Cry of the Glasya Part 3 (Vacay Post 5)
Well, I should be making my way back to sweet, wonderful Ontario now. My stomach should be filled with lobster. My camera should be near its memory limit. And I’m most certainly going to be out of money. So, here’s part 3 of The Cry of Glasya, a new fantasy short story!
Licia (Lychee) Songsinger – beautiful singer and terrible summoner responsible for the death of Duke Arren Hasselbach
Jeremiah Pits – valiant paladin and moral bulwark for his friends
Derrek Gungric – insightful bard with a curious intuition and questionable music skills
Keirn Faden – self proclaimed leader of the adventuring band and stylized sorcerer
Kait Faden – sister and hoarder with a love of nature and archery so probably a ranger if she’d ever get around to ranging
“I feel ridiculous.”
Keirn crouched beside Derrek in the galley above the audience chamber. He had finally acquiesced to Derrek’s defensive measures and now knelt in little more than a thin loincloth while searching blindly along the rail with his hands. A thick piece of cloth was bound tightly about his head to cover his eyes and dampen sounds to his ears. He held his sword uselessly in his hand. Should a moment to strike arise, Keirn doubted his adversary would allow him the time to first feel out his target before swinging the weapon.
But it was a gentle comfort to have something pointy in his hands even if he was more likely to poke Derrek with it than a murderous courtesan.
The pair had waited out their pursuers in the guard quarters. Evidently, after tiring themselves on the door, the frenzied men and women had wandered off down the halls presumably in search of some less entrenched targets. Discarding most of their belongings, Derrek and Keirn slowly made their way into the hall.
They moved tentatively through the corridors. Derrek led, swearing he knew the layout of the keep well enough to manoeuvre them into position without requiring such petty tools like sight. He carried Kait’s bone chime in his hands, a remarkable little construction project she’d undertaken unbeknownst to Keirn. He had no idea she was collecting the skeletal remains of who knew what or why she fashioned them into this morbid instrument for a purpose only she could possibly reveal.
The fact that Derrek knew about it would have been surprising if it had been anyone but Derrek. The hollow clatter of its femurs and tibias led Keirn on, accompanied with the few awkward moments when the two almost naked men collided into each other.
Keirn wasn’t sure how long they snaked through the twisting corridors. It felt like he was being led in a random direction but even he felt the few brief flashes of a distant heat during their skulking. Each time, Derrek proceeded immediately in the opposite direction. Thusly, they managed to avoid most obstacles save for the twisted clumps that they stumbled over on the ground. Keirn didn’t remove his blindfold to confirm what those objects were.
At last they reached a set of stairs and began to ascend. Slowly, Keirn could feel that distant heat grow, like a gentle hearthfire that beckoned them onward. But this time Derrek didn’t led them away.
Even through his protections, Keirn could still hear the chaotic din of a great commotion beneath them. It was hard to imagine that not long ago the whole hall had been filled with such beautiful music. And now there was nothing but the heavy smell of death and the sound of despair.
Derrek grabbed Keirn’s arm, tapping on his skin with cold fingers. It took a minute for Keirn to realize he was attempting to communicate with him through those beats. By Helja’s frozen domain, Keirn couldn’t tell what he was on about and lifted his hand to the cloth around his ears.
But before he could remove the obstruction to speak with the bard, Derrek swatted the cloth from his fingers. He returned to his futile tapping.
This was hopeless, Keirn realized. Without the ability to see or hear there was no possible way they could co-ordinate with one another.
Frustated, Keirn snatched back his arm.
He didn’t know what the plan was but at this point it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. Hopefully, Derrek knew what he was doing.
That thought ran fleeting from him the moment Derrek shoved the bone contraption into Keirn’s hands then hurried along the galley.
“Wait!” Keirn called, reaching out uselessly. But his fingers only brushed empty air and he crouched there completely alone.
He slumped against the rail, feeling the wood against his back and the pulsing heat from below. He had no idea what he was suppose to do nor what the bard had wandered off to accomplish. All he had was the fading memory of the young man’s furtive tapping, an inscrutable puzzle which only the minstrel himself could likely decipher. But then fear began to encroach into his thoughts as he felt the heat from below grow warmer and warmer.
Had Derrek decided to just up and leave? Did he know some secret passage he was going to use to run from this infernal keep and it’s unimaginable bloodbath below?
Gods, a demon. These things were meant to be only rumour and legend. How Derrek recognized it was beyond Keirn. How the minstrel was able to summon it seemed equally baffling. It all seemed like a terrible nightmare or horrible illusion. Perhaps this was all just a mad visioning. Perhaps he’d consumed too much mushroom stew at the feast. That meal certainly felt off. And Kait had warned him that eating too much may give him terrible nightmares.
Yes, this was most certainly a dream. A stew inspired dream that he simply needed to awake from…
Suddenly, the bones in his hands jangled together before raising out of his hands. Keirn cried out, waving his arms wildly in front of him for the magical chime that had evacuated his grasp. All he found were a collection of fingers that wrapped about his headwear and quickly pulled the cloth from his eyes and ears.
