Monday, December 14, 2009

An Empty Grave



Prompt: The nervous grave digger smiled at the guard.............


The nervous grave digger smiled at the guard as he shovelled the last of the dirt into what most had considered an overly deep and large plot in the village graveyard.


“He’s well and truly buried then squire.” He tapped the earth down with the shovel. “He won’t be getting out of that jail cell in a hurry.” He laughed at his own joke and looked toward the other, silent man for encouragement. The prison guard grunted, but kept his hand close to his muscat, his eyes searched the perimeters of the graveyard.


“Funny, isn’t it that they let him be buried here and not in the prison graveyard.”


The guard lowered his muscat and adjusted his woollen uniform coat. Even with the winter winds chilling his legs, he felt hot and about to suffocate. “Seems even in death, he had friends in higher places. Not that its any of yours, nor my business.”


A light rain began to mist, kissing the blades of grass gently; the glistening droplets shining like tiny stars around the new gravesite. An angel headstone, piously praying with her delicate features focused toward the heavens allowed rain - teardrops to run freely down her face. A diminutive figure shrouded in black and veil hanging squarely across her face, stood beside the cherub, clutching a bunch of lavender and ivy.


“Just sayin guv. Just making conversation.”


The guard threw an accusing look toward the female form and hissed; “Then don’t, if you know whats good for you. Are we done here?”


“Like I said, he’s more than six feet under and been dead for three days. He’s not likely to get away from there.“


The guard did a final sweep of the mossy grounds and relaxed. “Lets go then, I’ll buy you an ale at the inn. That was a bigger hole you filled in than any expected. You’ll be thirsty no doubt.”


The gravedigger nodded and slapped his toughened hands on his trousers to wipe them clean before packing his tools into the little wooden handcart.


“Ey, it builds a thirst. So, is it true what they say about .. him?”


“Whats that then?”


“Bruno,” he gestured to the earthen mound. “He sailed with the legendary Captain Juan?” The labourer looked guiltily around and horsely whispered the name.


Rewared with only a grunt, he continued “It is isn’t it? And he never told where the treasures hid? Never said where the..”


“You’ll be keeping a quiet tongue in your head if you know whats best. Unmarked grave, Unknown victim. No gossip. Thats what you’ve been paid for.”


The gravedigger leant on his handcart and pulled up a long piece of grass. “Doesn’t explain why you’re here. What threat is a dead man?”


“Are you wanting this ale or will I go back to the prison now?”


The gravedigger opened his palms in defeat. “The Ale at the Crossed Keys is the best, I’m thinkin.”


They looked toward the dark figure transfixed on the filled grave.


“Maam, will you join us?”


She shook her head. With tiny steps she approached the gravesite and placed her bunch of flowers and herbs before turning and walking down the pathway.


The Gravedigger indicated with a jerk of his head. “Professional mourner. They don’t socialise.” He whistled lowly. “Bruno sure must have known some important people to have one of those here.” The two figures then trudged off, the handcart scrunched along the earthen path, tools clattering as it bumped over stones along the way toward the inn and out of the increasingly heavy rain.


The arched doors of the tiny chapel flung open and four figures bounded out clutching huge shovels in a military stance. With deft, precise movements, the troope dug into the new gravesite. Two other shadows melted out from behind gravestones and kept guard as the hole deepened.


A hollow wooden sound thudded; muffled by its earthen walls as one of the shovels hit the cheap casket. Wordlessly, the shovel was handed up and exchanged for a small axe. With the lid chipped off, a rope was passed down and Brunos broad shoulders heaved upward enough for it to be passed around and under, secured tightly and his limp body hauled unceremoniously out of the muddy grave.


The tiny woman appeared and threw back her veil. A grey strand of hair plastered itself over one eye, tracing a faint scar on her cheek as the rainfall grew heavier. She tore off her leather gloves and ran her delicate hands over the clean shaven face of Bruno. She tapped her ring finger on his temple and then around his face in an even tempo. Only a quick witted person would have noticed that it was shorter than the others, the stump ending at a cleanly scarred knuckle. Looking up at the six men, “We don’t have much time. Get him into the chapel and I’ll do what I can there. Fill the hole in and sweep the way. We don’t want anyone suspecting the grave is now empty.”


Despite the weight of the immobile body, the four men quickly lifted Bruno and hustled him into the chapel. Once their bundle was placed on the floor, they returned to complete their grave filling task. Brunos pallid face lulled to one side, the only indication that the body was not suffering rigamortious nor in fact; dead. With practiced hands, the woman broke open a salve container and rubbed generous amounts onto Brunos chest. She then unplugged a waterskin and prised Brunos lips open and poured the liquid over his teeth and up his nostrils as best she could.His shallow gasping breaths forming tiny bubbles on the liquid, the only indication that a flicker of life still remained; slow and still enough to fool the prison doctor for four days; but declining steadily toward death unless she could revive him.


“May Lillith guide me.” She uttered as she thumped his chest with her tiny fist.


Bruno convulsed into a coughing fit and clutched at the figure. His eyes sprang open and despite a continuing undercurrent of coughs and his whole body shivering; he broke into a grin. “Even in Hell, the place I thought I’d be rid of you damned woman, you follow me.”


“You’ll have to wait a little longer to get there, Bruno. I know it will be hard, but you need to stand. We need to get out of here.”


“No small talk for you, huh Ruby? Haven't seen you in years and you go straight into throwing your weight around.”


“I’m doing this for Juan. Now get your sorry rear off the floor. I have horses waiting for us at the end of the path.He’s waiting for us.”


Bruno couldn’t feel his extremities and sheer will forced him to stand. For the Captain, he’d always sworn he was prepared to go to hell and back. For the Captain, he already had.


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Although this is a stand alone - it ties in ( many years later) to the Captain Juan series.

6 comments:

mark said...

I know this is part of a larger story or cast, it still has the wonderful feel of a stand alone story.

It shows a beginning, middle and end yet leaves some interesting questions that whet the appetite.

Love what you have done here.

Zora said...

Love it!
The use of language is both beautiful and suspenseful.
My favorite lines:
"A light rain began to mist, kissing the blades of grass gently; the glistening droplets shining like tiny stars around the new gravesite. An angel headstone, piously praying with her delicate features focused toward the heavens allowed rain - teardrops to run freely down her face."

John Pender said...

Love it!
I knew you were going to bring Bruno back to life, but I was expecting some kind of ritual to bring people back from the dead. Good job.
Here's mine for this week.
http://johnpender.net/2009/12/fiction-friday-134/

jodicleghorn said...

Long live Bruno and LOVE the fact it was his much-love (ho hum!) Ruby who busted him free from the grave.

A very unlikely alliance and great to know that Ruby is still bleeding through from the otherside and very much part of the Captain's crew.

Now for Calvin?

Paul said...

I like the suspense in this. I haven't been following the other stories, but I think I shall have to go back and read them.

sentientstate said...

I love this! I enjoy reading the unsaid fragments of a larger picture.
It makes you appreciate how beautiful the story of Captain Juan is.
"Even in Hell, the place I thought I’d be rid of you damned woman, you follow me."<-- My favorite line. Keep up the good work! Lilith be with your characters :> *giggle*