- October 8, 2023
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 50)
“What we lose to men who follow orders.”
Andelyn Stella, 448 A.C.A.
“Not the face!”
If you couldn’t guess, Henry Lockely was being beaten — mercilessly one might add — with his own lute.
Oh, and by Andelyn Stella.
Yes, she was beating him with his own lute while he lay on the floor in what was tantamount to the fetal position.
The most feared man among the Honorguard, a man who inspired a run-on-sight order, whose name was already legend… was being beaten like he was a child and Andy the one who had caught him with his hand in the cookie jar.
Who would have thought it’d take him his whole career to meet someone who could ignore the magic of his lute?
Slowly but surely, the sound of the Bard of the Song at the mercy of his own instrument woke Jack and Malum. The two of them tried to make sense of their surroundings. Malum was able to get up first while Jack groaned on the ground, switching between cradling his head and his suffering leg.
As the assassin’s eyes came into focus, the sound of the strings making their piercing twang against Henry’s body made Malum twitch. He raised his hand towards her as he struggled to his feet, only to fall back to his knees. “Andy… Andy wait.”
She ignored him, her face beat red as she stared down at the cowering man below her.
‘He is but a pawn, one whose life is worth more than his death,’ the presence came back to tell her. It tried to counsel her away from the wanton violence with words like, ‘He can never make up for his deeds in death,’ and, ‘Not all pain is good for teaching.’
But truly, only one sentence made Andy pause and consider what she was doing. ‘Andy, you’re going to kill him, and it’s going to be a big pain in your ass later.’
She stopped with the lute over her head. Despite the bruises she had left all over his body, the instrument seemed none worse for wear. The Iligsia in the Honorguard had bonded to his weapon and made it more durable than any other instrument.
Andy looked down at him, watching as he slowly creaked his eyes open to peer through his fingers, up at her.
I could bleed him for information, she considered, and killing him would bring Raydorn crashing down on the Legion, she reminded herself, and he’d be a strong ally if he knows I spared his life, but none of those thoughts stuck as well as one.
But I’ll really enjoy the sound of his skull caving in, and truly, isn’t my enjoyment all that matters, right now?
Andy went swing for his head, but for the first time in a long time, the presence surged into her mind, washing it over with memories… memories from the instrument she was holding.
Andy lived through all the senses the memory did, save for thought. That included touch. For the longest time, she had gone without seeing a memory through the eyes of a man.
Rather than see things from the lute, she saw through the eyes of the Honorguard whose Iligsia was bound to it. The immediate dysphoria that came with being in a body that was balanced completely differently made Andy nauseous.
The feeling of a cock she’s never had before plunging into a mewling woman was enough to make her body puke a little, even if her consciousness was somewhat disconnected from her own throat.
She looked through Henry’s eyes as he was thrusting into a woman whose face she didn’t recognize. He believed her to be an adventurer at this moment, but thoughts in her mind told her that this wasn’t the case.
The moment was interrupted by hands grabbing Henry and throwing him to the ground, only to chain him up. The woman began to yell, but it all began to wash over her mind in flashes.
In seconds, Henry was facing the gallows, the same woman he was fucking wearing a crown, clinging to a much older man wearing a bigger crown.
Then the memories confirmed what Andy could put together.
This fucker stuck his dick in the princess. Why do good things never happen to me instead?
The memory began to move faster the more they went on. Henry went from walking to the gallows to playing his last song, causing the princess, the crowd, and even the queen herself to beg King Mightus to grant him mercy.
Soon, Henry was at the Pain, the training center for the Stormguard, having gained an Iligsia at some point. Rather than perishing like the weak man the king thought he was, Henry charmed drill instructors, mess hall ladies, and other cadets alike.
Before long, he was on the battlefield, single-handedly turning the tide of skirmishes with the Torkkic Clans and monsters within the Ragnar forest.
In even less time, he was crowned a Honorguard, a warrior among warriors, and even less time after that, between the princess’s legs again.
