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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Death's Whisper

My apologies for this post being a couple days late. I had a health issue which placed me in the hospital for a few days, and I just was able to finish getting this sent out. I hope you enjoy.

It was late in the afternoon as the guys walked through the market. The pungent aromas of spices from faraway lands mixed with the day's catch of fish. The bright colors of tropical fruits vied for supremacy over the fine silks and woven tapestries. The myriad sounds of so many voices combined into a constant hum. Neko had always been enthralled by the fact that so many different people could come together to barter or sell their goods. He stopped at a nearby vendor hawking his meat pies.

He lifted two fingers to indicate how many he wanted, and as he and Dom waited to be served he couldn’t help from observing Dom’s reticence. “What has you so quiet? You just don’t seem yourself. Not since we fought off those thugs. What’s going on?” He reached to take a pie from the vendor before handing it to Dominic. 

Dominic took the offering from Neko and has he worked the parchment paper that was wrapped around it away, he glanced into the distance towards the inn where they were staying. “I don’t know how to explain it. You know how Donny and I have always had this connection. A mind to mind link, if you will. It’s gone. For the first time in my life, I feel alone. No matter where I have been, I have always felt my twin. When I awoke and found him gone, he was truly gone.”

Neko had taken his meat filled pastry and flipped a couple coins toward the vendor. He took a bite savory the blending of the spices with the juicy roasted meat. Some of the juice trailed down the back of his paw and he was quick to lick it off. There was no way he was letting the succulent drippings escape. He caught Dominic watching him and smirked, “what?”

The two continue to move among the stalls as they munched on their meal. “Do you think you will ever find the connection again? Or is it gone for good? What do you think caused it to be broken?” Neko questioned Dom as they walked.  Occasionally something would catch their attention and they would stop to study it before continuing their exploration.

“I don’t know for sure. As I said when I woke up I felt the disconnect, so I don’t know when it happened for sure. I haven’t talked to Donny yet to ask him if he has felt the same thing. I don’t know how he hasn’t but I am just too confused to know.” While Dominic had been speaking, he had stopped and purchased a couple mugs of ale for the two to wash down their pies. He was taking a drink when he had the weirdest feeling. He felt like he was being drawn somewhere, he turned trying to find the direction he was being pulled toward.

Neko quirked an eyebrow at his best friend as he watched him turn in a complete circle. “Um, dude? What are you doing? You look ridiculous.” Dominic stopped spinning and walked a couple steps in once direction, then spun around and walked in the opposite. Neko reached out and grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking him a bit to get his attention. “Dom! Stop! What the hell are you doing? You are weirding me out, man.”

Dominic finally seemed to focus on Neko’s face. “Sorry, I need to go. I can’t explain I have this urgent need to go. You can go with me, or stay here. It’s your choice.” Dominic brushed off Neko’s hold and headed into the crowd. Neko stood for a moment in disbelief but then figured he had better follow his crazy friend.

Back at the inn, Bo sat on the side of his bed with his head in his hands. Az sat before the fireplace letting the heat finish drying his fur from his quick bath. He was using his towel to wipe the water out of his ears when Bo shot up off the bed. “I think I’ll go down and ask the owner if he knows where I can hire a decent guide to lead us to Black Barrow. I haven’t been there since I was a kit, and our other guide is somewhat indisposed right now.”  He had his paw on the doorknob when Az threw the towel at him. “What?” was the question in his eyes as he turned to face his naked friend.

“Dude. Here, have this back.” Bo said as he threw the towel back in Az’s direction. “Why’d you throw it at me?” He leaned back against the door waiting for his friend to enlighten him with his words.

Az dutifully wrapped the towel around his waist as he sauntered over to where his pack lay upon the bed. He began pulling out a pair of clean clothes before answering his looming companion. “I figured I would go down with you. Just let me get dressed. Fair warning, you might want to go make a dash under some water yourself because you are starting to smell more horse than Felis. Just saying, man.” He then dropped his towel and wiggled his butt in Bo’s direction chuckling.

