Short Story #1: “Peace? I Hate the Word”

Well, without further ado, I present to you the first short story from my summer project.  As you may remember, I’m working on five things: character voice, sensory details, proactive characters, not using profanity (which is a temporary thing to make sure I’m not just using it because I’m lazy), and an internal and inherent premise.

In addition to being the first short story of this summer project, “Peace? I Hate the Word” is also the first short story I’ve written in this new stage of writing (roughly the last three years).  Anyway, I hope that reading it is a good for you as writing it has been for me.

Peace? I Hate the Word

(A Tale of Tarafore)

by Brent Dedeaux

“Two families, both alike in indignity, in fair Cassa where we lay our scene,” the elder Merengo said, chuckling at a half-remembered passage from an ancient book of Earth.  His clear baritone filled the room as the cry of a great stag fills the forest, echoing off the stone walls, undiminished by thick hanging tapestries.

His second son stood, his deep brown eyes wide with shock.  “The Merengo and the Fiorentino, alike in dignity?” Lorenzo said, leaving his tutor behind and stepping toward his father, his hands grasping at his doublet.  “Surely, my lord, you jest.”

Lord Cruhuer Merengo laughed deep and long.  “Ah, to see the concern on your face, son,” he said, “perhaps you seek to cure me of this heresy, as our uncles have so long sought to do.”

“Father, may I speak freely?”

“If you cannot, I have done a poor job indeed as your father.”

“I can almost understand your desire to expand the franchise beyond the noble houses, to bring the merchants and wealthy professional classes into the council,” Lorenzo said, “for they will side with us far more often than not, giving us leverage against the Peccavi and Kamitaas.  I can understand that their time will come, and crushing them, as the Houses of the Boar, the Ram, and the Wolf are likely to do, will only lead to greater devastation later.  But to call the Fiorentino our equals?  May the Creator forbid it!”

At the mention of The Creator, Lorenzo’s tutor silently made the sign of a circle, starting with his lips, proceeding to his chest, his navel, and back around to his lips.

“These books of Earth you read,” Lorenzo continued, aristocratic indignation raising him above his place, “I understand they are the wisdom of our sister-world, but Father, you cannot blindly follow their words -”

“You think my plans and beliefs came from a book?”  Cruhuer boomed, his dark eyes wide, tossing his head like a great stag might, “even a book from Earth itself?  No.  They come from my own eyes, my own experience.  Is Pierro my nephew?”

“Yes,” Lorenzo said, “of course.”

“Is he your cousin?”

“You know he is.”

“And that is how you see him,” Merengo rumbled, “as your cousin.  Not as hired help, or an enforcer, but as a cousin – lesser estate, because he is excluded from the line of succession, but still, family.”

“Yes, my lord,” Lorenzo said, drawing back a bit, “you know I do.”

“But is Pierro of our blood?” Lord Merengo asked.

Lorenzo paused. “I -”

“He is not our blood, is he?”

Lorenzo dropped his eyes.  “No, sir.”

“Yet he is family.  My nephew, your cousin.”  It was not a question.

“Yes, of course.”

“How did he come into our family?” Cruhuer asked.

“You know as well as I, Father,” Lorenzo said, “his father was of our line, but his mother was of House Lucrece of Cartagi.  She was as the Fiorentino, a granddaughter of Earth, with no Great Beast watching over her House.  They could never conceive, not unless -”  Lorenzo paused, unwilling to speak of such a subject.

“Not unless the power of the Breaking overcame them,” his father said, “causing them to bring forth a creature, half of Earth and half of the Great Stag, a harbinger of chaos.”

“Yes,” Lorenzo said, bowing his head, “but nobility cannot remain childless.  It cannot be, so they adopted a foundling, one clearly of neither House Merengo or House Lucrece, so he would feel equal kinship to both.”

“Pierro, whose ancestral beast was clearly the Great Cat,” Cruhuer said, “a beast that has served us all well, and saved our lives today.”

