The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 12

CHAPTER 12- NEW TERRITORY

They were deep in unknown land now.

They were in a place that Marie had never even heard people in the village talking out. Fields and forests went passed, and as she looked at them they were mute, and did not speak their names to her.

She felt herself shrinking, as she sat in the seat of the carriage. She alone was all that was left of her entire world. And she looked at Isabella, who smiled crookedly back at her.

“Cheer up.” she said “It’ll be fine.”


The friendship between these two girls, which was to survive murder, abduction, fire, terrors and hardships beyond counting started sedately enough. For around an hour and a half they sat in silence. Finally Marie broke the silence.
“Do you want to see my comb?”
“Alright.”
“There it is.”
“Nice.”
“That’s an angel.”
“So it is.”
“My Papa gave me that.”
“Did he now?”
“It belonged to my Mama.”
“It’s nice.”
“Thanks.”
And that was that.

“Do you like fish?”
“No.”
“Me neither. I hate fish.”
A lake had settled on the horizon, great and blue and fat.
“Except cod.” Marie mused “I hate fish except cod. Do you like cod?”
“No.”
“Cod’s nice. With butter.”

A mountain in the distance, bare and grey and jagged.
“Scariest thing that ever happened to you.” Isabella said.
“I saw a devil once.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Wow. Okay, my turn.”
It was now night, and a large moon hung in the sky, tinting the fields and hills silver. Marie, half-asleep now on Isabella’s shoulder, tried counting the stars as they drifted over the carriage.

“Are you cold?” Isabella asked.

“No.” she murmured “I’m fine.”

But she was still glad when she Isabella gently drape a hand over her shoulder.

“Don’t falls asleep.” Isabella whispered “We’re almost there.”
Le Canard Blanc” was a cosy little inn on the outskirts of Bordeaux, that took in weary travellers as well as keeping the local farms watered. It was a lovely little pile, with a large thatched roof and whitewashed walls, and small little windows that winked yellow and warm to the trudging pilgrims making their way down the road, their backs aching for a warm mattress to sink into, their throats crying out for cool beer, their bellies for thick meaty stew. It nestled in the shadow of a softly rolling green hill, on the edge of the farmland, and had a wonderful way of feeling like home to whoever stepped through the door.

 

“Two beers please.”

The barman squinted down at the dark haired girl who was looking up expectantly at him, a smile that would charm tigers on her olive brown face.

“It’s for my Papa.” she explained “He’s over there.”

And she pointed so quickly that he couldn’t follow the direction.

Deciding that it wasn’t worth arguing over, the barman poured two cool ones, and set them on the counter.

 

“Drink up.” said Isabella as she set the glass in front of Marie.

The two girls had nestled themselves into a quiet corner of the bar. It was fairly full, the air thrummed with laughter and loud talk, and it was wonderfully warm after the biting cold of the cart ride.

“What shall we drink to?” said Isabella, raising her glass boisterously.

“What’s our driver’s name?”

“Who?”

“The driver?”

“I dunno. He’s just some guy from the village that Madame Mariana hired to bring you here. He never talks. I don‘t know his name.”

“Oh.”

“Wait! I remember. It’s Ignatius!”

“To Ignatius!”

“To Ignatius! Long may he reign horses!”

Isabella threw back the glass and downed half in one go.

Marie tried the same, and then did it in reverse, spitting the beer back into the glass.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuughhhh! Puh! Puh!”

She spat the last dregs out of her mouth, oh God, she had swallowed some. It tasted like pee. Not that she’d know, but she was sure it did.

Isabella was doubled over with laughter.

“It takes a while to grow on you.” she said kindly.

“I don’t want it to grow on me, I don’t want it anywhere near me!”

“You get used to it.”

“How? How could you drink enough of that to get used to it?”

“Trust me. You find a way.” said Isabella quietly.

She looked up when she heard Marie giggling.

“What?”

“You’ve got a moustache.”

“What? Oh.” she wiped the foam off her lip “All gone?”

“Wait…still a little…” Marie wiped a white spot that was still on the corner of her mouth “There. Should have kept it, made you look distinguished.”

“Shut up.”

“Did.”

“Hey look, sorry about the…” Isabella gestured to Marie’s wrist.

“Oh, hey, no.”

“And the…”

“No look…”

“And when…”

“It was my fault…”

“Is it sore?”

“What the…”

“No, the…”

“Oh that’s fine. I’ve had worse.”

“Well, I’m sorry anyway.”

“Me too. Really. Really, really, really.”

Isabella took another swig.

“So. Explain to me about this door…”

“The door. Well. The angel…”

“The angel. Sariel?”

“That’s right.”

“The blonde angel?”

