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The Merchant's Daughter

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
0
#1
Enjoy, and let me know what you think so far, please.

The Merchants Daughter

Three Springs village was the hub of existence in the northern world, just south of the icy glaciers where only barbarians lived; it represented the last hold of civilization. Merchants came this far north only for the infamous and precious metals the city offered, to barter for that which was hard to find so far north, mainly the southern regions spices and silks. The inner city itself was built for trade, with one massive center devoted to the purchasing and selling of goods, and of course, the taking of taxes. Above the Market Square, nestled behind a myriad of gates and stone walls, lay Lord Bartholomew's own castle.

Lord Bartholomew had grown bored. He was nearing his twenty-first birthday, and with the death of his father still fresh in his mind, the young lord was beginning to feel the pressure from his mother and older sister, Esmeralda. The pressure was not that of state and country, or even vengeance for his father's death at the hands of a barbarian tribe, but rather that it was time for him to marry. Marry, so that the line of his father would not go stale. Marry, so that he may produce an heir for the great castle before he grows so old that no woman would want him.

"Oh!" His mother, Lady Theodora, would cry out. "What am I to do if I die before I see my unborn heir?"

"Terrible thing that would be, dear mother." Esmeralda would say, gently bouncing her second baby on her knee. "I do not know what ancient line would be broken, should the child of a daughter rule, such things could be very well unimaginable."

Lord Bartholomew answered them with a scoff and a wave of his hand, dismissing them from his office. This was a daily enterprise, both would bring him coffee and morning cakes or cold beef, sit with their seemingly idle chat, all the while making comments directed at him. What would possible happen if Esmeralda's elder boy, who was now turning six, were to take the head of state instead of his own unborn-and likely to stay that way-child? Perhaps a cataclysmic event would occur, sending the earth into balls of fire and ice.

It was on one of these mornings that Lord Bartholomew was in a particularly foul mood, having been up all night discussing the possible furthering of his boundaries, and destructions of the barbarians, with his sister's husband. First Captain Matheous was, as far as Bartholomew could discern, the young lord's only and true friend. The two were still seated together, maps of conquest laid out before them, when Bartholomew's meddling mother and Matheous's gabbing wife came into his study, without even knocking.

"Tomorrow, my son, you shall shine!" His mother declared, her pale and heavily ringed hand rising into the air.

Bartholomew gave her a grisly grin. "And how, pray tell, is that to be, dear mother?"

"Why, do you not know?" Esmeralda said, and sat a tray of hot coffee and cold beef on his desk.

In response to both Bartholomew and Matteous blank faces, Theodora smiled sweetly and leaned over the desk, her bright golden hair reflecting in the sunlight. "Soon, we will have a wife for you. There will be a party this evening, do you not remember? Bringing in the Fall Festival, an early party for our Lord. With it comes ladies of fine, noble birth, who wait for your discerning eye to set upon one or the other."
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
0
#2
Matteous burst into a horrid fit of laughter, ignorant of the fierce glare his noble wife gave him. Noble as Esmeralda was, she certainly had a fiercer temper than any lady he had known, which is a large part of why he loved her. The fact that she clung unmercifully to tradition and religion was her only true downfall, but the beautiful and sharp witted young mother made his blood boil, seven years after their first meeting.

"Well, dear Bart, you are hung, to be sure. These fine ladies will have you dancing the Song of the Stork in no time at all!"

Bartholomew stormed from the room before any could stop him, headed straight for the stables. He saddled his mare in such a quick and careless fashion that Fenzick, the stableman, nearly had to tackle the young lord before he hurt himself, or the horse. Once the nobleman's steed, Marrigan, was properly saddled, the young lord jumped upon it and rode through the gates without as much as a glance to his crying mother and sister.

Tenwick was tired. It had been far too early a day, and the merchants younger daughters could talk of nothing more than shopping. He had five daughters, the eldest of which was more a son to him than a daughter, but the younger four were pure adolescent girls. How he longed for the days when they were babbling babes, bouncing on his knee and looking at him as though he were the hero of the universe. Since the youngest turned eleven, all that mattered now was clothing, jewelry, and of course, boys. This was enough to bring Tenwick Goldbottom closer to his grave, but that was the way of fathers who cared for their daughters.

Gardenia, his eldest, was very unlike her sisters. So much so that his wife berated him constantly about sending her to a finishing school in the city, where she could be taught to become a proper wife. "Who would want a wife that can out hunt, out craft, and out fight them?" She would say, and glare at him for raising her eldest daughter so. Surely, this was all his fault, for Tenwick had taken Gardenia with him on many travels, she had spent the larger part of her life out of school and on the road with her father and his life long guards.

"With no sons to inherit our fortune, do you not think it best that she learn all she can of my business, before I grow old and die and leave you with none to care for you?"

Tenwick's wife could hardly dispute this logic, but she liked it even less for that.

While her younger sisters nearly bowled her father over, Gardenia stood, silent and brooding. It annoyed her that her own mother looked down upon her, and raised her silly and gabby and far too gilded younger sisters above her, at least as far as the house goes. Outside of the house, however, Gardenia was always the lead; she had taken the role of her sister's protector, as much as an older brother would.