Az laughed even harder when Bo fled the room commenting on his exit, “fine, just stop shaking that at me. I’m going to be sick.”  Az laughed even harder and started to do a bump and grind move as he hummed a classic dance tune. “Oh, My, God! My eyes, my eyes.” Was heard just before the slam of the lavatory door.

Azereus made his way over to the door so his protégé could hear him, “You’re just jealous that I still have the moves at my ancient age. You’ll never match me for moves and you know it.” He returned to the bed and began to dress. It wasn’t long before the two old friends were headed downstairs.

The innkeeper pointed them in the direction of a blue-furred fellow sitting in a back corner of the boisterous bar. The locals had finished their day’s endeavors, and now wanted something to help them relax and forget.  The male they had been told to look for sat with his back against the wall. His hood up, and drawn close to his face. When he took a drink, the light would reveal grass-green eyes. His fur was the color of a foggy morning where the fog is so thick you can feel it.

Bo and Az had studied the male as they approached and knew a fellow warrior when they saw one. You could feel the wariness that rolled off him in waves. Once Bo had introduced himself and Az, he sat down to explain to the stranger the nature of their business. As he had studied the color of the male's fur he made note that the male reminded him of fog in more ways than one. The guide introduced himself as Max. He seemed to relax once he realized he was among his own kind.

Max heard the tale told him and could only shake his head. That silly star thing had everybody all crazy. If you asked him, it was just another happening in the night sky. It didn’t mean anything. But if these guys wanted him to take him to an old cursed castle in the middle of nowhere who was he to judge. Their money spent either way.

Once they had settled on a price, Bo asked Max to follow them up to meet the rest of the gang. Max agreed and after paying for their drinks followed his new employers up to their rooms. They stopped at CeCe and Neko’s room first. Bo knocked and waited for someone to answer the door. 

Now that they were out of the dimly lit bar, and Max had let his hood fall back, he noticed that their newly hired guide had crossed eyes. He wondered how someone with that affliction became a warrior. Hell, maybe because he was a warrior was why they were crossed. You just never knew.

He heard footsteps too light to be Neko’s approach the door. He heard his beloved voice ask who was knocking? Good girl, she hadn’t just opened the door. “It is Az and me, my love. We have hired a guide to take us into Black Barrow. We wanted you to meet him.” He heard her say something but it was muffled through the door. Just as he was going to ask her to repeat it, the door opened. As always, she took his breath away. He loved her in blue but tonight she was in a dusty rose tunic. The shade brought out her stripes and made her green eyes look bigger.

CeCe gave the stranger her usual full body scan, stopping to study his face. “Hello. I am CeCelia DeMeana, it is nice to meet you. I would introduce you to my brother but he isn’t here. I would assume he is with the twins in their room. Would you like to come in, Mister…?” Here CeCe paused to learn the gentleman’s name.

Max stood mesmerized by the beauty before him. It took a moment for what she had said to penetrate his thick head. “Excuse me, my lady, the name is Max, just Max. And I would rather finish with the introductions if you don’t mind.” He got the feeling that he might not be walking right for long if he accepted the lady’s invitation into her chamber. If he went by the scowl he received from the big, hulking warrior at his side as any indication.

CeCe looked between Bo and the guide completely understanding his reticence in accepting her invitation. “That is quite alright, Max. My darling Bo can be a bit menacing when he wants to be. Even though he has no need to do so” here she gave Bo a very pointed look. “I give you leave to continue on with the introductions, maybe soon we can sit down and get to know one another.” She noticed Bo stiffen, and reached out and patted the poor guide's arm. The look she gave Bo spoke of the lecture he had waiting for him.

