Bar Fights, Festivals, and Cake (Excerpt)

Recently, my laptop stopped working. I’m not sure what happened to it exactly. When the on button was pressed, it would light up for a second, and then switch off just as quickly. It’s been sent back to the company for repairs and hopefully it can be fixed, but I have no access to my docs. I might not be able to get access to them again. Aside from the obvious that I should have uploaded my stuff somewhere else, it means that I can’t easily copy and paste any writing I had there into any posts.

Which in turn means that this new excerpt I have for that “Aylwin and Silas” story won’t come along as fast as the last one.

Luckily, I never usually type my first drafts, so I do have all of it in writing. The following section takes place a month after the last one, and it begins in a pub. Everything only continues to go downhill from there.

When it came to nights at the pub, no one knew the concept of quiet. For example, Aylwin had found himself sitting at the counter, his back to the noise of shouting, fighting, and a tad of drunken singing. He took a sip of his beer just as someone threw someone else against a table. What a nice, relaxing night out.

“Are you going to do something about this?” Aylwin asked the bartender. A tinkling of broken glass and the sound of applause.

The bartender peered over Aylwin’s shoulder, then shrugged and continued to wipe a mug. “Nah, a good brawl never hurt anyone. It builds character.”

Aylwin frowned, looking away. “Uh, right.”

He had never been from a particularly violent nature. As a kid, he would even try and intervene in any fights that came up – which he soon learned would earn him a punch in the face. Since then, he steered clear from brawls such as the one taking place behind him at the pub and tried his best to ignore them.

Chanting rose from the group of men. They pounded their fists on any tables available to them, cheering on whoever had become the center of the ring. From the pack of voices came one high and crisp that taunted its opponent. Another glass or window shattered.

The one voice sounded eerily familiar to Aylwin. He stared at the counter and spun his glass around while he tried to place it, but his memories were not giving him any aid.

Once the curiosity finally got the better of him, Aylwin turned around to see the owner of the voice, and felt his jaw drop.

“Oh, yes, that was a good one!” Silas Bowman said, and he clapped his hands. “You must have been, what, a foot away? That’s progress.”

His opponent spat on the ground and got up to charge him again. Silas moved out of the way as masterfully as a dancer. Another round of jeers went up as he slinked around the circle, always one step ahead of the other man. It was more Silas mocking him than any sort of brawl.

Aylwin had no idea how Silas was there. It must have been a month since he was locked up, and there was no way the captain would let him out that early, if at all. Perhaps he was simply a hallucination brought on by too many days of hard labour, chopping up wood and building houses. That’s all it was. Aylwin turned back to the counter.

Unless, of course, Silas had escaped. How it was possible no one could know except Silas himself. On the other hand, the smart thing to do, the easier thing to do, would have been for him to immediately leave town the second he got out of prison. There was no good reason for him to be fighting in a pub.

His musings were interrupted when Silas let out a cry of pain. Aylwin whipped his head around to see Silas being held up by the collar of his shirt, although he was making the effort to kick at his captor. The man pulled back his arm, and got his chance to punch Silas in his smug little face. Aylwin actually worried that Silas’ neck had snapped with the way his head was thrown back.

“C’mon, fellas,” the triumphant opponent said to the group of men. “Let’s go show this guy just how much progress we have made.” The people who had been fighting followed him out of the pub once united against a common enemy.

Aylwin looked doubtfully at the bartender.

“He’ll get over it. Wounds do heal, you know.” He turned his latest mug from side to side. “Well, eventually.”

The pub was peaceful for a while after that. The men did come back, but Silas wasn’t with them. Aylwin finished off his beer before they could choose another target, and walked out into the cool night air.

He didn’t have to go far before he came across Silas’ injured, and unconscious, body. He had been left sprawled out on the road, with his back planted firmly in the mud. Aylwin stopped by his side and crossed his arms, while his face was taken over by a thoughtful expression.

He supposed he should take Silas to the watch. They wouldn’t be happy to have had him escape, and besides, it was Aylwin’s duty to report to the law. Then again, it was unlikely the law would care all that much about Silas being beaten up and would have no qualms with him bleeding to death. The captain and Lady Moira would be all the more glad for it.

Aylwin let his moral compass duel it out like he had the last time he had been in Silas’ presence. It lead him to sighing, and gingerly scooping Silas into his arms.

“I must be going mad,” he muttered. With that, he carried Silas on home.

Aylwin came down the stairs that morning the way he always did: bleary eyed and ready to snap at the first thing that moved. He grabbed an orange and a piece of bread, provided by the market. He nearly dropped both when he walked into the next room.

