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((This is a story about Swain and an OC- namely, Ms. "Mute" Lindser, who is frequently called after her condition. She does have a first name, but it's going to be revealed... later, when it's opportune to do so.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this! It could become romantic, but that's a very small and unlikely "could." For the moment, it's only the relationship between a Grand General and his servant.
This was inspired by my friend Nick using a Swain voice while I was rendered mute by an unfortunate accident in the kitchen- I had never even played a game with Swain, but suddenly, a fluffy little ship was born.))
"What are your qualifications to work in the Grand General's household?" asked the tall, rather matronly woman.
The pen scratches on the page, and the girl passes her response to her elder. It's written on a pad of white paper in impeccably neat cursive.
'I have been doing this sort of work for quite a few years- I perform my given tasks with efficiency, composure, and a respectful attitude.'
"Why have you written your response?" The woman raises an eyebrow, and the pen flies again across the page.
'I am mute- I assure you, it will not interfere with the quality of my service.' The girl offers a cautious smile- this was the reason the last house had gotten rid of her. She hoped that, given his leg, Jericho Swain would look favorably upon her determination to prove useful, despite her muteness.
After a few months of working her way up from the bottom, Mute (for that is what the girl found herself being called) was harshly proved wrong by the Grand General. When she brought him, at 5 in the morning, his breakfast, she was treated to what typically proved his harshest mood of the day. After doing his dishes, he'd summon her to clean Beatrice's perch- the only time she did not stay by his shoulder was when he slept, and it was then that she sat on the perch by his bedside.
To put it mildly, cleaning the excrement of a six-eyed and potentially demonic raven is not a pleasant task.
The first interaction between the two is a study in contrasts. Mute enters the room with her usual soundlessness, and, upon closing the door behind her, rings a small bell to announce her presence. She hears a curtain open on the other side of his four-poster bed, and is greeted by a fully-dressed Swain perhaps half a minute later.
"You couldn't have said something?" he growls, scowling. Assuming he knows of her condition, Mute shakes her head, offering the tray with a polite smile. "Respond to me when I talk to you." He takes the tray from her hands, setting it on his nightstand. Beatrice stares at the girl, then hops down from her perch atop Swain's cane, pecking at the toast on one of the plates.
Seeing that no-one has made her condition known, Mute takes a pad of paper and a pen from the pocket of her apron, the smile dropping fast.
'I apologize for my apparent disrespectfulness, Grand General- I am physically incapable of audible speech. Please forgive the rudeness of my initial response.' Mute sets the quickly-written note on the tray, off to the side of the General's breakfast, and stands to the side, herself, keeping her gaze at her feet. Suddenly, she is very grateful for her excellent handwriting.
"Hmph. Keep your responses short and to the point."
Mute reaches carefully forward to retrieve the paper. 'Yes, sir- sorry, sir,' she writes, a cautious eye on Beatrice's beak and claws as she lays her response lightly on the tray. She likes to imagine seeing him nod, at this point- sadly, this is not the case. Taking the piece of paper, he hands it to Beatrice, who tears it up and eats it with some demonic glee.
"'Yes, sir'," he replies, swallowing a bite of ham, "would have been enough."
Mute nods. In the presence of the Grand General for the first time in her life, she's incredibly nervous, but does not permit anything in her posture to betray this- she does not wish to irritate him further. Beatrice eyes her occasionally, which sends a small chill up her spine.
When Swain is done, he points to the door. "Out," he commands gruffly. Without the slightest dissent in her gestures, she nods, taking his tray and leaving. She is careful to close the door quietly behind her.
Arriving in the kitchen, she heads to the sink with the tray, passing it to a boy named Adam. He was a scullery boy, the lowest of the low, and he had (until recently) been kind to her. Today, he showed no such sentiment, shoving the tray back. "Do it y'self, Mute." After raising an eyebrow at him, she does so. He sits on the stepstool where she usually writes at him as he does dishes, and scowls at her- she gives him a look of mild consternation.
"Don't look at me like that. You might be working directly under Grand General Swain-" The address holds a sarcastic tone of pomposity. "-but damned if you'll get out of dishes," Adam scoffs. Mute tilts her head to one side. Usually, he does all the dishes she brings in, even if she protests. Shrugging slightly, as thoough to herself, she takes the sponge and begins to scrub at the plates. Adam rolls his eyes at her gestures, then starts to clean the dirt and grime from his nails.
A good thing you aren't doing dishes, with your hands like that, Mute thinks, but writes nothing. After a few tense minutes- Adam watches as she washes- she's done, and she holds out a hand for a towel to dry the dishes, which Adam has in a pocket. He swats at her hand, and she's moments from using all capitals when Marta enters- the woman who hired Mute in the first place.