“There was only one. After my father died, and she told me that a door was about to open for me.”

“Really?”

“Yes. And then you came, and you said, well…you know.”

“So you think this person who told Madame Mariana to bring you to her was this angel?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“And that would mean that she can see angels too.”

“And devils.”

“You really saw one?”

“I told you, yes.”

“What was it like?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That bad?”

“Worse. What‘s she like?”

“Madame de Babilu?”

“Yes.”

“She’s…she’s difficult to put into words.”

“Is she kind?”

“Yes. I mean, she doesn’t seem kind. But she does kind things. But you wouldn’t think of her as a kind person. I mean…”

Isabella grunted in frustration.

“She’s…she’s very tall. She speaks perfect French but it sounds like she’s speaking with an accent but she’s not. She wears clothes that look absolutely normal, and then you go away and you realise that you’ve never seen clothes like them before. Her voice is deep like a man’s but softer than a child’s. She never smiles. I think she’s crazy but she never acts crazy. You can’t tell how old she is. Not ever. She’s ancient but she doesn’t look over thirty…but her hair is grey. Her eyes are always looking at something else even when they’re looking at you. And when she looks  at you it’s always with this…it’s horror, and pity. It’s like she’s walked into a room and found you dead and she’s looking at your corpse.”

Isabella paused.

“Don’t look at me like that. You talk to angels.”

“Yes. But I talk to them like a sane person.” Marie said.

“Come on.” said Isabella, “I’m tired, let‘s get to bed.”

7 comments

  1. I had a hard time following their conversation in the bar, but I get the feeling that was intentional.
    “Yes. But I talk to them like a sane person.” Haha, I like that. 😀

  2. I love a good ‘awkward beginning of beautiful friendship’ scene (incidentally, I’m working on one at the moment involving a motorchase, unintended nudity and a tea-making robot). The best moments of that here, I think, are the times when Marie and Isabella seem most aware of and curious about each other’s difference. Marie’s reaction to the beer is wittily written. Isabella’s description of the Madame gives us something interesting to look forward to. You’ve really spoiled us lately! As for my two cents on what needs work:

    Plot: I feel like the chapter ends just when things were getting interesting. Also, if any chapter begins with waking up, or ends with going to sleep, it should probably have some special significance. If somebody storms out saying, “I’m going to bed,” or if the bed is markedly different from what a character is used to (big and comfy? Smelly and flea-infested?), or if somebody is afraid of going to sleep because of the nightmares that might arise, that’s worth mentioning. A lot of waffle on my part for one line, but even though ‘I talk to them like a sane person’ is a great line to end on, there could be something interesting about the going to bed.

    Style: A bit rough and skinny this week, compared to the other latest offerings. There are a fair few typos, cliches and redundancies (‘small little’), particularly in the first half. This being a travelling scene, it’s also a good opportunity to throw in some details.

    Dialogue: Some lovely moments, but also a little on the rough side. It looks like we have a similar drafting method: when I write a scene with lots of dialogue, I do a rough script version first, and tighten it up and fill in the action later. It might be nice just to check in which some action (or feelings, or who’s saying what, or general description of the new surroundings) every now and then in this scene.

    Anyway, murder, fire, and uncounted terrors sound awesome, so full steam ahead!

    1. The best moments of awkward blossoming friendship, that is. Not nudity. At no point was there any indication that a character was not fully clothed.

  3. Da-ang, you like to show your hand early, don’t you? I usually prefer to know nothing as stories go on, but that’s more personal than critical.

    Also, wow, bars sure must’ve been far more lax at being sure to only sell liquor to non-minors. I just have to wonder how much that bit will make modern readers accustomed to strict booze-selling rules cringe. Maybe they’ll disregard it as a different time, but still, I wonder if that might risk giving Isabella a bad vibe to readers. Though maybe she’s supposed to be a bit of a troublemaker. Still, giving beer to a ten year old makes me think a bit too much of Lampwick or someone like that.

    In any case, I liked her “Long may he reign horses” line. Pretty funny little pun. Though I guess it wouldn’t translate into French that well. Loved Marie’s spit take too. I hope this story turns into a book, then a movie just so that Marie’s spit take can be screenshotted and your successor who takes your mantle as the new Unshaved Mouse can have the screenshot put in place wherever you would use Edgar or the Sugar Thief.

    Also, in before light beer joke. I’m not even a drinker (and I’m Canadian, not even in light beer country) and I’ve heard enough light beer jokes to know where Marie’s reaction is going in most snarkers’ minds.

    Hmm, speaking of movies, if The Hangman’s Daughter were to be cinematized and you had a say in casting, who would be your first choice to play Marie? Or how about the others? Do you picture any of them looking like specific actors?

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