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 15 – Arrival at Compton
As the hours sped by, Pewtory began to relax, sure he was not being followed. He only checked behind out of habit by the time the sun had reached its zenith and the tall chimneys and grey walls of Compton loomed into view.
He had heard rumours that the mayor had grandiose plans to establish the town as a major force in Brimsgrove but Pewtory struggled to see how he was going to achieve this. Despite its centralised location in the region, the town was too enclosed with trees for merchants to travel to regularly and serve as any real trading outlet.
Compton was a useful stop for those travelling to Lilyon from the north western regions and nothing more.
Pewtory crouched down and observed from a distance. The town was surrounded by a stone wall the size of a man. There was a main gate on the eastern side of the town and this was patrolled by two very bored looking guards.
Ordinarily Pewtory would have strolled up to the gates and announced himself loudly in an attempt to garner attention. Although logic dictated that there is no way news would have reached Compton yet the events at the barn had made him paranoid and he did not wish to take any chances.
“This is stupid,” he muttered to himself. He was acting like he was going to storm the town not find a random woman in it. He needed to be inside and mingling if he was to find Elsie Brookman, not skulking about in the shadows. No one knew him here and if news had travelled to the town of a deranged, murderous bard, than that did not have to mean him it was him. If he was lucky the residents of Compton would probably assume it was Lionel the Lark anyway.
“You’ve received word, that your nephew is to be one of the soldiers presiding over the Ritual and you are on your way to see him in action,” he said to himself making up an excuse for entering the town. At the end of his staff, one of the fish splashed in the bowl, Willow by the sound of it. “Quiet, unless you want to be left here with Beth.”
Convincing himself of his fictional backstory, Pewtory removed the feather from his ear and wiped the make-up from his face. He then carefully unpacked his mandolin and kissed it, before burying it in his blanket and stowing it in a thick bush. He prayed it would not rain.
“Sweet dreams Beth. I will be back as soon as I can for you, I promise.”
He rolled up the sleeves on his shirt to disguise the frilly cuffs and then for good measure, smeared mud on one side of his face to give him a rougher appearance. He could do little about the purple streak in his hair, other than tie it up and hope the guards did not notice it.
“Really I should leave you too as well,” he said to Willow and Wisp. “You are the biggest give away.” He looked long and hard at the fish who stared back blankly. “Ah come on then,” he said, and tucked them under his arm.
The guards looked bored as he approached. Both were young and were pitted with spots. One slumped against the town wall and barely glanced at the bard through dirty brown locks. He chewed on a blade of grass that was slick with his saliva. The other rested his hands and chin on the hilt of a sword that nestled in the ground. It was an awkward pose as the sword was quite short and so the boy was forced to stoop and part his legs.
The armour they wore was a similar design to the guards at Gandara. The padded vests were in even worse condition though and ripped in places.
“State your business,” the stooped guard mumbled in a tone that could not be less bored. His voice must have just broken, as it was deep and he screeched parts of the sentence. He blew out his cheeks as he spoke as if Pewtory was the biggest inconvenience in Frindoth.
“I’m here to sack the town, raze it to the ground, rape the women and enslave all the children,” Pewtory said.
“Really?” The boy suddenly stood up from his sword and struggled to pull it from the mud. The other one pushed himself of the wall with his shoulders.
“No! Of course not really. Do you think I would tell you if that was my plan?”
“How do I know that you aren’t bluffing now?”
“I’m sorry?” Pewtory said, now it was his turn to be genuinely confused.
“Well it seems to me, that if you wanted to sack the city, graze it to the-”
“Yes, raze it to the ground and all that other stuff. Then announcing it and then denying it would be a good way of trying to fool us guards.”
Pewtory was stunned into silence. The two guards looked at each other and smirked as if they had just outsmarted Frindoth’s greatest criminal mind.
“Do you get headaches often?” he asked finally.
“Don’t tell him Garett,” said the grass sucker.
“Look I am on my way to Lilyon for the Ritual,” Pewtory said. He thought about adding the rest of the story he had just rehearsed in his head, but decided it would be lost on the guards.
“Oh,” said Garett, “You best come on in then. Although I warn you the witch was here a few nights ago. Compton is not a place you want to be.”
Pewtory was more touched by the boy’s warning then the ease in which he was now being allowed to enter the town.
“Do you know who was selected?”
“Not yet,” Garett replied. Pewtory could see the fear in their eyes and felt guilty about teasing them. “But there will be three of us.”
“That is what the witch said.”
Pewtory’s mind raced. Three stoneholders from the same town was unheard of. Was there some significance or was it a massive coincidence? It couldn’t be coincidence, the Ritual was random in who it selected, but three people from such a small town was too much to be a fluke.
He thought of the stranger appearing to him so close to Compton as well. There had to be a reason behind it all.
“By the moons I hope it is not either of you two,” the bard said.
Garett nodded but the other lad puffed out his chest defiantly. “If it is than I shall do my duty to Frindoth.”
“Quite,” Pewtory said.
He was about to enter the town when a loud clattering noise accompanied by the unmistakable clop of hooves on the road behind him caused him to whirl around. His stomach lurched as Archie urged his horses on as they galloped towards him. The peddler saw Pewtory and frowned.