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Chosen - Chapter 23

by fbtoast 

Posted: 21 August 2009
Word Count: 1784
Summary: moving on swiftly...

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At breakfast the next day, Hex told Councillor Wallop of his plan to contact Maitre Weller.

‘I cannot say that I would place my trust unreservedly in Crispian Weller,’ said the Councillor, gravely masticating a spoonful of porridge, ‘but if Juliet Breitling has put in a good word for you, I think you may go as far as laying your story before him. Weller is a man of secrets, in any case, secrets and connections. He knows full well the value of these secrets and is entirely discreet. My only caveat is that, if he agrees to act on your behalf, he will exact payment.’

Hex looked worried. ‘I haven’t any money,’ he said. ‘I shall have one day, I hope, if I go for the army and get good chances Outremons, but I can’t pay him now.’

Stephanius Wallop waved his spoon idly, sending a dollop of porridge into the sugarbowl. ‘Oh, Weller doesn’t seek payment in anything so vulgar as money. He’s quite beyond that. Secrets and favours are his game. I only warn you that, if you contract with Weller, some day he will come to collect.’

None of the many passersby paid any attention to the two fair neatly-dressed boys walking briskly down Pontifex and across Denimes and Tribunal in the direction of the legal district at Coryphates later that morning. As Torrens observed, the police artist’s sketch of the wanted boy was not very accurate. In fact, if anything it bore more resemblance to the murdered Inigo, than to Hex. ‘It was much too good-looking,’ remarked Torrens. ‘No offence, but you’re no oil-painting, are you?’

It was only when they had almost reached Weller’s chambers – Torrens had just pointed out the building to Hex – that they had a minor alarm. They were crossing the street when there was a sharp warning cry behind them. Hex ducked automatically, jerking himself and Torrens to one side. Behind them, something crashed down onto the spot where they had been standing not a second before. It appeared that a piece of a stone-carving projecting from the corner of a nearby building had come loose and, plummeting some ten storeys down to the street, had narrowly missed terminating Hex’s quest definitively.

Not wanting to attract any more attention, the two boys hurried away and made the doors of Weller’s building without being stopped. Only when they were safely inside the building and climbing the grand central staircase to Weller’s fourth floor chambers did Hex say, ‘Did you see that flash just before the piece of stone came down?’

Torrens shook his head, looking puzzled.

‘Behind us,’ Hex insisted. ‘I thought I saw something flash.’

‘So what are you getting at?’ said Torrens. ‘There was a flash, what of it?’

Hex lowered his voice as they passed a man in lawyer’s robes on his way down the stairs. ‘I wondered if that stone didn’t come down by accident.’

‘You mean – ? It would be incredibly dangerous for anyone trying to pull off a stunt like that, right in the middle of Coryphates. If he were caught… well, he wouldn’t need a lawyer, he’d be strung up at Interrogatory by nightfall. I can’t believe anyone would take the risk.’

Reaching the chambers, they knocked and went in, but the bespectacled clerk in the outer office, without even bothering to look up from his ledger, said, ‘He’s not here. All business to Maitre Tostada.’

‘When will he be back?’ Torrens persisted.

The clerk looked up then, owlishly, to say, ‘He’s not here at all. Maitre Weller always summers in Cortese. He will be back in Norton for first sessions. I can pass on a message, but he won’t respond. You’ll hear nothing from him till first sessions at the earliest. If the Council themselves were to summon him, Maitre Weller would remain in Cortese. Do you have a message?’

Hex and Torrens retired to the empty desk opposite and spent a few minutes in whispered consultation, followed by some closely concentrated writing on a piece of thick cream paper, supplied to them by the clerk.

At last Hex came back with the folded paper in his hand.

‘Do you have an envelope?’ he asked.

The clerk held out his hand. ‘I’ll see that Maitre Weller gets it, after I’ve read it.’

‘I can’t have you read it.’

‘I read all Maitre Weller’s correspondence. It’s what he pays me for.’

‘Well, you’re not reading this.’

The clerk looked tired. ‘I don’t know what secret you think you have, my boy, but I can assure you that it is nothing compared with the least of the secrets that I have been privy to as Maitre Weller’s private secretary for the past twenty years. Now if you want this message to get to him, you will give it to me now. If not, the door is behind you.’

‘One moment,’ interjected Torrens.

He pulled Hex away, whose jaw was jutting mutinously.
After another five minutes of hasty scribbling on a fresh piece of paper, they returned to the clerk and put the paper into his hand.

