The Beggar Blades

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - I.

Submitted: February 05, 2020

Reads: 208

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Submitted: February 05, 2020

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The gray man before them had his feet and wrists shackled with stained black steel. The man’s face was shredded by the cold winter wind and filled with hopelessness. His head rested on a thick stump of old oak wood. The light of his eyes had dulled, and his brows and mouth were stiff. He had a small audience of peasants with mud brown clothes with crooked teeth and crooked stares. Out in front of the group was a man that was clearly no commoner. Lord Samuel Bradshaw was dressed in head to toe in black velvet and wore simple strands of gold around his neck with bands of gold choking his fingers. His ash hair was swept back, and his chin was covered in a rug of white bristles. Lord Samuel was flanked by a small platoon of knights to his left, clad in silver armor and decorated with the symbol of the Bear on their cuirasses. To his right, stood his children, three boys and a girl.

“Why isn’t he crying?” Maven Bradshaw, the second oldest boy said first. All the children mirrored their father in clothing. Maven had a tight head of black hair that was reminiscent of his father’s early years.

“He’s accepted his death,” The oldest boy, Seymour, answered. Being the oldest, he always felt the need to answer everything as best he could. He was gifted with his mother’s hair, a mess of blonde that topped his head. “Right father?”

His father stood patiently and still and after a few moments he said, “Pay attention,” and rested his hand on Seymour’s head to straighten the boy’s sight.

Maven and his siblings attentively watched like guard dogs as a huge man covered in armor walked up to the one that was chained up. The executioner raised a hefty axe over his head and rested it on his shoulder. Another man, much older and in robes, was standing to the side and screamed out to the audience,

“Attention good people of Scantsboro! This man here has been sentenced to death by way of a unanimous decision led by the common folk! He is charged with multiple counts of thievery and has endangered our very way of life! He sits here today a thief and as an associate to the Rat King himself!”

The crowd groaned and shouted obscenities. “Filthy rat!” “Bloody rat!” was heard all around. The Bradshaw family stood stone faced except for the sister who was grimacing at the barbaric sight but was forcing herself to watch as her father demanded. The man in robes continued.

“Yes! A rat! A thief! The lowest of the low! The scum of the earth charged with stealing not only our gold! But our food! Our animals! Our clothing! And, kidnapping our children my dear people!”

The crowd grew louder and more aggressive. Some were throwing small rocks and mud at the convicted thief.

“Why would they—” Maven tried to speak, but his father cut him off.

“Just keep your eyes on him. This is the rule of the land, my boy. We punish those who are ought to be punished. It would be rude to avert your gaze.” Maven didn’t understand what that meant and had more to say but he didn’t dare speak back to his Lord father. Instead, he held his tongue and stared at the axe hanging above the thief’s head.

“You shall rest easy my dear people! For today marks another day with one less rat littering our street!” The speaker turned towards the thief. “What do you have to say for yourself, rat thief?”

The thief raised his heavy head ever so slightly and looked across his audience and towards Lord Samuel. With the last of his strength, he breathed out his last words, “This city is polluted. The people you think protect you, in fact hold knives behind their backs. I say to you all here and now: flee the city for your own safety. Scantsboro is—” Just then, a rock struck the side of the thief’s face and his cheek showed blood. The crowd screamed various things like “liar!” and “kill him already!” The thief shrugged it off and finished his sentence. “Scantsboro is strife with corruption. War will break soon as Ghirland had once predicted.” The thief closed his eyes and readied himself for death. The giant axe swung down hard and fast onto the thief’s neck and his head was sent rolling towards the feet of Lord Samuel.

“This, my children, is what awaits you if you choose the life of a criminal.” Samuel kicked the head away and it made a thumping noise like that of a head of cabbage. “But of course, being as you children are Bradshaws, it wouldn’t be a problem to stray from that path, would it?”

“I want to go home, please father.” The youngest sibling, Stennis, said.

“Very well.” Samuel let out a sigh. “Seymour, take them back to the keep. I’ll be right up shortly.” He pointed at one of his guards. An old man who showed his bald head. “Roy, see to them. Keep them away from the mud. And don’t let Stennis near the stables. He’s a bad habit of touching those filthy animals.”

“As you command, my Lord.” The bald knight hurdled the children together and lead them away with Seymour, but Samuel forced Maven to stop and he placed his hand on Maven’s shoulder.

“I know this isn’t what you wanted, Maven. But first thing on the morrow, you and I will go hunting.”

“Really? You mean it this time?” Maven’s face lit up.

“Yes, if I have no meetings in the morning, I can bring Seymour to accompany us. He’s gone hunting before. Run along for now. We will talk later.”

