The Mask And The Master (Mechanized Wizardry Book 2)

BOOK: The Mask And The Master (Mechanized Wizardry Book 2)
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The Mask And The Master

Book Two of Mechanized Wizardry

By Ben Rovik

Published by Ben Rovik Books

Copyright © Ben Rovik 2012

 

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

 

If you enjoy it, please spread the word to anyone you like!  Multi-chapter samples of each of my books are available for free at
benrovik.wordpress.com
.  Consider directing your friends or family there first, rather than emailing or sharing this copy around.  Thanks!

 

*****

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Maps

Prologue

Part One: The Voice Of The Masses

Chapter One: New Beginnings

Chapter Two: On The Hunt

Chapter Three: Mister Leader

Chapter Four: Fireside

Chapter Five: The Pretenders Will Fall

Chapter Six: The Feastday Hero

Chapter Seven: Going Public

Chapter Eight: The Golden Caravan

Chapter Nine: Petronaut Non Grata

Chapter Ten: The Consultant

Chapter Eleven: At The Gates

Chapter Twelve: Vanguard

Chapter Thirteen: Royal Reassignment

Chapter Fourteen: Hot Potato

Chapter Fifteen: Last Words

Chapter Sixteen: Cakewalk

Chapter Seventeen: The Battle Of Two Forks

 

Part Two: The Path To The Master

Chapter One: The Road Ahead

Chapter Two: Fort Campos

Chapter Three: The Wounded

Chapter Four: Greatsight

Chapter Five: Yough’s Verdict

Chapter Six: Two Sermons

Chapter Seven: Post

Chapter Eight: Borne By The Current

Chapter Nine: Sundown

Chapter Ten: Captives

Chapter Eleven: The War In The Woods

Chapter Twelve: One Cell For Another

Chapter Thirteen: The Audience

Chapter Fourteen: Columbine’s Army

Chapter Fifteen: A Mouthful

Chapter Sixteen: Collaborators

Chapter Seventeen: Word On A Wing

Chapter Eighteen: The Warlord’s Valley

Chapter Nineteen: Fresh Eyes

Chapter Twenty: The Siege And The Civics

Epilogue

About The Author

Other Petronaut Tales

Sample from The Fate Of The Faithful: Book Three of Mechanized Wizardry

 

Maps

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

The cucumbers were enormous for this early in the summer.  Hanah reached a gloved hand through the leaves and pulled a jade-dark gourd off the vine, marveling at the sight of it.  The soil was warm here, a kilometer removed from the keep, and the rains had been kind so far.  She placed the cucumber gently atop the others in the bushel and wiped away the sweat on her face.  Her silver bangs were wet against her forehead, peeking out from underneath her wide-brimmed hat.  She tucked them back out of sight and leaned in closer to the bush.

“Dame Hanah,” the soldier began again.  She raised a hand. His boots shuffled in the dirt as he returned to attention, a few meters behind her.

“I am aware, yeoman,” she said in a slow, soft voice, “that our visitors are anxious to know what we will do next.  I’m aware that the garrison, yourself included, is anxious to know what we will do next.  Would you believe that I’m just as anxious as all of you are for our master to make a decision?”

Through the disciplined silence behind her, it was clear the young yeoman did not.  Hanah stifled a smile as she gently dislodged a pair of summer beetles from a well-chewed leaf.  “Believe it or not, I’m actually quite perturbed,” she murmured, watching the beetles fly.

“Ma’am.”  The young man struggled for the proper words for his message. 
How brittle he must think I am
, she thought, amused.  He was so solicitous in his desire to avoid giving offense that it bordered on the offensive.  That was, if she’d been inclined to take offense at anything anymore.  After everything else she’d experienced in life, the haphazard words of a soldier weren’t likely to move her one way or the other. 

