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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 15

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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It was a funny feeling looking down on her body so still on the bed below.  She didn’t feel dead.  But then, never being dead before, how would she know what it felt like?


She watched as Tomment held her limp body quietly sobbing for her.  It touched her in ways she never thought possible.  The boy had been her plaything and she had treated him as such.  All the cruel jokes she had done to the boy jogged into her memories making her feel ashamed for the first time in her life.  In life, the wild girl had not cared what others thought of her.  She was who she wanted to be and if people didn’t like it, too bad.  Now in the embrace of death, she found a different side of herself.  This side was glad that someone had loved her.  That someone would miss her.


Sylvia was sure that her mother would not shed a tear for her.  In fact, she had to wonder if this was not her doing.  Old Tully had warned her about her mother.  He said she was a survivor at heart and would do what ever was best for her.  Sylvia was scared at times she had taken after her mother.  The wave of remorse she was feeling for her actions with Tomment was almost a relief.  They told her that she was nothing like the harlot that had given her life.  Queen Jillian would not have felt remorse for anything.


Who ever her father was, she thanked him for his influence in her gene pool.  All her life she thought of Old Tully as her father even though her heart told her he was not.  When he was alive, she would call him father.  It made him happy.  The gesture was the least she could do for the man that had given up so much to protect her.


Old Tully had taken gold from the Castusaum Church since she was just a baby.  The church paid for her lessons with the greatest minds in all of Karal.  Old Tully had told her he had thought it to be hush money from the High Scepter.  It had turned out to be monthly payments for the rights to Molly, Sylvia’s birth name.


The Scepters had started to visit Sylvia more often just before she had run from Karal.  They drew blood from her fingers on some occasions.  When Sylvia had asked Old Tully about the reasons behind the actions, he was just a curious.


The Scepters of the church were sworn to celibacy but that didn’t mean they were immune to the want of the sins of flesh.  Old Tully began tempting the Scepters with his wares on their visits.  It did not take long for them to fall to their weakness.  For their secrets, Old Tully made them his fountains of information.  What they had learned changed their lives.


The crystal staff that had become the symbol of their crude church was an artifact older than the history of the world.  The method of its use was a mystery to the church for hundreds of years.  They had only recently come into possession of a book of an unknown origin that had spoken of the rituals to wake the staff. 


Two rituals were to be performed to harness the full use of the staff.  The first called for the High Scepter to draw on the powers of the staff and consummate them in flesh and let them be born as flesh.  The second called for the flesh made of the staff to sit with the staff in the Great Circle of the Druids.  Then, the staff, the flesh of the staff and the High Scepter would become one giving him complete control of the staff’s power.  Sylvia had never met the High Scepter, the man that was her natural, or in this case unnatural father.  But to her, this sounded like too much family closeness for her taste.


Old Tully refused any further visits from the Scepters of the vile church.  On their last visit, he chased them out the door with his rapier swatting them sorely on their bums.


The church would not give up.  The very night after King Geiger’s ruling that she was a woman grown, the church sent agents to steal her away in the night.  They had found the point of Old Tully’s steel in her place.


Both of them were sure that the church would just come again.  Sylvia already had her things packed before the sun rose.  The man that she thought of as her father was in danger because of her.  The girl had no idea where she would go or how to get there.  She had never left the city walls.


She went to Old Tully’s room to say her goodbyes.  To her amazement, the old man had packed his bags as well.  He had known that the girl would choose to leave rather than put him in peril but he had also decided that he could not be with out her.  The man had given up the cities most well known brothel to tramp around the kingdoms with her.  To her, this man would always be her father.


They had left with a handful of sell swords for Kings Overlook.  This is what they had told everyone.  Not far from the city gates, Old Tully had hired an old man and a red haired girl to take their place with the group while the two of them rode off in the other direction.  The two had learned that the sell swords and the old man had been killed in their sleep.  The girl had disappeared with the killer.


The two of them rode on never looking back.  Old Tully told her that her appearance drew too much attention.  She knew he was right.  Women with red hair like hers were few in the Kingdom of Tides and even with her hood pulled up around her head, it would be noticeable.  The ex-brothel master had a better solution.


He had made friends in his line of work.  And those friends dare not refuse his request for fear that secrets may fall on the wrong ears.  Old Tully had rewarded his whores well for the information that they gathered from their clients.  “Knowledge is the ultimate power,” he always said.  So when Old Tully had asked Ashidim, the Grim, one of the most powerful mages in all the seven kingdoms, to alter Sylvia’s appearance, he agreed without question.


The usual look of despair that gave him his name held firm on his face as he catered to Sylvia’s every wish.  Her hair was changed to a golden blond and the annoying curls straightened.  The ugly little dots that had been another gift from her mother faded away to reveal the clear alabaster skin underneath.  The brown eyes that she had always hated melted into two pools of blue.  It was the ultimate game of dress up.  It made her sad to think the magic was gone.