No, seriously, why couldn’t that be me? I’d die happy with my face between such legs.
The cycle continued, flashes of battles, sex, songs, and all over again until just before the war between the three kingdoms began, and Henry met her.
Henry met the warlock for the first time when the war was first starting, and his memories slowed down.
Andy was able to hear what the warlock said as she said it to him, “Look for those with white hair, capture them all, alive preferably, but dead if need be,” she told Henry and the other Honorguard rather cooly. She couldn’t get a good look at the Giant’s Bane with how he towered over them, and she paid the Wolf Hunter or Wolf Scalper or whatever no mind.
She hung onto the warlock’s words as she instructed them to venture into the Ragnar for those with white hair who looked like her.
Flashes of the search quickly went through her mind. Their scuffles with Torkkic settlements, the people of the Ragnar, and the Ragnar’s monsters flew through her mind.
It wasn’t until the Giant’s Bane’s step had accidentally set fire to a village that Henry saw them. The Giant’s Bane moved to help people escape the fire, with the Wolf Hunter fending off the warriors.
The Bard of the Song had the chance to slow everyone down and work together to escape, but then he saw them.
A child with hair as white as Andy’s was being pulled along by a man with a hood over, and another white-haired child in his arms. The mother with them was fair-haired but nothing out of the ordinary.
Henry had moved his fingers to strum his tune and stop them all in their tracks when the Wind blew off the man’s hood and the hair of the girl in his arms. The tops of their ears were sharp as knives, unlike anything Henry had seen before, far more than the older child being pulled along.
But that’s not what kept him from plucking at his lute. It was the thing he did recognize, the look of abstract terror in the father as their eyes met. The Honorguard were not chasing spies, nor were they rescuing civilians in their hunt.
So he moved his fingers away.
His fellow Honorguard yelled and called to him as he let the family they was looking for get away from the town. It wasn’t until a Torkkic nearly took his head off that he began to play his tune and take control of the situation.
This was when the presence let go and the memories dissipated in a flash of light over her eyes…
… and she tasted her puke in her mouth.
“Ehh!” she belched as she coughed and spit out what she could.
She went to wipe the corner of her mouth, only to find Jack offering her a handkerchief. She nodded her thanks and wiped herself clean. When she went to give back, he shook his head.
Yeah, I wouldn’t want it back either.
When Andy looked at the Bard of the Song, on the ground, bleeding from his head, clothes torn to pieces, she remembered the mercy he showed. She didn’t know the people he spared, but they were kin, that much she knew instinctively.
She threw the handkerchief down at his feet, paying his mercy forward.
Henry looked at the cloth like it was a perverse thing until a black boot came down next it. Then he looked up to find three warriors staring down at him, and him without a weapon.
Andy asked him, “Do you want to talk, or do you want to keep fighting?”
Henry’s eyes bounced between the three of them, waiting for one of them to take a swing or send a solid kick his way. He was what would be described as fucked. Despite that, he had one more thing to say.
“Is the alternative us all going home?”
Malum answered, “No.”
“Well, that really boils my piss then, why the hell not?”
“It was really that or killing you,” Malum assured him.
“You need to work on your sales pitch.”
After tying the Bard of the Song to a chair, the three legionnaires finally took a moment to reassess.
“How are the two of you feeling?” Andy asked, which immediately led the two men to share a rather shameful look.
Jack rubbed the back of his head as he assured her, “I’m okay now.”
“Yeah, I think we’ll both be fine,” the assassin all but agreed. Malum stretched his arms as if that was all he needed to stretch after all that Andy saw.
“Hmm,” Andy muttered as she nodded her head and uncrossed her arms.
Her open-handed assault on the back of their heads was immediately followed by some rather loud shouting.
“I wasn’t looking to see if you’re okay, dipshits, you almost killed me, you two useless sacks of asses!”
