|The Lords of the House: The Woodcutter|
|Series||Fable: The Axe and Scottman by Wes Green|
|Previous||House of Glass|
|Next||The Tranquil Forest|
|← House of Glass||Chapter Chronology||The Tranquil Forest →|
It was the morning from the night before. Marcus could still hear the lingering words the head guard had said to him echoing around his head.
“I’m sorry m’lord…..He got away. We don’t know how?"
Fools…. How can a 7 year old boy get away from dozens of supposedly trained guards in Albion’s most heavily fortified castle?
Marcus’ frustration was noticeable. He could feel his face contorting as he made his way down the stone steps of the dungeon. As he descended the light of morning seemed to fade away to darkness. It was hard for his eyes to adjust to the low light. The faint glow of the candles every 8 steps allowed him to see just enough to avoid tripping up. The floor was covered with dirt and felt slippy underfoot as this whole place seemed to be crawling with damp. When he finally reached the base of the dungeon he felt a freezing cold air pass over him. He motioned to the man on duty sat on a wooden stool by the steps.
“Guard….Why is it so cold down here?” Marcus couldn’t make out the guards face just the vague outline through the darkness.
“Sorry mi’lord. Excuse me. But I think ya put a stop to the dungeon furnace months ago…something bout prisoner’s won’t need the warmth of firewood”
It suddenly occurred to the Marcus that had indeed given that order. However, he didn’t realise the depths of the castle would grow this cold.
“So I did. Guard. However, now we have a most important guest we must do all we can to keep him comfortable in this period of changes.” He ensured he was loud enough so that all could hear in the dungeon.
“Relight the furnace guard. Please go and chop some wood. And bring it back immediately. I will keep watch in the mean time. You have 10 minutes before I lose my patience and feed you to the furnace instead of firewood”
The little guard immediately scuttled off up the steps tripping up the first step as he went.
Marcus moved slowly deeper into the dungeon. There was a potent smell of faeces in the air which was making his stomach turn. He tried to ignore it. As he moved past the cells he noticed that some of the inmates were wrapped in the bed sheets on the floor.
Are they dead? Are they alive? Who are they?
Marcus decided that he didn’t care if they were dead or who they were in fact. Death is all these cretins deserved.
He eventually reached the end cell and stood there in the darkness looking down through the bars at the man that was sat in there with his head in hands. He looked like he had taken a good beating and been crying all night.
Marcus decided to break the silence.
“Just in case you’re wondering. Which I’m sure you are. My new seat as lord of this house is very comfortable. It is even better still now that all the blood around it has been cleaned up. Oh yes very nice indeed.”
The man in the cell remained silent. The condensation from his breath looked like he was smoking a pipe. He didn’t move a bit he was just like a smoking statue.
“Oh dear me. Not talking are we? Well that’s fine. I bet you don’t want to know what happened to the children then do you? Hmmm?”
Marcus starting giggling into the cell.
That got a reaction immediately.
“What did….What did you do to the children Marcus?” The broken man voice said in a whisper. His teeth had been smashed out and his face looked to have maybe two or three fractures. He looked like a hobbe in humans clothes.
“Well they’re not dead if that’s what you were thinking Reid my poor hobbe looking fellow.”
Reid started to cry.
“Oh Marcus at least you sparred….”
“SILENCE REID. It is MY LORD to you. The girl is to be raised as my own. She has yet to be tainted by her father’s weakness I may even grow to love her over time…. The boy Kingsley though. With regret needs to die as his mother and father. You will tell me where he is!”
“Louisa is to be raised as yours? She will find out everyone knows about her!” Reid mumbled confused.
“I’m afraid everyone thinks she’s dead….. You know I even bought a dead baby from a family in Bowerstone a couple of days ago to show prove that Louisa was dead. When in fact baby Louisa is just been hidden for a few months until I can fabricate a story as her been a bastard of mine.”
“WHAT!!! Why would you do that?” Reid said angered.
“Well… so she can be my pet….and so that I can tease by brother from beyond the grave! Everyone needs a hobby Reid just like you and your gardens.”
“YOU SICK BASTARD!” Reid screamed.
“You will be careful to mind your tongue Reid. You are talking to the lord of this house. I will repeat again if you hadn’t heard. Where is the boy Kingsley.”
It was Reid’s turn to laugh.
“He got away did he?....Well I’m afraid if he has got away I don’t think you will find him again. You see… MY…. LORD…. that boy has the blood of the ARCHONS just like his grandfather.”
Marcus took a step back noticeably flustered by the comment Reid had just made.
