Behind Glass (section twenty-eight)

‘Ch-chance … to see … her,’ he forced out determinedly, gesticulating, forming signs as he spoke. He found it helped, somewhat.  ‘W-w-why … w-waste? W-why … n-not w-w-want … look at … h-h-her? Even if … c-c-c-can’t … h-have …’

Pan choked, muffling his coughs in his elbow.

‘Don’t misunderstand, of course they want to see her: Jacyntha’s a celebrity, someone special and exciting. But men aren’t romantically interested in women, we haven’t been for centuries. You know that. That was wonderful, by the way,’ he added, smiling praise for Pan’s verbal efforts.
Continue reading

Advertisements

Behind Glass (section twenty-seven)

Finished sharpening, Pan arranged her arrows neatly in the propped up quiver and jumped backwards, standing at attention as Jacyntha raised her bow. In emptying that quiver, she struck dead centre twice, then scored eight, six, nine, four, and eight, hit the centre four times in a row, and scored eight with her final shot. Pan was sure every single arrow, every score (except perhaps that four), was calculated. Between shots she’d turn to her spectators, flashing confident smiles and laughing.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-six)

From three-thirty, the castle began to fill with rich and powerful men, many come from wards right at the edge of the country. They had arrived days before, and stayed in private suits arranged in the sunniest corners of the castle, or else at their own stylish townhouses. Those who’d enjoyed appointments with pretty and popular women joined men just arrived from the city, congregating in parlours, libraries, and at the Shelves where they exchanged greetings—gentlemanly cordial handshakes between acquaintances, and boisterously enthusiastic hugs and back slaps between close friends long unmet.  From four, taking their tumblers of amber whisky and pungent smoking pipes with them, they began to flow out onto the castle grounds, crowds of common men falling back to let them pass.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-five)

All with early afternoon appointments scheduled, Jacyntha and a few other archers chose to pass their free hour after lunch together, starting in a sunny parlour and progressing to the sunnier rose gardens by the castle’s tightly guarded front gate. Apparently immune to the tense atmosphere the extensive castle guard in black created, armed with pikes and rifles and so many knifes they bristled with silver, the archers amiably discussed the next day’s tournament, though Jacyntha and Jenna in particular chattered in an anticipatory, challenging fashion, making bets as to who would score highest with their first shot, and trying to prise and trick the others’ tactics out into the open. Jared, at Jenna’s side, shot Pan an occasional disapproving, apprehensive look, warning him not to do anything controversial before the other escorts.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-four)

‘You shot with her, and you almost won?’

After one gibber of disbelief, Jared was reduced to a state of mute shock. The others needing only a moment to digest the unexpected news, Merrick grinned and Mal smiled and shook his head, grabbing a few beef sandwiches and a pear from the escorts’ spread.

Downstairs, the woman had already finished plucking morsels from a delectable array of raw and lightly baked finger food, dipping them in an even greater variety of sweet, spicy, citrus-infused, honey-based, and soy sauces, and bathing their hands in the warm water their escorts held, wiping them on white towels hanging over their forearms. Once every platter was cleared, the escorts were momentarily excused. Needing to get back a hurry, given only fifteen minutes to eat as their women drank tea and socialised to a live string orchestra under the watchful eyes of several Masters, a Director or two, and a squadron of castle soldiers, the four claimed the end of the nearest table and began to wolf down their lunches.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-three)

Jacyntha laughed merrily as Pan remained quite dumbfounded, hands emptied of arrows still hovering above her quiver. He knew his master was popular, and that he himself did his job well. And Pan quite disliked Fergus on a personal level—he’d been an active member of the gang that had singled Pan out, making his first years in the castle a living nightmare of hazing. He had as little to do with him as possible, but so far as Pan had seen, Fergus remained a bully. But not to women: to them, he was as perfect as any escort.
Continue reading

Behind Glass (section twenty-two)

Through the middlemost of five window strips sectioning a meeting room’s walls high in the castle, Fen could see a storm of flying silver arrows assailing targets below. He couldn’t distinguish Pan from the other figures that routinely darted down the range to collect arrows from that distance, but he and Jacyntha would be there. Working hard.
Continue reading