No, seriously, they don’t get it, I thought I was going to seriously die, like, two or three times during that fight. Fuck ‘em, I mean not really, it’s not actually their fault but still, fuck ‘em!
Henry chuckled in his hostage chair, listening to them. “She comes up with very colorful language.”
As Jack rubbed his head, his uneven eyes staring at her in shock, he tried apologizing again. “I’m… sorry…? Not sure what I did, I was fighting a… um…”
“I don’t care,” Andy said as she jabbed her finger in his face, “I’m going to be covered in bruises for weeks, and new scars for life. For all of this aching pain I will blame you two.”
“I was literally cut by a sword,” Jack pointed out.
“And you deserved it,” she said with a nasty squint.
“So…” Malum muttered, starting to piece together what had happened under the Bard’s control. He kept pointing between Andy and Jack as he tried to get a grip on things. “One of the two… people I was fighting… one was you, but you were immune?”
“Appears she was!” Henry called out like their conversation included him. “Honestly, that is more than a little intriguing, I’ve never had that happen before.”
“Couldn’t get it up?” Andy asked with a mild scoff at the Honorguard’s expense. “I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more often.”
Henry let out an honest laugh at what was clearly meant to irk him. Unfortunately for her, or maybe fortunately for everyone else, he didn’t seem to care. “Hah! You’re funny… for someone who scares me.”
Jack stopped rubbing his head and started waving his arms around. “You know, we can talk about what happened under this guy’s control later, what’s deal with the real elephant in the room.”
With that all three legionnaires turned their eyes back on the Bard, whose smile grew more forced by the second. “Well, um, hello?”
They all stalked back to him in his chair, but it was Jack who snapped at him first.
“So… what the fuck was that?!”
Henry tilted his head at the question. “What do you mean?”
“What do you mean ‘what do you mean?’” Malum asked him back.
Andy threw up her hands as she yelled, “What was with the mind control?!”
Henry’s mouth formed an ‘o,’ as if he actually knew what they meant. “Oh, you see, my Iligsia is infused with my weapon, which then infused into the sound it makes and-”
“No,” Jack interrupted him as he found himself massaging the bridge of his nose to stave off a migraine, “we don’t want to know how it works, you dumbass, why did you try to kill us?”
“Oh, ooooh…” Henry muttered before coughing and leaning in, as if he was going to tell them a secret. “You see… and I don’t know if you know this…
“… but you’re wanted criminals.”
Oh for fuck’s sakes.
“We were framed,” Andy said.
“For what?” the Bard countered. If his hands were free, he’d be waving them off. “Being mercenaries not loyal to your home country?”
‘Do you want to argue with him about that?’
Please go back to speaking in vague feelings.
‘The peril you were in empowered us to speak more with you, at least for a little while.’
Just because you can does not mean that you should.
‘Like with you and drinking or lying with whores?’
See, it’s comments like that that are why you need to shut the fuck up.
Andy rolled her tongue around in her mouth, being snarked out by more than one witty tongue. “Oh, well… I mean we might be guilty of that.”
It was the assassin who cut through the distraction and the bullshit to get to the meat of the issue. “But why go after us today, right now, like this? There were plenty of opportunities for Raydorn to come after us, to try and hunt us down, but this wasn’t a trap set for the Legion. You were going to kill us, not capture us to learn more about our hideout and our numbers. I think this was more than just a good opportunity.
“And I think you know the truth.”
Oh, so he has the brain cell. Got it, Andy thought to herself.
‘We fail to understand your-’
I’m trying to listen here, that’s difficult to do with you talking.
‘That’s… actually quite fair, apologies.’
Andy gave the presence in her head a mental sigh, and she felt the presence’s immediate shame in response. She almost felt bad. The worst thing was, the presence could see how closely her brain reached out to guilt, and then pulled away.
Thankfully, Henry was still not one to make haste from what they could tell. “I mean, we know you want Amidala,” he said with a shrug, but that was enough for Malum to move his hand to his blade.
