Friday, 3 May 2013

Harts Change - Scribbly Bit

I liked this bit well enough the first few times but now I'm not happy with it.  That is to say there are a few wrinkles here and there which need to be smoothed out.  The priest stammering is wrong [1] and I really want Lady Lutin to have a larger part.

Of course the last time I said that I ended up tearing apart the church but this time It's early enough in the story that I can change things around without it affecting anything of consequence. 
Anyway, this piece is set near the end of Chapter 2 with all the narrativly important people journeying towards the Barons Mischance in the Royal City of Hermitage.  Due to the great change there are priests who have joined the caravan with their own wagons full of the dead which they are taking "down to the waters" which is just another series of rituals in a long series of rituals which ends up the bodies being taken to the Silver Mountain where the priests eat them[2].

So exactly why am I telling you all this?  It's all because the body of Evelyns son is in one of the priests wagons [3] and she isn't about to allow the holy crocodile to claim her son.


  1. At least researching stutters and stammers isn't going to be as gruesome as researching amputation. :)
  2. But, you know, in a sort of holy way.
  3. Like so many others he didn't survive the great change which saw humanity become centaurs (but on the plus side everyone seems to have really long hair.  No baldies in my books!)

“This is totally unacceptable Damian!”
“What is it this time my dear?” a few of his ever present lackeys dutifully tittered despite the fact that the baron had already made the same joke several times today.
“It's these cows that are attached to the carriage” Lady Lutins open hand slapped the side of the oxen which looked at her reproachfull “are we farmers off to market?  Where are our fine horses?”
“Still in the high fields and still savagely attacking any who approach my love”
“Still?  Still you say?  Why then do we bother with stables and horse handlers if there are no horses to handle?”
“You think I should dismiss them.  After everything that's happened?” Baron Lutin waved at Evelyn “how else do you think my personal guard managed to get good clothing made so quickly?  She had a need and one of the stablers had the ability.  It was their idea to attach the draught oxen to the carraige and one that I approve of.  They are placid beasts with a great deal more pulling power and, I think, a certain amount of quiet grace to them.  No, as long as I am Baron the stables shall remain as they are.  Full of clever people who are able to provide solutions.  No problem  I think is too large or too small for them”

With the sun setting over the horizon and the last of the Barons impromptu speeches that not only praised everyone in the keep but also threatened to name them over and done with the large wagon train finally managed to get underway.
Captain Sparrowhawks honor guard accompanied the group until they reached the bounderies of the forest when the train stopped allowing the Baron and his wife to exit the cramped conditions of their carraige and truly lead the procession.
“Evelyn” Baron Lutin called her over.
“Something I can do for you Baron?”
“Not really” he dropped his voice “it's just that my wife is consorting with my captain.  Right in front of me”
“I could start something if you want.  Get them to stop”
“In front of everyone?  Have some class”
Evelyn caught the eye of the captain who smiled mockingly and whispered something to the Baronesss that made her laugh.  The touch was brief enough to miss if you weren't looking for it but the barons eyes clearly missed nothing for his own hand suddenly grasped hers
“You want to lose those fingers so badly?” she pulled away from his clumsy attempt and moved back to attend to Strag who was barking at a tree that no doubt meant to attack him

The tedious repetitiveness of the next four days came as a welcome relief to Evelyn.  During the journey she travelled alongside the baron, listening to his schemes of when he would rule the land and his grand plans for everyone and at night her task was made easier by his small force of Knight Baronials, all good men whom he trusted and, perhaps more importantly, she knew to be reliable.  It was the fifth night that she had stood outside the Barons tent with the other Knight Baronials until the true dark descended and nothing could be seen of another person save for a silhouette in the murky darkness.
“I need to have a look around.  Don't tell the baron, he'd just worry about me”
The pair of knights nodded and straightened to attention outside the pavilion.

