"Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story." ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

31 October 2010

Simann's cruelty

This section jumps back to Paodin, the night right after he met Audon and his mother.
As Paodin pulled off his boots and laid his pack aside, he thought about the boy’s reaction when he had mentioned the King. Though Audon had raised his son with the knowledge that Simann was not the true King, Paodin had rarely seen the hatred this young boy’s heart held for Simann even in the resistance fighters of Gelci. What had happened to cause the boy to be filled with such rage for a man most adored? Shrugging, Paodin knew he would not find the answer to his question in the dark barn, so he settled back into his makeshift bed and pulled the lighter blanket over himself. Just as he closed his eyes, Paodin heard something moving around outside. Jumping quickly to a crouched position he grabbed his boots and pulled them back on as he peered out the small stall window. In the moonlight he could clearly see a shadowy man making his way toward the chicken coop from the tree line behind the widow’s house. Remembering Adair’s earlier statement about having lost too many birds already, Paodin pulled his sword and silently made his way to the barn door, ready to face the man who was apparently the cause of that loss.

Sneaking across the yard behind the man, Paodin approached cautiously. He had encountered a limited number of thieves in his life, and not one of them had been ill prepared for a confrontation. Though this coward stole from a blind widow and her son under the cover of darkness, Paodin thought it better to err on the side of caution than to run full speed into the point of the robber’s blade. A few steps behind the man, Paodin extended his sword and placed the tip against the base of the thief’s neck.

“Stand, coward,” he whispered intensely, “and face me.” As the man turned, Paodin spotted the tools in his hands.

“Lower, your sword, good fellow,” the man said quietly, “and tell me how you have come to be staying with Evan’s widow.”

Paodin ignored the man’s request and kept the sword positioned at the stranger’s throat. “The mistress of the house is fully aware of my presence. It is you who should explain yourself. Move toward the barn, away from the house. I do not wish to alarm its occupants.”

“Nor do I, lad.” The man nodded slightly as he slowly stepped forward, Paodin’s sword never losing contact with his skin. The two men moved quickly toward the barn, Paodin keeping a steady pressure on the thief’s neck. Though he had no desire to kill the man standing before him, he would not hesitate if the man’s actions proved such drastic measures to be necessarily. Once inside the barn Paodin backed his prisoner into one of the many empty stalls before lowering his sword slightly. He studied the man in the pale moonlight as he questioned him.

“Speak now, man,” Paodin said, his voice calm. “What are your intentions here toward Lady Brigitte?” Even as he spoke, Paodin was forced to admit to himself that the man looked nothing like a thief. He was well dressed and well groomed, though not clean shaven or in fine clothes.

“Despite my appearance at the chicken coop,” the man began, his voice as calm as his accuser’s, “you have my word that I intended to do nothing more than mend the fence. The boy- Adair- mentioned in town this morning that he would be working on it today. Judging by the workmanship,” he continued, “it would seem he had some help.” Raising his eyebrows the man gazed steadily at his captor.

Paodin pondered the man’s words silently before he spoke again. “Your words seem honorable, but what reason do I have to believe you?” Unconsciously Paodin had lowered his sword even more and now rested the point of the toe of his boot as he listened to the man’s reply.

A smirk tugged lightly at the corners of the man’s mouth. “Surely you are not blind! Look around--can you honestly tell yourself that this place has been cared for by a child and his blind mother? While the lady of this house is indeed very capable, I fear she was not one for farm work even before her injury, though not from a lack of trying.”

“Perhaps I am a fool,” Paodin sighed after a long silence, “but I believe you.” Looking around the dim barn he spied a milk bucket in a corner. Whatever cow the widow had milked, it had dried up long ago. Paodin wiped cobwebs coated with dirt off the bucket and then tossed it to the man still standing in the empty stall. “Have a seat and we will talk.” Stepping over to his makeshift pallet in the next stall, Paodin picked up a small box which appeared to have once housed a farmer’s tools and then turned to the man.

“You seem to know Lady Brigitte well,” Paodin began. “Why do you come to help under cover of darkness?”

