For me to write a piece of fiction which is continuously serious is impossible. Sit me in a chair and force me to contend with one of the great tragic or dramatic works of literature or drama and the fifteen year old in me will rise to the surface to do re-writes. Hamlet will stab Polonius in the backside; The Brothers Karamazov will develop strong rural accents and argue of the merits of a desert known as Gooseberry Gurgles; Greek Tragedies will abound with examples of British Smut (The Carry On Films); numerous Shakespearean characters will develop pirate voices (except for Hamlet, being Danish he gets a quite inappropriate Muppets Swedish Chef accent- I tell ya it’s a winner with The Soliloquy To Be Or Not To Be ), and as for Marlowe’s Edward II…. no it’s not something I should repeat.
The following extract, which is the final part of Chapter One was thus something of a capering after the strain of sticking to the start of the plot , I tried to keep some sort of narrative relative to the main story line…but gee….my characters will have their say…
The translator pastoral recognised concern as opposed to the usual custodianal displeasure. Firstly, on returning the custodian had merely dismissed the three translators with a curt statement that they had work to do amongst their communities, so they were obliged to leave the light supper and scuttle out into the night. Secondly, he had been quite willing for Widow Darroe to see the girl into the kitchen and had not even bothered to ask ClnMyla if the arrangement between Widow Darroe and Servant Harrdel was a ‘correct one’. Instead he had ushered the translator pastoral into his own reading room, where he at least allowed ClnMyla to sit down before he started.
“Let us ignore your previous mistakes in this matter,” Meradat did not wait for any agreement “And look at the issues to hand. We have a man who in his vanity has peered into places far beyond his capacity to handle, thus panicked and fled. Then in response to his incautious and irresponsible ways, appears a strange young woman with an ability to trace such practices. This in itself raises issues which will need to addressed as will her apparent propensity to burn places at her whim,” at this juncture he stopped appearing to have argued himself into a corner; thus he paced, hands firmly clasped behind his back. Not being one to dwell too long on a problem the custodian stopped at the window and starred out into the damp and dirty night.
“Although the risks are great and the weaponry to be handled very carefully there is no doubt that The Lord God has delivered unto me the means to do battle,”
Problems and issues assailed ClnMyla. Still out of breath he only half-rose
“Now Meradat my long-time associate in perils! You’ll not be thinking of taking that possibly unhinged young girl on one of your steely and messy jaunts? Sweet Mercy of God! For all we know she might be a little runaway dreamer who latches onto any event and claims it for her own doings. I’ll wager she believes she can hold conversations with flowers and the more pleasant of insects,” ClnMyla felt inclined to add a warning to the next part “And how can you be certain she’s not been sent to discredit you? You’re not the most popular of fellows amongst your ranks, upsetting your superiors and equals with your assertions of corruption, nepotism and laziness. You’ve seen off five assassination attempts to my knowledge. So they try discrediting. What could be worse than a middle-aged experienced custodian being made a fool of by a waif of a girl. It’s happened before, mind you from what I heard those were for natural reasons,”
The face drew taught and flint sharp, winter grey eyes became hooded.
“Do you think I wouldn’t know such a trick?”
And ClnMyla knew that as far as Meradat was concerned was the end of the argument. ClnMyla had to admit the man had been walking very strange paths for many years, he was party to the most peculiar of information and experiences.
“Whatever that fool saw and whatever ability this girl could offer a path to those who would destroy this world and replace it will a Hell. Even if this is the only army I will have I will make it so. I must speak with her now. You may rest,”
Oh upon my faith he’s in one of his fanatical stages. What in the Name of Sweet Mercy has he been brooding on now? For once maybe he is the one with the best answer? Oh I don’t know though. But I’ll have enough to do with the authorities and gangs being a nervy as frogs about a fire; and neither being responsible, while suspecting each other. I think this role is getting to be more than one man’s work; pastoral indeed! Mine you he has a point; it will do no harm to be resting my eyes for just a fifty or so…..
Karlyn was perched upon a kitchen stool working her way through a meal of stew and extra portions of vegetables. Widow Darroe managed to feat of wrinkling her nose at Meradat in a respectful fashion.
