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The Murder - A Farewell to Magrat

 
Hyle Troy's picture
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While Shadow slept, Hyle was sitting at the kitchen table, pen in hand well into the wee hours.

The recent developments at The Constabulary, the arrest of the Stanton boys, the deaf and dumb supper she had just shared with Shadow, all weighed heavily on Hyle’s mind, interfering with the task in hand, namely the speech she was to give at Magrat’s funeral.

So it was probably around 02:00 when Hyle finally folded the sheets of paper and placed them in her handbag.


07:30 and Kirsten arrived, Shadow had long left to his duties. Hyle was thankful that her good friend had stepped forward and offered her support during the day. It was good to have such a friend, and such a friend that was sufficiently detached from the day to day runnings of Hope Springs as to give a separate perspective or overview of the whole situation.


Kirsten placed the garish looking long box, festooned with Rico Martinez trademarks on Hyle’s kitchen table.

Don’t worry, he has done a good job. The box is garish but the dress is not, it is perfect.” Kirsten smiled as she greeted Hyle with a hug.

This was a saving. Hyle had realised that every black dress she owned fell into the ‘Little Black Number’ category and were therefore totally unsuitable for delivering a eulogy to a town in mourning. Hyle picked the dress out of the box and looked at it. It was true, Rico had delivered measured, sober style.

Tak så meget.”

Don’t mention it, it’s why I am here.” Kirsten replied, “Ok. Lets get you looking the part.”


Any concerns about the decoration of the school hall were unfounded. Winona Barrow and her ‘silver soldiers’ had been hard at work since the crack of dawn. It seemed that every bloom within a five kilometre radius of Hope Springs had been commandeered and was now part of an impressive display of wreaths and bouquets around the school hall and surrounding the trestles which awaited Magrat’s casket. Winona and her colleagues still fussed here and there when Hyle and Kirsten arrived, welcomed by school headmistress Ytte.

They just took over.” Ytte shrugged. “Everything is ready.”

Hyle glanced at the clock, stifling the growing tenseness in her gut. The townsfolk were already gathering outside the school to pay their final respects. It seemed the whole town was there. The many disperate groups that had formed around the constabulary, the town hall, and other places that morning had now converged to attend the funeral.

Ten minutes to go. Hyle Kirsten and Ytte opened the doors and welcomed each person as they filed inside. Soon enough the hall was filled to capacity. Hyle found herself clenching her hands to stop them visibly shaking. Her welcoming smiles, although genuine, felt a little forced. She glanced inside at the sea of heads, listened the murmuring and the shuffling of feet.

Until respectful silence fell over the gathered throng.

The coffin, bore aloft by six men, one of whom was Taiyoko approached the school gate. Behind that came Chief Constable Shadow and four constables. Doctor Troy and Nurse Maisie preceded it and lead the procession into the hall. Hyle fell into step behind with Ytte on her flank.

The coffin was placed on the trestles. As Winona Barrow fussed, arranging flowers around the casket, Doctor and Mayor Troy took seats to the left of the podium, Headmistress Skovlund took station behind the school lectern. Silence filled the room.

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Hyle Troy's picture

The headmistress looked out on the ranks of expectant faces, she displayed a calm aura that could hold the attention of scores of restless children easily, she held the attention of the gathered throng of townsfolk.

Welcome.” Ytte said softly, but her voice carried to the far reaches of the hall. “It gladdens my heart on this sorrowful occasion to see so many gathered here to pay their respects and I am grateful to open the school hall to host this assembly.”

She paused for a moment, seeing many people nodding respectfully. She glanced to her right, to Hyle and smiled.

I would now like to invite Mayor Hyle Troy to say a few words In Memorium for Margaret Louise.” Ytte let her eyes fall to the coffin which stood on the trestles in front of her podium. “Magrat. As most came to know her.”

Ytte bowed her head slightly and stepped back from the podium, tacitly inviting Hyle to step up and address the people.

As a ripple of murnuring spread through the crowd, Mayor Troy took her place behind the lectern, pausing to let her gaze remain with Magrat in her coffin for a few moments as the memories of the strong willed, enthusiastic teenager spun past her mind.

Hyle looked up at the room, filled almost to capacity with the many townsfolk. She pulled herself up and stood as firm and as strong as her slender build allowed. Her pale blue eyes had everyone's attention. She cursed her knees for shaking and hoped it was not noticeable She drew breath.

God afternoon and welcome.” Hyle paused for a moment to let her greeting be felt and accepted the soft replies. She went on. “We are here to honour the life of one who came to us, as many have before her, to help our community, and in doing so, change her life for the better, again as many of us have done before.”

Despite a less than warm welcome..” Hyle’s eyes sought and found Hana Barret. who bowed her head in embarrassment. “… Magrat overcame the hostility that a few of our community displayed. She applied herself to her task and showed all of us that despite adversity, a strong character can find success.”

