((This is a story about Swain and an OC- namely, Ms. "Mute" Lindser, who is frequently called after her condition. She does have a first name, but it's going to be revealed... later, when it's opportune to do so.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this! It could become romantic, but that's a very small and unlikely "could." For the moment, it's only the relationship between a Grand General and his servant.
This was inspired by my friend Nick using a Swain voice while I was rendered mute by an unfortunate accident in the kitchen- I had never even played a game with Swain, but suddenly, a fluffy little ship was born.))
"What are your qualifications to work in the Grand General's household?" asked the tall, rather matronly woman.
The pen scratches on the page, and the girl passes her response to her elder. It's written on a pad of white paper in impeccably neat cursive.
'I have been doing this sort of work for quite a few years- I perform my given tasks with efficiency, composure, and a respectful attitude.'
"Why have you written your response?" The woman raises an eyebrow, and the pen flies again across the page.
'I am mute- I assure you, it will not interfere with the quality of my service.' The girl offers a cautious smile- this was the reason the last house had gotten rid of her. She hoped that, given his leg, Jericho Swain would look favorably upon her determination to prove useful, despite her muteness.
After a few months of working her way up from the bottom, Mute (for that is what the girl found herself being called) was harshly proved wrong by the Grand General. When she brought him, at 5 in the morning, his breakfast, she was treated to what typically proved his harshest mood of the day. After doing his dishes, he'd summon her to clean Beatrice's perch- the only time she did not stay by his shoulder was when he slept, and it was then that she sat on the perch by his bedside.
To put it mildly, cleaning the excrement of a six-eyed and potentially demonic raven is not a pleasant task.
The first interaction between the two is a study in contrasts. Mute enters the room with her usual soundlessness, and, upon closing the door behind her, rings a small bell to announce her presence. She hears a curtain open on the other side of his four-poster bed, and is greeted by a fully-dressed Swain perhaps half a minute later.
"You couldn't have said something?" he growls, scowling. Assuming he knows of her condition, Mute shakes her head, offering the tray with a polite smile. "Respond to me when I talk to you." He takes the tray from her hands, setting it on his nightstand. Beatrice stares at the girl, then hops down from her perch atop Swain's cane, pecking at the toast on one of the plates.
Seeing that no-one has made her condition known, Mute takes a pad of paper and a pen from the pocket of her apron, the smile dropping fast.
'I apologize for my apparent disrespectfulness, Grand General- I am physically incapable of audible speech. Please forgive the rudeness of my initial response.' Mute sets the quickly-written note on the tray, off to the side of the General's breakfast, and stands to the side, herself, keeping her gaze at her feet. Suddenly, she is very grateful for her excellent handwriting.
"Hmph. Keep your responses short and to the point."
Mute reaches carefully forward to retrieve the paper. 'Yes, sir- sorry, sir,' she writes, a cautious eye on Beatrice's beak and claws as she lays her response lightly on the tray. She likes to imagine seeing him nod, at this point- sadly, this is not the case. Taking the piece of paper, he hands it to Beatrice, who tears it up and eats it with some demonic glee.
"'Yes, sir'," he replies, swallowing a bite of ham, "would have been enough."
Mute nods. In the presence of the Grand General for the first time in her life, she's incredibly nervous, but does not permit anything in her posture to betray this- she does not wish to irritate him further. Beatrice eyes her occasionally, which sends a small chill up her spine.
When Swain is done, he points to the door. "Out," he commands gruffly. Without the slightest dissent in her gestures, she nods, taking his tray and leaving. She is careful to close the door quietly behind her.
Arriving in the kitchen, she heads to the sink with the tray, passing it to a boy named Adam. He was a scullery boy, the lowest of the low, and he had (until recently) been kind to her. Today, he showed no such sentiment, shoving the tray back. "Do it y'self, Mute." After raising an eyebrow at him, she does so. He sits on the stepstool where she usually writes at him as he does dishes, and scowls at her- she gives him a look of mild consternation.
"Don't look at me like that. You might be working directly under Grand General Swain-" The address holds a sarcastic tone of pomposity. "-but damned if you'll get out of dishes," Adam scoffs. Mute tilts her head to one side. Usually, he does all the dishes she brings in, even if she protests. Shrugging slightly, as thoough to herself, she takes the sponge and begins to scrub at the plates. Adam rolls his eyes at her gestures, then starts to clean the dirt and grime from his nails.
A good thing you aren't doing dishes, with your hands like that, Mute thinks, but writes nothing. After a few tense minutes- Adam watches as she washes- she's done, and she holds out a hand for a towel to dry the dishes, which Adam has in a pocket. He swats at her hand, and she's moments from using all capitals when Marta enters- the woman who hired Mute in the first place.
"Miss Lindser- the General has a task for you." The girl's eyes widen a little, and, glaring back at Adam for a moment, she leaves with Marta. "It's nothing exciting- only a cleaning job, so there's no cause for such skipping," the woman admonishes Mute on the way. She blinks- she had only been walking with a little bit of spring in her step; she was glad to be out of the kitchen and away from Adam. Come to think of it, she'd never heard Marta use Adam's last name... a curiosity she would have to fulfill, at some point.
When they arrive at the door of the General's room, the woman hands Mute a bucket full of water, a bottle of liquified soap, and a sponge.
