26 July 2011

The Jailer's Songbird 1

William Tyndale
Here is the first of three parts from a short story that won me first place in the Word Guild's Write! Canada writing contest. The next two parts will be posted over the next two days, while I'm getting things into shape for the fall.

Mina eased one foot down before the other, ball to heel on each stone step. In her left hand there flickered a lamp, while the right gripped a wooden bucket that knocked against her ten-year old shins and sent splashlets of vinegar-water plunging down the spiraling staircase of the Vilvoorde Castle dungeon. The sorcerers had summoned her.
    “They are lawyers and clergymen,” said her papa, the jailer, “and doctors of divinity. The moment they’re done with you, fly back to our quarters straightaway. And remember, Mina,” he said, kneeling down with heavy eyes, “be careful.”
    “Yes Papa.” She kissed him on the cheek and skipped off into the belly of the fortress, as sure of her way as a bird in a tree.
    They were here for Sir William, Mina’s knight. Of all the prisoners, he was her favorite. He told stories she had never heard before, written long ago and far away in strange tongues that he had translated himself. Mina listened and wrote them in Mama’s old notebook. Some of them she made into songs, and sang them to Papa at night. She was trying to hum one even now, but her voice wavered, fell silent.
    How long had they been down there, pecking at Sir William with their examinations? Two hours? Three? Her foot touched the bottom of the staircase and she rounded the corner of a long, unlit passageway, her big brown eyes expanding in the gloom. Voices echoed down the corridor from a dimly lit cell at the end, “Scelerata... lepra!” She set the lamp by the staircase, and made her way forward, lugging the bucket past door after door.
    She pictured herself striding into the cell, raising a hand to send everyone into a deep sleep, then leading her knight to freedom, magically unlocking door after door, just like the elfin king Elegast from Mama’s stories so long ago. As she neared the open cell, however, the quivering light outlined a figure in the hall before her: Henry Phillips, Sir William’s betrayer. Papa called him a heresy hound, but as he leered in on the proceedings, the grin on in his face looked more like a hyena’s. Mina lowered her head and quickened her pace toward the entrance.
    “Hweet hweet,” whistled Phillips, stepping in front of her. She stopped, looked down, tried to curtsy. He took the bucket from her hand, and after placing it just within, lifted her chin. “Why so hasty, little sparrow?” The reek of his breath passed into her nose.


Stephen said...

European castles, Latin, sorcerers, elves, knights, intrigue.
"The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..."


Hey, thanks for letting me (us) finally read this.

I wonder if William and Mina's names (meaning the same thing) play any part in this story?

Dave said...

This is awesome!

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