Oratoria: Bury the Deadby
16: Exchange on the landing || 17: The words of the smiling man
It was late, Ava began her climb up the stairs with a fresh ornate platter of teas and breads held in her bandaged hand. As she reached the initial landing she saw the tall man with the smiling mask come down the stairs towards her. “Oh, are you leaving already? I was just about to bring some refreshments.” The smiling man stopped on the landing of the stairs next to her and took a moment now to look at the servant. She was smaller than him which wasn’t saying much as he was a giant unto his own, but her face was much kinder than either of his were. Well kept and sharply cut short, black hair reached her well postured shoulders.
“I am sorry for your trouble, but I still have a ways to go so I must be off.” He stopped himself. “-How is your hand, are you well?”
Somewhat surprised she answered “Oh! It’s nothing! Just a scratch!” she said cheerfully.
He nodded. “I apologize for your injury, I should not have been so brash.”
Taken aback Ava smiled “Oh no, please. It is the right of the journeyman to go where he pleases. Ah-” she set down the tray on a small table on the landing. “Please, wait a moment!” Taking a piece of cloth she held beneath the tray, she took the thickest slice of the sweetbread. It was thick and moist and was packed with many seeds, nuts and dried berries, the crust coated with a fine layer of white sugar-dust. Placing it inside of the wrap, she then tied it tightly together with a neat ribbon, taking care not to damage the food inside.
Satisfied, she nodded and held the package over to the smiling man with both hands, a large smile on her own face. “Please, if you can’t stay, then take this with you. I made it myself just a moment before!”
He looked at the gift, his eyes glinting behind his mask, which shifted upwards with his smile. “Oh! Thank you very much!” he took the package and held it in his hands, feeling the warmth it was still emitting. “I will be sure to enjoy this once I find a moment to rest!”
“Please do!” she stated with a courtesy. Ava picked up her tray once more. “Safe travels” she wished the smiling man.
“Thank you.” He simply stated. “Goodbye.” Turning then, he went past the housekeeper and began marching down the stairs, his large pack rattling behind him. She stood and watched the odd man until he opened the door and then vanished outside into the pouring rain. Smiling at the strange encounter with the kind man, she went up the stairs and stopped at the first door on the left. “My lord?”
She knocked on the door. “My lord. I have brought some fresh breads and tea.”
“Yes my lord,” she entered the room and stared at her master. The pudgy man stood before her, clearly having been pacing the room, flustered and his hair unkempt. “Make yourself useful and send for Aerger and his boys.”
She looked at him uneasily. “Are you sure my lord?”
The tray fell from her grasp, flying behind her out into the hallway, as the man struck her on the face. The plates and cups shattered with a loud clamber, shards of glass and porcelain flying every which way. Tea stained the floor and the rest of the sweetbread falling apart, as it tumbled down the stairs. “Don’t question me, girl!”
The servant girl looked up fearfully to the magistrate baring down at her. “Clean up this mess you wretch! And then go do as you're told, or I’ll sell you to the brothel and have your harlot sister thrown in the pit!”
She sprang up to her feet. “Yes my lord! Forgive me my lord!” Ignoring the metallic taste in her mouth she rushed to complete her tasks.
Magistrate Brennen looked at her with disgust, shaking his head before heading back to his desk.
The smiling man stood at the bottom of the stairs, the rain still continued to fall. Yet the crowd of people outside had not diminished in the least. Lamm and Schaf constantly pushed back the lone stragglers who came too far to the staircase. An explosion of voices and cheers rang out, as the smiling man came into their sight. Stepping down several steps, to just below the midpoint of the flight, he raised his hand beckoning the crowd to silence. They quickly obeyed and those who kept on were quickly silenced by the glares of their peers and elbows from their neighbors. He readied once again his well rehearsed speech in his mind, with some agitation.
“Citizens of the nigh-lowest city of Achtel. Thank you all for gathering here so unexpectedly!” cried out the tall man. “It has been nine years since the rising and the events that followed. Nine years since I, or any presence of the heartland have graced through your streets.” He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable agitated murmurs to ring through the crowd and they soon followed. He raised his hand once more and silence quickly came again. “I understand that the actions of the past are troubling for some, especially those who make the great chasm their home, for those who lost loved ones and for those who survived.”
