“What if I don’t want to be indentured for the rest of my life? To anyone.”
Argent remembered her role in the caravan and could understand that question. He had been too afraid to ever voice anything similar to Simon but he had struggled with the concept himself. Until the first time he had played his flute that is.
“Ferus is a completely different type of master than Ladin. He’s terribly strong and fearfully holy, but also caring and loving. I never knew until He gave me the flute but I love Him and wouldn’t leave his service now for anything. Not ever.”
“I thought your Mother gave you the flute?”
Argent’s memory of his mother was fragmented at best. It was hard to know what of his memories were real and which were of dreams. But the one memory he clung to, that he knew was real, was of her playing lullabies to him on the tin flute. She ‘gave’ him the flute when she became infected and no longer had any use for it. Still he wasn’t going to go into all that now. Certainly not with Martha as agitated as she was about having been bit.
“It was hers, but Ferus changed it. It never used to be like it is now that He’s touched it.”
“Do you remember the oath?”
How could he ever forget.
“Yes. Simon used to remind me of it everyday. Lord Ferus, let the Argentum deposited here, reach it’s full potential, for your glory. To do my part I vow.”
“Can I see the flute again please?”
“When we get to the clearing by the crevice I’ll play it, but we can’t stop again until we get there. Besides you’ll have your own Argentum soon.”
Argent pulled the silver dagger from his belt and took a big breath. It was a huge sacrifice to make but an Argentum dagger would serve his friend a lot more than an Argentum key.
“I’ll trade you my dagger for your metal so you can have a better gift from Ferus when you Quest.”
Martha’s voice sounded different, lower, crackly and furious.
“You won’t even show me your flute and you want to take the key to the silver that could mean my parent’s freedom? You just brought me up here to rob me. Didn’t you?”
Argent was about to argue with her about the ridiculousness of that logic but when he turned to look back he froze and words failed him.
Martha was hunched over almost double. She was contorting as if retching dry heaves, her shoulders were swelling into a hunchback and her hair and nails were growing and thickening at a visible rate. Her head swung back and forth violently and then stopped as their eyes locked. Martha’s eyes radiated hatred and greed for a second longer and then they clouded over and Martha was gone.
There was no question what had happened. The first time Argent had seen it, it had scarred him deeply. Nightmares of it happening to his mother haunted him frequently. Martha had turned.
In the time it took Argent to unfreeze, about two eye blinks worth, the runt weir had already closed the distance between them by half. Argent moved to his right, away from the runt’s arm, and tried to maintain the high ground while assessing the situation.
With his silver dagger at the ready he sprang at the weir, aiming for it’s gut. The runt countered and grabbed his knife wrist. Instead of fighting the paws momentum, Argent used his own force to guide the blade away from the gut and into the left hip joint of his opponent. The runt roared in pain and, with its attention focused on the blade in its hip, Argent sweep kicked the wounded leg out from under it. As it fell it released its grip on Argent’s wrist to swing it’s foreleg about in an attempt to cushion its fall. The dagger was buried so deeply that Argent needed to release it or he would have tumbled down in a heap with the beast.
Unarmed now, Argent grabbed at his belt and pulled out the only metal item left there … his flute. Argent focused his attention back on the weir. It had stopped writhing in pain and it’s eyes were glued to the flute in abject terror. Well mostly terror, there was one small part that seemed to be calling out in longing. As if Martha were somewhere in there calling out “have mercy please … just one more time!”
Argent backed away two steps and started playing. The weir began convulsing again, its eyes still glued to the flute but flashing deep emotions. Sometimes fear, sometimes deep longing. The body was shaking so hard it was difficult to see exactly what was happening. Was it a weir with resemblances to Martha, or Martha with resemblances to a weir? A struggle seemed to be going on for dominance.
Not knowing what else to do, Argent just kept playing.