Lute. Part Fifteen

The reason that Truth has held Bell so close since arriving on the vessel becomes abundantly clear.

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Her two tasks complete, Bell returned to the cabin of her owner, her jacket held over her head in the attempt to keep her face dry. Her boots had done little to keep water off of her feet, but, knowing that they had belonged to three different owners before her, Bell had expected this without even thinking about it. It was not comfortable.

It was sad to think that she was missing the Lord Avatar's manor. It had never really been somewhere that she had considered home, but compared to life on board the vessel upon which she now paid service, it was divine. This place was an absolute nightmare. Every night was spent lying awake, worrying about what horrid concept might befall them next and listening to the retches and dry heaves that were coming out of Harp. Lute didn't sleep too soundly either, since even the slightest movement would ignite the injury in his back. Something had made it worse lately, though he was finally starting to heal now.

Most nights, all three of them laid awake, faking the attempt not to disturb the others. They all knew that they were awake, and they all knew that they didn't want to talk to anybody.

She missed having the sound of almost a hundred other servants bounding around outside of her bedroom door every morning. She missed having Wax under her feet wherever she went, rushing to put up another candle in one of the many rooms there. Mostly, she missed working on stationary ground. At sea, the floor rocked back and forth - up and down. Now, with the storm making the sides slide dangerously high and low while the waves smashed into the wood. The crew, sleeping below decks, were likely in for a horrible night. Bell wasn't exactly looking forward to hers either.

Without time to talk to Lute or Harp about where she would be, Bell fought through the downpour back to the captain's cabin. Sincerity had left the deck, though there was still a knot of sailors and crew gathered surreptitiously around her former dancing position. Aware that the water had soaked through her vest, Bell abandoned the attempt to shield her face and eyes from the water and used her jacket to cover her torso instead. Getting drenched through would, thankfully, make her less attractive to those around her.

Remaining unnoticed using the skill of the professional indentured servant, Bell slipped into Truth's cabin silently. There were only a chosen few candles lit, all far from the door, and this left shadows in the meeting area that came directly away from the door. She walked in a little further, moving closer and closer to the light, but seemed unable to locate Truth. It took a few moments for him to make himself known when he tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped. He had been lurking in the shadows behind her, making a mockery of her skill for stealth.

You leap as though you are expecting some thief to be amongst my things," he whispered, an arrogant smile playing across his face. "Calm yourself, Bell. The night is far from over, and there is much more to be done that you are in the ideal position to accomplish. I would suggest that you get changed into fresh clothing and put on something thick or you'll likely die of the cold."

Having been ignoring the shivers since talking with Sincerity, this sounded like a wonderful idea. It was as though two pools of water had settled inside of her vest and were refusing to move. Truth directed her towards his own wardrobe, carried from the Lord Avatar's manor and into this cabin by Truth's personal guard before he boarded.

Bell hesitated, which was a mistake that she should have expected. "Move quickly," he ordered her. "There is a purpose to this, and I have a strong dislike of being kept waiting. You are to be a witness to events today - select whatever you wish to wear and have done with it."

She snapped to his command without another moment of thought, marching across the room and raking through the rich accrued clothes there. Selecting the most mundane and boring of the silk shirts on offer, she changed in the shadow left behind the open door of the wardrobe. The material practically drowned her as much as the water had, but a few belts and pieces of string, made for Truth for the same purpose, made things seem at least somewhat suitable.

He called her over just as she was finishing a knot around her wrist. Strangely, she had become quite proficient with knots since the voyage began. Truth was standing against the far wall, his ear to the wood and the door ever so slightly ajar so that he would see out of it. It was strange and lecherous, not at all what Bell had expected of a rich land and person owner such as her Lord-in-waiting. He placed a finger upon his lips to hold her silence, then gestured towards the floor in front of him. She took the hint to kneel down so that she could follow his gaze.

There was nothing there. Sincerity's door was just out of sight, but the area in front of it was both perfectly visible and completely empty.

"My sister's handmaiden has recently departed for places that, I suppose, are meant to be unknown," Truth whispered down to her. "Shall we see just which noble leech she brings back this time?"

From having the cold as her major concern, complete fear seized her by the throat in the next moment; a choking grip worthy of much dread. Her shivers became literal shakes, as though an icicle was dripping its way down her back. Truth knew that somebody was coming to see Sincerity, and that was fair evidence that he knew exactly why. Noble references or not, he had called Bell here to act as witness. This was quite a hint that he knew that Lute was his target.

"Perhaps she has work to do late at night," Bell attempted, unconvincingly even for herself. She didn't dare turn around and see how Truth had reacted.

"She does," he answered and, for a moment, she thought herself safe. "She does many things in the dark of the night, and many men have had to pay for their enticements of her."

The urge to cry welled up, and perhaps this would have been adequate distraction, but Dress was far too quick to allow Bell any time to prepare, or to fight back in any way. Truth had Bell, Lute and Harp all pinned down perfectly for the simple reason that he knew his sister.

"Is there anything that you wish to tell me, Bell?"

Was he offering her a chance to escape? Could she betray her friend and perhaps save her own hide for another day? Was there hope that Truth was not actually anywhere near as bad as he seemed?

Before Bell could decide either way, she saw Lute climb up the ladder onto the aft deck, Dress following closely behind. Bell could pick up no reaction from Truth, and she was terrified at the very concept of turning around. Lute looked nervous, but he made no glance towards Truth's cabin. With a limp, he walked through the door after Dress opened it for him.

"And you are now a witness, so that even the servants will be against him when I have him hanged."

There was a moment of sharp pain, and then black.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Varyag_Ace
    OMG... Lute caught in the act... Bell lying unconscious.. this is starting to look like a climax! Hope it doesnt mean the end so soon! Its great as always Colohue!