This is a Sunday Photofictioner post inspired by Al Forbe’s picture. I suspect it’s a little over the usual word limit but I can’t bring myself to check. Incidentally, if you like this, you may be interested to know I’m putting the finishing touches to A collection of short stories. Apologies for the plug but if the sales of my novel are anything to go by, it’ll need all the help it can get.
(By the way, there are two swearwords in this and an inaccurate statement about the history of one of them.)
It had always felt strange, thought Lewis, to get out of the van, still dressed in the historical gear. It was more convenient, he supposed, but it still rankled. There was no room for anachronism in historical reenactment, he’d always found. Lee pulled into the car park, left the engine running. He hadn’t spoken since they left the battlefield, still smarting from Lewis’s claim that the swords they were using had become obsolete during the reign of Edward IV. Lee had tried the old canard about it being a bit of fun but Lewis hadn’t been having any of it. This was the Battle of Flodden Field, after all, one of the decisive events in Anglo-Scottish relations; to take liberties with its reenactment would be a form of sacrilege.
“We’re here,” grunted Lee after a protracted silence.
Lewis nodded, not saying anything. He looked out: a keep, fourteenth century by the look of it, surrounded by a flat, empty field.
“Nice,” he remarked, eventually.
“Aye,” said Lee, adding, when Lewis didn’t reply, “We best get on. Geoff’ll be waiting.”
Lee got out, and Lewis followed. He was surprised to see they weren’t travelling to the keep, but to a small, stone barn, stationed some way to the left. The was a door, wooden and rotting. Lee knocked, then entered without waiting for an invitation.
Geoff was waiting, dressed in a fifteenth century nobleman’s costume. “You came, then Lewis?” he said, “Lee here was telling me you were hankering after a little more authenticity.”
Lewis nodded. “I’ve always thought these things needed to be done properly.”
Geoff smiled sagely, “Whereas I bet Lee tried to tell you it’s just a chance for a piss up with like-minded men.” Lewis shrugged, in such a way as to make it clear he agreed. Across from them both, Lee bristled silently. “Well, believe it or not, you and he aren’t so dissimilar in your outlook after all.” There was a pause, rather ominous, before Geoff continued, “Follow me, Gents.”
Geoff turned, looking faintly ridiculous in his outfit and walked into an adjoining room, boots tapping out a sinister tango on the cobbles. The others followed.
The second room was smaller, windowless and illuminated by candle. There was a smell of damp and bat shit and a chill in the air which didn’t fit with the season. None of this, Lewis quickly realised, particularly mattered when, at the centre of the room, was a young woman trussed to a set of stocks. From her protests, and look of the terror on her pretty face, it was apparent she wasn’t a willing participant.
“What the…?” Asked Lewis, whilst, in the background,
Geoff coughed. “This, my friends, is Sophie. Only, tonight be playing the part of Anne Boleyn.”
In the shadows, Lee chuckled. “For one night only, if you get what I mean.”
“Don’t be too eager,” said Geoff, “I think our newest member ought to get first dibs.” He turned his gaze to the wall, where an array of axes was fixed. “You know the story, of course, Lew. Ann here’s been found guilty of adultery and incest and the courts have passed a sentence of death. You’ll know what to do by now.”
“But,” stuttered Lewis, “You can’t mean, not really?”
Lee cut in, “What’s wrong? I thought you prized historical accuracy.”
“But this is demented.”
Geoff shook his head, a grave look on his face. “Not getting cold feet, I hope, Lew? Because that’d be treason. And Lee’ll be only too happy to show you what happens to traitors.”
Lewis looked over at Lee, saw his one-time rival had taken one of the axes from the wall.
“Fuck,” said Lewis, the world coming out involuntarily.
Geoff shook his head, “Now, Lew, you know as well as I do, there’s no recorded use of that word before the 17th century.”. In spite of everything Lewis felt disappointed in himself, but Geoff wasn’t done. The older man reach over to the wall, handed him an axe and said, “So, my friend, what’s it to be?”
Lewis took the axe in his hands, studied it for a moment. There was something satisfying about the weight of it. Whilst he thought about what he needed to do, he felt a perverse relief to see the design was historically accurate.