Bloodied Hands

Bloodied Hands

Postby Cherny » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:04 am

Cherny is a squire. He is a squire, even if he'd at first thought to pretend, if it had been a way to watch, to learn, to spy on the Lady and her Foundation. He has has served well, has studied attentively, has played his part as diligently as any actor that ever breathed a line of dialogue. And somehow, at some point, he'd started to believe it himself, to see him not as Cherny pretending to be a squire, but Cherny the squire.

He'd escaped the Rememdium's quiet halls as the dawn's light crept in - not abandoning his knight, no, only attending to his chores, his duties. His knight's horse, fed and watered, stall mucked out for all that his back and shoulder pained him where they'd caught Ser Catch's fists. A trip into the Broken Dagger, to Sir Elliot's room to fetch clean clothes to his knight's bedside in the Rememdium, the previous night's finery smudged with dust and blood. He'd done as he'd been trained, fulfilled his duties as best he could - the knight still slept, insensible, his features a swollen mess of livid bruises.

Now the squire stands on the lawn in front of the tavern, head bowed as he regards a patch of sun-scorched grass stained red-black; here, where she fell, where he-- ;nearby a scuff of grass, a trail of bloody spatters where she'd been dragged, then carried; over here, torn-up turf where Ser Catch had raged with his fists and heels.

He picks over the battlefield, head jerking from one side to the other as his gaze is arrested by this detail or that. Here he stoops to retrieve his dropped falchion, the blade now smeared and sticky with dry blood, dust and dead grass marring the steel. Over here the witch's spear, discarded in the fight's final throes, picked up tentatively at first, as if fearful it will bite. There on the porch railing, a squire's doublet and mailshirt and belt, now draped awkwardly over his shoulder. On the porch itself, a pail of Ser Catch's shorn memories, pinned down beneath iron shears and wooden comb. Back along the path, a puddle of stiff patch-cloth picked up carefully, wadded up to keep the worst of the stains on the inside of the bundle.

He cleans the falchion blade with a damp rag and then oilcloth, scrubbing at it until his own dark-eyed reflection looks back at him from the steel.

He hides the bucket of hair clippings in his corner of the hayloft, telling himself that this task is incomplete, had been interrupted, will be resumed.

He trudges down to the lakeshore to bathe, letting the cold water drain his limbs of feeling, until a numbness seeps into his bones.

He pounds patch-cloth skirts upon a flat lakeside rock until the water stains pink and his knuckles are split and bloodied.

He dries off and dons his training clothes - linen shirt, black britches, black doublet, black shoes; mailshirt, belt, the falchion a weight of iron at his hip. He carries the witch's spear with him, though at times he seems loath to touch it.

He returns to the Rememdium the very image of well-groomed diligence, perching on a stool at his knight's bedside to wait; the Storyteller's skirts, still damp, spread out over his lap as he works quietly with bone needle and dark thread to mend the rents and tears and split seams. To fix what he can, to put it back together.

His hand still echoes with sense-memory of Niall's deathblow, a shiver of sharp iron cleaving through meat and sinew and bone. His fingers tremble, and the bone needle finds the flesh of his fingertips again and again, leaving blurry little spots of red upon the brightly-coloured cloth.
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Re: Bloodied Hands

Postby Rance » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:34 am

"You burn her body, you even think of touching flame to her skin, and I will beat you all to within a hair's breadth of life. I will break out your teeth," she told them, even as one of the attendants tried to usher her out of the room -- the room, where Niall the spearwielder lay dead on a table. "I will make porridge of your face. I swear to the Nameless, I swear--"

"Is she going to go on like that all evening," said one of the attendants hovering over the spearwielder's frame. "Who did this?"

"A boy," said another. "A boy did it. Cherny. The one that worked at the mill."

Across the room, Gloria Wynsee latched her blood-slick fingers like a vice around the edge of the doorjamb, even as one of the wellsmith's wrapped her sleeve in his fist and tried to pry the seamstress away. Between the shoulders of the attendants that gave their focus to Niall's body -- did the spearwielder even have a name anymore, did names matter when someone was deceased? -- Gloria could see the deflated ribs, the stilled chest, the otherwise completely stiff corpse of the other girl. The wide eyes had not closed, the lips were like dry slivers of rawhide, and one of Niall's hands dangled off the side of the table, a pit-pat-pit-pat of blood trickling from her fingertip and pooling on an attendant's boot-tip.

Is this how debts are paid, asked a whisper in her mind. Is this how problems are solved?

