((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.))
"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 though 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.
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.' 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.
Miss Mute Lindser would have been willing to bet money that underneath his mask, Grand General Swain was wearing a sadistic grin.
((Let me know what you think~))