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Joe Spivey's picture
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The knocking only stopped when Tuki, still holding a slice of toast, opened the front door. It was Jonas Barret.

Jonas caught the look of annoyance on Dr. Troy’s face and quickly turned his ‘knocking’ hand into his ‘scratching the back of his head’ hand.

“Oh. Hey, Doc. Y’all is up then.”

Tuki’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

“Really hoping this is an emergency Jonas.”

Jonas had the good grace, not to mention the good sense, to look guilty.

“Well… maybe not exactly but Hana said I should get over here right away.”

Hana Barret was Hope’s self-appointed deputy-cum-jailer-cum-town guard and, despite being told many times by Mayor Troy that this was not the case, she often rail-roaded her siblings into helping her. Anyway, at the mention of Hana, Tuki became interested. She sighed.

“Who’s she arrested this time?”

Anxiety was replaced by eagerness on Jonas’ face.

“She done caught a Devil’s Own sneakin’ into town.” Seeing he had grabbed the doctor’s attention, Jonas happily elaborated. “Little bitty thing, ain’t even packin’ a weapon. Spittin’ fire though, took three of us to git her locked up.”

Tuki was already reaching for her bag.

“She hurt, Jonas?”

Jonas suddenly found himself having to trot to keep up with the doctor who was jogging barefoot down the road towards Hope’s lock-up.

“Whut? Hell, no! Mayor’d have our asses if’n we roughed her up. No, she ain’t hurt. But she is asking fer you though. Says she knows you.”

Tukiko lined up the symptoms; Devil’s Own, little bitty thing, spittin’ fire, says she knows you, and came up with the only possible diagnosis.


Now Jonas was running, but still behind the short, and surprisingly quick Doc Troy.

Tuki was cursing inwardly. She had arranged for Magrat to come. What Tuki hadn’t done, however, was tell anyone that Magrat was coming. Now Magrat was here. The little fact that the three gangs of Devil’s Own that surrounded Hope weren’t exactly on the town’s favourite people’s list had slipped by Tukiko because they didn’t get to visit the camps on an almost daily basis like she did.

To the few townsfolk who were up and about it looked for all the world like Jonas and the doc were racing as they ran past the statue of Noah Barret. Ignoring the unintelligible greetings, Tuki hugged her bag to her chest.

Not that the good people of Hope Springs had never been known to visit their neighbours. It’s just that, in the past, when they did drop in on them, there had always been a lot of shooting involved.

Tukiko got her second wind and Jonas was left behind.


Hyle Troy's picture


For Hyle, Sunday mornings are always a time for rest and relaxation after the exertions contingent with the usual Saturday night party at The Waffelhus. After all the dancing and drinking, after the usual post-party group sauna with her closer friends. After any other ‘doings’, spent in the company of her most closest friend, Hyle at least could rely on the peace and tranquillity of a Sunday morning to take a good few hours rest to recover from the night before.


So the fact that it was 07:45, and the fact it had been a mere three and one half hours since Hyle and Shadow had turned out the light on their ‘Saturday’, the news that Hana Barret had locked up some ‘scrawney lil’ lass’ that morning had not been well received. Hyle donned her darkest of dark glasses and braced herself for daylight.


The Barret’s, Hana in particular, were a perpetual stone-in-the- shoe of Hyle’s march for a more progressive future. Ok, so Town Hall used to be the family mansion of the Barrats. And also Hope Springs used to be known as Barrat Manor. The Barrats used to be something in these parts. But that was a long time ago, even before Hyle’s time in Hope. Now, the surviving Barrats clung on to their former status like a faded flag, meddling at the edges of Hope’s affairs and generally getting in the way.


So, all heads inside the musty lock-up hoos-gow of Hope Springs turned as Hyle’s annoyance, fatigue and general hungovered-ness made a complete hog’s arse of opening the door with professional dignity. It crashed open and Hyle barged into the room.


