[Mock-Fiction] V - Fures Misericordiam

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Aye. Tis me again.

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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7. 5 – Phone Call

Mariqah ignored the phone box for a long while. After about three minutes, the ringing stopped. But shortly after it resumed.

Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring.

Mariqah lifted her head, and sighed. She spat the nasty taste that had developed in her mouth into the grass and got up into a seated position. Gremalkin stirred and yawned, licking it chaps before staring lazily at Mariqah.

“Stupid phone won’t shut up,” she mumbled, stroking the cat’s head, “Guard my spot, will you?”

She stretched and got off the bench, leaving her shawl behind, and stomped her way to the telephone box.

 

Mariqah opened the door and picked up the phone – which was visibly vibrating – and said, “Sweetheart, you’ve got a phone booth. Try a different number, for God’s sake!”
There was a pause on the other end, and then, “It’s Mariqah, right?” the voice has a nasal, static quality.

Mariqah was silent for a moment, “Who wants to know?”

“Just somebody who has a bone to pick with you. Meet us by the old Mormon Church near the park you’re sleeping in. You’ll see a big silver car.”

“Suppose I don’t want to.”

“Well, pity. You won’t know what’s happening to your dear friends in the Brotherhood.”

Before Mariqah could ask any questions, the line cut.

B-oooo-p.

 

Mariqah growled under her breath and slammed the phone back in place. She went back to her bench and took up her bag, stuffing the shawl inside. Gremalkin looked up at her.

“Business has come about,” she scratched the cat’s chin, “about time too. Have the bench to yourself.”

She sighed and walked off in the direction she’d been instructed.

She wondered for a moment if this was at all the correct course of action. Probably not. But what else was there to do? If Mariqah didn’t go and face whatever nerdy, little, phone-booth-calling, arse-prick had summoned her, it would bother her and probably get her into a whole bunch of trouble.

 

And Father Samuels.

 

It was the one reason she didn’t always stay in his house. Only when he was ill, or if there was housework to do, or if he’d barricaded the front door with his body begging her to stay inside.

It was a danger for him to become associated with her. She didn’t want to be known as ‘Father Samuels’s Housekeeper’ or ‘Father Samuels’s Tenant’ or ‘Father Samuels’s Anything’ – if she became aligned to that man, for as much credit that would do her, Mariqah would put him in grave danger if she got caught or recognised.

Like now.

 

Mariqah saw the silver car – more of a van with seats – parked next to the Church. The lights inside were on. She strode up to it and–

What was the polite course of action here…?

She knocked on the car door. The door slid open and a man in a suit and white gloves gestured for her to come in. She gave him a queer look for a moment, but then ducked under the roof of the car and climbed in, sinking into a seat opposite the… butler?

“I’m… um… Hello?” she said, awkwardly.

 

Midnight, at last, we see each other plain,” he replied,

Ma-riqah, you wear a different chain.”

 

Mariqah looked amused, and then recognised who this was. She shook her head, “Am I supposed to respond to that charge, Emperor Smith?”

The bearded man smiled, “I find it hard to believe that my old nemesis should have doubted my appearance.”
“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve chased your tail or since you’ve made a public speech, so,” Mariqah sat back and shrugged, “Wait… you weren’t the one calling at the booth, were you?”

“Hmm, oh, no – that was my driver,” he chuckled. He opened the compartment between them, and pulled out a a glass bottle and two Champagne glasses, “Care for some wine?”
“I’ve no need to ruin my mind further.”

“Please, I insist,” he poured two glasses and handed one to Mariqah, “It’s alcohol-free.”

She held the glass to the light, and looked at it with her head tipped to a side, “So it’s just fizzy grape juice then?”
“Must you suck the poetry out of everything?” he said, taking a sip of her glass deliberately, “One hundred per cent non-alcoholic, non-poisoned, fizzy grape juice – I promise you.”

 

She stared at him, “What’s your deal, Lodovico?”
“Ah, I see we’ve abandoned formalities,” he sat back, putting one leg over the other, a smile on his face, “But you will have to elaborate, dear Midnight.”
“Well, last time I checked – you wanted my head, mate. What gives?”