It was during one of these shopping trips that Gardenia walked behind her sisters, while the four blondes trailed behind their parents, and goggled at various bolts of silk laid out for purchase before the Fall Festival. Gardenia could barely stop herself from rolling her eyes as her sisters picked the most extravagant and most expensive masks from the vendors, and silken dresses that they would surely freeze to death in.

Tenwick could only grin and shell out the gold, his hands shaking. Gardenia's mother made the final decision on their purchases, often commenting that only a floozy would wear this dress or that only a peasant would buy such a mask, until it was finally decided and purchased. Tenwick was not a rich man, but they lived very comfortably,
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
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#3
and Gardenia wondered if he would put himself into debt to make her little sisters and mother happy.

Suddenly, a crazed man on a crazier horse came bounding through, without thought to the merchants stalls, knocking over various wares. Gardenia was limber enough to bounce out of his way, but three of her sister and her mother were thrust onto the mask sellers stall, and then fell, almost as one, onto the muddy road.

Belleball, the youngest of Tenwick's daughters, was the first to cry. Not because she was injured, although Tenwick was looking at her arm, but because the mad horseman had taken her new mask. Sure enough, when Gardenia looked up to the quickly fleeing man's back, her sisters pearl and gold mask, a resemblance of the goddess Gaia, was jumping across the man's back, caught on his jacket.

"'Tis all right Belle, don't cry now. Your big sister will get that mask back for you." Gardenia planted a kiss on her smaller sister's brow, and before her mother could protest or her father could join her, she was running through the merchant's square as quickly and deftly as any deer.

"Stop thief!" She screamed, and the local guards fell in with her.

"Ho, Garden!" William, a town guard in the Merchant Square called as he fell in beside her.

"That man stole from my baby sister!" Gardenia pointed, without missing a step or losing speed, and certainly uncaring if Will Boots could keep pace with her.

Will Boots was a good gentleman, and he had his eye on the second Goldbottom daughter, Delia. He had his eye on that blonde, blue eyed girl for the last three years, since she had begun to fill out her womanhood. Gardenia did not like the man, if simply for the fact that she believed him a simpleton who would make nothing more of her sister than a poor soldier's wife. He kept stride with her, although the black horse was quickly falling out of their view.

Then, the horse began to slow. Gardenia watched, almost horrified, as the animal reared up a hundred yards before her, and flung its master to the ground. Horrified because the mask that had cost her father fifteen gold pieces, a pretty sum, fell with the man and was smashed between him and the cobbled road.

Gardenia burst into full speed, and even the younger Will found it hard to match her stride. In moments, she was upon the fallen thief, and rendered him unconscious with a hard punch to the side of his dark haired head.

"That will teach you to steal from my sister!" She cried out, and gave him another hard smack for the fun of it.

Will Boots, his sword out and ready in case the man were to try something vicious, although truth be told Will was not much of a fighter, stopped dead in his tracks. He knew the man, knew him very well. Often, the Merchant Square guards would bring a petty thief to the castle, but when they brought a thief who stole a sum of more than one hundred gold pieces, Lord Bartholomew oversaw the trial. Will had done so just two full moons past, having caught, by sheer will and not by brawn, one of the most renowned thieves of Three Springs. Caught him, and had been given a year's wages along with a special accommodation for his prowess, by none other than Lord Bartholomew himself.

Will grabbed Gardenia by her shoulders, shaking the girl violently. "Do you know what you have done?" He nearly screamed in her face. "Run Garden, run for your father's sake!" He pushed her away, but stubbornly she barely moved. She turned back,
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
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0
#4
and saw the wideness of his eyes. "That be Lord Bartholomew, girl! Run, be damned, run home!"

Too late, Gardenia began to run, but she ran straight into the chest of one of the largest men she had ever seen, who grabbed her up by her arm, hoisting her easily into the air.

"Who is this that has accosted our Lord? Who be this thieving girl?" He boomed, and that was all Gardenia saw before the hilt of the burly man's sword crashed upon her tender blonde head.

Lord Bartholomew was recovering nicely in his bed, or so he should have been. Instead, he was pacing furiously. What peasant dared to knock him from his horse and hit him? The mark on his brow was certainly not from the fall, and visions of an insane, blue eyed boy had ravished his dreams throughout the night. A boy who had, by all accounts, punched him twice. Hit a man who had fallen from his horse! With all this, certainly, the party last night had been halted, but there were still tonight festivities to contend with. He thought about faking illness, perhaps the hard hit on his head had been too much for him, but that would be admitting that a peasant boy had overtaken him, and the boy, bred for war and rule, could not admit such a thing. His people would giggle behind his back for the next ten years, and probably after that. No, Lord Bartholomew could see no way out of the parade of young fleshy noble girls that would be set before him. Yesterday his only thought had been to ride, and to keep riding, through the city and into the forest and possible to the glaciers, to face the barbarians alone. That was a foolish idea, one of an immature and selfish child. He would leave his mother and sister undefended, without a Lord to oversee their home, only for his own desire to not marry a foolish nobleman's daughter? The thought of his own selfishness and weakness made the young lord pale and ill.