"Miss Lindser- the General has a task for you." The girl's eyes widen a little, and, glaring back at Adam for a moment, she leaves with Marta. "It's nothing exciting- only a cleaning job, so there's no cause for such skipping," the woman admonishes Mute on the way. She blinks- she had only been walking with a little bit of spring in her step; she was glad to be out of the kitchen and away from Adam. Come to think of it, she'd never heard Marta use Adam's last name... a curiosity she would have to fulfill, at some point.
When they arrive at the door of the General's room, the woman hands Mute a bucket full of water, a bottle of liquified soap, and a sponge.
"Good luck," says Marta, and leaves Mute to enter alone. With some trepidation caused by the matron's words, she does so. Swain's room looks much the same as it did that morning, except that this time, the General is at his desk, writing. It appears he hasn't seen or heard her, so Mute takes out the bell and rings it once.
Swain straightens up a little. "Mute does not mean 'sneak up on me,' girl," he growls. With respect etched clearly into her actions by a lifetime of speaking without words, she nods, tucking the bell back into her pocket. As she stands before him, awaiting his next order, he steps up closer to her, very suddenly, and it takes all her willpower to keep from flinching. Happily for her, she betrays no reaction, and he scowls. "Open your mouth," he demands. A little nervous about the nature of the command, she obeys- but she swallows first, so as not to present him with any spittle.
Far from what she'd expected, he simply looks into her mouth, for such a long time that her jaw gets a little sore.
"Close it," he says finally, and she gratefully complies. "You have a tongue, lips, teeth- why can you not speak?"
Mute nearly shrugs, but realizes how disrespectful that would be, and takes out her pad of paper. 'I don't know, sir- neither medicine nor magic has been able to pinpoint the cause or cure the symptom.' She hands this to him, and he gives it back in less than a second.
"If you don't know, that's all you need to say. So much writing is inefficient- save your energy for that." He points to Beatrice's perch, which is covered in a viscous green fluid that smells like Death's morning exhalations. If Mute could speak, she'd doubtlessly have to suppress a tired groan, but she nods. It is then she realizes why Marta has said 'good luck,' as well as having given her all these cleaning supplies.
At that moment, Mute Lindser would have been willing to bet money that underneath his mask, Grand General Swain was wearing a sadistic grin.
After she finishes cleaning the perch, Mute lets her shoulders fall slightly in relief. The water in the bucket is a nasty, pale green, and she takes it outside to dump into the sewers. When she returns, she washes her hands (feeling rather nasty, herself), and heads back to Swain's quarters. The perch gleams a dull bronze, and the General sits again at his desk, writing- she knows not what. Recalling what he'd said earlier, she makes an attempt to open and close the door a bit more loudly, before taking out her bell- however, upon hearing the door close, Swain and Beatrice turn to her in eerie synchronicity.
"Good- you made your presence known." He tucks his writings into a large attaché case, which is full of manila folders. He hands this to her- it's surprisingly heavy, but she takes it, cradling it in her arms in an attempt to avoid showing strain.
He shakes his head, taking it. "Carry it by the handle, at your side." Holding it out to her again, he scowls, displeased by her handling of the case. Properly chagrined, she takes it and holds it at her side, keeping her posture carefully straight. Heavy lifting wasn't usually in the job description for her, but, with a small amount of willpower, she keeps her arms from shaking.
This must be full of plans, she muses to herself, wondering what the General might be thinking. Stock-still, she stands as he looks her up and down, though she knows not what he seeks.
After a moment, he nods, just once.
"You don't look so uncivilized, now- keep your posture straight as we walk, I don't want you making me look as though I have sloppy servants waiting on me." Without another word, he heads to the door, and she follows quickly, not wishing to displease him further. The halls they walk through are labyrinthine, and she grows increasingly nervous- at one point, she switches the bag from one hand to the other, and he frowns.
"Is your arm getting tired?"
A look of surprise decorating her face, she nods.
This elicits an exasperated sigh. "The correct answer," he replies, as Beatrice fixes Mute with a stern avian glare, "is no."
But- I thought you were asking out of sympathy. Mute does not give paper to her thoughts, choosing to simply nod in agreement.
After some time, and a test or two of the right answer as she switches the case from hand to hand, they arrive at a surprisingly nondescript door, where Swain holds his hand out for the case. Mute gives it to him, then, hoping to speak, takes out her pad of paper.
