A Bard's Tale

by

Ringo Farr

Chapter Fifteen: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

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A note from Ringo Farr

This one... I hope what I was trying to say about Gage/Gatian comes through. Otherwise, this was just words that might've been amusing at points.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps




After I called Bast fat and played her like a fiddle, Stella and I followed her to the nearest copse to get some rest in the daylight. We needed to keep moving, but we were heading north and Stella was very not fond of going in that direction. I, on the other hand, didn’t really care where we went as long as Stella was safe, and that was odd in and of itself. Moon River prophecy aside, I really felt that I needed to protect Stellara Inova from the world like I’d already failed to do. I was afraid for her life and her health, no matter how often or sincerely she said that she was fine, or that she didn’t need to be coddled. Of course I knew that she was tougher than I thought she was, even if I already thought she was pretty tough. It was just hard not to fret and worry over her while we were on the road again because I didn’t want anyone slowing us down.

 

Okay, so that’s a lie. I really was just worried, but even that had me feeling conflicted. Stella was the one who left, but after hearing that she came back and tried to find me? I can’t help but want her back like and have life like we’d had it before, just with a bigger cat following us around. It was a new leg to our adventure together and as pathetic as it was, I wanted to love Stella as much as I could and let my heart meld with hers. There was a part of me that ached for her to be in my life again, to hold onto her in any way I could. Even my hesitation to play more music came crashing down when she asked me to show her my real skill. I took my plublass and played some gentle melodies for her that helped pass the time, but it wasn’t as though I was playing for an audience. I was also afraid of making someone do something they didn’t want to, so I avoided singing as much as I could.

 

While on the road we fell in line with another caravan that was heading northeast which was very convenient. We were allowed to travel with them on their wagons after paying a small fee that was reduced for a River Man, his Partner, and his Companion. Apparently, I looked the part of the traveling Bard with a penchant for causing trouble, but when I told people that I mostly just ran into then subsequently away from it, I usually got laughed at. Evidently, when you cut weight after being fat your entire life, people think you look kinda scary. That being said, Stellara assured me while we were alone that I was just looking lean and fit, but I’d caught a glimpse of myself in some woman’s hand mirror when we’d first started traveling with the group. I kinda... looked like I killed people for drugs and sewed their corpses together. My eyes were a stormy grey that seemed to darken when I looked at them directly and my hair was dreaded in tangles after I’d twisted my hair up. The look wasn’t half bad to me, but I still ended up cutting my dreads off and having someone with some scissors fix the damage I caused.

 

After a week of moving along at an ox’s pace, the group alighted to Villa Sola Solara in Toddton, which was a city-state within a province. Sola was a nice enough town if you were Human, but I’d been told while on the road that Toddton was a very racist and traditional place that didn’t like Terru or Arca at all. In fact, the study and practice were both banned in Toddton, so we had to start our fires and dry our meats from whatever we found while hunting the old fashioned way. It was tedious, but I had survival skills that made living in the wilderness a lot easier than it could have been.

 

We parted ways with our traveling buddies in Sola and I asked around to find my party and inn for the day since we’d been traveling through the nights. I didn’t know why the caravan traveled at night until we got to town, but needless to say that running with bootleggers can make you some very kind friends very quickly. Stella, Bast, and I were all allowed to stay in someone’s spare home outside of the town as long as we picked up after ourselves, which I had no problem with. What I did have a problem with was the fact that Bast and Stella chose to argue who would sleep with me. It previously hadn’t been a problem with there being enough space in the tent for all three of us, but with the limited bed sizes we had to choose from there were some contentions.

 

“I’m his Partner, am I not? Would I not reserve the right to share his bed?” Stella argued in the middle of the fucking night, bedclothes on and everything.

 

Bast was laying on the couch grooming herself. “I am soft and warm. He is a very nice pillow. I will not concede to someone less soft and warm than I.”

 

Inova grabbed her breasts. “You do not have these! These are softer and warmer than any part of you!”

 

“She’s got a point.” I commented idly, sipping spiked tea.