“Well…” he took a sip of his glass, “several things ‘give’. For one you’ve removed our rivals several times. I should like to think that I owe you for that.”
“What are you talking about, Lud? I got rid of those nitwits for my own sake, not yours. This-dimensional WD, Clone-Zayn in Bengal and Army-WD. They were as much a threat to us as they were to you. If anything, I owe you – you got rid of that preening fraud, Choudary, for me.”

“For you? Dear girl – she was a treacherous little snake.”

“It’s what I meant by ‘preening fraud’.”

“Nonetheless, I dare say – we have done each other favours, even if not intended as so; your scale being heavier than mine.”

“No, Lud. That’s the scale of the thousands that died. You owe them. Not me.”
 

Fine. Then take this as an act of Christian charity, will you?”
“I don’t know. I can’t say I see you as the most righteous of people.”
“Ah, that would make the two of us then,” said Lodovico, bitterly.

“I’m sorry?”

“Midnight, I am aging. And severely so. My sons are warming their palms to take my throne – I feel I should give that honour to Seth, but Simeon is the oldest and expects that he will inherit it. Urgh, the many migraines of family politics,” he shook his head, “but that is not my business with you. As I said, I’m not getting any younger. I fear the reckoning with my Maker. And how all the people I leave behind will remember me. So… you being a fugitive and a highly-esteemed opponent, I thought perhaps I could aid you; with a few reasonable choices. So that you might look on me kindly, when I’m dead and buried.”

“What difference does it make, Lud? I am no friend of yours. Quite the opposite, actually.”
“Well, that’s the point, my girl! To befriend an enemy. Or at least make my peace with you,” he paused and took another sip. He noticed that Mariqah hadn’t taken a single sip of her wine, but was holding it and swirling the liquid around in the glass idly, “What do you say? Will you give an old, dying dog his wish?”

“Erm, you do realise that I’m only about seven or eight years younger than you, Lud?”

He rolled his eyes, “Midnight?”

 

“Alright, I bite. What are these choices? But give me some context, man. Your driver said something about the Brotherhood.”

“Well, there is some… unrest stirring in the Brotherhood. I cannot say exactly what, but it concerns your Abbess and that Mentor of yours. There have been a few arrests and such.”

Mariqah straightened a little, “And…” she paused, “and the mercenaries?”

“They’ve relocated, I should think. Your lieutenant – some Arab name… Khadir, is it? – thought it better to move away, before something too political emerged. I don’t know where they’ve moved, but they are no longer in Syria.”

Mariqah relaxed, “Good, good old Khadir,” she commented, “And these ‘choices’?”

“Well, do you wish to stay or return? If you wish to stay here, you will still technically be a fugitive, but I’ll help everyone ignore that. However, you will be forbidden passage to anywhere outside the realm of the UAF.”

“And… if I wish to return to Masyaf?”

“I will grant you safe passage, on condition that you maintain a minimum of ten years peace with my Empire. You can sort out your politics without fear of my interference.”
 

“Lud…” Mariqah sighed, “These are reasonable options you’ve given me, I’ll grant. But, mate, you haven’t exactly given me many reasons to trust you.”
“On my honour – I’ll give it to you written in ink. In my own blood, if you wish. What is a man without his word, Ms Rogue? I swear to you, whichever path you choose, I’ll hold to it – these matters affect the defence of my realm, you understand? You are a fugitive. And although I understand that you’re doing no harm here, I cannot have you running around unparlayed. You’re a threat to be reckoned with, I’ll admit. But I’ll reckon with you in this fashion, only. What will it be, Midnight? Your home, or your home away from home?”

Mariqah thought for a long while, staring at her glass of wine. The pause was so long, Lodovico thought that he ought to ask again, but as soon as he opened his mouth, Mariqah spoke:

 

“You promise, you will grant me your protection and put it down in writing, with the royal seal?”

He nodded.

“Then I’ll stay.”

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