The warrior queen

This is the second part of a three part story, set again in my fictional village of Angle Mort. In the first part, ‘The thing which happened last year’, Zandra talks about her family, and gives the background to why she has gone to stay  for the summer with her aunty, Jo. They’re going for a picnic at a place called Horse Grave, not – as Zandra thought, horse’s grave.

We were talking as we plodded along, just chatting about nothing much, just nattering on. We came into a field and walked by a hedge. There were some distant cows but they were well away from us so that was ok. Then we went into a sort of small wood, there were lots of different paths and we could hear the noise of other people, kids, someone calling their dog. Jo led us off the main track, along a smaller, less obvious path, sometimes almost blocked with ferns and scrub which we had to go round or step over.
The trees became more spaced out and I realised that we’d been going up a slight slope. We’d been talking about school. I guess mum had said to Jo, ask Zandra about school, she never tells me anything. It started off about exams, and what I wanted to do when I left school etc., and then it got onto other stuff, and eventually she asked about the vigil. It was kind of weird, but as we came, quite suddenly out from the trees and into some very lush, bright green pasture sort of grass, she said the word ‘vigil’ and it sounded loud as if she’d announced it – VIGIL – but really she just said, so tell me about this vigil. I stopped, it sounded so weird, as if she was making an announcement to people in the field who weren’t there.
This sounds kinda crazee, but I can’t explain it. It was a bit spooky, tbh. There wasn’t much to tell, the brother of a lad who goes to our school got killed. He was twenty-one, so I never knew him because he’d left school by the time I went there; anyway he got into some ruckus with some racists – it started with a load of abuse, then just escalated, and we had a vigil for him.
It wasn’t that mum didn’t approve, but she didn’t want me to get into any trouble, or get arrested or anything. We ended up having a row, which was stupid because she was actually on my side. I guess we both said things we wished we hadn’t. Now I was somehow able to unzip it all with Jo as we plodded up the hill as the backpack seemed to get heavier and heavier.
I kept thinking there were other people somewhere, but when I turned round we were just on our own, in this very green field, climbing up to a sort of mound in the middle.
“Do you think I shouldn’t have got involved?” I asked Jo. It was mum kept saying, don’t get involved, and then when things got a bit difficult in school, I told you not to get involved! “What do you think, Jo?” I asked.
She stopped and put down her bags, and I eased the backpack off my back. She had a sort of a frown as she looked at me, but I knew she was thinking of something else.
“You’re quite a warrior, aren’t you?” she said so seriously it was somehow odd. We were here, in this green field, on a sort of hill, about to have a picnic, on a nice summer day, but it was… creepy.
“Yeah, Zandra the warrior queen!” I said to try and shake off the creeps.
I must have stumbled or something, but it felt as if the ground sort of shivered and I sat down unexpectedly, and so did Jo, but I think she was just copying me in a kiddish way to be funny.
We began to unpack the bags, a rug, plastic boxes of sandwiches, and cake in foil, and my backpack turned out to undo to reveal a complete picnic set, flasks and bottles of drinks.
“I know you’re not a picky eater, Zan, but I couldn’t remember what you like so I brought a load of stuff.”
I stood up and spread out the rug, Jo was kneeling, still unpacking stuff. It was a funny sort of day, sunny, hot, but the air seemed… well, zingy – I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
“Here,” Jo said. “This is for you, I don’t have any kids, nor likely to have, so this is for you.” She held something out, but the sun seemed to be in my eyes because I couldn’t quite see it properly.
I took it, and it was a bangle of twisted metal, with coloured stones set in, dark reds, dark greens, dark blue, so they didn’t sparkle but they had a sort of glow in the sunshine.
“Wow, Jo, this is amazing, thank you so much!” It was amazing, I’d never seen anything like it, but I can’t quite explain why it was fantastic. I’d have given her a big hug but she was still kneeling and had her head down – maybe she was thinking she would have liked to have had kids, maybe she was sad that she hadn’t.
“Oh, it’s nothing, just a token, now sit down and eat, we don’t want to carry it all back down home again.”
I sat and the grass was so soft beneath the rug.
“So tell me about this horse grave, can we go and see it?” I was trying to change the subject.
“Well, it’s here. This is it, where we’re sitting, Horse Grave.”

I gave myself a little mini-challenge when i wrote the first part, of including words from an Octordle, puzzle, and I’ve done it again in this section. Here are my Octordles:

  • eater, noise, frown, vigil, abuse, unzip, token, scrub

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