The Marvelous March to Completion: Day Seven: Sebastian had friends now!

Dear Reader,

When I first sat down to expand the brief story of Sebastian in Hilsbac into a full fledged novel, I knew I would have to add in a quite a few characters to make the town interesting and the book readable.  Tonight I’m happy to introduce three new characters!  Thomas, Lydia, and Theresa, who hold the very great honor of being Sebastian’s very own scooby-gang.  They won’t feature HEAVILY in the overall story, but I want them to be vivid and memorable.  Let me know what you think!

friends1

With as much speed as stealth would allow him, Sebastian darted up the stairs, sewing kits forgotten in his desperation.  He panted when he reached the top of the stairs and was immediately greeting by the sharp voice of Lydia, who managed to sound angry no matter what she said, “Sebastian!  That’s a relief!  Tell Theresa there isn’t any such word as sig-hot!”

Sebastian felt like he had slammed into an invisible social wall and all his secret urgency had tumbled to the ground around him like dropped marbles.  He stammered and looked around the upstairs sitting room, spotting Lydia first, her brown hair caught into a loose ponytail as always, sitting on a wooden chair turned backwards, so that her legs spread around the chairback.  Somehow she managed to make this openness seem accusatory, in a vague challenging-the-room sort of way.

From Lydia it wasn’t hard to find Thomas, whose feet were snuggled under the girl’s left thigh. He was using the butt end of an old violin bow to stir the coals in the small upstairs fireplace while cradling the violin itself in the crook of his raised knees, which were pressed together almost daintily, a reverse image of Lydia’s aggressive chair straddling.

Theresa, who was several years older than Lydia, Thomas, and Sebastian, was lounging on the long sofa against the far wall, her feet kicked up onto the cushioned arm, her face covered by an open book and both her arms resting over the sizable lump of her belly.  Her voice was muffled but her irritation was not when she said, “How would you know if sig-hot is a word Lydia!  You haven’t even bothered to learn your letters, much less how to read!”

Sebastian opened his mouth, desperate to share his burning secret with the only three people in the world he could possibly share a secret with, but Lydia pounced on Theresa’s reply, “You don’t have to know how to read to know how to speak, Theresa!”

Theresa plucked the book off her face and snapped it shut for effect, “Yea well making fun of the person reading your dumb knight stories to you isn’t a great way to get the person to keep reading is it, Lydia?!”

Theresa almost shouted her response, and Sebastian danced back and forth between his feet, waiting for a change to intervene, but it was Thomas’ turn to slide into the conversation, his feathery soft voice somehow slipping into the air just a hair faster than Sebastian, “You two should stop fighting…you’re gonna upset Valerian.”

Lydia gaped at Thomas, “Val-what now?”

Thomas rolled his eyes and picked up the violin from his knees, idly fiddling with the tuning pegs, “I’ve decided to call Theresa’s passenger Valerian.  After the great bard.  You know?  Valerian the wise?”

Theresa stroked the bulging curve in her belly and sighed, “Thomas, we have no way to know if it’s a boy or a girl.”

Thomas shrugged his shoulders and plucked one of the strings on the violin which made a high pitched tink and said, “I guess he kicks like a boy to me.”

Lydia socked Thomas on his knee and said, “Hey!  Girls can kick just fine.”

Sometimes when the conversations between his friends steamrolled past him Sebastian didn’t mind at all.  It gave him time to work quietly on Theresa’s clothes, which Elda had hired him to make alterations on in order to accommodate her changing body.  Or he could sit and read through a passage in the next book he planned to have Theresa read aloud, picking out tricky words to make sure and listen for.  For while Elda was concerned with her wardrobe, Theresa wanted to alter her mind, so that when the baby was born she had a useful skill to teach it.  And reading was, for the very first time, becoming an important skill in the growing nation of Gregoria.

But now, Sebastian felt strangled by the casual ease with which the friends bickered and jibed one another.  He felt like every word was a tick on an enormous clock counting down the seconds he had left in which to accomplish his goal.  So as Thomas, now rubbing his punched knee, began a whining protest, Sebastian almost screamed, “Stop!”

All three turned to stare at Sebastian, who never shouted ever.  They collectively blinked as Sebastian looked from face to face, suddenly unsure exactly where to begin.  What he said was, “There’s a book about dragons!”

Lydia sniffed, “Has it got any knights in it?”

