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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Calm Before The Storm

Nilla fought down the gorge she felt in the back of her throat, at seeing the small crumpled bundle next to the cage. She wanted to go to him but she knew better than to move in that direction. Paevia must have known what she was thinking because she grasped the sleeve of her tunic. “Come, we need to leave. He has issued his orders. Do you want to make him angrier? Do you want to join the kit? There’s nothing to be done for him, but we can survive. Come Nilla.”

Nilla allowed herself to be pulled out of the audience room. The courtiers were becoming agitated and had started to mill around. “Enough!! Either find your place or be out of my sight!” came the booming voice of Amerak. He had taken a seat on his throne and sat glowering at Shénmei. The mystic, however, took no notice as he was trying to examine his apprentice through the bars of his cage. “If he isn’t dead, worry not, old one. He shall soon be. The price you pay for playing me a fool.” Was growled from the throne.

Amerak motioned guard forward and gave him orders. “Take this... this ancient pile of worthless flesh from my sight, you might as well toss the little piece of garbage in with him to remind him of what happens to those who anger me. Go.” The guard gave a smart salute and after motioning a couple other guards to join him they slowly wheeled the cage with the squeaky wheel back the way it had come. One of the guards grabbed up the bundle that was Spooks, making note of the low moan that came from the small kit.

The journey back to the dungeon was a long torturous one for Shénmei. He felt the life force of his apprentice ebbing. He tried to concentrate on building his strength for when they were once again in his cell. He hoped he had enough power to help the young one. His own body was under-nourished and the guards had been given orders to beat the whereabouts of the gang out of him. He feared there just wasn’t enough left to save Spooks. He truly wished that the Mithralian Queen was in his presence. Her healing powers were sorely needed.

The Mithralian Queen had just entered the twin’s bedchamber as Max held out a bow she had never seen before. She heard him ask “where did you find Death’s Whisper?” and watched as all eyes in the room trained on him. She watched as Dominic crossed the room in a few short strides and pulled the bow from Max’s hands.  The glare he gave the poor fellow made CeCe wince.

“I have no idea what this Death’s Whisper is you speak of, but you are manhandling my new bow. Good thing I found it seeing how it seems my old one is ruined.” Dominic held up the broken remains of his beloved bow. “I have had this bow for years, yet in one misstep it is rendered useless.” He shouldered past Max to have a seat on his bed. He gently placed the pieces beside him before pulling his pack to him.

Max moved away from the volatile young Felis. “Death’s Whisper is the name of your new bow. It has been lost for a long time. Some say that the mystics stole it from the body of its last owner to hold until a new guardian was found.” Max took a moment to let what he said sink in. He wet his lips suddenly parched. “Might I have a sip of water?” he asked those standing in the room.

Azereus reached for his belt and tossed a wineskin that he had scored earlier in the day. “Here, would you like some wine. You said, guardian. Guardian of what? Just how long has it been missing?” he asked as Max caught the proffered drink. “Why is it called Death’s Whisper, or do you know?” Az continued to question the guide.

Dominic had removed his supplies and was working to remove the dirt and grime from the nooks and crannies. As the dirt came away, the engraved runes started to stand out more. What he had thought was a dark wood turned out to be a lighter shade. As he held it close to the light it appeared to be the cognac color of the Taxis tree. It made this bow very rare for there was few of the Taxis left. He stopped to search in his pack for a moment before pulling a small bottle of oil from its depths.

He put a small amount of the oil on a fresh rag and began to work it into the striking bow. “Well, it wasn’t mystics that I got it from but scroungers. It was buried in a junk tent with ruined and useless weapons. I don’t think it is this fabled bow of which you speak.” As it always did, working on his bow always calmed his restless spirit. As he continued to work the oil in, his mind opened and he could have sworn the bow was speaking to him.

Max and the others watched as Dom’s ministrations revealed a thing of great beauty. CeCe thought to herself “How can something so beautiful, carry such a bad name or be so deadly?” She looked towards Max waiting for him to continue his story, she noticed he appeared to need a nudge to begin again. “Max, you were telling us about this weapon’s history. Who was the first to carry such a glorious weapon of war?” she prompted.

Max took another sip before continuing his story. “The Guardian was none other than the first personal guard to the Pantheri Prince, who later became the first King of the Pantheri. It is said it has been passed from father to son, if said son swears to serve as guard to the prince’s. If the son refused then it was passed to the one who took the guards place.” Max paused, and saw he had everyone’s attention.

“According to legend Death’s Whisper cannot miss its target. Its aim is true. When the Pantheri king fell, it was said his guard had been slain defending him. When the raiders returned though the guard and the royal family were missing. The only thing to attest to the death of the Pantheri King was his head taken by his slayer.” Max lifted the wineskin back to his lips and drank more of the sweet wine.

