What The Dickens


amato_icon.gif nora_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title What the Dickens
Synopsis Amato is drafted to expose a sampling of the Bannerman Castle children to a classic Christmas story.
Date December 15, 2010

Bannerman Castle: Dining Hall

The room converted into Bannerman's dining hall, although long and narrow, can accommodate up to one hundred people, but despite the amount of use that it sees, it isn't hooked up to the castle's electrical grid, which means that after dark it's lit up by gas lanterns strategically positioned on the wooden tables with bench-style seating that occupy the space. A giant hearth set into one of its walls provides the hall with additional light and warmth, as well as a place for the castle's residents to convene when it isn't in use during the hours when breakfast and dinner are being taken.

The walls themselves are bare stone with no decoration except for the four windows opposite the fireplace, and these are covered with heavy pieces of plain canvas cloth at night to prevent the light from leaking outside, where it might be visible from the shore or the air. During the day the canvas is pulled back to brighten the room and make the gas lanterns unneccessary, but on mornings and afternoons when the sky is overcast, there is very little to combat the gloom and so the fuel is burned anyway.

Below freezing temperatures and gusting winds are reasons in and of themselves for people to gather in the makeshift dining hall, where a fire crackling in the hearth and the light murmur of conversation can brighten any dreary night. Not far from the glow of the fire, kept relatively low to conserve fuel as well as limit their output into the black, winter night sky, Amato has pulled a chair. The piece of furniture, unlike the benches in the hall, afforded him some measure of privacy.

His long fingers curl around the old leather binding of a book undoubtedly taken with humble gratitude from the monastery, and when the fire pops and flashes, the elaborate, gilded letters pressed into the cover can be made out.

A Christmas Carol.

At one of the tables, Nora sits, her back up against a wall and knees tight to her chest, arms wrapped around them. The raggedy but warm wool sweater she wears is too long, the cuffs covering most of her hands; where the seam of the cuffs has pulled away in the second-hand item, her thumbs poke through, making them serve as gloves. She stares unseeingly into the fire; the flickering flames appear in tiny miniature in the dark mirrors of her blind eyes. After a few moments, she heaves a sigh of ennui as only a teenage girl can.

Below freezing temperatures and gusting winds are not reasons why Jensen Raith is not outside doing work, and not reasons why he isn't on the mainland doing other things he must do. But they're good enough that he'll happily give them to anyone that asks. So far, no one has, and for the moment, the dining hall is as good a place as any. In fact, since it's not outside, it's actually better than many.

His entrance is accompanied by his usual surveying of the crowd. Unsurprisingly, his attention is drawn to the fire, and by consequence, to Amato Salucci, who looks less beaten up than he did some days earlier. Then, of course, there's… Nora? That was her name, right? So many faces to pin names to. Standing in the door, however, isn't helping him do anything. And it's with that in mind that he strides towards the flames- stepping around children and adults alike as he does- and makes himself known: "And how're your noses today?"

Amato looks up from his book, the bandage on his own nose reduced to a simple brace to keep the bones in line in their final stages of healing. The bruising has already reached it's darkest phase and has made the turn around that particular bend. Amato's smile for Raith is more in line with a smirk, and his nod is a curt sort of jerk of his chin that is delivered before he turns to look to Nora, resting the book on his lap - a somewhat faded illustration of a street scene with boys dancing around a street lamp filling one side of the spread.

"Better," he says once he's established that Nora's face is as unmarred by violence as it was the last time he saw it. "It is good to know that even you rest, even if it is occasionally." Once the sun is set and the sheep returned to their makeshift bier, there's little for Amato to do but lend a hand where he's needed in the castle - tonight, at this hour, the need to settle in with a bit of reading has taken precedence over the initiative to grab a broom and sweep out corners with only a marginal amount of dust or dirt lurking there.

The children sitting in front of the fireplace look up, some shyer ducking back to the books or coloring they are doing in front of the toasty hearth, though one pipes up, "My nose is snuffly!" Apparently that one has a cold.

Nora's chin rises slightly, head turning toward Raith's voice, eyes lifting to where his head should be, though the gaze is just a shade off kilter.

"Evening, Mr. Raith," she says, managing to identify him by voice. "I think my nose is okay, but not being able to check its appearance, I can only go by feel. And how is yours?"

