The Girl Who Laughs: Chapter 3

The Northermost Temple of Droll

Sister Agatha was on a rampage, storming down the stone hallways of the Keep, her cloak billowing as if blown by a gale. She muttered to herself, “Where is that damned girl? It is the first of the month, and the ungracious brat knows that she should report to the eldest Sister for the list of her assigned duties. If matters were left to that batty old woman, Mother Cecilia, then nothing would get done. It is up to me to make sure the Temple is running smoothly. I can’t just get drunk and talk to myself! I can’t sit in my bed and eat pastries all day! I can’t preen in front a mirror like a potentate! I need to be the pillar of strength for this place. I have to make sure the food is grown or purchased. I need to make sure the coffers are counted, and the peasants are given their tokens. I need to do everything because no one else will do anything. How dare she not report to me!” the volatile Nun raged in frustration.

Skidding along the worn cobbles, the tall woman came to a halt at a door with ancient runes inscribed into the iron hinges. She raised a bony hand and knocked fiercely, her eyes boring into the wood. She wished she could figure out how the fat Nun evoked the wards in the door. It would be much more satisfying to barge in and scare the lazy resident into choking on a bone.

Inaudible words were spoken, and the door whispered open, revealing the overweight nun reclining in her bed. Sister Bernice brushed crumbs off from between her voluminous bosom and regarded her counterpart with a look of annoyance.

“What can I help you with Sister?”

“Have you seen the young Veronica?” Agatha asked as she craned her long neck to look about the spacious room. The chamber was decorated in old tapestries, dusty and dull in their depictions of the plain deity, Droll. Yet it was comfortable and warm, with a huge fire burning in an ornate hearth and the afternoon sun pouring through the tall windows.

The stoic Nun shuddered with contempt at the comfort that Bernice gave herself. A Sister of Droll should be devoted to apathy and live the lifestyle accordingly. She focused in on Bernice and demanded, “Well, have you?”

“I have not. Come to think of it, she should have been by earlier today. It is One Day and she usually comes to trim my toes,” Bernice said, adjusting her cumbersome weight. “Have you checked the stables? Sometimes she goes out there to visit the boy. Now there is a fine young man, very gracious. He’s such a hard worker and when he works up a sweat…”

Agatha interrupted, “Sister, please! None of your foolish daydreams about the stable boy. Yes, I went to the stables, and the kitchen and all of the places that brat usually sulks around in. She’s nowhere to be found. The only place I haven’t looked is the Mother’s room.”

“Well I haven’t seen her. Perhaps she has gone into the forest. She could be searching for mushrooms or wild sprouts. Hmm, I wonder if Alice could prepare a mushroom soup for dinner?” Bernice mused.

“She’s never gone out to the forest alone before. Alice is in the kitchen baking bread. Usually they go together.”

Bernice perked up at the mention of fresh bread. “Maybe she went to Max’s cottage?”

“I doubt that. Even if she did, you know how he feels about her. She’d find an empty hovel and come back home,” Agatha sneered. “She’s up to something, I just know it. Lazy, ignorant brat. She has no appreciation for what we have done for her. None what so ever!”

Bernice shrugged and tried to gain control of the conversation. “Agatha, what is the mantra of Droll?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Agatha fumed.

“Everything, my dear. Say the words…”

“Neither judge,” the lean nun humphed, “condemn,” she sneered, “or assist as fate may be for Lord Droll is waiting patiently with you,” she concluded. Then with a sigh added, “Its malarkey, you know, Droll has not once, in all my years, ever even acknowledged us, his most loyal servants.”

“Exactly,” Bernice said calmly, “but you know, as well as I do, that sometimes actions are needed. Please have a seat, I’d like to discuss a proposal I have received from the Duke of Penthrye concerning Alice.”

The two Sisters settled in for a long discussion.

***

Veronica had waited in the shadows of a storage closet until Sister Agatha had left her quarters. The Nun had a permanent scowl and a disproportionate rage for someone with so slight a frame. The young girl feared her rather than carrying the simple dislike as she did with the other Sisters. Someday when she was bigger, Veronica intended to find out why Sister Agatha hated her so. But that would have to wait until Veronica was older.

Approaching the plain door she hoped that Agatha was in such a hurry that she neglected to lock her chambers. There had not been the clink of keys or the click of a lock when the door had slammed. She only heard the whisper of booted feet and the gentle flapping of a skirt.

