The first thing that Bell felt as she fought her way back to consciousness was the puddle of drool that was soaking through her cheek. It was unladylike, as was the wooden floor that she had collapsed on to. The bump on her head was likely also very unladylike. It hurt.
Lifting her head and fighting through the fog that had managed to cover her eyes, Bell found herself looking directly at the door out of Truth's cabin. There were two soldiers guarding the door, in blue uniforms and golden armbands to denote them as Truth's personal guard. To say that these men were trained and prepared was a major understatement. They were tall, ridiculously toned and armed with broadswords that would stop any attack, no matter how fierce.
The next thing that she saw was the reason that she had been awakened. The sound of the door slamming open was followed by the sound of a body being dragged across the floor by two of Truth's lower ranked soldiers. Bell recognised the face of the man that they were dragging. It was Harp. He was conscious, and she thanked any God that could possibly exist for this. They dropped him next to her, outside of her current field of vision, then marched back to the door.
Where did you find him? came the voice of Truth from somewhere behind her. He sounded more smug than she had ever heard him, and far from guilty.
He was wounded by an arrow sir, down near the cargo hold, answered one of the soldiers who had brought him in. We're not sure who hit him. It could have been Sincerity's guard, but it could have been the crew. He tried to put up a fight when we took hold of him, but hes not in the best position for it.
Where is this arrow? came the dry reply.
We removed the shaft sir, but the head is still in the wound, the soldier told his master and owner. It could become infected, so I believe it would be a good idea to fetch the surgeon, with your permission, sir.
Well, that's a question worth considering, isn't it? Truth teased with a bitter laugh. There are so many ways that I could go with it. I trust that he's alive.
Well, that could have been avoided, but I suppose we'll just have to do make the best out of what we have, Truth conceded with a weary sigh. You'd best fetch the surgeon then, and get the head out of him before he dies. He might prove useful at some point or another. In fact, I should consider the fiscal opportunity that I've been given here if he lives. Fetch the surgeon, and make sure his fingers are still nimble enough to play that instrument of his, or you shall lose yours.
Both of the lower ranked soldiers left the room then, the one who had been speaking following the other. Their conversation had given her very little food for thought, and even less that had filled her with hope. Laying flat on her front had left her aching all over. Her head hurt, her neck hurt from holding it up so that she could see, and the pressure of her weight on her breasts was far from comfortable. Knowing that it would make Truth aware that she was awake, but worried enough about Harp that she couldn't care, she planted her hands on the floor and pushed with her right one so that she could roll onto her side.
Her friend's eyes were open, but not focussed. He was almost completely prone, and the right side of his body was covered in wet or dried blood. She couldn't see much of him because of the way that he was laid, on a diagonal slant from her. Harp didn't seem to have noticed that she was there. The rise of his chest told her that he was breathing, which was a sign to make her heart leap with joy. It was strange; the things that made her happy now.
I nearly have the entire set now, Truth told his personal guard, speaking over Bell to show how completely he was ignoring her. The guards didn't react, but this didn't deter him at all. It was very possible that speaking wasn't in their job description. We can sell them all off together as soon as Lute has been punished for trying to get in between myself and my heritage. My Fathers legacy goes back a long way, and I am entitled to all of it before the year is out. I feel like celebrating, but there is much to do before were ready for that. Aureon, why are we still encountering resistance?
The crew have issue with being silenced, sir, one of the guard told him bluntly. They are not openly attempting to refuse your command, but with the Captain missing, we are encountering difficulty in placating them. They firmly believe that you have either murdered him or have him locked in here at the point of a knife.
Would that that were a possibility, but he slipped away with my sister, the Lord-In-Waiting sent back. I want you to take personal charge this time Aureon. Send Luthor back to protect me here and move around this vessel until you have her to bring to me. This is not a large craft; the very idea that she has escaped my grasp for this long is ridiculous. Go and find her.
The guard named Aureon left the cabin with a single smooth turn and a march. This left a single guard in the room with Truth, the wounded Harp and Bell. A few moments passed before there was a knock on the door, and the other guard pulled it open with his hand on his blade. It was the surgeon come to draw the steel arrowhead out of Harp's wounded shoulder.
Truth finally wandered into Bell's field of vision while the surgeon was working. He laid his hands on Bell's shoulders and dragged her across the room a little so that she could no longer see what was going on behind her. Now looking down on her, eyes locked with hers and on one knee in front of her, a malicious smile was on Truth's face. Worried about your friend, are you? he asked her, obviously aware of the answer. I think you should be more concerned about Lute instead. He's vanished into nothing with my sister, and that's one of the most dangerous positions to be in right now. I've already given the order that Dress is to be killed. She's a danger to my soldiers, especially considering that her weaponry is missing with her. Lute isn't exactly trained as I recall. He has little hope of survival if he encounters Luthor or Aureon. None of you stand a chance of stopping this from happening. Sincerity even less so. She will be arrested, and she will be punished for attempting to break the line of hierarchy. Any child that she has conceived has no right to my heritage. If she is pregnant then she shall be silenced. This is the risk that your friend is under, and that is the risk that you are under. Do you understand what is at stake here?
There were tears in the corner of her eyes as she struggled to gather words. This was all about money and legacy. So where was the Lord Avatar in all of this? Why wasn't he swooping down to stop his children from fighting a battle that would consume many lives on this ship.
There was only one answer. The Lord Avatar was dead.
Yes, Bell answered.
Good, Truth replied. A victorious smile was on his face.
What had any of them done to deserve this? Where was Lute? With all her heart and her soul, she wished to anything that he was safe somewhere outside of this ship.
Somewhere behind her, Harp cried out in agony.