Friday, 27 May 2016

Swords, Sails + Scoundrels: Brains are Better

This week, I think I have received/sent more emails than ever before in my whole entire life. Impressive right? My cousin Jessica and I had...a rather long conversation about no particular set thing and it got highly amusing. Particularly my attempts at solving her technical difficulties. We're crazy. Very.

Option two got the most votes last week. Astounding! And I had no problems naming today's episode. Brains are definitely better.

Thanks you everyone for reading my stories, you honestly don't know how much it means to me to get all your comments. (If I ever publish a book, I'll mention all my wonderful blog readers in the acknowledgements or something.)



I suddenly remembered my nightmare. It couldn’t have come true. Dreams are just dreams. A cold feeling crept through me, starting in my hands and slowly reaching up my arms.

It couldn’t be true.

The man’s broken voice pushed through the growing fog of dread. “Your lordship, she was my daughter. So young, so sweet.” A sob tore from his throat, “You must do something.”

“She was betrothed to a merchant,” I whispered under my breath, staring in horror at the distraught man.

Eumin stood, stepping to the man’s side. “Sit down, good man,” he said. “Bring him a drink,” he added to the servant. “Make it something strong.”

The man collapsed on a reclining chair, keening softly.

“My liege,” Eumin began as the servant rushed from the room. “If you don’t mind?”

The king gestured for Eumin to go ahead.

Eumin turned back to the man, speaking slowly and gently, but quiet enough that we could only hear the murmur of his voice. Gradually the man relaxed, his frightened shivers disappearing.

The servant hurried back in, passing a full tankard of swirling dark liquid.

I gripped the edge of my chair, eyes fixed on the bearer of news, waiting for him to continue. Finally he revived sufficiently to sit up and look around the room with wide eyes.

“Tell us from the beginning,” Eumin prompted.

“She was…only young,” he began, slurping down another mouthful from the tankard. “Betrothed to a merchant. But last night…” he paused, downing another swallow. “He came. I was asleepin’ in my bed an’…an’ then there was a terrible scream.” His hand shook as he raised the tankard again. “I jumped up, my very blood was chilled by the sound, and rushed to her room.” His voice began to raise in pitch, becoming more like a squeak of terror, “And there he was, standin’ over her with a knife of bloody.” The man hunched over, breaking into the same low moaning sound again.

Eumin rested a hand on his shoulder. “Then what,” he asked softly.

The man looked up, quivering all over. “Then he swirled his cloak an’ was gone.” He gulped more of the dark liquid. “I rode all night to get here just now.” Another swallow. “And I saw its eyes,” he wailed.

He looked toward me.

Our eyes met across the room, and silence rang for a long moment.

Then he leapt from his seat with a high screech, launching himself across the room at me. I hand no time to react before his clawing hands met my face, nails scraping along my cheek. A scream broke from my throat and I rolled to the side, crashing to the floor, trying to get away from the mad attack.

The man shrieked again as Eumin and the king dragged him backwards off me. “The eyes,” he wailed. “The eyes.”

Leonora dropped down beside me, helping me to my feet with an arm under mine. I was shaking uncontrollably, stunned by what had just happened. Something wet trickled down my neck.

I put my hand up to my face and stared at the red on my fingertips.

Leonora grabbed a decorative white cloth off the small table, passing it quickly. “Use that to stop it bleeding.”

I pressed the rich fabric against the long gashes in my cheek, staring at the howling man as he was escorted away by two startled looking servants.

The king shut the door firmly behind him, turning back to the room. “I am terribly sorry, Lady Louise, I didn’t see that coming. Are you alright?”

I swallowed, my throat dry. “I…I’m fine,” I managed. My cheek stung with the movement.

“This is getting serious,” Eumin frowned, beginning to pace across the room. “From now on, Louise, you’re going to have to steer clear of anyone who has actually seen our assassin. If your eyes are so recognisably alike there must be more similarities too.”

“This newest assassination appears very strange,” Lord Ganstro mused. “A young woman, with no apparent connections to anything. Very unexpected and unpredictable.”

“I knew,” I whispered.

Eumin paused. “What was that?” he asked.

“I…I knew,” I said louder.

“You knew what?” Leonora leaned forward, her thin eyebrows drawing together.