"Oh, my nose is doing alright," Raith replies, "And it's good to hear that Mister Salucci's is doing better. It was smashed pretty good last I saw him." But that's all about noses. "So, is it literature night? Everyone gather 'round the fire for a story? Because if that's not what's happening, it sounds like a good idea, I think. Who else thinks?" Resting or not, Raith is still a rabble rouser. Although what rabble he is trying to rouse, and for what end, remain presently unknown. All told, however, it's not shaping up well for Amato, who is presently holding a book containing a story.

Nora's brows knit together — it's much easier to read her facial expressions when she's not wearing black sunglasses. They are folded up and on the table next to her mug of coffee for the time being. "How'd your nose get smashed up?" she asks, something aggressive in her voice, as if she might go after the perpetrator of the crime to show him what for — only, what's the thin little blind girl going to do against someone like Ethan?

She doesn't have anything to say on the the topic of literature, but the kids do. "Yeah! Tell us a story!" the younger ones begin to clamor, while the older try not to look interested; Paul glancing up toward Amato curiously, Lance yawning though he does crane his head to try to see the title of the book.

"Oh, it's just that Christmas story — don't you have anything good, like with murder mysteries or maybe zombies?" he asks.

Amato's eyes widen at Raith's suggestion, and when the children abandon their coloring and other hearth activities to clamor to be read to, he sits a little straighter in his chair. He looks to Nora, then back to Raith. "It's mending," he assures her, both waving off the question for the time being and assuring her it's nothing worth worrying about.

"Technically," Amato says to Paul with narrowed eyes that border on conspiratorial. "But I do not think a certain someone would be very happy with me reading out of that particular book." He ponders for a moment, turning the pages back to the frontspiece that shows the elderly Scrooge cowering before the chained and bandaged apparition of Jacob Marley. "I imagine you saw it on television once, did you?" Looking to Raith again, the blond shepherd sneaks him a wink, then nods toward Nora in a silent, subtle invitation for the pair to join the group in a more official fashion.

Raith can't help but give a chuckle. If you go by technicalities, then yes, the Bible does contain both murder mysteries and zombies. Sort of. "Oh, everyone's seen it on television. Maybe the Disney version with Scrooge McDuck in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Fine television, I assure you, but." Join the group more formally Raith does, steeping in just a bit closer and kneeling down by the fire. "Does it hold a candle to the original, the real story of Ebenezer Scrooge? Are you a bad enough dude to find out?"

"I saw the Muppet one, when I was little," Paul says, making sure that his comrades know it was so long ago. "I like the part where the rat lands on the goose."

The smaller kids giggle and Lucy demands, "Are there rats in that book?"

Nora smiles a little to herself, reaching for her mug, hand moving out carefully so as not to knock it over before curling around it to lift to her lips. "That's the one where his heart's six sizes too small and he has to carve the roast beast, right?" she throws over from her corner.

"That's the Grinch, Noraaaa," protests Mala.

Amato leans slightly closer to Paul and tilts his head before he speaks again in a stage whisper. "I heard this story when I was very young, but I still enjoy it. And Jensen is right - the original is quite a bit different from ducks and puppets."

Sitting back in his chair, Amato takes a deep breath and thumbs past the frontspiece to the first page of text. It's been quite some time since he played storyteller, or even orator for that matter. Still, when your audience is made of children, it isn't too difficult to slip into the role of tapestry weaver for another's imagination. "If we're all in agreement then," he says peering over the edge of the book before glancing at Paul again. "Marley's Ghost. Marley was dead-" Amato pauses, and quirks an eye upward before he adds, "To begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker and the chief mourner." Slowly, Amato's strange lilt takes on a more conversational tone, as Dickens may very well have intended when he first put pen to page. "Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

There is a small part of Raith that wishes to exclaim, 'Story time!' regardless of how inappripriate it might be to come out of a mouth as old as his. Inappropriate, in the tone he would deliver it with. Instead, he keeps quiet, and settles in to listen. Associating with children is bound to do him some good: After all, though his could be counted a child only barely, any experience he can get is bound to be relevant, and useful.

The story promises to be a good one, filled with dark visions and dread specters enough to satisfy the zombie-craving appetite of anyone listening in as the fire burns on, warm and pleasantly crackling. And if, by chance, it doesn't go well, they can always fall back on their life stories as spies working against a villain straight out of a James Bond film.

Truth is stranger, they say. But sometimes, it's just strange enough.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License