Short Story: Permission to Speak Freely, Mr. Graves?
Permission to Speak Freely, Mr. Graves?
(Graves Gestures a shrug as if the idea of permission to speak is absurd)
“I keep my head down and I’s do my part of the job. Iffit'n ain’t my bidness... I‘ont say nuthin’. That’s our agreement, the gods and I. Stables & Tables. Nuthin’ more. Nuthin’ less. I told you that when we signed up for Master Sibi's quest.”
(he musters his courage to speak freely, shifting tone faster than intended.)
“...But I’ll be DAMNED if they ain’t somethin’ funny goin on. And If no one else gone say it, I reckons I will.
(surprised at his own aggression, he doubles down.)
I heard rumors back in Bloomington, that a single Paladin wrangled a werewolf all by himself. ‘He’s either impressive… Or he’s full of shit.’ They words, not mine (he clarifies).
Full moon t’morrow night. Guess we gone find out. Better keep that silver spear close, Mr Graves.”
(Graves looks around cautiously for the Paladin Baelrun, but the glow of Baelrun's scar is nowhere to be seen. Olster gently places his knife under the horse’s jaw, pressing all his weight until there is a wet crunch, then twisting between the cartilage to get under the jaw, then through the neck in a swift well-rehearsed motion. The horse lets out a long final exhale. Its eyes roll back. There is an eerie peace as the wounded beast is laid to rest. Warm red steams on the ground. The sound of panting now replaced with cicada song.)
"Shhhh... Good girl... That'll do.”
(Olster’s Voice cracks)
“MoonShade was my gran-baby's favorite... Been thinkin’ lately... bout my gran-babies. Bet they be getting ready for bed right about now."
(He clears his throat and buries his pain as he stands. His knees pop with each step up.)
Johanna the Huntress:
"Come! We must build altar! We honor 'great spirit'! We remember all we lost. The gods? (She gestures frantically at the carnage strewn about) The gods ANGRY! We must make peace. If not, we die here."
(Stoic. Looking for the right words to honor Moonshade and the other horses, Mr. Graves looks down into his folded hands and sees the seahorse tattoo on his thumb.)
“Horses of the land and sea are the most majestic of beasts. I will help build your altar. But first, I’ve gotta handle some business with a certain rat bastard!”
(cleaning his knife on his handkerchief. Frustrated)
“It-not-just-him-no. Ya know that right? Forgive me Mr. Graves, if I’m speakin’ outta line, but you wanna pin allll this shit on one person to make it go away. Deep down you know it ain't true.”
(clouds darken the moon. A small campfire is lit, casting ominous shadows across Olster's weathered face.)
“They cut out the Rabbi’s tongue. Eyes too. Did ya know that, Mr. Graves? I spoke to ‘eryone when we made it back to camp. I ask ‘em all what happened. They says he screamed as they drug him into the woods. Screamed for help from ‘ery god he could name, but it was all mumbled, 'cause they done cut his tongue, ya see? The last name tho… the last name he called on they heard clear as day…”
(he mimics a scream dramatically, but only whispers)
‘BAAAAHRAY’ ... then all was quiet... (he gulps at the thought) ... 'cause they slit his throat. They made them beg for their lives Mr. Graves. Did you know that?”
‘course ya didn’t. Ya’ been barking orders ever since you been back. They. MADE. Them. Beg. You understand what I’m sayin’? This ain’t ‘bout bad blood no more! They came for YOU… and they came for HIM! (pointing to the tent where Bahray is already fast asleep.) ...But we weren’t here, so they made these poor people pay!”
(Graves can’t bring himself to look up from the fire)
(gaining momentum in his rant)
“Whatever happened back at Almoc’s Tomb changed things in you Mr. Graves. A blind man can see that. Bahray too. Changin’ into the Rabbi like a mimic? ...It was damn disrespectful is what it was! He’s then gonna look at me and demand that I not burn anything at the altar until he finishes his rest?
(Olster quickly removes his blood-soaked riding gloves and reveals his blistered hands.)
(Sarcastically, to Mr. Graves)) Oh, forgive me, Mr. Bahray! Is it Mr. Bahray needs his sleep?! Is it Mr. Bahray needs comfort this night?!”
These are MY friends and MY babies and I done told Master Sibi what I'm goin’ do but he ain’t hearin me! He too obsessed to accept what happened here tonight; Thinks we can all just pack it up and keep moving. Me and Johanna and Miss Cita are gonna honor the gods tonight in the ole ways; The ways we know how!”
(Near catatonic, meanders between the two, oblivious to interrupting their conversation. She has a thousand-yard stare, and speaks indirectly towards the moon.)
"Our elven kind carries the spirits of our ancestors. I see them every time we close our eyes. This is our gift. Yet in this place, we cannot see my sweet Nedd.”
( Still in shock at her husband's corpse in the pile, Cita doesn’t skip a beat and continues to stumble forward into the dark. Olster removes his old hat from his balding head, out of delayed respect for the widowed traiteur, even tho she doesn’t notice or care.)
(The moon comes back out of hiding as if a spell were cast to halt Olster's tongue. The surrealness of it all now casts Olster’s gaze into the fire as well. He has said all he will say, tho he wanted to say more. There is a long somber silence. A single tear falls down Olster’s cheek, probably more for his horses than anyone else who died today. He snivels a moment, clears his throat, then spits phlem into the fire, as if spitting all his emotions out with it. His stone-cold face flickers in the warmth of the light.)
(with pondered intent)
“I understand now, Stablemaster. Tonight we do things your way. We take care of our people first. We mourn our loss. THEN, we get to the bottom of this. All of it. It ends tomorrow.”