Sebastian crinkled his nose, “No.  Or, I mean, I don’t know.  That’s not…”

Theresa sat up on her elbows, swinging her legs down from the sofa arm, “Is it the next book you want me to try reading?  Cause I’m barely through this one and it’s pretty hard…”

Sebastian huffed and clenched his fists, which prompted Thomas to say, “Girls, let him speak.  What is it that’s got you so worked up Sebastian?”

Sebastian, the youngest of them by at least a winter, felt even younger as tears of frustration made the corners of his eyes dewy.  He blinked twice and took a breath and said, “Elda has a book on dragons.  In her room.  I want to get it.”

Lydia, who was nominally kept on as a housekeeper by Elda, but was really only here, like everyone else, because the old wealthy woman had little else to do with her fortune in the small town besides employ misfits, still felt it was her duty as a member of the staff to offer, “Oh, Elda doesn’t let anybody in her room.  Have you thought about just asking her for it?”

Sebastian shot Lydia a look which normally would have started at least a squabble if not an outright fight with the girl as he said, “I can’t ask her for it!”

Lydia snorted, “Sure you can.  It’s easy.  You say, Aunt Elda can I have your dragon book, the one in your bedroom please?”

Thomas, who spent time at Elda’s because she had approached his father about the boy’s infuriating obsession with the music produced by stringed instruments (instead of learning the family blacksmithing trade) and offered to pay him a stipend to develop his talents, still played the peacekeeper as he placed a hand on Lydia’s arm and said, “Slow down Lydia.  How come you can’t just ask her Sebastian?”

Sebastian’s shoulders slumped a little as he said, “Because she doesn’t want me to have it.”

Theresa, who had come to stay with Elda at the behest of some distant relative, who naturally wanted her current condition to resolve itself away from the prying eyes of friends and closer family, felt a twinge of concern, being the eldest, and as she sat fully upright on the sofa she frowned, “Why doesn’t she want you to have a book on dragons?”

Sebastian leaned against the banister and shot a glance down the stairs towards the room where he imagined Elda and Griot gulping down their last pot of tea.  He sighed, “Because Graybeard the peddler told her about my plan, I guess.  Which is ridiculous cause I haven’t told anyone about my plan!  I didn’t even know I had a plan really, till now.  Ohh…this is hopeless!  I just need that book!”

Lydia, who knew Graybeard mostly for his excellent renditions of the heroic deeds of seemingly countless knights, perked up at the mention of his name, “Graybeard is here?  That’s news!  He normally visits in the spring.”

Thomas, again patting Lydia, said, “And what’s all this about a plan Sebastian?  You certainly haven’t mentioned it to us…”

Theresa, always thinking practically, and feeling at that exact moment like her bulging baby belly would practically burst right out of her shirt, interjected, “Oh, is that an altered shirt Sebastian?  You can tell us all about your plan while I try it on for size.”

Sebastian felt his palms flush with a sudden cold sweat as his cheeks flashed suddenly bright red.  He took the crumpled blue shirt out from under his arm, and twisted it in his hands, “Oh..uh…no, this isn’t for you Theresa.  I…I was gonna make some alterations for you later.  But, wait, listen, we don’t have much time!”

Lydia, growing irritated with Sebastian’s indirect ramblings hopped up quickly, clearing the back of her backwards chair in a single bound and quickly snatching the shirt from the boy’s embarrassed hands, “Oh!  Hey…I know this color blue.  Doesn’t this shirt belong to…what’s his name?  Roland Baker!”

She threw a conspiratorial glance over her shoulder to Thomas, who rolled his eyes and set the violin down on the non-fireplace side of his own chair.  Sebastian made a desperate grab for the shirt, which Lydia both expected and saw out of the corner of her eye, allowing her to easily dance towards the middle of the room, saying with a gleeful tone, “So is Roland Baker’s shirt part of your plan to?”

Sebastian jumped up to try and grab the garment, saying, “Give that back Lydia!  That isn’t the point!  C’mon!  We have to hurry!”

Lydia, now laughing hysterically, and rather enjoying the rambunctious game of keep away she had started, lobbed the shirt at Thomas, who looked as if he were more likely to duck than catch the garment.  Sebastian watched the wadded blue fabric sailing both at Thomas and at the glowing embers of the fire behind him.  For that one instant he forgot about Elda and the dragon book, and could only stretch out his arms in vain towards the stolen shirt.

