[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.

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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37. 35 – Trash Talk

“So, I’m not the only one that got beat up by her?” asked Michael, as he sat with his newly-acquired friends from the hunting team. They sat around a small mountain of carcasses that Michael had shot down. It appeared that he had excellent aim.

“Nah,” said Matthew, “she beat me silly one time. I had a step-brother, he was quite the menace, he was. This one time, I helped him play a trick on ol’e Drexler. Rogue gave my brother a good yellin’ at, and a few licks to me – right here,” he pointed at his face.
“Made up for it, though,” said another mercenary, “she sent you to Sweden for two weeks, to ski and ice-skate.”

“She did that?” said Michael, surprised.

 

“Oi, you lads!” said Mariqah, approaching the circle, “I’ll not have talk of me, you know that well,” she patted Matthew on the back, and indicated the mound of dead rabbits and birds, “that’s an impressive heap the lot of you’ve got there. Pray, tell me who’s the big shot?”
Matthew drew Michael near him, “Our Mike, here. Got the eye for huntin’, it seems.”

“Really? That’s music to my ears, Matt!” said Mariqah smiling, and sitting down, “I’ll make an marksman out of you yet, eh? Where’d you learn?”

“I had… a brother who taught me. Though, he used a gun. It was a big one – orange and black, like,” Michael tried to explain, trying to remember the name of the weapon, “A shotgun!” he said, remembering, “But then… my brother… he got done for something. I crime, I think. And they took me away and put me in a home.”
 

“Ay, don’t brood on that, lad,” said Mariqah, stroking his hair, “You’re ‘ere now, and I promise to take good care of ye – whether that means beatin’ you into shape or soft-talkin’ you into it,” she laughed, as did the others, “You seem a good enough shot – but can you skin and gut your catches, mate? No use in huntin’ if you can’t clean yer kills.”
“N-no, I can’t…” he said.

“I can show you, if you like?” with a gulp and a brief nod from Michael, Mariqah took a rabbit from the pile and unsheathed a dagger from her belt. She laid the animal down and chopped its head clean off, “You can eat the head, but… I usually don’t,” she commented, not looking up, as she stuck the dagger down the rabbit’s neck and began separating the spine from the rest of its body. The veins and flesh clung to the bone as she tore the spine out, and stripped the rabbit of its skin. The white fat was fluffy and easily removed. Mariqah moved on to severing the torso from the legs, and so sawed through the thin membranes of flesh until she hit the bone. Putting the knife aside, she snapped the bone, and the rabbit was in two pieces. She looked up, then.

“Erm…” she suppressed a smirk, “You look a little green, Michael,” when she could see he wasn’t able to reply, she cried, “Look away! Look away!” and called over her shoulder, “Get this lad a bucket, man!”
 

Her amusement did not last long, however, as a mercenary bawled down at her from the turrets, “The army! It’s coming! It’s coming!”

She stood up, her hands still bloody, and called back, “Calm yourself, steel your nerves! It just a siege! Nothin’ we ain’t privy to!” she turned back to Michael, who was heaving and being slapped on the back by one of his friends, “Aye, I’ll make a man out of you yet,” she said, “Time and hard work’ll get you there.”

 

* * * * *

 

Mariqah stepped up to the watch-post where Khadir stood, watchful and solemn. The enemy could be seen, as if appearing out of the horizon – dressed in fine red and white livery and heavy armour, their flags and banners fluttering in the wind. From this point, Mariqah could see about one-quarter of the army on horseback, the rest were infantry.

“Magnificent, isn’t it?” asked Khadir, “The Royal Army.”

“I’ve seen better,” Mariqah muttered.

Khadir sighed, “Why am I not surprised with that remark?”

“Have you never seen the Lord of the Rings, Khadir?”

Khadir turned and shook his head, “That’s some silly story, Mariqah, not a real war.”
Mariqah looked stricken, aghast, “It is not a silly story!”
Khadir rolled his eyes, “Here we go.”

“You haven’t watched it, have you?”

“I grew up in the desert!”
“After this business with Masyaf – you are sitting down, and we are going to watch that trilogy together.”
“I am not wasting my time, watching a stupid film.”

Mariqah cracked her knuckles, “Oh, we’ll see it, Khadir. We’ll see it.”

 

Khadir shook his head, but moved off a little, “To give you credit, the army isn’t very large… and why do they have horses? I don’t see any carpenters.”

“They probably had reinforcements on the tide – Edward’s taking care of that,” said Mariqah, “as for horses… no idea. To carry over-weight soldiers?”

“That’s a touch cruel.”

“We’re talking about people who literally kill others for the fun of it – I don’t think animal rights is part of their agenda.”
“Does everything you say have to be sarcastic?”

Mariqah tilted her head to a side and folded her arms and said, “N-o.”

 

“Halt!” cried one of the enemy soldiers. He had long red hair flowing from under his helmet. His large beard was a shade darker – similar to the colour of his horse.

The sound of marching stopped abruptly.

“Where,” yelled the same man towards the fortress, “is the woman who calls herself the Midnight Rogue?”
Mariqah put a foot on the wall and leaned against her knee, calling back, “It’s a single woman in a den of a thousand men, mate. Can it really be that hard to tell? Maybe I need to grow out my hair a little more and trim my beard some, eh?” laughter rang around her.
The red-haired veteran ignored the comment, “You have been charged with several crimes and felonies! Surrender your fortress now and you may be offered redemption from his Majesty, the Emperor Simeon Smith.”
“From all your twaddlin’, I’m guessin’ you’re a lieutenant – an ill-informed one, at that,” she said, “Commander! The hell are you, man? Quit this fool from embarrassin' ‘imself!”