Could it be? Could Kingsley be a hero?
“How do you this Reid? You’re just a castle handyman.”
“I know…I know because I can see it in his eyes. I can see it in his strength, in his speed and in his will. I’m sorry Marcus but mark my words he will come back for you. It may not be today it may not be tomorrow but I assure you he will come back and there will be nothing you can do to stop him taking what is rightfully his. You and your brother didn’t have the blood but he does. You need to sleep with one eye open Mar…..”
“TELL ME WHERE HE IS??? If you do you will receive a full pardon for your treason and you will be aloud to continue your role in the castle under house arrest.” There was a tone of desperation in Marcus’ voice.
Reid stood up to face Marcus. He gripped the bars that separated the two men tightly. He started to laugh. It was quiet at first, but then got louder and more hysterical. He laughed so violently that it started to stir the other prisoners in the dungeon some of which joined in the laughter.
“Marcus….I’m afraid I don’t know where he is.” He said through his continued laughs.
“…and if I did I wouldn’t tell you…not over my dead body….”
Marcus’ face became red with anger.
“You can joke Reid. But it’s me who will have the last laugh.”
Marcus turned away quickly from the laughing handyman and stormed back towards the entrance of the dungeon.
The guard had returned from collecting firewood and was lighting the furnace. Marcus ensured that his commands to the guard could be heard by all in the dungeon.
“GUARD! Please remove that wood from the furnace. I don’t want any wood wasted on these cretins. Also please can you restrict food to once every 3 days. Additionally, since these vile creatures appear to be having such a great time in here I don’t think they need these candles on for hmmm…..a month or so.”
The laughter from around the dungeon suddenly stopped and quiet moans or protest could be heard from around the dungeon.
“OH and Reid my good fellow. I won’t be killing you. I will be keeping you there until the day you die of old age. Have a great life.”
Marcus nodded to the guard and left climbing the stairs out of the dungeon giving an evil belly laugh as he went.
The guard started removing the candles around the dungeon just as Marcus had removed all the good from around the castle.
Bowerstone was a hive of activity. The market days in the busy town always were. People from all over Albion would come in their hoards, to trade products and materials. Ronald was always surprised to find out what new and fancy things were been traded. It had changed a lot over the decades he had traded there. He would deliberately set up his stall closest to pie and food vendors. The smells of spices from all corners of Albion were brought together in one place and Ronald loved it.
Ronald started to unload the different cuts of wood he had from the back of his cart. His horse, Winston, was drinking happily from a nearby horse trough. The large white stallion always looked out of place among the other smaller horses.
He’s a good horse and the best mate a man would ever need.
Ronald Flowerman was a woodcutter. His family had been woodcutters for generations. It was often joked that if Ronald was sliced open you wouldn’t find blood you would find wood. He was a happy man, who lived by simple means. He had no family left, as his parents had died years before and unfortunately he was a single child. At sixty years old, he knew that he was too old to start a family of his own. He would often think to himself, what could have happened if he had tried harder to meet the right woman.
Ahhh. Never mind. Me and Winston are happy enough.
Ronald was extremely happy with the wood he had brought to market. Simply as it was a different higher quality material than what you would find in Greatwood. He and Winston had lived in Greatwood for decades, in his log cabin, and knew that the wood quality was poor in comparison to other forests around Albion. The wood from the Greatwood was best used as firewood. Unfortunately, firewood didn’t earn you very much gold. Therefore, recently Ronald had started to travel up north to Gibbet Woods where the wood was younger, stronger and easier to carve. This made it especially desirable to the furniture makers of Bowerstone and Ronald always got a great price for it.
Yeah good wood up in Gibbet. Must make the trip up again before the next market.
The general market where Ronald set up stall was in Bowerstone South. This area was the lower class area of the town where anyone was welcome, so long as you abided by the rules of the town.
If I could just get into Bowerstone North to the exclusive market I would make a killing.
Bowerstone North was exclusive and contained many of the richest people in Albion. You could only gain access to that part of town if you were invited by someone who lived there or if you were granted access to trade by the Lord Grey of Bowerstone. Lord Grey had recently heard terrible news that his sister, Elizabeth Grey, and her family had been killed by bandits near Headman’s Hill up north.
Poor Lord Grey…. He lost his wife just last year.
At least he still had his teenage daughter. However Ronald had heard that she was a spoilt brat. The future Lady of Bowerstone was likely to be tyrant, as she had already publically started to display those tendencies.
Hopefully she will grow out of it.