“What are you doing?”
Keirn blinked up at the hooked nose and questioning eyes of the gorgeous Licia Songsinger.
“Ah…” Keirn muttered.
The lady minstrel looked even more resplendent upclose than she did when performing. Her dress was majestically cut despite its simplicity. A gentle weave of silk and linen that gave an abstract sense of a gentle rosy waterfall cinched tastefully about her waist. Her hair had a glossy sheen and a small dusting of complimentary powder was dashed about her eyes.
She turned the rather grime object in her hands before looking back at Keirn.
“What is this?”
“I can explain,” Keirn muttered though he knew he couldn’t.
Licia held it out by the tiny finger bone, letting the thin ropes unwound as he bones clattered against each other. Fully extended, the chime actually looked rather remarkable given it’s materials. Each piece dangled, clattering against its neighbour but releasing a rather pleasant echo. Course, it wasn’t really something Keirn would want to hang on his front door but it wasn’t nearly as macabre as he first thought.
“The construction is quite expert. The bones haven’t been damaged when attached and still produce clear notes. It’s very remarkable.”
“Can I have it back?”
“What did you make this for?”
“I don’t think this is really the best time for this.”
“Oh? How come?”
Keirn gaped at the young woman. He turned looked up and down the gallery to make his point.
Yet, now with his blindfold removed, he didn’t see the bodies he’d expected. There were no archers clawing at each other or howling at whatever pain had driven them mad. No disgraced courtesans huddled in corners searching furtively for some relief from unimaginable fear and terror. In fact, the gallery was completely empty. The rows of high back wooden chairs lined in uninterrupted rows. Keirn scrambled to his feet and peered over the rail.
Where he’d expected to see visceral and blood was a rather tidy and kept audience chamber. The large tapestries hung unchanged upon the walls and the great rugs lay pristine across the stone. In fact, the room was too in order. There appeared to be no guards at the doors and the throne lay pristine and untouched despite the grisly scene that had unfolded on it not long ago.
Keirn turned to the minstrel.
“What trickery is this?”
“I beg your pardon?” she asked.
“The audience chamber… the guards… the Duke! Where is everyone?”
The minstrel merely blinked at him.
“I’m… afraid I don’t understand your question.”
“Duke Hasselbach!” Keirn cried, grabbing the woman’s petite shoulders. “Where is he? Where is his body?!”
Songsinger pulled away from him.
“I think a more prudent question would be where are your clothes?”
Keirn looked down, suddenly frightfully aware of his nakedness. He crossed his arms uselessly over his chest in a noble attempt to casually cover as much skin as possible. He narrowed his eyes as he appraised the minstrel.
“You’re the demon, aren’t you?”
The bard returned an equally puzzled look.
“Perhaps this came at a bad time,” she replied, holding the chime back out to Keirn. “I should really go prepare.”
“Prepare? Prepare for what? For some sort of grisly sacrifice with all the bodies?”
“Look, I just came up here to inspect the acoustic quality of this hall. I don’t need some half-naked barbarian stammering some mad nonsense at me. I should go prepare.”
She seemed too sincere. But then again, Keirn was all to familiar with the performance skills of bards.
“I can’t have you leave here,” Keirn replied, reaching to his hip. His fingers clutched air and he turned, searching for his sword.
Inexplicably, the weapon had seemingly vanished along with all the other evidence of the bloodbath.
The minstrel raised a brow and began to slowly retreat from the man.
“I really think it’s time that I went and got ready.”
Keirn looked back at her. What sort of duplicity was this? No blood, no death and all his belongings gone save for the cadaverous keepsake from his sister. Something clearly wasn’t right.
“What have you got me into, Derrek?” Keirn growled.
For a moment, confusion coloured the other minstrel’s suspicious features.
“Say that again?”
“I said, what is going on here?!”
“No, that name. Who did you speak to?”
“Well… no one. Myself I guess.”
“The name, you fool! Who’s name did you say!”
Keirn looked at the other minstrel warily.
“How do you know Derrek?”
“I could ask you the same.”
And then, in a great sweep of her dress, the minstrel produced a wicked curved dagger from her clothes though Keirn knew not where it could have been hidden before. She pointed it menacingly towards Keirn. The sorcerer merely looked back, hand clutching his chest and the chime.
It looked weird.
“Well, he’s my best friend. I’ve been travelling with him for quite some time now. The four of us, my sister and my other best friend, were hired on by the Duke to protect his life. A life which you rather viciously stole away.”
She stepped forward, the blade pressing dangerously against Keirn’s throat. Keirn instinctively retreated from the cold touch, his lower back pressing against the polished wood rail.
“What reason do I have not to slit you right where you stand?”
Keirn thought for a second.
“Well none, you bloodletting witch. Go ahead, might as well finish what you started!”
Keirn held his arms aloft, leaving himself completely exposed to her assault. But instead of plunging the weapon into his soft flesh, Licia merely retracted the blade though she did not return it to its sheath.
“Perhaps you best start from the beginning. And I do hope it contains some reasonable explanation for why you’re not dressed.”