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The Rescue

The leper moved slowly through the streets of Ravila pushing a heavy cart in front of him.  The bells around his neck rang out their warning and people seemed to literally leap away from him, the crowds parting, faces looking away superstitiously and spitting in the dust as he passed.

At the gate none questioned him but seemed anxious to see him out of the city now that his strange business was concluded.  His wooden cart was piled high with cast-off blankets and clothes.  He paused to rasp out a thanks at one of the guards, his cracked lips forming a smile that didn’t seem to reach the bruised eyes.

Along the high road he made his way, the other travelers giving him a wide berth.  At a deep bend he pushed the cart across the refuse that marked the boundary between road and forest and made his way clumsily deep into the trees.  There, in a small clearing, an old pony stood hobbled and cropping grass beside a small wagon, a fireplace was ready-built, wanting only the strike of a match.

The Leper dropped the wagon with a relieved sigh and pushed the hood of his robes back, breathing in fresh air.  The bundle of rags in the cart suddenly seemed to bubble up and flop out onto the forest floor and with a clinking of chains Maggie was crouched there, staring up at the rapidly darkening sky as if she had never seen it before.

The leper began to peel at the flesh of his face, revealing it to be theatrical make-up, he dropped it and started to shed the heavy robes, “Make yourself useful, there’s a hammer and chisel in the wagon,” Mr. Underby drawled, wetting a towel in a bucket and scrubbing at his hands now.

Maggie stared at him with wide, dark eyes and then moved slowly, as if the shackles that held her weighed too much for her to lift.  The pony hobbled toward her, nudging her with his nose and giving Underby an accusing look.

“Never mind,” He said, annoyed, “I’ll get it.” He still had a bit of a limp himself, but already his thin limbs were gaining their deceptive strength.  He got the hammer and chisel out and carried them over.  Maggie held her wrists against a stone as he brought the hammer to bear, cutting first one shackle and then the other.  She didn’t speak, just looked away has he cut away the ones from her ankles.

She looked thin and bruised and dirty, her hair matted against her head.  She flexed her fingers and toes.

“Were they so hard on you?” He asked.

Her dark eyes met his and then looked away as she rolled shakily to her feet, walking away into the woods.  He rose and followed, “Morrigan?”

“Maggie.” She replied and seemed to sniff the air, then pushed through the dense underbrush until they came to a place where a stream formed a calm pool around the gnarled roots of an oak. A kingfisher startled out of the tree as she walked into the water until she was sunk up to her nose, the dirty prison clothes ballooned up around her and then seemed to detach of their own accord, like a flotilla of water-weeds, and drift away with the slow current.  She ducked under to scrub, the water clouding around her and when she popped back up again she cracked a thin smile.

“Ain’t polite ter watch folks bathe, is it Ossy? Hope ye gots summat fer me ter wear in that wee wagon o’ yours or I’m goin’ ter be goin’ about in th’ buff.”

“Ah, right.” He turned and hurried to the camp and returned with her hat and a plain brown dress, he sat them on a rock.  She was floating on her back now, watching as the first stars appeared in the sky.

He left her there to start the fire and put a pot of stew on.  He chewed a bit of dried srizzle snake as he stirred and when she re-appeared, dripping and fresh, he had a bowl ready for her. She took it and sat down, eating slowly and dipping more out of the pot until it was empty.

“Seems ter me ye just pulled me from the jaws o’ death.” Maggie said at last, when she was done with the stew.

He nodded, still chewing the snake slowly, looking uneasy.

She gathered her bowl and the spoons and the pot, preparing to walk them to the river and scour them, “What e’re it is that’s worryin’ yer head now ye might as well lay ter rest.  Yer mine ter guard now, ‘till such time as ye see fit ter release me from me duties.”

She walked bare-foot back to the river and he could hear the sound of sand being scrubbed across the copper surface of the pot.  Sitting on a stone across the fire from him was her hat, looking in remarkable shape considering it had just spent two months in the Ravilian prison. He thought of the price he had paid once before when he had stolen it, how dearly she had fought to get it back.

He felt, for the first time in months, unafraid.

 

 

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27 Comments

  1. Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs April 29, 2011

    *insert picture of typist with jaw hanging a bit ajar here*

    Well, well!  An interesting turn of events, indeed!

    • Yang Moreau Yang Moreau April 29, 2011

      ::jaw hanging right alongside Book!:: Whoa! If only to have this as IC knowledge!

  2. Blackberry Harvey Blackberry Harvey April 29, 2011

    Maggie is the new Pip?  Oh my…

    • Maggie Lynwood Maggie Lynwood April 29, 2011

      Yep! Mewahahaha hahaha hahaha….can I have a cookie? 

  3. Zaida Gearbox Zaida Gearbox April 29, 2011

    But, Miz Maggie alive!  Her not made out of clay!

