|Tricks & Treats: A Mixed Bag of Drabbles
||[Oct. 31st, 2008|07:14 pm]
Although these drabbles are derived from the requests of five people, I've decided not to address them directly to the recipients. These are, in effect, for all of you. Happy Halloween! You will find these are all (I hope) appropriately themed...
"And anyway," concluded Roland, tugging the coarse blanket more tightly about his shoulders, "it's all nonsense. "If there were any such thing as wandering spirits whose sole purpose is to torment the living, I'd have been rid of my stepfather ages ago."
Oliver tutted into what was left of his mulled Breton cider. "It's unlucky to speak so ill of the dead. Even in my homeland, we know better than that."
"Note that I wasn't so much speaking ill of the dead as of my stepfather," Roland mused, kicking a coal from near the edge of the fire circle in Oliver's direction. "You have no specific stories to tell, then? Just vague legends and dry yarns from your grandmother's withered fingers?"
Oliver's empty mug went sailing, but Roland was able to duck it just in time.
At times, the road they wander after dusk is fraught with horrors for even such beings as they have become. Being bound to the land is one thing, Oliver had said some two centuries ago, but finding that other paths cross through it is entirely another. Roland had gone on frowning at the spot in the road, where not a moment before they'd seen army as spectral as themselves thunder through one small breadth of space before vanishing. Neither of them had recognized the arms upon the standards.
Tonight is apparently another such night upon which these crossroads are flung wide. Wary, Roland raises his sword and catches Oliver's eye as the wild-eyed stranger advances on them step by halting step with his axe raised high. His armor is fine and untarnished, the same silver-grey as his eyes. He was perhaps red-haired in life, and the sparest glints of green slip between cracks in his armor somewhere at his waist.
He's terrified, Roland thinks, lowering his sword.
Ever so slightly, Oliver nods his agreement.
As the stranger lowers his axe, the wildness in his eyes fades to confusion.
"Some moments ago, there was - " he stops, struggling to find the right words - "a sort of...man. There. Did you see...?" He cringes. Clearly, he has not been as well-schooled in Latin as befits his class.
"No, brother," says Roland, gravely. "You are all we have seen this night."
The stranger's eyes flit to Oliver's, seeking reassurance. "Is this true?"
"Yes, by my faith," Oliver said. "I swear it by Our Lady."
Seemingly comforted, the stranger nods. His eyes dart abruptly to one side, frightened again, as if he has heard something just out of reach of Roland's hearing. A split second later, he is gone.
Oliver re-sheaths his sword, sighing. "I have yet to understand it."
"Perhaps there's naught to understand," says Roland, and leaves it at that.
Flights of Fancy
He's grave before the mirror, far more grave than a boy of ten should be. He frets at his Halloween mask with thin, pale fingers, biting his lip till he gets it just so. Alfred glances sidelong at Lucius, afraid to smile. Lucius, unperturbed, does it for him.
"You did a good job," he says, stepping forward to pat Bruce on his cloaked shoulder.
"It doesn't look right," Bruce mutters, eyes downcast. "It looks make-believe."
"Pardon my saying so, sir," Alfred interjects, patting his other shoulder, "but that's exactly what it is. Make-believe. I won't have you scaring yourself silly."
"I'm not scared," Bruce admits, his eyes traveling back up to his reflection.
"Then what's the trouble?" Lucius prompts, giving his shoulder a squeeze.
"I just want to do it right."
It's been the coldest of all months these few years past, or at least it seems so to Frodo. Still, he writes on into the wee hours, meeting the dark of morning with determined eyes. He's grown accustomed to the cramping in his knuckles and the ink-stains on his fingertips. He fears that some of them may never scrub clean.
And it's only when a knock at the door wakes him that he realizes he's drifted off.
"Mr. Frodo?" calls Sam, tentatively. "Frodo?"
"Come in, Sam. No need to dawdle! I'm awake."
"Begging your pardon, sir," Sam says, already halfway to Frodo's chair from the sound of it, "but it's no way to spend your nights this time of year. Surely the book can wait!"
"Nothing can wait, Sam," Frodo murmurs, his eyes trailing the dawn along the top of the window. "Not anymore."
"Not your hot cider, anyway," says Sam, setting something steaming down at his elbow. "Have a drink, sir. It'll warm you right enough."
Gratefully, Frodo drinks, finally turning to look at him.
"As will you, Sam - soon enough. In the meantime, sit with me."
How It's Done
"You didn't mention the bit where it gets me fingers all red," Danny complained, bringing the knife down for another go. It sliced through the cabbage and hit the cutting-board with a satisfying thwock. Nicholas turned from his stirring at the stove to glance over Danny's shoulder.
"It's the juices," he said, half smiling. "Can't be helped. You're doing just fine."
"I don't think I've ever eaten the stuff," Danny mused, dropping a handful of the chopped cabbage into the plastic mixing-bowl that Nicholas had provided. "I know it's traditional and all, but Dad wasn't fond of red cabbage, so Mum never made it." He probably sounded a touch misty just thinking about them.
Nicholas leaned over and kissed the side of his neck.
"If you like it, I promise you I'll make it all the time."
"Sounds like a plan," said Danny, brightly, and got back to chopping.