Continued from Prologue 3.
Once Upon a Future Time
They had stopped for the night near the burned-out shell of Locksley Hall. Hedges and trees lined both sides of the crumbling road as it stretched away through the rich, settled farmland. They had chosen to leaguer by a junction on the 1067 A-road, in the shelter of an unkempt hedge in fall hues; by Yule, the leaves would be gone, carried away by the winds. He had set their hearth of stones on a parched grassy patch, facing a farmhouse with black weather-boarding and a red slate roof. Next to it, a crop-dusting plane sat in long grass and played host to a tree growing out of the cockpit.
He lit a fire. It had been oddly dry, hence the early hue in the leaves, and the tinder caught readily. He whistled on the small blaze to grow it and eked plastic flasks gathered from the endless yield the hedgerows plucked from the wind – the fire caught well in the sun-bleached Forebear stuff. Satisfied the fire would not go out, he stood up and broke some branches over his knee while he looked about. His Teacher had gone to call on the farmer over the road, showing fitting etiquette, as a Seer should. He was sure they were having a brew while he set up their leaguer, but that was a learner’s work. He applied himself and wondered what business the evening would bring.
Two snared hares hung from a branch and he set about readying them.
He slid his sharp knife through the fur into the hare’s belly and slit down. Shoving his fingers in to pull the guts out, he threw them onto the fire before turning the animal upside down to ring the shanks and cut between them to the arsehole. He wiped the blade clean on the fur, sheathed it, and carefully skinned the hide off the small body, teasing it off the head and ears. Laying the first hare on some banana leaves, he quickly skinned the second. There was both mint and hedge garlic to stuff them, and the smell made his mouth water. He tied the coneys by the feet to a long stick, which he propped over the fire. While they began to cook, he scraped the hides carefully; these little paws had not been so lucky. Unasked, the memory of his childish tears at killing his first hare came back and his face reddened.
“We only kill what we eat,” he said to himself.
“That’s right, Swan.”
“Oh, you’re – yes, Teacher.” Swan stood, seeing the farmer with her.
Mavis smiled. “You know Mrs Thursford, Swan? She’s kindly let us keep here.”
He carefully wiped and inspected his hand before shaking Mrs Thursford’s.
“Good to meet you, ma’am, won’t you eat with us?”
Mavis looked satisfied.
“Yes, thank you, Mr Abbot,” replied the farmer.
“Kindly call me Swan, Mrs Thursford, I’m still a learner.”
Mrs Thursford smiled and swapped a meaningful look with his Teacher.
My time is coming; it’s almost here.
For months, they had circled Fakenham, and the Holiday started there tomorrow. He would take his oaths and end his learner-ship in his nineteenth year; Mavis would break her Stone in two and give half to him. In only a few months, his half would grow whole and he would be a fully-fledged Seer. Then he could follow Mavis’ other learners, he had heard so much about them, been likened to them often enough, into the wider world and delve about Albion. He thought about it when he woke, at meals, as they walked, as he worked and as he went to sleep. How he longed to see with his own eyes what he had only seen through the Stone, the world outside the Holm, beyond the thrice-yearly circuit that they trudged, oh-so-slowly, about the wicks and small boroughs.
The story continues … here.
More about ‘Misput Fealties’ here.
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