Silently Evelyn threaded her way through the small camps of the individual wagons where the fires gave off a comforting warmth against the cold of the night.  Besides the cooks wagon her dog chewed happily on a large bone but happily came to her side when she whistled softly.
“We have work to do my friend” his tail wagged but he kept a tight grip on the bone just in case this was all a plot to steal it

The bureaucratic camp was certainly the noisiest and had been during the entire trip so far.  The small group debated as she went past without concern since nobody there would take any notice of something that wasn't scribbled down in their books and maps.
But she brought the dog to a halt outside the firelight of the final wagon, well painted in the deep green of mourning and with a pair of priests sitting by the fire.  Priests were always easy to slip by if one knew the trick of it,
“If they weren't I might have paid more atttention in my lessons” the smile was lost in the dark but the wagons creaking as she mounted it was loud enough to sound any alarm.

“Did y y you hear something?” the stutter made the young priest Marcus immediately identifable
“I certainly did not.  And nor did you” the other priest answered sharply
“I I'm sure I did.  There might be sssomeone in the wagon”
“Look this is your first time taking the dead to the waters.  Now you might have been told that nobody is allowed near them on their journey but what this means “the unknown priest raised his voice so that Evelyn could clearly hear it “what this means is that if someone needs to see someone one last time then we, meaning you and me, are not going to hear or see a thing.  Got it?”
“Yes sir.  It must have been my overactive imagination playing tricks on me”
“You learn fast young Marcus.  We might make a halfway decent priest out of you yet”

In the dakness Evelyn hunted through the wagon, no longer worrying about the amount of noise she made  until she lifted the mumified body of her son onto her back and bore him away in the night.

The camps outer guards, who stood silent vigil and made no fires were easy to evade even with her son and a dog at her side.  She made a mental note to mention this to the baron but still moved quickly through the thick and treacherous undergrowth.  Eventually she began following a very overgrown path that meandered here and there before disapeering completely and suddenly reappearing.  By the time she stumbled into the small glade the blackness had turned to misty grey as the new day was born.
The streamwater was just as cold as the day she left with her boy strapped to her back and a sword in her hand.  Since Tobias had gone the mood had gotten considerably meaner.
“You'll be back” Rerio the sentry had promised as she passed him “this life don't let nobody go”
“This life took my eye and my lover.  I got to think about the boy now”
“Any regrets?”
“Not a single one.  Tobias was a great man”
“That he was” Rerio mused “that he was.  I wish you a good life girly girl”
“You as well my friend.  Don't be slow in getting out”
They'd embraced and she'd walked away.

The natural cave had been a wolves den at least once since she had left and no doubt would be again but that didn't matter.  The larger shape and size made the small gap at the back of the cave difficult to squeeze through, difficult, but not impossible and it soon opened up into a much larger set of rooms.  The torchwood on the shelf was still dry enough to light her way through the rooms but there was nothing left to see except for a mound at the back of the largest.
“This was our home boy” she kissed his dead face and placed him gently on the ground “you were going to grow up and be the worlds best.  I wish that I could stay down here with you”
“No beautiful.  You surely don't”  Strag barked wildly as the sudden light filled the tomb and quickly dimmed to reveal Tobias standing on his burial mound “you need to make the most of your life because you're a long time dead”
Her hand brushed against his cold cheek “Is it really you?”
“I promise my love.  It's really me”
“But how?  I mean, why are you here and our son isn't?”  it didn't matter that his touch brought a chill to her arms, she stepped forward into his embrace
“I'm here because I need to be here.  Maybe this is what the priests turn off when they look a body over,  I don't know”
“I tried” her tears soaked into his shoulder “I pleaded with them to come but none would step outside for the husband of a simple thief.  No that's not right, they'll perform the looking over to other bandits and thieves but they wouldn't do it for me, not after what I did to them”
He kissed the tears away just like he used to do “we did it to them you mean.  But it doesn't matter, none of it matters anymore.  My love what's happened to you?”
“The worlds changed Tobias”  she turned around to let him see everything “we all look like this now”
“I remember the fuss my mother made when I pierced my ears for a bet.  She'd die all over again if she saw this, but what I really meant was what's happened to change you so much?”
“You were dead love.  And with a child to take care of I had to grow up fast.  I became Baron Lutins personal guard so that our son would grow up healthy and strong but after all this time, the work he's ordering me to do  leaves a bad taste in my mouth”
“Then walk away.  What real claim to your loyalty does he have?  Is it the pay? Raid his treasury.  Do you love him?”
“No!  Of course not.  There hasn't been anyone else ever”
“Except for this stout fellow” Tobias smiled down at Strag “It's hard to understand you beautiful.  You're free of the man you don't want to work for and now you're travelling to?”
“Hermitage.  The king has ordered a Barons Mischance”
“My love why can't you see?  He's taking you to Hermitage, the royal city.   you've still got that large price on your head?”
“It's not like that.  He's extending his protection against anyone who tries to collect the reward”
“You can't truly believe that.  If he's protecting you from them it's only so that he can collect the reward for his own self”
“I don't have a choice I tell you!  I've got to kill the Prince or else I die”
“There's always a choice my love.  But to kill the prince?  You'll be executed and the only thing that will happen to Lutin will be an elevation in the good graces of the king for his remarkably swift capture of the assassin and a great big sack of gold”  he moved over to the corner of the room “help me move these rocks.  I've a story to tell you”

