Cry of the Glasya – a new fantasy short story (Vacay Post 3)
Continuing on from the demonology of the plemora universe, here’s a new fantasy short story, continuing my brand of D&D inspired adventures. As it’s a highly fictionalized idealization of some of the people I know existing in Fantasyland, changes in their personal lives necessitate changes to their adventuring counterparts. Thus, I present to you Part 1 of The Cry of the Glasya.
The court thundered. The stone walls shook. Beneath a tempest of violins and drums, the commanding keys of the piano wove masterfully through the piece. But even the clarion of the trumpets and the gentle weep of the harp sounded little more than background chatter. For there was but one sound that broke through the minstrel band like the stampede of an unstoppable cavalry charge.
And it was produced by the smallest, least intimidating creature Keirn had ever seen.
She stood between the thick stone pillars of the throne hall. Dwarfed on all sides by the yawning arches of the audience chamber for the ancient keep. Even the thick tapestries and heralds hanging from the walls couldn’t dampen the pelting voice pouring from those thin vocal chords. A single, unassuming woman stood statuesque upon a tiny wooden block.
But while her feet appeared rooted, her arms twisted with each haunting symbol that erupted forth with a greater force than a storm whipped tide. It seemed inhuman the sounds that she twisted from deep within her breast. Had Keirn not been standing there to experience it himself, he would never have believed it to be true.
And neither could the assembled court.
Every onlooker watched in stunned muteness as the foreign words of this incredible singer drowned out all other sounds and thoughts from their minds. There was no doubt in Keirn’s mind. This was the most beautiful and elegant aria he had ever heard. Granted, he’d never heard one before, but even the Duke Hasselbach sat riveted upon the edge of his stolen throne in rapt entrancement.
And just when Keirn thought it couldn’t grow more impressive, a sudden string of notes he’d never imagined singable came bursting from her, directed right down the hall at the raised lord and his gathered attendants by two thin waving arms.
There was but one soul in the entire chamber that seemed unmoved by the piece.
Derrek Gungric, Keirn’s closest companion and minstrel-in-training had his back turned upon the performance and busied himself with a nearby candle stand. Through sheer apparent boredom, he passed the soft flame from one wick to the next, letting the wax drip in thick rivers down the sides until it pooled in the small holders.
“How can you not like this?” Keirn whispered. “I hate your music the most and even think this is damn good.”
“Heard it before.”
“Not like this,” Keirn said. There was no way in this life or the next anyone had heard something like this.
There was a collective gasp as the young singer stepped from her perch. She turned, addressing the courtiers to the sides and the guards standing before the massive barred doors. It was impossible to know what she sang but the delivery gave the briefest impression that it was directed at you alone before she broke the spell and turned to the next face.
It was impossible to turn away. Until Keirn heard a strange rustling and quickly scanned around for the source.
Having exhausted his attention with the candles, it seemed that Derrek was now busying himself with darkening a pair of thick glasses using a large piece of charcoal.
“What are you doing now?!” Keirn hissed, slipping as unobtrusively to his side.
“I can’t watch this any longer,” Derrek said.
“So you’re going to blind yourself!”
“That’s the plan.”
Keirn stood momentarily mute.
“We’re suppose to be guarding the Duke!”
“How are you going to do that if you can’t see?”
Keirn turned to the intruding voice only to be greeted with Jeremiah’s stern face. The larger man motioned towards the singer with a look of impatience. Keirn cast a glance back at the Duke who appeared to be completely oblivious to the disruption. He motioned to Derrek as explanation for his actions but Jeremiah merely waved his hand dismissively.
Keirn turned back to the stubborn minstrel. He’d already completely blackened one eye. Keirn sighed, turning from his friend back to the performance. Keirn would just have to settle with being extra attentive to make up for the lack of eyes from the bard.