"I'm two minutes late. Wait here- you'll get lost if you try to find your way back alone." Without another word, he heads in, leaving her to stand awkwardly at the entrance. Her question is answered, however, even having gone unwritten, so she finds a bench along the wall and sits there. It doesn't take long for her to become bored, and she starts to sketch on her paper, not really paying attention to the results. It's nearly two hours later when Swain exits the meeting, looking to be in an even fouler mood than he had been that morning. He shoves the case into her arms, and she hurriedly tucks her paper into her pocket and stands, taking the case at her side to follow him.
"Let's go," he demands gruffly, and she nods, quickly walking after him. This walk is marked by no speech on his part or hers, save the quiet shifting of the case from one of Mute's hands to the other. When they reach his room, he opens the door, taking the case and ushering her in. "Run me a bath, girl," he orders, then pauses. "What shall I call you...?"
She takes out the pad of paper to write her name upon it, but he waves it away. I suppose it was a rhetorical question, she thinks, and makes as though to run his bath- but he stops her from doing this, too, gesturing that she should stay. Had she a voice (and no real need for a job), it would be here that she sighed. But she does not; instead, she stands where she is, waiting for his answer to set her free from the immobilizing spell that her obedience has cast.
"Calling you Silence would be such an imposing thing... you do not embody silence, after all, you are merely someone who cannot speak." He looks at Beatrice- were the bird human, she would have shrugged.
"Perhaps I'll take after the servants, and call you after your condition," he decides, after a long moment. "Go run my bath, Mute."
As she leaves to do that, the General looks to his bird, who seems to nod approvingly.
That night is Mute's first night away from the servant's quarters- now that she serves the Grand General personally, she has a small room of her own, which sits just down the hall from his.
Strung between the rooms is a cord, attached to a bell, which Swain may pull at any hour of the day to receive her assistance or service. Unlike where Mute slept the night before, this room is nice. Instead of incredibly small bunks, she had a double mattress all to herself, a bathroom with an actual tub, and a small vanity dresser in which she could store her few belongings. The mirror had lovely spiral patterns etched into the edge of the glass- to anyone else, it would be the sole comforting touch in an otherwise Spartan room, but to Mute Lindser, it was the icing on the luxurious cake.
There is a knock at the door, and she rises to answer it. If someone is knocking this late at night, it's probably important- right? Wrapping her robe over her normal clothing, so that it looks as though she was preparing for bed, she opens the door to find Adam standing before her, his expression friendly.
"Mute! I heard you had better quarters, but I didn't expect you had a whole room to yourself. May I come in?" Without waiting for an answer, he does so.
You should be glad I was about to say yes, thinks Mute, watching him closely as he examines the place. However, sensing something a little strange about his sudden switch from cold to friendly, she slips her dagger into her robe pocket, and begins to write. 'My door's always open to you,' starts the message, and, thinking her done, Adam takes it to read.
"Aw, I didn't know you felt that way," he coos. "What a shame- I haven't come for romance tonight." He sits next to her on the bed, putting his arm over her shoulder. "You see... I had hoped to work under Swain, myself," he explains, as she tries to shrink away. He smells, bad, and she wishes desperately for a chance to use the knife. "Alas," continues the boy, "he chose you above all of us- I know my service has been good enough, but I think he favors you for your beauty." He runs a finger down her cheek, and she flinches away- with surprising speed, he grips her ponytail in his hand and pulls her face to within a centimeter of his. The miasma of his breath chokes her- eyes watering, she gags, barely able to breathe, herself.
When he presses his dry, chapped lips against hers and pushes his slimy, bitter tongue into her mouth, she takes out her dagger and slashes awkwardly at his ribs- she takes a grateful breath of pure, clean air as he pulls away, yelling in pain.
It is at this point that two things occur. One: the bell above Mute's bed rings, leaving its delicate, clear sound to hang in the tainted air. Two: Mute notices the knife in Adam's hand. Her scream, having no voice behind it, is no more than a noisy exhalation. Wasting no time, she runs from the room- he meant to kill me, she realizes, as well as Swain chose me above the rest.
Tucking the dagger back into the sheath in her pocket, she slips into the Grand General's room, taking care to make a sound with the door. With a jolt of annoyance at her own foolishness, she realizes that her paper is back in her room, as Swain turns to face her. For a moment, he says nothing, merely looking her up and down- she straightens up under his gaze, doing her best to keep the experience of moments ago from her face. For the most part, she succeeds.
After about three minutes of quiet observation, he nods. "Good. You're prepared."
Mute blinks at him.
"I called you to my room this late to see how prepared you would be."
Devoid of her papers, she tilts her head to the side, wondering how she did- when she entered his room, her thoughts were not of service, but of sanctuary. Seeing her gesture, the Grand General nods.
"You did well. The blood on your hand is fresh, and it's not yours."
