Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 19

Continuing with Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 19.

Previous chapters here


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 19

Galos poked two opposing holes in his pile and watched thick, grey smoke rise. Two more holes, also opposite each other, and the smoke thinned and turned blue.

Galos nodded and smiled. He reached into a leather pouch on a woodpile, pulled out a thin strip of dried venison, and gnawed on until it softened enough to tear a piece off. Its juice glistened down his chin.

A bark came through the wood. The mice and chipmunks, their cheeping and squeaking serving as soprano accompaniment to his deep tenor as he worked, grew silent and burrowed deep in his wood stacks for protection. Galos reached for a solid piece of oak. It didn’t sound like a wolf but game had become as scarce as harvest and he didn’t want to be caught unawares.

A moment later Verduan’s dog, Buco, trotted up and sat beside him. Galos rubbed the big dog’s head. “Buco, does your master know where you are?”

He heard Verduan call from down the road. “Buco! Leave Galos be. He has no food for you.”

Galos winked. Half the venison remained in his hand. He took his axe and chopped off a thumb-wide piece.

The dog kept his eyes on the venison while Galos worked.

“Buco!”

The dog whined. Galos tossed the venison. Buco caught it in midair and took it behind the woodpile.

Verduan walked up with Patreo by his side. “Galos, have you seen my dog?”

Galos stared at Patreo and frowned for a moment. He looked down and shook his head before smiling at his friend. “Verduan, a dog? When did you get a dog?”

Patreo looked to the ground and walked behind the woodpile. He leaned over, momentarily hidden, and returned with Buco trotting beside him. The dog’s flues globbed mucousy saliva as he walked.

Galos put a hand over his chest and pulled back, eyes wide with alarm. “By all the saints! A dog! I’ll bet he’s a good dog, isn’t he?”

Buco snuffled Galos’ hand holding the venison.

Verduan put his fists on his hips and glowered at Galos. “Is that your smoked venison? Did you give him your smoked venison? Do you know the smells that dog makes when he eats your smoked venison? He sleeps in the barn and we’re not safe in the house. Even the goats and cows leave their stalls when you give him your smoked venison.”

“Who’s your friend?”


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 18

Continuing with Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 18.

Previous chapters here


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 18

Dire rolled over onto her knees in silent darkness. She’d been asleep? In her workshop? For so long the candles and lamps burned out?

Something whimpered close by her side as a hand nudged her shoulder.

“Nory? It’s okay. Grandmother’s here.”

A hand stroked her hair. The whimpering turned into joyful crying.

“Help grandmother up, lad. There’s a good boy.”

Gentle hands guided her to her feet and steadied her. Once standing, she was embraced. Her hands searched for and found Nory’s familiar features. “Can you help grandmother outside, lad? Is it day or night outside?”

Nory put his fist into her palm and made the sign she taught him for “day late.”

She felt herself tugged in one direction. “Afternoon? How long did I sleep?”

Nory’s hand made a circling motion. “A full day? Oh, you must have worried so much. I’m sorry, my boy. Have you eaten, Nory? Are you hungry?”

He took her hand and patted his stomach, then ran it over the remainder of the food tucked in his clothes.

“Where did you get so much food, Nory?” She hugged him. “Doesn’t matter. Let’s get outside then. Help grandmother, there’s a good lad.”

Nory’s hand shaped “Show you.”

“Show me? Show me what?”

Nory stepped to Dire’s workbench. He sprinkled powder from her tinderbox into a shallow pot then dribbled a few drops from one of her phials. A moment later the mixture sparked and a flame grew. He brought over several candles and lit them.

Before he finished, Dire gasped.

Julia lay on some hides, unconscious. One of Dire’s heavy woven blankets covered her neck to foot.

“Nory, what have you done?”

Nory shook his head and wrung his hands togehter. He moaned and his eyes went from Julia to Dire and back, then focused on Dire’s shawl. He tapped it and Dire saw dust-like particles bounce and sparkle in the candle light.

She gathered some in her palm as they floated to the ground. Carefully, she brought the grains to her nose. “Wormwood?” She touched the tip of her tongue to the grains. “Lettuce oil and lime tree root. That one meant me to sleep, soundly and quickly, but not to harm or hurt.” She took Nory’s hand so he looked straight at her. “Think now, boy. Have you seen any strangers, any newcomers, in our village?”

Nory nodded vigorously and held up three fingers first, then one.

He puffed up his chest and flexed his arms then motioned as if setting a grinding wheel in motion followed by working a blade on it, testing the blade, and working it again.

“A tradesman? A tinker? A metal-worker? Come through the village looking for work?”

Nory nodded and held up a second finger. He motioned throwing a cloak over himself and pulled his already tiny frame in. He lifted an imaginary cup to his mouth and looked back and forth as he did so.