Her glances took in Hana, Jonas, Tuki and the girl in question. And Tuki !?


Is somebody going to explain what is here?” Hyle demanded.



I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

The noise of the door opening made everyone jump, none more than Magrat who squeezed Tukiko’s arm so tight that when Tuki checked later that day there would still be nail mark’s where Magrat’s fingers hadn’t quite broken the skin.

Despite the continual invective filled ‘fire-spitting’ that Magrat had, up until Hyle’s dramaccidental entrance, been treating everyone to, the teenager’s sudden grab for Tuki’s arm betrayed the inner fear she was hiding.

Like Lonely and Esme, Magrat had been taken by raiders when she was a child. In a quiet moment alone with her, Tuki had found out that she had been only seven or eight years old when the raid had separated her from her parents forever. Tukiko didn’t need to imagine what that must have been like for the little girl, not having witnessed Finny and her three friends in exactly that same terrifying situation herself. Since then, the northern camp had been the only place Magrat had known. Eight, maybe nine years of never leaving the little valley where Longhands’ had his camp.

Tuki wanted to take Magrat’s hand, but it was already gone. The fear of being among strangers, of being ‘outside’ already put back into its box and the lid firmly nailed down. For a second, Tuki’s heart wanted to break and, for that moment, the whole room felt it. Then it was gone.

Hyle was the first to recover.



Tuki and the two Barret siblings began to talk at once. Then all three stopped, glancing each at the other. Then they started again, and again talking over each other. It was Hyle who brought a halt to the babble of voices by holding up a hand… While the other went to steady her pounding head.


Everything had stopped in the room, leaving Magrat looking from one nervous, face to the other and then to the apparition of distressed blond hair and sunglasses that stood unsteadily in the doorway. It slowly dawned on Magrat that they were in the presence of authority… and it was a woman. A very hungover woman it seemed, but still.


Having managed to muffle the jackhammers that were trying to dig out her eyes, Hyle pointed a long, unhappy finger at Hana Barret.


“You. Talk.”


Tuki tried to give Magrat a reassuring smile while Hana was explaining the circumstances of Magrat’s capture and imprisonment, but the teenager just scowled back at her, increasing the guilt Tuki was already feeling.


Hyle, meanwhile just stared from behind her almost opaque sunglasses with a set stony expression. The others weren’t to know it but Hyle’s demeanor was more due to her fighting the pounding head and cold sweat than anything Hana was saying. But she got the gist. When Hana stopped making word noises, Hyle’s finger swung towards Jonas.


“Now, you.”


Jonas filled the mayor in on his little contribution, repeatedly stressing how they made great efforts to apprehend the prisoner unharmed. Hyle waived him into silence.


The finger moved towards Tukiko and Tuki took a breath, ready to take the blame for the whole situation. However, she was left with her mouth hanging open as Mayor Moma’s finger swung right past her to come to an unsteady halt pointing directly at Magrat.


“So, what’s your story, young lady?”



Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

In Magrat’s experience, when someone in authority pays you attention, it is seldom good. When someone in authority asks you questions, you have done something wrong. When someone in authority is drunk or hung-over, you need to blame someone else.

“Doctor Troy told me to. She said I had to come.”

Being a person in authority, Hyle was familiar with reactions like these from people who are scared and this girl’s eyes were snapping from side to side looking for a way out. Her chest was expanding as her lungs took in more air to oxygenate Magrat’s muscles. Fight or flight, one or the other was bare seconds away. Hyles headache stopped being important and the nausea she was feeling would have to wait. Behind the dark glasses her sore eyes glistened.

“And we’re glad you did. I’m sorry we misunderstood and some of our people got scared and attacked you…” Hyle heard Hana take an indignant breath and stopped whatever she was going to say with an upraised hand. To Magrat, she continued to talk quietly. “I think Doctor Troy may have forgotten to tell us you were coming.” Hyle smiled with all the warmth she could muster. “In fact, she hasn’t even told us your name. So, what do we call you?”