 

Bast turned a baleful eye to me. “I am very soft, am I not, Moon River?”

 

“True.”

 

“But are my br-” She thought hard for a second. “Yes, are my beasts not softer?” Stella countered.

 

I pointed at her. “Breasts, and hell yeah they are.”

Bast huffed. “For a time I was his Partner as well.”

 

“But I was always his Partner-”

 

“Until you left.”

 

“I came back!”

 

“Too little, too tortured.” Bast drawled.

 

I raised a brow. “There’s a thousand ways to skin a cat too, y’know? Million ways to make a man bleed, but there’s a trillion ways I can get away with offing you.”

 

“My coat is more valuable on me than off of me.” She huffed.

 

“You are a coat.” Stella huffed.

 

“A warm, tender, soft coat that will be sleeping with the Moon River.”

;

Stellara looked at me, frustration in her gaze while I slurped some friggin’ tea. “Hmm?”

 

“Tell her that you wish to cuddle with me!”

 

Bast snorted. “Moon River, tell your female that she lost her privileges.”

 

“Then I deserve a chance to get them back!” Inova protested.

 

“Then seize your chance another time. Come Moon River.” Bast hopped off of the couch and stretched.

 

“Fuck both of you, I’m sleeping alone in my own bed.” I chuckled. “Y’all some kind of wild though, I’ll give you that. Real trip.”

 

Stella looked heartbroken and Bast looked annoyed. “Then who shall be my pillow?”

 

I pointed at a pillow on the couch. “Have you ever used a real pillow?”

 

“Too soft.”

 

“Not my problem.”

Bast’s claws raked the floor. “Would you like it to be your problem?”

 

I rolled my eyes harder than Sisyphus’ boulder rolling back down the hill. “Everyone here knows that we’re all too close to really hurt each other. We threaten and bluster, but at the end of the day, I’m still gonna sleep alone and you two are welcome to worry about that if you want, but it’s something I want. Something I need. A little alone time could be good for all of us. I mean, hell, we’ve been traveling together for close to two weeks now and we’ve been outrunning Khroma the entire time, so why don’t we just kick back, relax, and not get into an argument over nothing?”

 

Stella and Bast traded a longsuffering look between the two of them, the power of their uterus’ coming together to allow them to communicate telepathically or something. I don’t know how the womb works, but I assume that the fallopian tubes act as antennae for them. In any case, Stella ended up picking me up, slinging me over Bast, and then making me stay there while she prepared a palette on the floor. I didn't get to sleep alone, but at least I wasn’t cold or anything.

 

My dreams were disturbing when I managed to get to sleep. Stella really helped lull me under when her breathing slowed down, and Bast nuzzling me like a cat a tenth her size was adorable, but my dreams? Fucking weird. I saw Khroma’s face looking over a ravine full of muck and scum of all kinds, but it honestly looked like someone had drained an ocean and left all the nastiness at the bottom in a thin layer of brackish, nasty brown water. Then, a village or a hamlet appeared in the dream and a tornado of blood, bone, and gristle slapped viscera on everything in sight, drawing me closer and closer to a chubby man and a pale, gaunt fellow. I felt a jerking sensation, a pulling at my very core that got me out of the way as the blood cascaded into the sky and sprayed the men. I saw Bast’s Humanoid form glaring at me for a moment and the image shifted into another form, one of a dark blue woman, and I do mean woman, with royal blue hair that was billowing in an unfelt breeze, carried by a wind I couldn’t fathom. Looking her in the eye made me certain of what I needed to do, but just like that I lost the task and jolted awake in a frenzy, scrambling away from my companions and into the kitchen of the house we were staying in. It was shocking to say the least, but my mental state had suffered for the dream and I was sure that I’d nearly died and had two people to thank for the close call. When my companions came to see what was wrong, I told them about my dream and Bast mentioned that she’d pulled me out of it.