There was another problem that had thrust the nobleman into fits of confusion. That boy had been, by all accounts, beautiful. Not the simple cultured beauty of his mother and sister, but wild and unchallenged, free and perfect. Even the small scar on the boy's forehead was beautiful, and now the young lord had another problem. Perhaps he did not have an aversion to marriage because of the utter foolishness of it, but more because he was, and Lord Bartholomew almost shuddered, but because he was a bit on the funny side of things. Perhaps women were not his calling, otherwise how could that short haired boy be so fluently and perfectly in his dreams?

Matteous came in then, after a sharp and abrupt knock at the door, without waiting for a reply from the young lord. "You can not have such an occurrence. You left the castle without watch or warrant, and rushed off to have a bit of fun? I certainly hope you have that bullarkey out of your system, young lord. And to think you left your sister in such a rage, I had to bear the brunt of your flagrant idiocy and disregard for propriety all day, and through much of the evening."

"You should not speak to your lord so."

"My lord? My Lord?" Matteous stormed out of the room, the heavy oak door slamming fiercely behind him.

Bartholomew had never spoken so to Matteous, the man was more than a friend or brother, he was the young lord's only confident and protector, who had often saved the boy from a well deserved whipping at the hands of his father, occasionally by taking the
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
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#5
blame for Bartholomew's transgressions himself. Several times he owed his life to the First Captain, since they were young enough to sneak out of the castle for a bit of fun and excitement. Now, Bartholomew feared, he had finally crossed the line with his only true friend.

Bartholomew snapped open the door minutes after Matteous had left, and stomped out on his own. He was angry, at himself, at his birthright, and at his friend. "Bring me the peasant boy, immediately." Bartholomew raged in the face of the first castle guardsman he saw. "Be quick about it, or I'll have your head on a pike!"

The castle guard was quick about it, his face paled at the sight of the enraged lord. So quick that he forgot to say that the peasant boy was certainly a girl.

Gardenia paced in the sickening stench of her cell. Thieves and brigands and one rapist shared the holding cell with her, though after she gouged the eyes from the first one who tried to touch her, the rest fell silent and turned away from her. She might be hung for her crime of laying a hand upon a lord, but Gardenia would be damned if she would fall to this rabble. Certainly, this was not the death the young girl envisioned herself having, for she was an upright and law abiding citizen, and now she had spent the night watching for the touches of ruffians and killing the biting spiders and rats, but most of all, the young merchant's daughter had spent the night in prayer.

The guard that came for her stank of hard liquor and whore's perfume, but he laid neither a wandering hand nor eye upon her. Not as much could be said for the four guards who came with him, and he was forced to grab one by the collar. "This is thy Lord's cell and prisoner, and thus his property. If you touch her bottom again, I will see you hung for laying your hand upon Lord Bartholomew's property. Do you ken?"

"Aye, sir." The small and almost weasley looking guard replied with a shaky voice. "Aye."

"And that goes for the rest of you rabble. We do as we are told, and no looking for a bit of fun while you are under the Lord's pay."

There were grumbles of agreement, and the five guards and one terrified merchant's daughter entered the court quietly and without further incident.

Lord Bartholomew meant to set an example of his person. An example of what happened when peasants tried to steal from a lord, but more an example of his own strength and manhood, to prove that he was a strong ruler, fit for the life of a Lord in the wild northern territories. This was something he must prove to himself, and to Matteous, by giving the insolent peasant a quick and merciful death. The court was silent as the peasant boy was brought in, thrown upon the ground before his feet. This was not the first, nor surely the last, peasant to be thrust below the judge's pedestal, where Bartholomew now stood, his steel gray eyes staring angrily at the heap of dirty boy beneath him. He waited a moment, for surely the peasant would beg for his life and his hands, give a sobbing tale of a poor family or dying mother that warranted his thievery. No excuse necessitated thievery, for Bartholomew's grandfather had set up several charity hospitals and food banks so that no child would go ill or hungry, and the line of Three Spring Lords had kept that as their promise to the people.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
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#6
Gardenia did not beg. Instead, she stood, her long blonde hair falling in unbraided curls around her, touching just past her waist. Her hair, she realized, was probably now full of lice and probably spiders. Her blouse had been torn enough to reveal her smooth skin and ample tender bosom, but, Lord Bartholomew realized, she wore pants as any man would.

"What manner of trickery is this? Are you a boy or a girl?" He pounded a single fist on the pedestal. "And what do you have to say for yourself, in either case? For I have little patience for lies and even smaller patience for thieves, so be on with it."

Her fine jaw set tight in her rosy cheeks, Gardenia did not stutter before him, nor did she bother to bow. "The pain for touching a lord is death, however, I would also condemn you to lose your hands, for that is the price of thievery, and even your father, who I am certain was a much better lord than thee, claimed that no man is above the law, especially those who command the law. It is written in the books at the Library, and, lord of thievery, if bidden I am sure we can recover the correct tome. As to whether I am a boy or a girl, I assure you that is none of your business, for that is between me and my gods."

