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E - Everyone

Fool Without A Master (Chapter 15 Part 1)

by MissGangamash


Chapter 15 - Red Water

Now I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader, I was nervous. Butt-clenchingly nervous. And that was not at all like me. Usually when I was in my motley, I was proud. I liked to think I was a very proud person back then. Head held high, curtseying at every gawking onlooker. Everyone was so drab in the town. It was nothing like the palace.

But as I stood by the fountain in Cragdale’s town square, covered head to toe in bells, I winced every time they rang a little too loud. There was something in the air. It was thick and stifling, giving me a bad case of neck sweat. It had robbed everybody of their smiles. Jaws were clenched. Knuckles were white.

The tension. It was like a boiling pot. A simmering flame.

Hate.

I don’t know what had possessed me to do this. No, that was a lie. I knew exactly what had possessed me to do this. Guilt. It was festering within me, growing, mutating, gnawing at my very insides.

As soon as I threw on the cape, patch-worked with cut offs of blood red and forest green to get into my character of the king- a gift from Alta the previous summer- I was spat at. Spat at. Humiliation is all part of being a jester. You are a fool, after all. And mine and Kaspar’s bedroom antics hadn’t been for the fainthearted but that filth was consensual. Being spat on by a total stranger on the other hand? Now that wasn’t a great start to a show.

But I was a professional. I donned the makeshift crown and played my part.

What kind of person runs away at a time like that?

“This is a time for us all to stick together!” I mimed gluing my palms together. Yes, the taxes were being raised. Yes, the kingdom was starving. Yes, King Cedric was being very secretive. But he was doing it all to keep us from being raided from overseas.

I stumbled about as I tried to prise my hands apart. I tripped over the lip of the fountain and unstuck my hands just in time to reach out and grab at the round rump of the bathing lady in the centre with the flirty smile.

“Oh, I am terribly sorry, Your Ladyship!” I cried, knocking off my paper crown. I shrugged off the long cape, revealing the smaller one underneath, symbolising the prince. “You would have thought with all my schooling I’d be a much better-behaved husband! But I’m afraid I have as much experience with the fairer sex as a strumpet does with a church!”

I caught Mirabelle in the crowd, still with that bag slung over her shoulder. She paused, watching me with a furrowed brow. In the back of my mind, I wondered if she had even gone home after I had seen her but my best guess was that all this uneasiness was making her restless. It had taken me the time it took to boil a pot of nettle tea to make me raid my wardrobe for my costumes. Anxiety made my hands shake as I pulled out outfit after outfit. Fear then struck me down at my doorway and I was close to giving in. As I watched the audience circle me like a pack of hungry wolves, I wondered if I had made a deadly mistake.

“My people! My people mypeoplemypeople,” I chattered on, throwing on the crown and the cape, once again becoming the king. In the corner of my eye, I could see Mirabelle watching me. My heartbeat thrummed in my ears. “My love of this great kingdom runs through my very blood! My love for you all has never wavered! Times are tough but we must stay united! Believe in your leader, we will get through this-”

I was cut off by a rotten tomato to the face. It exploded on contact; the juice stinging my eyes, the impact bruising my cheek.

“Quit your hollering!” shouted someone. I couldn’t see.

“Why you even on his side? The king fired you. You freak!” called another.

I rubbed at my eyes.

“Hey! Back off!” Mirabelle yelped, loud and shrill.

I managed to clear my vision just enough to capture Mirabelle being shoved by someone and then her retaliating with a swift kick to the knee and a punch to the throat. The man crumpled like paper and dropped to the cobbles.

A smile cracked on my lips, momentarily distracted, before I was rudely yanked back to reality as more vegetables came flying my way. Hard and full of vicious intent. I dropped to the ground and curled up into a ball. Punches and kicks followed. The pressure of people above me was suffocating. I felt them enclose over me like a coffin lid as they continued to hurl abuse. Heavy boots connected with my spine, trampled on my knuckles, stomped on my legs. Curling into myself, I tried to make myself as small as possible. I pressed my chin into my chest, covered my head with my arms and just waited for it to be over.

_______________________

“They really got you good.”

I winced and tried to pull away from the wet cloth being dabbed at my cut temple. Kaspar grabbed my shoulder to still me and I gave in.

I was sitting, knees up to my chest in the bath by my hearth. Kaspar was kneeling by my side, inspecting the ugly welts that covered by body and trying his best to sooth them with dabs and kisses.

“Why did you even go out there?”

I sighed and looked over at my ruined motley on the floor. I was in so much pain from the beating, Kaspar had had to help me peel out of it.

I stank. The vegetable juice had turned my usually lovely red locks into dirty sticky strings that plastered to my face and neck. My body pulsated, the heat of the bath making me lightheaded.