 

I was on the highway to my grave and my very soul knew it. Something was trying to change my path, but I didn’t know what it was or what it wanted me to do. Going with the flow had never worked out for me in the past and I rather doubted that it would do me any good in the future, so instead of staying on said path, I got my party up and moving in the wee hours of midday to get out of the house and back onto the road. Bast was semi-used to my craziness, but Stella had never seen me go bonkers over a vision before because I’d never had one around her. There were a lot of things correlating in my life that I’d read about, such as the Minstrel’s Maladies and the Moon River thing, though there were even some parallels in my life from tragic shit I’d read for shit and giggles. None of it boded well. Following Bast seemed like a really bad idea and I learned why shortly after I got us moving for the morning. We’d gone off-road for a bathroom break and were coming back when we saw a number of people moving in the direction we’d been coming from. It normally wouldn’t have been enough to arouse suspicion, but these people happened to be the flaming zombies that I’d seen in Ponydale, shocking both me and my friends into a stunned, silent stillness. The tension in the moment was high as we waited for them to pass, but even as a couple of them seemed to stare straight at us we resisted the temptation to run.

 

When it was all said and done nothing happened and we decided to cut through the forest on the other side of the road on our way up through Stalfisk. Worried out of my mind about Stella, I made sure that we were as safe as we could be in a tree with our former tent acting as both hammocks and canopies. They were good for the rainy night and we were off the ground, but I was still terribly afraid of being discovered. Lo and behold as I write this with a night vision arca, I can see bright purple flames flaring in the distance, coming closer to us. We need to rest, but we don’t have the time. Khroma is coming and she’s not doing so slowly. I have a funny feeling that we won’t be able to run for much longer, but hiding was also not an option. J-Man, this might be the last time we talk…

 

This really might be the last time. After this, there’s a very good chance that our pursuers will catch up to us and we’re going to have to either fight or die. I doubt we’ll fight long… Booksy… Do you have anything? Anything that might help?

 

I thought no-[Auric Avarice]-t.

 

The fuck. Booksy… Did you just…?

 

[It was not the book. Will you join us, Minstrel?]

 

Are you guys the ones who sent me the note back in Hooversdum? I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the language.

 

[We sent no note. We are the Songweavers. Your note is another matter.]

 

I weave songs.

 

[And so we shall provide you with the song for Auric Avarice. Should you use this song, we will know, and we will send for you.]

 

Help me out of this one and I’ll owe you a big favor for sure. Two quests of your choo-[No.]-sing. Wait, don’t use my hand to interrupt me!

 

[Use the song and join us or seek your own strength. My final words of advice to you are these; You are strong enough to choose either path, Minstrel. Be wise. Ally yourself with those you can trust. The Songweavers are an old order with little nobility, but we are powerful and we are everywhere. We will be there when you need us, and we will come to your call. When we arrive, we will bring you to our homeland and you shall provide us with your best craft. Once your song is recorded in our annals, you shall spread your heart across the land and cement your work into another culture. All songs have a place, Minstrel Gauner. Let yours find its home.]

 

… So what’s the catch?

 

[Your song reflects you. You may not like what you discover.]

 

You’re not telling me everythin-[I am.]-g. Oh. Well, I’ve hated myself for a long time. If it means saving Stella, then… Then there’s a lot worse I’d be prepared to do.

 

[I know.]

 

… How long have you been reading my writing?

 

[A colleague sold you the book. I find you to be very… Endearing, Gatian. I must admit that I am eager to meet you.]

 

So someone’s been reading my most private thoughts… You should know I’m not a Minstrel.

 

[Do you still drink every day?]

 

[Auric Avarice by Hellatrois Ingdunoir

 

I sing I sing

For your one call

I tread so light as the sun falls

Father O’ Father won’t you lie down

For my maidenhood is not yours to crown

 

I sing I sing

For days long due

My heart is enraptured by not him but you

Won’t you come save me from suitors this day?

Or will I myself have to steal away?