It took a little while but eventually a leather satchel decorated with the roal seal was uncovered.
“Tobias, what is this?”
“Well, you know that I always hoped that Sor would relent and welcome you back into the Esteele family”
“I always told you that it was a foolish thing to hope for”
“Life is full of foolishness” he smiled easily “what you didn't know was that I had kept in contact with Marius, who was the Tardelion liason to the royal court at the time.  I would visit him in the city and keep him updated about us while you were busy with the men”
“That doesn't paint me in a particularly good light, husband”
“Busy training with the men is perhaps what I should have said.  On my last visit to him he told me that your father had been knocked down several pegs and that if there was ever a good time to get the pair of you together then it would be then.  It took a lot of doing but I managed to bully those letters of passage out of him”

She opened the pouch at last and stared in disbelief at the cracked parchment “You are mad!  These are supposed to be for national emergencies!”
“I didn't care then and I'm beyond caring now Beautiful, they were the only way to let you move freely through the country.  Now bear with me because my stories almost done.  Once I had the papers I left the city but I was recognized by one of my former guards.  I killed him but the chase and his sword took a heavy toll.  I managed to make it back here but died in your arms.  Those papers were stolen from me by Lucky Threefingers.  He hid them, clearly meaning to return later, but he never did and that's the end of my story and my life, but not my love for you”
“You silly foolishness of a man” the letters of passage fell to the floor as she kissed him deeply “we were happy together.  We didn't need my father or anybody in my family”
Tobias shook his head “You did.  You still do.  You've held the hurt in your heart for so long.  Go to them, I'm not standing in the way anymore”
“No.  I can't” she stepped away and rubbed nervously at her arms “not after what happened that night”
“Stop living in the past!  It's because of whats happened that family is so very important.  You're a rudderless boat on an ocean and having a family would give you a direction”
“He threw me away!”
“His pride was hurt” Tobias remained calm “and his politics as well.  None of it meant that he didn't love you”
“All the family I need is right here.  You say leave Baron Lutin” she shrugged “nows a good a time as any”
“No dear.  All the family you have right here sleep the long sleep and it's one that I hope will be denied to you for a very long time.  A heart full of bitterness will only ever grow more bitterness”  he blew on his and watched his fingers drift away and vanish “my time here is finishing.  I'll look after our son.  But promise me you'll think about what I said”
“I.  I promise” and his last kess stayed on her lips a long time after he had faded away to nothing.

