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01 January 2008 @ 07:30 pm
A Wythword Exceprt  

Because Geocities is annoying and does not accept foreign pasting, I will instead put the website-sifters' reward here.  It's slightly disjointed, because it's a piece nicked out of a very complicated and incomprehensible whole to begin with, and the part in the middle was taken from an earlier part to make the later part make sense.  So... DON'T ASK ANY QUESTIONS.  You don't want to know the answers anyway.

Uhh, rated T for Ravis being Ravis-y.

When Bryen awoke again, he could sense that it was late, although it felt early — unsurprising given how long he’d been up, striving to seem intelligent and sophisticated, the night before.  Rubbing his eyes somnolently, he sat up, letting the rich comforter fall down around him to land like a nest encompassing his lower half, and yawned.  At long last, he was beginning to get accustomed to waking up in strange places without panicking.  It all came back after a few seconds of thought and a little looking around.

Ravis sat up straight, something like horror on his face, hair in disarray, and fought his way free of the sheets that clung like stubborn vines to his legs to stagger to the window.  He threw the red velvet curtains open, admitting all at once a blinding influx of light that sent Bryen scrambling for cover, hands over his eyes.

“Shit!” Ravis cried, defeated or exasperated or both at once.  “We should have been on the road three hours ago,” he muttered indignantly, more to himself than to Bryen as he tore the room apart unceremoniously searching for his traveling clothes.  “If Hélum doesn’t flay me alive, I’ll be without a doubt the luckiest man ever to walk the winding, disorganized, miserably muddy roads of Erskon.”  Louder, he added, “Wythword, be ready to get out of this place in the next thirty seconds, or I may be tempted to drag you along in just your shirt.  Understood?”

“Quite,” Bryen responded, leaping out of the confines of the blanket and digging up his warm clothes again, figuring that the weather today would be no more palatable than it had been in days past.

Bryen was just jamming his boots on his feet when Ravis collected the last of his things, his whirlwind of preparations fading into a brisk breeze, and looked at him expectantly.  “Wythword?” he prompted.

Bryen jerked the laces on his boots carelessly, made something close to a knot with them, and stood.  “I’m ready,” he reported.

“Good,” Ravis declared.  In three long strides, he reached the door.  “Let’s be off, then.”  There wasn’t another word from him until they were down in the yard, which was moving at a fairly respectable and not surprising bustle, where Ravis stopped a pageboy.  “Give my best to your master,” he instructed, “and tell him that Caravis regrets it very much, but he received word that he had to depart immediately.  Have you got all that?  Excellent.  Thank you.  Wythword?”

Just like that, they were out on the road again, exposed to a bitter wind and the chill of the yet unshed snow.

“I wish it would just go ahead and stop toying with us,” Ravis remarked, apparently in reference to the latter thing, as he motioned vaguely towards the clouds.

Bryen didn’t think he agreed.  It didn’t sound very favorable to be snowed upon at this particular moment in time.  It sounded cold, wet, and entirely unpleasant.

“I have two questions for you,” he told Ravis slowly.

“Oh, have you?” Ravis replied bemusedly.  “Well, ask away.  We’ll see if I have two answers.”

“You said that the service done unto Asagio almost ended with you dead,” Bryen recollected.

A thin smile found Ravis’s features.  “Ah, yes,” he noted.  “I knew I shouldn’t have told you that lest I kindle your little curiosity.  Very well.  It was true then, is true now, and was left out of my account of the whole venture, because it’s a little complicated and still a little close to the heart, even though that was at least three years ago.

“Ensfort is not the most obedient of boys, as you may be able to guess.  He’s the oldest, but by death, not by birth, if you get my meaning.”  Bryen did, but apparently it didn’t register on his expression, because Ravis explained.  “He had an older brother who was intended to be heir to Janeflor, and then said older brother died, and Ensfort, the unruly second son, was supposed to step up.  He did, though he wasn’t particularly happy about it, I suppose — can’t see why, myself; I think it would be kind of nice to be appreciated like that.  Needed, you know.  Anyway, eventually Ensfort decided that he was tired of being the big boy of the family, and on a dark and stormy night, with much melodramatic lightning and thunder and low, heavy clouds pouring rain, he galloped off on his faithful steed and vowed never to return.  There had been an argument about his duties and his obligations, you see, and when there is an argument about duties and obligations, teenagers — unruly teenagers; those damn kids — always have to have the last word by running off and slamming a proverbial door somewhere, just as a last sign that they haven’t been beaten.  You can take away my privileges, but you cannot crush my spirit, they seem to wish to say.  I can’t really verify that either way anymore.  It’s been too long since I was an unruly teenager.”  He paused.  “But back to Ensfort.  So he dashed off at a very opportunely clichéd moment, all the better for my retelling, and that’s where I came into the tale.

