Note: I will be posting a chapter from The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle each day until the book has been fully posted. I am doing this as a way to entertain those who have been coping with the new life of social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine in the world right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once complete, I will hold the book on in full on my site until 1/1/2021. On that day, it’ll no longer be accessible for free.
I ask people to share links freely while the book is available, but please do not copy or do anything else without expressed permission from me, the copyright holder.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook. Enjoy and I hope that you and your family are doing well!
The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle
by Jeremy C Kester
(c) Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved
“It is a sturdy ship. It will get you where you need to go.” The Captain had until that point done a terrible job at selling Majd and Safiya the reliability of his vessel. They had already tried many more of the black market traders, but they came up dry. The contact they thought they had had been killed three nights prior, and now it was not looking favorable that they would get to Alexandria.
This ship was heading to Cypress. Not where they wanted to go, but anywhere was good at this point. Sentries were all over the world, so it was only a matter of finding one. But would those that they encounter be friend or foe?
Both looked over the captain’s aura. It was shaded in a manner that showed the man was of ill repute but was genuinely no threat though as his energies pointed towards the desire for material wealth. If they could pay, Safiya had no doubt that the captain wouldn’t be trouble.
And that they wouldn’t have to kill him too to survive.
“It might be better to try our luck at driving,” Majd suggested. He wasn’t as trusting. “We can go to Lebanon. I know someone there. Who might get us on a cargo plane to Egypt.”
“We could drive back to Iraq. The borders there are soft. We can get contacts in Baghdad. There are American Sentries posing as contractors and soldiers. We can get them to take us.”
“How much to take us?” Safiya asked of the captain.
The captain ignored her while looking at Majd for an explanation as to why this woman was talking to him as though she were an equal. Safiya remembered one of the reasons she did not like it there.
“How much?” Majd said shrugging it off.
The captain offered the price freely. Fortunately, the pair had the money still and were able to pay, with a small fee to added guarantee their anonymity. They boarded while making sure that the captain and shipmates knew that they were armed and willing to kill. Such threats up front felt a little silly, but they didn’t want to take chances. As long as they were able to stay to themselves, they would have no issues.
“You will be below with the animals. It smells, but it should be to your liking,” the captain laughed. Neither of the pair smiled. They expected to get similar accommodations.
The ship’s corridors were narrow and too short for Majd to fit through comfortably. He was taller than most of the men who worked aboard the ship. A small, lean, fiery man with a whistle when he spoke was leading them down to the hold. They were shown a small area where they were to be allowed to stay. It was cramped, but it would be sufficient.
The instructions were simple: do not leave that spot. There was a small washroom nearby that they were permitted to use, but beyond that, they stayed there. They did not bother any of the crew, and they certainly did not bother the captain any longer than when they bartered their travels. And they did not touch the animals. Were any of these rules broken, they were to be bound and thrown overboard.
The stench was unbearable. Animals were scattered and stacked throughout the hold. Each of them was as exotic as the next. There were no farm animals of any kind. All of them were meant for some wealthy person trying to purchase an animal not allowed in certain regions. It was a strange trade Safiya thought to herself. She didn’t understand the need that drove people to want to do this.
Most of the animals were at least in an acceptable condition as far as the pair could tell. Just like people, the animals had auras that reflected their life force. It took a little more concentration as they were not as practiced as they should have been.
Seeing an aura was a skill that many Sentries chose not to practice. It didn’t have a value to the normal efforts of the job other than being able to determine the general demeanor of a person. Color had less to do with personality and more to do with mood. It was influenced so easily be hormones that it was never a reasonable indicator. But the intensity of an aura at least showed the life force that any creature had. If it was very weak and fading, that typically meant imminent death in the mortal realm.
Spirits on the other hand did not manifest auras.
The disparity meant that they were only useful in dealing with mortals, and so rarely did that have to be done in any way that viewing an aura would be useful.
They settled into the spot watching as the escort left the hold. “I do not trust them.” Majd admitted.
“We cannot trust anyone at this time,” Safiya expounded on his words. “They are safer than those who attacked us. We have already defied the laws of our kind. We can defend ourselves. You carry too much worry,” she said finally waving her hand dismissively.
She smiled thinking of her friend. He was such a worrier. Given his sheer size, it amused her. He looked as though he were a human boulder. His size intimidated others. Had she not known him, it would intimidate her as well. Then with his traditional Muslim beard, it seemed entirely counter to his looks for him to be as worried about everything as he was.
Both Safiya and Natalia had always shown to be bolder. Safiya surmised that it was due to being smaller than most other people that made the two of them try a little harder, to be a little tougher.
“You should get some sleep,” she said aloud.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said reassuringly. “I can handle the sailors if they cause trouble.” She drew out the pair of axes from one of their packs and strapped them to her waist. She then drew her gladius as well as the katana gifted to her from Natalia.
Majd watched her as she took care of arming herself and wondered for a moment if he had made the right decision to follow her. Who was this Agnes girl anyway, and why was Safiya so drawn to get back to her? The entire plan reeked of insanity. They were on the run from their own kind and Majd had no idea if he was on the right side of whatever they were facing.
But he cared for Safiya. He cared for her in a way that he had never realized before that moment. Here he was compelled to live with her and pose as her husband to limit the inquiries into their small group. He wondered if the ruse didn’t mean something more to him.
He wondered if she felt the same way about him.
As his eyes closed and he fell asleep, he watched Safiya begin her katas.
She was extraordinarily skilled with her Roman sword. The Gladius was from late in the Roman’s occupation of the Middle East. The blade had been blessed and over the years it had absorbed the energies of the various demons it had touched. Unlike many of the weapons that were used by a Sentry, her gladius not only damaged through directing her own energies through to whatever she was fighting, but it also absorbed the energies strengthening the sword. Only a handful of known weapons were as powerful as it was.
As she was already comfortable with the weapon, she swung in closely a few times. There was not much room to be able to practice as she wished, but it allowed for the opportunity of learning how to handle her weapons better in close quarters.
Axes were the better choice when there wasn’t enough room to move as fluidly as she would like. Then a thought hit her. She had honestly no true idea of how to fight with the katana given to her. She sheathed her sword and instead drew the katana.
Immediate differences were evident to her. The balance was different, it weighed differently in her hand, the blade was edged only on one side, and it was best handled with two hands. She wrapped her fingers around and began to move the sword through the air. Even cutting through the air was different and foreign to her.
She became frustrated early. Although she knew that every sword was different and had to be used differently. Not being able to just transfer the knowledge she had fluidly over to a new weapon bothered her.
She closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment. She was letting her exhaustion determine her emotions. Rather than continue trying, she focused on what she remembered of the sword’s former master. She allowed the memories of Natalia’s own katas become her focus. The movements were odd to her. They were close, quick, and precise. Natalia always kept her arms close to her body and used her wrists to make close strikes.
Subconsciously Safiya started to match the movements. They were slow at first, but then as she became more comfortable with the movements they became faster, more precise.
It worked well in the tight space that she was forced to practice in. After a few moments of realizing her movements, she opened her eyes. She looked down at Majd and smiled. He had fallen asleep quickly. She felt as though she could too, but at the same time she was too concerned about what was going on to feel tired.
Sheathing the katana, she decided to look around. He would never allow her to poke around the hold if he were awake. She knew that there was some risk, but there was always risk. Even sitting there and keeping to herself was risky.
Before she could move though, she spotted something through the corner of her eyes. Near the stairs that led down in the hall, the man who had led them down was watching her.
She pretended to not have noticed him. Her plan for looking around the hold was doing to have to wait.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook.