Cry of the Glasya Part 4
A small note about these D&D shorts. They are, by their definition, short which means I don’t put nearly the amount of work or effort into them as I would for either a full length novel or even something I planned to submit to a competition. These stories are basically the filler and practice I do between other ‘jobs.’ They are essentially my doodles if I were in art and not writing.
As such, there are some portions of it that I would rework. I would be a little more exacting in the smaller details and I would certainly spend more than one or two quick ‘once overs’ to get the structure exactly right if I had any intention of these seeing some sort of official publication. Since I do not, they exist in the state that they do. They’re like a caged specimen stolen from the Cambrian – untried little organisms locked in stasis and saved from the exacting extinctions and pressures that would force them into the common organisms we see today.
Which is to say I’m not particularly fond of my next section.
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
Keirn sat on an upturned barrel, warming his chilled fingers over a cooking fire. A scratchy wool blanket was draped over his shoulders while the minstrel stood, pouring two dented cups with the boiled tea. She held one out for the sorcerer before pulling a chair and sitting opposite him.
“So, I apparently conjured some great demon creature from only the gods know where in order to eviscerate the Duke at the height of my performance?”
“And his entire court. And his guards. And presumably my kin and kind.”
“And why would I do this?”
Keirn opened his mouth but immediately shut it. He thought back to his conversation with Derrek. The bard seemed rather insistent that she was the one who did it but now her motives did seem suspect.
“I… guess you were hired to.”
“Me? A hired assassin?”
“Considering the Duke’s personal retinue, having a renown minstrel bring about his death would certainly slip past his security.”
“And, being this renowned minstrel you claim me to be, why would I throw away my reputation on some rather brutish ploy?”
“You’re paid well?”
Licia crossed her legs, giving Keirn the most condescending look he’d ever seen.
“I would think, given your professed time spent with that rather dubious troubadour you claim kinship with, you’d know just how valuable reputation is amongst the performing scholars. It is something worth far more than the gold and silver these upstart royals throw our way. We do not devote ourselves to this path over a misguided dream of riches and leisure.”
She paused and thought to herself.
“Well most of us don’t.”
“Then why would you perform?”
Licia leaned back in her chair, sipping slowly from her drink. She looked down at the cup, analyzing the contents briefly before holding it aloft for Keirn.
“See this? It is a special blend of herbs I’ve concocted in order to preserve my voice. I’ve devoted far more than a few hours of rehearsal to perfecting my craft. My food, my sleep and even where I’ll perform are all dictated by what will nurture and maintain my song. This isn’t a devotion you throw away for something as meaningless as coin. This is something more sacred. Something… divine.”
“Then why summon the demon?”
“I’ve done no such thing.”
She set her cup down, leaning in to appraise Keirn’s features more closely.
“I can see your conviction, however. What you’ve seen, you truly believe whether it be real or not. So let me ask you, why does a wizard study the arcane?”
“But not riches?”
“I’m sure they’re paid well for their services.”
“Truly? How many rule kingdoms or vast trading fleets? How many live in palaces and feast on the finest foods?”
“Look, this isn’t about wizards.”
“And yet they devote their entire lives to studying their tomes. Those with even greater thirst search abroad to further their knowledge, risking life and limb in an attempt to understand something far greater than you or I or even this Duke. Minstrelsy is much the same, though we search not through ancient lore but through ourselves and others.”
“Bards are wizards now?”
“Of a sort. Or wizards and bards are priests of another kind. The classification is meaningless.”
Keirn shook his head.
“This nonsense sounds like something Derrek would lecture me on.”
Keirn lowered his tea and carefully placed it away from him.
“So you and Derrek…”
“Are old… friends.”
“Odd, he never mentioned you to me.”
“Nor you to I. Yet here we are.”
It seemed impossible. Keirn had known the other man for most of his life. They had grown up in neighbouring villages of all places. It seemed unlikely, no unthinkable, that he would never have heard of this woman before.
And yet, they did grow up in different villages. And how well did the sorcerer know the bard before their time at the Academy. There was quite a few years unaccounted for in their past. And it dawned on the sorcerer that he knew little of what the bard did during that time. He’d assumed he’d just lived a quiet life at home.
But after travelling with him for so long, a quiet life was perhaps anathema to the other man.
“Fine, let’s pretend that you didn’t summon a demon and kill the Duke and everyone I care about…”
“Easy enough,” Licia smiled.
“… then by the hells where are they?”
“Well, I can’t account for your friends or the bard,” Licia said, “but unless I have been purposefully misled, the Duke is out on one of his extravagant hunts. It was meant to give me ample time to prepare for my performance. Time, I might add, I’ve decided to spend entertaining you instead.”
“But if you haven’t performed yet…”
“Then how could I have summoned a demon? Hm? Now do you understand my position?”
Keirn shook his head.
“This is impossible. You’re telling me that somehow I’ve travelled back before the ritual? No one is capable of such sorceries.”
“I know. So, really, the mystery seems to be surrounding you and not I. And given all that you’ve told me, it seems clear the course of action we must take.”
Once more there was a rustle of cloth before her dagger appeared again.
Keirn raised his hands.
“Look, I know this sounds unbelievable but give me some time to figure this out.”
“How do I know you’re not the alleged assassin and this is part of your plan?”
“Do I look like an assassin?”
Licia regarded the blanket wrapped man. She lowered her dagger with a smile.
“Very well, you have until after the feast but first some precautions.”
Licia stood, walking over to her bags. She searched through them until she produced a thin wand, some powder and three dried daffodils. She held the flowers out for Keirn.
“They’re really not my colour.”
He knew he couldn’t argue and he slowly raised each dry plant to his mouth will the minstrel sprinkled powder about his stool then poking them into small piles with the wand.
“I’m certain this isn’t necessary. Whatever it is.”
“I can’t afford to keep an eye on you forever,” Licia said, smacking the vestiges of the dust from her hands. “So we’ll just make sure you can’t leave the keep.”
“You’re a wizard then?”
“More of a learner. All bards are keen students of life and that happens to include magic. It’s remarkable how much of the craft can be picked up by non-practitioners.”
She clapped her hands, closing her eyes as she began her chant. That crystal voice echoed about the stone walls, enchanting Keirn even with the dry words of wizardry. He couldn’t help but sit in mute appreciation as she lowered her hands to his head. He felt the soft tingle of arcane energies swirl about her fingers and course through his hair.
Odd that Derrek never seemed able to do any of this.
A few chortled syllables later, she removed her hands and looked at Keirn appraising.
She crinkled her forehead for a moment then shrugged.
“I suppose. It seems… nevermind. Go about your business, stranger. I’d recommend you be quick about it.”
She then claimed her blanket and kicked him from her room with little more than a pat on the bum.
Keirn stood shivering in the empty hall, rubbing his bare extremities. He never could understand why keeps had to always be so cold.
His first inclination was to find some clothes. He made his way back towards the guard room but, if his suspicions were correct, then his belongings wouldn’t be there. Sure enough, the quarters were in pristine order with nary a sign that Keirn and his company had been through.
Was it really possible that he had somehow reversed time? There were rumours of powerful archmages that could halt the passage of time but to completely reverse its course was as likely as forcing a river to run upstream.
Keirn picked about the room, searching through what trunks he could open, until he had enough clothing to drape himself in some makeshift armour. It wasn’t the most comfortable suit – these clothes always were best when fitted for the wearer – but it was better than running about in a loincloth. He plopped a half helm on his head to complete the assemble before clanking out into the hallway. He had no idea how people put these ludicrous suits on everyday. The chain mail was heavy and his arms felt like he’d been lifting Kait’s sacks all day.
He paused, considering his options. He didn’t know where to begin unravelling this mystery and decided the scene of the horror was the best start as any.
The audience chamber gave off an even grander presence when emptied of people. Keirn didn’t have much time to appreciate the majesty of the keep when they had been hired. The job opportunity had been a very last minute deal and they had been shoved into the rank and file of the guards in uncharacteristic haste.
Now that he had time to appreciate the Duke’s keep he couldn’t help but feel that this place was far more lavish than what belied the man’s position. Not that Keirn had much opportunity to judge the wealth of nobles but the few throne rooms he’d entered were just as lavish. How the Duke could afford such rich tapestries, exotic ornaments and a throne that would make any King jealous was beyond the sorcerer’s keen.
Keirn approached the centre of the chamber. Kneeling to the ground, he ran his hand over the floor. He couldn’t feel any markings or sediments to outline the seal Derrek mentioned. He removed his helm, leaning close to the floor to try and see if there had been any indication of mischief. It seemed clean, which led Keirn to believe the best approach to capturing his culprit would be to camp the audience chamber until the villain arrived to arrange his mischief.
He turned, finding a chair and easing his heavy armour into it.
Straps and loose rings of metal were starting to poke into his skin. He scratched absently at them, still trying to comprehend why people wore these cumbersome suits.
Keirn then wondered why anyone would want to kill the Duke. Certainly his brief interaction with the man hadn’t been pleasant but from Keirn’s experience most nobles were rather irritating to deal with. However, the man clearly knew of the plot against his life. Keirn was informed of that when the guards approached them in the market. Plus, they were promised quite a bit of coin for protecting him.
And as Keirn examined the polished arms hanging upon the wall, he began to question the Duke’s unfathomable wealth.
Was there a relative that was hoping to come into their inheritance early? A rather common plot and one Keirn was well acquainted with. The Duke appeared unwed so a child was out of the question. Disgruntled sibling, perhaps? Keirn wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister willing to kill you for your gold. He certainly couldn’t imagine Kait being that bloodthirsty. Though she had threatened to end his life on numerous occasions it was never over money they never had.
And as he peered at those arching pillars, Keirn couldn’t help but feel a sense of loneliness. He had his friends and sibling to rely upon. He knew he could trust them with his life. But here was a man that threw money at even the slightest armoured stranger to seek that comfort from a shadowy threat. He looked towards the elegant throne, noting it sat alone on its raised dais.
“Soldier, what are you doing there!”
Keirn jumped at the voice. He turned to see an armoured knight stroll boldly into the chamber. It took Keirn a second to realize he was being addressed, looking down at his mismatched disguise.
The knight regarded his ill fitting suit for a second before pointing roughly towards the exit.
“You should be on the ramparts! You’re not being paid for idling around while the Duke’s life is being threatened!”
Horse-dung, what was Keirn to do?
“It’s alright, I’m… securing this room.”
“Are you questioning a direct command?!”
The knight placed his gauntlet dramatically on his sword hilt. Keirn slowly slid onto his metal boots. There was no way he could keep watch on the chamber if he was walking the walls.
“And where is your weapon? Gods, what a disgrace if you were seen in this state!”
Keirn tried to conjure some explanation but merely dropped his head in deference.
“My apologies, sir.”
“Report to the armoury immediately! I want to see you on those walls before the Duke returns!”
Under the knights watchful gaze, Keirn cast one last desperate look over the hall before stepping out into the corridors.