Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snail Mail (Part 1)

     Lombar drew his broadsword from its enamel sheath.  With one stroke he silenced his employer’s whimpering horse, its leg jutting out at an obscene angle, bone poking out through tangled tendons.  Lombar’s face was straight and cold.  He took a blood-stained cloth from a pocket on his sheath and wiped his sword clean.  While replacing it, he removed the small saddlebag from the dead horse’s middle and strapped it to his waist.  He took a few steps toward his employer, Master Ulrich, a limp form on the wet grass.  Ulrich’s chest pulsed despite two clearly broken ribs.  Light steam billowed from his mouth in a choppy stream.
     The metal tube containing the message Ulrich was delivering remained in his grasp.  Lombar’s brow furrowed.  He shrugged and attempted to pry it away to no avail.  “Master Ulrich?” he said, expecting no response.  Several moments passed without a sound.
     Lombar hoisted him over his shoulder.  He began marching forward, continuing along the dirt path they had been traveling on.  The weight caused him to sway, yet he didn’t falter.  His boots were highly worn and rugged, walking something natural for him.  Rarely had he been allowed a horse for his duties.  Over the years his legs had hardened into steel to compensate.
     He began to whistle a tune he had learned from a traveling minstrel he had guarded.  The solemnness of the song seemed to fit the occasion.  A few birds were singing a countering tone, but other than that it was silent.  A corn field sprung up to Lombar’s left as he walked.  His right was devoid of anything but boggy grassland.  This was practically nowhere to anyone who wasn’t a simple farmer or field hand.  “I suppose that I mayn’t be choosy,” Lombar mumbled with a mysteriously light and formal accent.
     The crisp blue sky was shifting to purple by the time the road bled into a sturdier village lane.  Buildings sprawled out over a surprisingly large tract of land.  A handful of people milled around working or playing on doorsteps outside, most of them refusing to give Lombar even a glance.  Lombar trounced around through the settlement, his eyes flitting.  They stopped when they had fallen upon a multi-floor building, a sign above the threshold proclaiming it as “The Lonely Dove”.
     Lombar entered the inn’s battered door and grimaced, the floor-boards squeaking like foul city rats.  It wasn’t difficult to tell who the innkeeper was, an apron and bulging middle as good as heraldry.  “How fair thee, mister?” Lombar called out.
     The innkeeper set down his tankard and turned, clearly taken aback.  “Doing well, I suppose.  I suspect you hail from afar?” he replied.
     “Aye, from Yorkshire.  My client, this here fellow,” he pointed to Ulrich, “was knocked a-leery off his mount an hour off.  Pray tellest me you hath an open room for the night?”
     “I do, rough gentleman.  A penny for a Yorkie, and chargeless if you have any stories to recount.  You seem the type, at least.”
     The innkeeper guided Lombar upstairs to a small room.  Two cots sat against the wall, an oil lamp the only other furnishing.  He placed Ulrich onto one of them, inspected his broken ribs, and returned downstairs, the smell of ale overpowering.
     “What part of Yorkshire are you from?” the innkeeper asked.
     “From York itself,” Lombar replied.
     The innkeeper nodded.  “And you were a bodyguard there?”
     Lombar turned his eyes down.  “I was the master guard of York Castle.”
     The innkeeper’s eyes bulged slightly.  “What brought you to this profession?” the innkeeper asked as they reentered the barroom.  He added, “Let me get you a drink,” and filled a tankard with amber-hued ale.
     Lombar took a long draw.  “The keep hath been turned to a prison.”
     “That’s unfortunate,” the innkeeper said.  “Did you find much excitement there, in its time?”
     “Aye, I found more than enough.”
     “Do continue, guardsman,” a man at the bar broke in.
     Lombar gave the man a slight scowl.  “It was the night of All Hallows, some ten years past…”

No comments:

Post a Comment