Lute. Part Fourteen

Life, back under the rule of Lord-In-Waiting Truth, is very different to life under the Lady Sincerity.

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Daily routine, now that Truth had arrived on the ship, quite suddenly became as rigid and structured as life back at the Lord Avatar's manor. The rules that had already earned Lute the scars on his back, were forgotten in favour of renewed discipline, endless military drills on the open decking and intense inspections of the cleanliness, organisation and general efficiency of staff and the ship itself. Obviously, sincerity had abandoned control of their voyage the moment that her brother had stepped on board.

Resting ceased to be an option in that moment also. Harp was pressed into service, despite his frequent vomiting spells. Truth had him climbing the sails to the crow's nest, where he would spend hours at a time looking out over the water, just in case of minor piracy on the waters. Lute was placed onto one of the little ferries that carried the guesting nobles back and forth to wherever they thought that they could earn favour best. The constant work of rowing the fat and greedy peoples of the Lord Avatar was close to torture, but, during the night, he suspected that this was Truth's reasoning behind it.

Bell had also been reassigned. Now, instead of tying knots and climbing the mast herself, Bell had become the personal servant to Truth, in the absence of his own. To be so close and intimate with somebody that she barely knew, and somebody so clearly her superior, was terrifying at best.

On the evenings, the three of them would gather and perform their music from the aft deck, entertaining those that were still awake quietly enough not to wake those that were not. Heavily distracted by pain and illness, Harp and Lute never managed to play at their best, though they obviously tried the best that they could. Lute's singing was not perfect, nor was his playing, but nobody could deny that his heart was still in it.

On the rare occasions that they would be gifted with an owner as an audience member, Lute's playing became noticeably more sloppy. Sincerity was the biggest distraction, but it seemed fairly evident that she was trying to be. She would flutter her eyelashes, pout and flirt to ensure that she had his attention. Of course, this was why his fingers began to miss notes as surely as his voice did.

Truth was the exact opposite, though this was just as distracting. He would stride confidently back and forth, sword at his hip, directing the movements of his few chosen guards as they paced their drills. He paid little attention to the music, regarding them as something of an intrusion, but he endured them for the sake of morale. Patience was not a trait that showed in his face, nor his body language. Having experienced that body far more closely that she had wished in the last few days, Bell could say that for certain.

The sun had set for the night, and Bell was the last one to leave the aft deck. It had started to rain during their performance, but without the permission of an owner to halt them, stopping had been out of the question, so the three of them had soldiered on as the storm built against them. Bell was drenched, and the beating that the rain had given had made her instruments rather pointless, but she was quite envious that Lute and Harp could literally run to their shared cabin, instruments in hand, without bothering to clean them or put them carefully into protected cases.

At the end of the night, Bell's tasks were still not over. Before she could seek her bed, and the sparse comfort that it offered, she would have to go to Truth's cabin and see to his needs. He had completely overtaken the cabin that belonged to the captain of the ship, whereas Sincerity had been glad to take the quarters of the first mate. It might easily have been the case that Truth had already planned ahead for this, but the crew didn't seem even slightly happy about it. This might have been why Truth had brought certain guards with him.

She let herself into his cabin. It was pointless to think about his modesty; in her experience, he had very little. He offered her no greeting as she came in, since he was consumed with the paperwork on his desk. He had taught her to wait her turn, and he had taught her well, so she stood in silence until he had put down capped his ink pot and turned to regard her.

"I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you," he said - volume pitched at little more than a whisper. "There's a lot that my sister has been neglecting to tell me. Lately, this has most certainly been brought to my attention in force. You're going to answer my questions as accurately as you possible can. Do you understand me?"

She might have been shaking from the cold, but fear was also present in force. "I'll do the best I can, sir," she offered, hoping that he would be quickly placated.

He was not. Thankfully, it was so rare to see Truth pleased that his look of displeasure was becoming oddly comforting. "I have many questions. I also do not wish to be interrupted, so kindly run along to my sister and the deck hand behind the wheel and tell them that I am not to be disturbed. Do not tell me sister why."

"Yes, sir," replied Bell, and ran to the task. Speed had been a lesson taught to her quickly.

Sincerity stayed in the next cabin down, so she was Bell's first choice of her two targets. As it was, Sincerity had not departed to her chambers yet. She had been down in their meagre audience before the rain had started, but now she seemed to be revelling in the cool air and the way that the water made her dress hug tightly to her curves. She seemed to be dancing just in front of her door, soaking up the weather and being completely oblivious to the fact that almost every member of the crew was sneaking sidelong glances at her body. Still, it was no surprise that she would display herself in such a way.

"My lady?" asked Bell in an effort to draw the attention of her owner.

Sincerity was not too happy at the distraction. "What is it, Bell?" she inquired quietly, pausing in her euphoric twirl. "You're ruining the beauty of nature for me, and for all of the men down on the deck. You should be dancing too; the water might make you look a little bigger for them."

This was ignored. "The Lord-In-Waiting would like you to know that he does not wish to be disturbed at this time," Bell stammered. The cold was getting to her now. She could feel slow drips of cold water sliding down the back of her neck and soaking through her hair. "If you could ensure that none of the servants enter his cabin, save myself, he would be most grateful."

With a puzzled and somewhat sarcastic expression glued to her face, Sincerity looked her property over. "And what, pray tell, would my dear brother be doing that is so important that I can not walk in and watch it?"

"I'm sorry, my Lady, but he has specifically instructed that I am not to tell you. I bid you a good night."

With a curtsey - difficult due to the weight of her sodden attire - Bell departed before the weight of Sincerity's wrath was likely to hit her. In truth, the woman raised a good point.

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    Equivalence
    I'm really starting to love this story, and although this particular chapter wasn't quite as exciting as the few last ones i'm absolutely looking forward to more.