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TODAY

Wednesday, July 17

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Airbags

Haymarket monument makes a comeback: Targeted statue to reemerge after decades of police protection

The statue honoring the policemen killed in the Haymarket riots of 1886, presently in protective custody after repeated attempts to blow it up, will once again be put on public display.

Once located in downtown Chicago, the monument has been relocated more than five times. It is scheduled to publicly reemerge this month outside the new police headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan Ave. Since 1976, it has been inaccessible to the public in the courtyard of the police academy at 1300 W. Jackson on the Near West Side. ...
The statue, which shows a policeman bravely holding up his arm in the face of danger, has been a target of attack throughout its 118-year history. ...
The statue has been either bombed or defaced on more than five separate occasions.
—The Chicago Journal

The river seems to surge upward, over us, foam fading to slick black tentacles lined with teeth, coiling and lashing out, searching for us. I have time to wonder if this creature is what the old woman meant when she told us that this way was not safe, instead of the roving patrols of the Dark Lord's Black Guard, before I dive to the mossy ground.

Oily limbs of the river-monster surround us now, Eveleth screams and somewhere I see the boy pulling his father away from the shoreline. Between the tree branches and the tentacles flailing overhead the gloomy light of dawn is nearly extinguished, and as I drop the hedgeroot plant, meant to cure the boy's father of his poisoning, my hand closes on my ax-handle and I smile a little. Always I have enjoyed fighting in the darkness.

First the monster finds the boat, digs in its teeth-lined tentacles and squeezes the timbers, which groan before cracking. At the same time Nort begins to scream, cries for help that escalate several octaves as more of the tentacles close around him. There is a horrible wet rip as he is pulled apart, his entrails spilling over the rocks of the shore as his remains are taken under. Eveleth still is screaming and now Sov joins her, scrambling back toward the tree.

The beast's blood is thick and gray, like lukewarm porridge, and I soon find that lopping off the tentacles does not stop their writhing, only relegates it to the ground. I duck and slice, fighting for ground, and Eveleth is there now too, stabbing the beast's limbs with a curved knife taken from the boat. The boy stands over his prone father, his sword flying about him, but there are too many of the tentacles and even as I yell a warning one of them has found his father's ankle.

I move toward them but more of the black, toothy tentacles block my way, like a slithering forest. The boy chops at the tentacle around his father's leg but another finds the man's arm and then his neck and he goes limp as he is dragged toward the water. Somewhere behind me Sov screeches but I am leaping through the tangle of limbs toward the water, in up to my knees, ax cleaving anything I see. The man's body is cut loose and the boy is there to pull him back to shore while I wade further, hacking and swinging my blade, until finally it connects with something thick and tough and the beast begins to retreat.

Sov is dead, head caved in on a rock, but I hardly give his carcass a second glance, moving instead to where Eveleth and the boy kneel over his father. The man lies very still and tears fall from Alfie's face. Eveleth puts a hand on his shoulder but he does not look at her.

Long hours pass before we bury them, while we wait out the day in a thicket. Twice we see bands of the Black Guard pass in the distance.

On a hill that night we finally make the graves, dug with my ax and a hollow branch the boy found somewhere. I suggest we lay him facing southeast, toward the throne, and Alfie does not object. Eveleth says some kind words but before long we are moving again. The boy suggests we head south and I agree, partly to placate him, but mostly because every foul member of the Black Guard we have seen so far has been heading north.

Nothing is said of the message on M'yrrgh's scroll, which the boy promised he finally would reveal to me when I produced the cure for his father's poison. It seems to me that he has carried it in his head so long, since the day we climbed down from Osgood's shack high in the Towerfall Mountains. I wonder if it grows heavy.

Nights we walk through the river country and days we sleep, under embankments, in tree-hollows and once in the branches of a tall stonewood, watching one of the Black Guard relieve himself on the trunk. Still very little is said.

In time I find familiarity in the streams and ponds that crisscross the land here and gradually I guide our course southwest, toward the village of Talldam. Two more days pass before the boy sees it, announcing its proximity from a treetop where he's gone to gather fruit for our breakfast.

"There's a town!" he cries and Eveleth's head snaps to look at me, watching for me to admonish his foolishness, alerting the Dark Lord's minions to our presence. But I only smile. None of the Black Guard has been seen these last two days, and there's something else — the excitement in his voice reminds me for the first time in many days that he still is young, hardly yet 16.

Despite a full night of walking we know that we will not find sleep this morning, and I sit at the tree's base as the boy and Eveleth chatter over the foods they will eat, the prospect of sleeping in a dry bed. I run a hand through my beard and allow another smile when they ask me whether we ought to wait for nightfall.

"If you leave now, you'll arrive in time for fresh bread," I say. Eveleth gives me a look that demands I explain further, and I heed it. "We're far enough from Rheidling now that the two of you will have no trouble, but the Black Guard search for me, and the Dark Lord will make certain that every one of them knows my face."

Both nod; neither seems to disagree. Not that I expected them to do so.

"Where will you go?" Eveleth asks, after a few moments pass.

"I'll find someplace." I look toward the growing light, gray in the east. "I always do."

They nod at this — I believe I hear the boy snort a little — and collect their things, preparing to leave. I stand and embrace Eveleth, as it seems the sort of thing I ought to do, and finally look into the boy's eyes, shake his hand. The message on M'yrrgh's scroll hasn't left my mind all week, but I refuse to mention it, and say nothing now.

I stand there by the tree as they leave. And then the boy stops, turns. A long moment passes before he speaks.

"It was a love letter," he says, turning his eyes up to the tree's leaves. "To a woman, kind of an apology. For taking her eye." He looks at me now and I know he must see how white my face has become.

"It said... 'Dearest One, I know how this has pained you and how weak you have become, since I took from you your eye. And I know how you bear me ill will. But as you tuteled me in the blackest arts, so did I from you learn the desires of the heart, just as you learned them from me. What you must see, must know, is that like the lessons you set me, this is one I set you — we will be one again when you understand that what I have done to you is necessary for us to become stronger. As one. And when that day comes, your eye shall be restored to you and the door will open for you to become my queen.'"

I stare now, at the boy but not seeing him, committing all of this to memory and meanwhile trying to make sense of it. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes," the boy said. "It was signed, 'K.'"

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About the Author(s)

A former mercenary for hire, Blagg is an axman by trade and still carries the banner of King Mandrake, the once and true ruler of the realm. Gapers Block readers are invited to contact Blagg for advice, insight and recommendations at blagg@gapersblock.com. His column appears every other Saturday.

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