Courtyard (Vozhd Keep)

A crumbling, four-foot high wall with handcrafted iron gates opens to reveal the manorial courtyard. Centered amid the cut grass is a gurgling fountain: the water pouring forth from a spilled gourd as a resplendent wildcat victoriously presses his paw upon it.

A table holding a bottle of wine has been set near the fountains and the air is heavy with the scent of fruit blossoms. Birds chatter in the breeze and the reflection of torchlight creates a golden glow through the manse windows. Blooming flowers intertwine with the thick ivy that covers the far wall.

The various fruit trees planted - plums and apples, as well as figs and olives - scent the air about the courtyard. Other gates are visible, one leading back out to the township and the other an entryway to the manor itself.

A woman in a sackcloth dress, her hair bound in a kerchief of white cotton, comes running into the courtyard from outside the keep. She flings a basket of potatoes on the ground as she wails in despair and falls to her knees. Another vassal woman tending to a plum tree sees this and moves to her side, putting a hand on the wailing woman's shoulder: "What's wrong, child?"

Markus Kahar looks up from his morning missives, his eyes flitting upwards towards the woman as he sets aside the bunches of yellow parchment. Lounging by the fountain in the cold, he tugs his cloak closer about him - the crying woman being more interesting then daily reports of market activity.

"I ... I warned him ... told him not to play there!" the wailing woman sobs, scrabbling around frantically for the scattered potatoes, trying to gather them back in the basket. The tree tender stays the other woman's hands with her own and locks eyes with her, seeking more information. The sobbing woman tries to compose herself, then manages to say, "My son, Jemmi. He fell into the well. The rope pulled loose when he tried to climb out. He's trapped!"

Markus Kahar arches a brow, rising from his seat slowly. He tugs lightly on his beard as he approaches the two, the other hand resting on the pommel of his rapier. "What's this; Jemmi's fallen down the well?" Markus pauses, speaking slowly, "'re Vespia, are you not? Jemmi... he's small, blondish hair?"

The sobbing woman in sackloth, Vespia, nods as she looks up at the Duke. "So small," she agrees, her eyes red-rimmed and tearful. Vespia appears on the verge of shrieking and wailing again, trembling.

Markus Kahar coughs lightly, "Now, now calm down, mother." He gestures to a guardsmen inside the manor, who quickly rushes to the courtyard. 'Yessuh?'

The Duke nods sagely, "... it seems one of the court-children has had an accident - Mistress Vespia's son. Tell me," he looks back to her, "... what well, where? This just happened?"

"The farm, m'lord," Vespia answers. "A few minutes ago, m'lord."

Markus Kahar tries to refrain from chuckling - failing miserably. "... well then, we should go have a look, shouldn't we?" Feeling this to be an opportune distraction from the recent lull in activity, Markus gestures to his guardsmen, "Fetch some rope. Show us the way, mother?"

The tree tender nods comfortingly to Vespia, patting her on the shoulder before returning to her work on the plum trees. One of the guardsmen helps Vespia to her feet. She nods to Markus, curtsies out of habit, and then turns to run from the keep.

Vespia keeps running, across the drawbridge and then down the path that leads toward the East Aegis farmstead.

East Aegis Farmstead (Vozhdya)

Just west of Vozhdya Keep, in a low dimple of a valley on the verge of a shardwood forest, a small blue-green lake ripples next to a rectangular patch of tilled earth, where those who tend this land grow and harvest crops.

A well-worn path leads east toward the keep, while a fresher trail winds off to the northwest into the woods.</b>

The woman in sackcloth and white head kerchief runs to the stone well on the north side of the farmstead road. She braces the palms of her hands against the rim of the well and stares down into the chill shadows, calling: "Jemmi?" Her voice echoes within: "Jemmi...jemmi...jemmi..." A chattering voice comes back, weakly, "D-d-own h-h-h-ere!"

Markus Kahar rushes to the side of the well, his guard nudging aside Jemmi's loyal terrier, Lady. The Duke instructs his guard to hush the dog, while he calls down the well, "... Jemmi! Jemmi can you hear me? We're going to get you out of there. Now tell me, are you standing or sitting? Is anything -- quiet, Lady! -- ... anything broken?"

"M-m-m-my l-l-eg!" the boy calls up from the depths of the well. "It-t-t-t's cold!"

Markus Kahar glances to his guard before looking back to the woman, "... he won't be able to climb up himself; I'll have to descend the well and hoist him. Guardsman?" He looks to the aforementioned man-at-arms, "... secure the other end of the rope. It'll be just a moment. Here, give me your lantern."

The guardsman complies, giving Markus the lantern. Vespia moves aside, her mouth falling open in surprise. "M'lord," she ventures, "you mustn't risk yourself!"

Markus Kahar secures the rope around his waist, tests the slack, then nods to Vespia. "Oh, but I must." Is his only reply, and down he goes. He does his best to secure his own foothold and begins the search for the little boy in the well.

Down, down, down Markus goes, descending into the depths of the well. The glow of the lantern illuminates the mossy stones, which are rimed with frost. It seems to get a little warmer, the deeper Markus descends, but not by much. It remains quite cold, a threat to long-term survival. The rope scrapes back and forth along the rim of the well. The guardsman above keeps a firm hold on the top end. Vespia peers down, watching and waiting.

Markus Kahar shudders slightly in the cold, damning himself for leaving it in the courtyard. His sword clangs noisly against the walls of the well, and he calls out loudly, "Jemmi! Jemmi can you hear me? Call out to me; where are you?"

"D-d-d-own here!" the boy calls from below. Sounds like he's about ten feet further down. And, just then, the rope goes taut and still. The guardsman calls down from above: "That's all played out, my lord!"

