Wednesday August 7th, 2013

The exercise:

As promised on Monday, today we're going back to Mejaran.

Somehow, someway, Max turned nine months old today. Three quarters of a year already. Ridiculous. Don't you think, Max?

Yeah, that's what I thought.


Yarel had equipped himself well in the melee, though you'd have struggled to convince him of anything of the sort had you come across him that night. Huddled in a tool shed behind the forge, shivering from shock and blood loss, he certainly didn't seem to have come out of the mess by the north bridge on the winning side.

But his actions had likely saved lives, whether he knew it or not. He'd certainly helped Azmar in those opening moments. How could he not? Without a soul by his side the estate agent must have been facing down eight or nine men, each with at least one weapon drawn and ready to be used.

Not having time to fully consider what he was doing, Yarel had darted out of the crowd and plunged his knife into the nearest attacker's back. He could have killed the man easily, had he been more ruthless. Instead his blow landed near the shoulder, causing the stranger to cry out in pain as his sword splashed down into the mud at his feet.

Two of the man's companions had turned at the disturbance and wasted no time in advancing upon the boy. Yarel had backed away slowly, his arm already bleeding from where the stitches had ripped away during his initial foray. By then Azmar had engaged with two or three other men with a shout and clanging steel, and other defenders of Mejaran had begun emerging from the crowd to fend off the invaders.

Yarel saw two members of the dueling club step forward - he could not for the life of him remember their names at the time - before he was consumed with the business of keeping his head attached to his shoulders. He remembered drawing blood on each man before taking a glancing blow to his left leg that sent him crashing into a puddle.

Raising his knife as he scrambled awkwardly backward, he was certain that his last moments were upon him. That was when Orsana appeared out of thin air to knock one of his attackers to the ground with a punch that left the man with a broken jaw.

"Get out of here, youngblood!" she had yelled over her shoulder as she took up a position between Yarel and the remaining man. "Go! Now!"

Much to his own shame, Yarel had obeyed. He'd found the unlocked shed a few confusing minutes later and had remained there until dark, long after the sounds of battle had died away. It was time to get home, he knew that. He was just having trouble getting moving again.

Finally, in the pitch black of the middle of the night, with rain still leaking from the heavens, he limped outside and headed for his waiting mother. He paused often to stare into deeper shadows, and jumped at every unexpected noise. Halfway to his destination he took a brief rest, leaning against the doorway of the baker's shop.

That was when he saw Azmar emerge from a home four doors down, standing in the pool of light cast by a lantern inside as he surveyed the street. Yarel was about to call out when a sodden glove clamped down over his mouth.

"Not a word." Liefert's voice was an urgent hiss in his ear.

Yarel did as he was told, all of the fight drained from his body by the day's events. He had questions, so many questions, but they could wait until morning. After sleep. And another visit to Dr. Maximus. And perhaps a stiff drink or three.

As they watched, Azmar looked over his shoulder and beckoned someone from inside the home he had just left. A few moments passed before a second figure joined the estate agent in the street, closing the door quickly behind him, extinguishing the light with it.

But not before the hidden observers saw the distinctive features of Principal Olean.


Greg said...

That's a very cute picture of Max. He's going to be so embarassed by you and Kat when he's 16 and you're showing baby photos to his girlfriend...
Wow, Yarel accounted for himself well in the battle! I'm pleased that Azmar's not dead either; I wasn't sure if you'd let him survive the battle or not. You do tend to cast a lethal eye across characters from time to time (poor Q).
I really enjoyed reading Yarel's story, and all the implicit detail there; thank-you!

