alhammitt_alhammittsson: (ten: well I well I just shut up)
The sea fry they’d stuck in the windowsill to keep fresh had been eaten overnight by the ants, and Mitt couldn’t help but stare at them miserably.

Siriol came up the stairs, noisy in his clogs, and came into the room without even being invited (though Mitt was too hungry to be that upset about it). “Lost your breakfast, Isee,” he said. “You’d better come round to mine and have some. And best thing I can see, Milda, is for him to sail with me in the future. I was thinking of taking an apprentice.”

“Well—” said Milda, the worried line down her cheek stark.

“Free Holanders look after their own,” said Siriol.

To say that! Siriol had betrayed his father, and let kind Canden be blown to pieces. Mitt was in a rare state of speechlessness. He had to stand there, and let Milda refuse for him—but she didn’t! She smiled gratefully at Siriol, and kept thanking him and agreeing.

All Mitt could think to say was “I don’t need breakfast,” dully.

When Siriol left he turned on Milda. “But he informed!” He yelled at her. “What did you want to go and agree for?”

Milda shrugged, face bitter. “I know. But we have to live. And maybe you’ll see your way to getting even with him if you keep close to him.”

Mitt was mollified by that.

It made a good difference that he had a job. The first day he forgot to coil a rope like Ham had shown him, though, and Siriol picked up the end of the offending rope—which was knotted-and hit Mitt across the back with it.

“Do it,” said Siriol. “Do it right. Or else. You’ll be glad to know one of these days.”

It’s from this that he wandered into the sometimes-bar, on his way back home from his first night fishing.

[Dialogue from Dianna Wynne Jones' Drowned Ammet]
alhammitt_alhammittsson: (midyoung: listening to someone tall)
Milda stays away from work for days, sitting still by the window. Her face is so draw with worry that instead of a crease where her dimple used to be she looks like she has a scar.

He crouches by her feet and asks her why.

“You’re too young to understand,” says Milda, the first forty times.

But Mitt keeps asking, and in the end his mom tells him all she knows. Mitt’s dad was so bitter against the Earl that he joined a society of revolutionaries, which there were a lot of in Holand. The Earl’s son Harchad had spies everywhere hunting them out, but even after he hanged them there were always more. Mitt’s dad had joined the Free Holanders, who wanted to bring up the city to overthrow the Earl! But they didn’t do anything but talk.

So when Mitt’s dad wanted to set the warehouse on fire, the older members (Siriol, Dideo, Ham) were set against it—the Earl would find out, and hunt them down, and then how could the city rise against the earl? But the younger members went with Mitt’s dad, and none of them but Canden came back to say that Harchad’s men were waiting for them when they came there. And now Canden is dead, too.

“Why did Siriol and them inform, though?” Mitt asks, considering this.

“Because they were frightened, Mitt, like I am now.”

“Frightened what of?” Mitt prompts.

“Harchad’s soldiers,” Milda shivered. “They might come banging at this door any moment now!”

Mitt considers this for a moment. He doesn’t know many soldiers, but the one he did know was nice—he brought Mitt back from the Flate! Even the tall man from the place he used to go to was scarier than that soldier, and Lan wasn’t scary at all. “How many soldiers are there? More than everyone else in Holand?”

She smiles, crease disappearing into a dimple. “Oh, no. The Earl couldn’t afford that many! I don’t suppose he’d bother to send more than six or so to come and take us away.”

“Then if’n all the people in this house, or all the people in Holand, all got together, they ought to be able to stop the soldiers, oughtn’t they?”

His mom laughs, unable to explain to him why everyone in Holand dreaded the soldiers so much and Harchad’s spies even worse. “Oh, Mitt, you’re a real free soul, you are! You don’t know what fear means. It seems such a waste when Hadd and the Free Holanders have done for us between them, it does really!”

Mitt is startled to realize that he’s managed to comfort his mother by talking like this. Even better, he’s made her comfort him by calling him a free soul. Mitt doesn’t know what that is, but it seems a good thing to be. By way of earning he says, in his stoutest and most grown-up voice, “Well, you’re not to worry anymore. I’ll make it all right for you.”

