- 22a (Argentum’s Song – PG)
Chapter Twenty Two
“So the creator, Ferus, has the power to block the weir infection …”
Martha was clearly trying her best to keep a fast pace behind Argent up the mountain but she kept getting thrown off balance and just plodded along so slowly.
“Yes but He only keeps people from turning if they make Him their Master by taking the oath to prove their worth by questing. Questing is either done in the Warren or by being the first to enter a Maelstrom that appears once every seventy years. That’s why the entrance Simon found to the Warren is so important. They’re kept secret and sacred because if the Beast finds one, he sets up a weir colony nearby or blocks it off to keep people from questing. That’s why Simon needs to hunt down the brute and I need to finish the runt. So that the Beast doesn’t find out about ours.”
“And anyone who enters the Warren becomes an immune Warrior?”
“Well not anyone. If someone tries to enter without taking the oath in their heart, not just their mouth, they get burned up.”
Argent liked feeling like the expert for a change and Martha was a willing student. She seemed very different from the stuck up beauty he had thought she was when he met her on the caravan. She was still a lot slower than Argent though. This side trip was taking longer than he had anticipated. He was starting to worry that the runt’s trail would be too cold by the time they got back to hunting it. However, he had given his word to Martha to help her so there was no going back now. Still, it was hard, especially when Martha would take breaks to just stand there and look at the ground like she was doing now. She looked up with intense emotion in her eyes.
“But … Argent I can’t even remember taking the oath with my mouth let alone my heart … what if I burn up?”
“Well, you remember being bit right?”
“Then you must have taken the oath … otherwise you would have turned and you’d be running around with the runt instead of questing to help me hunt it down.”
A look of consternation clouded Martha’s face. She seemed to be going into herself like she sometimes did and Argent knew what question was coming next.
“Could you play your flute for a bit again?”
Argent looked into her puppy dog eyes and scowled. At first he had welcomed the excuse for the breaks to be able to pull out his whistle and play, but they were going so slow. They had to pick up the pace or he would certainly fail Simon again and the runt would escape.
“No. At the rate you can travel we’re not going to get there tonight. If we keep stopping every five minutes we won’t even get there tomorrow and the runt will get away for sure.”
Martha looked down and started trying to follow up the mountain again.
“Does it hurt anything … to take the oath twice? You know … just in case.”
She was gasping between breaths and Argent felt bad for pushing her so hard but there really wasn’t a choice. He turned away and called back over his shoulder.
“I don’t see how it would. I know it’s permanent though. After you take the oath you are Ferus’ servant for the rest of your life.”
“What if I don’t want to be indentured for the rest of my life? To anyone.”
- 22b (Argentum’s Song – PG)
“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.