Thursday September 5th, 2013

The exercise:

Today, without any warning whatsoever, we return to Mejaran.

Sorry about that. Hadn't realized until this evening that my next opportunity to write something of this length would be Monday and that just seemed too far away.

Managed to get some potatoes and onions harvested for the market today in order to lessen the load tomorrow. And also because they're calling for thundershowers for most of the day.

Picking in the rain is not very much fun.

Thankfully market day is, at this point at least, looking a little nicer.


"What is Azmar up to?"

The question was not directed at anyone in particular but each person in the dimly lit room felt an uncomfortable pressure to answer it. Not least because each of them, in their own way and for their own reasons, feared the woman who had voiced it.

"He appears to be playing the Principals of Mejaran against each other," Liefert said, speaking softly but with authority. "And possibly the Ladies as well."

"If so then he is playing a very dangerous game," Orsana observed, shifting on her undersized chair. She glanced down at it once more, wondering how much longer she had before it shattered under her weight.

"And to what end?" Yarel asked. Exhaustion coated his words but he held little hope of sleep. Not with the mood his mother was in. "He was out playing hero at the bridge today, for everyone to see."

"Which brought his loyal little army to his side as well." Jocelle's eyes first bored through her son's skull before she turned her glare on Liefert. Her kitchen did not seem large enough to host the four of them and her expanding temper at the same time. "For all the village to see."

"So he seeds chaos and then steps forward to be hailed as our savior?" Orsana shook her head. "Then why endear himself to two, and possibly all, of our current leaders first?"

"So that they don't see the coup coming until it's too late to stop it." Yarel said before glancing around, the look on his face suggesting his theory had surprised himself as much as the others. "Each Principal and probably Lady th-"

"I think it's safe to assume all four have been duped at this point," Liefert said.

"Okay, so each Principal and Lady thinks that Azmar is under their control, on their side." Yarel paused to rub his eyes, the movement causing him to wince. Jocelle frowned but said nothing. "Each convinced that the end result of all this collusion will be in their own best interest. Whatever that may be."

"That's not too hard to figure out - for any of them." Orsana looked as though she was about to spit but rethought her actions after a wary glance at Jocelle. "Self-involved, self-important pieces of -"

"That is enough, Orsana." Jocelle sighed into the silence that followed, then tilted her head back and considered the barely visible ceiling. "The question we face now, it would seem, is what to do with this knowledge?"


Anonymous said...

Heh, you assume we weren't all expecting you to return us to Mejaran this week! It's a nice surprise (as was the updates to the comments!), and was hopefully more fun for you that the wet harvest will be tomorrow :)
Hmm, so our chiefest protagonists (we seem to have a fair few, don't we!) are gathered to discuss what's going on with Mejaran and how they can save their little town and way of life? I love how you get them all talking in such a natural way, and the women all seem to be stronger characters than the men in this. It's easy to feel like I'm in the room with them, not allowed to talk....
Well, we can't have things being too easy, can we? :-}

The first person to find the body didn't scream, or shout, or even look around and wonder what to do next. Instead Maximum quietly observed that he was the doctor here, and that this body was undoubtedly his responsibility, at least for the moment. He set his bag down on the steps of the small monument and bent over the body.
"Oh Lord and Ladies," said a voice a minute later. "Who is that?"
"It was Shotek," said Maximus, his deep voice perfectly suited to delivering bad news. "It looks like he was very badly treated. For some time, at least."
"How did he get here?"
"That is a question medical science cannot answer," said Maximus, and there might have been just a hint of regret in his voice. "But here he is, and dead as any corpse I've interviewed recently."

Word spread quickly that Shotek had been returned, and it took less than twenty minutes before four guards turned up, three from Lady Helen and one from Lady Margaret. While they were arguing amongst themselves who should take possession of the body, Varana slipped past them and knelt next to the doctor.
"What of...?" she asked, and Maximus shrugged.
"There is a lot of blood," he said. "Not all of it can have come from one man. She may be dead as well, but then I would have expected her body to be here with his."
"Who has done this?"
"Before you go leaping to conclusions, this body has been dead for a couple of days. Unless you are certain a man can fly, I wouldn't accuse anyone who's been visibly here since the Battle of the Bridge."
"...could you be wrong? Could be someone other than Shotek?" There was a desperate hope in her voice now.
"No." Maximus's tone was as firm as his gaze.

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Geez, you people don't make this easy, do you?

The way I have it in my head, Shotek's fate is basically the same, but about five or seven years off and by another entity not worth introducing at this late stage. But I think I've hit upon something...
- - - - - - - - - -
Possessed by something she could not explain, Vanara did a quick search of Shotek's pocket, and slipped his deck of cards into her apron pocket before anyone noticed her. She felt a numbing cold creep into her chest, and she excused herself from the scene before it ventured to her face. She had only had this feeling once, in two waves, and still utterly hated it.

She wasn't sure how she got back to the inn, or how long it took to close up the lower floor, it all took no time at all. The cold ball in her chest now writhed up to her throat. She threw open one of the cupboards, and with all the force she could muster she began smashing dishes. Plates, a few cups, and a handful of bowls all flew one after the other onto the stone floor and flew apart in a hailstorm of pottery.

It felt like she had smashed an entire set over the course of an afternoon, though she had only spent a few minutes on no more than fifteen pieces. Vanara plopped onto the floor, knees drawn to her chest, and rubbed her palms up her face and her fingers into her hair, feeling smaller than she had in years. She surveyed the sea of shards now covering her kitchen floor, and began to shake her head.

"There's no way," she said, "there's no way. Who would want Shotek dead?"

Her arms relaxed to her knees, and a touch of the cold lessened. Who, indeed?, she wondered. Either Principal Ikava or Lady Helen; it seemed rather dramatic, even for Ikava, but it was not entirely ridiculous. And if accused, neither answer would be satisfactory to anyone.

And his death would explain who the strangers on the bridge were; perhaps they were members of Shotek's clan come to avenge him.

But something still seemed off, she thought. What were his remains doing here, and why had they showed up now? He and Divana had flown almost a week earlier. Maximus had said he'd been dead for a few days, but they would have been far north by that time, right?

Vanara's hand jumped to her apron pocket, and she pulled out the deck. The box was heavily stained, over-saturated in some places so that it blotted her hand and apron. Carefully she opened the box and pulled out the cards. Almost immediately her mouth went dry, and she could only swallow with increasing difficulty as she fanned the cards and inspected them.

These were not Shotek's cards.

She rose, still transfixed on the cards. If these weren't his, what were they doing there? Whom had she really seen on the stairs?

And why was that poor soul supposed to be Shotek?

In a flurry she packed the cards back in their box and slipped it back into her pocket. Grabbing a broom she cleared herself enough of a path so as not to cut her feet, and made haste for the river, just barely keeping her thoughts in line.

These cards weren't Shotek's, so that body wasn't Shotek. But it must have been put there to continue the uproar. That only puts the village in more chaos. And, as she crossed the bridge and made for the cottage on the knoll, she could only think of one person who had had the sorts of dealings befitting of organizing chaos: that person knew the village and its seams well, had a strange contact who always stayed at the inn for regular intervals, and had already taken steps to create something of his own force. They came from both sides of the bridge, suggesting a sort of unity not found elsewhere in the village.

She knocked as gently as her excitement would allow. Jocelle, as she would, opened the door just enough for one eye to peer out.

"I need your help to think," she said hurriedly. "I think I know what Azmar's trying to do."

Marc said...

Greg - goodness me, you've gone and killed Shotek!

g2 - ... or has he?

Hah. We shall see, we shall see... next month :D