[Volume One] Chapter Seven

The guardhouse my troops were stationed in was something of a relic, from an age slightly before the tower was built. While time has worn away most of the symbols and relics from that past, a few interesting ones do remain. For example, one corner plays host to a weathered yet still-discernable statue of a knight slaying a great, winged beast. Also, one inner wall shows the flaked remains of a vibrant mural, done in colors now faded and forgotten. And if one should happen to shift the rack of spears and shields set against the wall nearest the entry, one might find a hidden set of steps leading into a disused section of tunnels, much like the ones that make up the prison section. From a large center chamber, as wide as the barracks are long and with length to match, spread a network of several tunnels that branch into each other at seemingly random intervals, providing a maze of side-rooms and dusty, dark corridors in which to store provisions, weapons, or even prisoners.
I found myself in one of those side-rooms later that night, long after those who valued sleep had set their head to pillow, with only a single large brazier to provide me light with which to lay out blade after blade atop a leather canvas, which in turn was spread over a large wooden table pressed against the far wall. Between that table and the doorway sat the only other two objects in the room: a lit brazier filled with coals; and a large wooden chair held firmly together by iron bolts and set with leather restraints along the arms, legs, and back.
I hummed to myself as I laid the blades out, the tune changing for each style or make. Slow, methodical notes for the cleaver, while a quick and darting tune accompanied the Veltian Dirk. Just as I set the final blade down, a folding blade of Gjutlandish make that owned a more ragged sort of chant, the door to the room creaked open and two figures stumbled through.
Turning, I took in the sight of Carilo, the Veltian native and former assassin-cum-thief who I had hired to aid a mission years ago, and who had decided he preferred the relatively simple, if bloody, life of a mercenary to the politics of the Veltian guild I hired him from. Beside him stood his perfect contrast in every way- Broad where he was slim, noble features where Carilo’s were anything but, and brilliant, mismatched eyes to contrast Carilo’s dull brown ones.
I couldn’t help the giggle.
“Ahhh, Miral ut Veste, how good to see you again. Carilo, set him in the chair would you? I’m nearly finished over here. Any trouble?”
He shook his head as he set the unresisting lordling in the chair, taking his time to carefully secure the appropriate restraints for our well-built guest.
“No, spiked his wine with the drug. Took an extra half-dose to put him under, he’s a big bastard, but that was over an hour ago. He should be coming out of it any minute now. No one saw us, and I had my face covered just to be safe.”
I smiled, testing the edge of my first blade against my thumb.
“Wonderful. Professional as always, Carilo. You can’t know how much I appreciate that.”
He cracked a slight grin of his own, jingling two pouches of coin- One from me, for the job. He likely lifted the other form the lordling’s belt.
“Oh, I have some idea. I’ll leave you to it. Give me a heads up when you’re finished- I’ll be dicing in the barracks above.”
I nodded, shifting my full attention to the lordling in the chair, who groaned groggily as the heavy wooden door thudded shut behind Carilo.
“Wakey wakey, milord. It’s time to show you what happens when you kick a wolf.”
His eyes narrowed as he shook himself awake, then widened in sudden realization.
“YOU! You scum, how DARE you lay hand upon nobility such as myself!?! I’ll have yo-”
I lashed out, striking the corner of his jaw with the weighted pommel of the fighting knife clutched in my hand. The crunch that filled the room, along with his feral cry of pain and the sudden slackening of his mouth, told me I had succeeded in breaking his jaw.
“Shhh. You aren’t here to talk, milord. You are simply here to listen, to learn. Much like I did, actually, but that is irrelevant. Tonight, you learn the melody. ‘What melody?’ you ask?”
Here I paused, contemplating.
“I don’t actually know. But I do know that it’s a truly beautiful thing, this melody. A thing of life and death, of bells and chimes. Well, mostly bells, but I digress. Oh, do stop moaning.”
I lightly slapped his cheek, then chuckled as he spat at me.
“Really now. You’re meant to be a noble, a leader! Such poor behavior is hardly fitting of that title.”
Ignoring his incoherent moans of rage, I turned away from the bound lordling and once again let my hands dance across the assorted blades laid out on the table.
“Well, I suppose I’ll just have to educate you a bit. For your own benefit, you understand. After all, we can’t just let fools run around ruling without any real understanding of the world, correct?”
My hand eventually settled on the cleaver again, and I grinned, trading it for the fighting knife before holding the cleaver in the flames of the brazier. The lordling’s eyes went wide, and he began to struggle harder as his moans reached a new, more desperate level.
“Oh, you and I are going to learn so much together, milord.”

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