He finally spoke.  “The visitors from Svargath simply want some reassurance.  The stewards are having difficulty, uh, quieting them, in the hall.  And, uh— since you seem to be at liberty, your presence could—”

“Do you know, I never thought these would grow?” She looked over her shoulder at him, and he stiffened.  He had a pointed jaw and close-cropped black hair, and his leathers fit him well.  Hanah took him in with her hazel eyes, letting a hand rest on the mostly-full bushel of cucumbers.  “I didn’t plant a single seed, that first year,” she whispered, remembering.  “It was all I could do to pull out the rocks, till the earth, spread the nourishing minerals and let them sink in.  For two years after that, only a handful of plants survived the weather or the pests long enough to put out flowers, let alone crops.  But every year, I persevered.  And now?  Well, yeoman—”

There was a rush of air, and the young soldier barely got his hand to his face in time to catch the long green projectile.  He looked past the vegetable to see Hanah lowering her throwing arm, a twinkle in her eye.  “I hope you like cucumbers,” she said.

He nodded his thanks, eyes darting this way and that.  “Ma’am?  Will you, uh—”

“I will
not
come to see our visitors from Svargath, because I have nothing to say to them.  I will not come to see them because every visit they make to our keep increases the chance of detection and endangers us all.  I will not come to see them because they were not invited to come, and I don’t wish to encourage bad manners.  Finally, I will not come see them, because I am busy with the cucumbers.

“But, yeoman,” Dame Hanah said, straightening herself up, “since you’re so eager to please, you may say this to our friends from the east.  As soon as our master
has
made a decision regarding the options I have proposed, they will be the first to know.”

“Ma’am, uh—to paraphrase—they’re finding it difficult to stay patient.”

“We failed to kill the Princess of Delia last week,” Hanah sighed, pulling off her work gloves.  She massaged the arthritic joints of her right hand, wincing as her thumbs kneaded her bones.  “I don’t need to tell you that our master took that news rather hard.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” the young man said quietly, his eyes flicking to the ground.  Cicadas buzzed in the trees nearby, their calls rising and falling in raspy waves.

“The cause continues, yeoman,” Hanah said, her voice low and firm.  “And there are many fruitful paths still open to us—especially if we remain patient.  As soon as our master has made a decision regarding the options I have proposed, they will be the first to know.”

“Ma’am.”  The young man bowed, recognizing the dismissal in her tone.  He turned on his heel and began the walk along the beaten track of grass back to the keep, and the small knot of angry foreigners who would continue to make his day unpleasant.  Hanah watched him go with her hands clasped together at her waist.  It was hard for the young to be patient, especially in the face of struggle and setback.  But she knew, with certainty that went right down to her old bones, that their plans would bear fruit if they persevered.

She looked down at the heaping bushel, and the long rows of ripe cucumbers yet to be picked throughout the garden.  Her eyes unfocused as she imagined the spires of Delia, the gleaming white walls of the royal palace, and a little girl sitting on a throne ten sizes too big for her. 
Sometimes, the question isn’t whether or not the crops will grow
, she thought grimly,
but whether you’re ready to harvest the things you’ve sown.

With a soft grunt as she stooped over the bushes again, Hanah went back to work.

 

Part One

The Voice of the Masses

 

 

 

“Your words are as a storm

Where lightning strikes the highest place

And flood-tides dredge the lows.

None of those who hear are spared the pain...”

 

A Hundred Days of Water
,
Duronico, 780.

 

Chapter One

New Beginnings

 

 

 

Horace Lundin was not crying.

Obviously not
, he scoffed, setting the great hatbox-shaped canister on his new workbench.  The metal disks inside clattered against each other like cheap cymbals, noisy despite the padding. 
If I were crying, it would be because there were some
reason
to cry.  And because there’s not, then, obviously, I’m not crying. It’s not like I’m the kind of person who has emotional responses at the drop of a hat without any—

“Are you all right?”

“Of course,” Lundin said, swiping his eyes fiercely with the back of his hand.  He turned to the tall, dark-skinned man and cleared his throat.  “Just a few more packages to bring in,” he said, tapping the canister with forced heartiness. 

The man reached out and touched Lundin’s arm absently, his brown fingers giving a gentle squeeze.  “Glad you’re joining us, Horace,” he said with a smile, of sorts.  Lundin had seen that smile from almost everyone today; warm, but perfunctory, as if ‘make Horace Lundin feel welcome’ was just one more item on a mental to-do list.  One look at the other man’s flickering eyes convinced Lundin he was already thinking about his next task long before the smile faded from his face.

BOOK: The Mask And The Master (Mechanized Wizardry Book 2)
3.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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