Max noticed the others casting glances at each other. He didn’t understand what the significance was to what he had said but something he had said had caused a stir. He watched as the black furred male they had said was named Neko came over to sit next to Dom on the bed. He thought the male had the look of one of the fabled warriors but everyone knew they were extinct. The Pantheri queen and her son had disappeared with her husband’s guard never to be seen again. Surely if the son had lived he would have sought to reclaim his heritage.

Bo had been listening to the tale, but seemed lost in thought. “It seems like it has found a new home, if it is indeed this fabled bow. I think Dom would agree that it matters not if it’s aim is true. I think we should all get some rest, we should be leaving at first light. The weather can be a bit unpredictable if I remember right, the closer we will get to Black Barrow. I assume you have quarters for the night Max?” he said as he walked over to CeCe and they both made their way to the door.

Max looked around to see the others were taking Bo’s advice so he went over to Azereus and handed him his wineskin. “here ya go. Sorry, I think I may have drained it. If you’d like I will gladly replace it, if you follow me below to the tavern.” By this time Bo and CeCe had left the room, Az took the wineskin and made to follow.

“That’s okay, I think I am going to go crash. The thought of a nice soft mattress for the night is my goal. I’ll let you repay me later, how does that sound?” Az asked as he walked out into the hall with Max following close behind.

Az and Max took notice as Bo and CeCe disappeared into her room. “It even looks like I will have a chance to get to sleep before Bo comes in and starts snoring.” Max chuckled at the face Az made when he talked about Bo’s snoring. “Goodnight Max, may the goddess keep you this night.” Az said as he entered his chamber. Max nodded his head and waved as he headed toward the stairs.

“Goddess protect you and yours. Until tomorrow then.” Was said as he reached the first step. As he made his way down to the main floor and headed towards the tavern, he thought of the strange group he had hired on with. “Something tells me Max, my boy, that this should be an interesting trip.” He went up to the bar and order an ale while taking a seat. He figured a nightcap was called for before he turned in for the night.

Above stairs in the twin’s chamber, Donny looked over at the two heads bent over the task of restoring the bow. While Dominic worked on the bow itself, Neko work on the sinew that would become the drawstring. “Don’t’ you guys think it’s kinda funny,” Donny sat forward before continuing. “How Dom comes to own a bow that is said to have belonged to someone who was close to a Pantheri Prince? It’s like it knew where to go. And what’s up with us finding these new weapons and such? Do you think anyone else will be gifted?” He watched as the two on the bed stopped to think about what he had said.

Dominic was the first to answer. “Honestly I don’t know. I’m not even sure I believe the tale that guy told us. He may be working some angle we don’t understand yet. All I can tell you is it seems like the bow is speaking to me. I am just trying to learn it’s language. Is that how you felt when you found your staff?” he questioned Donny.

Donny picked up his staff which never seemed to be far from him. As he ran his hands up and down the rune covered shaft, his head tilted to the side as if he was listening. “Yeah, it is a bit like that. The more time I spend with it the more I seem to understand it, if that make a lick of sense. I left it in here when I took my bath earlier and found that I missed being near it. It has become something like a companion to me.”

 While he was speaking he had moved to his bed and after standing the staff in the corner, he pulled back the bed covers. “It will be interesting to see if any more weapons or relics end up in our grasp. For now, I think I’m going to sleep. Goodnight guys.” He said as he climbed under the covers. He turned so that his back was to the light, and soon the only sound to be heard was a gentle snore.

Dominic and Neko worked on the bow into the early morning hours. Finally, Neko climbed to his feet, and stretched. “I think you have a bow to do you justice. And if the tale is true, I couldn’t think of anyone better qualified to bear it than you my friend.” Dom stood also and they clasped forearms and then Dom followed Neko to the door.

“I feel it is where it belongs too. And truth be told. I think the tale is true. The whole time we have been working side by side, I have felt at peace and the bow has, and yes, I know it’s strange, but it has been at peace too. Like it knows it is back where it belongs.” Neko studied Dom’s face and saw what he was saying reflected in his eyes.

“I’m glad. I have a feeling we are going to need all the help we can get as we finish this quest. See you at breakfast, sleep well brother.” Neko headed down the hall stopping at his door. He looked back to see the door close on the twin’s room. He entered the room he shared with CeCe to find her curled in a small ball in her bed.

 She had kicked her cover off, so he went over, and pulled it back up to cover her. His heart always did a small flip when he watched his sister sleep. She was so small and dainty, but awake, her personality made you forget that. He bent over, and placed a gentle kiss on her brow before turning towards his own bed and sleep.

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