Hey, I'm Tom Colohue. Welcome to installment zero of my new Ultimate-Guitar.com fiction series, Lute.
This is the first little preview uploaded to UG. It is entirely an introduction piece, and, since it is not part of the story, it is simply either the intro piece or installment zero. Its going to be fairly short, but one mainly for the sake of character and situation introductions. Lute isnt going to be anything like any of the previous pieces of UG fiction, so this is mostly so that potential readers can gauge their interest levels. That means you of course.
Please read, rate and comment. I look forward to hearing what you think. I have a general idea for where I want this to go, and, though it will undoubtedly be shorter than Disbelief, it looks as though its going to be much more intense and fast paced. Be ready for it.
The flickering fire from atop the candles around the room made for comfortable lighting. Hundreds of little white tapers burned merrily along every wall and around every pillar, struggling to fight against the darkness that was still nestled in the corners of the hall. A single servant, known only as Wax, spent his every moment rushing back and forth, replacing candles and inspiring them to continue their unceasing struggle against the emptiness of the night.
In the shadows, the drunk and the lecherous lords whispered sweet as sugar lies into the ears of their friend's daughters while their wandering hands made the truth quite obvious to any who passed closely enough to see. Some particular few, the desperate and the elderly, had abandoned any lustful ambition towards the female nobility. Instead, they would drag a female member of the waiting servants into the darkened corners, hoping that nobody would notice, and take their satisfactions by force. Nameless, voiceless and nubile, it was the typical role of any young serving girl to oblige the lords and ladies, regardless of the obscure tastes that they were often required to provide. Few took up the task with relish.
Of the many land owners currently staying at the Lord Avatar's manor, only a small amount were unlucky enough to witness one of their fellow noblemen fornicating with the help. They would laugh at the desperation, the lack of daring and the screams and cries of the young woman forced into such a compromising position. The other servants, should they witness such an event, would look away. If they did not then each of the hundred or so servants of the manor would be made to suffer.
The Lord Avatar did not indulge himself tonight, especially in the pleasures of the flesh. The usual fine and exotic wines of his collection had been reserved for his guests rather than himself. The usual intoxicating herbs were burning on many tables around the hall, leaving clouds of mind-destroying smoke to smother both guest and servant alike, but he had thus far evaded it. He was sitting in his throne-like chair on a raised dais overlooking the rest of the hall. His mind clear, his eyes could see all that happened at the tables below. His face was stern, his voice as callous as his sword-bearing hand. His hair was long and grey, currently tied back in a warrior's queue. It spoke of his youth, in the days when the sword of Avatar had been both feared and respected. The very sword that had earned him his title now hung above the great log fireplace in the kitchens, where the servants cooked the meat on hooks.
Unfortunately, those days of heroism had long since passed. The trail of scars, a source of great pride for the Lord Avatar, were now little more than small lines breaking up the wrinkles on his face. His greatest source of pride was now the bushy grey moustache that claimed the vast majority of his upper lip.
His two children, both of whom were present tonight, were another source of great pride for the Lord Avatar. To his left, the allotted position for females of the family, sat the Lady Sincerity. Her sharp mind and sharper tongue were almost as legendary as her breathtaking beauty. She was a relative stranger to the court, known only, beyond the servants, to her father and her brother. Having just reached her twentieth summer, her father had finally permitted her to both enter the court and to accept suitors. However, most nobles were completely aware that they didn't stand a chance. It was well known that her father planned to sell her off to the highest bidder. Expanding the lands and peoples under his control was paramount to the Lord Avatar - so much so that it was worth his daughter's unhappiness. Sincerity was a quiet woman - shy and softly spoken. Tonight, her maids had dressed her in a demure, royal blue dress at her father's instruction. She sat upright, her golden hair cascading down her back, her hands placed, one on top of the other, upon her lap. Her eyes were downcast. She looked fragile and afraid.
