"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.”

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