27 July 2011

The Jailer's Songbird 2

Leaf from Tyndale's 1536 New Testament
Here is the second of three parts from a short story that won me first place in the Word Guild's Write! Canada writing contest. The conclusion will be posted tomorrow.

   “Canis Diabolus,” squawked a voice from within. Phillips turned back to his entertainments, his hand still on Mina’s chin. But she sidestepped around him and ducked into the cell. Robed figures stood looming over the prisoner. Seeing her knight’s sunken eyes, his bony shoulders draped in tatters, Mina would have said he was a hundred years old. She counted. One, two, three... eight sorcerers this time. The room was thick with their cloaks. 
    “Dog of the devil, who are you to replace Saint Jerome?” one of them crowed down at him.
    “Miscreant, leper.” hissed another.
    A curdling pool of vomit lay on the ground before him. He wasn’t keeping his food down. His hands were shaking worse than before. Mina bit her lip. If only she could take his leggings, so thin, so full of holes, and patch them for him, bring him her own little night cap against the creeping cold. But the sorcerers had forbidden it. What could she do?
    “ Renounce your follies, Tindalus. Pride goeth before a fall!” One of them thrust a pen into his hand and knocked on a document that lay in front of him on the table.
    “Sign.” He sat there quietly, looking down at the parchment, the pen shaking in his hand. If only they would all go to sleep! Mina stared at them, willing it to be so. One of the sorcerers turned on her and she stumbled back, and clattered against the bucket.
“Scrub that muck, girl!” She hurried forward and fell to her knees, sponging the site of her knight’s upheavals.
    Sir William lifted his head, seeing her now for the first time since she came in. He returned the pen quietly to the table and looked up.
    “Pride goeth before a fall? Indeed. All the more, therefore, shall I resort to His word, a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” It was one of her songs! Mina stopped scrubbing and moved her hand toward the apron pocket where her notebook lay. She felt its comforting weight.
    The chief sorcerer answered then.
    “Mind your tongue, Tindalus! You have sullied that word with your unauthorized... distortions!” He spat it out like a piece of rotten meat.
    “In addition to this warrant of execution, we have secured an injunction against anyone found in possession of your malcontented blasphemies! How many will suffer on your account, I wonder?” The sorcerer sneered, “We have already secured a goodly number to our custody.” Mina jerked her hand away from her pocket. Her ears were thumping.


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