And Magrat came to us from The Devils Own.” Hyle said the words bluntly, deliberately. She paused as the ripple of sound died down. “Yet, we have to remember that Magrat was a drudge, a slave. She was taken, aged seven, from her family and put to work, away from everything she knew into a life which was violent and savage.”

Hyle scanned the crowd with an ice cool gaze, silencing any grumbles.

How many of us can relate to that, whether we be human or clone? We live in a savage world.”

And yet! Magrat showed us all a fortitude, and a will to better herself, and our community, AND her own community. How many remember her enthusiasm? How many remember her effervescence, her vitality?”

Hyle paused again as nods and whispered yes’s echoed. Her voice softened.

And I also remember how proud I was. And how proud, and happy, Magrat was when I presented her, on behalf of all of us, with an engraved stethoscope in recognition of her efforts in the short time she spent in Hope Springs.”

 

Just then, the doors to the hall opened slowly, some heads turned, then a loud grumble spread across the room. Hyle paused her speech. In the doorway stood a uneasy twelve year old boy and his father.

Evan Stanton looked petrified as some of the grumbling turned to growls. Hyle’s eyes darted to Shadow for an explaination.

Undskyld, one moment!” Hyle called for calm, stepping down and closing to Shadow, who whispered a few words to her. Hyle quickly returned to the lectern and raised her had for calm, waiting patiently until she had the crowd’s attention.

It seems there have been some developments, most important of which being that young Evan has been exonerated of any involvement in Magrat’s death.” Hyle’s voice was clear and authoratative.” Now. As many of us know, Evan became very close to Magrat.” She paused.

Now, I think we should all respect that and allow Evan to come forward and say goodbye to his friend. So please, let him come.”

The noise faded into silence and a way parted to the front. Evan, still very apprehensive, but slightly more at ease, with his father’s supporting hand on his shoulder made his way to the front. With reddening eyes, Evan placed a single red rose onto the casket. Hyle suppressed the growing lump in her throat, almost croaking her words to the gathering.

Thank you.” She smiled at Evan, as tears rolled down his cheek. “Now let Evan and his father take their place at the front.”

Arch lead his son a few paces back and took a place next to Winina Barrow, who hugged the boy and said a few quiet words to him. Evan managed a smile from his distressed face.

Hyle addressed the congregation once again.

As I told, there have been some important revelations in the case. But this is neither the time or place to explain them. We are here to honour Magrat. All will become known in time.”

As Hyle scanned the crowd, she noticed that behind everyone’s attention, at the rear of the hall, Hana Barret and her brother Jonas making a hurried exit from the room. Hyle wondered for a moment, then forced her mind to the task in hand. The Barret’s withdrawal was puzzling, but right now she had more important things to do. She retraced her words, reminding herself where she was in her speech and what she still needed to say.

Hyle resumed. “When I last spoke to Magrat, she told me she was the happiest she had ever felt, and how much she was looking forward to taking her new skills to help those at her home. How much she wished to change things there. She would return to the Devil’s Own camp a free person.”

Hyle sniffed, her voice lowered. “But, as we all know. It was not to be.” She let her gaze rest on Magrat’s casket for a moment

However, Magrat did show us that despite adversity, a common good is worth fighting for, and is achievable.”

It was Doctor Troy who suggested, and arranged for Magrat to come to us, as part of medical support, not only for Hope Springs but for her work in the camps around us. And I gave her my full support, because it is only by breaking down the divisions that exist between ourselves and the rest of the province that any real progress to a better civilisation can be made.”

Hyle looked up and found the few faces in the crowd that she really meant to address.

I know there are some among us who resist this change. Who’s memories of Hope Spring’s violent past cloud their eyes and cast their vision downwards. And it is a clear fact that MOST of us here have suffered to a greater or lesser extent at the hands of the lawlessness that curses The Province. But as we know, and in as much as our town has proved clearly in the last years. There IS a way forward, and it is a peaceful way. It is not an easy way, but it is OUR way.”

Hyle looked out into the crowd, the murmurs, the nods. She gazed once again at the coffin.

And, I think…… that Magrat showed us all something. She showed us that even from the lowest starting point, you can achieve your goals. She knew it, and maybe her memory can show us all.”

Her memory will stay with me as long as I live. As it should stay with all of us. If we remember her, then perhaps, even if her life was tragically cut short, at such a young age, Magrat’s life will not have been wasted.”

Goodbye Magrat.”

Hyle bowed her head to the casket in front of her then stepped back.

Slowly, in one or two quarters of the hall, the applause started, then grew. Hyle took her seat.

 

Later, as the sun set and the embers of the funeral pyre smouldered their last, Mayor Troy stood next to a sad Evan Stanton. She squeezed his hand. “Come on Evan, let’s get you home.”

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Hyle Troy's picture

Her memory will stay with me as long as I live. As it should stay with all of us. If we remember her, then perhaps, even if her life was tragically cut short, at such a young age, Magrat’s life will not have been wasted.”

speech


I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers



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