dontravis.com blog post #327
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I’d like to try a short story in a slightly different vein. It’s a story of discovery but told in the language of past centuries. The setting if mythical, the story mystical. I hope you like it.
“Be ye Hargis of Rodenbury?”
The harsh voice pulled me from my cobbler’s stand. A broad, rough-hewn man of middle years stood straddle-legged, hands planted on hips.
“Aye. I am Hargis,” I answered uncertainly. He had the look of the law, but in these times, the ruffians dealt such misery in the kingdom sheriffs were necessary, I suppose. My mind scampered over my last few days, searching for offenses committed. None came to mind.
The stranger’s face eased its stern frown. “You have knowledge of Lavena and Dirkston of Dag Durgess?”
“I know them,” I answered with a broad smile. “You have news of them?”
“Aye,” the man replied, accepting my indication to take the seat opposite me in my small stand at the edge of the market. Normally, it was a stool reserved for those who bring me custom; however, he was welcome to it if he could refresh my knowledge of my two childhood friends. He gave the loud sigh of a heavy man happy to relieve his feet of weight.
“I’ve but returned from Dag Durgess; my boat docked at early light. I searched for you in the rock quarry but was told to find you here.”
“I worked the quarry through the last high summer, and then found a master who taught me to cobble. But where did you see my friends? How are they doing?”
The man held up a hand. “Hold! Don’t bury me with questions. Before we sailed, a fair youth hailed me and asked if I was bound for Rodenbury. He prayed that I deliver a missive to a big lout called Hargis. Marveling that a lout could read and write, I agreed. Then a pretty vision stepped to his side and handed me a message, as well. They introduced themselves as brother and sister, which was needless wind, since one could have been the other—give or take a few changes.”
“Aye, they are twins. Born of the same mother in the same birthing bed, one after the other. He first, and then she. They are well?”
“Doubtless they advise of their estate by these,” he answered, holding aloft two sealed documents. “They looked well fed and decently hosed. Spoke like my betters; acted the part, too, although there was nothing offensive in their demeanor.” He heaved himself to his feet. “Tis time to be about my business; I’ve accomplished theirs. May this day in the next Year of Our Lord find you well, Hargis.”
“And you, sir. Thank you for your kindness.”
Lavena’s letter reflected my recollection of her. Small neat letters formed precise words conveying exact thoughts. She told of her work as seamstress at the nearby Manor and her brother’s position as gamekeeper at the same. Their parents were in health. They were well-favored in their lives and content, except for missing their childhood playmate. She closed with the words ‘All love, Lavena’. No mention of swains or would-be-beaus. No hint of wedding vows. Nothing to tell me if she was still a maiden not yet promised.
Aye, and Dirkston’s missive, which I eagerly read, reflected him, as well. Bold letters carelessly formed yet conveying straightforward thoughts. He liked his job, loved his family, and chased the girls. His message closed with ‘faithfully’.
I pictured the two as they were some three years past when we all had seventeen summers. Lavena was tall for a girl and possessed a heart face crowned by curly golden tresses. She had budded long before either of us and had the bearing of a woman while we were yet striplings. The rock quarry had begun putting muscle and a man’s form on me, although Dirkston still had the look of a boy. They were both beautiful. Her beauty was feminine, his beginning to emerge from androgyny.
I reread the last lines of his letter. “Oh, how I long for you again! You would not believe Lavena. She’s the rose of this town, as I am its thorn! I catch my share of looks from the girls, let me tell you. The Festival of the Harvest Moon looms hard on the horizon. It is a wild time. Wicked…without being evil, if you take my ken. Anything goes. We could have a grand time together were you but here.”
Seized by an acute yearning, I cast around with a speculative eye. My parents had gone to The Lord, and there was nothing to keep me here, certainly not this little stand. A man can cobble anywhere. And while I had improved my station in life, there was a disquiet, a longing eating at me at odd moments.
Two fair images floated in my mind, and I made a small game of trying to decide which I missed the most. Lavena held the calm and ready wit of the pair, yet I missed Dirkston’s rough and tumble and his odd moments of intimacy as we shared important secrets of childhood.
It took three days to sell off my meager collection of things not required to set up business anew. The effort reaped barely enough to keep body and soul together during my trek, but far less than the price of a berth on a ship. One master gave my strong body the once over and offered passage in exchange for seamanship. I eagerly accepted but grew so green with mal de mer on the dory ride to the boat that he sent me back to shore in disgust.