‘Be sure that it reaches Maitre Weller,’ said Hex firmly.

The clerk raised one withering eyebrow and then made a big show of getting out his reading glasses, unfolding them and hooking them over his ears.

When he had finished reading, the clerk looked again at Hex and Torrens. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking from his impassive face. Hex began to realise why he had been such a successful clerk in Weller’s chambers for the past twenty years.

‘Your message will reach Maitre Weller,’ he said, and that was clearly all that they would get out of him.

Hex and Torrens stumped back down the stairs feeling vaguely dissatisfied and exposed.

‘What do you suppose we do now?’ said Hex. ‘Just wait?’

‘We speak to Stephanius,’ said Torrens decisively. ‘He’ll know what to do.’

They trekked across to Temple and hovered by the entrance to the Hall of the Venerable Order of the Cross and Keys, in order to waylay the Councillor as he emerged from the morning service. When he did, beaming beneficently and dispensing greetings to various well-wishers, friends and acquaintances on his way down the broad shallow steps of the temple, he caught sight of them at once and beckoned them, almost invisibly, to follow him. Walking with a surprisingly brisk gait a few strides ahead of them and not acknowledging them at all, he took the first narrow street off the main thoroughfare and another even narrower street, practically an alley, which brought them out into a tiny green courtyard, enclosed on all four sides by a gallery, with a stone bench running along the length of the inner wall.

He did not seem particularly surprised to hear about their reception at Weller’s chambers. He did however sit up and take notice when Torrens mentioned their narrow escape in the street and, even more so, when Hex told him about the flash that he thought had preceded it.

‘Do you think it wasn’t an accident?’ said Hex.

‘I think,’ said the Councillor, ‘there is no doubt that that stone was intended for you. The longer I live, the more I find that there is no such thing as coincidence. I am not certain who is hunting you, but let us assume for a moment that it was the Wilder fellow from Market Canby – Cornelia’s abductor. We can read two things from this: firstly, that he must have some way of tracking you that is remarkably efficient. Secondly, that his master means you harm – indeed, that he wants you dead.

‘It is too dangerous for you to remain here at Norton. He knows you are here, he knows where you are staying. He may well be waiting for you at this very moment. You must leave and leave at once. And you must go alone. If he has followed you here, it may be that you have been betrayed. Trust no-one. Don’t tell me your destination. Go somewhere safe, until I can complete my investigations on your behalf. I brought you here, because, if you are being watched, there is a way out of the Grace’s Cloister that is known to few, of which select number, I am one.’ Opening his leather pocketbook, which was worn and soft with age, he emptied its contents into Hex’s hands. ‘That ought to keep you going.’ It was more money than Hex had ever had in his possession.

Stuffing it into the inside pocket of his coat, he and Torrens followed Stephanius round the cloister to a small wooden door set into the wall behind a pillar. It was so unobtrusive that they had not noticed it, even though they had walked right past it when they first entered the cloister. It looked as if it were the door merely to a store cupboard, set in a niche in the wall. However, when Stephanius lifted the latch and turned the worn iron handle, Hex saw behind the door a completely dark passageway, barely wide enough for him to pass through without turning sideways, and definitely too low for him to walk upright. He could not see down it further than the couple of feet that were lit by the dim cool light in the cloister.

‘Follow the corridor,’ said Stephanius. ‘You shouldn’t meet anyone. You should come out a good couple of miles from here – where exactly depends on which turns you take. Stay hidden till dusk but leave Norton before they close the gates.’ To Hex’s surprise, the old man then folded him in a brief awkward embrace. ‘May the gods go with you, my boy,’ he said. ‘You go from danger to danger. Be of good heart. You may not believe in the gods. Too many young people nowadays do not. My own nephew here thinks I am an old fool for visiting the temple at all. But one of the joys of encroaching age is the company of the gods. You feel them draw near, you know. I feel them as real and present to me, as the sun on my face, the stone beneath my hand. The gods have dispositions we know not of. For you, for me, for each of us. Accept them with a glad heart.’

Hex did not find this valediction encouraging. He shook Torrens’ proffered hand, taking a little comfort from the rough warmth of his palm. Then it was impossible to delay his entrance into that uninviting dark hole any longer. Gritting his teeth, he ducked down and, without looking back, plunged into the blackness.