On the Lord Avatar's right side, a place reserved for the men of the family, was sitting the young lord-in-waiting, Truth. He was much younger than his sister, having only been alive for fifteen summers, yet his gender made him the sole heir to all that his father owned. He was a pious boy, typically absorbed in his studies and his physical training. His eyes were somewhat bloodshot, with dark shadows around them. They were focussed down on the guests that were parading across the dance floor below. His expression matched that of his father, though his facial structure was very different. Truth's hair was still short, fair and black. He was known as being much more cerebral than his militant father, though that was not much of a challenge. It was Truth whom organised the parties, depleting his father's hard earned coin and thus earning the favour of the nobility. His keen eyes were well known for seeing business opportunities that others may not. Every party he threw was custom designed to earn the respect of somebody and embarrass the hospitality of everybody else. Tonight was no exception.
The prize that the Lord Avatar and his family were showcasing today had cost them an amount that would equate to a year's survival for the average family. Ultimately, they were just three servants, but their talents were such that there was a constant bidding war amongst the nobility for ownership of them. They were three musicians, all named after the instrument that they played, and all the same age as the Lady Sincerity. At current, there were on a specially erected stage, performing for anybody who would listen.
Percussion was provided by the only female of the group. Her instruments were a selection of bells and chimes, each one made to produce a distinct note and sound. She had long, free, blonde hair, a clear, emotional face and wore the long black dress that was typical of the female servants. She was shockingly undernourished, as was obvious just from the sight of her, but this was quite usual for servants. She was short, thin and flat-chested, though she was thankfully not one to care overly about her appearance.
One of the men performing with her, standing to her left and plucking the strings of a harp that he was holding in his left hand, was a musician that had been dubbed Harp. He was the tallest of the three performers, as well as the most well built. His hair was short, his moustache and beard kept as trimmed and tidy as his hair. His attire, like Bell's, was akin to that of the other serving folk of his gender. The simple black shirt and trousers strained against his muscled arms, thighs and chest. Despite this, he played his instrument gently and gracefully.
Completing the trio was the biggest prize of them all. Stood before his two companions was the youngest of the three. His chosen instrument was the Lute, though it was his voice that had made his purchase so expensive. Lute was a musician beyond others, and an artist at work. He led his two greatest friends with a teasing smile and a confident style. His typical servant attire had been decorated with a tiny red pin on his collar. The meaning behind this was simple; anybody who killed Lute would have to suffer the Lord Avatar's wrath for it. Lute actually mattered to the Lord and his family.
Of course, Lute took great pleasure in this knowledge. As far as he was concerned, his two friends were covered by his protective pin, as was anybody else that he felt the need to cover. Having been passed back and forth for consistently high amounts between almost endless lord and ladies vying for his talents, Lute had learned quite quickly that he was becoming almost invincible amongst the nobility. There was no risk anymore. The only way that any harm could come to him would be if he committed some sort of heinous act against the Lord Avatar himself.
The stage upon which they were performing was not free of the smoke from the burning herbs. Lute was inhaling it calmly, while Harp and Bell were trying to stay back and only taking increasingly brisk inhales. When singing was called for, Lute used his voice to serenade the entire hall. His voice carried as well as it could, though he felt sure that Avatar, Truth and Sincerity wouldn't be able to hear him. This was quite an annoyance. All three of them had to make a good impression on everybody, the lords of the manor included, or his own position might begin to waver. He had become very comfortable with the fact that he was far above the rest of the servants.
That was why he wished to continue impressing Avatar and Truth, but Sincerity was worthy of special attention. He had very special plans for her. She was nave, uninformed and innocent. He had captured the interests of women lesser in the nobility, but never one so close to the flame. After all, his talents were such that he was virtually unassailable. The servants adored him as a way to get things from the Lord Avatar. The Lord Avatar loved him purely for the music, but Truth adored the impact that all three of them had on the lesser nobility. Lute was a tool of influence, just as Sincerity would soon be a tool of bargaining.
This new court was raising more temptations than any that he had previously been in. His friends would watch him nervously as he moved on with whatever new target had entranced him to hold the boredom at bay. Like any truly brilliant person, Lute did not have to work at his singing or his playing. His talent worked on itself, leaving his mind to wander even during their performance. He couldn't stop himself from watching Sincerity, being very careful not to be too obvious about it. If Truth and the Lord Avatar had been indulging in their sensory inflammations, it would all be easy, but this provided a challenge.
This was what he wanted, and, servant or not, Lute always got what he wanted, regardless of the risks.