Lord Samuel pushed along his son with his hand and Maven ran ahead to catch up with his siblings. Splotches of mud and dirt splashed all around his feet as he dashed around people and roaming chickens and pigs. Thoughts filled his head. Maven had always wanted to go hunting after his older brother Seymour had bragged about bringing home a deer for dinner. Maven was sure however, that his father had helped him with the kill, but Seymour insisted it was all his own doing. Seymour would show him how to handle a hunter’s bow in the back fields of their keep. How to tighten the string and slow his heartbeat to steady his aim and concentrate on his target. He was younger at the time and his arms would tremble at the shear strength of the taut bow, but now he was a little bigger, a little stronger. All that was left to do was to shoot an arrow at something that was living and breathing. He would be the next Bradshaw to drag an animal corpse to the family table, and he would have his boot on its neck in victory.

“Be careful! Stop running!” The old knight Roy yelled as Maven hurried past him and the Bradshaw siblings. Maven crisscrossed through a dizzying array of alleyways and stone buildings. He curved around a smith furnace that coughed up black smoke and sparks that danced around the blacksmith like glowing fairies. He shuffled through a set of sloping stairs that led to the butcher and various apothecary shops where Maven’s mother would buy sleeping herbs from. Maven’s nose was filled with various scents of spices, herbs and hot broth as he pierced into the crowd of the town’s main shopping district. Scantsboro, being one of the bigger cities, is a massive trading center that is constantly flooded by various people. Dangerous or otherwise. Caravan owners selling miracle potions that come from the Savage Lands to the south. Various mercenaries, both big and small, men and women, getting a drink in the local tavern or exchanging sharp looks at bystanders. Sickly looking peasants and beggars that exploit every opportunity to gather food and gold. Surrounding these people is the City Guard. Trained knights and soldiers who pledge allegiance to their Lord and more importantly, to their King. In the middle of Scantsboro, lies the city’s keep which is the home of the Bradshaw family. The only people in the city who can eat roast pork and drink wine through all of the morning, evening and night and have enough money to spare on jewelry.

As Maven was approaching the front courtyard of his keep, he heard people running behind him and he stopped to catch his breath and looked back. His siblings were running after him. Seymour got to him first and rested his hands on his knees and said,

“Why......why did you have to be the fast one, huh? Ugh...”

Their sister, Miriam, came running right behind him, carrying the younger Stennis on her back. Miriam Bradshaw is Maven’s twin sister. Both born into this world headstrong. Miriam had medium-length black hair with a braided crown that wrapped around her head. The twins were cursed with having their father’s black hair, while Stennis and Seymour had their mother’s more elegant blonde color.

Hah...Hah, Not bad, not bad. We sure left Old Roy in the dust there. I hope he isn’t mad at us, hehe,” Miriam snorted.

Out in the distance you can just barely make out Old Roy who was hobbling along through the city and clutching his ribs. The knight’s age has done a number on his stamina.

“Dinner should be ready. Race you to the table!” And with that Maven was off running again as quick as a cat.

“There he goes,” Seymour said through his fatigue. “Hey, wait up!” Seymour ran after him and Miriam sighed and trailed behind.

Maven made circles around the keep’s guards who were all standing confused and disoriented at the sight of Maven’s speed. Maven quickly made his way through the main hall and took the stone stairs up in great stride. The stairs led to the kitchen and its many housemaids, cooks and assistant cooks. Maven swiveled through pots and pans and screaming maids, all through the collective smell of burned fowl and sweet honey and spices. He burst through a set of wooden doors and finally made it to the family dining table where he was madly greeted by the scholar, Birch Allman, who was sitting at the table. Maven’s mother and the Captain of the City Guard were also present and were startled.

“Young Master! what on earth’s the matter with you? Barging in like that?” Allman yelled out.

“Running’s good for you, so I’ve been told by my sword teacher,” Maven said without breaking a beat to catch his breath.

His mother spoke with authority, “Maven, we have guests. Show some courtesy and wash your face, dinner will be served in just a few. My apologies, my son here is quite...fleetfooted.”

The Guard Captain lifted his hand and said, “No need for apologies, my Lady. All sons are the same in my view. My little hog refuses to ever go to bed.” He cracked a smile at Maven. Byron Hartford has been Guard Captain in Scantsboro for as long as Maven could remember. Byron was always seen beside Lord Samuel through thick and thin, even if he bumped heads with him. Though old in age, the Guard Captain’s body is durable and his face tough with callouses. His short hair and beard are as gray as steel. He held his helmet at his side. “What of your Lord father, young one?” Captain Hartford asked.

“He said he was coming soon,” Maven said while preparing a bowl of water.

“Then who escorted you to the keep? I always told your stubborn father to have you children be guarded with knights when traversing this city. There’s been an awful amount of muggings in the lower districts.” Maven’s mother, Mira Bradshaw, flared her nostrils but calmed herself down. She always had control of her emotions and never raised her hand at her children. Her husband, Samuel, on the other hand, was not so forgiving. Lady Mira had a stunning lock of braided blonde hair that ended under her shoulder blades. Years of stress had eternally morphed her face to look saddened and her eyes were small yet deep and meaningful. Perhaps her internalized emotions were making her look older than she seemed.

“Mother, it’s alright. Father sent Old Roy to escort us back to the keep but we decided to race for dinner.” Maven had done washing his face with a cloth and had seated himself at the table.