“The young woman should have the comfort of a bath and bed too Your Honour,”
“Sadly, good woman, there is little time. The services of the Lord God are pressing. Now then, Maid Karlyn,”
“Very well. Eat, but with all dignity. Now listen well, and bear in mind I will expect an answer,”
He drew from his large and pocket rich coat a slender black leather book; the custodial axe inscribed in gilded lettering. Sitting opposite her, he skimmed it across the table to her.
“Pick that up,”
The need to shovel another spoonful of stew took precedence, but following she picked up the volume, sniffed at it and having looked admiringly at the cover put down her spoon. While she chewed in a very demonstrative manner, Karlyn thumbed through the pages, ending her survey with a very obvious swallow.
“Hey! I like these prayers about burning wicked folk!!”
“Good. Truly evil folk cannot bear to open the pages. These sacred texts have been woven with purity of purpose,”
Widow Darroe passed a comment which she kept wisely inaudible and excused herself. These being that The Official Custodianal idea of purity could be mistaken by ordinary folk as the determination to wreak havoc and terror
“Recite unto me a maiden’s prayer,”
Karlyn pulled a long face, the stew was beckoning.
“Dunno much. Where I lived they never encouraged ‘em,”
Meradat glowered, not so much at her, but many leagues distant and many years passed.
And returned to the stew.
“You made that one up did you not?”
“Yer. Told you where I lived we weren’t encouraged,”
“It was sincere enough,” he had had enough experience of the panic and haste of the other sort “So are you ready to work for The Lord God?”
“Yumph,” stew again.
That was quite emphatic; just the sort you’d expect from an irreverent yet honest sort. He continued, while observing, carefully.
“How long have you had this gift to scent out evil?”
“’Bout three years. Just came to me, it did. My family started to pong very bad, an’ not just because they didn’t wash. Then the whole neighbourhood did,” she pulled another face “Not that you needed a gift of smell to know things were crocked there,”
“We have little time. If this man has fled in terror, who knows what pursues him and where he has gone,”
She looked up, wrinkled her nose, tugged at her shirt.
“He’s gone west, he has. Maybe a hundred miles,”
Meradat stared at her for a long time, she did not flinch, she just stared back out of curiosity, and of course alternating with considerations of the stew. Most irregular; but the unblinking look in her, the absence of any furtive twitches, along with the steadiness of breathing. This suggested to him a purpose which was not malign.He’d had his suspicions about the central west coast and its penchant to trade in anything.
She might well do.
The Translator Pastoral was woken from an untidy, uncomfortable and inadvertent doze in his chair, by a great deal of hustling and bustling primarily a duet, one deep and sonorous counterpointed by a high, rapid and possibly incomprehensible one. After a few moments he concluded Meradat and the girl were about some business of their own, after another few moments he judged it would seem they were getting ready to go on a journey. He wished he’d stayed awake and heard what had passed between them. At least he might be able to have an influence on their manner of departure. So with the years of practice of being a translator at the beck and call of his congregation he unfolded out of his chair.
And became aware of the waves of mumblings and occasional shouts of opinions, from outside, and in consequence winced.
Of course as was common with custodians, they were inclined to make their rank known upon arriving anywhere. This had one of two effects; in the more sedate or humble communities everyone would take fright and guilt and stay indoors as much as possible, praying, literally, the said official would not choose to speak with them. In more unruly places it would not take long for a crowd to find the collective courage to find out just what was what.
Firstly in came his servant who announced that he probably knew but there was a crowd outside, then appeared Meradat and the girl, he as usual was thunderous while she was narrow eyed and thin lipped; both obviously dissatisfied. ClnMyla was at once for hands raised and a warning.
“Now before you pair start on your own interpretations of the Slaughter of Lowden Moor; let’s try and find a way out of this which makes sense to those poor noodles out there,”
“A custodian does not need to explain himself!” Meradat boomed.
“That is a charming trait you all share but I do not have the luxury of being able to or an inclination to distribute terror and I’ll not be the one having to clear up a mess of injuries and taller tales. Amongst other things this town trades in information in all directions, so nor do I want an already unhealthy place attracting even shadier folk. Meradat,” he fixed the fellow with a most pained expression. “Do you really think my three poor translators are up to that sort of challenge?”
