Posts Tagged ‘medieval’

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It wasn’t the first dead body Derek Finley had seen.  He stepped carefully around the blood that pooled next to the corps lying face down on the throw rug with both hands out stretched, as if he tried to crawl away from the attack before taking his last breath.   The victim’s white silk shirt turned a dark crimson from the blood, showed six entry holes in the back.  Derek focused on the holes then clicked the button on the top of the camera causing the flash to fill the low-lit, posh hotel room.  Taking a step to his right, he snapped another picture of the wounds from a different angle.    A cold steel knot laid in the pit of his stomach, but not from the bullet-riddled body, as a patrol officer in Saint Cloud Minnesota, he had responded to several fatality accidents, some very gruesome, bullet holes did not compare to dismemberment.  Then later as a detective assigned to the drug task force, dealing with meth maggots, he had investigated shootings and knifings, it seemed where there were drugs, there was also murder.   No, the body on the floor was not what ate at him.  It was the little girl.   His jaw clinched again as his eyes moved to the photo on the coffee table.  Two jet-black pigtails stuck out from the sides of her little head.  Her face beamed with bright eyes, a large smile and cute dimples on her smooth brown skin.  She looked really happy, he thought.  Not that, smile for the camera cheesy smile but genuine joy, the joy of innocence that only a three-year-old little girl can know.   He felt his jaw clinch tighter as that knot twisted in his gut.  He brought his eyes back to the viewfinder on the camera, stepped to the right again and snapped another picture.   With his next step, now by the victim’s feet, he over exaggerated raising his foot up making sure to clear the empty brass 9mm shell on the glossy, marble tiled floor just off the edge of the rug.   Snap, another picture.

I haven’t written anything in months, I think it’s time to start writing again. “Rookie Case”, the novelette prequel to Rock Bottom, is about 1/3 done; “Warrior Dad”, my short story, is about 1/2 done; and the first few chapters of “Road of Revenge”, the sequel to “Rock Bottom”, have been written for almost a year. Trying to figure out what to get back on first. Any suggestions?

The old man’s head nodded as if agreeing with his own statement. His armor creaked again as he leaned back against the big chair, his eyes returning to the fire. I stared with intensity as he sat in silence, all the time pondering his words. Time passed slowly and he spoke not a word, nor uttered a sound for several minutes, he simply watched the fire burn down. Soon I found myself staring at the blaze, the large logs that lay in the hearth when I came in, now almost completely consumed and much of the flame replaced by orange glowing embers.

Suddenly I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and jerked my head to my right, a young man moving along the wall carrying three large logs. He looked to be no more than eighteen years old. His short brown hair capped his pale face and matched his tunic. His soft shoes made no sound on the stone floor and he went about his work without a word. I watched as he laid the logs on the stones then knelt down and grabbed an iron poker from the edge of the large fireplace. He stirred the coals piling them with precision where he wanted them then one at a time placed the new logs on the fire and adjusted them with the poker before returning it to its place. Once finished he stood, turned to the old man and bowed at the waist. The old man closed his eyes and gave one nod of his head. The servant moved back out across the room as quietly as he came in.

“Honor,” He finally broke the silence. “A warrior has honor.” He said matter of factually, keeping his attention focused on the fire as the newly added logs began to pop and hiss. “Men are born noble or common but their actions determine whether they are honorable or not. If a man is; honest in his dealings, fair to those both below and above him in status, shows integrity in his beliefs and actions then he has honor.”

“Sire, again I am simply a farmer. My status was determined for me at birth and I simply do what is instructed of me, at times I even wonder if I have freewill.” The words slipped from my lips before I could stop them. His eyes snapped back to mine and in an instant, I knew I had made a mistake.  His eyes widened, lips pursed and his face flushed but I watched as he held in his frustration allowing his temper settle before speaking.

“Is my manager there every time you take in your harvest or when each calf or lamb is born?”

“No Sire, He simply comes to collect your share when it is time.”

“So, you could steal from me without getting caught then?” His eyebrow arched again. “So, have you stolen from me?”

“NO, Sire!” My back stiffened and my eyes widened. A moment of panic spread over me as my mind raced back through the years, had I taken too much or held back even the slightest? No, my conscience was clear, not so much as a fleck of grain had I taken or withheld from my master. “No, I have not taken anything that was not due me and have given everything that has been required of me.”

