Madtsu & The Z Squadron

The lay of the Land

Long ago, in the time of myths and legends, when strange beasts dwelled and sensible people wished that hadn’t been born, a glowing THING came rocketing out of the Earth’s skies. 

The THING was big, at least thirty chariots in diameter. Depending on where you were when it appeared, it was either round and flat like a disc or triangular like a pyramid. It appeared in a flash, then exploded, sending terrifying shockwaves through the seas and lands below. 

BANG. 

A loud BANG it was,.

The exploded THING shot eight elephant-sized balls of fire, hurtling across The Earth in different directions. Each ball left a fat trail of smoke, that lingered in the sky for quite a long time. Someone, somewhere, likened it to a flower sowing its seeds.  Whether this is correct or not it’s a good way to visualize it. 

Eventually, these fiery balls came crashing down. They plowed through the earth, leaving huge smouldering craters, that scarred the land forever. The map opposite gives a rough indication of where each hit.

From the depths of these craters emerged eight monstrous creatures. Part human, part beast, part something never seen before. Most of the humans, terrified and not knowing what to do, ran around with their arms in the air screaming very loudly. Small groups tried to fight but the runners and screamers took the vote and hailed the new ruling creatures as gods.

Eight new Kingdoms were born, each with a ruler who wanted only one thing, to rule the whole world. Nothing was the same again.

A century later in Atlantis, the capital of the wild and skittish island of Atlantica, a girl with a hundred dagger stare, stands, waiting to make a decision that will change her life forever.

.IT ALL STARTS

I haven’t slept a wink, my brain hasn’t let me, it’s totally fried. 

Way too much at stake for sleep. 

A few streaks of fading sunlight pierce through the half open shutters at the front of the shop. But apart from that it’s pretty dark in here.

I flick the coin. It’s what I do when can’t decide on something.

‘Dragon I go, Tree I don’t.’

The coin bounces across the wooden table in front of me, before finally circling to a stop in front of Orbo, my boss.

The fanged dragon on the coin stares up at us.

‘Dragon,’ sighs Orbo. He scratches his grey beard and leans back in his old wooden chair. The chair creaks, like it’s going to snap but it won’t, it hasn’t in the five years since he took me under his wing and gave me a job. 

‘It’s confirmed. The diamonds are there,’ he says grumpily.

‘You’re starting to give me a bad feeling about this job,’ I say. 

Orbo chuckles. ‘Not like you to be scared….but if something is too good to be true..’

‘It usually is,’ I finish the sentence off for him. He’s tells me this a lot.

Orbo leans forward and opens up his right hand, in it is a small iron key. He puts it on the table, next to my coin.

‘Listen kid, you’re one of the best thieves in this city, but this job, it’s real risky.’

‘Still trying to talk me out it.’ I pick up my coin and look at the dragon. ‘Is it because you care about me or because if I get caught, that’s your top earner gone.’  I’m only half joking. I make him way more gold than any of the other kids stealing for him. 

He throws me a raised eyebrow.

I shrug my shoulders.’It’s not like I got options. The Atucs Brothers want to fill my pockets with heavy rocks and take me for a swim far out at sea,’ I remind him.

Orbo chuckles. ‘Hopefully that’s taught you a lesson. Gambling doesn’t pay. There’s no short cuts to getting rich, it’s hard work that pays.’

I look around the shop. Shelves filled with gold goblets, trinkets, jewels and tons of other bits and bobs. Lots of it stolen by yours truly. Five year’s hard work has kept me alive but that’s about it. Being a thief doesn’t pay that well and the general career prospects – prison, death, slavery, aren’t that enticing. 

Orbo carries on. ’What you did was foolish. I don’t want you to make the same mistake twice. I’ve had a word  with The Atucs and I think can square this off. Set up a repayment plan. ’

Ok gambling all five years worth of my savings wasn’t that smart but I want out of thievery. ‘The last thing I want is to be the debt of Atucs for the next five years. This job can clear what I owe and way more.’

Orbo cracks his knuckles. Not because he wants to punch me or anything, he’s stressing. ‘The more I think about this job the less I like it. It’s come out of nowhere. The source is flaky. Something stinks. I don’t want to get fed to The Gorebolt and neither do you.’

The Gorebolt, a huge monster that lurks in the waters around Atlantis. If you do something wrong or if the God Atlas, general bad guy,  doesn’t like you, you get fed to to The Gorebolt. The thing is like his pet. Another reason everyone is so terrified of him.

‘Look the worst that can happen is I break in and the diamonds aren’t there. If I get caught you do what you always do, pay off the soldiers.’ I say. Not that I’ve ever got caught. Plenty of the other kids have though, sometimes Orbo pays for their release, sometimes he doesn’t. He would with me though, I’m his top earner.

Orbo’s eyebrows, which look like two grey caterpillars, crunch down into a V.  It’s his serious look. ‘Not on this one. You’re breaking into a high ranking generals house. One of Atlas’ favourites. You get caught. I can’t bribe you out. You’re on your own.’

I shrug my shoulders. It is what it is.

I lean forward and pick up the key. ‘Best I don’t get caught hey!’ 

Orbo shakes his head.

He’s going to be a whole lot unhappier when I tell him the next bit of news.

‘I want a fifty cut this time, no five percent.’ 

Orbo might have taken me under his wing, protected me, put a roof over my head, but he did it because he’s a businessman. His business is fencing off stolen stuff and he takes a fat cut of the profit of any stolen goods he sells. He’s been good to me but I’ve been good to him.

Orbo chuckles. ‘Wow kid, you’ve really grown up since you turned thirteen.’

‘As you keep telling me, wisdom comes with age.’

I turn, walk to the shop door and open it.

‘Madtsu,’ Orbo calls out after me.

I look back over my shoulder.

‘You got a deal but remember, you get caught I don’t know you.’

No surprises there. No one’s ever had my back, apart from me.

I turn and step out onto the bustling streets of Atlantis.

For more information on this soon to be released children’s book stay tuned!!