 

I sing I sing

For but one bit of gold

The lands it would take me of stories untold

This night is forever, my day will soon come

I’m running I’m running far into the sun

 

I sing I sing

For your alms today

No father no husband no bed do I lay

I wish for adventure and lands to be tread

But now I just beg you for a bite of your bread

 

I sang I sang

For days that passed

I lived for so long but my end came by fast

I hunger I hunger for so much more

Failure to sail, myself I do abhor]

 

Well…

 

[They are beneath you?]

 

Coming closer.

 

[Do you know the song?]

 

I have a melody for it.

 

[... Do you have any other paths?]

 

You know I don’t.

 

[You assume. Be wise… Bard. What is done cannot be undone.]

 

Yeah. That’s what they all want you to think.

 

☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽☾☽

 

I played Auric Avarice with my plublass and had some trouble with the lighter notes, but Stella sang along on the second playthrough and helped me keep the rhythm. I imagine she thought that I was just making our impending doom a little more romantic, but one by one the zombies beneath us that had been looking up were fizzling out, the flames on their bodies and in their eyes dimming down until they were completely gone, leaving the entire horde re-deadeded, which was like, my favorite way for those particular creatures to be. We got out of the tree since we’d already packed up and got the fuck out of dodge as fast as possible until I made us stop in a ghost town for a little while. Bast was keen to the idea, but Stella was losing her wits and wanted nothing more than to keep going which I understood plenty. However… Even as we sit here and I record my thoughts… Are you…?

 

No, apparently not. Still, I used the song and people are supposed to be on the way now, but I don’t know what to do other than prepare for a hostile encounter. I explained what was going upon to Stella and Bast, but neither of them had ever heard of The Songweavers and neither were too keen on the type of Arca that was used to enchant my journal. Either of them could have said something about dispelling it at any point until I brought it up, which was when they both admitted that they didn’t actually know much about their planet’s magic and what it entailed. In fact, I knew more than both of them combined since I’d been on Septural for nearly eleven (Thirty-day) months at that point and had studied what I could about Terru for most of it, so I was pretty certain that it was nothing to be genuinely worried about. If someone wanted to hurt me, they could have done so much more easily with the information I record in my journal. The Weavers had never reached out before, but I imagined that it was a now or never kind of deal. There was… I mean, how… Booksy, it’s weird...

 

In any case, I still have to get Stella to safety and maintain our safety, so I don’t think we’ll be sending anyone into the creepy, haunted looking mine that seemed to emanate darkness from within. Stella herself wasn’t too upset about that, but Bast was hungry and wanted to go hunt, which just wasn’t wise at the moment. We didn’t have the food to feed her fully, but everyone got a snack and we ate what we could. Hours passed in the town without anything happening, but since I’d already broken my moratorium on making music and performing it,, I chose to play Under Pressure to make everyone feel a bit better. By everyone I mean Inova of course, and she apparently loved to hear me play. The look in her eyes when I played my music… Her appreciation… I just... She… The look in Stellara’s eyes when I showed her how I could make my strings sing made me feel...

 

Better. I don’t know how upset I was with her for leaving me twice and expecting me to just take her back, but… The admiration and amazement she displayed when I showed off my music was addictive and I really wanted to make her smile and look at me like that again, even if a bigger, wiser part of me wanted to wash my hands with music and give up on my dream alltogether. My heart hurt every time I played another song for her, but the smile and… The expression she wore was just so...

 

Booksy, I know you in particular don’t talk, but can you imagine? Losing a woman you fell for way too fast, never really got over, and then had come looking for you only to be tortured for leaving you? Literally and figuratively. To see her all over again with scars from her choice, not a mistake by nature, but choice…? Even though she acted on her own, I feel so responsible for the fact that Stellara Inova will never have the same left eye. The scars over it nearly blinded her, but even as the twin florid lines parted her moderate, ashy grey brow, I couldn’t help but think that they suited her. The almond shape to her eyes seemed sharper than they had when I’d met her, the troubles of her most recent perils having given her a certain edge that couldn’t be dulled while still in danger. One of the scars on her eye, however, stretched to the midpoint of her forehead and there was another that went into her hairline that was covered by her locks. Even as I watched her sitting and smiling, her features softened by relaxation, I couldn’t help but see that she avoided certain positions and constantly moved her hands unlike before. Stellara Inova had previously been a statue in motion, but now? She felt like a Warrior Queen with a bone to pick, but the way she looked at me didn’t change. It was like she still saw the person in me that had made her want to be with me in the first place, and once I finished Drops of Jupiter, Stella…