“Why have you done this when you could have taken more than you deserved.  Were you afraid of getting caught?” That quick smile flashed for the briefest of seconds again then vanished, leaving just the raised brow again.

“I have given what was due, because it was the right thing to do.”

“So you did what was right when no one was watching, simply because it was right? That shows honor. Anyone does what is right when it benefits him to do so, but a man of honor does what is right because it is right. Do you pay the men you hire for your harvest what they deserve or do you short them a little, giving you more in your pocket?”

“No Sire, the harvest is hard work. They put in a full day of work and for that, I pay them a fair day’s wage. Growing up helping my father in your fields, I know all too well the sweat that goes into the harvest. I would never expect a man to work like that without being compensated properly for it.”

“You are not a rich man, yet I hear you give to the poor. I heard that you not only gave the old widow that lives near my orchard one of your milk cows, but that you went to her house, patched her roof and put in wood for her fire for the winter.”

“Yes, she lives alone and has no family.” I shrugged off his comments as if it were nothing that any man would not do. “At her age she is not able to do those things on her own, so I help as I can.”

“I was right!” His brow furrowed and his eyes drilled into me as he continued. “You have honor and courage. I believe you are a warrior!”

That question- why -I wanted answered more than anything, but now feared asking. I had chewed on it since receiving his summons, turning it over and again in my mind during the daylong trek across the estate. Had I done something wrong or failed him in some way? In all my years of faithful service, I had never met my employer.  My father, who worked the land before me, only met him once and rarely spoke of it. The image of him I created in my ignorance had been of a fat and lazy lord living in posh comfort while his subjects sweated to produce for him. Now being here in his presence, my impression changed. The hard lines and scars on his face displayed the years of toil and effort. My gaze turned to his strong, weathered hands. They looked as hard and worked as a blacksmiths hands. My eyes traveled back met his examining gaze. The stone look in his eyes caused me to shudder and search my mind again for anything I could have done wrong and still came up blank.

“No sire, I don’t know.” I relented.

His armor creaked as he leaned back against the heavy oak chair, steepling his fingers in front of his face and resting his elbows on the arms of the chair. His brow furrowed and his lips pursed as he sat in silence –for what seemed like an eternity to me– eyes staring at the fire and I could see its orange reflection lapping in them. I leaned forward watching him, waiting for him. I could feel my heartbeat quicken. What had I done?

He drew in a deep breath. “I want to know if you are a warrior.” He said with his eyes still glued to the blaze.

My jaw dropped and I felt my eyes widen.  A what? I would have laughed at the question, had it come from anyone else, such an absurd question. I did my best to wipe the astonished look from my face. “Sire, I have never been trained in the arts of war. I am simply a farmer.”

“I didn’t ask if you were a soldier!” He huffed, dismissing my statement with a swat of his hand in the air as if shooing off a mosquito. “Soldiers are trained. They take an ordinary man and drill into him the necessary Lessons to make him affective on a battlefield.” His right hand reached across his chest and grabbed the hilt of the sword leaning against the left arm of the chair and with one smooth effortless motion swung it up in front of him, tip to the ceiling. The mirror finish reflected the fire and I watched his eyes admire it, they took it all in from hilt to tip and back. “They become a weapon to be wielded, not unlike this sword.” Then with a quick snap, he spun the sword around driving the tip to the floor between us with a solid thud that startled me back into my seat and echoed off the stonewalls. “A warrior cannot be made, you are one or you’re not, simple as that. So are you a warrior?”

I cleared my throat, still staring at the glimmering blade that now separated us. His words echoed through the hall and hung in my mind as an icy chill ran down my spine. I have always been a farmer, why would he suspect me of being a warrior? The chill ran its course and settled in the pit of my stomach as a cold knot. I brought my eyes up off the sword to find his furrowed brow and eyes burning into me as he now leaned forward in his chair.

“I’m not sure what you are asking sire. I have worked for you all my life. You know I am just a farmer.” My shoulders slumped and I dropped my eyes to the floor in embarrassment. He called me here for nothing. Surely, I have disappointed him. I could count on one hand how many times I held a sword and I never learned how to use it properly. Give me a hoe or a rake, I know how to use those but a sword I have not a clue.