“I had a dream last night. It was exactly the same as what he was saying happened in…wherever that place was.”

“Sáliner,” the king supplied. He rubbed his face with his hands, “This whole thing doesn’t feel right.”

“How long have you been having these…dreams?” Lord Ganstro asked.

“They started on the ship,” I murmured.

He nodded silently, deep in thought.

“There’s no possible way to guess the assassin’s next move,” the king raised his eyes. “He’s never done killings in the same town twice in a row before.”

“It’s a trap,” Leonora said.

Everyone turned to her.

“Clearly he knows we’ve returned and he wants to get us to him as fast as possible,” Leonora waved a hand in the air, slumping backwards in her chair.

“How could he find out so fast?” Lord Ganstro asked.

“Was it made any secret among you that we were coming back this week?” Eumin pointed out. “Besides, a watcher could have seen the ship approaching on the horizon and immediately set off to tell the assassin.”

“In that case you must stay here,” the king said.

Eumin dropped down in a chair. “But we can’t, that’s the problem.”

“Why can’t you?”

“Now that we’re back, there’s no stopping the rumours that we’ve got someone with us who can stop the killings, and we can’t just hide out in the castle waiting for more people to die. My liege, you know what would happen,” Eumin shook his head.

“But you can’t just walk right into the trap,” the king exclaimed in frustration.

“On the contrary,” Leonora replied seriously. “We want to walk into the trap. How is Louise supposed to snap this guy out of it without being in close quarters with him?”

“But that’s insane!”

“Your majesty, we know it would be dangerous, as does Louise, but risks need to be taken. It can make us win or lose, depending on whether we take the right ones. It’s a chance I’m willing to take,” Leonora’s earnest tone cut through the silence.

“I guess you’ll want to leave directly then,” the king sighed.

Leonora nodded. “As soon as possible.”

“I shall see to the preparations,” Lord Ganstro stood, moving to the door. “My liege,” he bowed slightly to the king and exited.

“Would the palace healers be able to have a quick look at Louise?” Eumin suggested.

The king nodded, glancing toward me. “Most definitely, sorry, my lady, that I left it so long.”

A servant entered the room and the king quickly instructed him to take me to one of the healers and then escort me to the courtyards afterwards. He bowed low and led me from the room.

I followed him through a myriad of corridors and stairs until he stopped before a door. He paused and knocked softly before opening it.

“I shall wait outside,” he said, standing back for me to enter.

“Thanks,” I murmured.

The room was very clean and ordered, not a speck of dust out of place. A tall, brown skinned woman approached me. “The king sent you, yes?” she asked, her accent different again from the rest of the Eireran people.

I nodded. “Yes, he…ah, said…” but the woman waved it away.

“Sit here,” she led me to a chair. Squatting down before me she gently took my hand away from my face, studying the long red scratches.

“You have been in a battle, no?” she suggested, setting the bloodstained cloth on a bench and fetching a damp cloth with which she proceed to wash my cheek.

“Not exactly,” I replied with a faint smile.

She looked at me seriously. “We all have different kind of battles. Not always with sword and horse. Some here,” she tapped her forehead, “Those ones are much harder.”

I watched silently as she picked up a bottle of salve from a shelf on the wall. “How are they harder?” I asked eventually.

The healer shrugged. “Plenty people can fight good,” she said. “Not many have this,” she tapped her head again, “Brains.”

“But sword fighting is more useful than having a brain,” I said.

The dark eyes met mine. “Swords good for protecting body, no good for protecting mind, thoughts.”

I thought about her words, realising the truth in them.

A smiled broke out across the dark face, her teeth almost blindingly white against her skin. “Some sword fighters no have brain, some brain fighters no have sword. If they fight, sword will win. Brain has to think and not fight. Otherwise brain die, then brain is no good.”

Her smile was contagious and I found one on my own lips. “Thank you,” I said as she straightened, replacing the lid on the jar of ointment.

“No you go,” she said, opening the door for me.

I stepped out, seeing that the servant had waited true to his word. He beckoned and started off down the hall.

“Do not forget! Brain better than sword, brain protect mind!” the healer called after me.

I turned back and nodded. I wouldn’t forget.

Out in the courtyard three horses were ready to go, the king, Lord Ganstro and several other castle folk were present to see us off. Leonora smiled at me as I approached.