Milda laughs and hugs him. “There’s my Mitt!”
alhammitt_alhammittsson: (midyoung: turn your back on the world)
This is what Mitt knows before:

His dad and his friends, Siriol and Dideo and Canden and the Free Holanders are having a meeting, and his mom is worried, and she and his father argue while he pretends to sleep on his mattress and after his dad leaves his mom stays up all night, by the door, worrying at her lip, her face creased like he so so hates it to be when he falls into restless sleep.

This is what happens:

Part way through the night there is a desperate knocking on the door that wakes Mitt up though he isn’t quite sure, his mother’s breathless panic seems too much out of a dream, and he is still when she opens the door and opens her mouth and gives a little scream and there are noises of women waking up in the rooms around and staying still, staying worried, so that if someone is getting arrested they can say they didn’t know can keep from being disappeared.

There is a shape in the door, a wrong shape, a shape that is coming apart at the seams, and when it speaks it is Canden but its voice is filled with bubbles and pain and anger and it says

Harchad's men. Waiting for us. Informers--Dideo, Siriol and Ham. They informed on us

And his mother cries, and then Canden, kind Canden, slips and falls down and apart and the door closes behind his mother and there are women and worried voices and Mitt never sees him again.

This is what Mitt knows after:

His mama opened the door, and screamed, and Canden talked to her and fell to pieces, all to pieces, like straw Ammet but wetly and the next morning outside of the door there is a big stain of blood and he knows that Canden and his dad are dead, though his mama won't tell him why.

And he knows whose fault it is.
alhammitt_alhammittsson: (Toddler: Sad)
Mitt is cautiously excited when he wakes up this morning. His mom told him there was going to be a surprise today, his birthday, because now he is five and it is his birthday and he is a big boy, he is.

It’s nice to be excited today, his mother and father have not stopped quarrelling since they arrived and he hates the greasy waterfront which is the closest place he can go to escape it, and there were jeering children there who make fun of him. Once he tried to go farther away, and he found someplace clean that was bright and smelled nice and he saw a tall house painted all with pictures, gold and different colors. One of the pictures was of a stiff sort of lady in a green dress, holding a bunch of grapes to a golden haired man on the other side. They reminded Mitt of his perfect land, they did, until the angry man came and chased him away.

So a surprise will be nice, it will, or he hopes so.

~*~

He’s spending the day with some friends of his dad’s, and right now he’s up on Canden’s shoulders staring solemnly over the bewildering mass of people moving through the streets. It’s his birthday today, but all of the big boys are running about with wooden rattles, and there are people in bright clothes all around with silly hats and flowers and big buckets of fruit, and Mitt doesn’t even know them.

There are people in the crowd coming forth playing cruddles and scarnels in tunes he thinks he recognizes, and being drowned out by the loud drubbing of the drums. Mitt startles when he catches sight of a straw dummy riding along in someone’s arms, all covered in bright red ribbons.

"Look," says Canden, who Mitt likes because he is nice like Peter but he’s only as tall as Dean. "There’s Poor Old Ammet. That’s Earl Hadd carrying him."

Mitt is suddenly worried. He’s never heard of Earl Hadd ever doing anything good with anything. "What’s he going to do with him?"

"Throw him in the harbor, of course. For luck," he says, as if it is the most natural thing in all of Holand.

Mitt tightens his grip on Canden, staring at the dummy, horrified. He tips a bucket of muck into the harbor every day, he does, and doesn’t like the thought of Poor Old Ammet sinking, soaking, drowning, all of his ribbons getting spoiled. "Doesn’t he float?" He asks, anxiously.

"Not too often," Canden replies. "Mostly he falls to pieces and sinks in the harbor or just outside it."

"He doesn’t!" Mitt says, frantically.

