By: Michael N Lovdal.
Three knocks echoed down the hall of Sir Baird Scott, a wealthy man of great stature. The knocks were quick and persistent, followed closely by another three.
"Don't knock the door down, man," he grumbled. Sir Scott opened the door to the thick Liverpool air as a third series of knocks began.
Before him stood a tiny old lady, hunched over from many more years of life than nature had intended.
"What do you want, woman?" He said tiredly. She eyed him carefully, beneath a worn head-cloth.
"I'm not here about my needs." Sir Scott glanced down her ragged form, taking in her clean but faded cloak and hand-carved cane. He took particular interest in the cane, as the head was expertly carved to resemble the head of a hawk. A pattern of feathered grooves circled the cane from top to bottom.
He began to shut the door on her, but she stopped it short with the tip of her cane.
"I'm really very busy, wretch, and I do not have time for passerby's." She shoved her way past him irreverently and entered the wide, grey-tone hallway of his mansion. She took it all in and frowned dismissively.
"Get out of my home, wretch, or I'll be forced to remove you myself." He likely could follow through with his threat, as he towered over her petite form. She responded by carving the number seven into his wall decor, with the particularly sharp beak of her cane. He yelled out with great annoyance and went forward to strike her, but she held him at bay with the point of her cane.
"Listen carefully, son of Sir Walton Scott, or you shall perish on this very hour next year." The point of her cane dug uncomfortably into his chest, and he shoved it out of the way.
"How do you know my father? I haven't spoken of him since I moved from London nearly twenty years ago!" She ignored his question and continued.
"As I said, doom comes for you on the seventh day of the seventh month, precisely one year from today. On this day, a mountain shall descend upon your household and crush the work of your hands. All that is yours will be as dust, and if you do not flee, your breast will fall upon the very sword that you were knighted with."
Outraged, Sir Scott tore the woman's cane from her hands and threw it out the open door. He took her by the scruff of her cloak, and pulled her roughly to him.
"Hear this, wretch – if I ever see your cursed face again, I will beat you with the head of your own staff and feed you to my hounds. Do I make myself clear?"
They stood there, glaring at each other. Sir Scott began to let her go, and the old woman slapped him hard across the face. It glowed red like a rash. He was so surprised, she was halfway out the door before he thought to strike her back.
"Consider yourself warned," she said skirting away. "The manor of Baird Scott will fall on the seventh day of the seventh month!" He raced to the door, but when he looked outside she was already gone. He sighed heavily and brushed his hands through his thick red hair. The scarlet sun hung low on the horizon, and the clouds grew ever darker.
Distraught and offended, Sir Scott returned to the dinner table stared at his cup, finding it shattered over the table. Streams of thick red wine ran down the table and pooled on the floor.
"Seventy-two slaves is a high number, Sir Scott. What are you planning on doing with them all?" A well-dressed old gentleman with a glass eyepiece shook his mug in a circular motion, mixing what was left of his coffee. He leaned over the table to Sir Scott, who had grown quite a thick beard in the past twelve months. My dear Claricus, what need does a slave trader have of information but the number of heads in a shipment? If it can walk and take orders, I'm quite certain it can do anything that I require of it. Clairicus chuckled pleasantly and flagged down the waitress to refill his coffee mug.
"Very well then. But still, seventy-two. There'll be none left to make more slaves!" That made the two of them chuckle even more. The waitress finished pouring Clairicus' coffee and piped in.
"I think it's shameful the way gentlemen talk of colored men. At least have the decency to..."
"The bleeding heart of a woman," interrupted Sir Scott loudly. "And I suppose you'd have me calling them by names instead of numbers as well then?" He and Clairicus and resumed their laughter, much to the disgust of the waitress. She stomped off without saying another word.
"Where were we, Clairicus?" Asked Sir Scott. "Before we were so rudely interrupted."
"Indeed, sir. Pish posh."
Two servants greeted Sir Scott at the gate to his mansion, extending a parchment to him.
"Sir Scott! It is our pleasure to present you with the sword of his majesty, King George!" The sword was held before him horizontally, and he withdrew it from its sheath excitedly.
"His highness honors me! Tell me, to what do I owe this honor?"
"The King has heard of the great palace that you are constructing for yourself, and he congratulates you for your momentous progress. He bids you well, and that you would take his sword as an expression of goodwill." The second servant shifted awkwardly.
"Truthfully though, I think his Highness is also getting a bigger sword to go with his new throne. Red is the new purple, you know." Sir Scott reserved his inner laughter and took his prize into his home. He withdrew the sword from its sheath once inside, swinging and posing with it.
"The very sword of King George! Fancy that! Isn't that a fancy thing, Thomas?" he said, addressing a servant as he headed for the parlor.
"It's a very nice sword, sir," said the servant numbly.
"It is indeed, Thomas! Truly, this is a day for celebration! Take my slaves and run them over to wherever slaves have fun. Spend a few pounds on them, and don't let me catch a single one of them running away. Last thing I need, what with the palace behind schedule and all."
"Yes, sir!" The servant took off in a hurry, before his master could change his mind.
"It is my lucky day," Sir Scott said aloud. He played with his new sword for an hour before he thought he heard a noise like thunder.
The chandelier shook lightly, causing it to rock back and forth. The noise grew louder and louder, like the roaring base of thousand-piece orchestra composed entirely of tubas. He dropped his sword and ran for the door, but he tripped on the carpet and tumbled forward. He collapsed on the sword as it fell, piercing him through the right side of his chest. Frozen in pain, he started down at his wound in horror. He called for his servants and slaves, but no one answered.
A few small rocks burst through the ceiling and impacted on the floor in a flaming heap. Fire rose up and consumed the walls, reaching higher with every second. The heat grew unbearable and the smoke choked Sir Scott horribly. The roaring rose to a climax and finally exploded as the ceiling came down upon him, with a great flaming mass of stone driving it downwards. The flames almost had the appearance of a bird of fire – a hawk. The heavenly boulder crushed and exploded over him, shattering the windows and then flattening the walls. Sir Scott's great mansion imploded and fell in a heaping mass of burning ruin, with the stench of sulfur. As his spirit retreated from the ashes of his body, a voice echoed from the abyss, "you were warned, you were warned..."
© 2008 Michael N Lovdal.
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