Friday, June 19, 2020

'Could You Kill Monsters With It?'

From War of the Maps:
The lucidor slept surprisingly well. He had placed his fate in the hands of others and had nothing to do now but wait. He woke when the stable boy brought his breakfast – pickled fish fillets rolled around slices of gherkin, thin dry slices of black bread, and chai with butter melted into it. The boy set the tray on the stand and at the door hesitated and asked the lucidor if he was a soldier.
Not exactly. But I am heading towards the war.’
Do you fight with that stick?’
The boy was looking at the staff, which leaned against the wall by the head of the bed. It was a single piece of supple black oak a little under two spans in length, shod with iron at both ends.
It’s called a staff,’ the lucidor said. ‘Haven’t you seen one before?’
The boy shook his head. He seemed to be about eleven or twelve, a skinny creature with milky skin, curly red hair shaved high around the sides, wire-rimmed spectacles. The legs of his denim coveralls were rolled at his ankles and the corner of a thin paperback book stuck out of one of the pockets.
He said, ‘Have you ever killed people with your staff?’
I prefer to disarm and subdue them.’
Could you kill monsters with it?’
I don’t know. I have never tried.’
I want to fight the monsters,’ the boy said, ‘but people like me aren’t allowed to join the army.’
By people like you, you mean wights.’
The boy nodded. From somewhere below, a man’s voice called out something in the wights’ language.
The lucidor said, ‘What’s your name?’
There are other ways of fighting the invasion, Panap. A woman I met yesterday is making a study of monsters. Different kinds of small ones, from the sea. She is trying to find out how they were made and how they live, and how to stop them spreading any further. It seems to me that it might be the best chance of defeating the invasion.’
But you’re going to fight,’ the boy said.
I am not a philosopher, and it’s too late for me to learn how to become one. But a boy like you, bright and curious as you are, might make a go of it.’
The man’s voice called out again.
I hope you kill lots when you get to the other side,’ Panap said with sudden fierceness, and was gone.
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