“Someone small? At the Red Fox? Smaller than you?”

No. Same size.

“Man or woman?”

Nory shrugged and drew the imaginary cloak tighter around his face.

“Who’s the third one?”

Nory imitated Father Baillot shaking holy water on everything around him followed by the sign for “other.”

“Another priest? From another village?”

Nory nodded.

“The first too big to be my caller. The second too small. And no priest I know knows how to mix sleeping dusts.”


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 17

Hello again.

Have I mentioned that I thought Tag was a medieval murder mystery?

Now I’m wondering if it’s more a medieval thriller or simply another one of my cross-genre shifting stories of which my regular readers say, “Your genre is Joseph.”

Continuing here with Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 17.

Previous chapters here


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 17

Tardiff gazed at the proclamation nicely framed upon his cottage wall. Someone told him the frame was “ornate.” “That is ornately carved,” they said.

He didn’t remember who said it. Probably one of the gentlemen who brought it to him. He remembered wanting to ask, “Who is Ornate?” and realized before making a fool of himself that “ornate” was how it was carved, the intricacy of the design, not who carved it.

The frame remained nicely carved after many years on his cottage wall, the vellum it framed not so. Baron Bassus made him UnderSheriff of Nant, a reward for faithful service in the Baron’s guard, but so little happened – and perhaps that was Bassus’s reasoning? Give the title to Tardiff the Fool because nothing happens there and no one cares if it does? – none called him UnderSheriff any more.

No, now it was Tardiff the Bellman. What had been patrolling the road and questioning travelers unknown to him became walking through Nant ringing the bell announcing the canonical hours of worship, making sure people were about their business and nobody else’s, and finally walking through every six hours, same bell in hand, to summon help if a fire burned unattended or a sheep or goat wandered from its flock.

Tardiff the Bellman. The job paid for his cottage, wood for his fire, food for his table, and the cup or two at the Red Fox now and again.

Ha.

Tardiff the Fool? All this for walking around ringing a bell?

Ha!

Oh, but let there be a body found and everyone runs to get Tardiff because he’ll know what to do.

Ha. Tardiff knew he was given this office because he knew how to keep his mouth shut when he overheard the Baron’s business, knew it’s better to have a full belly in the Baron’s guard than to be a body loosed through the Baron’s privies to the cesspit’s outside the castle walls.

Now Tardiff collects the Baron’s taxes and sends them once a year to Melia, to the Baron’s coffers, and with my regards, Lord Baron, all is well in Nant and its surrounds.

But a body?

Of an unknown girl? Not of the village?

Where did she come from?

What was she doing?

Why was she wearing Julia’s clothes?

Tardiff knew three words and he wrote them as precisely as he could, first making sure his ink flowed and his scroll rolled and unrolled without cracking. He wasted one whole scroll practicing the words until they looked as he remembered.

Satisfied, he put on his boots, hat, scarf, slung a wineskin over his shoulder and shoved a piece of pigrib rich with meat into his pocket.

It would be a day’s journey to Turo and back, the next town, to where he could pass his message on and be sure it reached the Baron’s hand.

It is how each year’s taxes went. It must be safe.

He stood inside his door and unrolled the scroll one more time to make sure his message was written clear.

“Lord Baron, Help.”

He’d attached the seal he used to send taxes so the Baron would know from whence it came.

He opened the door.

Father Baillot stood there.

Baillot glanced at the open scroll as Tardiff absently rolled it up.

“Father Baillot. Is there something you need? Whatever it is, can it wait? I have something I must do.”

Baillot stood silent, his dark eyes darting about under his saturno’s rim.

“Well?”

Baillot kept his eyes steady on Tardiff’s face. “I have business in Turo.”

Baillot smiled when Tardiff’s eyebrows rose.

“I’ll be gone…not long. Only a day.”

“Oh?”

“I was wondering…if you could watch my parishioners for me. While I’m away.”

Tardiff became magnanimous. He walked Baillot into the street without closing his door. “Of course, of course, Good Father. And perhaps there’s something you can do for me, as well. It will take you no time. You know the Sargeant there? Good, good, good. Perhaps you will hand this to him for me? Nothing to be concerned with. One of my regular messages to the Baron, to let him know all is well. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, Good Father, thank you.”

Baillot set off towards Turo. Tardiff reached into his pocket, pulled out the pig’s rib, put it between his teeth, went inside his cottage and closed his door, satisfied his obligation to the Baron and the Baron’s taxes done.

***

Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 16

Hello again.

In real time, I’m coming up on the close of Tag. It seemed to me I’ve been working on Tag since the earth was young, but checking my notes I see I’ve been actively working on this version since Dec 2021, which means I’m producing first draft novels about every six months, a schedule I can accept.

