The Boatman[Chapter 2]
Echoes of drums filled the city streets as trumpets sounded and rattled city life into a vortex of cheers and salvation. The parade marched onwards and blurred the shanties into a spectrum of reds and warm colours. In the centre of the parade was a carrier, golden to the sight with sleek red velvet covering the sides. The parade reached the end of the street, a circular podium with flags of a blue ball with two swords crossed on it, the Machambre crest, shadowing the parade.
A newspaper was swept into a side street from the gush of wind generated by the parade, its headline encrusted at the top of the page: “Constable Machambre, Dead”. It rolled into a cylinder and brushed at the foot of a young boy, dark skinned, with jet black hair, rags clothing him. His arms were touching another’s, delicately brushing against a woman’s flesh. The boy looked into the eyes of a girl, not much older than himself, not as a lover, but as a possession for amusement.
“Mersey,” She called softly, her heart pounding “, we mustn’t go on.” Her lips uttered these words delicately, pushing him away. Mersey pressed his leathery lips against hers into a final kiss before breaking apart.
“You can’t do this to me Delzette!” Mersey said grasping her neck in anger. Delzette gasped, she hadn’t seen this side of Mersey before.
“You do anything to me and you know my mother will search the entire city for you and your family and you’ll all be tortured to the death like animals. She’s coming home today, with Daddy as well, you better hide,” Delzette snarled, shocked and slightly scared but fronting him with bravery.
“Yeah…just like your mother aren’t you? Hate us magic folk, think we are vicious, second class. Scared or summat?” Mersey said in a deep, common accent as he let go of her neck, spitting at her feet. Delzette cried.
“I loved you, but you are nothing but a common criminal like my mother said.”
“Insult me again and it will be the last insult you ever utter.” Mersey raised a finger playfully, scaring her. He didn’t have the power to kill, nor the power to do much else. Delzette trembled as she edged away from the partially laughing Mersey.
“Fine Delzette, it’s over!” Mersey bellowed, not caring now. She was nothing more than someone to entertain him, he cared nothing for her, she was in politics and her mother wanted him dead. He was in the slums, nibbling on the crumbs of life, desperate to live. Mersey turned and strolled down the street whistling a merry tune, he kicked a side the roll of newspaper until the headline caught his attention.
“Constable…dead,” Mersey repeated slowly, a grin forming on his dirty face. “Daddy isn’t coming home after all.” He put the paper under his arm as he followed the parades footsteps to the podium. Delzette took another route; she gracefully took the backstreets and appeared on the left side of the podium by the time Mersey got there. She didn’t look at him but Mersey saw her eyes crusted with a lining of tears.
The trumpets continued until a man in red with the Machambre crest stamped on his waistcoat ordered them to stop. There was a silence until the click of the carrier door reverberated off the brass band instruments and through the ears of the crowd. Mersey jumped up over the shoulders of butch men and slender women, trying to get a glance at the scene.
A veiled figure left the cart, dressed in nothing but black. Long, flaxen hair flowed from her bonnet, carried by the wind as she was escorted to the podium to a padded throne. Mersey licked his lips, waiting for the speech. The crowd dissipated into mini-brawls for space to see.
“My Husband,” She declared in a frail, broken voice, “Is dead!” The crowds bustled with mixed opinions; some had sick smiles whilst others had sombre expressions glossed over their clean faces. This showed the divide in the kingdom, some hated the ruling, others loved it. Mersey bared a grin, even bigger than the one when he read the paper. This time he chuckled as Constable’s wife, Isabel cried out his death.
Delzette looked shocked, she hadn’t yet heard, she whimpered slightly and turned wiping tears from her eyes. She couldn’t be seen upset in public, Machambres have no weaknesses, they are Nobles – leaders of men.
“He was murdered by them!” She bellowed; her voice stronger growing with hate. “Them who litter our lands, dirty our streets and infiltrate our businesses. Them who befriend us, let us trust them, then rape us of our possessions.” Her voice was riddled with pure spite, every word was uttered coldly, with years of detest building up on her tongue. “Now is the time!” Isabel continued, “To remove the waste from our cities, get rid of the murders, the violence. The destruction of our government,” She looked down remembering Constable, then looked up, her eyes full of confidence shadowed by the black veil. “The Machambre crest has never been more meaningful. The swords of our conscience will clash with the ball of magic, and we will force them into the darkness.”
Isabel took her veil with her hand and whipped it from her face revealing half of it without skin, cut, bleeding, destroyed.
The crowds attention lingered on the stillness of there new leader, silenced by the vulgarity of her face, once beautiful, now ruined. Anger stirred within the crowds with a mixture of fear and worry. Shouts and screams resounded as her final words came to close. Mersey, also in slight horror turned and was sick against the ground, days ago people would have punished him for this, today, with the mangled face: it was understandable.
Surely He wouldn’t have done, Mersey thought to himself, looking away from the uproar. His legs picked up a run, he dashed through the street until he came to an alley which he ran through quickly, he twisted and turned until he came to the darkest, narrowest alley of all. He went through it slowly; no one lived here at first glance until the dirtiest of people scrawled from the rotted wood their houses had become. Mersey carried on, thoughts running through his dazed mind. He tried to convince himself that he hadn’t seen the scarred face, that he had imagined the scene.
He came to the end, a terracotta wall, seeping with lichen and moss. Mersey smoothed the brick and pushed out a single block into his hands. A key was embedded into the block below, he took it and knelt down to the sandy floor. He swept off the sand to reveal a circular lid. It was tin, nothing grand, one could mistake it for a dank dustbin lid. He touched it with the key and it vanished revealing a long tunnel going vertically down. He jumped through the hole and was carried to the base softly.