What she had taken to be bright sunlight as she was coming out of the cave was actually the bright moonlight.  Evelyn took one last look at what had once been her home and then pressed ahead along the forgotten path back to the road.
“Good morning” one of a pair of knight baronials waved slightly nervously from a short distance away
“Morning, where is everyone?”
“Went on ahead.  We got ordered to stay behiind and make certain that you didn't get lost when you caught up with us”
“That's thoughtful of the baron” she said carefeully
“We was just saying that” the other knight looked up from where he was seated “he must be especiallly fond of you if he's prepared to detail us to wait for you”
“I'll have to remember to thank him”  she adjusted the satchel “might as well get started then”
“What's in the bag?”
“Nothing of consequence” she answered shortly

Following the caravan made for a difficult journey with the rain only helping to muddy the forests wide road and no amount of extra wood heaped onto the fire could help to fix and the dogs muddy insistance on sleeping next to his mistress didn't help matters
She was roused by the mud creatures growls and then awakened fully by the the hurried tugging at her bag.
“You're supposed to be knights!” she screamed struggling with the strap
“You're supposed to be dead!” the knight shouted back “you said you'd killed her!”
“Not now!” the other knight cried as he fended off Strags viceous attack
“My swords just as sharp in the dark craven” her blade finally made it out of the scabbard as the robber knight stepped back and gave her room to get to her feet but his own sword dug into the earth
She followed quickly, unhampered by the darkness and easily matching the desperate mans every move.  All the while the wooshing of the metal ring on the end of her rope filled her ears and at last she saw her chance as he slowed to take a corner.  The ring flashed in the moonlight and  jerked her forwards as it wrapped around his front legs and brought him crashing to the muddy earth.

She didn't give him the chance to get to his feet and he could struggle all he wanted but he was good and tied up soon enough.
“Don't you try and escape you son of a bitch! She pulled at the rope until he got to his feet “that'll make me really angry.  Now march!”

It took longer because the man dragged his feet something terrible.  Strag waited by the warmth of the fire, his bloodied muzzle ensured that Evelyn would only have the one prisioner to worry about.
“Bend down!  Down I said” The sword was quickly retrieved and placed in clear view of the robbers frightened eyes “let me show you how it's going to be.  I have a sword and a lot of questions and that means that we get to sit here all nice and play nice while you give me a lot of answers.  If I like the answers then I don't start chopping.  Get it?”
The man made no answer
“First question.  Who are you?”
“C-Carcus!”  the knight choked and spit out his name at last
“What an appropriate name.  Are you really a knight? “
“No.  never us!”
“Why were you waiting for me?”
“We weren't!  Please great lady believe me They were just waiting around and we snuck up on them and killed them and took their clothes!  I thought we could sell them and make some money and then you showed up and you're travelling with a baron and Jummy says that we should kill you as well but I just wanted to get away and he told me that he'd killed you and the monster dog but he hadn't and now you're going to kill me”
“Easy easy.  Calm down Carcus.  Take a breath, is that everything?”
“Yes yes I ran when you weren't dead but I didn't fight with you”
“I'm certain that'll be taken into account”  she whistled for Strag “now you can listen to my story killer.  My name is Evelyn Oneeye and if you actuallly manage to escape then I'll hunt you and ten people that look like you”
“You mean you're that Evelyn?  The” Carcus choked as she pulled the rope tighter
“That's right.  I'm choke gurgle gurgle,  Now march!”

