Snakes of Our Hearth
As wintery evening fell on hearth the townsfolk gathered onto the main road leading through the town. The whole town awaited the sound of hooves, the sight of a carriage making its way down an old cobblestone road. They had been awaiting this carriage for around an hour at this point and the sun was making its way toward the horizon. Just as it seemed their wait had been in vain one villager called out “wait friends, I spy a Horse on the horizon!” At this everyone turned, and it was true! A carriage had crossed over a hill in the distance, and was now within sight of the townsfolk. At this sight the whole of the town seemed to erupt into cheers. As the it rolled into town the carriage was greeted cheerfully all round. Stopping in the town’s center the coachman quickly unlocked the door and out stepped a well dressed young man; decorated with badges and medals. The young man smiled at the sight of all the villagers so elated at his arrival. His eyes were drawn to a nicely dressed gentleman making his way through the crowd, his portly stature not at all helping to part the people as he walked towards the young man. As he finally made his way through the crowd the gentleman reached a sweaty hand out and shaked the young man’s hand. “Welcome back Arnold!” The gentleman said. In reply Arnold spoke “It is good to see you mayor. I didn’t think my return would be so celebrated.” “Well why wouldn’t we; your the town hero now!” The mayor said, and everyone cheered in agreement. “Please come to my office lad I would like to converse with you in private; when your are free to do so of course.” As the mayor finished speaking Arnold was carried away in a wave of cheerful townsfolk.
The sun had taken it’s sojourn below the horizon by the time that Arnold made his way up the steps of the mayor’s house. Glad to see all the friends and family he wished he could stay all night long; singing and dancing with friends and strangers alike, but you didn’t decline an offer to meet with the mayor Arnold knew, and sadly he bade the merry folk good night. Making his way up the stone steps he had hardly knocked on the large oak door when it was opened by the servant, who ushered him on through hallway after hallway adorned with statues, paintings, and all manner of expensive art until they arrived upon the mayor’s study. Opening the door Arnold found himself standing in a warm dark room; a fire blazing in the center with two lavish leather chairs at either side. The mayor, standing up from one of these chairs, walked up to Arnold, greeted him. “Ah so good to see you my dear friend, please sit with me. You must be terribly exhausted from all the celebrating.” “Why thank you kindly sir.” Arnold replied, taking a seat at the mayor’s side. “Would you like something to drink? Perhaps some wine? I am sure I have something to satisfy your thirst.” “ i’ll have some wine if you don’t mind.” With a single snap of his fingers another servant came to Mayor Farnsworth’s side. “Two glasses of wine please, and with haste. Our guest is in dire need of refreshment.” At this the Mayor Farnsworth’s second servant quickly left, and returned with two glasses of wine. “How has the townsfolk treated you Arnold; I hope that all the celebration has not been too rough on you. I would be terribly upset to learn that you have been treated unkindly upon your return.” Farnsworth said, not a trace of dishonesty in his voice. “Oh no sir, I have been alright. I love the attention.” Arnold replied. “Good. Now I must admit I am very interested in hearing about our local hero’s deeds in the army from the man himself if you would indulge me.” Arnold nodded his head. “Of course sir, I’d love to tell you the tale.” Setting down his glass Arnold cleared his voice and began to speak
“To be honest sir it was a spur of the moment kind of thing. I had been a servant of her Majesty’s army for a few months at that point, and we were laying siege to a French fort of the cost of Spain. We had been fighting with Spanish rebels on our side but it didn’t seem like we could make dent in her. One night The commander in chief, a short little guy, ordered us to sneak in during the middle of the night to catch them with their pants down. We had just snuck are way in; when the whole place lit up. We were surrounded by French at all sides. You should have heard the sound sir, sounded like Thunder was going of all around us. Before we had even managed to find cover half our troops had been shot dead on sight. Luckily, we had found a barn to hide behind. It all looked pretty hopeless, i’ll be honest sir, so I thought to myself they got some gunpowder somewhere; why don’t I start myself a fire. Turns out they didn’t account that someone would set there gunpowder on fire, and they had left it in the building right next to the barn we had been taking cover behind. It was simple enough really; Just took out me trusty lighter Toss it in and BOOM! Whole fort was on fire. Distracted them enough to let me and my’ boys make a quick exit. Later on I was given this medal; the Queen herself gave it to me.” Arnold lightly tapped the Golden medal attached to his clothes. “After that I made my way home as soon as I could.”