 

She came to sit next to me and leaned her head on my shoulder, so I put my plublass down and wrapped and arm around her, getting some fucking snuggles from the woman I’d wanted most in the world since I’d met her. It felt so good to have her back, to know that she was free and still wanted to be with me. To know that I helped her and didn’t expect anything- Hadn’t expected anything I should say, but even then I still got what my heart desired, what I’d wanted since I’d seen fear and despair in her gaze. Even if it did look like we were stepping from one mess to the other, I couldn’t stop my heart from pounding when I laid my head on hers and held her tight. Stella was back in my arms after nine and a half long months and there was nowhere I’d rather be with her. Anywhere with Stellara was home to me, and when she looked me in the eye, hesitation on her tongue, I knew there was something I had to say.

 

“Inova… I…”

 

She bit her lip, eyes sparkling in the setting sun, the magical- Terruc, lights I’d put up having a similar glow.. “Gatian… I… There’s one thing I need to know.”

 

I brushed her cheek with my thumb, gently cupping her face as she placed her hand over mine. She took a deep breath and smiled wearily, most likely getting the slightest hint of the scented oil I used everyday. “Stella, I swear to you that I’ve never used my anything against you. Not willingly, not knowingly, and not through any purposeful means. The only way I know to activate my Devil Tongue thing is to be really, well and truely pissed… Or use it in a song, but I…”

 

She closed her eyes, both of her hands touching mine while I held onto her as if she were a wafer rather than the capable combatant I knew her to be. “You would never use it against me. If you did and I was fine with it, we would never have true love. If you did and it hurt me, you would never forgive yourself. If you did and I was upset, we would never be together…”

 

“Inova…” Tears fell from my eyes, the most sober I’d been since The Brit had given me the bottomless flask. “I love you. I love you so much, I… I don’t know how else to say that I never stopped loving you, Stella. I never stopped wanting you, to be with you. I don’t care who’s who or what’s what; I tried to be me without you and I… I made a lot of mistakes. I did a lot of stuff I’m not proud of, but... “

 

My Partner pulled my head into her bosom and let me rest me rest against her still-bountiful bosom, even if said bosom had been slimmed by malnutrition and stress. “Gatian, there is no amount of shame that you could possibly bear that would be greater than that which I carry, and I do not mean to belittle your plight. I… Regret was... “ She stroked my hair and sighed, holding a tense silence for minutes. “... I barely made it out of the Welcome Center in Tidrel when I wanted to come back for you, but Yolanna had asked if I was cancelling my contract before I could leave... I said yes. I couldn't take it back… Not without your permission and not without time. I had to wait, Gatian. I had to…

 

“... There’s one thing I have to know too.” I murmured into her chest.

 

“Anything, I swear the truth.”

 

“... Is guilt why you’re here?

 

Stella froze ad barked out a laugh that was half-snort, a quarter choking, and another quarter of just pure amusement. “Oh, Gatian! Guilt is why I returned, but love is why I stay. No amount of guilt would make me face a horde of flaming undead unless it was one of my sisters, and even then I would assume they were dead! Gatian, I owe you my life when you owed me nothing. I came to you as a strange alien that was far too eager to please, far too mysterious for your liking, and far too secretive to have a real relationship with.” I rose from her chest and saw Stella smiling at me at me, tears flowing from her as freely as they were from me. “The love in your heart… The- The Gatian I knew and see now… I’ve never met a more amazing man on this planet. I’ve never even met a person, halt, (Period/Full-Stop, for reference) as kind, understanding, and willing to accept a… To accept the lowest dregs of the world as you, Gatian. There was never a choice in the matter for me. From the moment you woke up and…” She shook her head and covered her mouth, her breathing hitching.