“I,” he continued, “had just finished completing a service — please don’t make me explain that one, too; I’m having enough trouble staying on topic with one story — for a relative of my lord Asagio.  It had to do with a tapestry, if you must know.  I’d rather not talk about it.  So Ensfort ran off, and Lord Asagio called me in to chase after him.  Which I did.  He left quite a trail.  Walk into a town and ask a local if they saw a fine-featured, finely-clothed young man on a fine horse go tearing through the middle of the village, and you get a whole lot of answers about what kind of features, what kind of clothes, what kind of horse, and what kind of damage they’d like repayment for, if you’re so interested in that information.  Being melodramatic about the whole thing, he decided to travel only at night, so I caught up to him one afternoon while he was snoozing away in plain sight under some very thin tree cover.  Shame on the fool for being so histrionic about the whole thing.  Needless to say, he was very unhappy to find that his parents had sent me.  However, as he ran deeper into the wilderness, right onto the hunting grounds of a very territorial lord, things started to get very interesting.  Running away from a nobleman with a bow and arrow and all of his similarly equipped pages while trying to explain the perilousness of the situation to a stubborn teenager who would slam a door in your face if he had one is always interesting.  We managed to get all the way to another lord’s lands — a hostile one.  So we — or, rather, I — decided that I was a traveling jester searching for work, and he was my sullen and reluctant assistant and apprentice.  As we skipped through a variety of hostile lords’ castles, as was very infelicitously necessary to return to Janeflor, he became less sullen and reluctant and more helpful.  I had explained to him that although his parents had indeed sent me, I was merely doing my job and trying to keep food in my mouth, and that I bore him no personal ill will.  He continued to resent his parents — and does to this day, hence how surprised they were that he showed up at all last night — but he stopped resenting me and, in fact, if I dare flatter myself, came to like me quite a lot.  I suppose we get along all right.  I won’t say he’s a bad sort.  Still stubborn and a little too concerned with his own perceived importance, but what young man of that upbringing isn’t?

“One of the lords upon whose hospitality we imposed as jester and apprentice was much more attentive than the others — or perhaps I was just less attentive, after having done my routine and gotten away with it flawlessly so many times; perhaps success made me arrogant — and he happened to draw me aside after my little performance for the court to prove my profession and asked me in one of those very cold, entirely merciless voices that you hear about frequently in fairy tales why a training jester with no steady income was wearing a brilliant amulet designed for one of a much higher status.  Apparently he’d seen the chain; I had it under my shirt, of course; I’m not a complete idiot, but what with all that juggling and cartwheeling and however else I made a fool of myself — appropriate, given that I was posing as a fool — the chain had slipped and become visible, and he had seen it.  And one person, especially this lord, was quite enough to see it.  He told me that if I’d come by it by chance, he would buy it from me for a suitable sum, and I’d be fed for weeks; didn’t that sound nice?  But as much as I would have liked to end the encounter easily, I couldn’t comply, because Hélum had personally given me that amulet as a prevention against possession by malevolent forces or something similarly dramatic and unlikely, and it was his own work.  He doesn’t work much, Hélum, so when he does, it’s a big event, and when he makes you an amulet — you can’t give that away.  Your life isn’t worth that.  And I knew it.  So I made up some great story — it was really good work, you know — about how it was a family heirloom, passed down to me from generations of ancestors.  Lots of little details about dear old Grandfather and how he’d worn it the first time he’d visited, and how he’d given it to my father on his deathbed, and how my father had handed it down to me when he thought I was old enough — I’m sure you get the idea.  Unfortunately, this man was not sentimental in the slightest, and furthermore thought I was full of shit.  Which, admittedly, I was, but he still shouldn’t have called me on it.  Of course, getting exposed for a fake was nothing compared to what followed, which involved shackles, clubs, sheathed swords, and very strong men holding the clubs and sheathed swords.  Naturally, the bastard took my amulet away, and that was when I knew I had to live, because I had to steal the damn thing back, or Hélum would make sure I had an afterlife, and an extremely unpleasant one with lots of fiery hells and other such things.  He would, too.  If you happen to lose one of his amulets for good, your best bet is probably becoming a hermit, because death won’t be the end of it.  Anyway, I lived, barely, and Ensfort somehow escaped all of this — I think the lord’s daughter took to him or something, and he wasn’t the one wearing the amulet regardless; I made sure not to implicate him, knowing that my salary would decrease very dramatically if a hair on his head was out of place when we came back.  So, quite efficiently bruised and battered, suddenly very sympathetic towards any servant who happened to earn punishment in this household, I had to go and steal the amulet from the lord’s room.  Sore as I was.  Duty called.  As did the little voice in the back of my head that spoke of self-preservation and a thousand fiery hells.

“It was extremely well-lit in there, I recall, and that lord snored like you wouldn’t believe.  It was almost too easy.  Actually, it was too easy, because I managed to do it with a broken arm and a half-broken jaw and a variety of contusions with the surface area of a small cat in various places on my body.  Kandra knows, the only thing that kept me going that long was spite.  The idea of vengeance.  Naturally, I took a few other things from this lord’s jewelry box.  I think anyone would have, in my position, and the son of a bitch deserved it, as far as I was concerned.  Set myself up with a few more amulets, while I was at it.  I actually recognized one of Hélum’s and took it along with me, kind of wondering just who was suffering thousands of fiery hells over it.”

Bryen stared, and Ravis shrugged.  “Then I collected Ensfort from the lord’s daughter’s bedroom — he didn’t have his pants off yet, fortunately; so no lasting damage had been done — and we returned to Janeflor faster than I have ever ridden a horse.  Though it hurt like hell, riding a horse in that condition.  I don’t advise you try it.  Not an enjoyable experience in the slightest.  Though I suppose it makes a good story, doesn’t it?”

“I suppose so,” Bryen agreed slowly.  There was indeed something enthralling about the way Ravis told stories, more than anyone else he had ever listened to.  Despite the tangents and the commentary and the somewhat bizarre phrasing of his sentences, Ravis drew the listener in and transported him.  Bryen invariably found himself utterly transfixed.

“You had another question, didn’t you?” Ravis asked.  Before Bryen could answer, he interrupted himself.  “I shouldn’t have reminded you, should I?  Five lashes for stupidity.  Well, carry on.”

Elteaeltea on January 2nd, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
I'd already read this, but I read it again and enjoyed it again. ^_^