Veronica tested the simple latch and was rewarded when it opened without challenge. However, she tensed as the iron hinges made shuddering screeches. Glancing about in fear that Agatha would come gliding down the hall, like a wraith to take her soul, Veronica slipped into the room and quickly closed the door.

The room was barren and cold, much like its occupant. The dark haired girl smiled crookedly at the sparse décor, the lack of adornment and almost sterile environment. This was the room of a true believer, one devoted to a lifestyle of apathy. There were no comforts or personal touches, not that Sister Agatha has much of a personality. A plain cot with a worn wool blanket and a chamber pot that looked like it has never been used rested in the corner. On the wall, opposite the cot, stood a plain pine wardrobe which Veronica opened in hopes of finding what she sought; the missing keys to the Keep. Sister Agatha was the self-appointed administrator of the Temple and procured the keys at some point during her reign.

In the wardrobe was a spare Habit and traveling cloak, clean undergarments and woolen socks. Veronica sighed in disappointment as she closed the doors, taking care to make sure they stayed closed. She was frustrated that the prize she sought was not sitting neatly in the wardrobe. The sparse room also didn’t appear to have any other hiding places.

Veronica was disheartened and at a loss. How was she going to gain access to the locked portions of the Temple if she didn’t have the keys to the doors? Should she take the direct approach and simply ask Sister Agatha? Somehow that didn’t feel right. There was a feeling deep inside Veronica that told her it was not wise to advertise what Mother Cecilia has charged her with. Where would someone go to find a book? Veronica headed for the door, hoping that it will not protest too much as she made her escape. She was angry at herself because she thought it would be as simple as borrowing some keys and opening a lost library where she could enter and ask, “Is the book I seek in here?”

She halted abruptly realizing that the library is where she should have started in the first place.

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About tummymullens


8 responses to “The Girl Who Laughs: Chapter 3

  • J. A. Platt

    Heh. I like that the lazy brat is actually a girl on a mission.

    This: It would be much more satisfying to barge in and scare the lazy resident into choking on a bone. was hilariously uncharitable.

    • Chad Mullens

      I try to make things amusing for the reader. I submitted this story to Web Fiction Guide, so there will be weekly posts to it. It’s not really sci-fi, so I don’t know if I’ll keep posting on io9 (though no one seems to mind). Thanks for reading it 🙂

      • ravendemyseri

        It does seem fantasy enough though, which fits the bill. I am not sure that is what you are going for, but there is a touch of magic about it, a mysterious book that is being sought at the command of a god….

        Good stuff again, Small critique:

        rested on the western wall. On the wall, opposite the cot, stood a plain pine wardrobe which Veronica opened it in hopes of finding what she sought; the missing keys to the Keep

        On the wall twice in such close proximity, maybe against in one case? and also strike the ‘it’ after opened, it makes the sentence clunky.

      • tummymullens

        Edits applied. Thank you for reading and giving comments. I appreciate it very much.

  • icallshogun

    I am really digging this story. I have no critique to offer, it seems pretty smooth at this point.

    Not sure if I should read ahead or wait for you to post them in the Thursday Tales, though…

  • Constella Espj (@alphabete)

    Wow, I left a comment and then some bad thing happened and it vanished! Okay, here goes again 😀

    First, tiny little technical things:
    “between her voluptuous bosom” might better be rendered wth “voluptuous bosoms”
    “what so ever” “whatsoever”
    “chamber pot…has never been used” = had never been
    “advertise what Mother Cecilia has charged” = had charged
    “headed for the door, hoping it will not protest” = would not

    Now that that’s finished, on to the good parts. I LOVE the contrast between Sisters Bernice and Agatha. I really enjoyed how Bernice, the gourmand, seems completely opposite to Agatha, who I envision as having a pointy nose and pointy fingers. The entire concept of the Droll mantra being basically “mind your own business” is so great because it seems so different than how religious orders usually work. Along with that, I enjoy how Bernice’s room and Agatha’s room are different, implying there is no convent-esque requirement of austerity. This is another little touch that I think really brings this environment to life, and I’m curious to see where the next chapter leads Veronica, and me.

  • Lil dragon

    Good chapter. It flowed well for the most part and carried the story forward.
    Why didn’t the door squeek when the sister left her room. Why wouldn’t Veronica know about the squeeky hinge if she has lived there all her life and that was a door that was used every day?

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