Not that there wasn’t an already impressive show of force in the court today. Trained archers lined the galleys and four guards stood watch over every entrance. But even this show of force seemed entranced by the entertainer. Weapons dropped limply at their sides as uneducated men were lost within the elegance and grace of the woman. She didn’t even appear that magnificent. Her dress was simple though colourful. But it was her slender features and enrapturing voice that made her stand apart from her troupe like the burning sun brightly shining out all other stars in the sky.
Keirn then felt a tugging at his sleeve.
“Do you know where Kait left her bags?”
Keirn leaned in close to his friend as the singer hit another stretch of impossible notes.
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“She looks like she’s having fun.”
“And I’m not?”
“You’ve already missed the overture. Besides, I’m doing you a favour by missing this atrocious performance.”
“What do you need now?”
“The leg bones from dinner.”
“Of course you- what?”
“From the swine. You know, you said yourself it was the finest you’d eaten in weeks.”
“I’m well aware of what I ate!”
Keirn grabbed his friend’s dainty wrist and pulled him from the throne dais. Once he was sure he was out of earshot from the duke, he turned upon the impossibly delicate features of his friend.
“First, why in the blazes would you need those. Second, why are they in my sister’s bag?!”
“Probably to finish her chime.”
Keirn merely blinked at his incomprehensible friend.
“You’re impossible sometimes.”
“So do you know where she left them?”
“I believe she was requested to leave them in the guard quarters just outside the hall.”
Suddenly, there was a pause in the vocals as the instruments swelled in the break.
“I’ll have to get them later.”
He then began removing his shirt.
Keirn grabbed his hands, wrestling to keep the stained wool in place.
“Would you stop!”
“The wax should be ready by now,” Derrek said, slipping his hands free and tossing his jerkin nimbly aside.
“Look, you may be jealous of another bard getting the lead performance for the Duke but that doesn’t give you the right to ruin this. Especially when we haven’t even received compensation yet!”
Derrek paused with his belt in his hand. The woman’s voice burst forth and he dropped his pants.
“Probably best to do it now,” he said, shaking his boots free. Keirn growled, snatching for the discarded trousers as the bard quickly hopped to the candle stand in nothing but his linen braies. There, the blonde man dipped his fingers into the cooling pools of wax and plugged them deep into his ears. As Keirn rounded on him with trousers held menacingly in one hand and belt in the other, the bard danced effortlessly about his wailing arms before slipping behind him. There he plunged his dripping fingers into Keirn’s ears and the young man could immediately feel the hardening wax plug his ear canals and mute out all but the faintest echoes of the lingering song.
Keirn rounded on his friend, feeling a familiar frenzy drawing in his chest. But just as he was about to wield his friend’s belt as a whip, he caught a sudden shift of motion on his periphery.
He turned, watching as the Duke’s rapt attention turned to that of confusion. Then, the crinkles of his eyes wearing deep into his skin drew apart. His eyes widened and his pupils contracted in sheer horror. The honour guard standing by his side merely gaped in fear, their gleaming halberds dropping from frozen fingers and pattering against the stone floor in the barest audible din. Keirn felt their motion instead in that dampening silence. All about him, a perceptible change had overtaken the crowd. The courtesans and guests seemed to draw back from the room, pressing against the walls before turning and fleeing towards barred doors.
But all entrances to the throne room had been sealed by request of the Duke. The mob merely pounded useless against the wood.
Keirn wasn’t entirely sure what it was that drew his attention back to the centre of the room. But as he turned he could feel a sudden burning wave of heat blast against his face. And what he saw caused his heart to stop.
There, standing upon the raised wooden step was a towering horror. Keirn wasn’t even sure what it was. The creature wore the body of a human, bare chested but with thick irons wrapped about its arms and dangling from large wrists. The chains pulled taut as great iron collars shackled monstrous canine creatures that snapped about the monster’s thighs. But both man and beasts were much larger than anything… human.
The creature raised its head, a burnt stag skull with faint brands scorched into the bone resting upon its sinewy shoulders. From the darkest pits of its sockets burned an undying red light like stoked embers. A dented and torn scale mail skirt hung limply about the creature’s waist, coated in dried blood and flecked with rotted pieces of fur and flesh that gave a nauseating scent of death.
