It's been an eventful few months. I've spent three wonderful weeks poking around Asia. I had to put down one of the best dogs I've ever owned. One of my old vices, Magic the Gathering (don't laugh and pigeon hole me a nerd) has rekindled my interest to the point of playing competitive events. I got news of a couple acceptances, and a couple rejections. I'm a part of a writer's group now, a great bunch of folks from many different corners of New England are offering me feedback on my drafts, as I am for them. And, I'm revisiting the crime novel, "The Cortez Case" in the midst of it all.
I haven't spent much time at the old Scratchpad lately so I thought I'd provide a short tale.
This was written as an introductory offering to my friends in the writer group. It's more of a character introduction than anything. It's called "Delivery," and I hope you like it.
A satchel bounced against her hip as the woodland path rose into the hills. She travelled light, without steed, squire, or any other liabilities. A coin purse weighted with survival money rested below her left armpit, the strap denied her sleek mane the playful invitation of the breeze. She ventured upwards along the narrow trail until an unkempt man arrived abruptly along the path, heading in the opposite direction.
Mead-fused beard bristles did not waiver as he brushed himself off and spoke. “Good day lass.”
“Hail.” She tilted her head in a sideways bow. Traditional bows inhibited line of sight.
You’re a fetching young thing,” he smiled a toothless grin, spare one discolored protrusion from the lower gum. “What’s a vixen like yerself doing in these parts all by yer lonesome?”
“I’m a courier, on a delivery.”
“And to whom exactly?”
She stared him down before answering. “Who cares to know?”
“My dear lass, where are your manners. I asked you first.”
Her tone seethed of distrust. “Fine. I am en route to Strock Michaud, Duke of Covenham.”
The dirty man cackled. “Well lass you’ve come across a bit of luck. Travel no further, for I am Strock Michaud!”
She folded her arms. “You’re the Duke?”
“In the flesh.”
“What are you doing out here?”
“Out for a jaunt. Heading to village for supplies, naturally.”
“The Duke has squires for such menial tasks.”
He spread his arms, drawing attention to the woodland. “Is it wrong to enjoy the tranquility of a walk through the forest? Clears the head, cleans the lungs. You’re a traveler, don’t you agree?”
“Tell me then, sweet girl. What do you bring me this day besides yer pretty face?”
Dark hair grazed her cheeks while she searched a number of items in her satchel until landing upon a rectangular burlap package bound in a cross of frayed rope. Without breaking eye contact, she passed the package to the Duke. The sound of a twig snap mismatched the timing of her step. She rescinded her boot. No twig lay beneath.
Duke Strock threw the rope and burlap to the ground. In his hand rested a book, blue cover, purple trim. His beard remained still despite the contortion to a frown. He objected, “A book is all?”
She nodded. “Knowledge is power, Duke.”
“Of course,” he scoffed. “Which is why I must share some knowledge with you.”
Two brutes, miners by the sights of their muscle tones and coal-smudged tunics emerged from behind large trees and stood near the Duke. A large forearm reached around her neck. She gasped.
“You see lass, I am not Duke Strock Michaud. And I don’t regard a mere book a fair prize for this little game, so why don’t you give me the rest of your deliveries. I’ll take your coin pouch too.” The man revealed his lone tooth in a threatening sneer.
The steadfast forearm denied her squirming protest. “I… I must also share some knowledge with you,” she squealed.
“Oh yes? What’s that?”
Her voice turned cold, devoid of fear. “I am not a courier.”
Her hands returned from her belt, wielding twin silver daggers. She jabbed the constricting forearm and spun the blades on the encroaching brutes.
Each blade found a jugular at once.
The brutes toppled forward, wheezing and hacking. Blood gushed from piercings on their necks.
She pivoted, dagger first. A rip of cloth and flesh created a diagonal scar across the torso of the flanking miner.
The large man growled and lunged.
She lodged a dagger in his upper leg. Her open palm ascended into nose cartilage.
The large man staggered, dead before his collapse. His limp body slid the decline of the path.
She turned to the faux Duke, equipped with a dagger of his own.
Both stepped to strike.
The knives clanged against the other. She deflected another blow, and elbowed a riposte. His knife dropped to the ground beside the book. She met his awestruck face with her boot, dislodging his sole tooth. Her small fist hit his bloody jaw… once… twice.
The ‘Duke’ fell upon his back.
She reclaimed his dagger, and staked his wrists into the solid ground.
He wailed and writhed, spat a mixture of blood, saliva, and tooth shards before screaming, “No! You can’t leave me here!”
“Fear not,” she said. “Between your fear and blood, the wolves will find you in no time.” She recollected and bound the book, her perfect offering to dissatisfy and provoke a suspected illiterate.
“You filthy wench,” he snapped.
Settling hair behind her ears, she offered a disturbingly tranquil smile. “The name is Meadow. And I’d probably think about being a bit quieter if I were you. Silence will buy you time. Don’t want to alert the wolves after all.”
Meadow ascended the path beyond the failed ambush and whimpering imposter; her unbridled hair accepting the invitation of the mild breeze.