Feb. 9th, 2013

Eleven

Feb. 9th, 2013 12:28 pm
The children who had quit the square at my approach have re-grouped down a side lane. They’re mostly white, though some are Bel’s lovely shade of rich, dark brown or somewhere in between. They’re doing a dance in two concentric circles, rotating slowly in opposite directions. I can hear their song more clearly now that I’m off the road.

I can’t understand the words, which tells me that neither do they, but I’m sure the lyrics aren’t just nonsense and it only heightens my sense that something is wrong.

A child’s sing-song may be frightfully morbid on any world. Beatings, burnings, whippings, beheadings, and all manner of mutilation make appearances in children’s rhymes and stories. Disease and poison are topics of endless fascination to people who are too young to have forgotten the world is a place of endless wonder and terror of which they can only keep the tiniest corner in view at a time.

Children will quite gleefully sing about death and danger and dismemberment, but this song is not gleeful. It’s funereal. They’re singing a dirge, I would bet money on it.

It takes a lot to frighten me, but this chills me to my very core.

I still have most of Bel’s loaf in my hand, so I wander over towards them, hoping that an offer of food might win enough confidence for me to ask where they learned that song.

The slow dance ends abruptly at my approach, but the children do not run. I tear the bread in two, ready to break it into more pieces.

“Anybody want to help me finish this?” I say, but it seems their parents have warned them about strangers bearing food, as they’re already scattering.

Twelve

Feb. 9th, 2013 02:08 pm
Somehow, minor setbacks such as these always feel worse than outright defeats. To be trounced on the field of combat or be sent running from a room by a rampaging monster… well, there is a certain kind of dignity in that. To find one’s undoing in a bucket of water or be rebuffed by children at play… it hardly bears thinking about.

And so I do not dwell on it a second longer than is necessary to tell you how I am not dwelling on it, my most trusted confidante. Instead, I set out in search of an inn or public house, not in search of a room or refreshment but information. Three general areas of inquiry have formed in my head.

The first concerns the cause for the new cover on the well. The obvious conclusion is that someone or something fell through the old one, but there is always the chance that it simply needed replacing.

The second concerns what measures the Town’s Electors have taken since the trouble started. Even if they are outwardly denying there is any problem, I would be very much surprised if they haven’t at least sent for a priest or the local equivalent. The effectiveness of such measures can vary greatly, but I may be able to rule out some possibilities if I know that whatever is wrong with the well has resisted divine treatment.

The third is about what’s come over the children. Have they always been doleful and skittish? Did the change in the children follow the change in the well, or did it precede it?

Chances are that an outsider asking these questions would be met with suspicion and hostility, but if I can find the right environment and strike the right chord, the locals should be tripping over themselves to tell me.

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theonecalledwander

June 2013

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