Ronald finished loading the last of the logs onto his stall. He wondered if he would be able to sell it all. There was lots of it. A whole cartful he had just unloaded. At least 4 trees worth. Ronald didn’t have to wait long before his first customer. A young blonde woman Ronald recognized to work in the furniture shop.
“Excuse me Woodcutter. How much for 3 logs?” she started to inspect a few logs she liked the looks of.
“For a beautiful lady like you….6 gold.” Ronald said smiling.
“You cheeky old man! That’s double the price of wood!” she said laughing aloud.
“Yes but this is wood from up north. It’s stronger and easier to use.”
“Ah so it is.” the woman said when she realized what it was.
“OK there’s your six gold, cheeky chops.” She smiled and wandered off, struggling with the wood in her arms.
“OK love, bye.” Ronald chanted before turning to face his next customer.
As he turned he realized that the individual in front of him was a small man with friendly eyes. He had a large grey moustache and a strange symbol on his head that looked to be a faded tattoo. He was also dressed in strange robes.
Maybe he’s a priest?
“Hello, can I help you Sir?” Ronald said with an air of respect for the smartly dressed man.
“Hello. Very nice to meet you. My name is Weaver, the current Guild Master of the Guild of Heroes, and I would like to buy all your wood please.” His friendly expression didn’t change.
“What….. all of it?” Ronald said surprised.
“Yes please. The Heroes Guild have discovered this wood to be superior in the manufacture of weapons such as crossbows and arrows. I will take all this off your hands.”
“Wow…Great…” Ronald replied.
“Additionally, if you could get another cart full for the morrow, I will pay you double rate and ensure that you are welcome in Bowerstone North to trade in the future.” He picked out a bag of gold. It must have contained double the amount Ronald wanted for the pile of wood.
Ronald stood in silence, gobsmacked.
“What do you say then sir? One bag of gold for this lot and two bags of gold tomorrow for another lot and a pass to trade in Bowerstone North.”
“erm…Yeah… That would be great! Thanks!” Ronald, still in shock, took the bag of gold off the Guild Master.
The Guild Master motioned to the two large men standing behind him.
“Heroes, take all this wood to the Guild.”
The men started immediately to pick up the wood.
“I will meet you here tomorrow afternoon then to pick up the next lot. Good day to you sir.” With that the Guild Master walked off.
Wow…. All wood gone in 5 minutes…. This will give me enough time to travel up north for the rest of the day to Gibbet Woods. I can then work through the night filling the cart with a new lot of wood and then be back here before tomorrow afternoon.
Its still gonna be hard work though, but I have to try for 2 bags of gold and a pass for Bowerstone North, I have to!
Ronald immediately packed up his stall and picked up some food from a nearby stall and paid for it from his recently acquired gold, and prepared his horse.
“There you go Winston, a lovely green apple. There’s plenty of more of those to come after we make our back to Gibbet Woods.” He excitedly jumped on his cart and gently tapped the reins on the horse's back.
The horse started to move towards the town gates.
“Come on my noble steed our fortune awaits!”
Ronald giggled to himself for the whole journey.
Kingsley was tired, wet, cold and hungry. He had been for weeks now. He had taken to sleeping through the day and walking through the night. He didn’t know where he was walking to. He just knew that he needed to keep walking to get away from the nightmares that followed him. At night he would forage for anything he could to eat. He had looked through waste that he found close to roads, he would eat berries from random bushes and try to keep them down. He even tried to capture a squirrel to no avail one night. If it wasn’t for the kindness of a man at a roadside inn, who had donated Kinsley a loaf of bread and a bowl of lamb stew, he would have starved to death. The innkeeper even let him stay in the barn through the day and didn’t ask any questions.
Maybe I can do that?. Be an inn keep give shelter and food to all tied travelers. Maybe I could buy that one…in the future?
All pipe dreams Kingsley knew, but anything to take his mind off the pain he was feeling. Not only the physical pain of been starving, cold and aching but the emotional hurt he now carried inside of him since that night. The images of his dead mother and father sitting firmly in his mind. The very thought would weaken his legs and sometimes he would pass out from it. In his dreams they were stood in front of him urging him to wake up and carry on.
Kingsley had broken free from the castle by crawling chest deep in human sewage in the dark for what seemed like days. He had thrown up more times that he could remember that night and the smell of the waste wasn’t yet gone from his clothes even though he had been constantly wet for the past few weeks sleeping rough. When he had emerged from the sewers he could remember running and running and that was it. He must of passed out as when he awoke, he was sleeping at the base of a tree. His clothes torn and his skin bruised and filthy. He must have stayed at the base of that tree for days, crying and bleeding before he plunked up the courage to start walking again.