“It seems I have known her my entire life,” the man smiled, sitting. “Her husband Evan was my best friend and sole confidant. Before we speak of the lady, though, I would like to know who I am speaking with, if you will do me that courtesy.”

“Of course, sir. My name is Paodin, son of Audon of Gelci. Right now I am on a journey of sorts, which has led me far from home and exposed some formidable enemies.”

“Ah!” the man exclaimed. “I have done business with your father on occasion, whenever he has found the time to travel down here to Lurn. I suppose you are the young boy who was with him on those trips. He is a good man and I have little reason to doubt he has raised his son to be honorable as well.” Leaning back casually against the barn wall, he continued. “My name is Jamis. Because of your father, I believe I am safe in speaking freely with you. Now, you asked why I come under cover of night?” When Paodin nodded, Jamis answered with a question of his own: “Did the boy know you were correcting him?”

Paodin frowned. “How could I tell him so? Adair is proud and believes himself capable of providing for his mother---”

“Exactly,” Jamis interrupted. “I owe it to Evan to look after his family since he was killed, but I cannot do that at the expense of his son. The boy has been thrust into manhood much too early, it is true, but despite his youth he is very much a man. Without his pride, his dignity, a man is nothing.”

Nodding his understanding, Paodin asked the older man, “You said your friend was killed. Was that attack the same one that left his widow scarred and started the fire of hatred for King Simann burning in his son’s heart?”

Studying Paodin, Jamis replied, “So, the boy has told you of his contempt for our King.”

“Not in so many words, no. I believe his statement was that he would like to run him through with a pitchfork.”

Jamis laughed, a rich, though bitter, laugh that seemed to fill the barn. “Adair has never been one to mince words, much like his father. I fear that one day that trait will earn him the same fate as Evan. My friend was… not happy with the King, and he was one of a few who were very vocal about their opinions. They came in the night, the guards, and attacked Evan and Brigitte as they slept. Evan never had a chance to even defend himself. He and his bride were both left for dead, but not before the King himself had a chance to steal everything of worth from them both. Evan was forced to watch, bleeding and helpless, as Simann raped his wife and then slashed her face, leaving the scars you see today. Brigitte then heard her husband die at the hands of Tundyel’s beloved King.” Jamis’ words were full of hatred and pain as he continued. “I don’t know why the boy was left alone. Maybe Simann saw how much more cruel it would be to leave the child with his dead parents. Or it could be that he just didn’t care what happened to the boy. Perhaps Adair was attacked but in a way that left no visual scars. We will probably never know. Yet somehow the nine year old boy was able to nurse his mother back to health. He has been taking care of her for close to three years now, with only a few nightly repairs from me.”

28 October 2010

Wizards' Tunnel

He was jarred from his sleep, startled by the sudden realization that someone had entered the tunnel not long before. No, he thought, sitting up, two ha entered. Only one remained. Hurriedly he threw on his cloak as he ran outside. The night was not yet black, but it made no difference. Though the lesser Wizards could not read the wisdom of the sky until the sun’s glow had completely fled the darkness, he could. He closed his eyes and threw his head back, letting the vibrant colors flow around him. Soon the rich hues all change to sparkling gold and silver, the markings of the true magic. He followed as they spun their way through time and space, these shimmering specters. Some began to resemble the True Wizards of old while others seemed content just to dance and twirl through the tunnel, bouncing off the walls and filling the small space with an unnatural light. Suddenly, there in front of him stood the young Healer. She steeled herself, straightening her shoulders against what she must surely think would be a recurrence of the test she faced before.

This time, however, the crippling pain was not present and the deafening roar had been replaced by a hauntingly beautiful melody. The young girl made no move to approach, nor did she falter and shift backward. Instead she stood proudly, accepting of whatever fate awaited her. He watched as the gold and silver beings swirled around the Healer, amazed at her ability to stand unflinchingly in the midst of them. Her only movement was an unconscious fluttering of her right hand to touch the small silver bracelet given to her at birth.

He smiled as he opened his eyes, once again seeing only the night sky. The young Healer would prove to be a tremendous asset to the true king of Tundyel.

