Lute. Part Seventeen

The option of escape stolen from him, Harp simply does what he has to do in order to survive.

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There was a moment, while his stomach was turning and tiny droplets of water were assailing his face, where Harp had to cross the path of the soldier facing him. On the thin walkway that led around the cabins, this was a delicate moment. Knowing this, the soldier tensed, but did not draw his blade. This was a mistake. In that moment, Harp shifted himself sideways against the man with all of his weight, crushing him against the outside wall of the next cabin. His job unfinished, he took a step back to clear the way so that he could throw his would be captor in the opposite direction and over the railing. He made a sound of surprise as his body hit the water, but then the current caught him. As he drew farther and farther away, the voice that escaped him became more and more quiet.

Alone and unarmed, Harp considered what he had just done, then fiercely rejected any further consideration of the subject. He had simply done what he had had to do, and now he had other priorities to attend to, such as where his friends were. Unfortunately, he was ill-equipped to be storming a vessel with the plan to counter a mutiny that may or may not be happening. Also, a moment later, his body reminded him that he had another problem. Dry heaves wracked his throat once again.

The sound of footsteps reminded him of impending danger, so Harp put his hand over his mouth tightly and fled back into his cabin as quickly as he could manage without making much of a sound.

Leaving the door slightly ajar, Harp felt a little leap in his chest when he saw two of Truth's soldiers rushing by and up to the railing just outside of the door.

"I could swear I heard something," said one, leaning over the side and looking for anything that might have made a sound.

"Look, we're in a rough spot, but there's no need to get"

Seizing his opportunity, Harp pulled open the cabin door and rushed out again, hoping that the lack of further footsteps was enough to show that nobody else was coming. Surprise was on his side. As the two soldiers turned to face him, he struck the first down with a fist fuelled by the momentum of his charge, then ran straight into the one closer to the railing. The soldier looked young and frightened, and the shove against the railing hurt his stomach, leaving him vulnerable to find himself in the water.

The second soldier, recovered from the blow, but bleeding from the lip, made to draw his sword. He just about managed it before the next blow had fallen, and then the next, and one further. He made to shout, but Harp already had a hand on his throat. Smashing his opponent's wrist against the railing so that he might drop his sword, no more seconds were wasted before he too had found the chill night water beneath him.

Aware that this tactic would last no longer, Harp took up the abandoned weapon and, still hearing the sounds of his defeated foes in the sea beneath him, he set off away from the walkway, moving quietly if not swiftly. Footsteps could be heard coming, but he was thankfully able to slip away before they reached him.

His regret at that moment, other than the pain in his knuckles and the writhing of his stomach, was in leaving behind his harp in their cabin. Bell's chosen instrument was the only one that had not been abandoned, and bells happened to be quite easy to replace if an owner wished to enjoy her talents. Today was not a good day for music it seemed. The only sounds that could be heard all around now were stamping feet rushing towards him at a frightening pace. It was both lucky and saddening that the soldiers he had so far tangled with had been so young and inexperienced. They were Truth's personal guard, but other than the first soldier, who had expected the servant to be malleable, they had been brought along with Truth's vessel to conduct drills and protect the Lord-In-Waiting. Harp had always been more of a brawler, and the agile rapier weapon which he had managed to obtain was not one that he was familiar with. Cutting out the middle man and punching somebody was not only more practical, but it also just felt better.

The first soldier had mentioned searching the cargo hold, so this was Harp's first choice of target. He wasn't aiming for a fight, but surely Harp would have been placed on the detail that was lacking men in order to make up the numbers. He slipped down the first hatch that he came to, thankful for the lack of bright moonlight and the water and wood all around that made candles or torches a preposterous idea. This was the first time that he had been grateful to be standing on a ship. It was indeed going to be a strange day.

From there, things became more difficult, since below decks was teeming with soldiers and crew. Three sides had seemingly sprung up out of nowhere. Truth's personal guard was the most prominent, causing Harp to duck into more than one store cupboard on his journey. After those, and never together, came Sincerity's personal guard. These were more sparse, and usually alone. These, it seemed, were the hunted of the two, which meant that Sincerity herself was likely in quite a bit of danger. The third group, Harp encountered face to face. These were the crewmembers that he discovered a moment after ducking into the second store cupboard that he slipped into. Quiet, in the shadows, and looking miserable, they would simply place their fingers to their lips upon encountering him and motion for him to hold still. These were his choice of ally. Nobody came with him, but he always made sure to gesture them towards the last other crewmember that he had seen. Harp never saw anybody leaving the cupboards.

When he made it through the little maze of cabins and holds beneath, he came to a deeper staircase that he suspected led to the cargo hold. With no knowledge of below, and having to stop every few seconds, Harp found it more than likely that he had made a few wrong turns and gone in a few circles, but he was very sure when he reached his destination. There were voices down the staircase, directing what must have been the crew to shift their exotic wines, fine foods and ale barrels aside to make way for something else. He never did find out what the purpose was of this choice of activity.

A sound, as though a small whip had just taken action, caught him off guard from behind. Harp made the attempt to turn, but it was far too late. A sudden, vicious and demanding pain consumed his shoulder impatiently. An uncontrolled outburst escaped his lips, bursting out of him as if it had been waiting all along. A second later, he was on the floor, face down and in utter agony. His hand found the front of his shoulder, where the point of an arrowhead was poking its way through his pierced bone socket.

"What's this one carrying a sword about like a soldier?" a female voice whispered above him.

"It doesn't matter," came another, more high pitched than the last. "We need to get him to the lady or just leave him here. Do you think he's worth the time and effort?"

A hand explored the wound, causing more grunts and yelps to escape him. Now, the stairs were starting to shake. People were coming. Next, his two attackers could be heard fleeing the scene as quickly as possible.

They had him, pierced shoulder and all. Still, Harp was glad to have put up something of a fight.

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