The room was deathly silent, and suddenly cold. There was a silence among the crowd, as if her words had taken the very breath from their lungs. Bartholomew himself held his own breath, because he had never been chastised so, except perhaps by his sister and her husband.

Then, a murmur began amongst the crowd, and with it a shout. Suddenly, the court hall was loud with the chant of "Kill her!" "Hang her" "Death to the infidel!" The crowd wanted blood, he could smell it. The temperature of the room rose, and a fine bead of sweat trickled down Lord Bartholomew's forehead. The eyes of that girl did not leave him, and the lord thought they would burn their cold blue gaze into the center of his brain.

"Silence!" He boomed, and did so three times again. "Silence or every man will be removed from this court of law!" His gavel pounded on the pedestal, the force of the hit so hard that it burst into several pieces, and the room fell finally silent. "That is better." He said, and reveled in his small victory over the crowd. "Well, peasant thief, it would be hard for me to understand why you have branded your lord a thief, so please explain yourself."

Gardenia explained the incident in the Market Square in a rush, wanting to get every word out before the maddened crowd tore her from limb to limb. From his left, Bartholomew could hear Esmeralda titter, her gloved hand covering her painted lips. When Gardenia ended with "And so, I punched you once in the head to render you unconscious, and again to make sure you would stay so." Esmeralda positively guffawed with laughter. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and Bartholomew thought it all rather unseemly for the noble lady.

"Oh, Bart, I am sorry." Esmeralda said, stifling her laughter. "Indeed, so very sorry!"

The hard gray eyes of their lord fell on the crowd the moment one made a sound, and beneath that gaze they fell utterly silent. His sister's almost maniacal laughter was the only sound heard in the entire room, and she did carry on for several moments. Matteous, who as her husband always sat to her right in matters of state and court, could barely hide his own grin. Bartholomew would certainly never live this down, and hewould be laughed at like this his entire life, if not to his face then behind his back. How would he find a wife to appease his mother now? How could he prove that he was not a simple weakling lord who fell at the fist of a peasant girl? How could he stop them from laughing at him so?

Gardenia's sheer blue eyes bore into his soul, and ripped it open for what it was.

With one swift snap of Lord Bartholomew's voice, both their fates were sealed for an eternity.

"Hang her."

Esmeralda stopped laughing, and Matteous's jaw fell slack.

Bartholomew stood and walked away, ignorant of the cheers that fell from behind him, his sister's cries for mercy falling off of his shoulders, but he could not turn his back from those silent blue eyes. Even as he stepped away from them, even when he was sure there was no possible way that bewitching, and strong, peasant girl could possible see him through tons of cold stone, her eyes penetrated him and forced his soul into the open.

What a pitiful and selfish lord he was, indeed.
 

Base

it's a motherfucker
1,833
1
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#7
That is really really good. What a git though, pride and all. No balls at all in my opinion.
Really Really excellent story, honestly

EDIT: cuz i hadn't read it all and now i have
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
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#8
Base said:
That is really really good. What a git though, pride and all. No balls at all in my opinion.
Really Really excellent story, honestly

EDIT: cuz i hadn't read it all and now i have

Don't worry, my characters usually get whats coming to them...its not done yet, this is just the first half, I think.

Thank you very much for your comments!
 

Base

it's a motherfucker
1,833
1
0
#9
well, i would deffinitely like to read more, i can't spell, i'm knackered. :thumbsup:
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
0
#10
More: Sorry, when Im in the zone, I can write for hours and not realize that anything else is going on......

The Fall Festival came and went that evening, and like hundreds of condemned criminals before her, Gardenia spent the night in a solitary cell. Well, the girl thought, she could hardly call this a cell. The young merchant's daughter was fairly certain that Lady Esmeralda had a large hand in Gardenia's small fortune. The room was not fancy, not by any means, but rather plain and comfortable. The bed was soft and warm, and there were, thankfully, no spiders or rats. She had even been given a personal commode, and along with that was brought fresh water to wash herself in. The guard who had brought her to Lord Bartholomew was her the only person Gardenia had seen, and she had learned his name as Kristopf. As it were, Kristopf was rather fond of cheap brandy, and shrugged easily when Gardenia refused his offer of a drink. He sat just outside her door, and she could hear the gentle and constant rocking of the chair against the door, almost a drum, reminding her that he was still there, should she gather any thoughts of escaping.

From outside her door, Gardenia heard the short and loud sounds of argument, until finally the keys jingled against the brass handle, and Lady Esmeralda entered the room. Gardenia recognized her at once, all pale silk and blonde hair, her fingernails painted brightly for the festival, her face painted twice as bright as that.

"I can not go against what ill fate my brother has decided for you, dear child. Yet, even so, I can not deny that his cruelty is beyond good judgment, and therefore offer you this chance of freedom."

Gardenia shook her head, slowly. "If I run, will it not fall upon my father's head to return me in a fortnight, or face my punishment? No, dear lady, though your intentions are well put, I will not do so."

Esmeralda smiled. She had thought this girl would give such an answer, but she had to be sure. "Then kneel, child. Kneel before me as you would any lord or lady, but know that I am Esmeralda, First Priestess to Gaia of the Northern Holds, Bearer of Creation, of Nature and Hearth."

