Editor’s note : Due to a mishap in the scheduling, this chapter has been uploaded a week later than it was suppose to. We apologize for this error.
“Are you nervous?” asked Argus.
“I will be alright,” I said taking several large breaths to relax my nerves. “Just, not too accustomed to performing in front of others.” To be honest I was not entirely sure if my anxiousness came from the danger of the mission or from performing, I would say it is an even split between both. I reached into the massive wig draped over my head and neck, and scratched at my itchy scalp. I definitely looked the part of wandering charr minstrel, especially one that didn’t groom his mane all that much. The wig on me was so long and ruffled that it covered most of my face and reached down to my shoulders. My dark spectacles and worn clothing only added to the illusion.
Of course, the flamboyant disguises were Argus’s idea. He decided to don a top hat and threw on a fake mustache. Meanwhile, Simon stood next to his harp. It was all a very awkward situation for me. We were standing at the center of a dance hall, all the nobles were giving us an occasional glance, some whispering to each other with judgemental eyes. I sat by the piano that had been placed before me and did my best to avoid looking at a human for too long. After scanning the party for a bit, I was able to spot Daniel and Serenity. Both were conversing to a couple of other regally dressed humans.
Daniel seemed to be attached to his glass of wine while he listened. I knew that look on his face, his eyes were traveling around the person whenever they weren’t paying attention. He was not even listening, probably just enough to provide an appropriate response should he need to answer a question. Fortunately Serenity seemed to be doing most of the talking. They both resemble a genuine couple, both standing calmly, their arms intertwining as they occasionally glanced at each other and smiled.
Suddenly Daniel glanced at me, my eyes locked into his. He beamed at me and greeted me with a nod. I reciprocated and pretended that we did not know each other. I continued observing until I found our target. Duke Krale. He was a thin and pale man, his long black hair flowed from his head as he regarded everyone with a welcoming smile. Several people gathered around him while he would bring life to whatever topic they spoke of. Serenity was right, he was a snake but he was a good one. Our group was probably the only ones that knew who he really was.
I drew my gaze towards the ivory and ebony keys before me, tracing my fingers over the smooth surface. Trying to remember how to play had been a difficult task. I had not played for years, fortunately Mara had taught me to a point where most of the knowledge returned to me shortly after the memory was restored. The only problem was getting my fingers to behave correctly. The motions and movements were much like how I would cast spells, but it was different. There was no urgency, no brutality, nor drive to survive. It was all a tranquil gait, a graceful stride from key to key. It was not a battle, and apparently my mind was so used to such conflict, that it was difficult to make it think otherwise.
“Excuse me everyone!” I was drawn towards the end of the dance hall. I could see a human dressed in red stepping down the stairs. Short blond hair and face that would make most women swoon. This must have been Milo. Everyone immediately glanced towards Milo, some with scorn, others looked at him with admiration.
“I would like to once again thank everyone for coming,” continued the earl. “Without further adieu, I would like to introduce this evening’s entertainment.” The earl began to descend the stairs with grace as he regarded us. Little by little all of the party guests gawked at us with curiosity. A look of skepticism could be seen on quite a few of them. My hands were shaking, I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax. I tried to find the humor in the situation. If Garfas was here he would probably knock my head in. Scolding me for being intimidated by a bunch of humans that I could gut before any of them had a chance to defend themselves.
I found that though strangely comforting. Either all the stress was getting to me or Garfas was. Regardless, there was a mission and I had to see it through. I returned my attention to the earl, who had spun a false tale about how he met us in his travels.
“I must say that their talent surprised me,” continued the earl. “So for this party I decided to hire their services. Now stand back and enjoy everyone, we’re in for quite a show!”
Argus and I were expected to begin now. That only sent my nerves over the edge, but I braced myself and waited for Argus’ signal. He began to play his lute, his fingers danced through the strings as he began to sing. It was a jolly song, one that cause you to bounce on your feet as you sway your head left and right. After a particular lyric I began playing the keys before me.
I followed along to his joyful tunes. There was something very artificial to my playing however, at least I felt that way. It felt like blindly following orders, marching through commands with no motivation nor desire. I could feel it as every key was gently prodded with my claws. I was resisting the music itself, not being able to be carried away by the joyous sound. I couldn’t be, I didn’t want to be. I remained where I was, feet planted to the floor, realistic and cynical. My hands felt heavier, as if I subconsciously knew the lie that weighed down every fiber of my being. But what lie was it?
Finally the song ended, Argus and Simon gave a bow while I slightly lowered my head in my seat. There were a few claps here and there, not enough to dazzle the audience but it was enough to do the job. At the very least no one would see our presence as suspicious. I felt Argus pat me behind the shoulder, not truly managing to snap me out of my trance. I found myself adjusting myself in front of the piano once again, and my right hand reached out to one of the higher keys. And I began to play once again.
