Wednesday May 8th, 2013

The exercise:

Today, as promised, we return to Mejaran.

For those of you just joining in, click that link and have a read through what has already happened in that little village (it's rather an impressive amount so far, really). Then you can jump in with something (and possibly someone) new, or simply add on to who and what's been created in the first four installments in the series.

Weather update: still way too hot. Like normal highs of 19 degrees for this time of year and it hit 32 today way too hot.


"Where have you been?"

Yarel flinched as though he had been struck, but recovered quickly to thrust his chest and chin forward. Proud and defiant as the wildest of horses, he was. Slightly less so, however, when a few moments later he remembered that in the dark of his home's midnight kitchen his mother could not see this display.

"I expected you to be sleeping," he said, still trying to determine where, precisely, his mother was lurking.

"I could say the same about you," Jocelle said softly, appearing at her son's side without warning. Yarel flinched again as his bladder relaxed long enough to wet his trousers (but only a little). "Last I saw your troublemaking face, I could have sworn you were ten dreams into a fifty dream sleep."

"I... may have been playing a bit of pretend." Yarel shrugged and took a seat at the kitchen table, pulling his knife out of its sheath as he did so. Without appearing to realize what he was doing, he began to whet it as he added, "Good to know I'm a good enough actor to fool your sharp eyes. Perhaps I should audition for -"

"Where. Have. You. Been."

"Practicing with the boys."

"Practicing?" Jocelle shook her head in disbelief, then produced a match from somewhere on her person and used it to ignite the lamp on the table. "Practicing what, and with which boys?"

"Swordsmanship." Yarel tried to say it nonchalantly but his throat seemed to get entangled with all those letters. "And I can't remember everyone who was there. Liefert, Azmar..."

"What have you gotten yourself into, child?" Jocelle's tone caught her son off guard. It was so much softer than he'd been expecting, filled with genuine concern. The moment ended quickly, however, as she happened to glance down at her son's arm. "You're bleeding!"


Greg said...

That does sound rather too hot! We're getting the highs of 19 at the moment though, so I guess the weather's all slid around a little. Presumably they're all shivering in the Sahara right now :)
Lovely characterisation in your writing, as always. Yarel in particular is really coming to life in your hands; I'm starting to think you might have a favourite character. I definitely like that he starts whetting his knife in what's probably pitch darkness!

Thunder rolled around the hills that enclosed Mejaran on three sides and lightning danced on the hilltops, attracted to deposits of meteroric iron there. Rain poured down and swelled the river, which in turn dislodged logs and rocks left there since early Winter and sent them tumbling downstream to crash into the banks and bridgeposts in Mejaran. Men with gaffes lined one of the two biggest bridges, watching out for the biggest logs and boulders, ready to push them out (as much as possible) into mid-stream where they were less dangerous. The other bridge however, had two bedraggled looking guards at either end and a small mob of angry people on Lady Margaret's side.
"You can't stop us protecting the bridge, you idiot!" The speaker was Fulljohn, yet another of Orsana's siblings. "If the bridge goes that's half the connection to the other side gone. What if there's another storm in two days – are you going to stand on the other bridge them and wait for that to be destroyed?"
"Lady Helen's orders," said the older of the two guards, though neither was over twenty. The youngest guards had been quickly picked for the task by the older guards, in part because of the rain and in part because the guards thought it was a stupid job. "She said that men from her side of town will defend the bridge."
"And where are these men, then?" The speaker this time was Melymin, Jocelle's cousin on her mother's side.
"They're on their way," said the guard, but the look on his face told the mob that he had no clue.
"We can't wait!" Even as Melymin shouted out what the mob were feeling a boulder the height and width of a man's legs struck the river bank mere metres from the bridge support.
"Lady Helen will defend her bridge," said the guard, but his voice was wavering now, and the mob saw their opening.
"Stand aside lad," said Fulljohn squaring his shoulders. Muscles moved between his shoulder-blades that didn't seem to exist on the younger man. "We can beat you up a bit before you report back if it'll help."
"But Lady Helen–"
"We heard you the first time. And, for the record, we're not doing this on behalf of Lady Margaret. We're doing this because this is Mejaran and we all live here, no matter what those posh ladies think."
The mob surged and the two guards stepped aside, just a little gratefully, knowing that the bridge would be protected now.
"What can Lady Helen be thinking?" asked a voice in the crowd. "Anyone would think she wants the bridge to fall. What would that achieve for anyone?"
"Well," said Fulljohn quietly. "It would mean that there was only one bridge between the two sides of Mejaran and if you were thinking of a civil war, one bridge is far easier to hold than two."