 

“Stella.” I said softly.

 

She smiled again and sniffled, the truth in her eyes. “You looked at me like I was your

equal. You looked at me like I mattered, Gatian. You looked at me like you were fully prepared to treat me like any other woman that would have stood in front of you, and I had my doubts, but…” She giggled, looking down for a moment, her lips twitching madly. “You… You told me I was beautiful. I know it’s so, so terribly vain, but… Even my sisters said that I was a late bloomer, and you… You never said, not once, that anything I wanted to change was something that actually needed to change.” It felt like the right time to take her hands in mine and keep listening. “You don’t know what they do to prepare you for being a Partner, Gatian. They… They tell you that the decade and spare you just spent getting ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime might not be neededat all. They tell you that you might be a maid or butler. They tell you that you might be a slave of a different kind, or that you might get sold. They tell you all these horrible, horrible things that happen all the time…” Inova choked up, hardly able to keep her smile.

 

It broke my heart, the truth I’d needed to hear finally spilling forth. “Stellara, I’d never-”

 

“Did you know that seventy-seven percent of all Partners are raped at some point? Male or female. It’s just about equal.” She asked still looking at me with adoration, such… Such pure love in her eyes that I… “Every Partner goes into their assignment with the assumption that giving in makes everything easier. We walk to the Welcome Center, fighting tooth and nail to get to what might be just as bad as what we left… Giving up... It does make it easier. It makes it hurt a lot less, and that’s just a fact. Every Partner I met that taught in the Edu-train-tion Camp said that they had been raped by either their River Person or one of their Person’s friends. It didn’t help that the River Person knew and usually didn’t care…”

 

“You know me-”

 

“Gatian, I knew from the way you looked at me that you were in love. Well, I knew there was a chance…”

 

“So when I told you about Rachel…”

 

“It explained a lot, and when you told me that you had been raped… That was when I… I grew fearful.” She wouldn’t meet my eye anymore. “I… A part of me knew you were telling the truth, but another part of me thought you were going to say that it wasn’t that bad. Then you said that you could put it behind you and… I… It was around the same time you made an advance...”

 

I watched on, my heart… “... I...”

 

Stella looked at me. “... Are you…”

 

“You have more to say and I understand, Stella. I really do.” I smiled through the pain.

 

“... When I learned that you were a Devil’s Tongue… I thought it was only a matter of time. Felix and I made it back to Rusval without really talking about what happened, but when I asked him if you’d ever used your Terru before…”

 

“He couldn't’ say that I had…” I nodded a few times, trying to keep my smile.

 

“No,” I almost choked, “he said that you’d tried using it on me to let him live. You saved his life, Gatian.”

 

“... Oh.”

 

“That’s why he was so fond of you… He should still be in Tidrel waiting for you to return, but it wouldn’t surprise me if-”

 

“We’re going back for him after we finish this Songweaver business-” I blurted.

 

Stellara smiled at me again and cut me off. “See?”

 

“What?” I furrowed my brow, wiping my eyes.

 

“You haven’t seen Felix in nearly a year and there’s a good chance that the scatterbrained little ohsum isn’t even there anymore… But you still want your friend back. You know he isn’t scared of you and you want him back. Just like me.” Her lips quivered again. “Gatian, you might have hurt people or even killed them on Earth or in your time on Septural. You may have done deeds as dark as the blackest night, but your heart is still noble. Your hands reach out to help those in need, your voice calls out to those who’ve lost hope, your feet carry you to the next destination to touch the next Anima and you don’t even realize it… People… People are better off for knowing you, Gatian. Felix was. Shadesong was. Hemric, Jo’elle, Himtu, Wymone… All better off for your songs, Gatian. All Partners that had abusive River People and your songs eventually reached them.”

 

I didn’t know how to take that. “You’ve… You’ve heard more of my songs?”

