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 General Fiction posted April 21, 2021 Chapters: -7 -1- 4... 


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We meet the characters

A chapter in the book Gifted

Gifted

by Mabaker12

The Arrival;



The heavy night sky churned as forces beyond human understanding battled for supremacy. A gale raged from the West. Unnatural blood-red lightning contained a vile stench that consumed by fire anything it touched. Thick black clouds raced before the wind. Mayhem thundered screaming as something crazed and non-human approached it appeared as evil let loose.

The man, his hand on the banister of the stairs leading to his sleeping chamber, answered the hammering at the front door.
Heavily cloaked and hooded, the figure standing before him had no visible appearance with a face concealed by the hood. The voice when it spoke sounded male.

"Here is your part of the bargain. Keep it safe until we need to come for it. On the understanding you keep it hidden, you will prosper for the inconvenience. Do not let it die or heavy the punishment will be on your head." The figure pushed a roughly bundled item forward toward the man, then turning, disappeared into the raging night.

The land the villages of Kerico clung to was an inhospitable piece of country where nothing flourished. Nothing life-sustaining grew there but a straggly course of grass on which a few skinny-gutted sheep and goats eked out an existence.

The villages, a quarter of a day's walk from each other, stank of raw sewage and huddled on soil so barren that no plow could penetrate it. There were no women or girls in the villages. Every woman, child, or grandmother worked inside the not-quite-vast castle of Duke Kerico.

The castle of the Duke sat a half-mile past the last village and the contrast, so dramatic, at first, seemed impossible. Castle Kerico displayed the trappings of wealth abundant. Having sold his soul to evil, the Duke reaped the visual rewards that were his.

In his plots fruit and vegetables, not native to the land, overflowed exotic. Snow that covered the villages for eight months of every year, with eroding winds scouring the meager grass bare. Never a flake landed on the Duke's lush pastures that travelers could see for a hand span of day's travel.

No matter in which direction one looked, fruit trees, grapevines producing a wine of such excellent vintage, that Royal or Noble traveling through would make, by invitation only, a side trip to the castle to partake of the Duke's hospitality. To eat and drink at his tables was an honor not extended too many, and the contribution of a small bag of gold coin considered fair for the lavish experience.

All this and his soul for his agreement to look after the smelly bundle that had arrived that night.

Roughly he pulled the covering aside to disclose a filthy, smelly and starved to the near-death child so weak it could barely stand.

The Duke had a sensitive stomach, which quivered and threatened to lose the fine meal the meat cook had prepared. He shuddered delicately, dabbing lavender soaked cloth under his nose,

What did they expect him to do with a child? Using one finger, he pushed the staggering creature in front of him as he entered the light and warmth that was the huge underground kitchen.

Standing still, his finger on the shoulder of the stinking creature the Duke stood reflecting, then with a slight shove, he propelled the mobile stench forward towards Hanner, the meat cook.

"Here is something for you to use, but cause it any lasting harm, or the same will be your fate, understood? And for Heaven's sake, clean it. It smells revolting."

Hanner, a woman of monstrous height and girth, stood head and a half above any man including guards in the Duke's household., Wearing the male attire of leather tabard, leather britches, and men's boots.

Firmly holding an evil-looking carving knife that had started as a guard's broken sword, honed to razor sharpness, her strength to ply the knife day after day on the huge sides of meat was a legend.

With shoulders that reduced leather tabards to ruins, her spiteful nature was notorious in the Duke's kitchen. He disliked the woman as heartless, but meat cooks were scarce so you took what you could get, and if, perhaps, a few unnamed mounds appeared in the burial plots, so be it.

Grabbing the terrified child by the chin, she brutally twisted his head towards her. Her voice, gravel rough, foul-smelling, breath boomed in his face.

"Your mine for now. You do everything I tell you. Understand?" The child, quaking with fear, nodded "Good." Replied the cook "your name is Scuttle. Which means when I call you or tell you to do something, you scuttle!" Then, with a hard, swift kick to his rear, the woman rocked with glee.

In the corner, the unnamed cat kept for a rat catcher hissed and made for a dark corner watching.




CHAPTER ONE

The Arrival



"SCUTTLE! YOU LITTLE CLOD OF DOG'S SHIT, GET HERE AT ONCE! When I get my hands on you, I'll welt your arse so good you'll not sit down for a week. NOW GET HERE! I have jobs that won't wait!"

