Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TOTK Chapter 1

I feel a bit like George Lucas here, re-releasing old material. But, like Star Wars, I guess you can't beat the original. I am finding myself having a lot more sympathy for him tonight than I usually do, though.

As a viewer, I want the movies I saw as a kid. I don't care if the special effects date it. But as the creator of a piece of (is it pretentious to call it "art"?), I look at this version, and all I can see is the flaws. I itch to correct them, or present you with my latest draft.

But here it is... From February 2003... Not seen since last summer on FictionPress... is the original beginning of Part I: Orphaned, Chapter 1.

“Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?"
King Henry VI, Part I
Act 2, Scene 4


I have often given thanks that we cannot see into our futures. That we do not wake in the morning and realize that this day will change our lives in ways we cannot even imagine.

Some changes, of course, we could look forward to. Others, we are glad to put off as long as we can. And it is those that I am most thankful we do not portend.

When I think this way, I remember one day in particular. It altered the course of my life forever. For if events had happened differently, I would have never met Tholly at all.

It seems strange to think that Tholly is rightfully King Bartholomew II, now. He will always be Tholly to me.

But, that cold mid-winter’s morning when I was six years old, I was unaware of Tholly, the palace or even events occurring in my own household that were destined to change my life.

I remember hearing strange murmurings in my dreams. It wasn't Mama and Papas’ voices that I heard rising and falling, but they seemed somehow familiar.

I tried to force my eyes open, but they were as if someone had sewn them shut. At times, I seemed conscious, as though I could actually see myself lying there, auburn hair bathed in the sunlight from the room’s lone window, small body twisted up in sweaty bedclothes. But it must have just been the hammering of my head, tricking me into thinking so.

There were faces at times, in front of me. I thought. I was sure of nothing. Nothing seemed real.

I was dreaming again.

And then a horse's neigh came from outside and my eyes flew open. That had been real. A horse was tied up at the hitching post outside the shop, I could have sworn by it. I could even hear it stomping its hooves in the snow.

That could only mean that someone had stopped by the shop to trade. I listened as hard as I could, but only muffled tones came from downstairs. I did not hear Papa's deep voice bartering with a customer.

I reached one of my still-chubby hands up to my eyelids, rubbed, and realized my eyes were no longer throbbing. I tested my head by rolling it from side to side on the pillow and felt none of the stabbing pain that had been with me for...… for I didn'’t know how long.

The sun fell on me, but it was cold winter sun and my sweat-soaked nightshift gave me no warmth. I shivered as I lifted the covers off and slid my feet to the side of the rope-bed, but I had to know who was downstairs. Perhaps there was a thief pilfering through Papa’s hard-earned trade goods.

My feet made contact with the rough-hewn boards. I held on to the side of the bed to steady myself as I rose, and made my way out of the small bedroom onto the landing, balancing against the wall as I went.

My head no longer pounded, but I felt strangely lightheaded. The landing opened up to the shop below and I had to grasp the wooden railing when I saw how far I had to fall.

The shop was as dark as always, with only the sunshine filtering down from upstairs, the fire, and what glow came from the chinks around the door to light the room. It took my tired eyes a while to adjust to the coziness and see the three figures gathered around the fire, talking softly.

Two I recognized as Cunningham and his wife.

Cunningham was a neighbor, and I knew Papa considered him a friend. His wife, however, was the bossy matron of a brood of twelve. The youngest Cunningham was my playmate, but her mother had always intimidated me. I shrank next to the stair post; at the sight of her, thankful Cunningham'’s wife seemed intently focused on the conversation.

The third figure was an elegant stranger. The woman’s heavy royal blue cloak only slightly concealed an elaborately brocaded gown. Her headpiece was similarly intricate. Her neck and most of her head were wrapped with cloth as I had seen nuns wear, but instead of a habit, she wore a large circlet of wrapped blue and white cloth on the crown of her head.

I had never seen such a person in my life. Certainly this strange person must have come to our home from one of the ships in the harbor. No one in this land could own such finery. Even the richest women in my small coastal village, and I counted my own Mama among them, could only dream of brocaded silk gowns.

And yet, despite her splendor, the stranger seemed perfectly content to sit and talk with Cunningham and his wife. It was if she sat around in small merchant's dark shops everyday.

It was puzzling. I found my legs were weakening, so I lowered myself to sit on the top step and peeked through the railing, trying to listen in on the conversation.

"fevered... child... we sent for you..."

It was impossible. I could not understand half of what they were trying to say. I wondered why Mama and Papa didn't come out of their own room underneath the stairs and meet this stranger. Why were the Cunninghams sitting there in front of the fire, entertaining their guest?

Frustrated, I scooted down a few more steps, trying to get closer.

The three adults' heads spun towards me when one of the stairs creaked. How could I have forgotten the third step from the top was so noisy?

“Why it'’s the young missy, out of bed,” Cunningham exclaimed as if no one else could see that fact with their own eyes.

His wife lifted her considerable frame off of her stool and started clucking, "Abigail, what yea be doing out of bed? Yea, getting over fever." She took heavy steps up the stairs and when her breath allowed, continued, "Get back in bed... bed... I say... Yea sitting there in the draft with naked feet... Oh, if yea mama could see ye..."

I clambered to my feet, desperate to reach the safety of my bed before Mistress Cunningham reached me. But, I rose so fast, it took a moment for the room to stop spinning again. When my eyes cleared, I looked down. The stranger was looking up at me and smiling. Her well-featured face seemed so familiar somehow... especially her brilliant blue eyes. Even in the dim light, I could see eyes that matched the color of the ocean.

But that glimpse was all I got, for Mistress Cunningham had reached the top of the stairs and was forcing me back into the bedroom by the scruff of my neck.

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