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Author Topic: Coins of Memory - Chapter 3  (Read 1682 times)

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Offline Laurna

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Coins of Memory - Chapter 3
« on: March 19, 2013, 03:12:33 am »

Previous chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=1046.0

Chapter 3 - JK 973 1st Coin  


Dawn lit the eastern sky when the rogue pair of peasants stopped to rest the horse in a grove of apple trees.  Without concern for her well-being, the man named Marat, left Jessa tied over the horse’s neck while he had the widowed peasant woman clean and dress his wounded arm in cloth torn from her shift.  They rested against a tree, and ate from the pickings of the ripening fruit while Jessa’s head dangled low, her eyes watching them.  

“Make her look away.”  Dharma insisted.  She looked dirty and haggard after the past day’s grief-filled insanity and the hard nights ride.

“Ah, so I can kill her now?”  Marat offered up with a disgusted remark.  “You could have left her and saved us a lot of trouble.  I suppose I’ll have to bury her in this field or just leave her for the wolves.  She’s useless, you can see that now, can’t you?”  He pulled the dagger out of his belt with his good hand and waved it at Jessa’s head, “You don’t want this one.  She won’t replace your daughter.  Just say the word and let’s be done with her.”  The knife came close to the helpless child’s neck.  The cold edge touched her skin.  In fear, Jessa whimpered, unable to pull away.

“No!”  Dharma called out, raising her hand to stay the knife.  “I’m keeping her; she’s mine.”

Marat just shrugged and lifted his knife to cut instead the leathers binding Jessa to the horse; and then he let her fall, unaided, to the ground.  “Killing her would be a mercy.  Burns like hers don’t heal well; she’ll likely be dead in a week from fever anyway.  You’ll be saving her the agony of it all.”  He walked over to a boulder and proceeded to sharpen his dagger against it.

Jessa tensed as Dharma bent over her bundled-up form.  “Girl, you do as you’re told, and I’ll protect you from Marat.  Show me your hands, and let’s see the damage.”  The woman pulled at the knotted wool and unwrapped it from around the girl.  She stepped back with a gasp as Jessa came free from her entrapment.  The girl was attempting to move away when Marat came back brandishing his weapon near her face.  The snicker of cruel intent left his face as he stared down at the girl’s hands and arms. The skin was soft pink from elbow to fingers, not a blister or a burn from the trauma of the night before.  

“What evil is this?” the man cursed.  

“Deryni are evil spawn,” Dharma whispered, crossing herself.  She shrank back from Jessa, who scrambled to stand up.  “You are right, Marat; kill her, don’t let her escape!”

“Devil be damned!”  Marat howled, catching Jessa even as she stood.  With his weight, he knocked her back against a tree, his left arm braced on her throat with the dagger mere inches away.  “How did you heal?  Tell me!  I saw you in the house, and look, nothing,” He leaned closer, his eyes narrowed as he stared at her.  “Are you a Healer?  I have heard of ones like you.  Heal me, or I will cut off your hands, and you will never heal again.”  With all her strength, she tried to push away his arm, but his weight was unmovable.  He presented his bandaged broken right arm to her.  “Heal me.  Don’t test my patience, do it, or you’re useless to me.  Heal me!”

Knowing not else what to do.  Jessa did as she was told.  At first her fear kept her from the focus, but when she placed her right hand over his, she knew the truth— he would kill her.  She forced the focus as she had never thought she could and sent healing energy into his arm.  When she was done, her hands went to her own throat as he let up on his choke-hold.  Marat laughed with glee as he moved his right fingers, free of pain at last.  He unwrapped the cloth and saw that the skin was whole, but then he saw the slight crookedness of the forearm.  It had not been set straight and as it healed, it stayed at the slight angle.

Anger such as the girl had never seen, flared in his eyes.  “You are the devil, damn you!” his words cursed her.  She turned to run then, but he grabbed her left hand and squeezed until she fell to her knees.  In a sudden decisive jerk, he twisted her delicate fingers in his, and he gave a pleased smirk when they both heard the snapping of bone.  Jessa yelled out a horrific scream.  When he let her hand go, it revealed the last two fingers bent oddly sideways.  Jessa felt a clammy cold shudder travel over her nerves.  The color in her cheeks drained to white and her mind was overwhelmed by the blackness of unconsciousness.