“Things are going to get worse,” I said. “Just thought I’d use the one tool I had at my disposal.”

“And what is that, exactly? Mocking me?”

I peered at him through my hair.

“Yeah, I heard what you were saying.” He poked one of my bruises and a weird mewl escaped me. “Apparently I have as much bedroom prowess as a eunuch?”

I shrugged. “What can I say? I’m only repeating what the Lady told me.”

He laughed. “Like you’ve been anywhere near Lady Delphine. My father would have your head.”

I bit back the truth and swallowed it whole.

“Well we’re not supposed to be near each other and I came home to you heating my bathwater for me.” I faced him. I had had to pick myself up off the cobbles and hobble my way back, half blind. Of course, Kaspar hadn’t helped me out there. Hadn’t helped me try and fish out my props from the fountain. Not out in the open. I was his little secret. Dirty. And no matter how much he scrubbed me, he will never make me any less so.

He had come to the square with an array of guards. They dispersed the crowd. Not taking anyone this time but instead ushering them all back to their homes. The strained look Kaspar had given me as I picked myself up only to collapse back down to my knees was more painful than any of those perfectly aimed kicks to my ribs. Then he had turned Bucky away and trotted off with the guards back to the palace. Or so I had thought.

He was looking at me in the bath like I was a wounded puppy he’d found on the streets.

He smiled at me sadly, his green eyes roving over the cuts and scrapes that had made my usual ghostly pale face a hodgebodge of reds and purples.

“Your job is to entertain, Wally,” Kaspar said. “Not to get involved in the king’s business.” He rang out the cloth beside me. Red water ran down his forearm.

Oh, if only he knew how deeply rooted I was in everyone’s business.

I fell silent, my eyes on the murky bathwater. All these secrets were eating me up inside. If Mirabelle continued riling everyone up, she was going to end up in dire trouble. Kaspar could prevent that. He could talk to her. Try and calm her down.

Or he could tell his father and she’d be charged with treason.

“What’s going to happen to the people the guards took?” I murmured.

Kaspar let out a heavy sigh. “They’re in the palace cells. To be honest, Father doesn’t know what to do with them. I think he’s leaving them to sweat it out.”

Well, that was something. Or was it nothing? The king could just be buying himself time so he could cook up an exceptionally severe punishment for all of them. Oh, how I wished I was not so clueless.

“My dressmaker is in there. She’s my friend.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I was there that day. I could have been taken.”

He paused his cleaning, the cloth braced against my jaw.

“Why were you there?”

“Like I said, my friend was in the protest. There were others there I know. I didn’t know the group had gotten so big. I didn’t think it was going to get so out of hand.”

“You were part of the protest?” He dipped the cloth back into the water. His tone was gentle. It sounded forced. He was trying to coax information out of me.

There had been a bitterness in my jibes out in the streets. It felt good to mock Kaspar, despite how it simultaneously squeezed my heart. But when I had opened my door to see him wandering around my house with such ease, I had given in instantly. He disarmed me in ways I still cannot fathom. But sitting there in the bath, the resentment bubbled up again and my teeth gritted whenever his skin brushed against my own. I shook my head, knowing I had already said too much. 

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(Author note: Sorry I had to cut this off mid conversation but it was hard to find a good place to break and I didn't want to put the whole 12 page chapter as one upload)


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Fri Apr 01, 2022 3:00 pm
MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi MissGangamash,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

We go back to the usual thoughts of Wally and I have to say that what I liked enormously about this first half of the chapter was the descriptions. They were so intense and detailed that it was almost like being there. I don't know if it has to do with the fact that in the previous chapter the dialogue was more in the foreground, because your descriptions are always wonderful, but I took them in very differently than usual.

Probably also because the bitter aftertaste hangs there, from the changes. Especially you see that very well in the second half, where Kaspar is present. It didn't seem like he was teasing Wally, but more like he was serious, but there was also a certain worry. I like how it's all slowly revealed in the conversation because I was already very curious to see how they would talk about the rebellion.

I found Wally's idea of appearing as a jester interesting, probably with the ulterior motive that he might try to change the crowd's mind a bit that way, but it seems like he's falling into a strange role here, where on the one hand he doesn't know where he belongs - more towards the court or the common people - and how to deal with the anger and hatred. Again, I think this naivety of his was well portrayed.

What was striking in this chapter was the mutual focus on moving the plot forward and answering some plot points but also again showing Wally's thoughts. So I thought it was fitting that we could see that clearly.

Other points I noticed while reading:

The tension. It was like a boiling pot. A simmering flame.
Hate.

Your whole introduction is really wonderful. I like how deeper and deeper with each new line this excitement and hatred becomes clearer, like walking through a sea of clouds and noticing it more clearly when you're outside. This whole introduction I think is really fantastic and I think it's one of the best you've written for a chapter opening.

