he?  Her bones chilled when she realised the other man was trying to circle around her.  Her instincts said they didn’t work for the general, which was confirmed by his next sentence.  “I have it on good authority that she’s not coming.  I think you’d better come with us.”

No… she knew she’d better not.  As the man who had circled around tried to grab her, she spun around and reversed his grip before delivering a sharp knee to the groin.  Possibly they weren’t expecting much resistance from a small woman, but the element of surprise she held didn’t last long.  The one who had spoken clubbed her.  She fell, dazed, as she felt her arms pulled behind her back while the toothy one looked on.  Then his face exploded.

Thale was released, the man behind her jumping to his feet.  She heard thuds, like something cold and metal pounding against flesh and bone. It seemed a long way off to her, as she only focused on the blood covering her face and now her hands.  She felt herself being lifted and then forced to kneel before a tall woman with cropped dark hair and steely grey eyes. The woman stood at ease; straight, feet spaced out to her shoulders, and hands clasped behind her back.  Thale gradually became aware of at least a dozen other men and women around her.

The woman peered coldly at Thale, until a subordinate showed her a wallet retrieved from one of the men who’d first assaulted her.

“CIA,” the woman said. “They’ve been tracking you from the moment you first tried to make contact with me.” She stepped and leant forward, a hand reaching out to take hold of a lock of Thale’s hair and pulling her head back.  “You were careless,” she rasped, “blurting out and hollering my name like you were looking for some lost puppy.”

“Glauce…” Thale blinked. That was her mission.  Thale tightened her fist and her resolve.  She could do this.  And then she could get out of this hellscape.  She shook herself free from the person holding her, who wasn’t holding tight at all, then got to her feet to face the general.  “I,” she panted, “I am to order you to…”

“I know why you are here,” Glauce sharply cut her off.  “The others want me to return.  The answer is no.  I have not yet finished my mission.”

“Your mission,” Thale reminded her, “is to monitor and retrieve technology that may pose a threat to us.  Instead you’ve spent the last decade traipsing all over the world following rumour after rumour because of some petty grudge you still hold.”

Glauce glared furiously, but Thale stood her ground.  Barely. The general inhaled and then softened her approach.  “How quickly the young forget,” she said.  “That woman betrayed us.  She murdered several of our brothers and sister, as well as our beloved father.  And so I will not rest until I have seen her whole life crushed and there is no trace of her left anywhere in this world.”

“And what about the men and women under your command?  You would have them wander this Earth forever, never allowing them to return home?”

“These men and women and I have all bled countless times to protect that cosy little sanctuary of yours. You have heard our answer.  Now run home, girl, before you get yourself hurt.”

‘Girl’ infuriated Thale. She would not return home a failure and in disgrace.  So she stamped.  “I am the granddaughter of Lord Locke!  Holder of the lamp and keeper of the ancient mysteries!  You will return with me!”

Glauce rolled her eyes. “Please… Lord Locke is a withered old puppet with no real power, and the ‘ancient mysteries’ are just a Mayan script about making soup.”

This of course infuriated Thale more, but she remained in control enough to know she wouldn’t win a physical fight.  “The council demands it as well,” she said.  “If you do not obey, you will be declared an outlaw.”

“You are naïve.  The only reason they are so insistent is that right now they need me far more than I need them.  I will return only when I’m done.”

“Alright,” Thale responded through her gritted.  “I anticipated this might be your response.  So, if I’m so naïve, how is that I have done what you have failed to do all these years?”  She reached into her coat, and weapons instantly trained on her.  She proceeded to remove the envelope very slowly while Glauce signalled for her followers to hold.

“You found Phaedra?” The general asked, obviously scarcely believing it.  “How?”

“I’m not so foolish as to wander this world alone and blind,” Thale explained.  “So, I hired an expert.”

“Dory,” the general beckoned.  Behind Thale had been standing a very large and muscular woman, at least twice the size of even the general.  Unlike the general, she wore her hair long and was carrying a baseball bat wrapped in chain.  This was Doria, Thale knew, despite them having never met.  She was Glauce’s closest friend and bodyguard and one of the fiercest fighters ever in the sisterhood.  Yet the general called her Dory.  She took the envelope and checked its contents before walking it over to Glauce.

The photos showed a woman with very thick hair and dark eyes outside a cottage somewhere.  “Could be her, general,” Dory snorted.  “Hard to tell under that bird’s nest.”  Dory swapped the photos and envelope with the wallet Glauce had been holding since earlier and proceeded to flick through that as well.

“Where were these taken?” Glauce demanded.

“A town called Irongate,” Thale answered.  “But before you run off, there’s more – she’s already dead.”

“Dead?” Glauce scarcely believed that either.

“Her body was found a week ago.  So now will you return?”

Now Glauce could hardly contain her outrage.  But was it because of a ‘girl’ finding what she couldn’t, or because someone had beaten her to her most hated rival?  “No,” the general said at last.  “I will see it with my own eyes first.  Have your ‘expert’ meet us there.”

Thale was afraid of that. It was unnecessary delay.  But she supposed compromise was the art of diplomacy. “Fine,” she conceded.

Before the general swept herself away, she regarded the two fallen men and nodded to the one who still had a face.  “Is that one still alive?” She asked.

“I think so general,” Doria said.  “Barely. You want me to finish him off?”

“No.  Bring him with us.  I need a new subject.”

“As you wish ma’am.”

Doria heaved the man on her shoulder and followed them rest of them out from under the bridge, dropping the dollars from the wallet by the dog and the old tramp, who was still asleep.

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