A quiet filled the air.
“Know however, that while you fought here, so did we above.” Eyes glanced at each other. “Our borders in the south and east were threatened by the lands we neighbor. While you battled the dead, we fought the living. However, we as a kingdom have prevailed on both fronts. Many lives were lost, but they were not lost in vain, as they have given us the day we live in today and also the future of our children.”
He continued. The explanation of a war above always calmed their faces. “After much debate with Magistrate Brennen, it was his wish to rekindle the bonds of sisterhood between the pit and the capital, to bind our combined futures together as one and so, by order of the lords of our land, I bring you these words.” He raised his hands holding out three fingers. “As of this day, free travel between the pit and the surface is once again allowed, for any who are fit to work, to serve or who have been approved by the clergy.” The murmurs once again rose, this time with great excitement.
The people exchanging thrilled hugs and words rang out together quickly, exploding into a cacophony of sound and voices. Young men and women with wide eyes, standing up just a little taller as a hunger for the now open world grew within their chests. “Second.” He called, ushering silence once more. “The future of our nation and peoples as a whole is held not in our own hands, but in that of our children. By order of the high-cardinal, the Erstel Academy has been reconstructed and will be reopened.” This time however, the crowd was quiet and exchanged confused looks and indifferent shrugs, only sometimes making way for the occasional laugh that rang out.
“While I realize that this would have meant little to the people of Achtel in the past. I feel it will now. By order of the high-cardinal, regardless of status, any who are capable of passing the entrance examination will be accep-,“ the crowd exploded again, though the loudest voices were the many mothers and fathers holding their children in feverish elation, seeing for the first time a future. The smiling man continued. “- accepted. Regardless of the status of their birth. There will be no fees or tuition, as the lords of our nation are paying for them. Lodging will be provided by the academy. Any who have became of age during the rising, without being able to undergo formal training, are welcome as well, if they swear to one year of military service after their education completes.”
He had to wait now, because the crowd had erupted out of control. The young adults grabbed each other cheering and dancing in the rain, making tomfoolery and hyping each other up over the door that had opened for them as well. Lamm and Schaf joining in on the merriment with a shining glint in their eyes. This was an escape from the pit for most of them. The mothers this time were less happy than the fathers, at the price of admission however. The smiling man raised both his arms out “Finally, by order of the high-cardinal. any child who is touched, born of witch-blood, or is otherwise favored is required by new law to be presented at the Erstel Academy as well, as they come of age.”
The sea of heads turned and looked at each other in confusion and unease and the parents, once more taking the leading role, clutched their children somewhat tighter. Another clap of thunder. “For every such child presented, the families will receive an imbursement of three Gold Obols each.” Many hands now quickly let loose of the small shoulders they had just been firmly clutching just a moment before and feverish glances were exchanged from one partner the other. “- As well as an additional stipend for the child, based off of their aptitude and the spirits they are favored by.”
This was all it took to win over the hearts and minds of the protective guardians, who nodded and though there were no cheers, there were many excited brothers and sisters playfully exchanging words and merry with their younger siblings. The smiling man lowered his hands. “In the name of our nation, I wish you all well and safe travels.” A feverish excitement rang through the crowd, who had now gone completely out of control, running and singing through the streets, elated by these first words from the world above in nine years.
Lamm and Schaf continued their celebration for a minute longer, only realizing then that they still had work to do. “Journeyman, please let us esc-” Lamm turned to the staircase the two were standing on before. The smiling man had vanished. The two young men looked at each and shrugged, joining in instead with the masses.
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Socially awkward witches, sad hugs, dramatic adventures, spooky stuff, and comfy dungeons: My name is D.M. Rhodes, but I love to write about those things under the moniker 'Razzmatazz'. (Hopefully full-time, one day soon!) I’m a hobby occultist and, more boringly, I’m an XR expert, as well as a government-trained media and information specialist.
The main genres that I write in are litRPG-fantasy, action, adventure, romance, tragedy, horror, and slice-of-life. I seriously vibe with religious and occult overtones mixed in with super obscure story concepts. °( ~ )°
Thanks for taking an interest! Because of supportive readers like yourself, I can keep following my socially unacceptable dream! (I'm going to become the wizard-king.)
– Always open for feedback!