How was your week?
I did a couple of different things....one being a little bit of editing of 'The Bridge of Anskar'. So I'm now up to draft four. I also had this really cool idea that, if it works, will change the story quite a lot. If it works...which it quite possibly won't. But I'm going to try it out anyway.
I also went to a friend's house on Thursday so (oh horror) I had to write the story on Wednesday! So confusing... But it was definitely worth it. We watched about five Doctor Who episodes, swam in the dam, did some archery (my arms are sooo sore today from the maybe-60 pound draw weight) and I got a massive bruise.
If you thought last time's fragment was depressing - just wait. This one (and next week's) gets even worse. Option one won (he he, I like saying that). I may have mentioned that every week I write this paragraph summary of what's going to happen in the Fragment. last week's was a little too long so I had to cut it in half, so I didn't have much trouble this week!
Read on for the next (depressing) Fragment!
A lone set of footsteps entered and all the soldiers went silent. A cold, haughty voice echoed in the suddenly quiet room.
“Light the fire. May as well have lunch, it would be such a pity to waste the chickens.”
Maree leant her head back against the wall. Things were just getting worse and worse. Movement in the room below signalled that someone was obeying the order, and she looked down to see a bunch of sticks being tossed onto the already glowing embers.
There was nothing for it. Either she’d have to jump out now and surrender to the soldiers or climb the chimney. Maree looked up into the dark gloom above her, her mouth dry with fear.
The sticks crackled below her, responding to the urging of the soldier.
Maree reached up, pressing her hands against the wall above. She lifted her feet, moving them higher up the chimney.
Soot fell down into the fireplace, and the sticks caught alight.
Smoke swirled upwards, choking Maree as she climbed higher. She dared not cough lest the men below hear her. Black ash rained down but Maree kept going, struggling to find clear air to breathe.
I ‘ave t’ git back to the young ones, Maree thought to herself, dragging herself higher up the narrowing chimney. The smoke and darkness made it impossible to see as she struggled to continue.
Reaching up again, Maree encountered a rough ledge and she realised she’d reached the top. Her lungs aching for air, she pulled herself up, squeezing out of the last part. Maree collapsed on the roof, gulping for air.
After a few minutes she sat up, steadying herself. Crawling to the edge of the roof, she looked around, thankful that no soldiers had heard her noise, and if they had, none had come to investigate. When they did she would be long gone.
With a deep breath, Maree dropped to the ground, rolling to soften the impact. She stood up, blinking as stars swirled in her vision. A laugh from several meters away made her spin around.
A tall, broad shouldered man tipped his head back and laughed again. “It seems we’ve found a runaway.” Lord Hacaz.
She dashed around the corner of the house, running faster than she ever had before. She had to get to the others.
Soldiers poured out of the farm cottage, some running directly after her but others ran for horses.
Maree fled past the stables, but as she passed the door a figure jumped out at her, tackling her to the ground. She fought back, terror ripping through her. If she was caught there’d be no one to look after the others. She couldn’t let them down, not now that her parents had been murdered.
But Maree was weakened by shock and exertion, and her attacker was not. Maree found herself held down firmly as her hands were bound tightly behind her back.
A hand pulled her to her feet, and Maree looked into the eyes of the man who’d laughed.
“Running will get you nowhere girl,” he said in the same cold voice that had silenced the room of soldiers. “It did no good to your parents.”
Maree pulled against the soldier holding her but to no avail.
“What is your name?” the first question came with a scornful sneer.
Maree clenched her jaw, determined not to answer.
Lord Hacaz drew his broadsword casually, fingering the edge. “My sword does not take kindly to little girls ignoring it,” he said without looking up. “What is your name?”
“Maree,” came the savage answer. “Maree Freespirit.” Maree spat at his feet.
“Where is the rest of your family?” now the lord did look at her, his eyes boring into hers as if to extract the information without her speaking a word.
Maree shook her head. “Not here,” she said.
“I worked that much out,” Hacaz answered. “Where exactly?”
