[Mock-Fiction] V - Fures Misericordiam

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Aye. Tis me again.

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36. 34 – Pound of Flesh

Oh, when the saints,” rang Mariqah’s voice from outside the walls, followed by the scraping and hammering of wood, and the soft squelch of mud being laid.

Oh, when the saints,” the mercenaries repeated.

Come marching in,”

Come marching in.

Oh, when the saint’s come marching in.

I want to be in that number,

When the saints come marching in.”

 

“I see you’ve started this wailing nonsense again,” said Khadir, appearing on top of Mariqah at the entrance of the fortress.

“Typical you,” she replied, wiping the back of her hand on her forehead, leaving a streak of mud there, “Matthew, take up the song, will ye? I’ve business to deal with.”

In her loose trousers and her sleeveless tunic – both caked with mud and sawdust – she slip-slided her way to Khadir, climbing up the soft mud and motioning for Khadir to stay where he was. The wood had been hammered into the mud, yes, but it was still a fragile structure, until the cement was laid and left to harden.

 

The song continued, and Mariqah observed from the entrance, hands on her hips, “Not lookin’ bad. I reckon we’ll finish by sundown. How’re you doing? With the medicine?”

Khadir cocked his head to a side, “How do you reckon, eh, sister?”

“That’s not an answer, desert-boy.”
“Offensive!”

“Please,” Mariqah snorted.

“It’s all in place.”

“The siege weapons? The villagers? The animals? The wells? The crops?”

“Being completed. Safe and stowed away. Safe or salted. Poisoned. And harvested.”
“And… the enemy?”

“Still on their way, but only a hundred of them. That’s a little… deficient, isn’t it?”

“Aye. I have Kenway on the tide, looking for reinforcements.”
 

“Good, but… can you explain this?” he handed her a letter.

“I saw this yesterday… I can’t say yes or no without an investigation,” she replied, taking the letter in her hands, “It’s sent from Masyaf, but sealed with the British Brotherhood’s seal and it’s relating trouble in Bengal,” she looked up, “and Dante didn’t send this. I can’t even read this person’s name, it’s seems to have been scrawled unread-ably on purpose.”
“A ruse?”

“Reeks of it, but I like to make sure. Find Marcus for me, will you? Send him to Bengal with a few others and maybe their wives,” she handed back the letter, “tell him to investigate. Whether or not Bengal has broken into chaos, Masyaf must be dealt with first. Tell him to be careful.”
Khadir nodded and walked away.

 

* * * * *

 

The sun was setting as Myra walked along the turrets to her watch-post. The mercenaries had long since dispersed from their toils of securing the outer defences of the fortress, and only a few remained – pouring cement onto the structures that Mariqah had overseen the making of. When the cement was solid, they’d pour tar onto the structure, in case of a last resort defence mechanism.

It was both a marvellous and brutal machination.

Myra waited a moment to gaze at the work, but then turned away to climbed up her watch-tower. She froze as she heard soft singing:

 

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,

There’s a pain: goes on and on,

Empty posts and empty places –

Now my lads are dead and gone.

 

Here they sang of revolution,

It was here, they lit the flame.

Here they sang about tomorrow –

But to-mo-rrow ne-ver came.

 

From that place right in the corner,

They could see a world reborn,

And they rose with voices ringing –

And I can hear them now:

The very words that they had sung,

Became their last communion…

On that pointless campaign,

That dawned.

 

Oh, my lads, my lads – forgive me,

That I live and you are g-o-ne!

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,

There’s a pain: goes on and o-n!

 

Phantom faces amid the people,

Phantom shadows on the fl-oo-r –

Empty posts and empty places,

Where my lads will stand no m-o-re!

 

Oh, my lads, my l-a-ds! Don’t a-sk me!

What your sacrifice was f-o-r!

Empty posts and empty places…

Where my lads will sing… no m-o-re.

 

“Rogue?” said Myra softly, as she climbed up.

 

Mariqah sat on the floor with her back against the wall, overlooking the outside world, tears streaming down an emotionless face. Myra could see the dark, bruised patch on Mariqah’s jaw – under all the muck and filth clinging to her face from the day’s work.

“Myra,” she replied, unmoving, “come to take your pound of flesh?”