When she tilted her head to the side moments before, it was a carefully planned indication- her way of speaking, without paper, was clear and concise. 'How did I do on your test?' she had asked, and he'd responded to exactly that. This, however- slightly widened eyes- is unintentional, though she recovers quickly. Her expression carefully collected, Mute raises an eyebrow, putting her hands behind her back to stand at parade rest.
"You're not dead, so- return to your room." Her posture speaking entirely of respectful subservience- 'Yes, sir'- she turns to exit his chamber.
"And, Mute- next time, be in your usual clothing, not a robe."
Mute nods, and leaves, but not before hearing Beatrice's low croaking- an imaginative mind might take it as an avian sound of amusement.
As the door clicks softly shut behind her, she comes to an unpleasant realization. Adam could still be in her room, and he'd had a few minutes to explore, to find places to hide. She puts her hand on the hilt of her dagger for reassurance. Perhaps he had gone. After all, she did stab him in the ribs, that wasn't something you could easily shrug off.
Lost in thought, Mute arrives at the door of her room, and sighs in relief. She'll have to clean it up, but the trail of blood leads away from her room. It stops a few feet from her door, but that doesn't disturb her- it wasn't a deep wound she gave him. After clearing her room for signs of him, she fills a bedpan with water, and dutifully begins scrubbing, which gives her time to think.
Adam tried to kill me- and he said that the Grand General chose me above the rest of them. But- why did he pretend not to know that I couldn't speak? Her eyes widen slightly in amusement. It was another test, to see how I would explain. Just like his test of readiness, earlier... Lips curving up in a small, happy smile, she realizes that she had likely passed both of the tests he'd set out for her. As she scours the blood from the floor, her smile widens into a grin- the thought of impressing him pleases her. Whether or not this is simply out of satisfaction at a job well done, it's a nice feeling.
The next morning, Mute wakes of her own accord, and prepares herself for the day. She has just finished putting her hair in its usual ponytail when the bell from the kitchen rings, informing her that Swain's breakfast has been prepared, and is ready for her to bring to him. Smiling a little, pleased that she'd had time to get ready, she tucks her bell, her dagger, and her paper into the pocket of her apron before walking quickly down to the kitchen.
She is greeted by stony faces, there- Adam sits in the center of the room, with bloody bandages wrapped around his torso. No-one says anything, though Adam glares at her. Seeing the General's tray off to the side, Mute takes it, doing her utmost to not be noticed- an impossible task, but she tries. One of the younger serving girls spits in Mute's direction, and she turns on her heel to be sure it doesn't come into contact with her or the General's breakfast. Taking a look back as she leaves, she sees that the blood on the bandages is clearly smeared onto them by fingers, from the butcher's block, perhaps... clever *******, she thinks.
On the way up to Swain's chamber, she stops at her old quarters, borrowing the pillow of Adam and the girl who spat her way. Taking care to ensure no-one sees her exit the room, she makes haste up to her own, dropping the pillows onto her bed. The bell in her room rings twice, somewhat impatiently, and she makes haste to the General.
"You're late," he says, raising an eyebrow at her as she enters. Raising her hand in apology, she nods, her expression chagrined as she passes him the tray. "Go, now," he tells her, and she nods again- this time, the gesture is tinged with sadness. She's stung by his disappointment, though she knows it to be well-deserved. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to notice the ill-advised display of emotion, though Beatrice does- she fixes Mute with three eerily glowing eyes, and Mute makes her exit with as much speed as she can respectfully manage.
Entering her room, she sighs a voiceless sigh. Knowing that she'll have until later in the evening, she decides not to set up the pillows, but does stuff them under the bed, so that they won't be seen until she needs them to be. Looking over her bags, she tucks her clothing into the drawers of the vanity dresser. Unzipping a small pocket, she pauses to linger over a locket, smiling slightly. I had better hide this someplace safe, she muses, and, after a moment, tucks it into the front of her shirt, the locket safe against her breast.
Mute smiles, continuing to unpack- she has very few things to her name. The dresser has four drawers- the top row has two small drawers, into one of which Mute packs her rarely-used cosmetics. The bottom two rows are a little larger, and so they serve their purpose well: to hold clothing. After she finishes packing her clothing away (two skirts, three pairs of pants, and five shirts, all in red, black, or grey), she closes the drawers softly, and opens again the drawer that contains her kohl pencil, her lipstick, and her powdered, dehydrated pigments.
It's been a while since I played with these... she muses, padding her finger into the dark green pigment and trailing it along the crease of her eyelid. After some careful daubing of colors, she smiles at the girl in the mirror- her eyes stand out, and the rest of her face is starkly clean. Putting away the pigments, she brings up the lipstick to her mouth, leaving a dark red slash there, glistening like blood at a thin application of gloss. This time, the smile is much more wicked-seeming. Pinching her cheeks to bring a little blush to the surface, she grins widely. The look's complete with the innocent blush on her face, and she's actually surprised when the bell rings- wiping the cosmetics from her skin, she heads over to the General's room.
