So, this is a character that was supposed to be very minor, maybe a couple of scenes, who I came to adore. For awhile, he was the only thing keeping me liking Etched in Black. Anyway, he turns out to be Yvette's mentor, never mind that he's only 14. He's the most emotionally and spiritually stable of the bunch (granted, the first part is probably helped by the fact that he's a guy). He was very close to Robin and the whole Hood family, who took him in as an orphan when he was 7. This is his intro scene, which I actually wrote last spring.
Gervais took a running start and bounded over the small stone wall. His foot clipped it on his way over, but he made it, and even landed on his feet.
Well, it seems those few inches did do me some good...
He straightened, looking around. Not a sign of life. The manor itself looked crumpled, tossed and kicked by the world.
Gervais strode forward, shoving aside the fear that came from looking at that silent house. The sun set behind him, but no candles shone in any of the windows.
Where are they?
He averted his path and moved towards the stables, picking up his pace and in the end, running. He slowed down when he got near the building; it seemed crouched and submissive as well. One door stood straight, blocking his way. The other hung to the side, threatening to tumble to the ground. Gervais slipped inside.
It smelled of rotting hay and horse waste inside; the smell of actual horses was either gone or covered up. The darkness fell in behind Gervais as he walked by the empty stalls. One of them moved back and forth, as if twiddled with by a ghost, the hinges squeaking with every movement. Gervais reached out a hand and steadied it.
A draft a wind got in through the hanging open door and swept down the empty hall, shuffling the hay that lay scattered across the ground. Then the door banged shut, leaving the darkness to do what it would.
A horse whinny startled Gervais out of his stillness, frightened the darkness that attempted to press close.
He felt his way forward, wrinkling his nose at the smell.
Another whinny: sounds of muffled hooves. Gervais stopped still. He couldn’t see a thing. At last, a horse nose butted him under the chin, making him take steps backward to avoid falling over.
He reached up a hand, letting the horse investigate his fingers, and then rubbed its forehead.
“How did you stay alive here, may I ask?” he said. The horse only let out a rumbling nicker.
“Dark in here, isn’t it?”
Gervais felt along the horse’s cheekbone, and to his surprise found a bridle with dangling reins. He scooped them up, and led the way out of the stable, pushing aside the door that had closed. Barely was he out when the top half crashed to the ground.
“I thought as much,” he said, turning to the horse. He did a double-take.
The fancy saddle had slid halfway around the horse’s midsection, and the stirrups dangled in a dangerous-looking way. Gervais moved beside the horse and uncinched the saddle, pulling it off. Having nowhere to put it, he dumped it on the ground and ran his hand over the horse’s back, scratching it.
“Who on earth are you?” he muttered. He looked at the saddle on the ground, looking rather like a dog on its back with his feet in the air.
“If I am caught like this, I’ll be hanged for horse stealing,” he said. “Hmm. Not like your master, eh?”
The horse, of course, said nothing.
Gervais leapt up, taking the reins, and turned the horse towards the manor. She didn’t act like a wild animal who would toss off her rider and race for the stables of Locksley.
That was another thing. Why Locksley? Gervais had never seen her before.
Gervais let her amble over to the servant’s door, slid back off, and tied her reins to a ring in the manor’s side. He walked up to the door and knocked. The horse watched him.
“Pretty dumb, I know,” Gervais said. He pushed open the door and stepped inside.
He stopped dead.
“Lord have mercy...” he whispered, fighting the urge to cross himself.
Ash lay scattered across the wood boards in the room Gervais had used to take his meals. The table lay flat on its back, looking much like the saddle Gervais had left in the lawn, but now with a grimmer meaning. The legs had been hacked at, showing old wounds of an ax--or sword.
He moved over to the basin that had always held water that seemed just a tad too cold in the early mornings. Nothing. Dark stains, like fingers, slid to meet a dark puddle in the center.
Gervais backed up. He could feel the emptiness of the house. No one was here. At all. And it didn’t seem like there had been anyone for a long time. It almost felt as if the manor had been empty of life for five years, never mind the five months he’d been gone.
He forced himself to go forward, to peak into the hall. Some animal scuttled away from the door as it creaked open. His footsteps seemed to threaten to bring the roof down about his ears. He resisted the urge to call out.
Nobody is here.
But where are they? What happened?
His hand rested on a door. Are they dead?
A more chilling thought followed that one. Are they dead here?
Gervais couldn’t open the door. He felt like a child, but fear and the darkness finally took him, co-captors in a plot he didn’t understand.
“I have many enemies, Gervais. Lately, they have been growing more bold, more malicious. More determined. If I were you, Gervais, I would leave.”
“But where would I go? I have nobody but you...”
The conversation hung in the threatening darkness around him. And yet I went. Months later, yes, but I went. I left.
And now this...
“Do you know what your God has promised you, Gervais? ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you...’”
He squared his shoulders and pushed open the door, threatening the empty house to do its worst.