He unsheathed it just enough that the Bard could see the steel.
It was steel that killed mortal men with a single cut, and gleaned in Henry’s eyes, showing him his life.
Still, he looked up at Malum and spoke with no less sarcasm, though with more expediency. “Amidala is kind of important if you didn’t know, being the only warlock we have right now, and it was my job to kill anyone who would come after her. Not just legionnaires, you’re still third on the list of priorities after the two countries we’re warring with.”
Is the kingdom really that desparate to defend itself? If it’s really only her, then you’d think they’d send multiple guards… but then again, this is the best guard in the country…
Andy’s thumb was pressed to her lips, and her other hand was on her hip. She was wearing her thinking face for all to see, and they watched her closely because of it.
“She doesn’t have an apprentice yet?” she asked the Bard.
His shrug was more honest than the last. “I dunno, that’s beside the point. The point is I need to protect her so she can keep doing her magic shit and help Raydorn win the war. You came here to kill her.”
“She has been trying to kill us,” she reminded him with a condescending tilt of her own head.
“Really just you,” Malum told her, which instantly caused her gaze to drop from her face. “The rest of us are just in the way, annoyances I guess, at least based on what my shadow told me.”
Well, that’s a nice thing to learn now, Mr. Lying-Pain-In-My-Ass.
“Thanks for letting me know that now.”
Malum gave her a thumbs up.
“Why is she after you?” Henry asked her, which made the three legionnaires turn and look at him like he was an idiot.
Andy placed her hands on her knees and bent down as she slowly yelled, “I don’t know, why do you think we came to find her?!”
Henry attempted to raise his hands in mock surrender, but the rope held them just above his thighs. “Fair point, but I still technically have to die before you kill her, kind of my sworn duty that I don’t want to fulfill.”
“But are willing to,” Jack pointed out.
Henry pursed his lips and tilted his head as he pointed out, “I didn’t say that.”
“Regardless,” Malum interrupted before the conversation devolved even more, “we have questions for her, and if we find out that she’s the cause of all of our sorrows, we’ll knock out one of your molars and kill her.”
“I appreciate you planning out my failure.”
Malum gave him a thumbs up.
“You are such a confusing man,” Henry told him.
“There are still other things we want to know,” Andy reminded her cohorts.
Jacked nodded his head in agreement. “Two in fact, for two different people.” The ex-Stormguard’s quick response made Andy reel back a bit in surprise, as they all slowly turned back to their captive again.
Their presences slowly tightened as they took closer to steps to everything they wanted.
“Okay…” Henry muttered rather slowly, “you all know I just brainwash people so they can’t fight, I am no mind-reader.”
Andy rolled her eyes as the others groaned. “Okay, the Aurora Knight and Harry Thorn, what happened to them after the tourney where you all tried to kill us?”
“Oh, yeah sure, I can answer that.”
They waited as the Bard spoke but then remained silent.
Jack shook his hand at him. “Well?!”
“Well, I don’t want to. How do I know you really won’t kill me?”
“Killing a national hero is not exactly going to help us stop being wanted criminals, in case you didn’t know,” Malum assured him.
Before the Bard of the Song could say anything smart, Andy added, “But killing Amidala may mean we don’t have to stop being alive.”
“Okay, okay…” Henry nodded his head as if that would slow them down. “Which one do you want to know about first?”
“Which one do you know least about?” Malum asked.
“Let’s get him out of the way.”
“Well, someone captured him.”
Andy’s thinking face completely dissipated as her hands had no idea what to do. “What?! Who?!”
Henry attempted an awkward shrug from where he sat in his chair. “I don’t know, that’s just an assumption the Stormguard made. Either one of the noble families captured him or the enemy did because we didn’t find his body anywhere, but I mean…” Henry looked between the three of them as if they should know what he was about to say. “Come on, he looked like every other smuck, he could very well be among the dead. It’s not like he had a particularly eye-catching mustache or a scar.”