He had left his guest on a cot when he’d brought him in, but Silas appeared to be fully functional. In fact, he had made himself right at home. Leaning back in a chair, feet up on the table, and chewing on his own piece of bread.

“Mornin’,” Silas said, and waved a bandaged hand. “Aylwin, wasn’t it? You’ve got a nice place here.”

“Good morning,” Aylwin replied cautiously. “How long have you been up?”

“Eh, an hour or so. I’ve been wandering about.”

Aylwin took a deep breath. Then he walked around so that he was standing inches away from Silas, and held out his hand. The other man cocked an eyebrow before reaching out to shake it.

“Give it back,” Aylwin said, pulling away a bit. Silas didn’t react.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Whatever you bloody stole. Give it back.”

Silas stared at him for a solid ten seconds. Without a word, he pulled a pouch of coins from his coat pocket and dropped it into Aylwin’s possession.

“Is that all?” he asked, and Silas nodded. Aylwin narrowed his eyes, but backed off, choosing a seat across from him. “You seem to be in the habit of getting yourself hurt every time I see you.”

“Yes, well, the first time was your fault.” Silas shoved the rest of the bread into his mouth as if afraid Aylwin would make him hand that over as well. Aylwin scoffed.

“My fault?”

“Yeah? Which one of us was blocking the alleyway?”

Considering Silas had been trying to get away with theft at the time, Aylwin was fairly sure his point didn’t hold up. He sighed, and massaged his face. Maybe taking him to the watch would have been a better idea.

“Whatever. I don’t know what you said to that guy to make him so angry at you.”

“I called him a pig, a failure of a human being, offenses against his mother, among other things.” Silas met Aylwin’s disapproving stare, and shrugged. “He got off easy. I have a much worse arsenal of insults reserved for the truly idiotic.”

Aylwin shook his head. Silas was the scrawniest person he’d ever seen. He shouldn’t have been going around picking fights – that was, if he had a sliver of self preservation in his bones. However, Aylwin moved on to other things.

“I doubt the captain let you off your sentence,” he said.

“Perhaps I was let out for good behaviour,” Silas countered with a cheeky grin.

“How did you escape? How did you steal from the Lady Moira? How did you pull the captain’s pants down when everybody was watching you, for crying out loud?”

“Sorry, that’s top secret. But maybe someday I’ll teach you my tricks.”

He sputtered, and gathered the whole sum of his dignity to deliver his next statement. “I don’t want to learn any of your tricks! You’re a criminal, you stoop to the lowest level, and I honestly think you deserved to be locked up.”

“And yet,” Silas said, pointing a slender finger to him, “you found me out there, all bloody and bruised, and what did you do? Took me in and bandaged me up. That says something, mate.”

“It doesn’t mean I’m not taking you back to the watch straight away.” Aylwin adopted a stoic stature as he peeled the orange in silence. Silas, on his part, did not seem too concerned by this. He settled down further in the chair and watched Aylwin pick apart the fruit, piece by piece.

When he had finished his breakfast, he went upstairs to get changed. It took quite some time for him to decided what to do with Silas but he finally opted for bringing him into his bedroom where he could keep an eye on him and placing him in a corner. Silas clasped his hands behind his back and hummed a little tune while Aylwin switched into day clothes.

On the bedside table were some dirty clothes, a wood carving, and a piece of bare cloth. When it caught Aylwin’s eye he stared at it for a few seconds, feeling his temper begin to mount.

Silas must have heard Aylwin’s footsteps because he turned around just as he reached him and grabbed a hold of his collar. His hands scrambled over Aylwin’s in an attempt to release his grip, but he held firm. No way was he letting him get away with what he had done.

“Give me the necklace, Silas,” Aylwin ordered. His voice sounded calm, which was the exact opposite of his mood. Silas looked up at him and stopped trying to pry his fingers away.

“I don’t have a necklace.”

“Don’t play dumb with me. I know you took it.” Aylwin tightened his hold slightly.

“You won’t hurt me,” said Silas, and it was fact, they both knew it.

Neither of them moved. Then, finally, Silas reached into one of his coat pockets again and retrieved a long loop of twine with a single sparkling gem thread through it. Aylwin snatched it, and at the same time let Silas go.

The thief rubbed at his neck. “Why do you even have jewelry up here?”

“None of your business,” Aylwin said. “We’re leaving.”

Once the necklace was placed safely back on its cloth, or as safe as Aylwin could believe it would be after having it stolen while he slept, they went downstairs and out into town.

Brightly coloured lanterns, not yet lit so early in the day, hung from the houses while the people in the streets were converging and chatting merrily. There was a certain excitement in the air, one that was rare for their calm little town. Aylwin paused in the doorway. He had completely forgotten about the Summer Festival.