Magrat wished she had never come, never left the camp. She wished she was back there now, right now she would be fetching water, making breakfast, preparing dough… simple things, safe things. But… She took a deep breath.


Hyle’s body relaxed, the warmth grew in her smile.

“Magrat. That’s a good name.” Hyle watched Magrat as the teenager’s body slowly reciprocated, losing its tension in small degrees. “My name is Hyle. I’m Doctor Troy’s mother. Welcome to Hope.”

There were a few moments of awkward silence, then Hyle turned to Tukiko.

“Tuki. Why don’t you take Magrat with you? I just need to have a word with our ‘Deputy’ here.”

Tuki was all too familiar with dealing with her mother when she was wearing dark glasses, so she actually felt sorry for Hana. A ‘word’ from a hungover Hyle could be an unforgettably bad experience, depending on the ferocity of the hangover. It was with relief, then that she quickly guided Magrat towards the door. Not quickly enough as it turned out.

“Oh, and Doctor Troy? I’d like to see you too. Let’s say noon, hmmm?”

Suddenly, Tuki was fourteen years old again.

“Yes Momma.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

Hana and Jonas Barrat exchanged meaningful looks while Hyle’s back was turned watching Tuki and Magrat leave, as if searching for a plausible excuse between themselves.

Even as Hyle was turning back to face them, Hana began to verbalise a shambolic justification which barely got past her lips before Hyle cut her dead.


SIT….. Down!” Hyle was pointing at the chair behind Hana’s desk. Hana complied in a resentful silence. Jonas shuffled from one foot to the other behind his sister, as if for protection.


They watched as Hyle paced across the room, from the door, to the cage, where she paused and placed a hand on the cold steel bars before returning to the desk. She slowly removed her sunglasses and fixed Hana’s attention with cold angry Scandinavian eyes, albeit a touch reddened. Hyle drew breath and began.


At least you did not shoot her dead out of hand like the good old days, hmm? Things have improved that much at least.” Hyle spoke with measured authority down to Hana, her words laced with sarcasm.


Y’caint trust these Devils...” Hana glared back at Hyle defensively. Jonas took a deep breath, expecting the cat-fight to kick of at any moment.


What. So a single unarmed girl. What is she? Fourteen, Fifteen? Probably all of 35 kilo wet through is such a threat to our existence that you send three men to push her into jail. For what? Walking with intent to loiter!?”


She was….”


She was what!?” Hyle’s voice was rising, the fog of her hangover fading. “Did you ask her BEFORE you banged her up. Because when I asked you about what happened you did not tell me any such thing !. No! she is ‘One of Them’ And in your narrow minded world, has no right to grace the streets of Hope Springs without being dragged off the street and swiftly pushed into here, or worse.”


Hanna drew an angry breath, feeling deeply affronted, her self righteousness boiling.


And Hyle could see it, she leaned forward onto the desk, spreading her fingers, fixing her stare on Hana Barret’s defiant glare. Hyle continued, her words thick with irony.


Then what? Why not round up a posse, head on over and teach those damn Devils a lesson. Why not? It’s what you used to do, isn’t it? After all ‘The only good native’s a dead un’ Right? Then when they retaliated, OK we would lose a few citizens, maybe a building or two would get burned. But that was the way. We had guns, we could attract all the best scum and wasters we needed. It is no wonder this town was a flea pit where folks could not walk the streets in safety or go for a quiet beer without being shot. Or finding their home in flames when they got back! Am I correct!?”


Hana Barret folded her arms, sat back with chagrin all over her face. Jonas looked at the cracked ceiling for salvation. Hyle was in full flow.