Andy’s head fell into her hand as she developed a migraine. “Oh, fucking hell.”
Jack didn’t waste any more time asking about his old lover. “What about the Aurora Knight? Did he come this way? He was supposed to.”
“If he was, you know more than me. He’s been fighting on the border between Raydorn and Krone based on all of the reportings I heard. He and ole’ Giant’s Bane stand to take Helican in a matter of days if they haven’t already.”
Helican? That city is deep into Kronish territory. Have we pushed so far? We should have gotten another update from Malum’s shadows before we left.
“It has been some time though,” Henry continued as Andy thought to herself, “I guess it’s possible he hitched a ride on a griffin.”
Jack took a step towards him. For a split second, it seemed as if he thought the Honorguard deserved to die for lacking the information he wanted.
Then Malum stepped in his way.
The Wind was in Jack’s hand in an instant, but Malum’s whispers were just as quick to the soldier’s ears. “If Kion is working with Amidala in whatever capacity, she could just use portals to get them both places. He could be in and out of here as fast as she could be.”
“Especially if she hexed him,” Jack was quick to add.
Malum pulled back, his mask hiding his face, but his silent pause told Jack everything he needed to know.
“Of course,” the assassin answered.
Henry, taking the moment to remind the two that he was still here and in earshot, leaned over and asked, “Why would she need to hex him? He’s a national hero, not that unlike yours truly.”
As Malum stepped out of Jack’s way, the Starshield iterated that, “Kion was also one who was loyal to the Legion and House Thorn.”
Out the side of her mouth, Andy muttered, “And who used to fuck Starshield over here.”
Jack mouthed ‘what the fuck’ at her.
Malum only piled on. “He did so quite lovingly as they made us all hear in the barracks.”
Jack’s mouth opened but quickly closed. “Wait… is that why you all make fun of us, make fun of me, were we that loud? Did everyone know?” He stared at the two of them, who looked at him like he had two heads.
More than a little dejected, and incredibly embarrassed, he muttered, “I thought we were being quiet…”
Andy looked around the room in confusion. “When is good sex quiet?”
The Bard nodded his head in agreement. “She makes a fair point, lad, and also explains why you think the Aurora Knight had… betrayed you.”
“Because he did,” Malum said.
Andy gestured for Jack to calm down as she proceeded to mock her cohorts. “Fool one and fool two, he’s pitting you against each other.”
Henry squinted and then shook his head ever so slightly. “Not really, though now I’m thinking I should.”
The assassin unsheathed his sword. “Do you like dying?”
“No,” the Bard answered.
The assassin slipped his blade back in. “Then don’t.”
To his cohorts, “Is there anything else?”
Jack scoffed, “No, sounds like this was a wasted trip so far… until we find Amidala.”
Great, this guy has been a waste of time.
Just as Andy considered ways to knock Henry Lockley unconscious, the presence in her head spoke up once again. ‘It doesn’t pay to be hasty.’
It also doesn’t pay to not say what you mean.
‘Should the answers just come to-’
Yes, whatever you’re about to say, a thousand times yes. You’re a passenger in my head, and speaking clearly is how you pay me back for offering you shelter.
‘That would make it sound transactional.’
See, you do understand, now say what you mean, or watch me kill him out of spite.
She could feel the presence pulling back from her. She’s seen people become revolted by her words for reasons that fill her with pride and shame. Seeing was not the same as feeling. The lack of doubt and the sense of confirmation was something wholly unfamiliar to her.
‘Think of the other faeblood in his memories.’
‘Your kin, our children, do you think that was the only family he saw? They were merely the first you saw, and you can learn more… with but a touch.’
I can invade his head and learn more about why my hair is white, why my ears always looked a bit pointy in a certain light-
‘Your ears aren’t actually that pointy-’
-and find out what the fuck you are? For once, sparky, you’ve given me a good idea.