Gardenia did not stutter, she did not falter, and she certainly did not miss a beat. She fell on her knees instantly, her face prostrated against the floor.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
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#11
"It is written that the laws of man are secondary to the rules of the Goddess Gaia, that even the King can not stand against her nor flee her wrath. Gardenia, I have spent the night in prayer, until the Mother herself came to me. You are to be my second, and therefore I bestow upon you a grace that even my brother can not deny." There was a pause as Esmeralda shook with her secretive power, her religious fervor. "Rise, Gardenia child of Tenwick Goldbottom, Rise and be known as Gardenia of Esmeralda, now and forever."

Even as Gardenia stood, her shining golden hair reflecting the soft candle glow, there came a pounding on the door. Esmeralda smiled, deeply, thoughtfully, and gladly. She made a single wave of her thin lady's hand, and the door burst open, sending her brother, husband and Kristopf sprawling through the entryway.

Bartholomew was aglow with anger, his steely eyes blazed at his sister and the peasant girl. "What have you done witch?" He screamed, and raised himself upwards in a rush towards them. Matteous grabbed his leg, and caused the Lord of Three Springs to fall ungraciously to the floor. The two tussled for a moment, with neither getting the upper hand.

"Enough!" Esmeralda snapped. "Stop behaving like children. Bartholomew, you have no right to accost me, as I was bidden by the goddess to do so. This girl is now under Gaia's protection and warrant, and if you dare disturb that magic, I will bring more than hellfire upon your foolishly prideful head. And if you breathe a word of this to our mother, I will certainly turn you over my knee."

Matteous did not doubt for a moment that Esmeralda would hold to her promise, he knew that frozen and commanding look in her eyes, the look of a priestess and noble lady who bore no foolishness.

Bartholomew glowered, his eyes to the floor. His muscular frame shook with fury beneath a silken jacket, and he dug his fingernails into the floor until his knuckles became white. "You have found a way to usurp my power over this hold, dear sister. Do not think for a moment that this will go unpunished. Even if you hide behind the cloth of your goddess, I will repay this transgression." Silently, he rose. Lord Bartholomew's steel gray eyes met and held with the peasant girl's bright blue eyes, and they stared for a long moment in silence. She gave him no leave, no peace. Those damned eyes. Bartholomew swore, silently, that her eyes would hang from the hearth in his room before he stalked out, turning his back with little more than a grunting word of foreboding.

Days passed simply after that moment, Gardenia found that she fit easily into the life of Esmeralda's guardian and servant. The work was neither hard nor tiring, and the two women became fast and true friends. Her father and sisters were in an uproar that she had taken to the castle life, but found it a better fate than her death, of course. Within a month, Delia, whom Esmeralda did not really care for, was married to Will Boots, and Gardenia did not attend. Her family life was well behind her, and the merchant's daughter found that, in truth, Will Boots was a good match for her younger sister, while he was not quick with wit nor arms, the young man was certainly smart and cautious enough not to drive her father's business into the ground. Yes, Gardenia thought, sitting with her legs crossed beneath her, the Tome of Gaia in her hands, truly the goddess has laid favor upon me and mine.
She offered an open prayer of thanks to Gaia, and Esmeralda joined her in unison.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
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#12
Dinner at the castle was rarely an overdone affair, as Gardenia had come to know. She had expected nights of foolery and dancing, but found that the castle's folk lived just as normally as any, aside from their massive jewel encrusted doors and fine, thin porcelain dishes. Lady Theodora, who had aged slowly and very well, sat always at the head of the table, as was her right since her husbands passing. At the other end, the lord of the castle sat alone, and between the two Esmeralda and her family. Gardenia did not sit at the table, but stood quietly with the servants, as was her position. Friends as she might be, more than that, sisters in the eyes of their goddess, there was still propriety and tradition. Often, dinner talk was idle, how did Barholomew like the girl that would soon be his wife? The mousy, youngest daughter of a foreign lord who had seemed rather glad to be rid of the child, citing that it had been nearly impossible to marry her off in his own homeland, for she was far too into books and not into, as it were, noblemen. This suited Bartholomew, and after the customary year of engagement, they would be married the day of the Fall Festival, which was now only weeks away.

Still, Bartholomew could not fathom why Esmeralda paraded that vicious peasant girl before him, always forcing her to stand directly in his line of sight. Even when he had turned away, Esmeralda bade the girl to stand by door, so that she was not blocking her dinner light. Bartholomew knew they were laughing at him, mocking him with the girl he had condemned to death, and in a wicked twist of religious law, his sister had stolen his prize, his right as a lord to exact justice. These thoughts, and thoughts of Matteous, who no longer spoke to Bartholomew except in matters of state, poisoned the young man. Poisoned him as surely as any tipped arrow or spiked meal could have, growing within his soul, thoughts of desperation and lost pride.

"The Christian King is coming for the Fall Festival. He will oversee my wedding with the Lady Inyshia."

Esmeralda choked on her wine, and it left long red splatters on her golden dinner dress. "Gardenia, take the boys and their meal to their rooms. And take care not to step in our lord's line of sight, for I fear his eyes tend to wander."