Finally, a pair of great eagle wings sprouted from the creature’s back. But these weren’t majestic appendages of beautiful array plumes but a bloody and broken mass of torn skin and protruding bone. Great splotches of featherless skin stretched over the scarred heavenly remnants. Burnt pink sinew flexed beneath skin that cracked and bled with each shift of the cracked stumps.
Through the thick wax, Keirn could hear the hollowest echoes of screams.
The creature raised its arms and the four front hounds bound forward. The chains about its forearms unraveled as the beasts bore across the flagged floor faster than any worldly predator. Before anyone could react, they had descended upon the petrified Duke, curved claws longer than daggers tearing through cloth and flesh in mere seconds.
All the Duke’s guards merely watched in unmoving fear as their liege was torn to misting ribbons before them.
Keirn felt something strike the back of his head and he turned to see Derrek practically naked and staring uselessly at a pillar through his darkened glasses. The minstrel made a gnawing gesture then shrugged his shoulders.
“Now’s not the time!” Keirn shouted.
Then he realized Derrek couldn’t hear him. The blonde man merely smacked him again and repeated the gesture.
But the distraction had shaken Keirn from his inaction and he could feel the pressing need to do something and quickly. He grabbed his friend by the wrist and pulled him away from the throne towards the guard room. He didn’t know what the bard was planning but the quest seemed to unshackle his mind and give him clear purpose.
Course, Keirn had no idea how he was going to get through the frightened mob.
Yet, as Keirn hurried towards the side entrances, he noticed the gathered audience turning almost as if they were directed. They all peered back to the centre of the room where Keirn could hear only the faintest of whispers mingling with the ravaged slobbers of those great hounds as they persisted upon the feast laid before them across the throne.
Whatever distraction beheld the others, it made pushing past them with his blind, naked friend in tow easier. Keirn descended on the door, trying the handle and feeling it catch against it’s latch.
“It’s locked!” he cried. Uselessly.
This deafness thing was going to take some getting used to. Keirn turned to Derrek for more guidance but the bard merely repeated the bone-gnawing gesture.
The temperature in the room rose even more and Keirn could feel sweat beginning to bead upon his neck. He raised his hand to wipe it away and noticed a further change overtaking his entranced neighbours.
The attendants clutched at their ears, pressing back against the walls or collapsing against the floor with mouths agape as if their voices could drown out whatever sound plagued them. Some began to writhe in agony while others drew whatever item or weapon they had at hand. Thus, armed they struck out madly about them, hitting and stabbing whatever their weapons found purchase in.
And in this monstrous crowd, while dancing from wild swings and pulling his blind, naked friend to safety, Keirn remembered his sister. With stilling heart, Keirn realized she was probably still at the Duke’s side where those beastly hounds ate. The young man turned, ducking beneath the slice of a blood speckled halberd while pushing Derrek towards the back of a pillar recently made vacant by the cowering courtesan who was pulled to the ground by those that had been cut down but still clutching madly for reprieve.
But the bodies of the deranged proved too effective a barrier. He heard not their footfalls as they collided unaware into him. He raised arms against lashing nails and blades, each bit stinging and drinking the slightest droplets of blood from his flesh. He’d barely moved a few feet through the writhing mass before he felt his wrist grabbed. He turned to see Derrek still standing with one arm raised to gnaw and pulling anxiously towards the barred door.
At that moment, one of the standing guards blades caught against the thick wood bar, splintering the mass with more strength than seemed possible. With his steel hands, the guard pulled the pieces apart, ripping the door wide and fleeing into the hall as his frenzied compatriots shuffled, bit and clawed afterwards. It was as if a floodgate had been opened and Keirn felt himself being pulled along. The only anchor in the crush of bodies was the soft touch of his minstrel friend still miming the meal they’d enjoyed the night prior.
As they passed beneath the frame, one sound seemed to worm its way through the wax stoppering his hearing. But it wasn’t a piercing shriek or scream. It was a soft sob or remorse.