One of her hands instinctively reached for her hair.  The hair it found was straight and smooth.  She pulled the end around to view it.  The blond silk boggled her mind.  Was this mage’s magic so strong that it would carry into the next world?


Her movement stirred the pain of the saddle sores between her legs.  The stabbing pains in her lower back answered in kind.  She still lived.  She called to Tomment but the boy showed no signs of hearing her.  The floor that held her above the bed was solid and clear.  There did not appear to be any openings to be found from the inside.  Sylvia recalled Tomment telling her about a spell like this one, he called it a “Mage Pocket.”  It was some type of room between two worlds.  What she couldn’t remember was if he told her how to find a door.


The search for a door became obsolete as the floor beneath her dissolved.  The ground rushed up to meet her.  It caught her with an angry slap that resounded through the small dusty room.  Tomment turned to her with confusion on his face.  He looked at her as she pulled herself to her feet and then at the body in his hands.  The mixed up boy did the action several times until the illusion that concealed Ser Larkel’s identity faded.


Sylvia gasped as she looked down at the man that had taken such good care of her.  The girl had not even thought about who had been the victim on the bed.  Ser Larkel had been the only man besides Old Tully that she had trusted.  And like Old Tully, protecting her had gotten him killed.


Somewhere in her soul, a gate that had held back all the tears of her rape and Old Tully’s death gave away.  Her eyes filled so fully it made vision impossible.  All efforts to control the tears failed.  They streamed down her face as she took the old knight’s hand in hers holding it to the ache in her chest.  He had been her strength to carry on.  She had loved him and never so much as uttered those words to him.


“I love you,” Sylvia gasped between her tears.  She watched his face as if she expected him to hear the words and return to her like in the fairytales Old Tully read her.  Life was not a fairytale and death rarely gave back his gifts.


That realization multiplied her grief.  She dropped her head onto the blood soaked, moldy straw of the bed.  Tomment tried to comfort her and pull her away from the bed.  The girl shoved him aside and returned to her misery.  She would stay by Ser Larkel’s side until death found her and rejoined the two of them.  This room with its dust covered furniture and stale musty air would make a fine crypt for them.  There was no reason for her to leave Ser Larkel.


The sound of footsteps entering the room had no affect on the woman.  Normally, she would have heard them long before the feet reached the entrance, most times knowing who was coming just from the sounds of their walk.  Her mind was lost in the swirling emotions that had been absent for so long.


“The inn keeper that checked us in is missing,” Bigsby Littlefoot told Tomment.


“You think the killer got her too?”


Bigsby didn’t answer right away.  His eyes had to adjust to the new scene that unfolded before him.  When he had left the room, Sylvia was dead and Ser Larkel was missing, now Ser Larkel was dead and Sylvia sat crying by his side.  The hairfoot decided to take it as he saw it and ask no questions.


“I think the inn keeper was the killer,” Bigsby deducted.


“That fat old crone?”


“Things aren’t always what you think they are,” Bigsby replied looking to Sylvia and Ser Larkel to confirm his claim.  “I found the bodies of a young woman, a man and three children in a store room off the kitchen.”


“The true owners of the inn, you think?”


“I think so,” Bigsby answered.


“Who would know we were here and why would they want to kill Ser Larkel,” inquired Tomment as if Bigsby had all the answers.


“Not sure how they would have known we were here,” Bigsby said, “But Ser Larkel was not the target.”


Tomment had forgotten the fact that it was Sylvia’s likeness that he had thought to be holding just moments before.


“Sylvia,” the mage muttered.


Questions marked the two faces as they stared at the young woman kneeling on the floor.  Sylvia could feel the stares and the questions but she did not care about them. Neither of them mattered to her.  Nothing mattered.


Bigsby made his way over to Ser Larkel’s cold body careful not to disturb the mournful girl.  After a few moments, he reached down and pulled a black glove out of Ser Larkel’s left hand.  It was made of a fine leather with the white flowers of hemlock embroidered on the back.  Further inspection also turned up a dagger under the bed.


“Looks like Ser Larkel put up a fight,” Bigsby concluded.  “The dagger has a poison edge.”


“The assassin must have nicked him enough to stay his arm and then finished the job,” added Tomment.


Neither of the men realized that Sylvia’s tears had stopped until she took the glove from Bigsby’s hand.  She slid the glove onto her right hand opening and closing it a few times to adjust the fit.  Then she took the dagger and cast her old one away.  The new one slid perfectly into the sheath.  Sylvia had remebered that there was still something that she had to do.  One last chore to be finished before she would rest.


She gathered her belongings in a rush threw her saddlebags over her shoulder and headed for the door.  Both men stood dumbfounded at the girl’s rash actions.


“Where are you going,” Tomment asked.


“I have a dagger to return,” she answered.





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