It was raining when they came. Four brutes on horseback spraying mud and scattering roadside beggars into sewer filled gutters. Children scurried into dark, smoky huts; frantic dogs howled while villagers screamed as thunderous hooves crashed by. These men were from the King, and they had arrived at their destination.
With steam rising in a fog from his grey steed, the leader of the band dismounted. It was a place he’d been before.
‘Get out here wench before we burn the whole rotting village!’ he demanded, preparing his scarred sword in readiness.
Slowly the door creaked open. Warily, a young girl inched her way out of the shadows. In her arms she clutched a gurgling infant. Alluring, unnervingly beautiful, but barely older than a child herself, she stood trembling.
‘Don’t hurt her, please sirs I begs,’ she grovelled.
In nearby doorways staring eyes retreated further into the safer depths of darkness. The captain moved in to pluck the wriggling child from his mother’s arms. A fearsome backhanded slap sent the young woman sprawling into the mud, blood oozing from her fatted lip. A mouthful of his spit followed into her already swelling eye.
‘Pick her up!’ the captain screamed in the direction of his second.
As the rain continued to beat down the skies greyed suddenly; thunder claps moved ever closer. Hurrying the woman and child onto horseback, the party left the village as they’d found it: cowering in fear and respect.
At the castle the King watched from his quarters as the Royal Guard finally returned. Behind them the gates were firmly bolted – his seat secured for the night. Feet away an open fire flickered and roared as a stooping manservant shuffled in with his supper.
‘Has my Queen retired for the night?’ he asked.
‘She has, Sire.’
‘Good. Bring the woman and child to me,’ he said, nodding towards the drenched arrivals in the courtyard.
He knew one would have to die; he’d known it since the child was born.
These 333 words, based on the archaic third definition of the word ‘pluck‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 105 writing challenge.