                             ******

Endless hours turned into days of numb grief for the little girl.  The desperate pair of humans avoided the roads and towns, evading the King’s patrols with their watchful eyes.  Marat had the woman and child hide in brambles and fields by day; he would then disappear, only to return with bits of stolen food.  By night, they rode the palfrey across moonlit farmlands and forested hills.  Marat was not taking any chance that men might be in search of the commoners who murdered a nobleman and set his manor ablaze.

On the third day, Marat spoke to Dharma of the destination he had planned.  “I soldiered with a man several years ago in the wars.  He’s a rough type who turned to a dishonest life.  He’ll find a way to sell this without prying eyes.”  He jiggled the sack as he spoke.  “We need money if we’re to escape to Torenth.”

“Can you trust him?”  Dharma asked a little fearful of this man.

“No.  You can’t trust any man with that livelihood.”  Marat stated bluntly.  “What choice do we have?  We need money to leave Gwynedd.  If we are found with the items in this bag, the king will quickly learn what we have done.  Our lives will be forfeit and you know it.”

Two more days passed when they were forced to travel by daylight on the steadily climbing mountain road.  Dharma rode behind Marat, while Jessa was held before him on the high pommel of the saddle.  He held her tightly to his chest by his left arm.  He had already warned her about bringing any attention their way.  “You make any motion or sound, and I’ll break those fingers for you again.”  It was a familiar threat, one he had used several times.  Dharma had wrapped the two broken fingers days ago, and when Jessa healed her own hand in the dark, the fingers had healed in the bent crooked position of Dharma’s wrapping.  The sight had sent Marat into a peal of laughter, happily threatening her that the only cure was to break them again.  The threat frightened the child and she submissively behaved.  Many horses and litters passed them by on the climbing road, but she dared not make a single sound.

They passed through the city gates in the long shadows of the late afternoon.  Only the rooflines of a large castle in the distance held the rays of the setting sun.  The stunning red tiles of the turrets and towers glistened in the golden light.  Jessa took a moment to marvel at the castle, which reminded her of a tapestry in her family’s main room.  She shivered at the memory of seeing that tapestry burn.  Marat turned the horse away from the sight.  They went down a side lane where he made a few discreet inquiries about the Golden Wren Tavern.

As the light faded from the sky, Marat reined in the palfrey before an open door with a worn sign over the archway.  The sign’s color was washed red with a bird in dusky gold painted in the center.  In the past, the whole building must have been painted gold but the color had weathered away.  The tall thin windows on the second floor showed heavy weathering as well, with broken shutters hanging away from the open casements.  They entered the dingy old building and found many patrons of unsuitable natures within.  With the captive child’s delicate fingers in one large hand and the bag of plunder dragging from his other hand, Marat pushed through the throng of patrons until he found an open table in the main room’s far corner.  He turned Jessa’s custody over to the haggard widow who sat down in a chair near the wall.  Marat gave the room a full sweep of his eyes, and then gathering his determination he walked to the barkeep.  After a share of words, the barkeep discreetly showed him to a backroom.

“So what will we do with you?”  Dharma harshly asked pulling Jessa in close.  “Marat thinks he can turn a coin or two selling your talents to needy folk along the road.  But I don’t want you; you’re nothing like my child.”  The woman’s eyes glared with ill-favor at the girl.  “First sign of trouble, and I will sell you to a slaver.  Do you understand me?”

Time passed before Marat came out from the back room.  When he did return, he was accompanied by a man who was shorter than Marat by a full hand-span, but whose broad shoulders and strength of arms diminished his friend.  This stout man escorted the pair with the child and their bag of belongings down the hall, up the stairs, and to the left.  They entered a dusky room with a bed in the corner, a square table in the center with two chairs, and a fire in the hearth.

“Wait in here,” the short man said.  “I’ll bring a guy who can buy your goods.  He’s skittish, so best watch what you say.  ‘Bout a half hour then.”  After he left, Marat pulled a loaf of bread out from his shirt and tore off a chunk for Dharma and a smaller piece for Jessa.  The three sat in silence.  After traveling for days in the cooling autumn air, they gladly took in the warmth of the room.
 