I knew exactly what had possessed me to do this. Guilt. It was festering within me, growing, mutating, gnawing at my very insides.

Here, too, you have put down another wonderful description to show Wally's emotions. Here I don't ask where the blame comes from and who it is directed at. On the royal court, on the crowd, or on himself for not doing enough? Is he putting too much on his own shoulders?

I was cut off by a rotten tomato to the face. It exploded on contact; the juice stinging my eyes, the impact bruising my cheek.

Again, a very intense description and as much as I picture it and try to get a smile, I feel more sorry for Wally standing there and being yelled at. But that still had this strong character to show up and perform at all. Even if he admitted to being nervous.

In summary, a good start to the chapter with really great descriptions.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




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Thu Mar 24, 2022 5:08 pm
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RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hey MissGangamash!

RandomTalks here with a short review!

This was an interesting continuation of the story. I was a bit startled by the beginning as I could not place what exactly was going on. I think the transition from the previous chapter to this was a little rough and quick. We jumped from one scene to another without any prior information about what we were heading into. Its not necessarily a negative thing to introduce a new chapter in the middle of a scene, and the rest of the chapter flowed with the usual ease. The transition was just a little unexpected and confusing.

Guilt. It was festering within me, growing, mutating, gnawing at my very insides.

In the previous chapter, Wallace was in trance. He functioned on autopilot, burying his feelings and reactions deep inside until he felt nothing. We could tell in that moment that he was not really there, the significance of what happened had not yet sunk in. However, now we see him making a public stand by mocking the King and Kaspar. His guilt feels like something that he has already come to accept and now it is suffocating him enough to make him do something about it. I, personally would have liked to see that transition. I would have liked to be a part of the process that made him come to terms with what happened and what he was a part of. Maybe even, a few lines of introspection on the protest from Wallace would have increased the significance of his very public stand.

I say this, because this is probably the very first time that Wallace has done something by himself because he thought it was the right thing to do. His decisions have always been influence by the secrets he has to keep and he has always ben the kind of person who would rather fade into the wall than join the fight. He thrives in attention but he also shies away from it. All his life, he has done what he had thought he needed to do - keeping secrets from Mirabelle, hiding his relationship with Kaspar, accepting the loss of his job in the Palace, locating his home far away in a secluded corner, etc. He has gone along with a lot of stuff in life, and this habit of his ha s probably also added to the lack of identity that he often experiences. This was a very important moment, or at least I felt it was. Even though he was still playing a part (that of the king and the prince), we see him standing up and doing something for himself to ease the guilt that he feels. It goes long way in showing the development of his character from the person we met in the first chapter and the person he has come to become now. That is why I think you could have made this scene even more memorable by showing that process of acceptance of what happened and how it led him to this moment.

What kind of person runs away at a time like that?

I was very interested by Wallace's recollection of this sentence. I very distinctly remember Mirabelle saying the same words in the previous chapter and it had stuck with me because it was an important admission for her character. In this chapter, however, we see Wallace using that sentence as a motivation to do what he is about to do. It shows the guilt that both of them carry, albeit in different degrees. It is interesting because both of the characters are driven right now by the remembrance of what they had failed to do. Wallace thinks that he failed to protect Alta and Mirabelle and guide her away from this path of protest. Mirabelle thinks that she failed her people and ran away like a coward when they got arrested. Both of them were quite helpless in their situations, but this single sentence of guilt and regret speaks a lot for both of them.

It also added a deeper meaning to that unspoken moment between the two friends when they just looked at each other in wariness and exhaustion.

But he was doing it all to keep us from being raided from overseas.

At times during Wallace's performance, I was a little unsure whether he was justifying the King's actions or mocking him. I could not understand which side he was on. His act at times felt more like an exaggeration, drawn to the point of making a mockery out of the King and the Prince. But then, the local people attacked him for taking the side of the Palace. I was just a little confused about whether I should take Wallace's words at surface level or focus more on the exaggeration behind them. I don't know if it was just me, or if Wallace's intention was not clear in this scene. Mirabelle's lack of reaction made it all the more difficult to determine what his act was meant to convey.

I was his little secret. Dirty. And no matter how much he scrubbed me, he will never make me any less so.

I am always surprised at the amount of acceptance with which Wallace thinks these thoughts. At times, we can feel the bitterness in him, the resentment at Kaspar for being hidden as his dirty little secret. I don't know if I am the only one who thinks that this relationship between them probably contributes to half of the problems Wallace has with himself. Of course, he is his truest version when he is with him, but sometimes I truly wonder if it is worth the emotional beating to his psyche every time he is lowered to a 'dirty little secret' as he claims to be. I, for one, think that Wallace deserves a break and I was personally glad to see him to step up in this chapter and actually think for himself.