A burly palm cupped the seamstress'. If she remembered anything about that night, it would have been the warmth of his hand, the jungle of blond hair grown on his knuckles. He was white-robed and out-of-place, a lump of a fellow draped beneath the robes of the Rememdium's loyals as if he were a stocky child hiding underneath a mother's skirts. "What's your name," he asked her, and she dragged her stare away from the blood, tried to swallow down a breath that wasn't sour with the heady, reeking stink of--

"Gloria," she said. "I'm Gloria."

"I'm Jule," he told her. His eyes were gentle, a little bland. His lips were not sure how to smile. "Was she a friend?"

"No."

"You carried her here? By yourself," he said.

"I owed her."

"For what?"

"Jule," said the seamstress, thinking it was jewel, like he was a polished sapphire even though the world was nothing but rubies and rubies and rubies and-- "They can't burn her."

"It's custom, Gloria. It's what we do."

"They can't. They have to sew up the wound. If -- if they put her back in, she can't leak out. If they leave her open all the parts of her that make a person alive are going to trickle out and it will be for nothing, it will be for naught."

"Gloria," Jule said.

"They have got to use a small needle, sew her not like a person, but like a baby's blanket. Soft and gentle. You have got to stuff her with all the right herbs and rub her with all the -- the proper salves. The one that smells of leaves, the one that reeks like animal piss. It's -- it's easy, Jule. You cannot burn her. There has got to be something for her to go back to. When all is said and done, she has got to be like a cup, a cup that you're waiting to -- to fill right back up. You see? And we can just pour her right back into her skin.

"I hate her, Jule. I hate her."

Jule managed to steer the stammering girl away from the room, where they still spoke over Niall's body like she was merely some conversation piece. Did the boy know how to use a sword, one asked. Chopped into her like she was just a side of beef. Might be better off working for a butcher. Jule spoke louder, his young voice a rumbling soothesay, his hand roughed from farmwork and cattle-brushing. He tried to overcome the voices filtering out of the lamplit room and urged the seamstress away from the doorway.

"Do you sing, Gloria?"

"I can sing songs," she said.

"You were singing when you brought her in. You were singing in another language."

"I am a maggot," the seamstress said.

"You're not a maggot. You're a girl."

"It was Jernoan," Gloria told Jule. "It was a lullaby. You put little babies to sleep with it."

"Was it for Niall?"

"Maybe she -- maybe she was scared. I bet you her mother would have sung to her. Did I kill someone's daughter?"

"It wasn't your sword that did it, Gloria."

"You don't know anything about swords, Jule. You don't know anything," she told him.

"It's best you go home. It's getting late. You can say a lot of prayers by morning."

* * * *

In a dark room in the Rememdium, Gloria Wynsee peeled a bloody blouse from her dark skin and dragged her petticoats off with a desperate tug from her fist. She'd lost her skirt somewhere along the path, her Storyteller skirts, her patchwork memories. An old woman's stories. Jule had given her an old bedgown -- the stitches were hers, she remembered each and every one of them, she'd worked them months, years, lifetimes ago -- and she dressed as if it were the first day after her Odos, sliding her arms through the sleeves and adjusting the waistband with a few pinches from her still-stained fingertips.

sorry. I'm s-sorry.

The attendants said the squire was with the knight, that the trapper was too. They said he'd been beaten, pummeled, bludgeoned by the lunatick, whispers rolling through the halls of What would the Lady say and Did you hear the spearwielder's dead, dead, and the seamstress stumbled through the white-clothed bodies as the Glass Sun began to break over the horizon. She should have gone to Cherny, held his cheeks, cradle his head, apologize to him; she should have sought out Noura, to ask her once more to forgive, ghe-doz, ghe-doz, she'd done this all, a girl was dead and a falchion that should only know oil had known sinew and agony and blood--

She could have sought out Mister Catch. They could run together. They could avoid the eyes of all the posters.

The seamstress stood in the woods, bare feet amid the ferns, a quaking palm finding the crinkle of parchment in her gown-pocket. She pinched out the note and unraveled it.
Not all bodies need to be burned. There are other ways.

- Jule

Gloria Wynsee punched the spine of a towering tree until her knuckles were black with sweat and red, red, red.

And sometime in the day, she wrote.
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Re: Bloodied Hands

Postby Guppy » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:58 am

The wildling had been left alone at the bedside of Lady Rhaena's young Knight last night. Young Cherny, considerate Cherny had brought fresh clothing for when the man awoke, and left soon after. The woman had not the energy to console the obviously lost little boy whose feet almost seemed to drag as he left the room. Instead, she lay her head down upon Elliot's bedside as she waited for him to awaken. A head pillowed on their joined hands, clasped so tightly together. At least, on her part. He remained unconscious, dead to the world. The Knight had spared Niall and instead, his squire had done her harm. Noura had to believe that it had been an accident, a slip of the blade that the boy had not expected to meet with the scarred sorceress.

