To celebrate the release of “Ritual of the Stones,” I am releasing a free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth. The story will follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 14 – Flight and decision
The sun had just begun to appear over the horizon as Pewtory gathered the last of the stones and positioned it with the others. He stood up, stretched his aching back and then surveyed his hastily constructed work. He then lent down and adjusted the position of two of the stones to make the words clearer.
This time when he stepped back the words, “NOT ME” were clear to anyone that could be bothered to read them. It would have to do. He had already spent far too long, lingering in the barn then was necessary. The discovery of one dead bard with another very much alive bard standing next to the corpse in the middle of nowhere equated to only one thing. No amount of charm and protestations would save him from the noose.
Still he wanted to leave some sort of note to the peddler to let him know that he was not culpable for the death of Lionel the Lark.
Pewtory had left the stones inside the barn by the entrance. They should be noticed there, as for the murdered bard he had not dared to touch him. He had stared at him for a long while, unable to move or process what he had just witnessed. He had hoped that by some bizarre chance, Lionel the Lark would have survived the ordeal and would have suddenly started breathing again. However, all that had changed was that his horribly disfigured neck had changed to a deep purple.
It was not that Pewtory had not seen death before, (in fact he had actually dealt it out himself on occasion), but he had never witnessed an act so randomly violent, especially when unprovoked. He had thought about covering Lionel the Lark with hay as a sign of respect and to give him more time before the body was discovered, but the act would have been pointless once he had decided to leave the message with the stones.
Pewtory took a final look at the stones, gathered his possessions and then set off in the morning light.
* * *
Pewtory had been on the road for an hour before he forced himself to slow his pace. He had been doing a mixture of jogging and walking briskly. His feet were wet where he had veered off of the main path and headed across the grasslands and his neck was sore from continually looking over his shoulder.
Despite not sticking to the road, he remained close to it, as he had never been to Compton and so relied on the main road to take him there. The main road had meandered and several times his journey through the rough terrain cut across the road which although risky, gave him comfort to know he was travelling the fastest and most direct route to the town. Lionel the Lark had said he had been there the night before last, so it couldn’t be too far.
His legs burned and he yearned to stop but did not trust he had put enough distance between him and the barn. He hoped that Archie might believe him, but Red Jack Thomas would not be so trusting and if Archie could be believed, who knew what resources the farmer had at his disposal. Jitsuam farm certainly had more to it than initial appearances.
Another half an hour and Pewtory was forced to stop. He had entered a forest some time ago, and now felt certain he was concealed. He slumped to the ground and got his breath back. He glanced behind him out of habit and stared through the trunks that were three times the size of his slender body. A movement in the distance set his heart racing, until he identified a small brown rabbit, hopping oblivious on the forest floor. The sight made his stomach rumble and he fished around his pack for the last of his dried meat. With Lionel’s generosity and having decided to ride along with Archie, he had not given much consideration to replenishing his supply of food, the rabbit would make the ideal breakfast but he did not have time for the hunt.
He uncovered Willow and Wisp and sprinkled food into their bowl. Neither of the fish touched it. The both bowed their heads and Wisp’s tail was firmly underneath her body.
“Ah come on guys, you can’t be that upset, we barely knew the man,” Pewtory said. The fish did not change their positions and continued to ignore the food. “Is it because you think I’ve made up my mind? Well I haven’t, not completely anyway. What am I supposed to do? It is not as if I have a choice.”
Both fish turned in unison and faced away from the bard.
“I can see your point, the murder of a few people I come into contact with, is nothing compared to the death of thousands but it doesn’t feel that way. Besides if I don’t stop this Elsie Brooker from attending the Ritual then he will just find someone else, some other poor unfortunate wretch as a tool for his abhorrent bidding. Isn’t it better that I take on that burden and gain some fame out of it?
Rather my name live on the tips of people’s tongues than someone else. I am already famous for murdering a bard and nothing can change that, why not go the whole hog and become the most famous bard ever?”
Willow responded by flicking his tail and sending a splash of water towards the bard. It did not quite reach him but made him angry all the same.
“What in the moons do you know? You’re just fish. You couldn’t possibly understand what I am going through right now.” This time both fish sent a wave of water that dribbled onto his shirt. “Splash me again and I swear I will tip you out and leave you to drown on the floor.”
Pewtory realised he was shouting and looked around afraid that someone might have heard him. The forest was silent save for the early morning calls of the lapwings and bluejays. He flinched as a movement in the trees caused the branches to stir. It was only a squirrel leaping from branch to branch, but it was enough for him to realise he had dwelled in the same place for too long.
Not taking his eyes away from the treetops he huddled down close to the bowl and whispered to the fish, “We will talk about this later, for now we need to be on the same team in order to survive.” With that, he scooped up the fish and scurried ahead into the trees.