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geeking out on shakespeare's histories
[FICATHON] The sky above us shoots to kill, for the_alchemist 
3rd-Sep-2011 04:26 pm
Winter
Title: The sky above us shoots to kill
Author: lareinenoire
Play: 3 Henry VI
Recipient: the_alchemist
Characters / Pairings: Richard the not yet III
Warnings: profanity, violence, drunkenness, ableist language, period-accurate misogyny, an excess of (canonical) severed heads, raging misanthropy
Rating: M
Summary: Father used to say the rules were different west of the Mississippi. He wasn't wrong.
Notes: Title comes from the song 'Thistle & Weeds' by Mumford & Sons. As per the prompt, this is based on Richard's soliloquy from 3 Henry VI, Act III, Scene II. It is also, however, an AU set in California c. 1875 because the author recently discovered the brilliance that is Deadwood and, if one thinks about it hard enough, it makes a shocking amount of sense.



Father used to say the rules were different west of the Mississippi. He wasn't wrong. The rules are different. They don't exist.

Not that that matters to my mother. "You're a York from Connecticut and you'd best not forget that." She can't, not for all the gold in California. She still sits down to tea every afternoon at three on the dot and woe betide the person who refuses the invitation. She even insisted on a proper receiving line when Father died. The only point on which she budged was the open casket; although the purpose of a receiving line is for visitors to pay respects to the dead, it is difficult to do so when the deceased in question is missing a head.

Oh, that was probably tactless of me. My deepest apologies, sir.

Never mind that everybody knows how Father died. Most of the town saw it, after all. My brothers were out on the claim and I was in Warwick's saloon when Black Meg and Clifford her mad dog took off Father's head with a Bowie knife in the middle of the street. We never even got it back; rumor has it Black Meg carries it with her in a bag to remind her of times past. Let's just call it quid for quo.

And now Edward's going to marry a whore, or near enough. Everybody knows pretty Lizzie Grey, whose husband died out on their claim, leaving her and her two boys on their own. Warwick offered her a job manning the blackjack table at the White Rose because it gave his place a certain panache, and who should drop in but my idiot brother whose prick does all his thinking for him and then some.

He says she's a lady. I have had to refrain from skepticism in his presence. Well, I have mostly refrained from skepticism. Georgie, on the other hand, needs only a shot of whisky to inspire tirades the likes of which have not been seen since before Black Meg was Black Meg, and just plain old Margaret Lancaster, the mayor's wife.

"Who the fuck does Lizzie Grey think she is? You know she was only talking to him in the first place because she wants the goddamn claim back, enough to wave her tits in his face and get him all the way to her room before turning into a fucking nun and Ed's too goddamn horny to ask why. Never mind that she was friends with Black Meg and that dead husband of hers was hand-in-glove with Lancaster's gang..."

And so on. Get a good head of steam--well, whisky--going, and Georgie could talk for hours. Warwick even threw him out for boring his customers. Apparently if Georgie bores you, it makes you a better gambler. I wish; I'd be a millionaire. Just like Georgie would make his fortune if you could find gold at the bottom of a whisky bottle.

You know, sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person in this family with half a brain. Not that your side is any better, mind. Henry Lancaster thinks he can talk to God in the woods and don't even talk to me about Black Meg. They say she and her crew have been harrying wagon trains up north in Montana. Fancies herself another Calamity Jane. You'd be with her too, I'm sure, if you could. I know you fucked her; you and Suffolk both, while poor old Henry was off singing hymns to trees.

Now I think on it, Suffolk lost his head too, didn't he? Full of fucking savages, this country.

Aw, hell, now I've lost my train of thought. You're a tough one, you know that? I do mean it, though, about my family. Well, Father excepted. My mother too, though God knows she'll never admit to it. It ain't ladylike to be clever, you see. And my mother, no matter where she is or what she's seen, will never be less than a perfect lady.

I suppose I'm the one exception to that. Four days she spent in labor until the doctor--one of those fancy specialists from New York--had to cut me out. If I'd been born out here, she'd have left me to the coyotes and wolves and never looked back, but I'd had the good fortune to come into this world in Hartford, Connecticut, where civilization still stands. Or so I'm told. I don't remember civilization very well.

Warwick says it's better if you don't remember what it was like back East. Says he misses Chicago like a knife through his gut sometimes, but he's making money hand over fist here and sending it back to his wife and kids. Turned out better for him than it did for Father, that's for goddamn sure. And now Ed's been made sheriff and Georgie his deputy and I just count the money for Warwick in the back room so nobody has to look me in the eye.

Not unless it's the last thing they see.

The one good thing about being mostly invisible is that the world forgets you exist. But you don't, do you, Somerset? You get to see me every fucking day.