Chapter 6
Syndria stood still, half expecting to disappear as had her escort in their earlier encounter with the shining lights. When nothing happened she began to relax, the tension draining from her neck and shoulders as she silently watched the beings twirl around her. Unlike before, this time she could see three faces within the light, all peculiar mixes of gold and silver. Though she felt certain she already knew the answer, the young Healer asked softly, “Who are you?” Though no sound came from the beings, Syndria heard their answers ringing deep in her heart and mind.

“We are truth.”
“We are righteousness.”
“We are just.”

“The True Wizards,” she realized slowly. “You are the ones who determine worthiness, the ones who say who may pass through the tunnel.”

“Wrong!” she heard.
“The heart determines one’s worth.”
“We merely reveal the heart.”

The luminous beings pulled back and Syndria began to fear they would leave her soon. Hoping to keep them near, though she did not know why, the young Healer began walking toward them as she spoke.

“Masters,” she began, her voice smooth and calm, “may I ask for your guidance? I am on a strange path to which I see no end, but to you it must be clear.”

“Each must follow his own path,” the Wizards answered, now speaking as one voice. “It is not our place to change the young Healer’s steps.” As the True Wizards began to fade before her, Syndria hurried her steps.

“I do not ask for your magic to end my journey,” she said, “merely for your presence to illuminate the trail.”

“The eyes of your heart are unclouded. Follow them, for they need no illumination.” With that, the Wizards were gone and Syndria was left standing in the dark. It took a moment for the girl to realize she was standing in the midst of a forest, no longer in the tunnel. Spinning around Syndria searched for the opening, the gate that had let her out of that enchanted place. She saw nothing but trees ad the faint glow to the northeast which told her the feast in Caron was lasting well into the might. Not sure where to go, not knowing which direction would provide some measure of safety, Syndria took a deep breath and turned west, deciding her best decision would be the one which put as much distance between herself and the castle as she possibly could in one night. Perhaps tomorrow she could make it to Saun.

24 October 2010

Paodin reaches Lurn

He reached the city gates just as the sun began to rise over the hills. Gasping for breath after running almost constantly for two hours, Paodin moved around the corner to the side wall of the city and collapsed against the cool stone to catch his breath. Here he was, just outside of Lurn. Somehow now he had to figure out a way to find the farmer true to the rightful King and the effort to see that heir back on the throne. Paodin dropped his head into his hands, trying to come up with some kind of plan.”

“Are you alright?” a small voice asked. When he looked up he was looking directly into the eyes of a young boy.

Smiling in hopes of putting the young boy at ease, Paodin answered, “I’m only tired. I’ve just been on a long journey to get here.”

The boy cocked his head as he studied the strange man sitting slumped against the wall. “You need rest,” he observed, “but you won’t get that in the city.” Stretching out his hand, the boy took Paodin by the arm. “Come with me. Mum will give you something to eat and then you can sleep. Come on!”

With the boy tugging impatiently at his sleeve, the exhausted traveler could think of no good reason not to go with him, so Paodin struggled to his feet and followed the boy, his leg muscles burning with every step. He didn’t know what to tell the boy about his journey, afraid of saying too much. His fears proved unimportant, though, because the boy kept talking during the walk from the city.

“Mum and me live out here away from Lurn. My father died a couple years ago, so I take care of us. I come to town for the things we need. Mum doesn’t like me travelin’ alone; she says there’s too many people in Lurn who would take advantage of a kid. I have to tell her to remember I’m not a kid anymore, I’m practically twelve! She always says she should go with me, but I wake up early and go without her. The trip’s too long for her to make it on foot and poor old Red is almost twice as old as me. It would probably kill the old mule if I put a saddle on him. Besides, those people don’t like Mum.” As the boy continued, Paodin glanced down at his face and saw a familiar protective spark in the boy’s eyes.

“When she does go with me they look at her like she’s not worth the dirt she’s walkin’ on. I’m just happy she can’t see that.” His pace slowing some, he added, “But I know she hears all those dumb kids, even though she don’t say so. Sometimes I just want to hit ‘em for the mean things they say, but Mum says not to ‘cause they just don’t know better. She says that they learn it from their parents, that ‘you can’t expect people to be good and kind if their leaders are bad,’ and that those kids just got stuck with bad leaders.” His pace increasing as his anger intensified, he was almost jogging along the road when he suddenly stopped and spun to face Paodin. “Do you know better, mister?” he demanded, shoulders back and tense. Though he didn’t elaborate, Paodin was sure he understood the boy’s meaning.

