Saturday, 11 August 2012

Little bird

The rain lashed down. My face stung and the air steamed. It was a summer storm: no respite for me, no respite from me.
The forest road, boggy and without feeling for the slow carts made travel almost impossible. A team of men just to heave the treasure wagon through each of the muddy holes we had dug the day before.
‘What is this?’ I heard one cry, ‘This is stupid, where did the road go wrong?’ I heard another.
The driver did not hear the sound of the bowstring against the rain. He clutched at his chest as if taken by indigestion, thinking to knock it out of himself.  He thumped his chest twice and fell forward. The wheel caught on him and at the back the six men heaving against the sudden blockage were taken by surprise. Arrows few from the undergrowth. They fell like broken trigs into a fire. Some twitched the last of their life away as men with no name scurried like rats, sharp metal in their hands they opened their throats quick enough.
The two soldiers following on horseback had been unseated a hundred yards before. As I walked to the wagon one of the younger ones dragged a carcass through the rain and presented it to me.
‘Said you wan one alive’ he grinned, missing teeth and a hole where his nose once was. Before they sliced it off.
I pointed and he grinned again, running through the sandy slop of a road to unload the cart.
I knelt and pulled the soldier’s face close to mine.
‘Name’ I asked.
‘King John will have you in chains before the week is out’ he stumbled over his words, assuming he was to die he wanted to make it a man’s death. He was right.
I took the shard of metal. Bad forging, bad smith, but it’s point worked. I dug the blade deep into his face and prised out his left eye.
He screamed for his mother soon enough
‘Name’ I asked again calmly.
‘Stephen, Stephen de Montford, squire to the sheriff’ he howled, tears flowed through his other eye as he forced it shut. I pressed the point against his cheek.
‘Property is theft brother Stephen’ I said very slowly so he would remember. It was time I sent them a message. ‘Repeat’
‘Property is theft’ he wailed. I pressed the point deep into his cheek.
‘Open your eye’ he did not, I held the point deep in his cheek, it bit and he screamed again. I whispered the words softly. ‘Open your eye, or I will take it from you and wear it about my neck.’
His blue eye opened, fixed upon me.
‘Remember this face’ I said, remember my name. I pulled the hood from my head so he could see who had bested him and bared my throat and the small bird tattooed there.
‘You, you’re’
‘Repeat’ I screamed.
‘Property is theft, property is theft property is theft, property…..

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