"Aye, my lady." Gardenia bowed, short and stout as a man's bow would be. She refused, even after a year of castle life, to curtsy. She also refused to wear skirts, which Matteous thought just as well. It was hard to teach his boys how to shoot a proper crossbow in a dress. Matteous gave a moment to watch both Gardenia and his wife, and was gladdened by how much the young merchant's daughter had accented their lives, being more than a servant, truly, she had become a part of their family.

Once the boys were gone from their table, Esmeralda stood She spat on the food, and into the drink. "I can not eat, your words have fouled this meal. How dare you bring the Christian King into our homeland, into our hearth. During the Fall Equinox! Our time of power and play! Are you mad?"

Bartholomew did not look at her. He stared straight at his mother, whose bright and brassy hair had turned soft white over the last year. "I need not remind you, dear sister, that this is my hold. My home, and here I am lord. Not you, and certainly not your children or husband."

"You curse us all with your foolishness, bringing the Tree Burners into our land. You curse our home, and act as though you have every right to do so!"

Esmeralda did not notice the smile that crept on Bartholomew's face, but Matteous did.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
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#13
"Is this all a power play, boy-lord? You think you can bring the Christian King here, and not find yourself oppressed beneath him? Even our own King has decreed that none may cohort with him. You are a fool, for many reasons, and yet you add more."

There was no further discussion that night, and no further dinner. Bartholomew sat for a very long time, until all the servants had finally left. The foul things that poisoned his mind, insane things, grew with every word he thought. Finally, a late night kitchen maid came to take his goblet. She was not pretty, not at all, which was probably why she was confined to the kitchen. Lady Theodora like pretty serving girls to be shown, and prettier serving boys, and this maid had a gangly, overgrown look about her.

Bartholomew grabbed her by the arm, and forced her to the cold stone dining hall floor.

The Christian King came with little fanfare, more gawking stares than banners waving. Lord Bartholomew's people were rather unimpressed. Esmeralda, whom the peasant kind referred too often as their queen, stood very still and very silent by her brother's side. Bartholomew's smile was as great as any, he seemed rather pleased with himself as the Christian King stepped from his great red and gold wagon, painted with crosses and odd words Esmeralda did not understand. Did not want to understand.

"Welcome, and be happy here, Christian King!" Bartholomew bellowed underneath the sharp sound of trumpets.

The Christian King was certainly not what Esmeralda had expected. He was younger than her brother, and almost seemed sickly. A child, and nothing more than that, she realized, watching the boy king be paraded forward, two large men holding his hand at either side. His dress was long, so long that two small girls carried after it, holding the train up from the dirt. The boy nodded at Esmeralda, his deep brown eyes resting only once on the pendant she had donned just for this occasion, the rounded insignia of Mother Nature, Gaia, fell gently between her bosoms, the deep cherry wood a striking color against her pale skin.

"Come, Lord Bartholomew, and be well met. Pray tell, will there be the pagan Equinox ritual you told me of tonight? I must know, for preparations by my priests to save me from demonic influence must begin."

"No, not tonight good king, we have planned this two weeks in advance, for that was the will of the priests."

"That is well then, I am sure ample arrangements can be made. It is imperative that the pagan religion not fall upon me, for I am the only bearer of light and truth in this forlorn world. May my wives accompany your sister on this day, and have you set aside separate rooms for our women?"

"Of course, and of course again. We understand that in the face of properness, the King and his men must be separated from their women."

Esmeralda could hold her tongue no more. "Then how in the blue blazes do you ever bear children?"

"Peasants bear children, Lady Esmeralda, our nobility oversees this, and from there chooses the ones best suited for our position." The Christian King answered her as if he were speaking to a child, his tone soft and slow. "Will you take my wives into your home, and protect them from the pagans?"

"As well as I can, Christian King. Do you find me a pagan?"
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
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#14
The question drew a gasp from every person there. Her outburst had been expected, that was the way of Lady Esmeralda, but her confronting question was rude, to say the least.

The Christian King took this with a smile, and patted her hand with his own. "No, dear lady, I consider you an unlearned person."

Esmeralda was, for the first time in her life, shocked beyond words.

With that, the boy who was king walked past, the two small and darker skinned girls holding his train. Bartholomew hissed at his sister, and with a swift stride caught up to the boy king. He was thrust back by the two men who held the boys hands as he walked, simply and with no word other than he must walk two strides behind the king's wives. Even Bartholomew was shocked to realize that the boy king's wives were the two dark skinned girls holding his trail; they seemed not even old enough to be away from their mother.

Gardenia had grown in power, Esmeralda had been training her. Already, she had mastered the First Art of Concentration, and was fast approaching mastery of the Second Art of Contentment, soon, Esmeralda thought, this girl would have mastered all three arts, the last being the Third Art of Conscience. Normally, it would take years to master even the first of these precious arts, but Gardenia was a solid and fast learner, taking all that Esmeralda and other priestesses taught her and making it part of her spirit.

All this, unbeknownst to any, was about to change. For the Christian King had come, willingly welcomed into their home and hearth, and there bore no refusing of him now.
 

