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Purge of the House Temporal
Holiday Blue Chapter 4: Temporary Jack, Part 1
© 2022 James LaFond
MAR/25/23
Jack was bent over picking squash in the garden, gliding through the arched boughs of the prickly branches as thick as his wrist terminating in prickly triangle-leaves, yellow flowers, and in time, if the stags and rock sloths did not eat them, great crook necked fruits that would supplement the grain, beer, mutton, swine and chicken that made up their diet.
‘How I thirst for wine, how I hunger for beef! I would dine like a Titan!’
He straightened up in the arbor made of one of the plants that spread its vines over a mark of land, and looked at old Gourd, his trainer, wishing also in the moment, that like a titan, he had a father, rather than a trainer. It occurred to him then, as Gourd stared at him ascance with pointed judgment, how absurd it was for him, Pan Khron’s prize tracker, to be picking squash.
‘Why,’ he thought, the unbreaking of silence having been ingrained in him so that he could develop that rare ability among temporaries to receive the thoughts of his Master upon the hunt.
Gourd could so receive Titan thought. But man was incapable of casting thought. So the knowing glare on Gourd’s gruff face was an expression born of reading faces, especially defiant faces, trainer and breaker of wills that he was.
Gourd’s voice was laced with absurdity, “Why, aye? Why asks he, hound of Titanry?”
Jack glared at the old slave, despising his trainer for sharing his condition—their universal condition.
Gourd snorted and walked among the outer leaves of the massive plant, careful not to step upon the Oliphant-sized ears of the despised plant that bore only slave food that Titans did not bother to taste.
Gourd hissed as he passed by, “Do you think gliding unheard through a thicket after a tiger will not be of value to your Master hunter? It is said that in The Long Ago, that we were the hunters and that we coursed game with four-legged hounds in imitation of Our Lords who need small helpers to find dark lairs.”
“What happened?” blurted Jack.
“Why, why are we their slaves—other than that they are a one smarter than all of us combined?”
“Yes.”
“Well, you are not all stupid. It comes to pass at times, that Titans make war upon our kind.”
“But we are—”
“Useful?” interjected Gourd.
The automatonous sphere above the Estate of Pan Khron tolled, “Servitors of The House Temporal, gather upon the Court Khron,” tolled the command as automatons of all kinds and sizes issued fourth from the sphere as the cries of people rose up from all around, near and distant, from the workshops, the school, the garden near, the fields far, the forest edge where the woodsmen plied their axes and saws.
Gourd raised his voice and advised, “You know your role, Hound!”
‘Yes, the field hands that are still young and not yet broken, the Foresters, some will slink away.’
Jack shouldered the squash sack, ran through the garden in a crouch, emerged from the outer arbor, and rose up to stand over Gourd, who had shrunken so since Jack had been put under his direction. Gourd held Jack’s ashwood staff and hickory throwing stick, a wicked V carved with the beak of a falcon at its point and the long sides worked in wings and terminating in talons.
Gourd grunted, “That slacker, Bull, for a certain, has fled the plow and taken up with the brothers Pool among the Foresters. I will meet you at the Court of Khron.”
The old trainer then looked up at a winged automaton descending from the sphere, one formed like a silvery woman in miniature, clutching an emerald green harp, who sang, “Master Pan demands trophies, not traitors.”
She then winked at Jack like a winged dream, and twittered off, plucking her harp.
Gourd swallowed hard, “You know what to do,” and handed Jack his symbol of trust and loyalty, his leaf-shaped knife, as long as a man’s forearm in its doeskin sheathe.
“You, Jack, are trusted now beyond trust by Your Master. Do not fail him.”
Jack nodded respectfully to old Gourd, who carried sadness now in his eyes as he handed over his one artifact of distinction and now gathered his red robe closely about him, nodding to his red-kilted student, that the test he had been trained for was upon them and its success or failure would mark their plight just as the gray-stone walls of the garden of Pan Khron marked the range of the otherwise space-hungry squash.
