Lute. Part Twenty One

While the tension rises in Truth's chambers, so too do the fears of Harp and Bell.

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In Truth's chambers, all was far from silent. The steady march of his soldiers moving in and out of the doorway to receive instructions not only pounded around the room and reverberated off of every wall, but it also made the floor shake beneath Harp and Bell. Abandoned in a corner behind the curtains of Truth's sleeping area, the two musicians were obviously no longer considered a thread. Not ten feet from them, Truth organised the movements of his pawns, leading them into battle against some opponent that had somehow appeared from nowhere. He made no effort to disguise the motions or tasks that he set to them.

In truth, there was no real reason to hide anything anymore. The surgeons had pulled the arrow free from Harp's wound and done some hasty stitching, but hasty was definitely the defining characteristic of their work. He would love, but it would be a long time before he would be able to truly use his arm again. Blood had dried on to the remnants of his torn shirt, and had covered much of the wound as well. This was bad enough, but the effect that it was having on Harp was the worst part of it. Panting desperately for breath, his body was weak and barely functioning properly.

"I don't see much way out 'a this, kid," he pushed through his lips, obviously fighting to get each word out.

"Please, just stay still and don't talk," Bell responded, pleading. "You need your rest if you're going to heal up. I know things look bad but they could be a lot worse for us. We're not the enemies here, and we're not really caught in the middle either. We're just something in Truth's way, and he's going to sell us on as soon as he gets hold of Lute.

"You believe that?" asked Harp. His next words were swallowed up by a series of coughs, violently jerking his body and tugging at his injuries.

"Please, just be still," Bell pleaded again. "Whatever you believe, it'll all be over soon, but I think we're going to make it out of here. I'm scared, but I don't think he has any reason to lie. Truth's always been very straightforward with me - even when he's just been making threats. We could be in a much worse situation right now."

Though Harp finally relented in speaking, the look that he offered Bell was not one of safety or security. Harp, bold and strong as he had always been, was scared.

"We'll be okay," attempted Bell, one more time. "I know we will be."

"What if-"

"He didn't, Harp. Even Lute isn't stupid enough to get caught in a situation this intense. You don't have to worry about all of this. You just have to focus on getting better as soon as you can; we can be playing music again in no time, just the three of us. None of this matters. None of this is going to matter after today. We're going to make it, I promise."

This was a lie, and no small one. The chance that Lute could have gotten Sincerity pregnant, as Truth suspected, was horrendously high. It would certainly be a stroke of luck if he had not. Bell knew this. She knew Lute, and she knew just what he would do if he was given the choice. Bell was now lying to one of her closest friends in the world. Perhaps everything would end up fine, and they would all be sold off as a trio to a new and less hectic ownership. Bell just wanted to be as far away from Truth and Sincerity as she possibly could be.

"I don't care about your losses and casualties, I want these people found, trapped and cornered," Truth was shouting at one of his lieutenants. He had suffered quite a setback now that his most well known and feared general has vanished. This was starting to show in the tension of his neck, back and, most notable, his words. "We no longer have time to be engaging a crew that are barely able to even mobilise and organise on this ship. We have every corridor covered, every hatch guarded and every piece of cargo secured; how can it be possible that you are still unable to find the targets that you have been looking for. I am growing weary of all of these excuses that your men are coming up with. Find them, catch them and ruin them."

The lieutenant bowed sharply, and near fled out of the door without saying a word back to his master. All but two of the men there followed - Truth's usual guards. Bell had not seen either of them move since she had become aware of them. They held their ground, as always; stern, rigid and strong, despite having just lost one of their own.

"I think it's time for a change in tact," Truth muttered. He had taken to pacing back and forth across his chambers, pivoting quickly and rubbing the stubble forming on his chin.

Bell and Harp both ignored his words, as they had now been doing for a while. Unable to stand, Harp was sitting with his back to Truth's bed, while Bell had knelt down beside him in order to try and make him as comfortable as possible. The pillows and covers of their owner had done little to ease the pain, but at least no new pains would be forming.

"I'm scared, Bell," Harp sighed. His breathing was becoming heavier and heavier, while his coughs were becoming more and more erratic. "We're in a lot of...trouble."

"I promised you we'd be okay," Bell told him through the earliest formation of tears, "I meant it. I know we're in a tough spot, but we can get out of it. We'll get through this-"

The rush of coughs fought its way out of Harp's throat, pushing his body forwards and making every moment that was not spent coughing a moment during which he cried out in agony. Bell could spot the tiny droplets of blood flying from between his teeth and lips onto the wooden floor and Truth's satin hangings.

"He's not going to last much longer," Truth said over the noises of pain. Hearing him, Bell raised from her kneeling position to hear what he had to say. "The arrow landed in his shoulder, but, judging by the sounds and signs, the surgeon cut into his lung trying to get the arrowhead out. He's bleeding straight into his lungs, and choking on it. I'm sure that you can see the problem that this presents me with. If the three of you are not together as a complete set, I will earn very little profit on my purchase. Honestly, that matters very little if Lute has been playing the part in this ploy that I suspect that he has. I suppose that it's sad in a way, but it's a pity that I shall cry very little over."

"I'm not gone yet," Harp tried to shout, fighting through his failing body. "I'm not...gone-"

No further words escaped him while he sat in that room. Instead, Harp laid his head back and focussed on his breathing. Terrified, Bell looked up towards Truth for help, but the new Lord has resumed his pacing.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    dial-a-death
    Still good, but seemed a little rushed. A few uncharacteristic typos there Colohue! Still love the story though
    Equivalence
    No don't let him die! Harp is one of my favourite characters with his funny way of speaking..