CopyLifted

Funnier than a 5th grader
4,790
78
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#15
dustinzgirl said:
More: Sorry, when Im in the zone, I can write for hours and not realize that anything else is going on......
Trust me, this is very true.....
 
4,149
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#16
Wonderful, DG! I hope you stay in the zone and continue to post more.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
0
#17
The night before the festival came swiftly, and both Esmeralda and Gardenia were glad of it, for after the Fall Festival was over with, the Christian King and his strange child-wives would be gone from their land. The two foreign girls, Esmeralda had learned, were literally slaves. They had been purchased for the Christian King at their birth, and knew their station well. Aside from that, the girls kept mostly to themselves, whispering in low tones in their odd language. The only other time Esmeralda or Gardenia heard a peep from them, the child wives were chastising them for the evils of their religion and especially their prayers. Once, the children had been so offended that they covered their ears and recited the same line in monotone until Esmeralda and Gardenia left the room.

It was just after nightfall, Lady Esmeralda had kissed the boys, now seven and three, goodnight. With so many strangers in the castle, both Matteous and Esmeralda had felt it necessary to leave the walkway in between their own room and the children's open, and had moved Gardenia into the boy's room.

Then, the fires started.

There was smoke so thick and black Gardenia had to scream for the boys to find them, and Esmeralda. Matteous was already donning his short sword, and gave a grave kiss to each child. He paused a moment longer on Gardenia's lips, and even longer still on Esmeralda's. "Go, women, beneath the castle. You know the way, Esmeralda."

"No, my husband, I will not leave you." Esmeralda's face was thick with soot and tears. "Please." Her voice trailed off, and Matteous grabbed her hard by the waist.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
0
#18
"Do as I say, stubborn woman, just this once for our boys' sake. Later you can scream at me for days on end, dear wife." He planted another thick kiss on her lips, and ran from the room.

"My sword." Gardenia said, running back into the boys' room. She had never kept the blade, a long sword fashioned for her by Matteous's own blacksmith, far from her grasp, but in her rush to grab the boys she had forgotten it. Before she could reach the room, it burst into flames.

"That is no natural fire!" Esmeralda screamed, pulling two ceremonial blades from the wall. Each blade was as fine as any, sharp, cold steel.

Outside the room, the Christian Kings two child wives cried, their eyes burning. They had been bred for a silent court life, and were very afraid. Gardenia did not even ask Esmeralda, she had not needed too. She pulled the girls to her by their nightgown collars, and bade them to run between her and Esmeralda. "Stay with us or you will die and meet your Christian King's god." She had said flatly, once she shook the crying from them. The girls nodded in understanding, their thin black braids bobbing across their dark faces.

They were running, Gardenia carrying the Lady's elder son, two odd foreign girls between them, and Esmeralda taking the end with her toddler crying on her hip. She could not afford time to quiet him, to falter would mean their deaths. Esmeralda let the boy scream in her ear.

The halls were utter pandemonium, the insane following the mad, as it were. Then, there was something else. Men, dressed in red robes, coming upon those who were leaving their rooms and slicing them into death. Behind those men, came more men in black robes, who prayed over the dying.

Lady Theodora came from her room, yawning and rubbing her eyes. A kitchen fire, surely only that could make such a thick smoke. It certainly would not reach the noble Lady in her own quarters.

A man in a red robe struck the Lady Theodora from behind, stabbing his curved sword deep into her back.

Gardenia, and those behind her, ran for their lives. Esmeralda wished she could go for her mother, but her own instinct told her that to do so would be death. She prayed then, prayed as hard and as fierce as she ever had, and hoped that Gaia was a true goddess.

Gardenia was running so hard that she barely saw the red robed man step from around the corner. She stopped herself just short of impaling her, and possibly the young boy in her arm, on the strange interloper's scimitar.

"Show me your face, betrayer, so that I may know who I kill!" She screamed, and raised the odd ceremonial blade in the air. The robed man thought this would be her folley, and charged her without a cry. Deftly, with movements so fast that Esmeralda
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
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#19
barely saw them, Gardenia spun the boy away from the charging man, and at the same time used the sharp end of her blade to slit the attacker's throat.

"Where did you learn to move like that?" Esmeralda said, breathless. She had seen her husband spar on many occasions, but believed that even he would be slow compared to this girl, a girl that had come into their lives by nothing more than chance.

"My da's guards. Some of them were rogues, surely." Gardenia flashed her toothy grin. "And maybe a brigand or two."

"The tunnel entrance is not far, just past Bart's quarters." Esmeralda said, her teeth gritting. "And he should pray that he is already dead, for I am sure I have lost my husband."

The rest of the way was easy, there were no more robed men or even servants, in fact, Gardenia noticed, stepping over the bodies that lined the walls, "They have already been this way, and by some small fortune, we missed them entirely." Hearing the sounds of the dying and the crackle of the flames behind her, Gardenia did not feel they were fortunate at all, not really. Still on the move, and refusing to tire, the women led the children through a maze of long corridors, some utterly empty and other filled with blood and slaughter.

