This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge was to include a dead body in the opening paragraph and keep it to 1000 words. After that, anything goes. I’ve been thinking for some time that Sir Woebegone needs an outing, so here he is.
A lump of tin lay in the grass, flies buzzing around it, attracting Sir Woebegone’s attention. Flies often meant food. He hoped it wasn’t so rotten the flies had already laid their eggs in it. Or worse, the maggots had hatched out. He prodded the metal cylinder with his toe, pushing it over. Juices oozed out. He was probably too late. Then he realised this was one arm from a suit of armour, occupied, and judging from the smell, the rest of the suit was just the other side of the rock. Whoever the suit of armour belonged to was dead. Inside. Armless.
He moved upwind, keeping well away from the flies. The body was face up, the visor down. Sir Woebegone was not a brave knight, and the visor being down gave him an excuse not to look at the face. He anticipated it not being a pretty sight. Knights were generally not pretty, and a dead one with this many flies was unlikely to be … let’s say “whole”.
Nevertheless, a knight is a knight, and he ought to give it due honour. There’s a thing. Honour. Honour suggested he should bury it. Here they were, out on a moor with lumpy rocks interspersed with coarse grass and soggy peaty bogs. He didn’t have a spade. He would be likely to hit bedrock within six inches of the surface. Six inches would not make a deep enough hole for a suit of armour, with or without an occupant. Besides, he could hardly dig underneath the suit to enable him not to move it. There was a strong possibility that moving it could cause other things to fall off. Rotten sinews were probably weaker than leather straps, so he might manage to remove the attachments and leave it to fate. Leather straps always came in handy, since one size fits all suits and he had far too many bits of his armour tied on with string.
He stretched out his arm and grabbed the pauldron to stop it falling off. Straps were definitely high on his priority list. A strap for the rear of his thigh guard would make sitting vastly more comfortable. There were other places he could go for food, but good armour accoutrements didn’t grow on trees. In fact, in all his travels since he’d realised the power of his sword – or rather, the sword he had once thought of as his own, or his family heirloom – he’d only twice come across an armourer. Once too often, since the second one was more interested in recycling the armour Sir Woebegone wore than mending or making new items – recycling once Sir Woebegone no longer occupied it but a deep hole in the ground, that is.
Deep holes in the ground… the burial. What to do?
The design on the breastplate looked vaguely familiar. If he had crayon and paper he could take an impression and carry news of the knight’s demise to those who would reward him for it. Reward with a meal would be almost as good as silver, and probably a darn sight more likely. Unless they got the wrong idea and thought he’d killed him, whoever he was.
Woebegone sighed. A few moments later his tummy gurgled. He made a decision, memorised the design, put a hand on his empty scabbard and visualised his destination.
“I can wait. I’m very good at waiting. I thought you’d be interested, though.” Sir Woebegone looked up at the dragon’s face, admiring the underlit chin and snout, and the way the firelight, glinting off its treasure pile, reflected so artistically on the fangs.
“Why would I be interested in what you’ve been doing?”
“Because I found a dead suit of armour.”
“Armour doesn’t die…”
“…it simply rusts away,” Woebegone finished for him.
The dragon snorted, wafting a few lightweight pieces of silver gauze to the other side of the cave.
“Who was it?” he asked after a few minutes.
Woebegone smiled to himself. Dragons always have to know everything, it goes with their avaricious nature. Acquired knowledge, especially gossip, is easier to carry than treasure.
“I don’t know,” he replied, watching the dragon’s reaction. The dragon continued to focus his golden eyes steadily on Woebegone, demanding more. “He had a curious device on his chest.”
“Very curious. If you come with me I’m sure you’ll recognise it.”
The dragon’s snort sent some lightweight pots and pans after the silver gauze.
“Er, well if you don’t want to come, I’ll have to describe it to you, or better still, I’ll draw it. Have you got quill, parchment and a square meal?”
The dragon sighed. “Will two day-old roast lamb do you?”
“That’ll do nicely. Payment in advance, of course.”
The dragon harrumphed a bit as he ferreted around behind him and drew out a leg of meat that looked unlikely to be lamb. He tossed it towards Sir Woebegone and continued to look for drawing materials while Sir Woebegone took off his helm and tore into the flesh of the unfortunate victim.
“Very nice, thank you.” Woebegone wiped his lips and beard, and cleaned his hands in the sand on the floor, then reached for the parchment and crayon the dragon had found. He made the basic outline of the heraldic device quickly, but took his time over the detail, time that was stretched out by the need to push the dragon’s face out of his way as the dragon peered ever closer, anxious to learn who was dead. Finally, he sat back on his heels and turned the picture round to face the dragon.
The dragon continued his monosyllables for about two minutes, each time looking from the picture to Woebegone for confirmation. Woebegone nodded, raised eyebrows, scratched his ear, and gave various other signs of affirmation each time. Finally Woebegone got the news he suspected he might hear.
“Sir George, dead… at last!”
(c) J M Pett 2015