“Like you’ve been anywhere near Lady Delphine. My father would have your head.”

Also, it just occurred to me now that Kaspar is completely unaware of all the conversations that have already taken place between Delphine and Wallace. I remember that Wallace was very guilty initially for hiding his first conversation with Delphine after his performance for the King. Now, however he lies to Kaspar in a distant kind of way and it requires no effort on his part. I am not sure if its because these little secrets have lost their significance to him in light of recent events or if he is so exhausted that he does not even bother to welcome the emotions that are not directly related to what he is feeling right now.

But sitting there in the bath, the resentment bubbled up again and my teeth gritted whenever his skin brushed against my own. I shook my head, knowing I had already said too much.

I really liked this last paragraph, because it very clearly conveys this building resentment in Wallace. Usually, he pushes down these thoughts or merely accepts them as the way things should be. However, now we see them swirling around in his head, making him hold his tongue and keep secrets from Kaspar as well. This has been a recurring theme in their relationship, and it is also a very helpless situation because no matter how bad Kaspar feels, he cannot do anything about it. However, the emotional turmoil that Wallace has to go through is still unaccountable for and Kaspar will never understand it no matter how much he empathizes with him. This resentment that Wally feels is a constant emotion that he has been pushing down all through their relationship. But every now and then we see it making an appearance, however none so significant as the time he left Kaspar after spending the night together and again now, when he acknowledges this resentment and holds his tongue. It makes me wonder if there is going to be a climax in their relationship as well, and what will remain in the fallout.

That's all!

Keep writing and have a great day!

Until next time!






Hello!

I wanted the start of this chapter to feel like the Wallace was backstage ready to put on a show. The slight displacement for the readers was intentional, as this is big decision for Wallace to throw himself into the light, out of character at this point that it makes the reader do a double-take.

Mirabelle's reaction to him is supposed to be quite muted because she's trying to figure out what his performance means. The mixture of Wallace telling the town folk to believe in their king as he's dressed in a mockery of his clothes is a physical projection of his in-between state - his unwillingness to fully commit to one side of the issue.

I'll try to make that more clear in my rewrite.

I agree that Wallace's relationship with Kaspar is a double-edged sword. Wallace feels like he belongs when they're together in his heart, but his head knows that it's not a safe place and they could be ripped apart at any moment. Wallace can never truly feel content. It's like he is constantly walking a tight-rope.

Wallace and Delphine have only had two conversations together, but it feels like a lot more because they've both been very weighted. In later chapters it will be made clearer how Wallace feels about that specific secrecy. But indeed, at this point Wallace is collecting so many secrets they've weighed him down so much he's become a little numb.

Thanks for the review!



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Tue Mar 22, 2022 10:08 am
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SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hey!! Salis here with a review!

First off, the chapter's title was an excellent choice. And the first sentence was a great one to start a chapter with. If a jester is nervous, then things are definitely not looking well. Wallace's worry was well-founded, of course, considering what he was doing and I'm both pleased and disturbed by what followed. It was pleasing to see the crowd's reaction, because it was how I expected they would respond and disturbing because of all the suffering the protagonist had to endure.

Knowing how the people may react and still performing his act, though, is praiseworthy, especially since Wallace is doing this to both cheer up the commoners and protect the king's image (or at least that's the impression I was left with). He has nothing to gain from this act, only plenty to lose, but he's willing to take that risk.

The description of all that was going through his mind was also great, showing Wallace's high level of proffesionalism and commitment as he continued with the act even when fearing for his life and questioning his actions. I consider this a fine display of the man's bravery, even. Not everyone would be bold enough to attempt such a thing, but he did it and accepted the consequences with no complaint.

Wallace's relationship with Kaspar seems to be a complicated one, as one would expect of a fool and a king's son, and I definitely appreciate that. I like the contrast of how the protagonist's body was healed by his friend, but at the same time his soul was hurt by Kaspar's words (both the ones he said and the ones that seemed to be left unspoken). With such tension between the two characters things can go in any direction from here and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thank you for the (part of the) chapter! Keep at it!!






Hello!

This is the first time Wallace has really willingly put himself in any sort of position during all this unrest and the fact he knew he had to at least try something shows he does have agency - even if throughout the novel it seems like he's just being pulled in all directions.

I'm glad you liked the chapter and I agree that it was a very brave thing for him to do. Not just because of how the townspeople would react, but also Mirabelle. He has never necessarily told her what he honestly thinks about all that's going on and even in the performance he sort of teeters on the edge. He is trying to send the message that the king does care about them, but his mockery of the crown is also to cushion that blow.

Thanks for reading and reviewing! I'll be uploading the next part soon!




When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind