On Tuesdays we’ll be presenting a little of bit of fiction. They will normally be based on one of the prompts provided from the pirates.
Today’s story is:
Minster Jack Major had always been alone nearly all of his life. He had been an only child, as was proper among the nobility. His father had been high enough in the ranks that he was able to be called nobility, only just barely. It got him in to the better schools but won him no friends. His own nature he knew had not helped him, either. He preferred the company of a well written history to that of his class mates most of the time, anyway.
That was why it was so unbelievable to him when Scarlet had taken an interest in him at all. At first, he had suspected that it was a prank. He had been the subject of more than one of those over the years, but when his anger seemed to really offend her, he had apologized. When still no trap was sprung, he began to realize that her interest in him as genuine.
“Scarlet.” He called across the court yard not caring about the others who watched him chase after the young woman. “Come on Scarlet, at least slow down a bit.” She did slow, but instead of waiting for him, she spun on her heel and headed straight for him with the look of murder in her eye.
“Major, you have a lot of nerve treating me like that.” She said when she got within a dozen paces. “I might be new here, but I have seen the way the rest of them treat you. I am not blind you know.”
“I have seen, and I was the one to show you some kindness, and what did you do? You tired to shame me for it.”
“No, you have not earned to the right to call me that. My name is Lady Art to you.”
He started at the formal use of her title, but held his face as placid as he could. “Lady Art,” he said barely a more that a whisper, “I had no intention of hurting you. You are right – they don’t treat me well around here.”
“And this is how you repay someone who shows you something other than the bottom of their boots.”
“Wait a minute, you think just because you…” She took a step closer to him rested her hand on his chest just below his neck. He could feel the cold metal of a blade, press ever so gently against his neck.
“If you think that I am someone you can trifle with you are mistaken. This knife at your neck is sharp enough that I could slit your throat, and and it would look like I was brushing lint from your coat. You would stand there gaping long enough to watch me walk the length of the courtyard, and my back side would be the last thing you would see in this world.” She smiled an almost wicked smile then, but on her it looked beautiful.
“If I am going to die here and now, I can think of no one else’s back side I would rather see as my last sight, Lady Art.” He started to bow, but thought better of it remembering the knife at his throat.
“You are a cheeky one.”
“I figured, if you were really going to kill me, I would at least say what I was thinking.” In truth he had be ready to wet his pants but he hoped at least for the moment he could hold that in.
“Well I think if you are willing apologize for your rudeness that we might be able to dispense with the killing at least for the moment.”
“Believe me Scarlet, er Lady Art, I did not mean to offend you.”
“Not here you fool, not here with a knife to your throat. You would say anything right now.” She pulled her arm away, and the knife in her hand completely disappeared. He wondered for a second if in that swift movement she had killed him, and he just could not feel it yet. But when she did not turn away from him he tried again
“Alright then, you want a formal apology?”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Tomorrow morning, in front of the class, I will apologize for my rudeness.”
“Will you really?”
“You will have to wait a see.” He said, his courage momentarily bolstered by his bladder control.
“Alright then Jack Major, we will see, but you will not get another chance at this, you understand.” She turned and walked away. It was not until she had been gone from the court yard for what must have been several minutes did he realize that he was still standing there, and that the other students were staring at him. He did his best to keep his composure, picked up the book that had slipped from his grasp as he had run after her and walked away.
The following day had been humiliating. The other students had jeered and laughed as he tried apologizing to her, but he had kept his eyes on hers and she never once showed the contempt that that always did.
That, of course, was nearly twenty years ago, and though they had been friends since, his life had never really changed, he was alone most of the time. Scarlet had been there, on and off when her duties had not taken her to some far off land. She could not marry him though he had asked her on several occasions.
“Jack, you know I can’t, if I ever get caught, it would destroy your life as well. No, I do this alone, and no one goes down with me.” That was what she had said only the week before, when she had showed up rather unexpectedly. That was when it had all gone bad.
Jack had awakened to a pounding on his door.
“Minster,” the guard said looking a little sheepish for having woken him. “I am sorry to have bothered you, but are you alone?”
“I am sorry sir, but we were tracking a criminal that came in this direction. We have orders from the prince to check every house. Are you alone?”
“You woke me up. If there were a criminal in my house, don’t you think I would be more awake?”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, sir.” the guard turned, and Jack shut the door. As he turned to return to his bed, he caught the slightest of sounds. He tried to act as if he had not heard it, realizing that the criminal, who ever it was, was in his house after all. If he could get to his bedroom, he could bolt the door and call for the guards from his window.
“Hello Jack,” said a voice that he knew only too well.
“Scarlet, you just about scared me to death. Why?”
“No questions Jack it is better that you not know.”
He stepped back from her and looked at her for the first time. She was dressed all in black, even in the dim light he could see that she was covered in sweat, and had a smear of blood across her face.
“Ah, you are bleeding. Let me help you.”
“No,” she almost shouted. “No, you can’t touch me, you can’t have any blood on you. If they come to talk to you again, you can’t have any connection to me. Jack, I don’t know that I will ever be able come back here. I was set up Jack, but it means that I had to burn a lot of bridges to get this far. I love you, but if you don’t want to end up like me then just do your job and pretend you never met me.”
“What? I don’t understand, set up? Won’t be able to come back? What do you mean end up like you?”
“Against my better judgement,” She said after a long pause, “I will answer one of your questions. End up like me, well in the best case I will be running for the rest of my life. In the worse case, I will end up at the business end of an axeman’s tool. Probably a little of both.”
“But I don’t understand.”
“I know, Jack, and it is best that you never do. I love you, Jack. Goodbye.” And she slipped back out of the window that, presumably she had come in.
Three days later, he knew why she had been in his house that night. He had done every thing in his power to delay, to make the proceeding drag out, but in the end the evidence was damning, and it was his job to sign her death warrant. He only hoped he had given her enough time to get out of the the kingdom. And he knew that once again, he was going to be alone.