Story for the Day: The Impediment
Guards have their uses: they do guard things occasionally. They simply cannot guard and stop a coup all at once:
Leaning on his spear and dozing away, completely insensible of the coup that was about to
“Ah doant believe it,” said he, running his fingers through his cropped hair. “Hou can a man with onlae wan theng tae dae fall asleep daein’ it?”
“Exactly the point I made to him when I came in,” said Danaco, emerging from the shadows behind him. “You see here what indolence does. It makes one a drooling dollop.”
The guard unconsciously slottered and wiped his mouth on the backs of his hands.
“By Myrellenos, he is as useful as the drapery. Awake, you slumbering simkin,” the captain announced, with a stamp of his foot, “that you might do your job credibly this time and pretend to be in impediment.”
The guard was shaken awake, and once the first confusion of consciousness was over, he said a languid, “…Huh?” and stared at the captain as though he were an invention of his sleeping mind.
“We are taking over this vessel,” Danaco announced. “I have freed everyone in the brig, and we mean to march on the crew’s quarters, so you may stand aside and keep your life, or stand in our way and be deboned.”
The guard made a few pandiculations, and then, gawping at the captain and then at Houghleidh and then at the captain again, he stood at attention and stared at Danaco with a vicious aspect. “You’re not trying to escape, are you?”
“Well, I certainly am not trying to escape,” said Danaco, “as I was never a prisoner from the first. This young man, however,” motioning to Houghleidh beside him, “is already escaped and means to arrange you across the jib should you decide to stand in his way.”
The guard whirled round in a heroic flourish and brandished his spear at Houghliedh. “Back to your cell, slave!” he cried, waving the tip of his spear threateningly about.
Houghleidh glaced at the spear, grinned to himself, and then glanced at the captain. “Am Ah supposed tae hurt hem?”
“Well, that would be part of his job,” said the captain. “At last he is doing it, which was more than he was doing when I came in this way. I did say pretend to be an impediment, sir. You do not need to be one truly. You might stand aside and spare yourself from having your limbs rearranged.”
There was a pause. The guard remained where he was, grinding his teeth and thrusting his spear forward, and Danaco sighed and rolled his eyes, thoroughly unimpressed.
“Perhaps you did not hear me under that helm of yours. I said you may stand aside, sir. You have done your duty well enough, now be very good and let us pass. I do admire your indomitable spirit, sir, and your ability to remember what it is you were hired for, but if you stand aside now, I need not make good on my promises to paint the hull with your entrails.”
The guard folded his arms and humphed. “You won’t see me moving.”
“Nobody shall see you do much of anything beyond swinging back and fort from the hull gap by your colon.”
“I’m not going anywhere—“ but a sudden smack, a blur of motion, and the guard was thrown through the hole in the hull, his feet just visible as he careened, his voice crying out and diminishing as plummeted to the sea far below. There was a tinkling sound of something dashing into the waves, and only the rataplan rote of the waves thrashing against the vessel was heard.
“By Myrellenos, what just happened?” Danaco asked, looking about in confusion. “Was that you? Did you just fling him overboard?”
“Aye, Ah swiped him,” said Houghleidh proudly.
“Had you? I saw nothing. I did not even see your hand move across me. My, you are ferocious fast if you can fell a man without my noticing. I say, my friend, have you had any formal training at all?”
Houghleidh scratched his head. “Ah’ve thrown bales o’ hay bigger than the size o’ tha’ guard.”
“Your time as an illegitimate labourer has done well for you certainly. Well, as our chief impediment is gone, would you lead on?”
“I’m not an impediment!” cried a spluttering voice from below.
“Oh,” said Danaco, peering over the side of the vessel, “are you still there?”
Houghliedh leaned over Danaco and looked down to find the guard hanging at the bottom of the vessel by the butt of his staff.
“I’m not an impediment,” the guard demanded, grunting and pulling himself closer to the hull.
“Well, you certainly are no impediment where you are now,” Danaco called down to him. “You are not swinging by the might of your entrails, as I predicted, but you are out of the way.”
“I’m still refusing to allow you to advance. You aren’t allowed to take those slaves from the brig!” The guard gave a great heave and hauled himself onto the butt of his spear. “Put them back or I will run you through!”
“You do that, my friend, and you will find yourself in the frigid waters below you. How do you mean to run me through without plucking your spear from the side of this ship?”
The guard opened his mouth to retort, paused momentarily to think, and then pursed his lips and glunched. “I’ll think of something.”
“How provoking you are.".
“Where do you think you’re going?” the guard cried, desperately trying to pull himself up to the gap by leveraging the spear. “You can’t just leave the brig with a slave!”
“Notice,” said Danaco as he followed Houghleidh, “that this young man wears no chains and is no longer in the brig, and is therefore no longer under your jurisdiction.”
A pause here. The guard hung about in confusion, and then shouted up to the captain, “How do you figure that?”
“Your job is to keep any slave from escaping the brig, is not it?”
“Well, if he make himself a free man by wearing no chains and leaving on his own accord, I am not stealing him and he is not a slave. I make no transgression, and your reputation as exemplary guard still stands.”
It was true: if the man did not bare the semblance of a slave and if no one were breaking him out of his cell, reason commanded that the man must be at liberty, and if that were the case, which it apparently must be, then he could not be angry with the captain. “Well, I suppose it isn’t so bad then,” the guard decided.
“And besides, we have left you some slaves in the brig to look after, though I will tell you that if you mean to hang about at your ease, they will leave on their own, so you had better hurry in scampering up the hull.”
The guard, angry and bemused, began to claw at the slight grooves between the ship’s planks in an effort to scale them, and Danaco wished him the very best of luck as he followed Houghliedh into the hall leading to the crews’ quarters, behind him the thirty men and women who came prepared to fight for their full emancipation, ignoring the guard shouting at them to return to the brig directly by the way.