Fortunately for Sebastian, Thomas’ violin proved more adept at catching than he did, and Roland’s shirt snagged one sleeve on the neck of the instrument, halting its likely fatal fall into the fire.  Thomas, picking up the shirt and holding it out to Sebastian with a sour look turned towards Lydia, said, “Calm down Sebastian.  Lydia, be nice!  Now you’ve got to tell us what this plan is!”

Sebastian, while wadding the shirt up and shoving it once more safely under his arm, said a bit more loudly and simply than he imagined he would, “I wanna do something about the dragon!”

For the second time that day, and indeed, in their entire friendship thusfar, all three teenagers stared silently at Sebastian.  Finally, Thomas let out a hissing breath, and Theresa began to stroke her stomach as if trying to soothe the babe inside.  Lydia actually spoke first, saying, “The Dragon?  The ancient maiden eating Dragon of Hilsbac?  The one that barbequed Millie Cobblestop?  Why would you want to do something about it.  If you ask me, it’s roasting all the right people.”

Lydia, who was as unwelcome as Sebastian was in all the traditionally male activities of the village but because of her extreme and threatening talent at such things rather than Sebastian’s own incompetence, was a favored target of Millicent Cobblestop’s bored hatred.  Lydia was not troubled at all that the Dragon had left little more of her to bury than ash.  Thomas, more practically added, “Sebastian…what can you do about something like the Dragon?  Be sensible.  Nobody can do anything about the Dragon.”

Sebastian stuck out his chin, “I know nothing has worked in the past, but…but…the Dragon is acting weird now.  And I got to thinking about how some animals act weird if they are sick or hurt or in heat.  And I wondered if the Dragon might be that way now.  And if it is, and we figure out what the problem is…maybe we can use that knowledge to help out!  Plus, the Dragon hasn’t ever really killed before.  He just takes our stuff.  If he’s killing now…well what if…what if one of my sisters gets picked?  Or…or Lydia?  I’ve just gotta try!”

Lydia sat back down, a frown on her face.  She hadn’t really thought of the next choosing.  Now that she did, she felt the bottom drop out of her stomach.  Theresa, being exempt from the choosing since she was both with child and not from the village itself, asked, “What kind of information were you hoping to find?”

Sebastian looked up and shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know.  But I figured if anybody would know something special about dragons it’d probably be Elda.  She had that adventurer husband and all.  And…and!”  Here Sebastian stepped forward, “Listen to this!  Graybeard found me in an alley…I…well I was getting beat up by Gregor and his friends.  But anyway, that isn’t the weird part.  When I left to come up here, I happened to hear Elda and Graybeard talking, and Graybeard sent Elda a letter and told her I’d come looking for a book on dragons, and told her to hide it so I wouldn’t get any information.  And Elda told him she hid the book under her pillow!  Now they’re drinking one more pot of tea, and that’s all the time I’ve got to get that book!”

There was a long pause in which nothing and no one, not even the air, seemed to move in the room.  Then, all at once, Thomas got up off his chair, picked up his violin and ash-stained bow and began to walk towards the stairs.  Sebastian moved instinctively to bar his path, “Wait, where are you going?”

Without pausing, Thomas replied cooly, “One pot of tea is hardly enough time for Lydia to pick the lock on Elda’s bedroom.  I’ve been practicing a sonata that will take at least ten minutes to perform.  That’ll give you extra time.  Elda likes to show me off anyway.  If I start playing the Knight’s Ballad though, it means they’re done, so listen and be quick.”

Lydia jumped to her feet, “Hey wait a second!  Who said anything about picking locks?”

Thomas’ words floated back up the long staircase as he descended, “Are you saying you aren’t good enough to pick a lock?”

Sebastian felt his heart suddenly swollen and heavy with gratitude, and for the second time in an hour he felt the corners of his eyes moisten with tears.  He would have called down a thank you to Thomas, but the soft-spoke musician was already nearly all the way down, and he didn’t want to give anything away to Elda.  He looked over to Lydia and said, “You will help, won’t you?”

Lydia looked over at Theresa, who shrugged her shoulders helplessly, and then stomped towards the hallway on the other side of the stairs, “Well c’mon.  I won’t have Thomas pouting all week just because he had to show off for Elda for no reason.  You know how he gets.”

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