"Better," he says as she enters. "You're on time. Run a bath for me, Mute." He seems satisfied by the name he's given her, though others have given it to her before. She nods respectfully, and heads toward the master bathroom, starting one the warmer tap first and letting it run into the bath. In a few minutes, he enters, and she opens the curtain for him, revealing the full, steaming tub. "Very good. Go, now- Beatrice's perch needs another cleaning."
Mute nods, doing her best to hide her disgust at the idea of cleaning that perch again, and heads back into his bedroom, wasting no time in getting out. Master Tactician though he may be, Mute has no interest in bathing the General, or in seeing him in a bathing state.
Not having followed Swain into the bath, Beatrice scowls at Mute, who raises a hand in a widely-recognized gesture of peace before heading off to find a bucket and a sponge. On her way out of the room, Mute bumps straight into the woman who had hired her, Marta, and takes the pad of paper from her pocket.
'You wouldn't happen to have a bucket full of water, and a sponge, would you, ma'am?' she asks, and Marta nods, holding up a sponge which floats on the surface of water, contained helpfully in a bucket. Mute's smile widens in gratefulness.
'Thank you, ma'am,' she writes, heading back into Swain's room. Seeing Mute with the cleaning supplies, Beatrice seems to decide the girl is harmless, and flaps over to the bedpost, eyeing her as she cleans the perch. The dull, stinking work is interspersed with loud caws from Beatrice, who seems to want to scare the girl- thankful for her nerves, Mute does not startle.
When the job is done, Mute disposes of the bucket, then re-enters the room once she's washed her hands, uncertain what to do next. I guess I'll wait for him to be out of the bath, she decides, and stands in his room, waiting for further orders. In a few minutes, Swain exits, looking no different than he had before.
"I have things to do- go, now," he says, "and take this with you." He hands her the towel from his bath, and waves her out. After taking the towel, she leaves, heading down to the laundry room to take care of it.
When she enters the room, she's greeted by another serving girl- hesitantly, she holds out the towel. The other steps forward to take it with an expression of disgust, and slaps Mute across the face.
"I heard what you did," she hisses. Unwilling to retaliate just yet, Mute gives her a noncommittal shrug, turning to exit the room. "Hey- don't go, I'm done talking to you," the girl continues, grabbing Mute's arm. "Do you know who I am?"
Resigned to whatever the girl had planned, Mute shakes her head.
"Well- I'm Lacy," she finishes, somewhat anticlimactically, and, without further introduction, reaches out for Mute's neck. The next few things, for Lacy, happen very quickly- Mute knocks the approaching hand away, grabs the attached forearm, and uses it to twist the girl the rest of the way down to the floor. With very little aplomb, she leaves, recalling one of the General's quotes.
I wonder if Another opponent, another disappointment would be considered appropriate here? thinks Mute, heading back to her room- it's later, now, and undoubtedly, there will be work waiting for her.
Upon getting back to her room, Mute smiles- no note from any of the other servants means that Swain didn't miss her while she was gone. Or- at least, he didn't call on her. Her smile widens, and her breathing hitches in amusement. The General, miss me? I'm just a servant- I do my job, and he does his. Knowing that she doesn't have a lot of time left, she sets up the pillows under her blanket, and, with little hesitation, cuts off her ponytail to arrange on the pillow where she usually rests her head. Stepping back to take a look at it, she tilts her head to the side.
That won't do, she muses, and tucks the hair a little further under the blanket, folding the limp pillows to resemble a curled-up Mute, with her hair settling over the pillow from where she slept under the thin blanket. Once more, she steps back- this time, all the way to the door. Admiring of her work, she smiles. That will do much better. Curious about how her hair looks now, she walks over to the mirror and sits, blinking at the polished surface. It's similar to a pageboy- suitable for my position, I suppose. Taking out a brush, she runs it quickly through her hair to straighten it up before someone calls her.
For most of the evening, she's left alone- but this suits her fine, as she has things that need doing. The arranging of the pillows was easy enough- she'd done such things several times before- but she'd need more than a dagger to deal with Adam this time, she felt. Might be useful if I could subdue him while he's conscious, she decides, and changes into something a little tattier. An apron completes the look, and after tucking her pen, her paper, and her dagger into her pocket, she leaves the room, locking it behind her. A few minutes of winding stairs later, and she's in the kitchen- this is where the lowest of the servants come to hang out when their work is done, so her attire is more appropriate for the environment here than for Swain's hallway. With a polite smile to the head chef, she makes her way through the bustle and the smells to the butcher's block, where a large spool of twine is left out near a growing pool of blood. She takes out her pen to write to the butcher, a large, portly fellow with a jovial air and a big cleaver.