“Feeling better?”

“Mmm,” I murmured agreement.

“The armorer wanted to give me half a dozen extra swords, but I told him I didn’t need any more. Unless you wanted one?” she raised her eyebrows in question.

“Nah,” I shook my head. “I’ve got no clue how to use one, and besides, brains are better.”

“Brains are better?” Leonora repeated. “Ouch, are you suggesting I haven’t got one?”

“Only sometimes,” I grinned, the gesture turning into a wince as the scratches on my cheek protested.

“Come on you two,” Eumin said, tossing Leonora the reins of a prancing young horse.

She caught them easily, checking the saddlebags and her sword were well secured before swinging nimbly into the saddle.

I took the reins of the quiet brown from Eumin, setting my foot in the stirrup and mounting. Leonora had warned me to wear something I could ride in, and I was glad I had. A dress would’ve made things unendingly complicated.

“No we do not need half your army,” Leonora was saying to the king. “The best way to fight sneaky people is by being sneaky ourselves.”

“And half an army is not sneaky,” the king shrugged wryly. “Ride well, all of you.”

Eumin led the way out the gates, his big grey trotting smoothly under the massive portcullis and out across the bridge.

“Brains are better,” I murmured to myself, as the horses took us out of the castle and on our way. Toward Sáliner. Toward my brother.

Or the man who once was my brother.

I wasn’t sure which anymore.

“Hey Eumin, take a look at that,” Leonora said, a strange tone in her voice.



҉

1. The Rift was sailing along the horizon, sails catching a brisk wind, heading along the coast northwards.

2. I froze at the sight of the ragged man who had brought the news of the assassination talking rapidly to a vaguely familiar man.

3. A solitary rider was silhouetted against the bright morning sky, horse and rider standing like watchmen over the town and castle. As I looked, the horse turned and they disappeared.

҉

So, I must say, that first six hundred words took an interesting turn. The problem with this week's option was that it was more a statement of fact, so it didn't lead on to anything really. But I managed to blunder my way through it, though the ending was rather stubborn and didn't want to come for half an hour or so. Hope you enjoyed my blunderings.

I feel like the voting will be a little diverse this week. But maybe that's just my weird feeling. I'll have to wait and see. Just comment the option that most takes your fancy and if you can't decide between them, you can comment and tell me. :)

Fair Winds!


20 comments:

  1. Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE this story? Ooo, I SO need more! *wishes next week was sooner*
    And I can't decide whether to vote for number 1 or 3 :).

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    1. Thanks! If I was really brave, I'd try doing two episodes a week but...I don't think I could do that at this stage. :)

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    2. Two episodes a week would definitely be really hard! I'm thinking of trying to do something like your 'choose what happens next' serial story on my blog ... it seems like it would be a lot of fun!

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    3. Aw really? That would be so cool! I didn't actually know you had a blog! I would totally read the story if you did start one. :D

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    4. Well, my blog is private so the only people who really know about it are the people I've invited to it :D. I can invite you if you like (you'd just have to email my mom (theperrans AT cox DOT net)!

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    5. That's so cool! I'll send her an email! :D

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    6. Alrighty, you've been invited!

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    7. Thanks so much Savannah!

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  2. Replies
    1. *Gasps* A vote for option two again? Wow. :D

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  3. I'll vote for Option Three and yes, I agree that the conversation they had this shard will have to come to something.

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    1. Yeah, I'll have to think of something that might happen in the future with brains being better and everything. At the moment, I have NO CLUE. :)

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  4. I'll vote for option one!

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    Replies
    1. Cool! It's looking like either I was right about the diverse voting or you're all working out a conspiracy so it looks like I'm right. :D

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  5. Hard choices Jane! All of the options look mysterious. I'll go for #1 this time. :)

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    1. Thanks Lydia! I do my best. ;P

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  6. The story is keeping me on edge I want to read more. I think it might have been a bit less G rated today.

    Samuel and Joshua vote for 1. I like them all, but will vote for 3.

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    1. Yeah, I'm trying my hardest to keep it not too scary/dark but it just...is that kind of story. SS+S is going to be more like that overall.
      Egh, I'm trying.

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  7. Replies
    1. So great to have you join us, Sky! :) Thanks for commenting!

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