The operative phrase in the above is “this version.” Tag grew out of a short story which I originally wrote in 1994 and which no makes the rounds as Blood Magic, so if it seems (to me) I’ve been working on this story since the earth was young, that’s a close enough statement for me to accept as true.

In any case, continuing here with Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 16.

Previous chapters here


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 16

Bonk! Bonk!

Nory kept his eyes on Thomas.

Bonk! Bonk!

Thomas sat under the elm holding Nory’s hammer. He pulled a piece of bread from his pocket, crumbled some and tossed to some wrens who watched him carefully.

Bonk! Bonk!

Nory ran to Byell’s orchard after seeing the body and ate the Tinker’s food.

As much as he could, anyway.

He ate so much his belly rebelled and brought it back up.

Plenty more, though. Plenty more. Eat slowly, Grnadmother Dire told him. That way the food stays down.

Bonk! Bonk!

Nory returned for his hammer and found Thomas sitting there. He stayed behind a broad oak with a split trunk covered with red, flowering persian pea vines. Nory quietly entwined himself in the loose ones and didn’t move.

Chickadees chirped and fluttered around him. He was too near the peas for them and they told him so.

Nory put a finger to his lips and frowned at them.

They found another vine and grew quiet, only when a new one arrived did they chirp their displeasure.

Nory waited.

He wanted his bright, shiny hammer.

If Thomas found it, he’d tell. He knew Nory was here earlier in the day.

Thomas would tell people Nory hurt the girl with his hammer.

Grandmother Dire would be angry at him.

Grandmother doesn’t get upset often, only when Nory makes trouble or doesn’t know what he’s doing. She gets upset to protect him. She is Nory’s friend.

Footsteps on the road.

Nory pulled back even more, not to be seen.


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 15

Previous chapters here


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 15

Verduan and Patreo pulled the Tinker’s cart into the village. The body lay on the bed and the cart’s top kept it from village eyes. Ide and Patreo covered the body further with cloths found in the cart. Tardiff walked in front and shooed people out of their way. Ide walked behind and wept. One hand rested on the body or made minor adjustments to the covering clothes when the cart jumped over a rock or bounced over a rut. Eric stayed at her side, his steps shortened to match hers, and comforted as he could. Father Baillot walked a few solemn step behind mumbling prayers. Thomas remained in the wood where the body and cart were found, hidden less anyone return.

Baillot guided them to the sacristy. He moved vestments and wine goblets from a table and lit candles all around. Verduan, Patreo, and Eric lifted the body and lay it there.

Tardiff pointed to the door. “Verduan, stand outside and make sure no one bothers us.”

Verduan nodded and closed the door as he left.

Patreo carefully pulled back the cloth covering her and began to remove its clothes.

Ide stopped him. “I’ll do that.”

Patreo bowed. “We must be careful how we remove what is worn. I will assist you.”

Baillot nodded and Ide stepped back. She turned Eric to face her. “Go, bring my husband.”

Eric looked past her and caught Patreo’s eye. “I’d rather stay.”

Patreo nodded slightly. He wet a cloth and dabbed matted blood from the dead girl’s hair. “Let him stay. You, mother, you will know best where your husband is this time of day. It is best you bring him, please.”

Baillot motioned her away with a wave of his hand, his eyes fixed on Patreo’s ministrations. Ide snorted and left.

Patreo proceeded. He turned the head and quickly directed Tardiff’s eyes. “See this? Touch it gently. It yields. The skull is cracked. Eric, wash away the rest of this blood until the wound is visible.”

His fingers massaged behind the ears then the neck. “And the blow was fierce enough to snap the neck.”

Tardiff inspected the wound. “The blow to her head killed her then?”

“Surely.”

“So the violence done to her. It was after death?”

“Yes, but not long after. Or while dying. These marks on her face, either her heart still beat enough to send blood there or it was moments after she died and blood still ran through her veins.”

Patreo continued exploring. “Her eyes were removed by someone who knew what they were doing. Someone skilled in torture.”

Tardiff crossed his arms over his chest. “Removed because she saw something?”

“Or someone thought so.”

“Why cut off the hand?”

“A Gourdin punishment. For theft. Brought here from the Crusades. So someone who’s served, knows those who served and knows them dearly, or a Gourdin themself.”

Eric stood back, his eyes closed. “Not punishment for taking the hand off the witch?” He crossed himself.

Patreo frowned down upon the body. “The witch’s retribution would be so clean? She would want to cause pain as well as damage. The bones would be shattered before the hand was taken.” He lifted the arm with the missing hand. “See? The arm itself is whole.”

He held the arm up in one hand and felt along its length with the other. Coming to her chest, he cupped a breast and lifted it slightly.

Tardiff watched. “What are you doing now?”


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!