Thoughts, memories of the interaction, the event, the incident swirled in her head. There was a moment where all three were joined together, one single nostalgic moment. A circuit. Her thoughts were fractured, so she assumed that the creature had been in control at the time. It had eased It's head down upon his shoulder and joined their hands. It had stared at Niall before them as Elliot's hand closed around her throat. Suddenly, there had been blood -- so much blood -- staining the porch floor, staining Cherny's blade. So much blood that Noura had wrenched back control in her panic. It had all gone so terribly wrong. Chaos erupted, emotions high. Catch bludgeoned the noble and true Elliot into the ground. An Inquisitor named Genny showed up to stem the violence. Gloria had been wailing her apologies. Cherny stammering and staring at the corpse in horror, sheltered under his protective Knight. And she, she clutched at Niall's hands and howled.

When things were calmer, the wildling followed in a daze behind Gloria mutely as she took Niall's fallen form to the Rememdium. "Please. Don't - don't burn her. That is not as she wanted. She must be kept. Buried," she insisted, seeking to drag at Gloria's clothing. "I want to visit her -- her grave." They had to pry her away from her friendmothersister's side and they had, in a loss of what else to do with the vacant woman, set her beside Elliot instead. She attempted to latch on to him as if he were her lifeline. Holding tight so that he could not escape her.

This morning, she was still staring blankly. She was still ignoring the glasses of water brought to her and left abandoned on Elliot's bedside table. The feeling of something missing, the feeling of being hollow would not leave her.

She waited for her Knight to awaken.
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Re: Bloodied Hands

Postby Tolleson » Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:21 am

It had once been a drunk proficiency, sleepless nights and productive days. A singular goal that made every decision concise and sensible. But it had become too much, this was cold. It was a trembling and violent thing. It was unending weeks and days that no longer discerned themselves from one another. More than mere fatigue, it was walking delusion, shadows that bowed and warped, unreal things the cause of creeping paranoia.

What a terrible and unending madness holds her now. Nightmares unceasing left little bile to spare for fear, too many tears and tremors and blood to shake her. And Catch dismissing her, an accelerated decent to the depths of the madness he’d left within her.

Water filled her ears and yet still the voices whispered and sang, burning rumors that once made her sick, memories of misspoken words. Painful guilt ridden moments that others had long forgotten were but grains of sand, a hundred-thousand and more weighing upon her, burying her. Yet, she floated so unmoving, the moon in the water a perfect reflection. Blood and bruise lost in the dark shadows of the early morning.

Time had ceased to exist here. Lost, gazing into the field of stars above for an eternity until, as all things must, the sky changed. And with some resolve, or the extracted, inexplicable truth that she had obtained from the very heavens she’d watched with hours of silent expectation, the flame-hair ghost trudged from the lake.

Some of the blood had washed out, leaving the white dress with large swatches and smears of a soft brown. A veritable rainbow of misery; bags of blue under her eyes, the bruise at her cheek a sickly yellow and purple, the clot above her brow a deep black, and a brilliant, bloody ring around her right iris.

Lifting her book from the shore with little regard for the precious fabrics stacked atop, the sash of the dress and ribbon for her hair slid free, crumpling gracefully to the ground. Boots and stockings were left abandoned on the front lawn of the Dagger as she went to the Rememdium. Surely they would want to treat her; offer her a towel and a cup of hot tea, but it wasn’t for herself that she had come.

A chair is pulled up beside Elliot, some glances spared for the others in the room, but all silence as she sits.
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Re: Bloodied Hands

Postby Rance » Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:15 am

Attendant Jule delivered three letters the next day, each one of them addressed to the individuals that had stayed, with vigilance and patience, at the side of the battered Elliot. They were short notes, folded simply, labeled each with their recipient's name.
Cherny,

Nothing can keep you from being the most valuable thing in my life. I will never do wrong by you. Never again.

You are not milk. You have not gone sour.

Yours,
Gloria

Noura,

I will not let them burn her body. I cannot.

I have told you no lies. Not here, not the other night.

I ask you one more time, forgive me.

Yours,
Gloria

Genny,

They will hate Mister Catch more than ever. He did no wrong. He was afraid. He was angry.

I did not mean to break so much.

Yours,
Gloria

Jule placed a final note on the bedstand beside Elliot's pillow. Unlike the others, it was stamped with gray candlewax, a seal that demanded privacy.