“I didn’t have a Mum like yours, but my father has always been a good leader. Perhaps you can tell me about your Mum and then we won’t have to worry about-”

“If you really are good,” the boy interrupted, “I don’t have to worry.” He began walking again, telling Paodin all about Red the mule and his escapades. Soon the two were approaching a small cottage tucked into a grove of oak trees. The front door squeaked when the boy opened it, but the home was otherwise in great shape. Paodin was surprised. This boy who was “practically twelve” really was taking care of his mother.

“Hello, Mum!” he called. “I’m home!”

“Adair, I do wish you would stop going to town alone,” came a sweet voice from the kitchen. “Now why don’t you bring your guest into the kitchen and we can all have some breakfast. I’ve made hotcakes.”

Paodin looked at the boy, Adair, his eyes wide and questioning. “There are lots of things about Mum that’ll surprise you,” Adair said, then turned and led Paodin through the cozy front room and into the kitchen, where his mother stood at the fore with her back to the doorway.

“Have a seat and start on those hotcakes,” she said. “I’m just finishing the tea.”

“I would hate to cause you any trouble, madam. You weren’t expecting company, and I’m sure you planned breakfast for two,” Paodin said, reluctant to sit.

The lady laughed. “Oh, nonsense! You must not have known my Addie very long.”

“It’s Adair, Mum!” The boy rolled his eyes as he sat down, but Paodin could still see a smile tugging at the corners of the boy’s mouth.

Her back still to them, Adair’s mother continued, “As I was saying, if you had known my son Adair for long, you would know that he brings some soul home almost each time he ventures in to Lurn. Sit, eat, please.” Though she still hadn’t turned around, Paodin could tell his hostess was smiling with pride in her son. “There, I believe it is ready. Would you like a cup, sir?” she asked as she turned, pot in hand.

Paodin swallowed as he looked up. Though he had hesitated to sit and eat at first, as soon as the woman reinforced her son’s invitation he quickly began chowing down. “Yes,” he started to say as the woman turned around, but his voice caught for a brief moment before he could continue when he saw her face. “I would appreciate some tea, madam.”

“It is Brigitte, please,” she said as she gently patted the table in search of the mug. Finding it, she filled the stoneware mug and then returned the tea pot to its hook over the fire before taking her seat at the table.

As he finished his breakfast, Paodin studied the woman across from him. Her long red hair was pulled back in a tight braid, but the wisps which had escaped betrayed ringlet curls. Her creamy complexion was smooth and without freckles, unlike most redheads. Looking at her tiny frame, Paodin could easily see from where the boy’s small stature came. Brigitte had long slender fingers, but her hands appeared far from fragile. Her movements were sure and steady, the smile on her face unwavering, visible even as she ate. Her beauty could have easily compared with that of any of the Healers. However, Paodin could not ignore her only imperfection. It started at Brigitte’s left temple, crossed both eyes, her nose and right cheek, and twisted down her neck to disappear under the neckline of her pale green dress. The scarred flesh was an angry red, telling Paodin this terrible injury had occurred recently. By the cloudy appearance of both eyes, Paodin could see that Brigitte had been blinded by whatever tragedy had befallen her. Judging by the size of the scars, that injury had most likely been caused by the end of a sword.

As he finished his hotcakes, Brigitte spoke. “Adair, were you able to get out cornmeal today?” The boy started to answer, but his words were jumbled by the food in his mouth. “Son, please do not speak with your mouth full.”

Swallowing, Adair rolled his eyes at Paodin as he answered, “Sort of, Mum. I traded some birds for fifty pounds, but ‘cause I left the cart here this mornin’ I’ve gotta go back for our cornmeal. I’ll go this afternoon, after lunch.”

“Good,” Brigitte smiled, a crooked smile because her right cheek was frozen in place from the scar. “I’ll go with you. I want to go and find some fabric--you are beginning to outgrow much of your clothing.” She stood, clearing her plate off the table and putting it in the dish pail. “Finish your breakfast, Addie, and then we will get to work. Perhaps your guest will be able to help you mend the coop.”