The friend of Marat returned with a thin tall man who had an ugly scar down his face.  No names were exchanged, only nodes of acknowledgement.  At a stern glance from the stout man, Dharma pulled Jessa to the bed at the back of the room.  She kept a heavy grasp over Jessa’s left hand, warning her she needed to be very quiet.

The scar-faced man sat at the table and motioned for Marat to bring his goods.  The thieving peasant dropped the canvas bag on the table, bringing every one’s focus to the opening of the bag.  Items spilled out across the wood surface: pieces of pewter, silver and gold.  Things the child instantly recognized as belongings from her own home.  The men sorted through several items, then pulled forth the jeweled curved sword still bloodied from the deadly fight days before.

“That’s my father’s!”  Jessa yelled, finally gaining her voice.  These horrid people had burned her home and murdered her papa.

“Shut her up,” Marat hissed.  Irritated, Dharma clamped her hand tight around Jessa’s bent fingers.  Jessa attempted to pull away but stopped breathless with fear.  Dharma only snickered at the child’s dismay.  More items spilled from the bag.  Each item, once reviewed, was placed aside.  Several pieces of jewelry and golden platters were set in a pile, separate from the rest.  

At the bottom of the bag, a pair of silver chains tumbled out.  A round, bright silver medallion hung from the chains catching the glint of the firelight.  The scarred man scowled in distaste.  The sight of the beloved bit of jewelry set Jessa into a rage.  Her father had always worn that medallion, never taking it off.  He had once said it was a family relic, an heirloom from an ancestor of great influence and power.  The scarred man stared at it for a long minute, and then thrust it into the fire as if the touch of it burned his skin.

“Damn the Deryni taint,” he ranted, spitting in the fire to declare his distaste for the heathen object.

Jessamyn exploded with anger.  She bit down hard on the arm of the hand that held her fingers.  The widowed woman howled and shoved the girl to the ground.  Jessa used the momentum to roll past the men and come up near the hearth.  She seized the glinting piece of chain, not yet in the fire.  The medallion came forth with a pale glow, the silver having caught the fire’s heat.
   
“Murderers!” Jessa screamed, remembering all too clearly the night of the fire.  She twisted from the hands that lurched at her and she screamed again.  “You killed my father!  You burned my home!  My papa is dead!”  She leaped away from the hands scrambling to catch her, and she dove to the narrow open window, trying to climb out through it.  She spied four men on horseback trotting on the road below her.  She desperately yelled at them for help.

The stout man snatched her shoulders from behind, and forced his callused hand over her mouth.  She tried to scream again, but could barely breathe, so she bit down on his finger instead.  Angered, he pushed her at the window to free himself from her jaws.  Below the window, the men on horseback took notice of the screaming child; even now, she could see them pointing her way.  Jessa managed another call for help before she was pulled from the window’s edge and thrown to the floor.  

The scarred man ran to the window and looked out.  “We’re done here,” he growled, pulling the sword from the table.

“I want my payment!”  Marat demanded.

“Very well!” was the man’s response.  With an evil thrust, he responded further by forcing the point of the curved blade into Marat’s chest.  The peasant woman screamed and jumped backward, but not fast enough to avoid the next sweep of the blade.  Blood spilled over the floor.  The killer seemed not to care.

“What the devil!  Why?” yelled the stout man.

“The earl’s men; they want my hide,” stated the evil, scarred man with a snarl.  He swept the pile of goods from the table back into the bag.  Half the items fell to the floor loudly and scattered at his feet.  “No one can know I was here.  Are we clear on that?”  Those last words held a deep tone of threat, causing the strong hands holding Jessa to tighten around her shoulders.  With her father’s sword in one hand and the half-full bag in the other, the tall man leaped out the casement window, leaving devastation in his wake.  

Next chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=1050.0
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 12:37:30 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 3
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2013, 11:30:31 am »
I certainly don't mourn the death of Jessa's captors.  Will we find out if the family relic is a Saint Camber medallion?

(Feel free not to answer if that spills the beans, so to speak.  ;D)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Laurna

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 3
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2013, 12:03:16 pm »
Good morning Jerusha,
I love that you are getting involved. The answer to your question is a few chapters off.(Your heart is leading you down a good path.)

Laurna

Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 3
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2013, 06:26:02 pm »
At least now Dharma will be reunited with her daughter for eternity.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

 

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