‘That cannot be true.’
If you make me work for it with riddles, then you’re not ‘giving’ anything to me.
‘From a certain point of view.’
From a certain point of bullshit maybe.
“What are you thinking, Andy?” The assassin pulled her out of her own head with a few words, and her eyes completely lost focus due to the mental whiplash. She felt his hand on her shoulder as he helped her stay upright.
Andy found herself needing to wipe tears from her eyes and a bit of drool from her mouth as she tried to focus on the Bard still tied to his chair.
“There’s something I need to know that he can tell me.”
“Ask away,” Henry said in a sing-songy voice, “as you can see, I’m not going anywhere, and it behooves me to answer your questions.”
“Then… why do I get the feeling,” Andy began to ask as she bent down to get in his face, “if I asked about the white-haired folk you hunted, you wouldn’t tell me about them?”
The Bard’s dishonest smile was no more, his eyes opening with a mix of fear and shame. He made a mistake in that moment. He bared his soul to Andy without even meaning to, and she knew the answer to her own question.
She didn’t wait, nor ask, she just planted her hand firmly atop of Henry’s head, and her eyes lit up.
Henry’s eyes immediately glazed over, and the suddenness of it all made Jack’s eyes flutter in bewilderment.
“Uh, what the hell is going on?” Jack asked as he kept moving his head to look away, but his eyes could not.
“Hmm?” Malum’s head tilted a bit as he looked at him. “Oh right, you weren’t there when Andy revealed she had powers.”
“She sees the past to things and people she touches, it’s kind of useful.”
“Why wasn’t I told?!”
“You’d probably want to use it for something stupid.”
“Wait, was the vision we saw not because of Astrid then?”
Malum shrugged and watched from the outside as Andy took a better look into the Bard of the Song and the many faeblood he came across.
They came to her in flashes, but her mind was ready this time. The ones who were caught, and the ones who got away. Ones who fought back, who Henry couldn’t pretend to not see. Mothers, fathers, children, the old and the young…
The Honorguard found many across Raydorn. They were shopowners in the capital, servants in the houses of lords and ladies high and small. Some were on the outskirts, married to simple farmers and weavers. Some managed to hide in plain sight and others left sight altogether.
But the Wolfhunter was tracker by nature, and on Amidala’s orders, her authority granted by the king himself, the Honorguard found these individuals and brought them to the warlock. There was no slum for them to be put in, not even a prison, just the warlock and the Tower, home to all warlocks, a building of many forgotten names.
She met them at the door, and the Bard of the Song turned his back. Then they went up, and that… was that.
There were many, nearly two dozen, each a bit different. Some had ashen hair that wasn’t completely white. Some had the hair but not the ears, and some had ears that were pointer than others. The faeblood were like her, and not, and the Bard of the Song seemed to find all that remained in Raydorn…
All except me.
‘Learn their faces, Andelyn, remember their names.’
She dug through Henry’s mind instinctively to learn what the presence suggested to her, but her mind’s words didn’t match her actions.
There’s no point other to feel pain at their passing.
‘Feeling pain for them, when there’s no one else to do so, is the point. They will not be mourned, just as the Light they came from is not… like we are not. Unless of course…’
I learn their names.
‘We can help.’
Andy considered making a snide comment, but as the faces keep whirling through her mind, and the presence seemed to be in nothing but pain each time… she held her metaphorical tongue.
Shall we begin?
‘We’re already done, you can learn the first now. Remember now and forever, Taylor.’
Was she… was she kind?
‘She would have been if she was given the chance.’
What we lose to men who follow orders.
This time when Andelyn came out of her trace, she did so without much whiplash.
She removed her hand from Henry’s head, and it slowly fell to his shoulder. “Tell me, how many did it take?”
Henry’s eyes were still trying to focus after she had invaded his mind, but his ears worked fine. The ears of a musician always had to be on point, and from her time in his head…
… she knew that.