“Of course, madam,” Paodin began, following Adair’s lead and putting his own plate in the pail of water. “I would be happy to help, in appreciation for your hospitality.” Turning to Adair he said, “Why don’t you go gather our supplies and meet me outside? I would like to speak to your mother for a minute if you don’t mind.”

The boy hesitated, staring at Paodin as if he could determine the man’s intentions just by studying his face. Sensing her son’s reluctance to leave her alone with the man, Brigitte spoke up. “Go ahead, Addie. Our guest will be right out.”

“It’s Adair,” he muttered under his breath, giving Paodin a look of warning as he walked out of the room.

“Please, have a seat,” Brigitte said, motioning to the chair across from her as she sat. Once Paodin sat down she continued. “My son is rather… protective. He has been forced to grow up far too much in the past years since his father died, and I’m afraid that he now thinks of himself more as my protector than my son. Now,” she paused, taking a sip of tea, “what brought you here?”

Leaning forward, Paodin laced his fingers together around his mug as he thought about how much to tell Brigitte. Before he could answer, the woman continued.

“You do not have to tell me everything.” At Paodin’s surprised silence she laughed. “I’m sure you wonder how I can be so certain of your hesitation when I cannot see you. To be honest, I can’t say. It just seems as if my perceptions have changed. Now, like I said, you do not have to tell me everything. You are, however, a guest in my home right now, and I believe I deserve some kind of answer. If you do not wish to share your business with me, I must ask you to leave.”

“I do not wish to lie to you,” Paodin began, “but my business is dangerous. I will tell you what I can, and then you can decide if I should leave.” When Brigitte nodded, Paodin said, “My name is Paodin. I am on the run right now from King Simann’s men-”

“Please,” she interrupted, “say no more. You are welcome in our home. Right now, however, Addie is outside waiting for your help in mending the chicken coop.”

Paodin stood. “Thank you, madam. I appreciate your confidence in me, and I promise I will not betray your trust. Now,” he said, his voice brightening, “I assume your coop is behind the house?”

The lady stood, motioning for Paodin to follow her through the small house. “Yes. I would imagine you saw the barn when you first approached with my son. You will find Addie around against the east wall.” Paodin nodded and started out the door then stopped, realizing Brigitte couldn’t have seen his nod of understanding. Turning back toward the door, he started to verbally acknowledge Brigitte but stopped his words short because she had already shut the door between them.

A confession...

Okay, I have a confession to make--I am a hooker. It started in college (the first time around), and I just can't seem to get away from it. Now, before I start having people show up on my doorstep for an intervention, or before news of my "occupation" spreads through Greentown like wildfire, I mean a CROCHET hooker! Right now, I have probably 9 unused skeins of yarn (not probably, 'cause I counted) and 5 works in progress. I say this because it makes a seemilngly pretty decent excuse for why I haven't been writing lately--or at least lets me ignore the real reason.

It has been a while since I posted any of my story ("a while" here means that it has been incredibly long, but it would be a tad bit depressing to actually look and see how long it has been...which of course I'll do as soon as this is posted), which I mean to rectify as soon as I look back and figure out where I left you all hanging. Right now, though, I'm writing on page 298 (the actual page, which I didn't have to look up even though it has been probably 2 weeks since I wrote a single word), and I'm scared to death to go back to writing. See, I think I need to cut out the last two pages I wrote, and that thought just about kills me! It's not that I like the stuff that needs to come out--and believe me, it REALLY needs to come out--in fact, quite the contrary. I can't stand what I wrote and know that taking it out will make the story better. The thing is, some little voice inside me keeps whispering that that's just the beginning, that I've lost the...muse, if you will.

I'm sure that I just need to open up my story and bite the bullet. Being the quote fanatic that I am, I have copied down line after line of writers saying that the wastebasket is the writer's best friend, and that the answer to writer's block is to simply sit down and write (is it a Freudian slip that I just wrote "writhe" instead of "write"?). Something, though, is just easier about picking up a crochet hook and ball of yarn...