Characters, Unlikely

… she wrote a mirror and stared at her reflection.

Whew! February is over. Now things have slowed down and … goodness gracious! Is it Chatterbox again?

Yes … yes it is. The subject this month is Mirrors. This time, instead of Robert, I’ve written of Peronell Malkyn of Unlikely.

I rather enjoyed writing this, and will not apologise for its length.

A mirror. Just because.

– – – –

The library was empty – Scribe Destrian and his assistants had long since retired for the night. The sole light was a candle, standing on a little desk and casting out its weak beams to the room around, touching with a feeble flicker the high bookshelves which towered forever upwards, the ends of their height hidden in a blanket of darkness; like mountain peaks obscured by cloud.

The only noise was the scratch of a quill upon parchment and the soft breathing of a figure hunched over the writing desk.

Her brow was furrowed and her nose was scrunched as she attempted to write.

It’s all very busy here, one could read (if one was in the line of deciphering scrawled and blotched writing) though I’m like a ghost. Walking the halls with soundless footsteps.

I don’t miss you – the line was written with brutal honesty – as you only ever teased me. But as your younger sister it is my duty to wonder how you fare, I’m trying to do my duty you see, even though our sister has firmly taken most opportunities out of my hands. I can’t say that I resent her, for surely I made a mess of giving the farewell cup at your parting.

She frowned – why give an opening for teasing? A line was drawn through the offending words.

The King is in good health, she wrote helpfully, and so is our brother, the Crown Prince. These too were crossed out with a thick black line (and a droplet of ink which escaped the writer’s best efforts). Of course Linus would know if the Royal Family were suffering any harmful malady; it was foolish to write the obvious.

Sometimes, she wrote with the air of one giving a precious confidence, I think that the Creator made a dreadful mistake – here she bit her lip; did one spell mistake with a ‘c’? The word’s last two letters were given a small inkblot so the meaning was clear but the spelling was not – and should have given the King and our late Mother another prince. A prince who could ride into battle and bravely uphold the honour of our country with the sword.

As it is, she wrote with lips set in a firm line, I am entirely useless. A frown creased her brow; it was not pleasant to describe oneself with such a morbid word.

I am entirely unable – was written instead – to do such a thing. Nor am I suited to be the Mistress of the Palace; a station which our sister so admirably fills.

My Lord Tomas has suggested that reading does not benefit anyone except myself – reading a tale of heroic deeds is not the same as going – here, ‘going’ was heavily underlined – and doing the heroic deeds oneself. Though how a maiden with no knowledge of swordplay can defeat (with a sword) a fearsome foe is yet to be seen.

I don’t know what to do – save be a ghost, of course. I’ve perfected that. You, my dear brother, can do heroic things. Our brother will one day be a king and our sister will always be the shining, gentle Beauty of our country.

The Creator knows what He wants me to be. I hope, truly I do, that it isn’t to be a ghost. I wish He would show me … but until then – would you mind awfully slaying an evil enemy in my name?

I remain your devoted sister.

But her hand hesitated in signing her name. Carefully she reread what she had written and began to cross out words. Lines. Sentences.

It seemed too close – a reflection of herself written in black ink upon a cream page. Too real, too raw.

The silence weighed heavily.

She sat there – in that large room with its multitude of books, tales, stories – utterly alone.

The letter was heavily lined now – everything save the opening greeting was crossed through and she felt almost breathless. She would not send it to Linus, for she knew that if he peeked between the lines and lifting them, looked underneath – he would see her.

Like a mirror that had its image frozen.

She didn’t like mirrors.

Characters, On Writing, The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

Memories in a Cloudless Night

It’s Chatterbox again, but this time the topic is ‘Criticism’. Once again I really enjoyed this exercise and present, without further adieu … Robert, of The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

—-

He lay on his back, wrapped up in his thin cloak.

The sound of the waves, the scent of the sea, and the sight of the stars filled his senses, and yet instead of bathing in the wonder of a still and cloudless night, his mind pressed in upon him.

Phantom shouts and shadowed sights filled his ears and eyes.

He heard the overseer once more: “Move faster!”

He saw the mocking look. “Good enough” – a heartbeat of hope, crushed with the next words – “for a cripple.”

Memories – how they surged.

A log fell in the fire. Sparks flew high in the air.

Leon snored and Garth mumbled in his sleep.

Memories – how they drew him back to years long past.

“We are weak.” It was George this time, appearing in front of him in the mist of time; that mouth curled in its ever scornful way. “No – it is not we … it is you.”

He remembered the twinge of pain those words had given him. Remembered the calm reply he had forced out of lips which longed to snarl – to bite back that it was the right way – the only way, you fool!

“Knave!” ‘twas Master Hughes, regarding him – his tardy apprentice – with narrowed eyes. “I looked for you this morn. Where have you been – loitering? Lazy cur.”

I was saving a child; giving a widow the life of her son, he ached to explain. But the words were never spoken – secrecy was more important than speech.

And then he remembered his youth; the farm, the dawn which came without fail and the brother who had long since past.

He remembered the quick look at the field – ploughed underneath a hot sun with little water to quench his thirst – “‘Bit wonky, Bert.”

A sharp breath and he was back; feeling the dampness of the sand beneath his cloak, hearing the crackle of the fire and the roll of the wave.

And then another memory rose into his mind – the crinkle of a page as he turned it, the old ink forming letters which meant so much: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

He rested in the words – floated in their peace; slept in their calm. The memories dispelled as if they were a suffocating mist and the words a burning sun.

In the morning – when Garth greeted him with a grunt and Leon asked how he slept, he would reply simply:

“Well.”

Characters, On Writing, The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

“It has taste.”

Over at Rachel Heffington’s blog there is a monthly Chatterbox event. Basically you take a subject (this month’s is Food) and write a dialogue with your characters – it’s a fun exercise which I very much enjoyed. I present you with three characters from The Many Trials of a Blacksmith and a bowl of … food?

– – – –

“Is it … ?”

“It can’t be.”

“I think,” said Timothy with dawning horror, “that it is.”

They both peered at the bowl’s contents. Custer poked a suspicious floating morsel with his spoon, “This can’t be food.”

“Must have mixed up the cattle feed with yours.”

Custer took a small sniff and clamped a hand to his nose. “Scratch that, they mixed the manure up with mine.”

“It can’t be that bad,” Timothy decided. But then he took a sniff and realized that aye, it was that bad. “It smells worse than a tanner’s.”

“Can I … ?”

Timothy shared an understanding look with Custer. “We could …”

The slam of the door announced the arrival of their hostess. Mistress Rowedge looked down upon them from her lofty height. “Have you finished?”

Timothy slid the bowl over to Custer. “Nay, he hasn’t. Not yet.”

“Eat up then lad – that’s good food. New herb. Recently imported. Cost a pretty penny.”

Both Timothy and Custer doubted the sanity of paying any coin for such a herb.

“Eat.” The voice was firm. No one argued with Mistress Rowedge.

Custer hastily took a mouthful.

“What does it taste like?” Mistress Rowedge inquired.

There was a silence. Custer nodded his head.

“What does that mean?” she asked suspiciously.

“It means that he thinks that it has-“ Timothy searched for an appropriate word “-taste.”

There was a vigorous nodding from Custer.

“Plenty of taste,” elaborated Timothy, warming to his subject. “Buckets of taste.”

Custer’s head was now nodding at an alarming rate.

Mistress Rowedge looked pleased. “Here, let me taste some then – I haven’t tasted it …” she took a spoonful, choked and finished her sentence with a croak, “yet.”

There was an awful silence.

“It has taste.” Mistress Rowedge agreed.