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.


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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?”


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Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 14

Okay. Enough of a break. Time to get back to it, me.

Read Tag…One More Time – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 1.
Read Tag – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 2.
Read Tag – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 3.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 4.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 5.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 6.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 7.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 8.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 9.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 10.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 11.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 12.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 13.


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 14

Byell stood on the edge of his field. In front of him lima and tomato rows alternated, a thirsty crop with a dry so water would disperse throughout the field evenly. Behind him his orchard started, apple trees and pear trees, another thirsty crop meeting dry. A mallet hung loosely in his right hand, slipped through his palm, and landed with a dull thud on the dry earth by his boots. He wiped sweat from his brow and looked down as if confused by the sound, then slowly raised his head and scanned the horizons. “No rain.” He clenched his fists. “No clouds, no rain.”

His thirsty crops pulled what water they could from the dry, the ox yoked with the ass, and both suffered for it.

A duct ran from the Vell to his fields and he spent the last hour damming it so no Vell water would reach them. Tardiff stated it correctly; the Vell’s water quenched like poison and none knew why.

He sobbed and pulled a leather pouch from his pocket. “You promised.” A knotted cord held the pouch’s top closed. Sweat ran down Byell’s cheeks and mixed with tears. “I gave you my daughter and you promised.”

He pulled the cord and the pouch opened. He bit his lip until it bled, tasted the blood on his tongue, spit into the pouch, and mixed the contents with his finger.

“You promised.”

He walked his fields. Every few steps he took some grains out of the pouch and sprinkled them on the ground.

“You promised.”

At the end of his transit movement caught his eye. The trees around his fields had once been loud with wildlife. Birds followed him when he furrowed and he talked with them. “Are those grubs to your liking, Mr. Grouse? Does that worm serve, Mrs. Tanager? And you, Mr. Grosbeak? Are you getting your fill?” Swifts flew over him as flies and grasshoppers took flight. Opossum and stoat waddled at a safe distance behind him to catch any gleanings.

Now the trees were silent. He prayed to gods old and new to bring the wildlife back and kept his eyes alert for any signs of life in his fields, so the dark movement, the fluttering of black against the withering green of the trees, caught his eye and he looked.


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Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 13

Read Tag…One More Time – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 1.
Read Tag – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 2.
Read Tag – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 3.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 4.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 5.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 6.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 7.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 8.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 9.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 10.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 11.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 12.


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 13

Dire entered the cellar from a bulkhead concealed in a thicket of stranglebushes. She wore thick clothing even on the warmest days so the thorns wouldn’t slow her. Sometimes she needed to hide in a hurry.

She lit candles then a lantern, trimming wicks so there’d be heat and light but no smoke. A wall held animal parts, a workbench several tools. Beakers and bowls and corked jars covered shelves far back into the dark. A lectern held several books.

A pigskin glove, the fingers spread and held open with pins, rested palm up in the center of the workbench. Pig ligaments and sinews ran up through the fingers. The woman picked up a magnifier and studied the glove, sometimes pulling the sinews to see if the fingers fought the pins. They did.

She smiled.

“What have you there, Grandmother?”

She spun and lifted a fine edged knife from the bench as she did so.


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Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 12

Read Tag…One More Time – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 1.
Read Tag – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 2.
Read Tag – Part I Verduan of Nant – Chapter 3.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 4.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 5.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 6.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 7.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 8.
Read Tag – Part II Forgeron the Tinker – Chapter 9.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 10.
Read Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 11.


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 12

Grasshoppers chirped and took flight. Bees buzzed from flower to flower. Wrens and blackbirds flitted from limb to limb. A bushtit danced on the dead girl’s barbette tugging at a loose thread, another made a hole in a stocking.

The woods grew silent as Baillot, Tardiff, Eric, Thomas, Verduan, and Patreo gathered in a semi-circle around the body.

Ide pushed through them. Thomas moved to hold her back but not quick enough. She looked at the young woman’s body and collapsed against her son.

Patreo reached into his cassock and pulled out a small phial. “Lay her down.” He pointed to a sprout of turf back aways from the body. “Over there.” One quick shake and he uncorked it under her nose. “Breathe slowly, Mother. Deep and slow.”

Her eyes fluttered then focused. She pushed him away and scrambled across the hard earth to the body.

Baillot frowned at the phial still in Patreo’s hand.

“Crushed Buckthorn with cayenne and some other herbs, Father.”

Ide gently adjusted the dead girl’s blouse and skirt. “I taught Julia needlework and weaving. She made these as I watched.”

Tardiff squatted beside her and gently took her hands in his. “Are you sure this is your daughter, Ide?”

Ide pulled her hands free and hugged the body to her. The blood on the face and neck turned her blouse a patchwork of bizarre leaf shapes, as if red maple leaves became hands, grabbed her blouse, left their ruddy mark then let go.

“Forgive me, Ide, but the face. It would be hard to tell by the face – ”


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