The crudity belonged to Hanner, the meat cook. A not-the-most- important member of the Duke's household. However, having worked there the longest, in her estimation, this gave her some influence. By far the best meat cook in the Duke's household, she remained convinced of her own value and woe betide any who thought differently.

Though, the treatment she heaped on the skinny youngster she had named Scuttle upset many. She was too accurate with the foot-long carving knife for any to stand up to her, so everyone looked the other way, most times.

Scuttle, had difficulty in remembering days; they blurred. He never had meals to gauge the hours; just a scrap grabbed here and there as the different cooks screamed orders, his meat cook being the loudest.

He became champion Scuttle, an expert in maneuvers, which taught him valuable survival skills. Swift of foot to dodge the cleaver-welding boners cutting down huge sides of beef. Men hauling dressed pigs slammed down on whatever available space on the crowded tables. Not paid to watch where they placed their roughly clad feet, they accidentally trod on Scuttles's bare toes. Bumped the small boy roughly aside in their efforts, though never deliberately.

These huge sides of meat intended for the slowly turned spits; dripped fat into steel pans and when full, emptied later. Fowl, pigeons, quail by the dozen cleaned and prepared for the small fowl cook. Yet another Cook prepared breakfasts; liver, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, honey, mead, had young tray girls run off their feet delivering the food to guest's rooms and woe betide them if the meal were lukewarm!

Then there were the huge nightly banquets the Duke loved, depending on whoever traveled his lands. Enormous feasts for a Royal with retainers meant many to house and feed, or a lowly Knight, with just a small band to support him on his way to a Crusade. After they contributed to the Duke's purse, they enjoyed as much as this rich holding provided.

Racing like a runaway horse through the steam and noise, Scuttle took particular care not to slip on vegetable leaves, dried fat, carelessly dropped as people worked franticly to complete the Duke's instructions for yet another of his nightly banquets.

Scuttle's day blurred. Sent to collect twenty new potatoes had him dodging everyone. They all knew the cook hit the child, but only with her rough, calloused hand. As his cook hit him the hardest to his way of reckoning, she was the most important, and so he hurried.

These errands took great fleetness of foot just to avoid everyone who reached hands to get their task done. He rushed to the cold room.

Scuttle couldn't count. Therefore, cook had shown him with the soup ladle hitting his head for emphases, and using his fingers, she counted a potato for each finger. When he finished all the fingers, he started again. Therefore, he learned twenty new potatoes. If she called different numbers of new potatoes, or pumpkin, or anything extra, he just added more fingers. Thus saved his head from getting whacked.

Scuttle climbed the hill of bagged potatoes and the kitchen cat followed him. He liked the kitchen cat; after all, she never scratched him nor bashed the soup ladle against his head. His apron was full of new potatoes. He turned at an awkward angle to pat her. Carefully, slowly, he began his return journey down the lumpy bags. All at once he let out a yelp, fell to his knees moaning his head nearly burst open with a crushing pain that had him grabbing his head. The pain like nothing he had ever felt, and with a gasp, he fell, rolling halfway down the mound of bags. Potatoes bounced off bags and rolled everywhere. He tried to stagger upright, however; the pain prevented him from moving. It came in spasms and it hurt. He couldn't move. He let out a miserable whimper.

Then something scarier than even the pain. He heard a whispery word inside his head! The kitchen cat sat watching him and there, the voice soft as a sigh came from.

Scuttle knew he was going daft hearing voices. He moaned, certain his brain would come out his ear. Then he heard an urgent call.

Oh! Lord! The new potatoes for cook!

He felt a soft thud on his chest. He slit one eye open and saw, to his amazement, the kitchen cat sitting on his stomach, her eyes yellow with urgency.

"What?" Moaned the injured boy

"Quickly! Hide! In the fat tub! While she is busy and not looking for you, hurry along human. Oh! Stop moaning, you are not dying. The fall didn't cause your brain slowness, you are duller than a day-old kitten! Now! Hurry!" Muttering something that sounded like, "Why did I collect this assignment?"

The cat began washing her rump with short, snappy strokes of her tongue.

To Be Cont.











Dear Fanstory reviewers with your permission I am putting Mugs aside for a short while. I would like to present Gifted the story of a small boy who works magic and his band of friends. Never fear for Mugs and Dan aren't far away you will see them soon. They will have small walk-on parts in this new novel-thingy. I was encouraged to submit this work to my Fanstory reviewers. Enjoy. Mabaker12
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