It started gentle, and relaxed. There was a faint tone of uncertainty that carried it. Not that I played in such a manner, it was more as if the melody itself said “I don’t understand.” I continued, not caring that I was once again drawing all attention to myself. Right now all that existed to me were these keys, and the story I was telling them. My other hand joined in and both began to carry the melody into the dance hall around me.
Suddenly both began to stomp down on the keys, moving faster. Frustration driving them, anger exclaiming them. My fingers began to move faster across the piano, twisting the music into something twisted, spiraling into something furious and elegant. Then it calmed down once again, swaying in the wind like a gentle breeze before thunder once again came down. The furious crack came down to the floor, shattering the earth beneath it. Pressure built up, swelling and festering into something uncontrollable. And just as it felt as if the madness could not handle much more, it began to flow out, cascading through the audience as not rage, but sorrow.
It was still fast, still so unpredictable and erratic, but there was something new to it. It was a small taste of the truth. Daniel Garfas Mara Serenity Thoc Simon Argus Slim Itan Salus Daniel Garfas Thoc Mara Slim Argus Daniel Garfas Slim Serenity Thoc Daniel Garfas Salus Daniel Itan Garfas Daniel Garfas Daniel Garfas… Was I remembering something, or was my mind finally beginning to understand. Was it finally seeing what a younger version of me was too selfish to see. Was there a driving force behind me now?
The music came to a sudden stop, as if it was the end of my performance. It came to a surprise to everyone when I suddenly continued playing. Playing the chorus once again, it was thundering, echoing through everyone. Proclaiming the anger, the rage, the sorrow, the melancholy. My fingers slammed on the keys, as if I took out my frustration on them. Finally the tune returned to a quick and tranquil dance, and I ended it with a sudden stop. As if someone’s final words were cut short before they could convey them.
After the extended pause everyone concluded that it was the end of the performance. There was a dead silence, I rose my head to the crown and found them all staring at me in disbelief. Suddenly I heard a faint clapping, I rounded my head towards the source and saw that it was Daniel. I smiled at him. Then before I knew it, the rest of the audience joined in. All of them applauding my performance. Apparently my outburst was considered acceptable, I stood up from my seat and gave a bow to everyone, after that I walked over to Argus.
“That was pretty impressive,” said Argus with a chuckle. “We didn’t talk about that during the planning stage.”
“I improvised,” I said. “Besides I did not think our first display was enough.”
“Well if the last song wasn’t enough this one definitely did the trick.” Said Argus, Simon conquered by releasing a happy snort. I gave a glance towards Serenity who was standing by the edge of the hall with Daniel, they decided to engage Krale. I saw them approaching him, drawing his attention away from the crowd around him. They began to converse, I was to far away to be able to hear them but from the looks of it he was not suspicious.
Meanwhile Argus and I remained in the dance hall, a few of the nobles approached us to ask about the performance. Some were compliments, others were questions. We did our best to dodge them but when we had no alternative we just lied. After an admittedly tedious ordeal of having to deal with the party guests, we noticed Serenity and Daniel walk up the stairs. That was the first phase, now all that was left was to look out for a signal from Daniel.
Argus and I decided that it would be better to wait by the corner of the dance hall and observe the party from a distance. We waited… for a rather long time. after a long while of waiting I checked the watch in my pocket, it had been almost half an hour. There was still no signal.
“Something is wrong,” I said. “Change of plans we’re going in.” With that the three of us walked past the crowd in the party and started making our way up towards the second floor. Upon arriving we noticed that the area was much too dark, after conjuring an orb of necrotic energies to light up the place we noticed a figure on the floor. It was Serenity. Argus and I ran over to her, the Norn immediately scooped her in his arms and looked at her closely.
“S-She’s breathing,” he said relieved. “Someone knocked her out I think.” I immediately started looking around the area, searching for Daniel. I felt a gentle breeze in the room, it was until then did I notice that a window in the far side of the hallways we were standing in was open. I ran over and looked out into the dark and empty streets. My eyes widened. I saw Krale surrounded by fringe assassins. He was leading them, as they carried Daniel, he was tied up and unconscious. They were shoving him into a large wooden box.
I wasted no time, I leaped out of the window, not caring that I was in the second floor. I focused my magic to my feet and landed on the hard stone floor with a cloud of shadow escaping my feet. I barely felt the landing, but it had gotten the attention of Krale and his underlings. I faced them, conjuring my strength. Materialising several blades of magic around my body, drawing my sword that was hidden within my coat. The fight had begun.