May I borrow a few feet of twine, please? I do mean borrow, I can return it within two days. At the end of the note is neatly scribed a rudimentary, smiling face- with no time to properly sketch one, it was little more than two dots and a curve. Mute holds it out to the man, who takes it in his enormous hand- he could do some serious damage with a pat on the head.
"Of course y'can, Mute!" With a broad grin of his own, he unwinds about six feet of it, then ties it up nicely and hands it to her. "This good?" She nods, smiling up at him, and slips it into her pocket with a slight bow of respect. Weaving between knives, pots, and chefs, she sees the General's dinner tray- might as well pick this up before I go, she decides, and does so.
When she gets back to her room, she changes into her former outfit, and slumps down onto her bed, being wary of the pillows. She sighs a voiceless sigh of satisfaction. Tonight should be interesting, she thinks to herself, wrapping the twine around and between her fingers, practicing knots.
The bell from the General's room rings for his dinner, and Mute stands, tying the rough string into a bundle and bringing it with her- it could be useful; who knows? With a smile as she opens the door, she takes care to make some noise. Swain looks up, and nods at her, gently petting Beatrice's wings with something akin to affection. "You're earlier than I expected," he says as she approaches the desk, taking the tray from her hands- to Beatrice's annoyance, he nudges her away, setting it where she had been standing. The large, rather ominous bird fixes Mute with her stare, which makes the girl a bit uncomfortable; she does not show this, however.
Mute takes the risk of removing the paper and pen from her pocket to put ink to her thoughts, hoping desperately that the General will not be offended by what's about to be asked.
'Sir- if this is all you desire, may I go, please?' To show that she means no disrespect, she bows slightly as she hands him the note. A tense moment passes as he reads it, then he nods. As she's on her way out, he comments.
"Your new haircut looks a bit uneven in back. I suggest you rectify that."
Mute closes the door with a slight smile, nodding her acquiescence and her thanks. Leaving the door unlocked behind her as she enters the room, she looks over the bed one more time. It'll do, she decides. With a small smile, Mute stands behind her unlocked door, wrapping the butcher's twine twice around each hand, and taking up the slack between her hands. Her dagger is still in her apron pocket, but she's willing to leave it there- the twine should be sufficient.
A few hours later, Mute's door creaks slowly open- she had spent the time planning for various scenarios, and this was the one she had most anticipated. She had hurt him the last time he was here, and, as much as she hated to admit it, he was no fool- he would be cautious this time. When his head passes into her vision, she takes the twine between her hands and tosses it quickly around his neck, pulling him so that his shoulder blades press against her chest, and slamming him against the wall.
"Hey-!" Adam pushes back against her, causing the twine to tighten on his neck- he chokes, and reaches up to yank at it. Thinking to tie his wrists together, she loosens her grip for just a moment- he tugs it away from his neck, and slams his head back into her face. Her nose catches the brunt of the force, beginning to bleed, and the blinding pain of it causes her to drop her hands from the twine entirely. She claws up at his face, trying to cause him some damage, when he turns and shoves her to the ground. Her arms still wrapped around him, she falls, but begins lashing out at his face- her elbow catches his jaw, bringing tears to his eyes. Mute isn't about to show mercy; she ignores his cries of pain, and brings her elbow up again into his eye, causing him to yell as he lies on top of her, making her breathing difficult. He's too heavy to move, but his pained thrashing shifts him- she seizes the chance, and pushes up at his face and his chest, trying to throw him off of her. Barely, she manages to get him off of her, and stands quickly, her breathing ragged.
Wanting to knock him out quickly, she kicks him in the temple, and breathes out in relief as his eyes close. Still breathing hard, she shuts the door and locks it, then picks up the twine off the ground. Catching a glimpse of her face in the mirror, she blinks. Blood- hm. With a shrug, she wipes it away, but quickly becomes frustrated as the bleeding refuses to stem. She flicks her hand away from her face in a gesture of mild irritation, spattering a little blood on the mirror and the hardwood floor.
Now... how do I take care of you? Fidgeting with the twine, she looks over the limp body of the boy on the floor. I can't tie only his hands, or he'll get away, but... well, his ankles aren't even an option; that's more of a problem than I care to deal with. An idea comes to her- it is a struggle with his leaden limbs to get his ankles and wrists together, but when they do, she wraps the twine around them haphazardly. The knots may have been a little tighter than they needed to be, but given her inexperience with tying people up- well, it only made sense to tighten it so.