Thus it was that I set across our island kingdom by foot, and being a cobbler, I was superbly shod. My remaining belongings strapped firmly to my back, my stout hickory staff in hand, I turned my face to the east and took the first of countless steps.
The freshness of being on the road fell off my eyes quickly. By the end of the first day, I was tired and sore. A twelve-month away from the quarry had softened me beyond belief. I slept beside the road, one eye open for riffraff and highwaymen and the like. In truth, I half hoped for a set-to with miscreants to stir my blood.
Days passed as I paced along watching a distant mountain loom larger. At the foot of the thing, the trail forked. The well-trod road turned north while a faint path led into the mist-shrouded mountain. There was no question in my mind that the path over the mountain was far shorter than the highway. Nor was there doubt as to which I would take. The direct route would gain my goal quicker. With hardly a pause, I strode resolutely eastward toward the distant sea.
The mountain trail was easier than expected. This must be some sort of a pass through the hills. And he heavy fog I'd encountered earlier had cleared away. At times I walked with sheer stone walls on either side; at others, I broke out into pleasant forested meadows. In the second of these, I halted at the sound of singing.
A rushing stream sparkled through the trees on my left. Quietly, I left the trail and made my way to the edge of the forest. Spread out below was a glade of such beauty and peace that it took a moment to focus on the young woman singing as she stood ankle deep in the water. Clad only in a thin shift that clearly revealed the long legs and darkened mysteriously at her pudendum, she removed garments from a small basket to beat them against a broad, flat rock. Her back was to me when she bent to the water and rinsed a linen. I grew aroused as her shift tightened against her buttocks. Realizing she was aware of my presence, I boldly stepped through the brush and marched down the slope.
“Hail, master,” she called gaily as she turned to me, not in the least disturbed by my presence.
“Mistress,” I returned the greeting.
“You travel the high trail, I see. Tarry awhile. I do not see many travelers. Where are you bound?”
“Dag Durgess on the eastern sea. Before I’m done, I will have crossed this kingdom from shore to shore.”
“Kingdom? What kingdom?”
“Why this kingdom. This very place where we stand.”
“I know nothing of kingdoms. Just this mountain.”
I laughed disdainfully at this pretty lass’ ignorance of the outside world. “The Great King will be surprised to learn we are not of his realm.”
“Perhaps so, but enough of this. You’re tired and require a refreshing swim in my brook,” she declared. Laughing gaily, the beautiful young woman strode a few paces up the shore to plunge into a deep pool. I stripped to my trousers before joining her.
The water pasted her thin shift to her flesh, and at times glimpses of the dark nipples hiding beneath stirred my excitement, but she turned and swam away. I raced after her. As she rested against the far bank, I rose to my thighs in the water. Her gaze raked my torso frankly, and I flamed with unseemly pride in my build. The quarry had laid a slab of muscle over my breasts and pulled my sides into a narrow waist. My corded arms had never been a matter of interest until now. She reached out and touched them gingerly, cooing over their strength.
“What is your name?” I asked for something to say.
“Gwyndolyn,” she answered, dropping her eyes shyly, an artifice if ever I’d seen one, since she had boldly examined me mere moments before. “And yours?”
“Hargis,” I answered. “Hargis of Rodenbury.”
I cannot explain what happened next. Gwyndolyn loosed all her feminine wiles on me, which is as it should be since she was a female, but the sidewise glances, the feigned modesty, the teasing with fluttered eyelids cooled my ardor. Of one thing I was absolutely certain, never had such alluring female flesh been so available, and never had I desired it less. Abruptly, I stood, the water running in rivulets from my body.
“I’ve a long way to go,” I said firmly. “Best be on my way. The bathing was welcome. For that you have my thanks.”
She made a small moue of disappointment, standing in the water to give me a look at everything blurred only by the sodden linen shift. “Are you sure? Are you certain? So few come up this path. I get lonely. I would make your stay worthwhile.”
“I am sure,” I replied, the sincerity of my tone surprising even me. Retrieving my clothing and staff, I set off down the trail without looking back.
What’s with Hargis of Rodenbury? A beautiful young woman throws herself at him, and he goes mountain climbing. Let’s withhold judgment until we see what happens in the second part of the story.
Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth in the BJ Vinson mystery series, received several positive reviews. I hope you’ll consider buying a copy. If you do, please post a review of the book on Amazon. Each one helps… as do letters to the publisher.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.
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