Max gave the lady a deep bow and then turn to stand away from the door. He didn’t envy Bo the dressing down he would soon be receiving. Az joined him against the far wall, giving him a small nudge. The age-old comradery born between warriors watching one of their own getting scolded by his woman. While Bo’s back was to them, they both wore identical grins, but as soon as he stiffened and turned to make his way down the hall, the smiles were replaced with neutral expressions.

Bo banged on the twin’s door a bit harder than he should have and when a startled Donny opened the door, he felt ashamed of his anger. He knew he needed to get a handle on his jealousy before it cost him the woman he loved. “Sorry Don-Don, can we come? I want to introduce you to our new guide.”  Donny stepped back with the door held open so that the men could enter. The room was dimly lit with just the lamp by a chair to give light along with the fireplace.

A book lay face down indicating that Donny had been reading before their entrance. “CeCe said that Neko would be here. Where are he and Dominic?” Bo asked as he went to stand by the window. Az took up a position by the fireplace and Max remained standing just inside the door. “This is Max, he will be guiding us to Black Barrow. Max, this is one of my twin brothers, Donny.” Bo did the introduction quickly and then turned to study the road outside the window.

Donny studied the big Blue, he was classical built like those of their breed full bodied, with rounded features and the characteristic green eyes. Wait a minute this guy’s eyes were crossed. Donny fought hard not to laugh at a cross-eyed guide. He brought his paw to his chest and bowed slightly, “it is an honor to meet you, sir, thank you for your guidance.”  He motioned the fellow to enter the room. “Please come in.”

Max stepped inside the room which didn’t seem too big when you considered that it held three full grown Felis warriors and one in his first incarnation. It didn’t leave much space to go. Max moved to go sit on the bed closest to the door when he heard a loud crack. “What the… how did this get here? Is this any way to treat one’s weapons?”  

Max asked as he held up a broken bow. He studied the workmanship and had to admit the bowmaker was quite talented. It had been carved from the ancient Tragara tree. It was well-balanced, and he could tell from the way it had been kept it, that it was a beloved weapon. Max felt terrible about destroying it, but in the dimly lit room, he had not seen the dark wood.

Donny came over and grabbed the bow from Max’s hands. “Oh no. It is my brother’s bow. He hardly ever leaves it behind. I swear he even sleeps with it. He is going to be devastated. I remember him searching for weeks for just the right piece of wood.” Donny was turning the bow gently in his hands, caressing the small nicks and notches that Dominic had carved into the wood through the years. He turned toward Bo, “What is he going to do for a weapon now?”

At the same moment, Donny was asking that question, Dominic was still following his wild impulse, which had led him down into a seedier part of the town. The stalls now sold more deadly weapons, and all manner of devices used to torture and destroy your enemy. Dominic barely noticed what was around him as he searched for what was driving him. Neko had kept step with him the whole way, but he was beginning to worry for his friend.

Suddenly Dominic made a dead stop right in front of a dilapidated tent. There were ancient weapons scattered around the outside; most in bad need of repair. Some so rusted that it was hard to make out what their original use was for. Others were broken and missing pieces. After his brief stop, Dom continued inside the less than inviting entrance.

Neko watched his friend disappear inside, after checking around the area he headed in after his crazy friend. As he walked around piles of weapons in even worse shape than those residing outside the door, he finally made it to Dominic’s side. “Dude, what is up with you? I have been chasing you all over this goddess forsaken market and now you want to stop and peruse this old junk bin. Have you lost your mind?” To punctuate his disgust Neko grabbed the handle of a mace that as he lifted it up the rusted chain crumbled leaving the ball in the pile of what had once swung it into battle.

Dominic glanced over at what became of the weapon but could not fight the feeling that there was something here he must find. He began moving among the tables and racks, picking up first one sword only to pick up a spear next.

A couple of rough looking characters had entered the tent behind them and wandered around watching Dom navigating through the forgotten wares of war. He also noticed the proprietor of the shop watching him and Dominic. The male was studying their clothes and weapons, judging how much he could gouge the price for his junk.