Evelyn!”  Baron Lutin exclaimed happily “good to see you're back”
“I was called away on a matter of duty Baron” she pulled Carcus forwards “but managed to catch a pair of murderers”
“A pair?”
“Strag took care of the other one.  He's not in any condition to bother anyone ever again”
“A singularly impressive animal you have there.  Exactly who did they murder?”
“It was the pair of knight baronials that you left to wait for me”
“That troubles me.  Those men wouldn't have died if you hadn't rushed off on your own”
“Where would we be if we foresook our duties?”
“Quite quite” the baron waved his hands as if to brush away the whole distasteful affair “but you managed to capture the man so it all works out in the end” under the watchful eye of the remaining knight baronials Carcus was untangled from Evelyns rope and led away with his head bowed low “on another matter entirely I thought you might like to know that the priests came to me in a panic when they'd found out what you'd done”
“I imagine that they would have been fairly suprised”
“Suprised doesn't begin to describe it.  You should expect to be mentioned in their sermons quite a bit”
“My boy needed to be with his father Damian.  The church can say what they like” she snorted “they always have bfore”

Lutin nodded, clearly thinking before he spoke “Of course he did, it's just that, would you talk to the priests?  I feel that if you could explain then it would go some way to smoothing ruffled feathers or, uh , fur as the case may be”
“Nothing I can do is ever going to make them happy” she shook her head defiantly “and it might be velvet you're thinking of unless that only happens on antlers”
“Antlers!  There's something to look forward to.  The good news is that we're ahead of schedule and both you and the oxen could do with a decent rest.  Spread the word that we'll stay here until the morning but I'll want to get away early”
“As you command baron” she bowed and huried off with Strag trailing behind her.

The pair of priests moved from campfire to campfire and the night was loud with both laughter and tears.  At her own camp, alone save for Strag, Evelyn stared into the flames.
“I remember when it rained a lot harder than this my Strag” she said at last “Tobias and I were sneaking out to see each other and like all lovers we thought that we were being so very careful”
Beside her the dog leaned into her and she stroked his wet fur “my brothers caught us together and we all fought so hard.  It was all so important back then.  Now my son is dead, my husband is dead” she felt the worn leather satchel hidden beneath her heavy cloak “but still watching out for me”
“L lady Oneeye?  M m may I enter and p pray?” the distintive stammer of the priest Marcus brought her back to the here and now.
“Come in out of the rain priest.  But no praying”
“It's good to see you again Lady Evelyn”
“No it isn't”
“I assure you that”
“Look I've been around and I've seen how peoples minds work.  You want a lesson?  Number one, you're the younger priest on this journey which means that you are officially Shitjobs Boy.  Number two, you've officially had dealings with me in the past and come out of it without damage.  To them this means that there is a chance I won't bite your head off when you actually manage to ask whatever it is you've been sent here to ask.  How am I doing so far?”

The priest nodded his head carefully “we don't actually call it Shitjobs boy”
“Good.  Now you, as designated shitjobs boy or whatever you want to call it are currently the only member of the church that I might not brutely murder because I'm bored”
“Thank you for that”
“Might not murder, might, remember that.  You've been sent to pray for my son and if, after we've prayed, I suddenly get the urge to become a true daughter of the holy crocodile then isn't it lucky that you're here”
“We've been visiting all the camp sites tonight.  We'll be taking the wagon down to the waters soon and I just thought that, since your son went missing a mothers prayer couldn't hurt”
“Nice thought but my son didn't go missing, I took him.  We could argue that I stole him from you but since he ws always mine then we have to ask ourselves exactly who the thieves are”
“Why must you be so against the church?  We  bring the light of the holy crocodile to everyone”
“It's better to leave old bones to lie priest”
“You're certainly not. Whatever it is between you and the church is something that you can't let go of and it's eating you up inside”
“I don't have to justify myself to you or anyone else”
“No you don't.  You” Marcus held up his hands and took several large breaths “Lady Evelyn I am sorry.  My training got away from me.  What I came, was sent, to say was that your son has gone missing and the rituals that must be performed are not complete.  Would you return your son into our care?”
“No.  and that's the end of it”
Marcus bowed his head solemly and was quickly swallowed up by the darkness

The edge of the forest came into view late in the morning.
“A pleasant conceit” Lady Lutin finally emerged from the cramped confines of the fine carriage to walk through the two halves of the ancient trees, uprooted in the earthquakes and, where they blocked the road, split into two.  “and a fitting end to your realm my husband"

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