In a few short weeks Kingsley had lost weight and his reflection showed a boy a shadow of his former self. It seemed like to move his legs was a struggle.
I am dying.
He sometimes wished that he had stayed with his family and died with them.
No I must never think that. I must survive. I must have vengeance.
Again all pipe dreams. The best thing that Kingsley could hope for now was a peaceful death in his sleep.
He had woken up in a bush that he had slept in through the day by a quiet road. He wasn’t sure where the road led to, but he knew that if he kept the mountains on his left side then he would heading away from Farna and away from the misery. He guessed that he was deep into Gibbet Woods.
He walked along the road for hours. The cold wind of the forest made the leaves on the trees sing and him feel cold. He longed for a clean dry set of clothes and a comfy bed.
Must keep walking.
He saw a light in the distance. His first reaction was to jump off the road and hide in another bush.
Maybe they have found me? Maybe I’m done for? Might be for the best?
He could feel the adrenaline in his body and his heartbeat in his head. The light though didn’t appear to be approaching. It appeared to be static somewhere ahead along the road.
Could be camp? One man perhaps? Could have food?
Kingsley decided that he was going to risk getting caught for the chance of getting something to eat. So he set off among the trees following the road close by quietly. As he approached the lantern he realized that there was no camp, only a horse and cart. The large white horse looked to be eating some apples from a large bag.
Without a second thought Kingsley emerged from the forest and scuttled over the open road towards the cart. The horse felt his presence and immediately turned to face Kingsley. The large horse seemed even bigger close up. The hot steam of his breath evaporating in the cold air.
“Hello Mr. Horse. Would you be kind enough to share your apples with me?” Kingsley approached the bag of apples.
The horse snorted aggressively and jumped which caused the cart to move back.
“I guess not then.” Kingsley darted forwards using what little energy he had left to duck well below the horse. He was surprised at how fast his withered legs were taking him in the pursuit of the apples. He slid to the bag and grabbed them with one arm. They were surprisingly heavy. The horse immediately tried to charge Kingsley, but the cart stopped the horse from turning. Kingsley got quickly out of range of the horse with the bag of apples over his shoulder.
Then he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. He turned around to look at the old man who held it.
“Are you steeling from my horse, Winston, boy?”
Kingsley immediately tried to get away, but the old man was surprisingly quick and was more than a match for Kingsley’s weakened body. He grabbed the boy and sat him down on a nearby rock.
“Calm down… Calm down…. lad. I’m not going to hurt you silly boy. If you wanted an apple I would happily have shared them with you.” The old man shouted.
Kingsley took a second to digest the information.
Share them with me?
“You would share them with me?......why?” Kingsley said whimpering.
“Because lad. It looks like you need them more then Winston here does!” the old man started to laugh.
Kingsley didn’t know what to do. This single act of kindness after the last few weeks broke his heart. He just started to cry and cry. The old man did his best to console him but seemed to be uncomfortably and confused by the whole situation.
“Its OK lad. You can have them all….. I’m Ronald…Ronald Flowerman. Don’t be upset lad. What’s your name?”
Kingsley still mumbling said his name but it just came out as a blur to him.
“Scot is it? Well its OK Scot let's get you sorted lad.”
Ronald went to the back of his cart and pulled out some clothes.
“Here put these on. I don’t need to wear a fresh set everyday. Mind you I might smell later after I’ve cut some wood up.”
Kingsley, like a flash, put on the new clothes and although massively oversized the cleanliness of them was a relief to him. It was the best he had felt for weeks.
“Thanks Ronald.” Was all he could manage.
“Give those apples back to Winston I have some bread, ham and cheese here. Get that in your belly lad. I have wine too. You may be a young kid but I think you need it. It will warm you up…..Don’t tell your dad though.”
The word “Dad” stabbed at Kingsley like a knife however, that didn’t prevent him eating the food and wine in record time. Ronald had given back the horse the apples and had made a small fire beside the stone Kingsley was sat on.
“Right Lad. Now that you have calmed down. Tell me what’s going on? Why are you in the middle of the forest by yourself, half starved to death and smelling like Winston’s arse….Now no lies. I don’t like liars and if you want to be my friend then you’re going to have to tell the truth.”
Kingsley looked at the fire and contemplated his next move.
What do I have to lose?