Mayor Farnsworth finished his wine; setting his glass down on a nearby table. “Quite the story; very brave of you to charge in like that I must say.” “Thank you, sir.” Arnold replied. The clock in the back of the room chimed twelve, and there was a knock on the study door. “Come in dear!”, And as the door creaked open it revealed a Lady, as pale as snow, in a violet dress, dark as night. Peering upon her picturesque face was a polite smile, red lips giving color to her porcelain face. “Hello father...hello Mr. Culling.” Her face slightly blushed at saying Arnold’s last name. “Anilisa you have met Mr. Culling before have you not?” Mayor Farnsworth asked as he ordered his glass be refilled. “No father I have not had the pleasure, but I am not so ignorant as to not know of the brave gentleman sitting beside you. I hope I haven’t interrupted anything important.” Arnold immediately replied “Oh no mam you haven’t interrupted anything. I was just telling the mayor here about my earning of this medal.” tapping the medal again. “Oh please tell me if you wouldn’t mind telling the story again.”
After recounting the tale again for Anilisa Farnsworth it had become late. The fire that had burned so brightly upon Arnold’s arrival had begun to sputter, trying desperately to stay bright and alive. The moon had begun to recede and the sun was just below the horizon. The time having just dawned in Mayor Farnsworth spoke “Arnold I hadn’t realized we had kept you so late. I dearly apologize for Keeping arrested so. You must surely be tired. “ Of course father. Please Arnold come with me.” Anilisa please take our guest to the carriage so he can be carried home swiftly. With haste child.” Grabbing Arnold’s hand they made their way out the study door. Walking to the stables Anilisa clutched arnold’s hand tightly, and stopped just in front of the stables oak doors. Looking into Arnold’s eyes Anilisa spoke “Arnold I know it is not my place to ask, but would you please come again tomorrow? I would… Father would love to have you in his company again.” Arnold peered into her eyes for a moment before he responded “I’d love to mam. I’ll come here every day if you’d like.” Anilisa giggled a little. “ I would like that, But for now you must go home. I would feel terribly if you were to lose even more sleep because of me.” As the coachman pulled the carriage out into the courtyard Arnold began to step into the carriage when suddenly he turned, kissing Anilisa for just a moment before climbing into the carriage; shutting the door. Leaving the estate Arnold peered out the back of the carriage and saw Anilisa an angel in blue, waving to him until he could see Mayor Farnsworth’s house no more.
As Winter left Spring came, and at it’s arrival cobblestone streets lay empty. Searching around you would find all buildings vacant and silent except for one. From the town church flowed the powerful sound of an organ; its sound reaching even beyond the white walls which contained it. Peering through glass windows you could see that the whole of Hearth had gathered into cramped rows facing towards two people; Arnold the handsome groom, and Anilisa his veiled bride. As the Organ reached the end of its song the whole of the church lay silent. Not a single man or woman dared utter a word. The very angels themselves watched from high above their attention grabbed by the two souls who now stood in the lord’s house to bind their souls together eternally before Almighty God. As the priest uttered his holy words Arnold stared into the mysterious veil of his wife soon to be. What beautiful face hid behind that white curtain. What angelic soul waited for his embrace. “Groom, do you say say yes?” the priest looked to arnold. Immediately. Without hesitation. “ Yes, I do.” The priest nodded. “And what say you bride? Do you consent to spend the rest of your earthly days with this man? Do you agree to love him until death and beyond?” “Forever and longer.” came from Anilisa’s hidden mouth. The whole room lay silent for eternity in that moment. Joy fought and struggled in everyone’s heart; so desperately she wanted to be free, but all kept steady and held her; not risking a single breath lest she escape before her appropriate time for release. “...You may kiss the bride.” An eruption of sound. Cheering, Crying, and everything in between could be heard as Arnold embraced his new wife in front of all the town.