“In this country,” Maree returned.
In a moment the sword tip rested on her throat. “You will tell me where they are.”
“I will not,” she countered.
The lord of Sean Iister sheathed his sword fluidly. He took a step closer to Maree. “Perhaps you do not realise just how much I can do to those children when I find them,” he hissed menacingly. “Even if you do not tell me – and it will be all the worse for them if you don’t – I will find them.” He leaned in close, “And I will save you for last.”
Maree kept her face a mask, hiding the agonising uncertainty within.
Hacaz paused a while longer, looking scornfully at Maree, then he gestured to the soldiers. “Tie her up; we’ll camp here for the night.”
Maree tried to resist but the soldiers dragged her to the pig pen, tying her hands to a post of the fence. The afternoon sun glinted off something in the grass. Maree shifted her foot slightly to conceal it from the soldiers.
When she was alone Maree slowly drew her foot towards her, pulling the object as well. She uncovered it carefully. Her father’s small penknife reflected the sun’s rays. He must have had it when fixing the fence and it had fallen from his pocket. Maree felt the light pierce her heart like a sliver of hope.
After a while of struggling, manoeuvring her legs and body as much as she could, Maree managed to get the knife within reach of her hands. The cold steel felt reassuring in her hand.
Maree waited until the darkest part of the night before cutting herself free.
All the soldiers were camped around in the barn or next to the cottage. Five were posted as look outs. In an hour it would begin to grow lighter but now darkness lay across the land like a blanket.
Half of the soldiers had been sent off by Hacaz earlier but hadn’t returned. Maree hoped that they wouldn’t think to search Ma Greey’s farm before she could warn them.
Maree worked at the ropes with the knife, wincing as it cut into her wrist more than once in the process.
The last fibres snapped easily and she dropped the penknife into her pocket, flexing her fingers to get back circulation.
Lowering herself flat on her stomach, Maree squirmed forward, crawling towards freedom. The guards paid no attention to the dark shadow that slid past.
Her heart in her mouth, Maree continued, inching her way along the ground, ignoring the sharp sticks and rocks and scratched her arms. She’d done this many times before, but always it had been playing Soldiers and Runaways with her siblings.
This was real life Soldiers and Runaways.
Seconds dragged out, but still no one noticed. Maree pressed on, heading for a small grove of trees behind which she would have shelter.
She reached the trees and picked herself up slowly. Looking back over her shoulder Maree bade a whispered fare well to her parents. Then, squaring her shoulders, she looked ahead.
The others would be waiting.
Maree’s swift footsteps sounded evenly on the hard ground. The brown grass parted for her and a crushed track spread out behind her for a moment before the grass sprung back into its usual position.
The first predawn light grew faintly in the sky and Maree pressed herself harder. The darkness had made it hard to navigate and she couldn’t travel as fast as she liked.
The Greey homestead appeared out of the gloom and Maree, her speed reduced to a exhausted stagger, headed for it.
The small light of a candle flickered through the window and Maree felt a reassurance at once. Surely Ma Greey wouldn’t do that if soldiers had come.
She stumbled to the door, pounding on it heavily. It opened almost instantly and Ma Greey appeared. Even in the dim light of dawn Maree could tell that something was terribly wrong.
Tear streaked down her face, leaving shimmering trails in their wake.
“Ma Greey?” Maree asked hesitantly.
“I’m so—so sorry,” Ma Greey sobbed, burying her face in her hands.
1. Arms grabbed Maree from behind, dragging her backwards off balance.
2. Ma Greey was pushed forward and a soldier filled the doorway. “What are you doing here? You’re meant to be at the camp.”
3. Maree stepped forward, grabbing the woman’s shoulders. “Why? Why are ye sorry?” she demanded, her eyes wild.
I honestly am sorry about all the thing I'm doing to poor Maree (Just picture me in the place of Ma Greey and you've got it). I really do like her, but suffering makes for a stronger character. Using their pain to make power, it's quite a common tactic with writers. Don't forget to comment and vote for your favourite option.