“N-no,” Myra stuttered, standing awkwardly aside, “no, I’ve not.”

“It’d make sense to,” Mariqah turned her head to Myra and patted the ground next to her, “Come, sit. I don’t stink as much as it might look.”
 

Myra sat down. There was a moment of awkward silence, “I’m sorry. That I hit you,” she said, at last.

Mariqah paused, “I think I’d’ve been worried if no-one came out and did that,” she smiled a little, “It’s tough, tryin’ to decode how everyone feels about me. You were right, after all. I abandoned you. All of you. I’ve no alibi for it, either.”
“I’m sure… I’m sure you had your reasons.”
“Aye,” said Mariqah, “But that don’t make it right, Myra,” she sighed, “I reckon I did the biggest wrong to you, though.”

 

“You’ve already said.”

“I pointed Richard out to you in the first place, set the two of you up,” she continued. She saw Myra turn away slightly, “That cut ain’t healed yet, eh?”

“He…” Myra looked away, “Before he left me, he said a lot of things. How he’d found true love elsewhere, and that he never really loved me. When I talked back, I got angry and… he… he hit me,” she touched the top of her arm tenderly, “He hurt me. Richard hurt me. I never thought, that after all he did to win me over, that he’d just turn like that. I thought… I thought he actually liked me. But clearly he was just toying with me, using me for his own… needs, until… well, until this!” Myra’s voice sounded a little above a whine, like she was about to cry, “Why… why did you set us up anyway, Rogue? You seemed to know him so well… Why?”

 

“I didn’t know he was like that, to be fair, Myra,” Mariqah tucked her knees up to her chin, “Of all the things I suspected of him… I never thought he was that bad,” she sighed, “I had an inklin’, last year, that he was doing some’un of… that nature. I warned him, personally. But when he wouldn’t stop, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to give him the benefit of doubt, to see if he’d stop and change, realise the wrong of his habits… But he didn’t. I trusted him, to an extent – so it hurt me, when I found out just before the War that he’d had a hand in… in Vesp’s endin’. Over that small dispute, if ye remember? Then he tells me I have a bad grudge,” she looked away, “I know now that if I had told you my suspicions then… maybe all of this drama could’ve been wholly avoided.”

“You knew?”

“Aye… I didn’t know it was Britney he was tuppin’, though,” she spat, “that one caught me by surprise.”
 

“That’s why you left, Rogue? Indecision?”

“I… I don’t know why I left, Myra, I…” she paused, “I guess… I guess I was lookin’ for peace. Lookin’ for some place that I had no worries, no troubles – a place where nobody I cared about died or left me,” she raised her chin outwards, “There… I still see them… walkin’ around… Talkin’, laughin’, bein’ merry. I can hardly believe that they’re gone… dead, and’re never comin’ back. They’re always here, always around me…” she closed her eyes, tears dripping out of them, “After seein’ so many die – friend and foe – I’d’ve thought that… that I’d be used to death by now. But, in all honesty, I’m no less terrified and traumatised by a single lads’ death than I was when my mother died, all those years ago. And yet… after travelling ha’way around the world, still – Fate still took a piss on me! People I loved still died – more so, because of me!”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Rogue,” Myra put an arm around Mariqah’s shoulders, “It can’t be easy, I’m sure. But you’re back now… And you’re staying, right?”
“Aye… I should think so. At least here, the things I expect an’ the things I don’t – I’m prepared for.”
 

“You know…” said Myra, in a change of tone, “After my split-up with Richard, I’ve been thinking…”

“Oh? Of who?”

“No-one in particular… just…”
Mariqah furrowed her brows at Myra.

“You know,” she continued, “other options.”

“Lay off, Myra!” said Mariqah in a serious voice, moving away awkwardly, “I’ve enough stalkers and hitters, and, frankly, I’d rather get spayed like an animal than have that treatment from you!”

“Alright, alright! I was just…” Myra took a breath, “I was just asking.”

“It’s a no, on general premise,” Mariqah laughed, “But it’s a hell no for you!”

“Oi!”

“I’m sorry, Myra,” Mariqah stood up to leave, “But, in all honesty, I prefer a soft heart over a psychotic mind. And, not to mention – I’m straighter than a diamond ruler.”

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