In ClnMyla’s experience that response was a start, he pressed home his advantage.
“Look! Could we not have that young girl there disguised as a heretic and you’ll be taking her, looking as a Him for interrogation,”
Karlyn much refreshed by food clapped her hands and did a little jig.
“Oooh playtime! I loves playtime and dress-up. Can I have a moustache and a beard and swagger,” she stuck out her midriff and puffed out her cheeks and was about to demonstrate her vocal abilities, when Meradat pointed out, very sonorously that heretics did not swagger in a clownish fashion. Karlyn, mused and agreed. “Alright then I’ll be a noodley-hutch,” twirling her right index finger near to the side of her head.
ClnMyla and his servant exchanged unhappy and fatalistic glances.
Meradat rolled his eyes.
The crowd were stirred up by news of the fire and more importantly that the Pastoral Translator had been out and about with a custodian and they’d been seen dragging someone away. The crowd had discussed this enough and were just getting in a mood to push someone forward to do something, when the door of the abode swung inwards and there stood The Custodian, in his full imposing height and his iron badge in the shape of an axe of justice hung ominously about his neck. In his firm grip upon one shoulder a small hooded figure twitched and seemed to cackle.
Meradat did not normally care for this sort of theatrical and but he did have sense of duty to ClnMyla and so once more was going along with one of the Pastoral Translator’s whimsical schemes. This one did have a measure of economy and plausibility.
“One side!” he boomed “An heretic hast been apprehended in your town!!”
At this point Karlyn squeaked and waved her fingers in flapping motions about her head.
“Oooh the All praise,” she stopped, suddenly stuck for a suitable heretical statement, luckily for her the febrile imagining of the crowd were rich in possibilities.
“He’s got one of them Gervalons!” screeched a woman “Oh Good Lord God help us, there’s Gervalons here!!”
And a flurry of cried went up demanding all manner of very painful and bloody executions there and now, not helped by Karlyn cackling and crying back that they were all going to suffer Wraths, they were.
At this stage ClnMyla and his servant wisely made their appearances; the latter to run around to the attached stables and bring out the horses, ClnMyla to interpose himself between two forces of nature, maybe three he was not sure about the girl.
“Please! All of you. Be calm for, he, the Custodian must take this wretch,” Karlyn made a rude noise and stuck out her tongue, which caused some puzzled silences for as far as folk knew heretics did not resort to street urchin tricks, ClnMyla took advantage of the lessening of the hub-hub. “He must take them for interrogation! They are obviously not having enough wits of their own to plan anything!” Karlyn seemed attracted to this notion and began to babble the word ‘Burn’ “There are others at work here!” he concluded in some desperation; the girl was not helping
At the appearance two suspiciously convenient saddled and bridled horses Meradat boomed once more for all to stand aside and dragged the girl to the mounts.
“You’re all gonna burn!!” she chanted and pointed randomly at folk squeaking ‘’Specially you!”
This litany ended when Meradat picked her up and slung her over the saddle of one mount, fixing her with a furious glare.
“Cease your blasphemous babbling!” he warned with more than a hint of truth in his voice, and tided her hands and legs.
“Can’t stop me!” she trilled
“Can’t stop me!!
You’re all gonna swing from the burning tree!!”
This ditty ended in a ‘mmph’ when Meradat shoved a rag into her mouth. Crowds even small ones could be volatile things and it was difficult to gauge just when the provocation would set off a riot. His prompt action turned the tide and caused cheering, calls of approval, with the occasional ‘God Lord Good Bless You’ thrown in by those anxious not be seen to offend a custodian.
Thus did Custodian Meradat ride off into a smear of wet dawn with his apparent prisoner still managing to cause a few folk distress by an excessive rolling of eyes and some stifled but chilling sounds.
ClnMyla turned to his servant.
“Well I hope that’s the end of our part in the drama,” he whispered, then turned his attention to those still hanging around and the days ahead of tidying up. No one ever wrote about the tidying up did they now?
End of extract….
Authot’s footnote “I never claimed to be a Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde”