Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Tremors ran through the marble with each strike of the immense bell. The garishly-dressed man made a show of discomfort for his audience; doubled over, clutching at his ears. A clever trick, but the Duke had been misinformed; the clang of the bell truly had little bearing on the Troubadour. Rather, his heart cried in harmony with the metallic tone. It surged through him, resonant vibrations echoing through him. His spirit filled the room with an uproarious hymn of judgment. The others were oblivious: the Duke, and his guardsmen; eight of them throughout the chamber, two flanking the Troubadour, four staggered along the approach to the dais, and one more on either side of the Duke himself. They eyed him warily, silent. The Duke shook, a convulsion of fear, though a smirk played at his bulging lips. His excess girth spilled over every side of the raised cushion on which he sat.
The Duke's fear was appropriate, for he had been found in discord with the swelling rhapsody of souls – the music of life – and as such, the Chorus had willed the Troubadour sing him one last song; a solemn, inexorable dirge. It was a mark of arrogance that the Duke had received the Troubadour at all – either he expected the favor of the Chorus, or otherwise thought himself capable of besting death.
Vleiklass sang as well, though the bell's monody had finally ceased. They had disarmed him at the door to the hall, and then the fool had followed the Troubadour into the room. There he stood, staring vacantly at the sheathed blade that rested across his palms, as though hearkening to its melodic, deathly intention.
The Troubadour waited patiently for his host to speak; it was rude to slay a man in his own hall without first being addressed. Echoing the voice of the bell, a chime hanging at his ear whispered soothing verses. Each was essential to the Troubadour; the bells and chimes spread across his person and woven throughout his motley garb. That one in particular, dangling from his ear lobe by a length of silver thread, sharpened the Troubadour's awareness: he heard the guard shuffling behind him, but felt it first; a disturbance in the very air surrounding him.
It seemed he would not be welcomed after all.
With preternatural agility, buoyed by the sonorous rhythm of resolve, he moved. Before the enrapt guard could react, the Troubadour had pulled Vleiklass free; the Tuning Blade trilled, her parallel, serpentine blades humming the ecstasy of their freedom. He dashed away, singing blade held low, bells jingling subtly; the guardsman merely continued to stare dumbfounded at the scabbard resting in his hands, even as they fell away from his body to stain red the white runner that split the hall. The guard that had betrayed the ambush was a bit quicker; he managed at least to rattle the blade in its sheath before the Troubadour was upon him – no mercy for the discordant; no mercy for their protectors – Vleiklass, rising, flashed through his throat.
He spun toward the rest; toward the Duke, and saw him being gathered up by his nearest attendants. The two of them struggled to lift his tremendous frame, the Duke himself providing none of the energy, but insisting upon haste all the while. Crossbows thrumming lethal notes pierced the din; the battle ballad that pulsed through him. Behind heraldic tapestries lining the long walls, ten instruments of death keened critical cacophony. No time to evade: the Troubadour shifted; bringing his bells instantly to symphonic life. Vleiklass gleamed, smiling; a shimmer appeared around him; cascading sound and rushing air. The bolts fell harmlessly to the ground.
As the crossbowmen took a moment – borrowed time; a moment the Duke did not have – to crank their weapons in preparation for a second salvo, the Troubadour advanced. The four flanking the runner stepped forth to meet him, taking up stance in a loose wall of plate, shields, and spears. What they lacked in numbers for their phalanx, they made up for in swiftness of motion; shifting easily to thwart his advances along the flanks of the hall, they corralled him, attempting to pin the Troubadour in to a corner. He lunged at the human barrier, twisting nimbly mid-stride to avoid the four points that meant his disembowelment.
Vleiklass whistled; rebounded smoothly off the wall of shields with a dissatisfied quiver, before finally crooning her ebullient concordance. A bark of laughter was cut short when pain reached them; carried along the Tuning Blade. She severed plate, shield, and flesh alike, and a half-dozen strokes later the shield-wall crumbled in bloody heaps. The truest danger of the blade was not in her careful honing; though filed to a razor's edge, but in her adaptive harmony – constantly changing; negligent of every obstacle.
Ceasing in their attempts to move the Duke – they had gained but a few steps from the dais – and leaving him floundering, sprawled on the marble, the last two guardsmen rushed at the Troubadour, blades held high. They came at him from his flanks, but discipline and a mind for battle went only so far when considering such disparate strengths. Vleiklass sang, once more, and their blooded forms fell amidst clouds of scarlet mist.
Lamely, the Duke gripped at the marble, his fingers sliding across the floor ineffectually; his atrophied arms could not budge the sizable frame to which they were attached. The cranking was coming to an end; the second salvo of bolts imminent. He knelt, the Troubadour, by the prodigious form tottering helplessly on the floor, and brought his lips close to the Duke's ear. The noble shook and struggled no longer, caught in the stillness of consummate terror; the inevitability of death.
“'No mercy for the discordant. Reward tyranny with death.' Thusly, the Chorus has spoken,” the Troubadour whispered, his speech cracked and hollow; disused.
Vleiklass hummed eagerly, her own voice beautiful and well-practiced.