As I said in my earlier post. I went through several ideas before settling on the one I actually used for my writing assignment I posted on-line. This scene is backstory for one of my main characters. In my most recent revision of my manuscript I deleted the reference to this even happening. It's a quick character sketch of these four boys who grow up together. Three are cousins and seem to get along fairly well. But when the minstrel's son starts hanging out with them, trouble is stirred up.
Now, the assignment was for only 500 words and we were to leave it unresolved. I'll put a mark there so you'll see where I cut it off.
But it's no fun to be left hanging. So I continue the scene in 184 more words.
As he caught up, Neil sent a prayer to St. Mark for longer legs before summer’s end. It wasn’t so much being last, it was…
“Why do we even let him come with us?”
“It’s his father’s land, Giles”
Giles. Ever since the tall minstrel boy had come to the valley, he had somehow convinced Neil’s older cousins that he was a swaddled babe. John the Baptist’s camel hair shirt couldn’t have chafed worse than the three years between his court-bred cousins and him; Neil the Nit. The taunts had started last week, the easy camaraderie of earlier summers melting like snow in April.
“Nit! See if you can climb as high!” Dolf called from up in the chestnut tree.
Neil looked over at Giles. He looked a bit nervous. Good. “Nay, let’s see who can climb the highest!” He would win for sure.
Giles spat. “Climbing trees is stale as week-old bread. Let’s go down to the barns instead. I hear the newest dairymaid is rather free with her kisses.”
Neil felt his breath catch. He watched the interest flit across Dolf and Henri’s faces, and ran. He dashed quick as a deer through the forest, jumped the stone wall enclosing the fields and raced through the knee-high green barley.
Reaching the barnyard, Neil clung to the gatepost as he caught his breath. He turned and watched the three trailing through the field. His heart beat faster.
He must convince them to leave the dairymaids alone. Those girls had welcomed him into the warm barn since he was small, when he’d tried to escape the stiff manners and disappointment of the manor. They’d given him cups of warm frothy milk and rumpled his hair.
But older lads seemed to think the dairymaids were only there for kisses and fun in the hay. Neil finally stopped going by the barns when he’d overheard Nina tell a lad no, with words, slaps, screams and finally tears. He’d run then, too, covering his ears.
As he watched Giles, Dolf and Henri swagger closer, he wondered when their arms and shoulders had started broadening. They wore their thirteen years like impenetrable armor. He gulped, but stood firmly before the gate, planting his fists against his hips to make him look bigger. He felt like a ten-year-old David facing three Goliaths.
“The dairymaids are under my father’s protection. You’ll not touch them.”
Giles grinned. “What have we here? A little cockerel guarding his henhouse?”
“You leave those girls be.” Neil heard the shrillness in his words. He hardened his jaw and his voice. “All of you.”
Dolf smiled down at him. Henri only lifted an eyebrow. Giles sauntered forward.
“Keepin’ them all for yourself, little Lordling?” The jealousy dripped from his words.
“They can say no to you, Giles. But they can’t deny the Prince.” He turned his pleas to Dolf. “Don’t do this.”
Neil watched Dolf begin to reconsider, but Giles pushed past.
“They can’t say no if we pin ‘em down.”
Desperately, Neil snatched at Giles tunic, pulling them both down. He got in a good jab to his eye before the minstrel boy bloodied his nose. Neil tried to ignore the hurt, but his eyes were watering. He pounded his fist against Giles’ face until the lad rolled off.
Quick as he could, Neil jumped to his feet, blinking. Giles was curled on the ground, but Dolf was coming at him. Neil put the week's frustration behind his swing. He heard a crack and pain blossomed across his knuckles.
“Hey!” Dolf howled, backing away. “I wasn’t really going to…”
Neil’s breath hissed out, and he shook his hand, trying to relieve the needles of pain. He looked over at Henri. The oldest boy just held his hands up in mock surrender.
“I’ll not tangle with you, Nit. The dairymaids are safe from me.” He watched the other two clutching their bloody noses. “I doubt they’ll cause trouble in the barn. I’ll keep an eye on Dolf for you.” Henri surveyed Giles, now struggling to stand. “It’s yon minstrel you’ll want to be tending to.”