Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Twenty-Eight

Kemeny followed Draegon to the great manor house where he was to be performing for a dinner party thrown by one of the High Lords of Gaern. They were greeted by a servant who led them to a small anteroom so Draegon could prepare himself. He opened his dulcimer case.

“What’s this?” he asked.

There was a folded parchment and a small washleather purse nestled in the case next to the instrument. Draegon warily lifted the parchment and read it. His emerald eyes began to tear up. “Weslyn…” He plucked the purse from the case and undid the drawstring, upending it over his other hand. Gold coins spilled into his palm. “She’s given me the money to pay my debt to Keffinen.”

She took the parchment from him and read it. “She loves you,” she said.

“I can read!” he protested, half chuckling, half-fighting against sobs. “I love her, too.”

Neither of them said anything else as he tucked the gold back into the dulcimer case and proceeded to tune the instrument. It wasn’t long before another servant came to bring him into the hall where the nobles were socializing.

The room was full of noblemen and women dressed in their finest silks. The coats and gowns were dully colored, mostly blacks, greys, and browns, but colorful embroidery covered most of them from ankles to neck. Even the few small children– closely watched by nurses– were decked out in so much embroidery the colors of the silks were hard to determine. It was easy to pick out the High Lords themselves– they had the most gold and silver in their embroidery and the most hangers-on around them. But which of the young men was Zanthys Advissen, the one they were looking for? Kemeny stayed close to Draegon, not wanting to stand out in her woolen clothes, but she still got good looks at everyone she could, trying to figure out which one was their man.

No one made a move to announce the arrival of the evening’s entertainment, but Draegon didn’t seem bothered by it. He strummed a chord on his dulcimer and immediately broke into a half-sung, half-spoken tale of Cheyne Firdin. It was one of the most traditional tales of him, one of the first linking him to Sonsedhor, when he had instead gone by the name of Masty Boroksen. He sang the verses of the forging of Sonsedhor and the first kill Masty made with it, a greed-driven noble miser who kept his commoners in poverty, keeping them as chattel rather than as liege men.

There was no applause at the end of the tale, though many eyes and ears were tuned to his voice and instrument. He continued with another righteous tale of Cheyne, when he had gone by that name. He followed that with the last sad song of Cheyne’s saga, his disappearance. She noticed tears in some of the women’s eyes as he held the last note in a clear voice. Kemeny swore she could hear the crying of the world in his tone.

"If my lords would permit,” he said after giving the silent room time to collect themselves, “I would now like to perform a piece of my own creation, never before heard.”

There were no objections.

He started with a few sorrowful strums of the dulcimer. He looked down sadly at his fingers as they brushed the strings of the instrument, but Kemeny thought he looked like he was thinking. What was he up to? She hadn’t known he was writing something for tonight. Or was he planning on making something up as he went? What was he doing?

He kept his head down, but Kemeny saw his eyes suddenly roll back into his head as his voice came forth. He started singing in a strange, foreboding voice, telling what she recognized as Roark finding Sonsedhor and knowing something had warped the great sword to do evil. He never mentioned Roark’s name, though, as he went on with the song, never looking up, sitting stiffly and seemingly unaware of the people around him.

But as the sky grew dark and the windows grew black, Draegon’s tale of Roark began to change. He started changing the name of Sonsedhor to Tyrfing– a name she didn’t know. Where had that come from? She heard the names Svafrlami, Arngrim, and Angantyr, but they were names strange to her. The story changed, still being about a man whose sword forced him to kill someone every time it was unsheathed, but in this story, the word became the undoing of every man who wielded it.

Thunder and lightning crashed outside, but the people in the hall were focused only on Draegon as he poured out this tale that was completely new to all of them. But the thunder seemed to strike a chord with him and brought him back to Roark and Sonsedhor. The story changed again, to the story they had really come to tell.

When he finally came to an end– or what passed for an ending, since the story didn’t have a conclusion yet– Draegon was pale, sweating, and shaking. The nobles were staring at him, baffled. Even with the strangeness of the occurrence, Kemeny recognized the similarities between the two stories Draegon had told, although this was certainly a strange way to try and get people to support Roark. Draegon wasn’t moving from his seat, but she knew he was finished for the night. She mumbled a hasty thanks to the nobles for their invitation and generosity. Awkwardly, she lifted Draegon’s arm around her shoulders and part-dragged, part-carried him back into the anteroom. He seemed to recollect himself there and gathered his things himself. He managed to walk on his own two feet through the streets and back to the inn.

Before they even got to the inn’s front door, someone tapped Kemeny on the shoulder. She spun around, coming face-to-face with a dark-cloaked figure. His hood was pulled low so all she could see was his chin. He thrust a slip pf parchment into her hand and hurried off without a word.

In a neat, precise hand, it read, I want to meet with you and talk of Sonsedhor. I’ll find you.

It was signed, Zanthys Advissen.

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