Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe

Prelude Part Two
A parting of ways

Racing through the forest and its many game runs, it wasn’t long before they came across the body of one of the King’s personal messengers, a man Jack had met several times before. Barely alive and with vicious looking cuts through his torso, it looked like he had been attacked in a sword frenzy.
Jack tried in vain to give the dying man some water and extract any information out of him he could, only to have the man whisper the words “leave now” before breathing his last breath in Jack’s arms.

This spoke volumes to Jack, knowing what he did about messenger protocols and seeing it would be dark soon, called his men in and ordered them to collect the man’s body and return to the cottage.
Jack’s men mistakenly saw this as Jack heeding a warning from a dead man, but they should have known better.
On returning to the cottage Jack and his men were met by the local postman.
“You’re a bit late for rounds postman” said Jack eyeing the frightened man with a real sense of menace.
“No sir, I’ve finished the day’s duties, I’ve come to visit my Mother”
“What kind of man lets his Mother live out here?” demanded Jack.
“Aye, I’ve asked her to abandon these digs many a time, but she won’t leave. She says it wasn’t a bad place till those creatures come, Sir” the postman replied.

“Hmmm, well I can’t speak for your Mother boy, but I have a distressing sight inside for your eyes and I’m hoping you may shed a light on who it may be. Come with me”

Jack placed his hand on the postman’s shoulder and led him inside, where on first view he gasped from the sight of the blood sprays then ran to his Mother’s bed looking confused until he turned and realised there was a body behind him.

“Oh my” he sobbed and collapsed next to the body reaching out and taking the cape to his face where he wept without shame in front of the soldiers.

“You know the girl?” demanded Jack.

“My niece” came the postman’s reply “She, like me visits regularly to keep our Ma company.”

He looked up at Jack “Where’s my Ma?”
“That I can’t say,” said Jack “But we can’t stay here, we must get these bodies back to the town”.

With that, Jack ordered his men to carry out the unpleasant duty of bringing the bodies back to the Kingdom, the sobbing postman trailing behind.

On arriving back at Kingdom Jack made straight for the Palace and demanded an immediate audience with the King.

He was granted instant access to the chambers where the King was enjoying a private theatrical performance by a dancing cup and spoon.
On Jack’s arrival the King shooed the magical dinnerware away.
“Jack the Gi… Jack, what’s up old friend” the King caught himself just in time.

“I believe I found one your personal messengers today in the borderlands. He died delivering his note” Jack said with no introduction or greeting.

“Really? Was he abducted” the King said not meeting Jack’s stare.

“No, he was savaged, no doubt by the one he was delivering the message to”

“I don’t think so Captain, a King’s messenger only delivers the King’s own words”
“Aye, that he did, Leave Now, I believe they were.” Jack knew he was on very dangerous ground right now and he was very close to accusing his Sovereign of aiding a mass murderer.

The King saved him the trouble.

“Jack, what has happened will not continue. I assure you. Do not seek the perpetrator or bother with any more investigations. The killings have stopped and you will no longer need to worry about them”
“But why?” Jack asked.

“It is none of your concern, a debt needed to be repaid and it has”
“It was a wolf” Jack said.

“Yes, it was and if it returns you are welcome to hunt it down freely, but that will never happen” sighed the King.

“What of the victims, I met a man today who lost half his family, what of him?”
“Send him to me; I shall see he is cared for. Jack my conscience is also troubled here don’t you ever forget that.” The King sounded genuine.

“What of the Giant?” Jack said quickly, instantly regretting it.

“That is what a King does, Jack” The King’s mood had shifted quickly. “King’s make hard decisions, soldiers obey Kings Jack, not question them”
“Well your Majesty, this soldier has just become a free man”.

With those words Jack turned on his heels and never saw the King again.

The King having a good heart and a troubled conscience let him leave.

The King slumped into his chair and shook his head, turning it to see Humpty Dumpty step out from behind the changing curtains. He was holding the cup and spoon.
“I’m sorry Your Highness, I had no idea he was so clever”
“Aye, he is an amazing man and I’d stay away from him if I were you” said the King.
“I fear him not your Majesty because I know a deal’s a deal and you are a man of honour. Without the wolf there would be no goose”
“Yes but the death of a dozen subjects, the deception of an innocent giant, a deal with a monster, was it worth it?” mumbled the King.
“In the long term Your Highness, yes, you have given the Kingdom longevity. You are a true leader sire”
“Get out” said the King tired of Humpty’s silver but slippery tongue. “Just leave me in peace”.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, art by Simon Sherry

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