Feeling a little safer with Adam helplessly hog-tied on the floor, Mute glances at the reflection in the mirror. The blood has finally stopped running out of her nose, but it's left red and brown painted down the front of her apron and her shirt- she grimaces a little at the stains. Mute takes off the apron first, running it under cold water- this practically erases the stains, given how recently the blood was spilled. The shirt that she wears is black, thankfully, and so it doesn't require as much attention. I just don't want to wear crusted blood on my chest all day- I'll have to change shirts, though. Hanging the garments on the side of the tub to dry, she heads back out into her bedroom. Adam is awake, spouting vitriol in her direction.
"What the hell are you doing, you braindead little tramp?! Why am I tied up on your floor? I should be getting medical attention!"
Not in the mood for dealing with him, Mute meets the eyes of the skinny boy on the ground and glares, her expression acid. His protests weaken, but he doesn't stop, so she takes the knife from her pants pocket, where she stowed it and her paper upon removing the apron. This time, the protests dwindle away into silence, and she smiles, tucking the knife away again. Turning her back to him and sitting at her desk, she begins to write- she doesn't need to bother with a shirt, he's harmless right now.
This boy has attempted to take my life twice. I have decided not to kill him, because he is under your employ, but something should be done about his repeated efforts. He may try to kill other servants here, after all.
Thank you for your consideration.
After reading it over a few times, she purses her lips and gently blows on the ink to dry it. As soon as the letters are firm on the page, she folds the paper lengthwise, making sure that the crease is neat and even.
"What are you writing...?" asks Adam, his voice quiet. For a response, Mute bends down and takes his knife off his belt, dropping it into her top drawer. When that's done, she unfolds the letter, holding it in front of his eyes. It takes him a few minutes to read the thing and to process what's about to happen, but when he realizes the implications of her words, he starts to thrash in his bindings. The tight knots pinch at his skin, however, stopping his futile attempts to escape.
"You can't do this to me-!" he protests, but she shrugs, dropping the letter between his shoulder blades- he won't be able to reach it, but whomever finds him will.
After putting on a fresh shirt, she drags him out into the hall, leaving him in the space against the wall between her room and the General's, then goes back to her room, and goes to bed.
((Also, in case anyone's wondering why I tag my posts with trigger warnings: I assume some of you have seen films involving war of some sort, or films where a character has a flashback that is triggered by a certain stimulus. The triggers I list are for those people who might have flashbacks triggered by something written, which is why I define what the trigger might be, and bold it at the top of the story so that they can scroll past it.
Internet etiquette <3))
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((Back~ and here is the link to fanfiction.net (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8771507/1/Silent-Wings), if anyone would rather watch it there.))
The morning after the fight, neither of Mute's bells ring. She spends the first part of the morning on making her haircut even, but by the time that is over, and she's received no summons, she begins to worry. Is he going to fire me? I've done the wrong thing... I guess I should eat while I can, then. With a shrug, she gets into her normal clothing and heads down to the kitchen, leaving her apron to dry a little while longer.
"Mute! What did you do to Adam?" demands Lacy, with the girl who spat standing indignantly at her side. Taking her paper and pen from a shirt pocket, she writes slowly and carefully, then passes the note to the two. Lacy snatches it from Mute's hand.
'He attempted to take my life twice- I took care of the problem, without killing him,' reads the paper. 'I've only come to get breakfast.' Attempting to avoid provocation, Mute gently pushes past Lacy and the younger girl. She gets out two eggs and cracks them into a pan on the stove- the kitchen isn't too busy this early in the day. After frying them and eating them with a small hunk of cheese and bread, she has a quick glass of water, then heads back up to her room.
When she arrives, she looks around the room for a note- an indication of some sort that she missed his call, and someone else took care of it. There's nothing. What if my decision not to kill Adam was weak? What if the General decided he'd rather have someone serve him who isn't mute, and who's got the guts to try and take the life of his personal servant, twice? She twists her hands together. I don't want to lose my job.
The rest of the day, for Mute, passes slowly. She keeps a tiny hextech watch on her wrist- all she has, aside from the locket, that's of value- and the seconds tick by like hours. At noon, she finally leaves her room again, this time, to prepare herself a quick salami sandwich. No-one in the kitchen talks to her, but that's normal; very few people talked to her, even before this incident with Adam. Mute's handwriting is neat enough for a child to read, but she was never able to write quickly enough for their patience.
After eating and returning to her room, she decides to even out her haircut, as the General had suggested. When she's done, it's about an inch shorter, but it's much more precisely-done than the first I guess this is better... though I doubt it'll save me from getting fired; it wasn't an order, just a suggestion.
