Sorenio Republiqa duo Azula Coatl
Tucked between the bossom of two green hills the village of Vèron sat nested along a single cobble road between the breasts of earth. In the early sunlit morning, a pale mist enveloped the country village, masking the plastered farm houses and barns that grew out of the main road. In the foggy morning the nearby cackling of chickens sounded faint and distant as the first rustlings of day crawled on the city. First in the bell ringing of the blacksmith as he set about beginning his early orders, each clang of his hammer on the anvil sounding a pure clean note into the still misty air. Then the lulling moo of cows as they called for their masters to come and milk them, their teets hurt. The sounds of children and of play had not yet awoken, now was the hour of the working man and woman to begin their waking chores. Many of them did not need the timely chimes of the city bells, their bodies were their own clocks.
Rising out of his bed, a sinewy man awoke. Stretching out his arms he breathed in deep the morning air that came into his cabin. It was sweet, and moist. It carried into his nose the smell of the vineyards and orchards not far from his house. It did not let these smells of flowers and fruits go dryly. No, there was a rich earthly moisture to it that reminded the man of wine. Years ago, when he worked in the city he had drank, now he had moved into the quietude of the country to work on his studies and take up lighter duties the very smells of the country had become his wine. He had learned to drink it with his breakfast.
He rose naked from his sheets and walked barefoot along the coarse wooden floors of his house. It was not large, though by country standards it was near a mansion. Split into three rooms, he lived alone; slept in the bedroom cordoned off in a corner. The other smaller room was a pantry and storage, with the hatch into the cellar cut into the wall and the floor. The main living and entertainment area was at the front of the house, and its wide and spacious windows let in the morning air and scents as they had no glass, only an interlocking weave of stripped bark tied by horse hair, interlocked leaving hexagonal holes of barely a quarter-inch diameter; a screen of wood and fiber.
He went to a wooden counter along the north-east wall of the living room where a bowl of night-chilled water lay. Reaching into it with sun-kissed and cupped hands he splashed water into his face and rubbed it through his beard, combing the coarse hairs with his fingers. He let the water drip away as he headed into the pantry. From there, wrapped in cotton rags, and brought out a brick of salted ham, shriveled and tiny and he could hold it in one hand and nearly wrap his hands around it. He took it outside.
His bare feet kissed the dewy ground as he stepped out of the door and wandered around to the side of the house, desiccated and salted ham in hand. In a sandy area, seperate from the home was a small brick fire-pit under a canopy, the roof angled such that water would run off in one direction, and the smoke drift off the other. An over turned pot was nearby, and placing the wrapped ham on the bricks he took the pot and filled it from a nearby pump well, filling it water. He placed it over the fire-pit, no larger than the length between his elbow and wrist and lit a fire. Once sparking, he threw the ham into the pot, and walked off waiting for it to boil and cook.
Along the side of his house the man grew berry bushes, a handful in all in neat rows, three in all. He searched the brambles and picked into a wicker basket choice berries. When he had half filled it, he brought them to the pot, now beginning to steam and dumped them in. Throwing the wicker basket back on a return trip, he passed by the bushes and headed off into some hedges, where he relieved himself.
After half an hour much of the mist had cleared and the man had gone back inside and got dressed in a pair of white trousers and a loose red cotton shirt. The rising morning sun had chased it away and with a hat on his head he shaded his eyes from the strength of the rays and clenched a pipe between his teeth. Still barefoot though, he went over to the fire and squatted down next to it, looking in under the cast iron pot as the embers sizzled and sparked. The pot was boiling strong now, and the berries he had tossed in had largely dissolved and stained the water a deep wine-dark red; what was left of their carcasses drifted on the surface deflated and ruptured. The ham was somewhere deeper inside. It wouldn't be ready for a while, imported ham was normally heavily salted and the man owned no produce to feed himself with. But he got by.
He chewed his unlit pip though as he watched. The saliva working up around the mouth piece. Raising a hand to the fire, he decided to change that. Nothing moved through the air, there was no sound or sense to determine something had happened. But jumping spontaneously from the embers a small spark jumped, flew through the air, and landed in and lit the man's pipe. With a few puffs, clouds of silver gray smoke were wafting through the air. He smiled.
The pot wasn't nearly done enough, so he headed into the house. Under a lounge in the sitting room he kept a guitar, a short necked thing with a broad shield-shaped body, its bowl of a body making it in all, like that of an over sized nut, a half gourd. The strings pulled over an array of holes that radiated out like a flower.
Holding it in his hands, he strummed it a few times and soft high notes reverberated out on the echoes of the gourd-like body. Its notes echoing into a reverberating harmony that vibrated with the electricity of the early morning. The sun had fully breached the horizon, and the full chorus of the birds had awakened to join him. As he headed out onto the porch deftly picking the strings with his long calloused fingers and long nails he improved to their song, humming along the way. He didn't care if he sounded out of tune with them or himself. If he made a mistake he corrected and adjusted and reached his own personal harmony.