 

“They’re everywhere in Ponydale and they’re growing in Chorell outside of the Church’s reach, of course. You… You’ve single-handedly done more for slaves and Partners in the past six months than countless Thesuvian Missionaries and Amanese Palanines in the past decade....” Stella freed her hands from mine to cup my face. “Even… Even after I thrust my sword through your back... You kept your promise...”

 

“... Stella…” I put my hands over hers and gazed into her eyes like never before, seeing oceans of gratitude and awe, lakes of appreciation and regret, ponds of happiness, fear, and apprehension, and a water-world of reciprocated love in her eyes. “I love you and your oddway of saying things. I love you so much more than I should or than you would ever know… But if you ever leave me again because you’re afraid of me... “ I shook my head. “Then… Then I want you to have a good reason when we meet again, because I swear on your life, the thing I hold most dear in this world, that I will never raise a hand against you unless I’m groping you. I’ll never give you a reason to leave if I can help it.”

 

She stared at me. “Did- Did you just say grope?

 

I wanted levity, butb I also wanted to get my point across. “Well, I want to be able to cop a feel on my future wife when I want. In private, of course.”

 

Stella blushed lightly, her lips twitching madly. “You mean...?”

 

“If I never stopped loving you, then who else would I want to marry? Like, d-”

 

I saw the kiss coming from the beginning of the conversation but it was exponentially sweeter than I’d ever thought it would be. Stella sweet caramel-cream lips touched mine for the first time in what felt like eons, eras long past in the wake of our seperation. We picked up right where we left off, coming closer to each other and pressing our luck like there was no tomorrow. It was a moment of unity, of love that I’d longed for since Stella had turned her back on me so long ago. I felt no need to cast another Truth Arca or anything of the sort. She’d felt guilty and had been honest about it, and she’d been telling me the truth when she’d said that she well and truly loved me... From the bottom of my heart through the tips of my toes to the other side of the planet where Shadow-Gatian sat with Shadow-Stella, the bliss ran through me. We might’ve been hunted by a Revenant-Demon thing that wanted to kill me and taste Stella’s honey-buns, but there was nothing that would cow the two of us while we were together. Our mountain was scalable and we were prepared to take every tiny step to get to the summit and back down the other side to our happy ending. With Stella… With Shade it’d felt… Kosher, for lack of a better word, and with Max… He was my buttslut-goodboi body-guard, point-blank. Gloss was… Eh. With Sootina it was taboo, kinky, xenophilia and overall just lustful, but with Stella? When I thought of taking things a step further with her, it just felt right. Her hands felt natural against my bare skin and mine on hers. My lips were meant to be pressed against Inova’s as if it was written in the beginning and there was nothing that would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve killed the moment.

 

“Ahem.”

 

Except for a cockblock whorse. Yes, that’s a real Centurn slur and I do think it’s hilarious. I pulled away from Stella and she sat up straight, placidity on her face. I slowly turned to face Jaqueline Apple and Mortimer Whatshisname while Stella peered around me. “I’m sorry, you interrupted at a real bad time, but I’m gonna give you a chance. Walk out that Goddamn door, come back in seven hours, and we’ll talk.”

 

“Nah.” Jackie smiled.

 

Bitch I will feed you your intestines and see if you get twice as big or disappear.” I snarled through my teeth.

 

Seconded.” Stella snapped.

 

Jackie stopped smiling, Mortimer backed up, and Bast stretched behind them,. Licking her chops. I took over. “I’m gonna give ya one last shot to make this right, ‘cause I’m sittin’ here with my long-seperated, sexy as fuck, awesome as getting a second chance at life itself girlfriend. I’m enjoyin’ a good fuckin’ time an’ ya got ‘bout six secon’s ‘fore I fuh-kin’ lose it.

 

The orangey-tan Mare shook her head. “See, we coulda done this real easy-like, but you had to go an’ make it all hos-tile.”

 

“Bast?” She nodded as I spoke. “Fuckin’ hope you’re hungry.