"Good luck," says Marta, and leaves Mute to enter alone. With some trepidation caused by the matron's words, she does so. Swain's room looks much the same as it did that morning, except that this time, the General is at his desk, writing. It appears he hasn't seen or heard her, so Mute takes out the bell and rings it once.
Swain straightens up a little. "Mute does not mean 'sneak up on me,' girl," he growls. With respect etched clearly into her actions by a lifetime of speaking without words, she nods, tucking the bell back into her pocket. As she stands before him, awaiting his next order, he steps up closer to her, very suddenly, and it takes all her willpower to keep from flinching. Happily for her, she betrays no reaction, and he scowls. "Open your mouth," he demands. A little nervous about the nature of the command, she obeys- but she swallows first, so as not to present him with any spittle.
Far from what she'd expected, he simply looks into her mouth, for such a long time that her jaw gets a little sore.
"Close it," he says finally, and she gratefully complies. "You have a tongue, lips, teeth- why can you not speak?"
Mute nearly shrugs, but realizes how disrespectful that would be, and takes out her pad of paper. 'I don't know, sir- neither medicine nor magic has been able to pinpoint the cause or cure the symptom.' She hands this to him, and he gives it back in less than a second.
"If you don't know, that's all you need to say. So much writing is inefficient- save your energy for that." He points to Beatrice's perch, which is covered in a viscous green fluid that smells like Death's morning exhalations. If Mute could speak, she'd doubtlessly have to suppress a tired groan, but she nods. It is then she realizes why Marta has said 'good luck,' as well as having given her all these cleaning supplies.
At that moment, Mute Lindser would have been willing to bet money that underneath his mask, Grand General Swain was wearing a sadistic grin.
After she finishes cleaning the perch, Mute lets her shoulders fall slightly in relief. The water in the bucket is a nasty, pale green, and she takes it outside to dump into the sewers. When she returns, she washes her hands (feeling rather nasty, herself), and heads back to Swain's quarters. The perch gleams a dull bronze, and the General sits again at his desk, writing- she knows not what. Recalling what he'd said earlier, she makes an attempt to open and close the door a bit more loudly, before taking out her bell- however, upon hearing the door close, Swain and Beatrice turn to her in eerie synchronicity.
"Good- you made your presence known." He tucks his writings into a large attaché case, which is full of manila folders. He hands this to her- it's surprisingly heavy, but she takes it, cradling it in her arms in an attempt to avoid showing strain.
He shakes his head, taking it. "Carry it by the handle, at your side." Holding it out to her again, he scowls, displeased by her handling of the case. Properly chagrined, she takes it and holds it at her side, keeping her posture carefully straight. Heavy lifting wasn't usually in the job description for her, but, with a small amount of willpower, she keeps her arms from shaking.
This must be full of plans, she muses to herself, wondering what the General might be thinking. Stock-still, she stands as he looks her up and down, though she knows not what he seeks.
After a moment, he nods, just once.
"You don't look so uncivilized, now- keep your posture straight as we walk, I don't want you making me look as though I have sloppy servants waiting on me." Without another word, he heads to the door, and she follows quickly, not wishing to displease him further. The halls they walk through are labyrinthine, and she grows increasingly nervous- at one point, she switches the bag from one hand to the other, and he frowns.
"Is your arm getting tired?"
A look of surprise decorating her face, she nods.
This elicits an exasperated sigh. "The correct answer," he replies, as Beatrice fixes Mute with a stern avian glare, "is no."
But- I thought you were asking out of sympathy. Mute does not give paper to her thoughts, choosing to simply nod in agreement.
After some time, and a test or two of the right answer as she switches the case from hand to hand, they arrive at a surprisingly nondescript door, where Swain holds his hand out for the case. Mute gives it to him, then, hoping to speak, takes out her pad of paper.
"I'm two minutes late. Wait here- you'll get lost if you try to find your way back alone." Without another word, he heads in, leaving her to stand awkwardly at the entrance. Her question is answered, however, even having gone unwritten, so she finds a bench along the wall and sits there. It doesn't take long for her to become bored, and she starts to sketch on her paper, not really paying attention to the results. It's nearly two hours later when Swain exits the meeting, looking to be in an even fouler mood than he had been that morning. He shoves the case into her arms, and she hurriedly tucks her paper into her pocket and stands, taking the case at her side to follow him.
"Let's go," he demands gruffly, and she nods, quickly walking after him. This walk is marked by no speech on his part or hers, save the quiet shifting of the case from one of Mute's hands to the other. When they reach his room, he opens the door, taking the case and ushering her in. "Run me a bath, girl," he orders, then pauses. "What shall I call you...?"
She takes out the pad of paper to write her name upon it, but he waves it away. I suppose it was a rhetorical question, she thinks, and makes as though to run his bath- but he stops her from doing this, too, gesturing that she should stay. Had she a voice (and no real need for a job), it would be here that she sighed. But she does not; instead, she stands where she is, waiting for his answer to set her free from the immobilizing spell that her obedience has cast.
"Calling you Silence would be such an imposing thing... you do not embody silence, after all, you are merely someone who cannot speak." He looks at Beatrice- were the bird human, she would have shrugged.
"Perhaps I'll take after the servants, and call you after your condition," he decides, after a long moment. "Go run my bath, Mute."
As she leaves to do that, the General looks to his bird, who seems to nod approvingly.
((That's all, for now- I have more written, but want to type it and clean it up before posting. What do you all think?))