Esmeralda took the lead through their lord's master bedroom, for it contained the easiest, and most secret, route to the lower tunnels. The room was empty, and Esmeralda was glad for it. She did not know what crimes against state, country and morality she would commit should the noble woman face her only brother. The wall slipped open easily at her beckon, an enchanted ring she wore on her hand opened all doors within the castle. Together, the noble lady and her boys, the merchant's daughter, and two very afraid foreign queens, stepped heavily through the wall.

Matteous was furiously hacking through the mass of red robed men, and where one fell, two more took his place. He had made it through the hallways, finally, and stood at the top stair case leading to the Common Room of the castle. Beneath him, utter pandemonium ensued, the musical twang of steel against steel offset only by the screams of the dying and grunts of the fighting. He did not consciously think of his wife and children, now they were but a distraction to his fight, but always they were just beneath the surface of his mind, waiting for the Captain at Arms to finish his task. He knew they would be safe, knew so because of his wife's stubbornness and affinity towards the arcane, but more so because he had trained Gardenia, and found her to be a formidable opponent. The fiery blonde had even shown him a trick or two, and as his finger lay into the eye of one screaming robed man, Matteous used that trick to pluck the eye from its socket in one tilt of his thumb.

For Matteous, the task was simply to kill as many invaders as he could and defend the castle his family called home. Simple, because now he fought men like himself, his lithe and strong body, near middle age but not showing it as of yet, flew, a weapon in its own right, and where he could not land a solid strike with his blade, he dealt a deadly kick or blow.
 

dustinzgirl

Banned - What an Asshat!
26,094
178
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#20
The Common Room suddenly burst into flames, and Matteous cried out as both red robed man and his own soldiers were melted before his eyes. The fire was so intense that every wall hanging burst into fire, almost simultaneously. The red fighter that Matteous had been fighting did the oddest thing the captain had ever seen a man do. He laid his sword at Matteous's feet, and cried out. "Kill me, heathen, kill me now! I'll not be fodder for that one!"

Matteous did as the man bade with a swift slice to the prostrated man's neck. Then, he understood what the man had meant. Matteous was widely renowned as a great fighter, having lost no battles in his ten years as Captain at Arms. He had removed brigands from the roads and once a pack of ogres from the nearby forest, but these enemies had been simple. They all had the same weaknesses, the same motions. Now, as Matteous watched the great slithering beast move into the castle from a door of its own making, he wondered at the red and gold colored scales, too afraid to move. Even his heartbeat had fallen still, if only for a moment. One word repeated in his mind, and for the first time in all his life, the great captain had no recourse of action, no swift wit to save him, no army to command. For before the very human captain, a creature of legend made itself known, and Matteous could only think Dragon before it was upon him.

It was only the speed of his motion that stopped the man from being destroyed beneath one massive black claw. The dragon tried to turn in the large room, but was too slow. Matteous slid beneath its foot, which was as large as any wagon Matteous had ever seen. The skin ripped from the palm of his weathered hand as he slid across to the underbelly of the beast, all the while praying it would not rear up and destroy him.

A voice called then, a voice Matteous had prayed he would never hear again.

"Hold! Great Dragon, I implore thee to hold! For this is my family, and the Christian King promised they would not be harmed!" Lord Bartholomew stood at the top of the winding staircase, his hair disheveled but otherwise looking as he did any other day, dressed in dark silk finery and his sword hanging loosely by his side.

"How many of our people have you murdered?" Matteous called from beneath the beast.

The dragon reared up, as far as he could in the room that was certainly not built for creatures of his height and girth. "Human! Take leave, and take it now, for I am Blackblood, the great death dragon, and I have no time for your human foolishness. Get thy kin from beneath me, or I will crush him duly." The voice was a rumble throughout the room, shaking the very foundation of the castle.

"I am no brethren of yours, Lord Bartholomew, betrayer!" As soon as he spoke, Matteous wished that he had not, for it was not his brother in law who replied, but the massive beast he hid beneath.

"Well, if ye are no kin to this one, then ye are dinner for me!"

Bartholomew turned from the scene, sick at the sight of his once Captain. Had he not been generous in offering the man amnesty? Had he not tried to rescue him from the beast that would surely devour Matteous? Slowly shaking his head, Bartholomew stepped up the cracked staircase, never to enter the Common Room again.

Matteous was not one to give up easily, some base desire for victory pushed him from beneath the creature, and he leapt onto the great swinging tail. He ignored the slices into his thin human skin, and used the sharp scales to crawl up the spine of the beast. The dragon howled in frustration, trying to turn himself about in the room. Blackblood the dragon was having a hard time of it, for the Common Room was much wider than it was long, and he could get not get his body to fully turn.

Matteous found his mark, and thrust his sword into the nape of the beast's neck.

The dragon screamed in fury, and fire flew from its nose and mouth.

Matteous was flung from the creature's writhing back like a rag doll, his body snapping against the ceiling, then smashing upon the floor. In its death throws, Blackblood managed to jerk its body so that it landed atop the already dying man, and both victor and prey, though which is which is unknown, died in the broken Common Room of the Castle at Three Springs.