 

Jackie furrowed her brow as Mortimer turned around just in time to see bast pounce at his partner. He jumped back and watched in horror as Jackie Apple was partially eaten alive by the giant blue faulain that was Bastet, which meant that he never saw Stella calmly walk up to him. While Bast was finishing with Jackie’s wings, Stella grabbed Morti by the horn, brought his head into her knee, then drew her knife and broke his horn off with the pommel. He screamed immediately and clutched at his ruined nose and forehead until he lost all feeling in his body. At least, that’s what I assumed happens when you get stabbed in the spine by a Terruc bone that was sticking out of your forehead a couple seconds ago. Jackie screamed and wailed in horror, crying out for him as she was watching her friend get brutalized in less than eight full seconds while Bast took her time with her prey, laying on top of her while she nibbled at and snapped open the bones of Jackie’s former wings. She was fuckin’ loud, pissing herself, and clawing at the wooden floor beneath her as she struggled to get another breath to help ease some of her pain, but I made it unnecessary as a mercy to her. Bast jolted when I cast the only ‘kill’ Arca I bothered to learn, but she got over her surprise and sniffed some grey matter, giving it a lick. Apparently she liked brains because she ate them all the same.

 

Needless to say, once the rage, fury, and indignation faded I was pretty horrified by what we’d done to people we probably could’ve talked it out with. I knew for a fact that we could have subdued them with ease because Bast could have held Jackie hostage while Mortimer got the hell out. There was another way that was easy, simple, and would have probably been faster than killing both of them. Stella was perfectly fine for the most part and Bast was as callous as ever, but I needed a different house to stay in and got one with Stella. The bed in the house was fine since it had been covered with sheets and they had caught most of the dust, but still. It didn’t matter where I slept because I’d watched Bast eat a sentient being and saw Stella Inova herself flip the killswitch like it was nothing. I was in shock and Stella was there to hold me while I got over it, despite having killed more than my fair share of people in the past months. Even at that… I killed people because they were trying to rob me or kill me themselves, and I’d been drunk for both times. I’d known Jackie before I’d started adding bodies to my conscious and seeing her face again after I’d already known that she would’ve let me live…? I… I gave Bast the okay because Stella was in danger, but that scared me… It still scares me... I was more concerned about Inova than I was about myself and my own health, which was a major problem because I’d just shot my mental health in the foot. I mean… I’ve killed two real live people, Booksy. Some highwayman was the first when I was traveling to Choret, and some guy before that when I was traveling with Luce, but Jackie…? I knew she had family and a lot of it. She was going to be missed, and so was Mortimer. The robber-guy? He’d attacked us and had gone after our lives, the dumb-fucks that had tried to rob Luce, Gloss, and myself… They were after our supplies and I didn’t even really care at that point, but the Rhubarb Ranch? They just wanted me to play music for them… Jaqueline and Mortimer didn’t have to die; they did because I couldn’t let them take me away from Stella, and I…

 

I have her back… What would I do if I lost her again…? What else would go wrong in my life before I found my way to her again? There’s… There’s just too much at risk, Booksy.

Whoever’s reading this… I’m just trying to do right by Stella, okay? She deserves that much…



End of Book One

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A note from Ringo Farr

I really hope you enjoyed A Single Breath, a story of defeat, rebirth, and desperation. Let me know what you thought.

The rest of A Bard's Tale will be posted under this story. Every fifteen chapters marks the start of a new book. I was writing Book Three before I started editing this, so I hope you're ready for more Gatian, less desperation, and a little bit of (insert word here)

As Always; ❅Stay Cool, Kids❅


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Ringo Farr

Bio: Rewrites in progress; Pm for specifics, otherwise enjoy!

Ringtail is the Panda, I'm just the guy that translates for him. Call me Ringo.

Ringtail takes donations of bamboo, eggs, chocolate crickets, and constructive criticism. Don't be mean; I hate swearing while talking to the little guy. Especially since the swear jar gets expensive and Ringtail's a cheap fucker.

Yes, Ringtail is endangered. No, he is not a pet, and it's demeaning that you would call a sentient creature such a thing, even if his sapience is lacking.

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If you need to contact me or Ringtail, PM's and Discord are the way to go. Ringtail#4665

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