While Neko watched, the men watching him and Dominic. Dominic kept rummaging through the cast offs of long lost warriors. He had stopped at a rack of bows and was intently checking each one for their draw and aiming ability. He picked up one that didn’t look like much so covered in dirt and debris, it was hard to even tell what type of wood had been used to craft it. But as soon as Dominic’s hand had touched it, he had tensed and stopped to intently study what he held. He then turned looking for the proprietor, “how much do you want for this old bow? Don’t think to cheat me, I won’t tolerate it.” Was all he said coming to stand close to the male.

Neko was looking at him like he had grown a second head. He had been with Dom while he searched for the perfect wood for his bow. He had spent hours working on it to get it to bend at just the right angle. There was one thing that Dominic was a master at and that was crafting bows. Neko had never seen him purchase one in his life.

“That bow, good sir? Why it is of the finest wood. It just needs to be cleaned up a bit. I recently lost my apprentice who polished and cleaned all my wares. I couldn’t let it go for less than two goldens, and that is taking a loss for myself.” The proprietor was rubbing his hands together as he worked to make the sale.

Dominic turned the bow this way and then that way. “I don’t see it being worth anywhere near two goldens, you would be lucky to get one silver out of it. I am just looking for a training bow for a young one which I would usually craft myself, but we are traveling and I find I have no time for it.” Dom placed the bow on a nearby stack of junk and made to walk away.

“I will just have to wait until we return home to start his training. Pity.” He then started walking towards the door, Neko following close behind. He was just getting ready to exit when the shopkeeper said. “Wait, seeing as it is for the training of a young. I will let it go for a silver, if it pleases you, my lord?”

Dominic turned back towards the man and as he made his way back to where he had left the bow, he dug a silver out of his pouch. “Good deal. The young will be happy now, and I will not be hearing constantly how bored he is. Now he can spend his idle time in training. Here is your payment. Farewell, good sir.” Dominic pitched the silver toward the shopkeeper knowing the man would catch it and begin checking to see if it was real. He and Neko were out the door and gone shortly after.

Once they were away from the shop Neko couldn’t stop laughing at how Dominic had acted in the shop. “That was insane. What made you come up with the story about the young? I mean it was inspiring. You had him, well close to the right place. I mean you still paid a silver for an old damaged bow. Why may I ask did you want that bow?” He stopped and stared at the object in question.

Dominic stopped and looked down at what still seemed to whisper to him. As soon as his hand had touched it, he had felt a connection. He knew all he needed was to clean the filth off it and the bow would be in perfect shape. A treasure hiding in plain sight. He just didn’t know how much of a treasure yet. “I don’t think it is damaged. I just think it needs some tender loving care and it will be perfect. It was worth a lot more than a silver, I just know it.”

The two headed back to the inn Neko thinking his friend had lost his mind and Dominic impatient to get to work cleaning up the bow. On the walk, he had begun to wipe the grime away revealing some of the etchings engraved into the wood. When Neko saw the etchings, he felt a cold shiver race down his spine. The entered the inn and headed up to their rooms.  

As they got to Neko and CeCe’s room, Neko remembered he had left his pack in the twin’s room. “I need to go with you to my pack.” He told Dominic when he rejoined him walking down the hall. Dom just shook his head that he understood. When they got to the room, he opened the door to find it filled with his brothers, Azereus and some male he didn’t know. He noticed immediately the solemn tone the room held. And then he saw his bow in his brother’s hands.

Tossing the old bow aside, he rushed over to his brother. “What happened? How did this happen? My bow, my beautiful bow.” Dominic took it from his brother’s hands and went to sit in the chair by the fire. He turned it over and over trying to ascertain if it was repairable. He had just concluded, what he had known the moment he had picked it up, that it was beyond repair when he heard the strange man ask, “where did you find Death’s Whisper?” All eyes were now on the ancient bow that Max held in his hands.

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