“Indeed, I claim him among my most valued of kin,” Lorenzo said.

“If Pierro Merengo can be our equal, with no drop of noble blood,” Cruhuer said, “why are the commoners not our equals?  What is the difference?”

Lorenzo stopped, mouth open, and said, simply, “Father, that is not the way of things.  Pierro has been raised since his infancy to be one of our kind -”

“But now the merchants equal and even exceed our accomplishments,” Lord Merengo said, “and educate their children much as we educate ours.  I know we can offer no real equality for the illiterate, the uneducated, the true masses – such would be a mere fantasy.  But we can expand our doors to allow those who can look us in the eye, in all but name and title, to stand beside us, and help guide this city.  It is right.  Moreover, it is rational.”

“That is well and good, Father, but the Fiorentino?”  Lorenzo shuddered.  “Their bloodline is pure enough, but their conduct is beneath reproach!  I’d sooner claim kinship with the Amicitias’s petty thugs!”

“They, too, are our brothers,” Lord Cruhuer said, “misguided and callous as they may be.”  He smiled slyly.  “But I did not mention the Fiorentino.  I believe the two houses in the Earth-man’s book were Montague and Capulet.  And the city may not have been Cassa, but Verona, now that I consider it.”

“Then why, dear father, did you let me proceed this far?” Lorenzo said, embarrassment and anger vying in his dark eyes, “I have made a great fool of myself in front of -”

“Only myself and Alfonse,” His father said gently, “and we have seen much worse.”  He took a deep breath.  “Though I admit there was a purpose to my misquoting.”

“To make a jester of me?”  Lorenzo said, exasperated beyond the point of proper respect.

Lord Merengo sighed.  “Lorenzo, do you know why I gave you a Cassan name, when I gave your brothers ancestral Merengo names?”

“No,” Lorenzo said, “I had always assumed you owed a debt of honor to a man named Lorenzo, and chose to honor him through me.”

“No,” Cruhuer said, “You are the only Lorenzo I have ever known, personally.  I gave you a name fit for the City-State of Cassa because you are to be my emissary to Cassa.  Collin, your older brother, will inherit my title, but you, Lorenzo, you must carry on my work.  You must be my voice in Cassa after I am gone.”

“Father -”

“And to that end, you must learn circumspection,” his father continued, “you must learn wisdom.  You must master your temper, learn to wield and control the fire that burns inside you.  You must learn to hear the whole story before you act, to be absolutely certain your actions, as well as your words, are true.  Do you understand?”

Lorenzo hung his head.  “Yes, Father.”

“Good,” Lord Merengo said, “so now you understand why I bait you so.”  He smiled.  “I am proud of you, son, despite your temper.  Come, our guests will arrive soon, and we must dress for dinner.”

Lorenzo followed his father out of the parlor and down a breezeway that led to the residential wing. Though the interior hallways were doubtless more secure, a summer wind blew cool on their faces, carrying with it the heat-driven smell of roses and honeysuckle.

Without knowing why, Lord Merengo’s hand went to his waist, closing around the grip of his small sword.  Lorenzo sniffed the air.  “I smell an Amicitias rat,” he whispered, sliding his dagger slowly from his belt.

“Speak not of the devil,” Cruhuer rumbled as four black-cloaked men clambered onto the breezeway, faces hooded, daggers dripping poison.  Father and son stood back to back, blades drawn, dangerously outmatched.  “They have come for me, my son.  Use this opportunity to escape.”

“I’d sooner rot in the bowels of Mount Strife,” Lorenzo said, shivering with rage and fear and anticipation…

(Sorry; the free preview is over, but you can buy this short story on my Smashwords or Kindle pages.  It may take a couple of days for it to show up on my pages, so please be patient).


1 Comment

  1. […] you haven’t read “Peace?  I Hate the Word,” the first story of my short story challenge, I’d suggest making haste.  It will only […]

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