Sunday, 24 August 2008

On a Blustery Night Part I

This is a scene that kept playing in my mind. I don't think it relates to the other little blurb I shared earlier, but this, too, is set in a fantasy realm. I don't really know how well this narrative voice works, or there is any tension build up at all, so please give me some feedback.

* * * * *

On a Blustery Night

An old farmhouse stands lonely on the border between the field and the forest. A warm candle-lit glow is being emitted into the greyness of night from two windows of the usually deserted structure. In the distance, a wolf howls, but is scarcely noticeable above the cry of the wind.

* * * * *

Neal sits on a crude wooden chair and is tempted to rest his feet on the equally crude wooden table, but doesn't. Such a posture is not dignified. Instead, he rests his elbows on the rough surface, hands clasped. He must not nod off. He must not. He forces his head up and notes a head of chestnut brown hair. Ah, the royal heir, Prince Obed.

“Everyone, are we ready to begin?” Obed asks, still standing.

There are a chorus of replies. Neal can't discern the individual assertions. Apparently, Obed can't, either.

“Oriana?” Obed asks.

“Most ready, brother. You'll be glad you brought me along, after all – you'll see,” the youngest royal child replies. “I'm not just good for sewing samplers and entertaining guests all the time.” Obed cuts her off before she can continue.

“Glad to hear it, Oriana. Baruch?”

Baruch jerks awake, pushing some long red hair out of his face. “Um, yeah. Sure thing.” The man flashes a lopsided grin.

If Neal were not so tired, that impish grin on Baruch's face would grate on his nerves. He blinks and gazes out the window. After focusing for several moments, some stars become visible. Most are covered by cloud. The ground is full of shadows, which are cast by the farmhouse and the trees. The wind whistles through the sideboards of the house.

“Sir Neal?”

He jerks his attention back to Obed in the softly lit room. “Yes, Sire,” he replies. “I've been ready for quite some time.” He puts a sharp tone in his voice. They had to get down to business before the Wemarians noticed they were gone. Henneth will cover their absence for some time, but even Henneth's charm and ingenuity can only last for so long.

“I can always count on you to be enthusiastic, Sir Neal,” Obed replies with a somewhat dry tone. “Sir Corin?”

Neal assumes Corin has nodded, because Prince Obed continues.

“Dame Jorien?”

“Yes, Sire.”


There is no reply. Neal sighs. “Vivanna?” He offers his voice, a little harsher than is usual.
A pair of sparkling violet eyes in a head of thick golden-brown locks peeks from around a corner. “Here!” she calls cheerily, stepping into the lit room. “I'm here, see?”

“Fine, let's get started,” Prince Obed replies, tapping his fingers against the tabletop.

Neal is suppressing a growl. Perhaps because he's tired. Perhaps because Vivianna was late and they haven't even started the meeting yet. Perhaps because they've got masses of the Wemarian civilian population wanting to beat them to death then to burn them alive. “Sit down, Vivianna. You're holding things up.” He shifts in his seat and rubs the bridge of his nose.

Vivianna makes a snarky expression, sticking out her tongue, but daintily seats herself in an empty chair.

“As you know,” Prince Obed begins, “We're in something of a predicament, being cut off from friendly forces and trapped within the confines of an unfamiliar land. Now quick wit has got us to this farmhouse, but the question of what we do next and how still remains.”

“We should kick the Wemarians in the rump and feed them to the frogs!” Princess Oriana exclaims loudly.

Prince Obed shoots her an if-you-don't-bite-your-tongue-I'll-find-someone-to-cut-it-out-for-you look and continues. “We were called here to discuss trade treaties with Wemar, but it is now apparent that was only a farce. Wemar has no friendly intentions to either my sister or me, and neither towards our ally, Prince Baruch.”

The prince glances nervously about the room as though the wind itself were watching them with ever-present eyes. His voice lowers. “If there was any doubt, we have only to consider the assassination attempt on Prince Baruch last night.” After a pause, he adds, “Our gratitude and praise to each of you who have somehow managed to keep yourself and us alive thus far. Especially with my sister making things so incredibly difficult.”

“Obed!” Oriana cries. For all the prince's dry humour, he probably meant that last bit.

Neal allows his eyes to wander. Jorien is standing near the hall, gazing intently out the window. A young Sehiemian knight he doesn't recognize is on the other end of the rickety kitchen, looking out the other. Several more members of the Herenese and Sehiemian retinues are present.

Princess Oriana breaks in with a question. “How much longer do you think we will have to be on the run, in hiding like this? I mean, do you believe we'll ever make it back to our own countries again?”

“Perhaps,” replies the prince, “but the more noise you make, the less likely that will be. The first thing we must do is come to understand the motive behind the actions of Wemar, and judge who in particular is responsible.”

Bull-manure. Neal hopes the prince was being sarcastic. “With all do respect, Sire, the first thing we must do is ensure that you and your royal sister are safe from harm. In this case, running away may prove to be the most prudent course of action.”

“Though hardly dignified.”

“I fail to see the dignity in a farm house, Sire.”

The white-blond Sir Corin voices the same thought Neal holds, only in a less abrasive manner. “A smudge on your dignity can be cleaned, but your life cannot be regained.”

Prince Obed is about to say something when there is a rap at the door.

Neal feels his heart skip a beat.

“That's not one of the guards,” Vivianna declares, eyes gleaming with a hint of excitement. “I told them to make owl noises. Those aren't owl noises.”

Neal exchanges a glance with Prince Obed while everyone else simply freezes.

There are several more raps.

Neal hears his heart beat – the only noise he can make out. Jorien slowly reaches for her slender javelin. Prince Baruch has put his hand on his knife.

Still there is hesitation. “They can see,” Vivianna says, pointing. “The windows are bright. I'll answer it, and then we can see.” Almost giggling, she goes to the door. No one breathes. Who informed on them? Why did the Sehiemian guards not alert them of their visitors?

Neal and several others stand up, as if bracing for a blow. Who is at the door? He grimly notices that everyone, including himself, has a hand discreetly on some weapon or another.

Vivianna opens the door.

* * * * * to be continued...

“All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.” Blaise Pascal

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