I guess I should thank Black Meg for making the head of one's foe an acceptable piece of décor. We considered mounting Clifford over the bar at the White Rose but Warwick overruled us; I suppose two would be considered in bad taste, but he does qualify as a hunting trophy. Ed and Georgie and I did chase him nearly eight miles before his legs gave out. Got to hand it to the man--he never asked for mercy. Of course, it's hard to ask for mercy when you don't have a tongue so we may have misunderstood a little.

We didn't bother to bury him, just brought his head back because Ed insisted on showing it to our mother. It was the first time I'd seen her smile since Father died.

This is where the story should end. Justice is served, the sons avenge the father, and the world goes back to normal, right? I think we all know, though, that it's never that simple, and not just because Black Meg is still out there with that kid she tells everyone is Henry Lancaster's, waiting for the right moment to charge back in for what she thinks is hers by right. It isn't, but that's beside the point.

You of all people should know that. You and Black Meg had this whole town under your thumb until Father put you in your place. And someday that'll be me. Ed's a lech and Georgie's a drunk. Warwick won't stand by and watch his sheriff ruled by a jumped-up saloon girl. Which leaves yours truly, since what the hell else am I supposed to do? I'm indifferent to whisky, even Warwick's whores won't look me in the eye, and my two greatest talents are numbers and death.

Indeed, I am the stuff of nightmares.

You, my dear shortened friend, know that as well as I do. You laughed at me once; Dickie the Gimp, with his twisted back and withered arm. It didn't even occur to you that you only need one working hand to shoot a gun, or to slit a man's throat. Well, of course it wouldn't fucking occur to you. But I bet you remember now, don't you? And so will everybody else, sooner or later.

Because there's only one rule in this world: The last man standing wins the game. And it don't matter if that last man has one leg or two--he wins all the same.
Comments 
3rd-Sep-2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
I love how Richard's diction shifts as we approach the conclusion--gives us glimpses of the edges of his mask, although he never lets on which bit is flesh and which bit is the mask.
9th-Sep-2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
The diction in this setting is so hard to mimic, oh, my God. It's one of the things that made me absolutely swoon about Deadwood; the dialogue was positively sublime in every way, and this was my attempt to grasp even a fraction of that brilliance. And you know how I love my Richards wearing so many masks they lose track of who they are. ;)
4th-Sep-2011 12:54 am (UTC)
I love this story ridiculously.
9th-Sep-2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
4th-Sep-2011 01:25 pm (UTC)
This is amazing. What a wonderful AU for this crew. The narration flows and swerves in total keeping with both the play and the setting. Not surprising that you're finding it easy to blend the bard with Deadwood-land...its creator mentions that people of that time probably had two books: Complete Works of Shakespeare, and the Bible (don't know how much of that is true, but that was Milch's concept).

Love how this got darker even as the really dark comments were almost throwaway remarks: the hunting trophy and chasing a man eight miles until his legs gave out had me re-reading it several times, getting more horrified as the imagery sank in.

Will this be continuing?
9th-Sep-2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! As I commented to gileonnen above, the diction and dialogue on Deadwood is positively sublime and I just fell in love with it when I watched the show. I think I do remember reading about the Shakespeare and Bible thing and it does make a lot of sense. Plus, there's just something wonderful about being able to have actual soliloquies.

I have to admit, I love this universe so it wouldn't surprise me if I play around with it a bit more. I really want to write about Chicago!Gangster!Warwick.
4th-Sep-2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
I love this so much - thank you, mystery author. I've already read it four times. Once quickly because I was greedy for more, once slowly because I didn't want to miss a thing, and then twice more just because it was so good.

I think what I like best about it is the rhythm of the prose. I want to read it aloud, but my American accent isn't good enough, except in my head (I've been watching quite a lot of old Westerns, lately):

You'd be with her too, I'm sure, if you could. I know you fucked her; you and Suffolk both, while poor old Henry was off singing hymns to trees.

Just brilliant!

The characterisation is A1 too of course: Lizzie Grey, Warwick owning the saloon, the York family; Black Meg fancying herself as Calamity Jane (is that a Pucelle reference, or an I imagining that?)

And of course Richard himself. The dark sense of humour, the sarcasm, and most of all the ending.

<3 <3 <3
9th-Sep-2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU for letting me go a little crazy with the prompt! I was sure you guessed pretty much immmediately who I was when you saw that request. ;) I thought you might not mind since you'd been on a bit of a Western film kick lately (my husband's favourite, interestingly, isn't on that list - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Deadwood was just fantastic and I couldn't get the Yorks in the Old West out of my head.

It is tempting to record it as a podfic...
8th-Sep-2011 02:45 am (UTC)
Oh, Richard! The Yorks fit all too well into this world. . .nicely done.
9th-Sep-2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This is my brain on Deadwood.
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