    • Mr Underby Mr Underby April 29, 2011

      What, pray tell, would that have to do with anything?

      • Zaida Gearbox Zaida Gearbox April 29, 2011

        Her say dat Miz Maggie de new Pip.  Miz Maggie can’t be Pip because her not made out of clay.  ((Think with the mind of a child, dude!  Zaida, against everyone else’s better judgement, is quite fond of Maggie.  Hearing other grown-ups compare her to Pip – who turned out to be made of clay – would be very upsetting to her.  She hasn’t worked out that they just mean she’s working for you yet.))

        • Mr Underby Mr Underby April 29, 2011

          Your world view is narrow, child.

          ((Think with the mind of a bitter man who has spent the last 6 months convalescing, and already despised children.))

        • Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin April 29, 2011

          some of them religion things say everyone was made out of clay.. or bits of gods.. or, well, all sorts of weird stuff, i know, i head em talking bout it when i was trying to snooze under a wall, why is it grown ups is so loud?  Anyhow, ain’t what yer made of that’s important, it’s what yer does…

          • Kristos Sonnerstein Kristos Sonnerstein April 29, 2011

            Bits of gods. You put it so well, Tepic. I’d heard the verses of course, but never thought of it quite so clearly as with your simple description.

    • Maggie Lynwood Maggie Lynwood April 29, 2011

      O’ course I ain’t made o’ clay! Wot strange notions ye wee ones get. Head’s fulla cotton.  

      *brings Mr. Underby a cup of tea* Anything else fer ya, sir? 

      • Mr Underby Mr Underby April 29, 2011

        No, that’s lovely dear. Thankee.

        • Maggie Lynwood Maggie Lynwood April 29, 2011

          *beams a loving smile at Mr. Underby and hurries off to sweep the kitchen* 

          O’course I’m okay ye daft wee child, why wouldn’t I be? 

      • Zaida Gearbox Zaida Gearbox April 29, 2011

        Sir?? Dear??  *looks at her little friend concerned*  You feelin’ okay, Miz Maggie?

  4. Queer Hermit Queer Hermit April 29, 2011

    *puts down her quill, frowns, and takes a long sip from the sake bottle*

    It is to my way of thinking that all three of the resident wee folk are operating under a Geas right now.  Pocket, after a fashion, with Longstrife; Tenk, though he does not know it yet, with Pheadra; and now Maggie with Yo Yo.  Does this bother anyone other than me?

    *takes up her quill once again and continues to write in her journal of activities*

    • Zaida Gearbox Zaida Gearbox April 29, 2011

      *whispers*  What’s a Geas Miz Hermit?  I hardly remember Mr. Pocket him been gone so long, but Imma worried about Miz Maggie.  An’ now you tellin’ me dat I should be worryin’ about Mr. Tenk too?

      • Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin April 29, 2011

        it’s a large flightless bird from the other side of the ocean, it’s bad to be under one cus it’s so heavy…

      • Queer Hermit Queer Hermit April 30, 2011

        It is a compulsion dear.  It requires a person to protect or enforce a sense of loyality of duty to another.  Isn’t always Magikal but it certainly is “old school” which is something that these three affected Citizens of Babbage would honor.

        • Phaedra Underby Phaedra Underby April 30, 2011

          Hmm. I was curious what that meant, thank you for sharing.  But by your definition Maggie is the only one who calls under a geas as she feels she is in debt to Mr. Underby (and rightfully so. My….darling….did rescue her, after all). What has happened with Pocket and what is happening with Tenk is quite different. 

          Although there is indeed a word for each. 

           

    • Mr Tenk Mr Tenk April 29, 2011

      ((i don’t think geas is the right word. what phaedra did to tenk is completely different than what has happened to the other two.))

    • Odnar Halberstadt Odnar Halberstadt April 29, 2011

      Wee folk? *snorts*
      A child gets bone fever and they are called wee folk as adults?

      So what ailment did you have as a child Miss, or are you just one of the “Pasty Folk”?

      *Stomps off grumpily.*

      • Queer Hermit Queer Hermit April 30, 2011

        Nothing serious Mr. Halberstadt.  I was simply touched by the Gods at birth.

        *smiles gently* Until I saw your reply I doubted that bone fever affected the cranium.  Does it hurt much?

        • Odnar Halberstadt Odnar Halberstadt April 30, 2011

          *Rolls his eyes*

          You are “touched” all right.

  5. Odnar Halberstadt Odnar Halberstadt April 29, 2011

    I think I am going to keep a packed bag near the door. It looks like I might have to get on the train and visit New Babbage again.

  6. Phaedra Underby Phaedra Underby April 30, 2011

    He LIVED and managed to save her? How…I thought for sure…It was RAVILA for heaven’s sake!

    Honestly, my bothersome husband has more lives than a cat. 

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