Markus Kahar swears like an Imperial Boatsman. "Well done, Guardsman. Naturally I didn't specify taking the *long* rope." The Duke now pauses to observe his lamplighted surroundings. Stone--moss--ice--Jemmi.

Markus shines the light towards the bottom, hoping to catch sight of the young boy. Quickly, the Duke draws on his awe-inspiring powers of logic. The Rope is ten feet from the ground, and the Duke is six feet high, meaning that if he dangles from the bottom of said rope, his toes will be a mere four feet from the ground. Ergo, if Jemmi is at least four feet tall, he could grab onto Markus' boot, and the guardsmen could pull them both out.

Except for one serious complication, which illumination helps to remind the Duke of: Jemmi's right leg is broken, bent backward in a terribly awkward fashion. He is sprawled on a narrow ledge of stone, beside the burbling chill spring water. It is unlikely that he could safely stand.

... thus lending enumerable complications to an already convoluted scenario. The Duke peers at Jemmi, then opts for option two. Calling down a firm, manly 'Hold tight, young'un' to Jemmi, the Duke then sweeps the lamp carefully over the rocks, looking for any possible steps or footholds that, iffen he was to let go of the rope and help Jemmi up, he could climb in order to grab the rope once more. While doing this, he calls up towards the guardsmen. "Yes. Would you happen to have any other slack up there? Something you could tie to the end of this thing to give us a few more feet?"

The guard calls back down: "No, my lord, not really. But ... I could get another rope. Were you to drop the last of the way, I could bind two lengths together."

A capital idea. The Duke replies in the affirmitive, unlatches the rope, and splashes down ten feet into the cold, forbidding water.

The guardsman above withdraws the rope, tugging it toward the circle of light high above. Vespia continues to watch, although she can see little but shadow from her perspective. As Markus splashes into the water next to the ledge, Jemmi rolls his head to the right to stare at him: "D-d-d-d-id you fall too?" His eyes seem barely open, his lips gone blue, his face ashen.

Markus Kahar peers over the boy with real concern, actually taking the condition of the child seriously. "... on purpose, so that my friend could get us more rope. Come here, boy..." he sets the lantern down on an outcropping and quickly removes his vest, tugging it over the child's shoulders. It's not much, but it's something.

"I'm going to get you out of here, Jemmi, but I'm going to have to lift you up. If it hurts, tell me -- if anything hurts, tell me. I want you to put your arms around my neck and hold onto my back as tightly as you possibly can. Do you understand me?"

"I ... I'll try," Jemmi replies weakly. "It's c-c-c-cold."

Markus Kahar nods, "I know it is boy, now, carefully..." Markus puts his arms around Jemmi and attempts to lift him up, kneeling down in the water to allow him onto his back."

Jemmi cries out in pain, and the agony is so excruciating that the boy passes out. He falls limp in the duke's grip. About that moment, the now-extended rope thumps against Markus' head. The guardsman calls down: "There you go, my lord!"

Assuming the boy's broken leg causes him to pass out, the Duke takes hold of the extra rope and, with Jemmi on one arm, attempts to make his way up. The going is hard, as he only has one hand climbing, and the walls are (probably) exceedingly slippery.

The going is *impossible*. Markus finds that he probably cannot hold the boy with one arm while banging around against the cylinder of the well, and the boy is unlikely to be served by being thumped against the walls either.

Markus Kahar swears bitterly. The water is freezing, and the Duke's shivering is beginning to grow beyond the limits of physical control. Finding the going impossible, he instead attaches the rope around the boy's waist, "... hoist him up slowly, Guardsmen, then send the rope back down for me. Carefully!"

"Aye, my lord," the guardsman replies, carefully drawing the rope upward. Jemmi hangs limp, unconscious, as he is pulled toward safety.

Markus Kahar waits, shivering, in the frozen water. To keep 'warm', he paces back and forth, rubbing his arms as his teeth chatter.

As Markus paces, his foot bumps against a stone brick, part of the wall framing the base of the ledge. The stone shifts loose.

Jemmi is drawn ever higher in the well, closer and closer to safety. Vespia watches with some measure of relief as the boy begins to emerge from shadow into light.

Markus Kahar pauses for a moment and crouches down, bringing the lantern with him. "Hello. What's this?" He pulls aside the brick, groping the hole.

The glow of the lantern shines, reflecting off something polished and metallic. Markus will have to remove several other bricks along the ledge to expose the object fully.

Markus Kahar obliges his curiosity and begins pulling away the loose bricks, dropping them into the water. Splash, splash. He continues to grope the ledge, trying to find whatever reflected the light.

The duke's efforts expose a steel long sword with a 32-inch blade and a gold-chased silver hilt.

Markus Kahar blinks, "What in the Light...?" The Duke extracts the blade from the stone, holding the light to it so that he may view it totally. Momentarily, the cold is forgotten.

The guardsman finally pulls Jemmi free of the well. Vespia hugs the unconscious boy. The guardsman nods to a compatriot, saying, "Escort them to the healer. I'll see that the Duke is safely extracted from the well." The other guardsman takes on the burden of carrying Jemmi, and leaves with Vespia toward the township. The remaining guardsman drops the extended rope back down into the lantern-lit shadows, next to Markus. "Ready when you are, my lord!"

Markus Kahar clasps the sword carefully and takes hold the rope, extracting himself bit-by-bit from the Well.

Up, up, up the Duke ascends through the well toward the circle of grim gray daylight. Eventually, the Duke is within grasping distance of the well's rim.

Markus Kahar reaches for it, the sword secured as best as possible to his belt, gripping to the rope for dear life's sake. He's freezing, and the night air isn't helping.

The guardsman helps Markus clear the rim of the well. "Out we go, my lord. Safe as can be."

Return to Season 2 (2004)

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