There was the smell of baking pigeon in the air, and perhaps – Lady Margaret sniffed – sweet potato? That would be extremely satisfying, much more so than today had been. She sniffed again, licked her lips, and sat down on the ornate chair that she liked to greet her guests from. It rocked; one of its legs had broken, splintering a little, last time she'd dragged it into the right place. It annoyed her intensely, but needed the chair to be there and for her to be seen in it, so she couldn't seem to find the time to have it repaired. She'd considered slipping a piece of wood underneath the broken leg, but there was always the danger of someone seeing it, and appearances were very important. Especially with Helen giving herself airs and graces over on the other side of the town.
She sat stiffly upright, keeping the chair still so that it wouldn't rock back and forth. Liefert was late, but that was typically of the grotty little informer. If he gave her any more wrong information she was going to have him thrown in the river. She clicked her tongue impatiently. She knew that battle hadn't gone as well as she'd hoped, but she thought that she could probably blame Helen for that. The silly woman had insisted on hiring the soldiers herself, and she'd undoubtedly cut corners and bought some cheap drunked mercenaries who had turned tail and run at the first sign of resistance. That had to be it. Liefert had better tell her that was what had happened, or she'd throw him in the river herself.
She leaned back, and the chair rocked, eliciting a snarled swearword and then a guilty glance around the hall to make sure that no-one had heard her. How could armed men lose a fight against village folk? It was ridiculous. It was all Helen's fault that they didn't have the town under martial law now.
In the distance there was a knock at the door. She sat bolt upright again. Maybe this was Liefert at last....

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Okay, I had an idea for the good, poor Principal, but I can't quite make it come together the way I'd like. But, I do have something.
- - - - - - -
... But no. It was Vanara.

She slipped in, closed the door behind her, and shrugged her cloak onto the floor, where it landed with a heavy splat. The cloak had made no difference, however: Vanara was sopping wet from head to toe.

"My dear!" Lady Margaret stammered. She bit her lip to keep from shrieking in dismay about the damp mess. "What a surprise!"

"I imagine." Vanara had come in a little, and was starting to wring out her hair over the carpet. Lady Margaret made to admonish her, but she waved it away. "I assure you, this isn't as expensive as it looks," she gestured to the carpet, "and it's not enough water to kill anyone." She shook her head like a dog, then marched across the rest of the hall to where Lady Margaret sat, fluffing her hair as she went.
"I had to let myself in, if you could believe."

"I can," the Lady replied stiffly. "My entire staff is ill."

"Has Maximus been up to see them?"

"The good Doctor Jaycox is presently engaged with those on the other side of the river."

"Ah." Vanara crossed her arms. This young thing commanded a great deal of matronly power and demanded as much respect; she reminded Lady Margaret far too much of her mother. "So much has happened of late, hasn't it? Everyone's so upset with everyone else, and yet I'm only mad at two people. It's nothing new, I have ben for some time, but now it's for an entirely new reason." Lady Margaret gestured for her to get on with it and shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
"You had the nerve to have my father hanged, after Lady Helen had the nerve to hang my mother." Lady Margaret wished the girl would just snap at her instead. "You both left me an orphan, My Lady, without reason. At least Yarel's father was granted the dignity of a reason. Neither I nor my parents did.
"But, I am not here to bring back old demons, My Lady. They distract from the new."

Lady Margaret straightened uncomfortably. "I beg your pardon?"

"My Lady, you are the Lady to every single person in this village, both on this side and the other. So is Lady Helen. You are to take care of the village together, if not take care of your respective sides." Vanara placed her hands on her hips. "And yet, everything seems to have gone awry, and neither of you are doing anything."

"My dear!" squeaked Lady Margaret. She hoped that the girl hadn't noticed. "It is all very delicate and complicated, these things take time. Besides, my advisors are all ill---"

"Why do you need them? You never listen to them, anyway."

She flushed. "How dare you suggest---"

"I suggest nothing, My Lady, because it's true. Everyone in the village pass through my inn at least once every two days. People talk more freely out and around with their fellows than in your hallowed halls. I know your advisors, however feebly, suggest things to you, and you do as you please anyway."

Lady Margaret rose as quickly as she could manage. The chair fell back in the process, which heightened the effect of the moment in hindsight, but it would have been more useful if Vanara had jumped instead. "What are you doing here, girl?"

Vanara smiled calmly, and dipped her knees in a slight curtsy. "My Lady, I simply wish to know what on earth is truly going on."

Marc said...

Greg - oh yes, that's very definitely the plan. And we've got much worse pictures than that :D

Lethal eye? Pah :P

Hmm, more intriguing developments in our eventful little village. Fascinated by this apparent cooperation between the two ladies...

g2 - Vanara is a fun and interesting character, especially in your hands. I might have to borrow her some time soon though, if things keep going as they have!