Oh, well. They would just have to weave their way through. Aylwin linked his arm tightly through Silas’ and kept moving.

They cut a line through the sectors, slowly growing closer to the town square and the watch building nearby. Unfortunately, the streets got more congested as they went, to the point where Aylwin was walking sideways to form openings with his shoulder. A few rings away from the jail, he stopped and scanned his surroundings in dismay.

“Aylwin, can we talk about this?” said Silas.

“We cannot,” Aylwin said, and after a moment added, “And that is Fletcher to you.”

He spotted an exit and took a step forward, only to be stopped again by a man waving a basket of pastries under his nose. “Young Mister Fletcher! Care for some festive treats?”

“Um, no thank you, Mister Dale.” Aylwin couldn’t help but feel his stomach sink. Dale was not an easy baker to shake off.

“Oh, come now, come now, it’ll only cost you five shrivnels!” He flourished one hand above the basket. “I have bougasta, galaktoboureko, halva…”

“Really, it’s all right,”Aylwin told him earnestly. “I don’t have any money on me, anyway.”

Dale did nothing to hide his disappointment. “Ah. Of course. Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

Aylwin had been edging his way around him, and at that, he nodded sharply and made to hasten their retreat. Silas, however, had other plans. He tapped his free hand against Aylwin’s shoulder.

“Hold up, mate. I could personally die for a piece of portokalopita right now,” he said, and Aylwin was just about ready to be swallowed by a hole in the ground. Dale, on the other hand, was absolutely delighted.

“A man of taste, I see.” He took a knife from his pocket and maneuvered the basket so that he could cut into the sweet. “Five shrivnels, please.”

Silas made a bit of a show out of trying to reach into his coat pocket while being restrained so thoroughly by Aylwin. Finally, he sighed, and gave Aylwin a look that a parent might give their child that has latched onto their leg.

“Fletcher, bud, you’re going to have to let go.”

Aylwin glared at him pointedly. “Mister Dale, he is not my friend. This man is an escaped criminal that I’m returning to the watch.”

“Oh?” Dale looked between the two, puzzled. “Is that so?”

There was a mixture of nodding and shaking heads from Aylwin and Silas respectively. Dale grew even more confused, so Silas shrugged, and began to laugh. He laughed so hard that he doubled over and brought Aylwin down with him.

“He’s the one that almost got away with stealing Lady Moira’s earrings a month back,” Aylwin told him. He hefted Silas, still grinning to himself, up.

“Ah. Well, I’ll have to let your father know you’ve taken a sudden interest in law enforcement, eh? I was under the impression you told Cadby you didn’t want to join the watch.”

A strange new panic surged up from Aylwin’s gut and into his throat. He started to tell Dale that no, he had no interest in joining the watch, that he was simply being a good citizen, and came to a quick stop. It really was true that Dale was difficult to shake off. Once his mind was set on something, little to nothing could deter him. He would go to Cadby whether Aylwin liked it or not.

What seemed like an eternity of debating passed within a moment of reality. Aylwin relented and let go of Silas, allowing him freedom to reach into his coat pocket.

“I’m sorry for troubling you, Mister Dale,” Silas said, pulling out the shrivnels. It was impossible to tell if he’d taken them from Aylwin’s home or some unsuspecting stranger. “Aylwin here is such a joker. ‘Taking him to the watch’ – heh, comedic genius.”

“Err, right,” Dale muttered as he handed him the piece of portokalopita, obviously still in a state of confusion. Aylwin was watching Silas like a hawk. “Enjoy the festival, boys!”

The baker finally moved away, but a group of dancers cut a path between Aylwin and Silas before he could grab a hold of him again. He cursed, tried to get across, and failed. Silas took a deep bite of his orange cake as if to taunt him. Then he saluted to Aylwin, and disappeared into the crowd.

Aylwin made his attempts to recapture the thief, searching the route he thought he took and then searching each sector. Nothing. By the time the sun was going down, Aylwin found himself sitting just on the outskirts of town, staring out to the forest where he was sure Silas had fled.

I was considering putting this one into two parts due to not being sure whether it was too lengthy, but I’ve opted not to. It would have technically been the same length either way, right? Plus some extra bits of my own commentary in the second part.

Here you can more clearly see what I was talking about in the character dynamics post, where I discussed the type of conflict I usually like to write between my characters. Aylwin and Silas have a bit of tension going on between them which makes the relationship more interesting.

The desserts that Dale so insistingly wants Aylwin to buy all look very delicious, if that’s something you would like to check out. And as for why Silas thought it was a good idea to insert himself in a bar fight after only just escaping jail: Aylwin is right in that he doesn’t possess the best sense of self preservation.