“Do wolves ever threaten my flocks?” He asked in a calm and steady voice.

“Yes Sire.”

“And when those wolves come, do you let them ravish my flocks?” Before I could answer, his voice boomed the answer. “No, you don’t. You fight off the wolves,” He shook a clenched fist in the air, “sometimes putting yourself between the wolves and the flock.” He nodded his head and took in a breath. “Could the wolves harm you?”

“Yes, they could. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked in the eyes of a snarling wolf bearing it’s teeth at me.” I lifted my head and felt my back straighten as I answered, my embarrassment gone for the moment.

“So you don’t fear the wolf?” He asked arching one eyebrow and I thought for a moment that I could see the beginnings of sly grin forming on his face but as quick as it appeared it vanished leaving just his icy gaze.

“Oh yes Sire, they are viscous animals. I have seen them tear a young calf apart. They are unpredictable you never know quite what they might do.” Images of the different encounters passed through my head sending a shiver through me.

“So you stand up to the wolf despite your fear?” He arched his eyebrow again. “That shows courage.” His brow furrowed again and his eyes showed a new intensity. “Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the ability to act in spite of the fear.” He lowered his voice and spoke with pure conviction. “Men who go into battle and do not fear their own death are fools or disturbed, but a man who fears his own demise and still does his duty, now that is a man I want next to me in battle” He paused and slammed the tip of the sword on the floor again punctuating his point. “A warrior has courage.”

Warrior Dad Part 1

The yellow light from the flickering lanterns and candles danced across the gray stone walls and combined with the glow from a large, round-stone fireplace at the end of the long room. The three-foot cedar logs sung a low rhythmic chorus of snaps as the fire slowly consumed them. Roughhewn timbers, blackened in the middle by soot, encased the hearth. The cool dampness from the dark hall faded as I entered, slowly replaced by the heat of the ample fire as I crossed the room. On my left spaced evenly along the wall, hung three vibrant colored satin banners from ceiling to floor, a full three times my height. I paused and took in the first banner of rich royal purple, the hue of a king’s robe. The second banner was a dark green. Darker than any emerald I had seen. The third banner sent a shiver down my spine, crimson, blood red. I thought myself brave but that banner froze me in my track. A color so somber, it conveyed not merely the color of blood but the feeling of pain, of sacrificed and fear. As a man, I had seen my fair share of wounds and no picture, no drawing, no words could capture that intensity of red. To call it a color did not do it justice. Entranced by the emotions that flooded over me brought on by that banner, I stood motionless.

“So, you have come.” His aged voice snapped me from my abstraction, jerking my head back to the fire and the high back of the chair sitting in front of it. I could see the gray hair on the crown of his head over the top of the chair back. “Come pull a chair next to me and warm yourself by my fire for we must talk.” Not the voice I had anticipated. It did not boom through the room like a clap of thunder, instead came soft and warm, yet still carried authority. Not frail, yet the aged voice demanded the respect due it.

Without a word, I moved around from behind him as he motioned me to a chair with his right hand. When I took my seat, I came in full view of the man who had summoned me. Strength show through the wrinkled ashen skin of his face. Strength not measured in how much he could lift or throw, although I think even at his age he could still hold his own, but strength of heart. A strength that came from knowing what he believed was true and right. His bulky frame filled the enormous chair. My eyes drifted down to see his breastplate, embossed with his coat of arms. The same three colors as the banners placed in three diagonal stripes, the purple stripe on the top followed by the green with the red on the bottom. His armor fit him well. It was clean and well cared for, but showed every mark inflicted in battle giving me the feeling he could tell me the story behind each one.

His elbows rested on the arms of the great chair with his fingers knitted together above his lap. My gaze traveled back up to meet his steel blue eyes. They say a man’s eyes are a window to his soul but this man’s eyes seemed a window into my own soul. They pierced me, cutting me open for all the world to see. No pretense, no hiding, just exposed. I squirmed in my chair suddenly uncomfortable. I wanted to lie; I wanted to try covering up things I had done wrong years before, to make excuses for the failures of my past. Without a word, his eyes condemned me. The guilt of my life twisted my stomach in knots till I began to wonder if I might throw up right here, right in front of him but then I saw it in his eyes. I saw mercy.

He took in a deep, slow breath and let it out with a slight sigh. “Do you know why I have called you?”