Birch Allman jumped in and said, “You children should stop tiring poor Roy. The man grows weary by the day!” Birch Allman was one of many scholars that worked around the keep, giving advice to Lord Samuel and aiding the children and housemaids. Brown and green robes wrapped around his decaying body and a long strand of white hair hanged off his chin.

“And your brothers and sister? You leave them too?” Mira asked. The wooden doors slammed open again and in came Seymour, Miriam and Stennis.

 “Present and accounted for, mother,” Seymour said, wiping the sweat off his forehead. He nodded at the presence of the Guard Captain and scholar Allman. “Good day, Hartford. Allman. What brings you two here?”

“Well...I was just preparing to leave, young master, if that’s alright with your mother.” Mira nodded. “Another time, then.” Birch Allman got up and took his leave.

Miriam sat down the small Stennis at his chair and she took her own. Two skinny housemaids brought out stuffed pig that was glazed in honey and sweet spices and surrounded by fresh lettuce, tomato slices and apples. It was followed by a serving of thick loafs of bread, water, milk and mead. The children dug in, but Byron passed it up. The Guard Captain placed his steel helmet on the table and his face lit up behind candlelight.

Byron scrunched his eyes at Seymour and said, “I have information regarding Ghirland and The Knives and this information is deemed to be quite sensitive, young master. If you permit, or rather if the Lady Mira here permits, I can pass this information on to you. That is, if your Lord father is too terribly occupied with something else.”

“My father is indeed a busy man. Well, whatever you wish to tell him, you can tell me, and I can promise you I can send the message to my father when I see him,” Seymour responded. He leaned in closer to the candlelight and opened his ears. Maven also tuned his ears while having a fistful of pork in his hands and mouth.

“Seymour, please. Not at the table and not in front of your siblings,” Mira snapped at Seymour with her familiar commanding voice.

“Mother, I am of age now. Father’s business becomes my responsibility if he is not present. You should know this.”

“That’s your father’s words. Words that I never agreed to. And you are still just a boy.” Mira said. Seymour was visibly angry. He hated being called a “boy”, but he didn’t dare raise his voice. Not in front of the Guard Captain and definitely not in front of his brothers and sister. Maven and Miriam both felt the tension but proceeded to pretend like nothing was happening. Stennis was happily oblivious to the situation and was slurping down a flask of milk.

“Your mother’s right, I shouldn’t spoil your fine meal with the words of Ghirland and his rats. You children should rest up and eat, I’ll find Samuel on my own terms.” Byron got up and placed his helmet back on. “Have a pleasant evening, my Lady. I bid farewell.”

“You too, Captain,” Mira said back.

When the Guard Captain left, the dining room grew silent for a couple moments until Seymour was first to break it.

“Why do you insist to embarrass me, mother?” Seymour asked, still hot.

“I only spoke the truth and you know it. Now, it’s done. Eat up, I won’t argue over nonsense,” Mira lashed back in confidence.

Seymour got up from his chair and took a loaf of bread and asked, “May I head up to my room?” He still seemed agitated. Mira nodded at him in acceptance and Seymour went on and closed the door behind him.

“Me and father are going hunting!” Maven abruptly said to Miriam, who then spilled a bit of her milk.

“You seem a little too excited,” Miriam said, trying to dry her dress.

“Excited? I’m more than excited! Father has never taken me hunting before but now I can show him...” Maven got up and flexed his right arm, “I’m no little boy anymore! I can handle whatever the woods throw at me!”

Miriam covered her mouth and started laughing. Teasing and pointing at her brother’s pitiful muscles but Maven ignored her.

“Just you watch! I’ll be the next Bradshaw to send home a whole hog! And you and everyone else will be stuffing your faces and thanking me!” Maven placed his right leg on the chair and stood triumphantly. His sister laughed even harder and Stennis mimicked her and started laughing to.

“Big words for a small boy,” Miriam said.

“Now, now. Time for bed, young ones. Strip your clothes and leave them near the door. The morrow is a new day so get some rest.” Mira Bradshaw started to huddle the plates together to make it easier for the housemaids to clean up and the four of them, Maven, Miriam, Mira and Stennis, all got up full and took the steps up to the keep’s rooms.

Maven’s room, along with all of his sibling’s rooms, was compact and filled to the brim with expensive furs and hardwood drawers. Just warm enough to survive the harshest winters but during the summer, the stone walls of the keep kept all the rooms and everyone inside comfortably cool. Maven tossed his black linens off to the side, next to his door just like mother asked and he wrapped himself up in a thick, bear fur blanket. Maven slept and dreamed of hunting down a large buck. His right arm almost feeling numb. He pierced its heart with the most perfectly drawn arrow and the great stag crumpled to its knees and hit the floor, dragging across the dirt with a trail of blood following it. Using his shear strength, Maven dragged it by its legs through the thick woods and up over large hills and through dangerous thunderstorms until he finally reached home. He kicked the door open and slam the great stag on the kitchen table. Maven Bradshaw got atop the table and placed its foot on its neck and raised his head in victory.


© Copyright 2020 Manolo. All rights reserved.

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