Waking up to find the Sun shining with all it’s might; anilisa blinked at the harsh light that had made it’s way into her bedroom. Looking around She spotted her ...Husband. Getting up she quickly made her way out of the room and down the hall into her father’s study. As she had already known he was sat down at his desk and was looking through a stack of papers. At her appearance he looked up, and promptly moved them aside. “Is all attended to. He is satisfied with you yes?” A cold question uttered; an equally frigid response came from Anilisa, “It appears so. I hope that this hasn’t all been in vain father. Are you sure that he is as influential as you believe he is?” Mayor Farnsworth stood up and walking over to his daughter he said calmly “trust me; with a supposed hero with him in our family we will be at the head of this town until your child has offspring of his own, and longer. Anilisa face showed disgust at the mention of a possible child. “Oh don’t reveal your true feelings so easily darling. You will have to get used to that pretty smile of yours, now get ready for your husband before he wakes up.”
Many years came through Hearth. The young became old, the wise the forgetful, but no one had forgotten of Dear Arnold and his bravery that day in spain. Graying as he was he was still loved and respected by many. During the years Between the marriage of Arnold and Anilisa and the present Arnold had involved himself heavily in the politics of his small town under the guiding hand of his Father in law Mayor Farnsworth, who now at the age of eighty eight was the oldest man to be in office in Hearth’s history. Looking outside Arnold looked outside; watching the town that had molded him as a child, and the town that he now molded as a man. He saw decay everywhere. He had listened to Father Farnsworth’s faithfully. He spoke out against the people who sought to deconstruct the order that had been built over the many years of Father’s tenure as mayor; Talking about harsh taxes and unjust treatment, but Arnold had managed to calm the anger and dissent with words. He had learned to speak properly under Father Farnsworth’s wishes and this was no doubt helpful when he was needed to explain to the townsfolk about why they needed to part ways with more and more of their money, which they had so little of now. Arnold turned and made his out to the the gates of the estate. Jonathan, the servant who had led Arnold to the study to met his future father in law so many years ago, approached Arnold as he began to open the gates. “Master Arnold would you like to take the carriage to your destination?” “No. I think that i will go and stroll the town alone Jonathan. Thank you for the offer.”
Closing the gates behind him Arnold proceeded forward into town. The streets of Arnolds childhood were silent as he walked through them. Though people walked the streets they were quiet and dismal. Not resembling the Loud and cheery people Arnold had found himself greeted by so long ago. They wore ragged clothes, torn and stained so terribly it would have been more fanciful to wear actual rags as their clothes. Looking at his own; Arnold found himself awkwardly out of place among his own people. Arnold hadn’t had this place in mind as he had left his home, but he now came upon an empty back road at the other end of the town. The smell. He hadn’t forgotten it. This alley reeked just as badly as it had when he had lived there as a child. S*** and water clogged the cracks in the road and rats scurried in and out of the cracks in the walls, making excursions as brief as possible. Among these things sat an old man. As Arnold walked up to him the old man scarcely seemed to notice his presence. Arnold didn’t try to call to him, he was already aware of the man’s deafness. Staying there for a while Arnold watched the old man peck at the scraps of food left in his bowl. He had been sipping at some soup and all that was left were a precious few pieces of meat. After he had eaten the last scraps of meat he set his bowl down in the dirty water that surrounded him, and eyes closed drifted off to sleep.
