Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pewtory the Lesser Bard part 13 - Lionel the Lark

bard

Part 13 of my free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth as my newly released book Ritual of the Stones. In this story we follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. 

Read Part 1

Pewtory the Lesser Bard part 13 – Lionel the Lark

By the time Pewtory had climbed the ladder one handed (the other cradled the fish bowl) the other Bard had parted the straw equally down the middle. The message was clear, Pewtory was not permitted to encroach on the other man’s side.

Pewtory set the bowl down and nodded his appreciation. He then removed his sodden cloak and hung it on the rung of the ladder, before taking off his muddy boots. He made sure neither items of clothing came into contact with the straw and made it wet. The other bard seemed to like the practical approach as he also nodded.

Pewtory plonked himself down with a sigh and enjoyed the sensation of not being rained on for a moment. He studied the man who eyed him warily. Now he was closer he could see the man was partially bald. He still retained a thick clump of brown hair around the sides of his head and a stray patch across the crown. He had a large pointed nose and a rather effeminate mouth in that his lips were pink and there was no sign of stubble.

“You bring anything to eat?” The bard said.

“Would I go down even more in your estimation if I said I hadn’t?”

The bard grunted and threw Pewtory half a loaf. Pewtory caught it and thanked the man. It was good, still soft and contained raisins. He took a second to inhale its aroma before ripping off a chunk and plopping it in his mouth.

“There is honey here if you want it, just let me finish spreading it on mine.”

“Just the bread will do thank you. I may be a useless beggar but I don’t overstep the mark. Have you got a name?”

“Lionel the Lark. I take it from your gormless expression you haven’t heard of me?” Pewtory shrugged and smiled what he hoped was a sheepish grin. The man’s name implied that he had a sweet singing voice, but Pewtory found it hard to believe given the man’s gruff tones. “Don’t worry, the people of Compton had not heard of me either.”

“Tough crowd?”

“Maybe, I doubt anyone would have cheered that lot up. The witch arrived there shortly before I did and delivered some pretty unsettling news by all accounts.”

“Marybeth?”

Lionel the Lark nodded.

“I don’t think anyone could have livened up a crowd once they had been visited by that crone.” Pewtory said. The bread he chewed suddenly felt dry and stodgy. “Actually I will take some of that honey.”

Lionel handed it over as if he understood completely.

Marybeth was the newest member of the Order, the collection of warlocks and witches whose sole purpose was to oversee the Ritual. They were said to possess magical abilities that were incomprehensible to most. Their reputation proceeded them, some say there weren’t even human.
Lead by Iskanadar there were only four members left in the Order. Pewtory had not met one of them and wanted to keep it that way. Out of the all the stories he was asked to tell, the Order came a close second to tales of the Gloom. He knew about each member but how much of it was true he couldn’t say. He hoped very little of it in truth.

Marybeth would only be visiting Compton for one reason only: some poor sod would be getting the news they had been selected for the Ritual and Marybeth was there to escort them to Lilyon.
The stranger’s words came back to haunt him. “I want you to attach yourself to one of the stoneholders and prevent them from attending the Ritual.”

It was too much of a coincidence that Pewtory was headed in the same direction as a stoneholder, but how could the stranger have possibly known? Suddenly the warm straw did not seem as comfortable.
“You might have better luck than me. They have had a day to digest the news. When I performed only a handful of people showed up. The Mayor’s a good man, but despite his best efforts he couldn’t get them excited.”

Pewtory wondered how much of it was the arrival of the witch and how much was the bard’s performance. In his experience a group of people who received bad news were desperate for some entertainment to take their mind somewhere else. He had to question how devoted Lionel the Lark was to his trade when he was travelling in the opposite direction of the Ritual.

Part of him wanted to travel to the town to challenge himself. Maybe Lionel the Lark could not rouse the people of Compton but he was sure he could. Then again, by the time he arrived the victim might have been selected. Apart from the victim’s family and friends, the remainder of the town might be so relieved it was not them or their loved ones chosen that they would be in the mood to celebrate in which case there would be no test of his ability at all.

As if someone turned a tap off, the rain ceased. The absence of the steady patter on the roof, amplified the silence. Pewtory laid down on his back, his arms folded behind him and his palms cradling his head. From between the clouds, the blue and green moons peaked out. The two overlapped slightly, the vast lime moon, eclipsing the lower quarter of its slightly smaller cousin. Scholars had written whole tomes on the three moons of Frindoth and what the appearance of the various combinations of them meant for the forthcoming day. If the scholars were to be believed, the presence of the blue and green symbolised, “truth, wisdom and harmony.” With the introduction of the witch and his encounter with the stranger, Pewtory doubted somehow the scholars were right when it came to his path.    

At some point Pewtory must had drifted into a deep sleep as when he heard Lionel the Lark calling his name he sat up confused and disorientated. The rain had commenced once again with renewed vigour as if it was determined to beat more holes in the barn.

“Pewtory,” Lionel the Lark said again. The bard sat up opposite Pewtory and stared at him intently. Something was wrong, the man’s voice sounded harsher. The gruffness was still there, but it was more pronounced, more polished, more like…

Pewtory shot to his feet and reached for his sword, he grabbed it and spun towards the stranger.
“Yes, it’s me. Leave the sword. I don’t think we really want to harm dear old Lionel the Lark do we?”

Pewtory lowered the weapon. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see Lionel’s eyes had rolled up into his skull, only the whites were visible.

“Have you killed him?” Pewtory whispered.

“Trimoons no. He will wake up in the morning none the wiser. What do you take me for?”

Pewtory assumed the man did not need a response and so gave none.

“I haven’t made any decision yet, if that is what you are here for.”

“Yes you have, you just don’t know that you have made the decision yet. Her name is Elsie Brookman. She is not the only one, but she is the one I want you to follow and befriend. She is an elderly lady, pity really but the Ritual does not discriminate. Once you have met her and got her to travel with you, I will tell you what to do next.”

As the stranger spoke using the bard’s body as a vessel, Lionel the Lark remained rigid. He could have been made of stone.

“I will not do this. I admit the idea of fame appeals to me, but I will not be responsible for so much destruction.”
“I grow tired of this. If I have to motivate you I will. That fat peddler you are travelling with will die if necessary.”

“Archie? No. He has done nothing to deserve such a thing.”

“Nor did poor old Lionel. Perhaps he won’t wake up in the morning after all.”

Before Pewtory could grasp the meaning of the words, Lionel the Lark’s neck snapped as his head span 180 degrees. Pewtory cried out as his fist flew to his mouth and he bit down hard on his knuckles. Lionel the Lark sat motionless for a few seconds, his face staring behind him, before slumping to the floor with a thud.