Laurel’s Leaves

Laurel’s Leaves Competition

Cool news for yours truly! Laurel and Laurel’s Leaves chose my scene from “Mourn Their Courage” as her first runner up scene in her Eleventy One Contest. I’m thanking God for this and the Sandy. They’ve given me hope this month. As an addendum, I encourage everyone to check out all of Laurel’s comments. She’s got some great insights, not to mention a very gracious style.

Laurel’s contest centered around a dialogue-driven instance of negotiation or persuasion. In my scene, the former Chancellor/would-be usurper uses persuasion. All comments, suggestions and critiques are welcome.

An ascetic, narrow-faced man covered with scars approached. At first, Xiongli believed he was another servant. Then he noticed the direct gaze and confident stride, so he rose and nodded his greeting to Yang Wu, Guild Master of the Brothers of Life.

Wu returned the nod, but did not bow. Xiongli smiled. Everything he’d heard of this man might be true, then.

“We can return to my office where it’s warmer, my Lord,” Wu said. He politely did not comment on Xiongli’s guards who stood within sword range.

“Forgive my reaction to recent attacks on my person, Guild Master Yang.”

“It is an overreaction, my Lord. This is a guild. We have no political goals.” Wu gestured to the marble bench, and they sat side by side as if they were old friends.

Birds sang and the creek feeding the pond continued its chatter, but Xiongli clutched a dagger inside his sleeve.

“You have political ties and power,” he said. The smile felt painted on his face, but he wanted to put Wu at ease. “You have a traitor amongst you, Guild Master.”

Yang Wu produced a rice cake and crumbled pieces into the pond. Mustached, gasping mouths rushed to the surface. “One man does not equal the guild – Chancellor.”

Xiongli’s face flushed and the smile vanished. He calmed himself. If Wu wanted to attack, he would have done it by now. This man had ambitions, and Xiongli knew how to work with men like that.

“Tell me, Guild Master, has Tong Zhang written requesting money and food yet?”

“He has.” Wu crumbled more of his rice cake into the waiting mouths below. “You ought to know I cannot deny a guild member his rights-“

“I do. How long have you held your office, Yang Wu?”

Wu stiffened. It was the slightest of reactions. A flick of rice cake. A tic of facial muscles. Yet the implied threat was received. Now the enticement.

“You can deny him whatever you wish,” Xiongli said. “He is a traitor to the Empire and should be denied.” Silence reined for a moment as Xiongli let his words sink in.
Then he turned to Wu again and allowed the painted, friendly expression to return to his face. “You and your guild would be compensated.”

“A traitor to the Empire is still not a traitor to his guild, Lord Hu.”

“Ah, but if he is not a traitor to his guild, then what Empire does the guild serve?”

Threat, offer and threat were made. Now Xiongli forced himself not to smile. Yang Wu crumbled the last of the rice cake between finger and thumb.

“And if I were to give Zhang his money and food,” Wu raised his hand to stop Xiongli’s response, “but gave you the location for those deliveries, would that be sufficient?”

Xiongli didn’t answer. Let him sweat. At last, he nodded. “That is acceptable, Master Yang.”

“Zhang tells me they expect their first delivery in Xien Ye, a month from now.”

“Excellent. I will leave you, as I am sure you have business to attend to.”

“Please excuse me for not seeing you out.” Wu stood.

“Of course,” Xiongli murmured.

He left Yang Wu standing beside the pond where carp swam their placid, uneventful courses amid a garden of cypress and bird song.