It was nearly sundown when Arnold arrived back at Mayor Farnsworth’s home, returning from his sojourn to the streets of Hearth. Walking straight into Arnold’s father in law’s office he opened the door and walked up to the desk of Mayor Farnsworth. “Arnold how are you feeling my son? I was told that you left today on your own.” Nodding, Arnold replied “I did leave Father, and the sights I witnessed were terrible. Our people are in dire circumstances and I feel we must do something to help them.” A flicker of some emotion Arnold did not recognize passed through Mayor Farnsworth’s face “Why we are doing everything we can Arnold. Have I not already told this to you? These years have been hard on everyone and while I have tried my best I can only do so much to alleviate the pain of of our townsfolk. Now if everyone were to put in there best effort I know that we would manage much better.” “Father there are people, Our People, dying on the street. Surely there is something we can do to help them, maybe we can afford to cut taxes enough to let them gain money and support themselves.” As arnold said these words Mayor Farnsworth stood up violently, his gray brow furrowed and his belly, portly before but now grotesquely so, shook as he stood to his full height. “There will be no more talk of this do you hear me! The air must have made your mind sick Arnold; go now find your wife and let her deal with you.” Arnold and the Mayor faced each other down for a moment, each one having fury painted on their faces. Arnold, however, submitted to his Father in law, and made his way out of the study.
Finding his wife in the living room Arnold took her hands in his own. They were cold. “Anilisa darling, please sit down I have much to discuss with you.” “What is it my dearest? What bothers you so?” anilisa spoke as the sat down. “As you must know I went to town today.” “Yes I do. What motivated you to leave the house alone? You know that there are heathens out there that would not think twice to harm you.” Shock sprung to Arnold’s face. “Heathens!? Anilisa those are our own people how could you say such an awful thing. They all came to our wedding, don’t you remember? What would ever inspire you to call the people who have adored you heathens?” For the first time in all their years married Arnold witnessed Anger Find its way to Anilisa’s face. “How can I call them heathens Arnold; Just look at them! They are dirty, rude, and uncivilized. They are greedy and everything you and my dear father have done for them has never satisfied them. That is how I can call them heathens.” “You will not talk this way about my kind!” Arnold stood up, his anger turning his whole face to scarlett. “They must truly be your kind because you are acting like a fool and a tyrant!” Arnold turned, and marching out of the room slammed the door with a crack.
Laying in bed, as he had done for many years, Arnold watched the clock strike midnight. Anilisa and Arnold had long ago agreed to sleep separately. The reasoning then, He had believed, was that Anilisa could not get any proper rest as Arnold tossed and turned, now Arnold suspected a different reason. Quietly making his way from his own bedroom to the Mayor’s study he slid across the cold marble. Opening the door he peered into the room, cautionary in case Mayor Farnsworth had stayed in his study for the night. Luck was on Arnold’s side, for Mayor Farnsworth had gone to sleep early, his work done. Going to his desk Arnold opened every door searching for the Mayor’s journal. Arnold had almost given up when he noticed that one of the drawers had a loose bottom. Pulling at the board, it was revealed that the Journal had been hidden underneath. Taking extra measure to replace everything in its exact position, Arnold made his way back to his own room. Under candle light Arnold read the title. “Confessions” An apt name as Arnold would soon find out. The Journal’s contents revealed everything to Arnold, From the Mayor’s plans to have Anilisa marry him to His strangling taxes.
The next morning, as the People of Hearth woke up that next morning and when they made their way to the town center they found Arnold Culling, the town hero they had loved so long ago, standing with A journal. “My people. My friends. You have suffered for so long while I lied to you for so long, but no more. I have here with me mayor Farnsworth’s Journal. Inside is a detailed account of all the treachery he has knowingly committed using me as his pawn.” Arnold handed the book to the nearest villager, and one by one they all read the terrible book they had chanced upon.
Mayor Farnsworth sat in his study, a bottle of wine by his side. For the first time in his life he felt content. He had secured the legacy of his family, his name. Yes he had to sacrifice some in order to reach this point, but it was all for a purpose. There was a strange rumble outside, probably, Farnsworth thought, a fight or some other annoyance. The glass of the study suddenly burst. Rocks flew into the room hitting Mayor Farnsworth. He ran into the hall bewildered. What was happening? Servants were running about screaming, crying. This is madness, Mayor Farnsworth thought. The carriage. If he could get to the carriage he could escape. Running, he made it to the door when he saw the sea of people fury on their faces on his front lawn. Screaming the grabbed up the mayor and carried him to the middle of the courtyard and set him on his knees. Taking a blade from the mansion the last thing the mayor saw was the face of his Son in law, a mix of disgust and anger on his face.
Snakes of Our Hearth
Snakes of Our Hearth