Jack was elated, the three heads of the runaways hanging upon the tunic cord of field-hand Bull, strung through the eyes. He tried to forget that after one brother’s leg was broken by the thrown stick that the rest dropped their axes and begged. He had not forgotten the axes, though, feeling them swing from the bundle laced over his back.
The white marble court of Pan Khron, youngest of the three sons of Phoebus Khron, who had not been seen by men in Jack’s lifetime, was occupied by the entire staff, all of whom were asleep except for Gourd. The towering form of Pan Khron, who stood two heads taller than Jack, who was tall for a man, was flanked by the broader and hairier forms of his brothers. Atlas, was as broad at the shoulder as Jack was tall and wore, rather than the purple robes favored by the Titans, a girdle of bear hide. Where Pan’s face was handsome and smooth shaven, Atlas was covered in a bison-like beard and Phoenix, possessed of the bluest eyes sparkling with cruel indexes of harsh judgement, had a chin perpetually grown with black stubble.
As with all Titans, Gourd had assured Jack, each son of Phoebus had been sired on a different mother. So that Pan was blonde and fair, Atlas was red-haired and hairy and Phoenix was black-haired and hawk-faced. Indeed, from what Jack could recall from the glimpse of his own face in the pond—for mirrors were forbidden temporal kind—he bore in miniature, more of the likeness of his Master than did his Master’s brothers, so alien must the mothers of the three brothers had been from each other. Pan’s face was round and moon like, Atlas’s square and blockish, Phoenix’s visage long and narrow.
He stood now, besides Gourd, who was nervous and shaking, the two of them surrounded in a half circle by the Titans who glared ominously down.
“My Ravenous Hound!” grinned Pan, taking the string of proffered heads from Jack.
“Good little Legs,” ajudged Atlas, “as fast and tireless as can be bred!”
Hawk-faced Phoenix sneered down, “To small, as good as dead—we’ll be left with second course on the hunt—can you fight runt!”
Jack beamed pride, defiance and anger up into that ageless face and growled, barring his teeth. The backhand of Pheobus, taller by a head than his brothers, came so quickly that most men would have been dashed to death in that instant. But Jack ducked, and rather than smugly grinning, leaped backward over the sweeping shin that was thick as his thigh and regarding the three with a defiant pride, that caused old Gourd to quiver to his knees and pray, “Oh Master, son and brother of Titanry, forgive me—for I have tried to train the bad out of him.”
Jack was now struck with hurt, like a spear into his heart, as he had thought Gourd loved him. That hurt soon melted though, in an instant, as he cast down the trainer’s knife, shucked off the bundle of axes, and set his staff to his left hand and growled.
Atlas then grinned, a grin as wide as Jack’s deep chest, and rumbled, “Thank Eternity you failed, old hound. The Deathless Hunt has been called, your kind to be culled, save the most useful. Stand before my brother.”
Gourd staggered to his feet, tears wetting his face.
Pan Khron then looked down glowingly upon Jack, handing the heads to Gourd and indicating the slumbering hundreds of The House Temporal above whom dithered the winged automatons with their smoking pipes, “This pains me, Jack. But the cull has been decreed. Choose a youth to take your place. Choose seven virgins to take your seed, and when they are awakened in the inner chamber,” he yawningly with his hand indicated the heavy stone structure where the mothers of The House Temporal brooded, behind a door too small to admit Titans, “you will sire me a new line of servants.”
Jack, always a lusty sort, who had only been granted mating rights after successful hunts and recoveries, lost all interest in the Titans and began stalking among the sleeping maidens, all fair in their own way, dreaming as if Eternity had already claimed them. Like the hound he was, he stalked among them, his adore peaked after the kill. The kill was always better then love, but never felt complete until he had calmed himself between the soft legs of a woman.
The Titanic Three laughed, laughed in cruel approval, and laughed so heartily that Jack wondered that none of the sleepers awoke.
To be continued in:
Prize of the House Khron
Holiday Blue Chapter 4: Temporary Jack, Part 2
Temporary Scent, Deathless Sent
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