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Comments by other Members

Mand245 at 07:05 on 23 August 2009  Report this post
This was another thoroughly enjoyable chapter. The story is really moving on a pace and I'm always disapponted when I reach the end of each upload!

if I go for the army and get good chances Outremons,

I didn't understand this. Maybe Outremons is a place, in which case it should say "at" Outremons.

Secondly, that his master means you harm

I might be getting confused here but Corny's abducter, the "Wilder fellow" - didn't Corny previously say he was "her mother's man"?

I was a little surprised that Hex left without saying goodbye to Corny, or even thinking about her. If he's still so annoyed with her maybe the narrative should tell us that he goes off deliberately without saying goodbye. Alternatively, could he perhaps ask Torrens or Stephanius to expalin to her why he had to leave alone and say farewell on his behalf? Either way I think you need to make some reference to her in relation to Hex's departure.

I really love Chosen - I can't wait for chapter 24!


jim60 at 10:11 on 23 August 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole,

I had to read a couple of the earlier chapters as I seemed to be missing a few details, but I got them back with this.
Very good, it read really well, I like the way it's beginning to pick up, some really nice names and descriptions.
Stephanius Wallop! Cool or what!

fbtoast at 16:33 on 23 August 2009  Report this post
Hi Mand

Outremons is kind of stolen from Gibbon. In the Middle Ages they would talk about going Outremer ("beyond the sea"), meaning I guess, the Holy Land, and I love all that stuff, the Crusades, the Knights of Malta, the fading glory of Constantinople, anything that conveys something of that world brings with it, for me, a whiff of glamour and excitement and desperate exoticism.

Don't worry, he doesn't get away without saying goodbye to Corny!


Mand245 at 17:10 on 23 August 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole

That's interesting about Outremer, but I wonder if it will confuse a teenage audience - I'm well in to my forties and although I have read Decline and Fall, it's not a word that stuck in my memory, and even a cursory look on the internet did not enlighten me as to the meaning. I find, if I have to stop and look up a word, it disrupts my enjoyment of the story.

Very glad to learn Hex hasn't forgotten Corny. It seemed strange to me that he didn't even give her a passing thought!


SJ Williamson at 18:16 on 23 August 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole,

Enjoyable chapter, as always.

Mand picked up on the two things that I would have mentioned, especially the point about Corny. I also wanted to ask if you had considered a little bit at the very end of this chapter (perhaps as Hex says farewell to Torrens), where he could think about all his friends. You may think that this gets in the way of the story a bit and, of course, you know what's coming up next! I just don't want to forget all that's occurred so far!!

You paint such a stunning picture, Nicole ... Hex's world is fascinating. More please!


fbtoast at 00:34 on 24 August 2009  Report this post
alright, you two, I'll put in something about his friends, just for you!

StephB at 13:43 on 25 August 2009  Report this post

This was another stunning chapter. The mystery of someone tracking him and trying to kill him is perfect - who is it?!

I did also get to the end and think "But he didn't even ask them to explain to Corny", but obviously, you know whats coming next and we don't, so I trust that it will all fall into place !

You go from danger to danger.

I loved this, its almost poetic!

I can't wait to continue on with Hex's adventure...

Steph x

nezelette at 21:49 on 03 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole

Another cracking chapter, with a great ending: a perfect hook. I like the fact that Hex is ending up on his own and yet has been helped by so many different people. I also love Wallop. He's so trustworthy, a bit of a Dumbledore-like character (forgive me for the comparison!)

‘No offence, but you’re no oil-painting, are you?’

I'm a bit sad: I was convinced Hex was good-looking! Didn't you suggest so somewhere? Why would all the girls like him so much?

‘May the gods go with you, my boy,’ he said. ‘You go from danger to danger. Be of good heart. You may not believe in the gods. Too many young people nowadays do not. My own nephew here thinks I am an old fool for visiting the temple at all. But one of the joys of encroaching age is the company of the gods. You feel them draw near, you know. I feel them as real and present to me, as the sun on my face, the stone beneath my hand. The gods have dispositions we know not of. For you, for me, for each of us. Accept them with a glad heart.’

I loved that passage. Very wise and philosophical!

Great stuff again.


fbtoast at 22:25 on 10 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Nancy

Welcome back, you old married lady!

Don't worry, Hex is gorgeous. He's just one of those people who some people fancy like mad and other people don't see it at all. I hate obvious charms.


nezelette at 22:46 on 10 September 2009  Report this post
Don't worry, Hex is gorgeous.

I feel better now

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