Kingsley then proceeded to tell Ronald everything, all the details, about his family, who he was, where he came from, what happened to him. It took about an hour, and for the whole time he talked the old man, Ronald, never said a thing. After Kingsley had finished his speech, all that could be heard was the forest sounds around them.
Ronald stood up and grabbed his satchel from where he had grabbed the clothes.
“Do you like cake Kingsley?” using his proper name.
He handed Kingsley the cake. Kingsley started to eat the cake with velocity when Ronald started to speak again.
“If you want….. You can live and work for me? It would be handy to have a spare set of hands for the job I do…… I am a woodcutter. I cut trees down, I chop em up and then sell em……It’s a simple life but it’s not the worst……..If you agree you can never use your name again. You will be known as Scot. If anyone asks you are my grandson from a long lost child of mine who has passed away. My second name is Flowerman. You would be Scot Flowerman. What do you say?”
“I…..I…..” Scot said.
He wanted to scream YES! and say THANK YOU! However, the overwhelming emotion was getting to him again.
“I’ll take you far away from all this Scot. Poor lad. But we need to be careful, you must do as I say, no one must know who you really are”
“Thank you” Scot said.
“That’s quite OK Scot. Me and Winston here would like some company wouldn’t we Winston?”
The horse was too busy finishing off the sack of apples.
“Scot. You will be needing this.”
Ronald handed Scot a small hand axe.
“I need to cut up these trees I’ve just cut down and get to Bowerstone by tomorrow afternoon to sell em for a heap of gold. Can you chop off the smaller branches? Will make the whole thing quicker and we can get away before morning. You can sleep in the cart on the logs as we travel.”
Immediately Scot stood up and started to cut off the small branches on the nearest log.
“Good Lad Scot we will be ready to go in no time.”
Scot wanted to cry all night. He held it back though as woodcutters have a job to do.
1.3.4) THE FEEDEREdit
“Put some more wood in the fireplace weak arms.” Big jack shouted across the bar at Seb and the old man. Big Jack had taken another break in the story to prepare some food for dinner.
Is he talking to me? Why would he call me weak arms?
The confusion on Seb’s face was apparent. The old man leant on the bar and faced Seb.
“He means me lad. That’s my nickname. Weak arms. They have called me that for decades now.”
The old man hopped off the barstool and headed towards the fireplace. He moved so quickly and gracefully, like a young man, even though he was old. He selected a couple of logs from the wood bucket and slung them on the fire. Happy that the fire was rejuvenated for the next few hours, he wandered back over to the bar where Seb was sitting watching.
“All done old man?” Seb said smiling.
“You know I could of done it. I wouldn’t have minded.”
“Oh no lad. I need the training…. get some strength you see.” He started giggling to himself again in that strange way.
“Of course…. Because of your weak arms?” Seb started laughing.
Weak arms looked at the axe above the bar again and stared.
“Oh yes Lad. I remember the day he said we need to work on those arms, yeah he was always a cheeky bugger that one.”
Weak arms' nostalgic tone intrigued Seb.
“Who said that?” Seb said and then took a large glug of ale.
“Who?......Well…..Kingsley of course!”
Seb, completely shocked by weak arms, spat out the ale into the air and all over the bar in front of them.
“You….you know Kingsley Scott! The one from Big Jack's story???”
“Look what you have done now! There is ale all over the bar. Jack JACK.” Weak arms yelled.
“It’s not ready yet. Will you just WAIT” Came the booming voice of Big Jack from the back room where he was preparing the food.
“I’m sorry Weak arms but please can you clarify, you are talking about Kingsley Scott? You know him?” Seb begged.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” weak arms said smiling.
“Well….quite a lot really.”
“Do you want to play cards while we are waiting for Jack?” another deck of cards materialized in Weak arms' hands.
“NO! I want a straight answer from you!”
A large platter of pork, apples, cheese, and bread were placed down in front of Seb and Weak arms.
“Dinner's ready lads. You are both going to eat all this up. Every last bit and stop arguing with each other.”
Both Seb and Weak arms kept quiet and Seb quickly realized that Big Jack was named Big Jack for a reason. In general, I bet people did exactly what he said.
All of the time.
“Do you want to know how I got my axe or not?”
“Well eat and listen. Listen and eat. For the first part of the story is complete. Parts two and three await but first I want to see a clear plate.” Big Jack loudly belly-laughed at Seb and Weak arms.
“You see lads, not only am I a Hero, but I am also a poet!”
Big Jack then proceeded to drink what may have been his tenth pint of ale.
Seb could hardly taste the food as he was deep in thought.