It had been the hardest to write. Niall and It had adhered to their roles, or so she believed; the seamstress would, no matter the brambles in her guts or the regret screaming between her ears, see these tasks through to their end.
Ser Knight,

She is dead. Are we whole again?
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Re: Bloodied Hands

Postby Guppy » Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:47 am

There were people that drifted in and sat with them - the Knight and his damsel - from time to time. They were like shadows, like ghosts. Recognized, but disregarded. She thought that she recalled Genny, the woman from the tavern, coming in once. She could wager that Cherny might have been there from time to time. She couldn't be certain, in any case. The young woman was locked inside herself. Grief overwhelmed her, dark waves threatening to drown her again. She did not sleep. She did not eat. She sat with Elliot's limp hand wrapped within her own and stared into space. Relived the memories over and over again. The circuit. The blood. The corpse. The man beating Elliot to within an inch of his life. Wails, howls. Agony.

She blinked to clear her thoughts, lest they become fixed on that loop. Trapped in her own head. She blinked back sluggish tears that refused to come. She had spent them all. Hours ago, days ago. How long had it been?

The happy little life and the happy little friendships -- family -- had been torn asunder by the slip of a blade. Accidental, of course. How could it not be? Elliot was beaten and would not awaken, face marred by bruises and scabs. Niall was cold and deaddeaddead as she lay silent in the room over. She had finally seen the moment of death and it made her ill. It made her want to claw her eyes out. It was not the event she thought she would see. In any case, she had not wanted it to be her. Never her. Cherny was, no doubt, traumatized by his actions. Gloria seemed to find herself at fault, for some reason. The letter of apology was still laying upon her lap. Catch, she overhead, was hated, despised and ostracized from town.

There had been fraying edges for some time now, but the threads had been tugged and everything was unraveled. Destroyed. The pieces were fractured and might never be repaired.

And there was more. Something else.

Something needling at her, but she could not begin to put a finger upon it. Not when she allowed herself to wallow in sadness like this.

A pause and a tilt of her head. Almost there. It was --

Eyes snapped open and Elliot's fingers slipped from her own as a hand was lifted to her mouth, trembling. Pupils dilated and her pulse hammered in her ears.

No. Nonononono. "NO!" The shattering of the stillness was alarming. The shout startled the nurse coming to check in on Elliot, but Noura did not even notice that she was there.

It was gone.
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Re: Bloodied Hands

Postby Rance » Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:42 pm

She came up coughing and fought towards shore. Crawling onto the bank, she sputtered and retched up the water that escaped into her lungs, her stomach. Panting, she turned to sprawl there upon her back, gazing up at the night sky and shivering. At least they would think that she'd bathed at the Rememdium, she thought. Perhaps they would allow her back inside to wait at his bedside.

Just a few minutes here to rest. Just one minute...


There were pages of parchment scattered at the behest of summer night, a stack of paper that fell from a satchel-side and blew its leaflets like autumn's herald through the cat-tails and out across Silver Lake. Eddies of wind lifted the individual pages, enlivening them in a dance until they settled into the water like white patches sewn to the hems of a black skirt.

A voice. A whisper. Struck through with fright. Scarcely audible. Little more than breath.

"Noura?"

Fingers on her cheeks, tapping, touching, as if they could rattle life into the rubbery skin--

More pages flapped into breeze. The stink of freshly-pressed ink was a subtle note in the air, an underlying odor beneath the stagnant stench of water lapped into froth and foam by the uneven teeth of the lakeside.

Wooly softness against the wildling's cheek. A sweater-shoulder traced in the sour spoor of sweat. The hint of daylight and Sun-rays hidden somewhere beneath a knitted sleeve. The wet soil sucked at the whelp's limbs, begging her to stay, wanting to devour her. But stubborn arms lifted her, took her into their safety.

Cradled her like a babe.

Panting, dog-like, exhausted. Blasts of hot breath. Droplets of sweat. Uneven and weary strides cutting with a crunch through path-stones.

The chattersong of crickets soon vanished. The sounds of heels moaning against floorboards. The silence of countless sleeping bodies. In the air, a whisper-thin gasp of fluttering clothes. A thousand tugging fingers of drenched cotton-fiber trying to pull at the whelp's pores, daring to wrench the hairs on her flesh from its roots. Wet clothes stretched across her mouth like a membrane, trying to deny her breath--

--but warmth replaced it, precious and dry, the acidic aroma of lye, the gentle lullaby of a freshly-laundered bedgown. A downy pillow. A hay-stuffed tick crunching below her hip, her knee, her arm, her bruised shoulder.

A bed. His bed at the Rememdium.

...laying right beside Elliot, right where you want to -- to be.
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