Short Fiction: A Disturbed House, Part One

The air was colder as they approached the mountains, leaving Nima grateful that Ulrich was so thoughtful to obtain a thick fur cloak before leaving the last settlement.  She was still concerned that she heard Selig berating the man the next night.  She snuggled deeper into the cloak, although it didn’t seem to bother Selig and his squire Constance.  They were clad in simple, padded armor and leather caps as they worked at shifting fallen timber and stone.  They easily shouldered aside the debris blocking the door.  Selig entered, returning moments later, shaking his head. 

Constance sighed in resignation and retrieved her pipe from Nima, who had been sheltering it from the wind.  She was glad to return the foul smelling thing.  It astonished her how the pair kept passing the pipe back and forth, exhaling the smoke that nauseated the young priestess the first time she smelled it.

The trio remained silent for some time.  Finally, Selig stood from the rubble they had piled up, and both women fell in behind their lord.  They travelled the western part of the town for some time before finding Ulrich and Osa.  Both were sitting and talking quietly.  When Osa saw Selig approaching, she immediately leapt to her feet, bowing.  Ulrich continued to sit, reaching out to Constance for the pipe.

Osa was obviously perturbed by Ulrich’s lack of formality, but said nothing.  Nima had become accustomed to long silences from her companions.  Osa tended to be more talkative, if stiffly proper, than the other three.  Growing up in convents and abbeys meant that this lack of needless conversation was natural.  

“My Lord,” Osa said, “we have found no signs of the townsfolk in every building we inspected.”  The woman stood to attention and placed emphasis on addressing Selig by status.  She seemed to take pleasure in serving a person of such title.

Selig pulled off his cap, rubbing the bald pate reflectively.  He didn’t react too much to Osa’s report, which seemed to deflate the woman.  

“Thank you, Osa,” he said.  Turning, he addressed his servant.  “Ulrich, you seem to be mulling over something.  Tell me.”

The man had tried to avoid eye contact, busying himself with slouching against a wall while drawing on the foul pipe.

“Well, Milord, I think we should leave quickly.  There’s a feeling of spirits here about and I don’t like the air of this place at all.  It’s unnatural here.”

Osa glared at his seemingly disrespectful attitude, but it didn’t seem to bother Selig.  The older man nodded.

“We are too deeply involved to leave.  Keep up with your instincts, though.”

Osa was evidently unhappy at the exchange.  Nima knew that Constance and Ulrich had served Selig for years and it seemed Osa was jealous of this camaraderie.

Without a word, the three stood and began walking, leaving Osa and Nima to fall in behind them.  The dynamics of the group weren’t ideal, but Nima felt a kinship to Selig and his companions.  Osa, though, left her suspicious.  The woman was more interested in seeking approval than assimilating into the group.  She reminded Nima of too many members of the clergy, always seeking favor from those above.

The priestess thought of how cutthroat some of her faith could be.  That was part of why she had been sent off with Lord Selig’s companions.  As always, though, she thought back to the flood, and her failure.  She shook the thought from her head and continued to follow her new leader.

They wound through the maze of streets until the sounds of merriment led them into the town center.  The soldiers that had accompanied them had found alcohol and were obviously deep into their cups.  In the center of it all was Anse.  He had joined Selig’s company not long ago, around the time of Osa.  Nima saw Selig’s face go blank.  He walked slowly and unnoticed to Anse, then suddenly grabbed the large man by the scruff of the neck and hurled him to the ground without apparent effort.  One of the soldiers began to move towards the nobleman until Constance stepped up and hurled the man over her shoulder.

The laughter died off as the massed men stared in shock.  Neither Selig or Constance were large people, but showed a strength that would not be expected from their lean bodies.  Ulrich had half-drawn his sword and moved to protect his lord.  Selig walked over to stand over Anse’s prone form.

“I am certain you had orders that did not involve debauchery.”  The words were spoken softly, which sounded more menacing to Nima than a shout.  Anse, panting, tried to get his breath back.  Without a word, he stood and took his place among his fellow retainers.  His reddened face and grimace showed he was displeased with the humiliation.

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