From the distance in the village came his indirect response. The heart-beat thud-thud-thud-ud of the drum beat as the town crier stirred from his hut and went through the village tapping his square báfuie. As he strummed, wandering back to his cooking fire he leaned up against the side of a cashew tree, crossing his legs he improved away watching the street as the drumming grew louder. He craned his neck around a flowering book to see the white robbed figure of the drummer make his way down the road calling out to the sky and the sleepy residencies to come and great the day, to great the sun and all its nature. His prayer was shouted in a loud wavering wail. To match, the man played his guitar higher seeking the harmonic resonance to the wailing off-tone voice of the crier. Then he passed on by, and the heartbeat thud-thud-thud-ud and his voice became distant again.
But on the road, walking in the opposite direction of the crier came another man. A strange man. Dressed strange for these parts. It was the finery, he was a burning candle in the middle of the night, a diamond among ashes. Dressed head to toe in a silvery blue uniform he had white metal ornaments hanging from the tassels of his doublet and cloak, probably silver. A white jerkin, embroidered with blue waves pressed against the doublet and held him stiff and firm against the breeze. He had a sword at his hip, his boots muddy. The man stopped playing as he watched the newcomer with curious eyes.
He was clean too, less so his boots from walking. But his face and beard bore all the hallmarks of careful cosmetic care. His white flat cap was crowned with a single black feather, probably a crow's, hanging off from above the left ear. As he drew near the man called out from under his tree, above him on the gentle slope of the hill.
“Good morning, stranger. What brings a dandy like you out here? Didn't think I would see any stiff necks when I like Grosso.” he called in a high-pitch sing-song voice.
The man in the room jumped, startled. He stepped back and turned to meet whoever had speak and when he saw the skinny man under the tree clutching a guitar a relaxed breath escaped his pale lips. “I am I messenger looking for Michelia Moor.” he said, straight and to the point.
“Michelia? I heard he lives in a stone house on a hill, and he boils his pork about this time in the morning.” the man on the hill said smiling, “Might have a cashew tree too.”
The messenger looked at him stunned, and scanned the surrounding area. Many of the farm houses here were stone and on hills or on the gradients of hills. The mist had cleared away and they were all as sharp and defined as anything. From the chimneys or outside ovens, smoke billowed out as many were just now beginning their day.
The messenger looked confused as he looked back up at the man. “I can tell your an idiot and you looking at him.” Michelia said, “And the name isn't Moor it's Moorie. Who are you from? Dalmendelo or Peruscoti?”
“Peruscoti my lord, I have a request for you.” the messenger said, stepping towards him to offer him a rolled piece of parchment from under his cap. Michelia walked down the hill to the road and unfurled the paper, scanning the hastily written script.
“You know anything about this?” he asked.
“No sir.” the messenger said.
“Well this isn't telling me much. Come on, you have to know something.” Michelia continued to prod.
“I'm afraid I don't. The master hasn't made me a member to his party. I just deliver the messages.”
“I'm sure you do. Listen, I just boiled some pork. I'll split it with you and we can figure out what's going on. Or at the least what the road is like.” He waved his hand for the messenger to follow him, and after a moment of hesitation he followed the man up the hill.
“I'm afraid I don't have anywhere to sit out here, so we will need to eat on the ground. I'll go inside and get some plates. Wait here.” Michelia bid to the man, before stepping inside. He came out minutes later with a couple of beaten metal plates and utensils before heading over to the pot. He dumped out the liquid within in, and reaching in with a knife stabbed the wayward dessicated piece of meat which had over doubled in size and cut it on one of the plates. Glistening and warm, steam rolled up from it as he brought it over to the messenger who had taken up a spot leaning against the house. Michelia joined him.
“So, what is going on in Saolo Grosso?” he asked.
“How do you mean sir?” the messenger asked.
“What's the major news.” he intoned coldly looking aside at the young man. Michelia cut a piece of ham and chewed.
“There has been a trial lately, that is the major news.” he said, “With the master's son. He was sentenced to death the other day.”
“Have they hung him yet?” Michelia asked.
The messenger shook his head, and took a tentative bite of the breakfast offered to him. “Have there been appeals?” Michelia again inquired.
“Several, but this was the last shot. It was before the entire council.”
“And he's still hanging?”
“Then they still sentenced him to hang?”
“Then I don't know what he expects me to do unless you left late with an earlier written note. I would not go home then, he might cut off your head.”
“No sir, I am not in the wrong here. He wrote and gave me this letter to run to you late last night!”
“You poor boy.” Michelia laughed.
“It is nothing I'm not used to. The walk was longer than usual, but I have done night missions before. The countryside was a lot better than making a run through the city.”
Michelia snickered at the comment, but continued into his line of inquiries, “So then, if he ran out of appeals and his son still hangs, then why me?”
“I do not know.” the messenger said, “What did the letter say?”
“That it wants me to go there and talk to him about it. I take it he wants me to go through all the trouble to get there so I won't be inclined to refuse on the spot. I should have moved to the mountains.”
“Will you go?” the messenger asked him.
Michelia scratched his chin as he thought, and cutting another piece: “I suppose I should.” he said, “The money would be nice.”
“Oh good, I don't know why you would want to live out here. It's out of the way.”
“I like the peace.” Michelia rejoined bitterly, “And I actually feel needed.”