Dideo, who Mitt thinks has a face like a net and his eyes are like two tiny little fish caught in it, makes a thoughtful noise. “He doesn’t always fall to bits—Old Ammet. If the tide’s right, he goes out on the tide in one piece. Or they say he does. Floats for miles. And those in a boat who can find him and pick him out have a lucky boat ever after, they say."

The thought of Poor Old Ammet floating all alone is almost more distressing than him falling to bits. Mitt casts about for a way to change the subject. "Who are those boys with rattles?"

Canden glances out at the boys in red and yellow trousers. "Boys from the Palace. All them in the procession come from the Palace," he answers distractedly, before turning his head to Dideo. "I’ve never seen Old Ammet float. He goes down almost as quick as Libby Beer."

"Would they let me run with a rattle?" Mitt interrupts, desperately.

"No. You’re a born nobody. He does float," Dideo adds to Canden. "You’ve not been in Holand long enough to know, but he was picked up once, a good ten miles out, by the old Sevenfold and I heard every man in that boat made a fortune afterwards. I was about Mitt’s age then," and then he glances up at Mitt and finally notices his tears, nudging Canden.

Canden takes Mitt down, peering at him. "What’s the matter? Do you want an Ammet of your own?"

"No!" Mitt says. But they take him to the stall with all of the Ammets in different colored ribbons and little wax sculptures of Libby Beer, too, and fuss over him while his father’s friend Siriol shows up and watches over them. Mitt bursts into tears and pushes the little Libby Beer away. She sinks, too.

"But they’re lucky!" Canden exclaims, mystified.

Siriol just hands him a toffee apple from his end of the stall. "There, that’ll please you best, I bet."

There's some mystery to these friends of Mitt's father. Mitt's mom doesn't like them, she objects to them in ever quarrel she and his dad have at night. But Mitt likes them well enough. And Siriol's right, the toffee of the apple distracts Mitt as it gets his teeth caught in it.

But he doesn’t forget it.
alhammitt_alhammittsson: (Default)
The very funniest thing happened when the calf had grown into a young and gamesome bull. Mitt and his parents were all in the pasture, trying to mend a place where the dike bank was giving. The bull stood watching them, rather interested. Life was a little dull in the pasture. Then Hadd's rent collector climbed over the fence and stalked irritably over to the dike.

"I've been all the way to the house," he said. "Why couldn't you--?"

The bull, with a look of pure mischief in his merry red eye, lowered his horns and charged. He would not have dreamed of harming any of the family, but the rent collector was another matter. And in a misty, bullish way, he may have noticed that the family was not altogether pleased to see the rent collector. Anyway, up went the rent collector in a graceful arc, moneybag and all, and down he went again, money bag and all, into the dike, where he gave out a truly tremendous splash. He came up. He swore horribly. He floundered to the bank and tired to get out. The bull was there to meet him and simply prodded him back in again. It was the funniest thing Mitt had ever seen. It never occurred to the rent collector to cross the dike and get out on the opposite bank where the bull could not reach him. He kept floundering up, clutching his moneybag. And prod, prod went the bull and the rent collector was sitting in the dike again...squawking "Can't one of your control this beast!" and Mitt's parents were leaning head to head, too helpless with laughter to do anything about it. It was Mitt, laughing as hard as anyone, who at last hooked his finger in the ring on the bull's nose and let the raging rent collector scramble out. And the rent collector was not pleased.

"I'll teach you to laugh, boy!" he snarled.

He did. Next time he came for the rent, he asked double. When Mitt's father protested, he said, "Nothing to do with me. Earl Hadd needs the money."

~*~

Theoretically they could have gone to the law and accused the rent collector of extortion. But the rent collector was the Earl's official, and judges always upheld the Earl's employees against ordinary people--unless, of course, you gave the judge a big enough bribe. Mitt's parents had no money for bribes. They needed more than they had to pay the rent collector. They had to sell the bull.

[Diana Wynne Jones, Drowned Ammet pages 234 and 235 in the combined Drowned Ammet and Cart and Cwidder text.]

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alhammitt_alhammittsson: (Default)
Mitt (or Al, or Ham) son of Al (or Mitt, or Ham)

December 2009

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