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Cripes, it's apparently ripe for long passages this time!
- - - - - - - - - - -
Principal Mirón Oleán was not a large man; he stood barely a head taller than his sprite of a daughter, and a full head shorter than his wife. But he still commanded respect from those on both sides of the river, and the crowds that had ebbed and swelled around the second bridge parted as he came and crossed the bridge. Lady Helen's young guards, poor lads, tried to stop him, but he put up a hand and simply walked past them.

This particular walk up to Lady Helen's palace was much longer than he had anticipated. But perhaps this was because the past weeks had aged him so. He had taken this walk on a summons from Her Ladyship and his counterpart, Principal Ikava, to finally settle a date for Divana Oléan and Kalo Ikava's wedding. His heart and steps had been heavy that day, but the walk was short, even in the snow. Now, with Divana fled with the lad Shotek, his heart sang with joy for them both. But the recent flare-ups, the likes of which haven't been seen since his grandfather's time, had stooped his shoulders more than the past ten years. There was this whole bridge nonsense, but something else was at work here.

Many from both sides of the village had followed him up, but they were made to wait in the court yard. His gait was slow, but he proceeded with resolution unescorted through the front hall, past various guards and servants. Had it been anyone else they would have kept him out, misdirected him, apprehended him. But without a word from him they quietly directed him to Lady Helen's chamber. They bowed, and he nodded in return.

Lady Helen squawked quietly when one of her serving boys opened the door and announced, "Principal Oleán, madam."

"Oh, Mirón, what a surprise."

"Principal, if you please, Your Ladyship."

She bristled, but recomposed herself. "Do what do I owe the visit, Principal?"

He took a breath. "I came to inquire about the developments with the south bridge, My Lady."

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

"I thought you would know," she replied with pinched concern. "Principal Ikava advised that the bridge be secured, on the likely chance that Lady Margaret stirred up the people."

"I beg your pardon, My Lady, but I don't understand, what reason would she have---"

"You know full well the reason," she cut in sharply. She stood. "Despite her claims of approval of the marriage between my nephew's son and your daughter, Lady Margaret has blatantly gone against her word and encouraged her to run off with a vagrant to rile up my people, and then compound it by riling her own."

Oléan straightened a little. "With due respect, Your Ladyship, it wasn't her."

Lady Helen tilted her head; a gesture of curiosity for anyone else, but dangerous for her. "I don't quite follow, Principal. What wasn't her?"

"Encourage Divana to leave with Shotek."

Her eyes narrowed. "Then who would suggest such an insolent thing?"

"I would." Madame Oléan had told him Divana herself had suggested it, but Lady Helen didn't need to know as much. He continued before the silence got too heavy: "I have told you, and many others, myself: my one hope for this village is to bridge the river---"

"Such a strange phrase---"

"---If I may say my piece, You Ladyship." His voice raised only slightly, but it still rang through the chamber as he pressed on. "I had hoped to begin to bring the two sides together through this marriage. But, in the days and weeks, years even, leading up to it, I saw the prospect weigh on Divana. And she was growing curious about the world beyond Mejaran, beyond the mountains. So I told her to go with Shotek with my blessings.".

"I finally saw to putting aside the town for satisfying a personal matter," he said finally, "a position with which I'm sure my Lady is most well acquainted."

Marc said...

Greg - thanks! Yeah, I definitely have a soft spot for the lad...

Fascinating stuff here. Intriguing developments, the usual excellent little details, and more characters to play with!

Nice work :D

g2 - fantastic characterization here. I really like the way you introduced us to Miron.

Yet another interesting twist in the road you've presented, as well.

My goodness, this whole thing is becoming quite a lot of fun, isn't it? :)