“Don’t pretend that you didn’t hear me,” she said as she pulled his hair and twisted his head to the side.
Her compatriots were a bit perplexed by her sudden change in tone and were left out of the loop. Malum reached out to try and understand, “Andy, what is-”
One would think he was used to her ignoring him by now but something had shifted in the air. At first, it felt like it was the mood, but as the hair on the arms of both men began to stand up, it was clear that this was something physical in play.
“I’m only going to ask you one more time,” she said in this low growl, and Henry’s downtrodden expression brightened up, as the limelight from her eyes began to shine on his face. “How many faeblood did you give to her before you admitted to yourself what she was doing?”
“I don’t know what she did with them- ACK!”
As he tried to deny it, she pulled his hair again, sending a shooting pain stabbing into his brain. The issue was that pulling someone’s hair hurt, but not like that. That was not right.
“They didn’t walk out of her tower, you knew that.”
“But what? You didn’t want to believe it?” As she twisted and pulled, that’s when the crackle happen.
The limelight was more than something that blinded, but something that burned small particles in the air between them.
“Whether you believed it or not is inconsequential to whether or not they’re alive,” she told him, and as she spoke, electricity coursed its way through and around her throat, so that her voice sounded like more than a person, but many. “What you believed did not stop their suffering, nor their deaths, but action could have.
“You cannot atone, but you can tell me why, why you let them die.”
Jack and Malum had stayed rather frozen the moment they heard the Light and the Many speak through Andelyn. Jack choose to whisper, “When should we-”
But Malum deemed that too much. His hand shot to cover Starshield’s mouth, and he shook his head ‘no.’ They were not in the room anymore. They were barely witnesses, just those who needed to stay as quiet as possible.
In fact, Malum proceeded to step back. It didn’t matter that the Bard of the Song was a life he had just argued not to kill. Andelyn had found out something in the recesses of his memory that drove an entirely separate being to rage. It was something beyond him, and saving Jack from making a mistake that could cost him his life was the most he would risk doing.
“Why does Amidala hunt the Faeblood, the children of the Light, and the members of the Many?”
Henry Lockley did not wake that morning expecting death. He expected to have three, maybe four bodies in chains or under tarps. He expected to have done his duty and protected his nation’s most valuable asset. He expected to play music that would undress the minds of the crowd, and make them wish they could undress his mind much the same.
Instead, he listened to the voices of those he failed in the name of loyalty and the idea of honor. Instead, he watched Andelyn Stella’s mouth move with the voice of hundreds with a simple question, with a simple answer.
And it was the most unsatisfyingly simple answer at that.
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
“How is that possible?” the Many demanded to know.
“I… I… I didn’t ask.”
‘It is almost as if you’re telling a man who knows nothing… to tell you everything.”
He tried to hang his head low, but his chin only fell into her other hand. With strength two fingers should not possess, she lifted him up with the chair.
Andelyn looked over her shoulder, and when she looked at Malum and Jack, the eye facing them appeared normal, save for its green color. “Move.”
Malum did not hesitate, but Jack did. He expected to hear the Many and heard only the One instead, so Malum pulled him down to the ground.
In that moment, Andelyn chucked the Bard of the Song across the room, where he hit the wall, chair first.
It shattered and twisted beneath his back. The shards and the hard angles of the chair stabbed into him. It left little pricks all over his flesh, and bigger bruises up and down his sides… but the rope fell and his hands were free.
If only he had the strength to lift them.
Andelyn began to walk after him, the limelight fading from her eyes, and the electricity dying down around her. Malum and Jack were still on their knees when she snapped her fingers at them.
When she stood in front of Henry, the two were following a few feet behind her, so when he looked up at her, she was alone. There was only her, and the frizzled white strands of her that were all slowly beginning to stand up on her head.
“You were a coward, Henry, and worse, you were ignorant… so you will take us to the one who is not, and you will hope that she will have enough to say to satisfy me.”