Even in her fear of losing her job, the long hours of nothingness drive her to intense boredom- she doesn't feel hungry, even by the time it gets to dinner. With nothing else to do- no sense of purpose, no orders, and no reason to stay awake any longer, she gets in bed and goes to sleep.
Mute's dreams were troubled, and she woke several times during the night. Once, she woke up screaming, and thanked her muteness- she wouldn't have wanted the General to hear that display of weakness. When she finally wakes up, her grey eyes are tired- light purple circles arc from corner to corner. With a voiceless sigh of exhaustion, she applies some makeup to cover the darkness.
Uncertain what to expect, she gets ready for the day by brushing her hair, getting dressed, and packing her duffel bag with everything she owns. The room doesn't look much different, she notes, almost sadly, when the bell from the General's room rings. The one from the kitchen hasn't gone yet, so he's likely not calling for breakfast. Tying on her apron, Mute bites her lip a little to see the remains of a bloodstain, but she has no time to rectify this, and so she heads into the General's chamber.
In his room, Swain is reading over the note that she wrote the previous night, and he turns to face the girl as she enters. Her body language is easy enough to read- even when she's not trying to project anything in particular, a lifetime of muteness lets her actions speak for her. She didn't sleep well- and the powder under her eyes says she didn't want him to notice that. Good, he thinks. Her posture is straight, but her hands are clasped together in a way they usually aren't- she's worried about what he has to say.
I-it's like the time that he looked into my mouth, she recalls, and stands stock-still, waiting for his pronouncement. ...do you have an order to give me, so that I don't feel so out-of-place?
Her thoughts are so clear on her face, he thinks to himself. After a minute or so, he speaks.
"Run a bath for me, Mute."
Her shoulders slump slightly in visible relief, and she nods- but before heading into the bathroom, she pauses, taking out the paper.
'Sir, may I ask why you didn't call for me yesterday?'
"No," he replies, and it could be no clearer to them both that the conversation is over. With another obedient nod, she goes to his bathroom and begins to run the bath- behind her, she can hear Beatrice eating the paper upon which she had written.
The water that splashes into the porcelain basin is warm on her fingers, and she closes her eyes to enjoy the feeling for just a moment before resuming the task as it's set for her. Knowing exactly the temperature that he wants the water to be, she adjusts the smooth, silver knobs until the warmth is perfect.
I wonder why he won't tell me? ...he undoubtedly has a good reason. She sighs, not wanting to give up on her curiosity so easily- but there's no way he'll tell her. Suddenly, she realizes that the bath is full, and turns the knobs quickly shut, letting a little bit drain from the tub so that the water won't spill over the edge.
Leaving the bathroom, she sees the General running his hand over Beatrice's feathers- he's facing away from her, and seems lost in thought. Were it not for his position, and what he's capable of, one could almost consider him a normal- Having seen Mute, Beatrice caws loudly, interrupting the quiet reverie. The General turns to see her, and she smiles slightly, chagrined- taking out the pad of paper, she scribes her words.
'I've prepared the bath, sir.' He takes the note, nods, and hands it back to her- when he's at the doorway of the bath, though, he turns back.
With that, he goes, and Mute's left staring at his bathroom door- but, with nothing else to do in the room, she leaves.
I- he's not mad at me for what I did to Adam... Upon reaching her own bedroom, she half-collapses onto the bed, with a deep exhalation of relief. And he said 'well-done'- I handled it well, according to the Master Tactician! She smiles again, and, when she hears the bell ring from the kitchen, pauses to put a thin layer of red on her lips before heading down to get the General's breakfast.
When she arrives at the kitchen, Adam is nowhere in evidence- in his place, Lacy is doing the dishes, and she shoots Mute a venemous glare. This gives her some pause, but- well, I assume he's simply been fired. Doing her best to ignore Lacy, she picks up the General's lacquered tray and makes as though to leave- a sponge hits her in the back of the head, and she bites her lip, her fingers tightening on the tray.
...I need to deliver this to the General, she reminds herself, and heads upstairs to do so, putting a lid on her anger for another time.
Her gentle tapping on his chamber door announces her presence to the General. Beatrice's feathers ruffle up in irritation when she knocks, but he pats them back down. "Enter," he calls out gruffly, and she does so, bearing his breakfast on a tray.
"You're wearing lipstick," he comments as she hands it to him, and there's a barely-perceptible pause before she nods slightly. I wonder why he'd mention that? she wonders, but manages to keep the question from showing on her face.
"Dismissed," the General tells her curtly. Beatrice caws at the girl, loudly, with no warning- Mute's only reaction is a slight widening of the eyes, before she nods respectfully and leaves.