I,” said the veteran, “will be regarded with such a position for the time being.”

“Oh, really? Pray, tell me, what exactly did I do, eh?”

The lieutenant paused, “You’re a common enemy!”

“And you’re a common idiot, mate. Come out, commander! You ain’t nothin’ to fear. On my honour, I prefer words to swords.”

 

A soldier on a white horse came forward and took off his helmet, interrupting a reply from the Lieutenant, “Good afternoon, Rogue…” he said, “It’s been a while.”

“My, my – if it ain’t Prince Seth Smith, himself!” she said, smiling down at him, “You’ve been well, I hope? So, tell me, then – what did you do, eh? That your own brother should send here to your death?” she leaned a little forward, “You thieve his candy? Knock over his building-block tower?”

“Are you likening,” cried the Lieutenant, “our great Emperor to a mere child! I’ll have you know–”

“Oh, shut your arse, Lieutenant – I’ve no purpose talkin’ t’your kind!” Mariqah barked.

“I am well,” said Seth, keeping his calm, “I must say, you’ve changed. The last time we met, you were adamant in keeping your face covered by a mask and hiding your frame in white robes, and your language was… of a higher quality.”
“Aye, I’m tryin’ my home-speak out. I must say, I like it,” she smiled, “as for the mask… well – it was used against me by Choudary. I’ve thrown it aside since. Embarrassing thing, defeat is. With that in mind,” she cocked her head to a side, “what’s say you quit this… nonsense, and surrender, eh? Work some’un out in words and leave fightin’ for another day? You know I am an excellent hostess.”

 

“I cannot do that,” said Seth, shaking his head, “not until your business in England is ended. My brother is ill at ease due your ruffling his feathers. Gives me little to work with, because of it too.”

“Well, I am sorry to here that. I had an inkling that these weren’t quite your men… As for England: my business is ended there, Seth.”

“Nonetheless, I’ve been commanded by… superiors to bring you in – dead or alive – for the revolts you’ve inspired.”
“Oh, toss your superiors aside, will ye, Seth? Let’s talk as soldiers, eh? People who actually know what fightin’ is about, instead of those morons who sit around and play us for pawns in their politics? Those revolts had been held off long enough – what, with the mess your father, and now your brother, ‘ave made and–”

“How dare you hold our Emperors in grief!” cried the Lieutenant.

“You open your arse one more time, Lieutenant, and I swear I’ll have every one of my marksmen trained on it!” Mariqah howled, “But as I was saying, the people of England have had enough – you know it, I know it, and, Hell, Simeon knows it. They’ve been oppressed. Not to say, that I didn’t serve my own purpose. All I wanted was a passage home, but my ways lay matched with young Gavroche’s, so,” Mariqah shrugged, “However, I am done there. What’s left of the de-throning of your brother is without my aid. My focus is on Masyaf and the troubles there.”

 

“You still need to pay for the mess you’ve made. My orders… are my orders,” repeated Seth.

“Haven’t you a mind of your own, man?” Mariqah shook her head, “Either way – you can’t besiege my fortress. At least, not for long. Think on it, wisely. I heard of your coming well before you got here, my eyes and ears bein’ everywhere. The wells are poisoned. The villagers from miles around are within my keeping. The livestock and the crops have been uprooted. Your ships are being sunk. And there ain’t a turret on my walls that ain’t armed with hot oil, marksmen, pitch and stones. You’re a hundred, to add – which, by the way, I’ll be happy to accommodate – when my men – the best, and you know it – number over a thousand and still counting. And, pray, how much did your… ill-disciplined lot carry with them? Did they bring tents? Sleepin’-bags? Did you bring carpenters to construct siege-weapons?” Mariqah paused, and straightened, “Our bonds are as friendly as rivals could have ‘em, Seth. Why sever them? Don’t waste lives needlessly. You know the value of life and you know the value of death – as did your father, but your brother values neither. It’s not what I want, to start a needless siege, and I know it’s not what you want either.”
“I…” Seth looked up at Mariqah, his heart thumping.

He sighed.

Put it out of mind, Seth, he thought, Maybe in a different life. But not in this one.

 

“I know you are more than willing to talk, Rogue,” he said, almost robotically, “But orders are orders. I’ve been sent to besiege your stronghold in Normandy, and I’ve little but to obey. I won’t leave without trying.”
“You’ll kill yourself, man,” said Mariqah, “You’ll kill yourself and it won’t be a thing I’ll take pleasure in doing. There’s little sanity in the world as it is, I’d hate to destroy whatever hope is left for its survival. Seth, I’m not askin’ you – I’m begging you. You don’t ‘ave to leave – I’ll welcome you ‘til Kingdom Come, mate – and treat you as my guest ‘til then. Don’t make me kill you.”
“She begs…” muttered the Lieutenant, scoffing and turning to Seth, “My lord, you aren’t honestly going to succumb to this… strumpet, will you?”

 

Seth gave him a hard look.

She was right. They didn’t have the bulk or the resources to scratch the fortress, let alone besiege it and win. And Mariqah, technically, wasn’t his enemy, though she wasn’t his ally either. All depended on how much he paid her, and on what side of a campaign he was on. They’d fought against each other and they’d fought beside each other.

And then there was the controversial, new issue…

He turned to Mariqah, “I’ll… We’ll submit for parlay.”

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