It’s time you realise, and how many times I have to tell you before you get the message. Those days are gone! Up until now I have tolerated you and your little set up here.. ...” Hyle glanced around the jailhouse so Hana was sure she knew what she was talking about. “… maybe out of respect for what your family used to be. But no more. Let me remind you. You are NOT a deputy, or guardian, of Hope, or what ever the hell else you think you are. But from now on your duties go no further than running the traffic patrol at the school gate, anything more than that you seek guidance from either Mr. Shadow or myself. Do I make myself completely clear?”


Hana and Hyle stared each other out in a strained stony silence for what seemed to Jonas an eternity. It was Hana who looked away first, eyes lowered, downcast. She had lost and she knew it. She nodded to Hyle.


Hyle nodded back, her point had been taken.


Good. It has been three years since the last time there was any conflict between the town and the bandits. Because we acknowledge their existence and leave them to themselves. Keep it that way. Come the time when our societies begin to come together there will be no place for intolerance or outdated dogmatism.”

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

Magrat stuck close to Doctor Troy on the walk back to the clinic. The town had seemed intimidating from a distance, but now she was in among the buildings it was even more so. The noises were different, so were the smells, but most intimidating of all were the people. Not that they were particularly threatening, they weren’t even armed, it was just the way they looked at her. Wary, suspicious and judgmental. Magrat remembered the stories from some of the few gang members who had been taken into Hope for treatment. They had felt this way at first, they said, but the few people they met at the clinic were actually okay. As Magrat followed so close to Tukiko that she could almost feel the other’s body heat, she kept her head down and hoped they had been telling the truth.

They arrived at the clinic and, to Magrat’s wary surprise, were met at the door by a Lightbearer. The Devil’s Own had no reason to trust anyone, but had every reason to fear the weird religious cult. The generally held belief was that Lightbearers used prisoners in medical experiments. Magrat stepped to the other side of Doctor Troy as they got nearer so as to keep the doctor between herself and the cultist.

Tukiko nodded at the Lightbearer.


The Lightbearer nodded back, perhaps more of a small bow than a nod.


Tukiko halted, Magrat almost running into her.

“Magrat. This is Sun Feng.” Magrat glared at the other woman. “It’s all right,” the doctor continued. “Sun Feng is a friend.” Tuki wasn’t going to offer more than this simple explanation to the teenager. The tense politics behind the Lightbearer presence outside Hope Spring’s clinic wasn’t something Magrat needed to concern herself with. Instead, she turned to Sun Feng.

“Sun Feng. This is Magrat.” The Lightbearer returned Magrat’s glare with expressionless professionalism. “She will be working for the clinic for the next month.” So, stick that in your next report and shove it, was the thought that came with the polite smile.

Magrat followed Tukiko into the clinic. She had been under the doctor’s supervision for about six months already and it had never occurred to her that her tutor was a Lightbearer, never mind a high-ranking Seeker. She wondered if Longhands knew? However, her thoughts were interrupted because the doctor was talking to someone else. Magrat’s attention was immediately drawn to the newcomer seated at some kind of desk.

“Morning Maise. All ready for another exciting day of fun and adventure?”

This was Doc Troy’s standard joke for every morning and Nurse Maisie was well past the point of giving even the slightest twitch of a smile in response. Instead, her attention was taken by the scrawny, scruffy sack of teenage trouble that had followed her boss in.

“Not so fast missy. We ain’t even open yet so scoot your little butt back out that door and read the goddam opening times.”

Magrat’s immediate and angry retort never made it past her teeth because Doctor Troy had just pulled her forward to stand directly in front of her head nurse. So, instead, she treated the older woman to that snarky expression perfected by countless generations of teenage girls. In response, Nurse Maisie’s eyes narrowed just a fraction. Mutually assured dislike had just been established.

Unaware of the spark that had ignited, Tuki went on with her happy introduction.

“Maise, this is Magrat. She’s going to be working here for a while. I want you to teach her everything you know about dealing with patients. You’re going to be working together, isn’t that great?”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

“Kom Ind!”