Henry was slow to do everything now. To move his lips and to speak as he should. He nodded his head, but he could not do much else half as fast.
As he slowly tried to collect himself and stand to his feet, the two men flanking Andy came and pulled him up. They stayed silent, as they pushed him on.
“No funny business,” Andy warned as she raised his lute, and wrested its bigger end in her hand, “or you won’t have the organ you need to be funny.”
He knew he should have had some snark prepared, but nothing came to mind. He only nodded and turned towards the door.
“We should be careful from here,” the Bard warned the three who had become his captors, “with my song gone, people will start to wake.”
“Not the ones Malum killed,” Andy muttered.
“What did you say?” the assassin asked.
As she pushed the Honorguard onward, keeping a steady pace, she did not refrain from chiding Malum. “I saw the bodies, while I was following Jack, they were slain with your blade, it was hard not to notice.”
“Andy, he was under mind control,” Jack tried to reason with her, but the assassin shook his head.
Henry pointed out, “Why would I have him kill my own soldiers, useless as they were?” Andy shoved him before he could speak again. He looked up at her for a second before he looked back down at the ground.
The Bard’s words left Jack at a loss, “Then…”
“They were false legionnaires, better to kill them here than for them to taint our flag,” Malum reasoned.
“Uh huh, and here I thought we shouldn’t kill the people here,” Andy muttered some more.
“I…” Malum caught himself, and they could hear the breath he took under his mask. “I lost my composure, it shouldn’t have happened.”
Andy stared for a moment, and looked away where she could hide her gaping look from prying eyes.
To think he’d admit to losing his cool.
Okay, let’s set boundaries here. My inner thoughts are not an invitation for communication. This is a private place, and if I can’t be myself in my own head I may just slit my wrists or go insane.
No need, now you know, not every stray thought is food for your thought.
The walk through the halls were quiet, save for the moans of people waking from their slumber, but the sounds of rising people did not follow. There were accusations of drunkenness and spiked drinks all around from what the three legionnaires could hear from the floor above.
One could say they were making good time, even with Jack’s limp, but it was nothing to talk on and on about.
Their arrival to Amidala’s door was a quiet affair marked by Henry’s silent stop a few feet from it.
“This is where she is?” Andy asked, the sounds of Malum and Jack unsheathing their swords following her words.
“This is where she’s staying, whether she’s here right now, I don’t know.”
“Fair enough,” she said before tossing his lute aside like the sad thing it had become. It made a violent Twang! as it hit the ground, one that made the Bard twitch, but his captors hardly moved an inch that wasn’t already in motion.
As Andy walked past him, he made a half-hearted sound that was almost a word, and she turned towards him with an arch in her brow.
His hands were raised towards her, like there was something he could possibly give to make up for his inaction. There never could be.
“I…” he tried to speak, only for her eyes to stab him where it hurts. He lowered his hands and his gaze. This way he could speak his words without having to meet her shame-inducing eyes. “I must apologize to you thrice, you see, some cowards like me… we need to be reminded to do the right thing.”
“Normally, I would say not to beat yourself up about it, that you’re a part of big club,” Malum said as he stood beside him, “but hell hath no fury like hers,” a remark that made Andy roll her eyes, “and I’ve never seen it burn as harshly as it does now. I can only imagine what you did to stoak it.”
“Even worse,” Jack added, “he’s an Honorguard, if anything already he’s a part of a club that should be rather exclusive, but nevertheless…” as he tried to make his last remark he looked down at the Honorguard’s empty eyes. The point became clear to him then.
“Nevermind,” the once-Stormguard said, “let’s go see the wicked witch.”
“Finally,” Andy grumbled as she led the way, with Malum hiding his aching torso and Jack barely covering up his limp as she did so. Together, they were far from a motley crew who was prepared to face who they anticipated, yet they pressed on anyway.
Andy did not hesitate to open the door, and the room’s contents made her continue to scowl. “What are you doing here?”