Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gruman's Court

My dreams don't often have titles, but this one specifically did.

Starting scene: There's a red haired girl in a stone tower which is the bunk space for a boarding school for girls. The duke is coming for a visit with his royal army and she's so not interested. So, she's hiding from all his people who will inspect the school and from the ladies in charge of it who are making sure that all the girls are attending as they should.
One of her friends had told her that she should really go, at least to see the duke who was reputedly a good looker, but she's not concerned with such things. She's trying to figure out a way to be hidden somewhere they will not look as a part of the inspection. Under the bed is no good, for it's high enough for trunks to go under, on top is no good for they'll surely look there. She considers
trying to hold herself under the top bunk, but it doesn't look like there's enough space to hide her body, and she probably wouldn't have the upper body strength.
Someone's at the door. She whirls to try to dash somewhere, but the door opens and the matroness sees her.
The woman expresses her disapproval in the girl and how she's letting down the whole school. She grabs her and pulls her down the stone spiral staircase of the tower down to where the rest of the school is gathered to welcome the duke. She finds her friend, convinces her to help her get away.
Somehow she manages to get through the crowd of people and away without being seen and caught. She ends up at the stables (because that's what happens in teenage magic realism books for girls), full with the horses of the duke's army. She wanders past the horses, talking to them, meeting them. She pauses at a gorgeous charger. A man comes up behind her and says something about how it's a nice horse, isn't it. She turns, surprised because she didn't hear him walk up. He speaks softly, reassures her that she doesn't have to go back to standing in a crowd under the cloudy sky. She doesn't recognize him, but that doesn't mean much. The girls aren't allowed to hang around the farm areas that help supply the school, and there are lots of stable hands and farm workers.
The man moves on to a conversation topic having to do with the weather, how it's such a nice day, shame, though, that it's overcast still. It's been overcast for years. There was a joke (that was less of a joke than the girls would have liked) that the sun was afraid to come out.
The girl swears she remembers a sunny day, years and years ago, back when her mother was around and would sing to her soft songs in the back yard. And the sunshine. The sunshine was important.
Having been lost in her thoughts, she's startled to realize that the man is allowing her to be: he hasn't kept talking on about nothing and hasn't asked her a question, pulling her back into their talk. She, feeling slightly guilty about ignoring the man who wasn't turning her in to those who would make her stand around for the duke, says something about how yes, it's good enough, but it'd be better still if the fighting stopped.
The man has no idea what she's talking about. She notices, states- more than asks- that he's not from the area. He replies how he's from a holding to the south. She realizes he must be with the duke, feeling guiltier that he hasn't turned her in yet. To offset her feelings, she offers to show him the fighting.
They saddle some horses and go off to the east, towards some smoke on the horizon. She motions to him to slow as they reach a not-quite-forest, not-quite-meadow area. They can hear men dieing. She motions to him to be quiet, trying to convey with her eyes how dreadfully important the quietness is. He nods his acceptance and follows her to the top of a small rise.
There are men dieing. They die when the shadow beasts, tall as a man standing on another's shoulders, slash through them with their claws. Hundreds of men, fighting uselessly, for shadows are all the beasts are, until they decide to use their claws to slash through another body, the blood falling off as soon as they're through the spine as they will their claws to be shadows once again.
The man is astonished. "How have we at the holding never heard of this?"
The girl gives him what might be, had she been looking at her friend instead of a stranger, disparaging. "Probably because nobody survives long enough to bring the duke news."
The man is about to reply, but catches a movement with the corner of his eye. There is a flank of shadow beasts closing in on the townsmen fighting the main group of beasts. It also happens to be cutting of the man and the girl's way back towards the school, though they don't seem to have been noticed by the beasts.
He tells her to go back to the school and get the duke's army to come back to aid him. He recommends speaking with the adviser instead of anybody from the school. She rides hard as she can back to the school, finds the man. She tells him about the shadow beasts, but he ignores her as he has more important things to attend to. She's upset, being ignored, knowing her new friend is about to get slaughtered like all of the other men who have fought the shadow beasts. She mentions him, gets the adviser's attention. She describes the man and has his full attention. He questions her where, exactly, the fighting is going on, suddenly horrified that the duke is going to get himself killed.
The army goes off to aid the duke. More people are dieing, now. People start fleeing the school, trying to get farther away. The shadow beasts have never been as close to the school as they are now. The girl is running around, trying to stay out of the way, not wanting to leave, not knowing what to do.

Suddenly, the sun comes out.
The shadow beasts dissolve. The sunlight burns through them, though they seem to be only dust, but dust is more tangible than shadow. The wind catches them, the wind blowing the clouds away, and they spiral off in pieces towards the sun, the brilliant sun that had been missing for so long.
The duke's army is in pieces, but surviving.

...Obviously, the girl did something since she's the main character and has yet to have a real adventure, though surely the duke, if he has survived, will bring her off with him and she'll have all sorts of things to entertain her. And no doubt the magicians that will try to figure out what exactly it is that she did. The court magicians, that is. Not that she knows.
And there's the overbearing doom of where the shadow beasts came from and who sent them and what happens next.