Tuki took a breath, put on a smile and pushed the door open.

Hyle’s office was sparse, clean, tidy… Efficient. Tuki’s office was, well mainly it was just ‘post-it’ notes on the fridge. Hyle waived a hand at the chairs in front of her desk and Tuki dutifully sat.

“So.” Hyle started, interlacing her fingers and beaming a big smile across the desk. “Magrat?”

“Oh, she’s fine. Maisie is showing her around the clinic.”

Hyle waited for more but all she was getting was a slightly nervous grin. She tried again.

“Good, good. I’m glad she’s fine. Soooo… What’s her story? Why is she here, Tuki?”

Understanding settled on Tuki like the cold nausea of that last ‘just one more’ drink. She had meant to tell Hyle all about Magrat, she even had a memory of having done so… No, wait... Dammit.

“She’s from the northern Devil’s Own camp? Longhands’ camp?” The expression on her momma’s face was one of slightly irritated encouragement. “You remember I was telling you about training up three medics?” The raised eyebrows below Hyle’s blond fringe suggested not. Again… Dammit. Tuki took a deep breath.

“Longhands’, well, all three of the gangs actually, are losing people to stupid things like small wounds getting infected before my next visit. So, Mor, Longhands and I thought it would be a good idea to train up some people to look out for and treat minor things before they became serious.”

Hyle listened patiently. Her daughter’s dedication to, and insistence on, providing medical care for the Devil’s Own gangs that surrounded Hope Springs was a wonderful thing in Hyle’s eyes. What she was doing went a long way to reducing attacks on the townsfolk and, with Longhand’s progressive outlook helping enormously, relations with the three gangs were actually slowly improving.

Hyle tuned back in just as Tuki was getting to the immediate point.

“So, Lonely and Esme are close to getting adopted by the gang but Magrat has this little confidence problem soooo, I thought, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be a good idea if she came here for a bit and Maisie showed her how to deal with difficult patients?’”

Hyle sat back. This was so like Tuki.

“And did you, at any time, think; ‘hey, wouldn’t it be a good idea to run this past Momma first, hmmm?”

Tuki bit her lip.

That little action, a habit of Tuki’s from what seemed like so long ago when Tuki hadn’t even begun her training at Haven yet, that little action brought a lump to Hyle’s throat.

"Look honey, I think what you are doing with Magrat is a wonderful idea, I really do."

"But...  You have to realise that there is going to be a certain amount of inertia, especially among the older Hope residents, about having a Devil’s Own wandering about the streets. I mean, most of our people 'get it'. They understand what I am trying to do and even the more recent arrivals really do support the town.”

Tuki sat with her hands in her lap. She knew that Hyle understood and even encouraged her. But she realised that, this time, she had messed up and because of that, poor Magrat could have been beaten up or even killed by Hana and her cronies. This was a telling off, and Tuki knew she absolutely deserved it. So, she listened to her momma’s words and took in the good advice they always contained.

"Just take a moment to think things through, great ideas sometimes take a while to achieve, hmm?  Folks get nervous of sudden change. Especially the more conservative...  you know... The morons?"

They shared a conspirational smirk. Tuki could put the names to those faces just as easily as Hyle could.

Hyle stood up, holding out her arms. Tuki followed suit. They hugged for a long moment before Hyle opened the door.

“Just do me a favour?” Hyle said, as she escorted her daughter across the office. “If you take her on one of your visits to the hostel, try to make her a little less 'bandit-looking' you know...?  Put her is scrubs or something. Remember some of the girls there might have a bad reaction."

The door closed behind her and Tuki let out a sigh. As tellings off from her mother went, she had had worse.


Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

That little action, a habit of Tuki’s from what seemed like so long ago when Tuki hadn’t even begun her training at Haven yet, that little action brought a lump to Hyle’s throat.


"Look honey, I think what you are doing with Magrat is a wonderful idea, I really do.But... "


The Mayor

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

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