The Bard By Lady Faelyn Rose Chapter Four Shana stood on her toes and tried to see through the small arched window. The glass panes were covered in decades of dirt and grime. Iron bars secured the opening on the outside. “I am a prisoner” Shana said to herself. She felt rage at being detained in this tower by her own brother-in-law. And for what reason? “Jack is insane!” she ranted to the empty chamber. Again Shana searched the richly furnished room for some means of escape. The two containers in the room, a metal chest and a large armoire, had not yielded anything more useful than ladies clothing. This room had been designed and decorated for a woman to inhabit. “A female guest or a prisoner?” Shana wondered aloud as she sank down onto a stool by the hearth. Her family must be worried about her. The hunt was surely over by now and Seamus would be searching for her. Could Jack be trusted to send word to Amanda? Shana very much doubted it. She experienced an overwhelming pang of guilt over the distress she was causing her sisters. She must escape. After sharing a pleasant lunch with Jack, Shana had been informed by her host that she would not be allowed to return to Malas and her family. Shana had gently rejected the proposal that she should remain in the tower until Jack saw fit to send her home. She wanted to return to her sister’s house outside Luna immediately. “You will do as I say” Jack had told her “I alone decide who shall leave and who shall stay. And for now it pleases me to have you here.” “Jack, you can not force me to remain here!” Shana had protested. Jack had stood up and started towards the door “There was a time when you wanted my company, Shana Rose. You shed tears of sorrow at my banishment from your life. Now that you can be with me and you want to leave. I shall never understand the mind of a woman.” he pulled open the door and summoned Charlie and Ivan. “Dinner will be at six o’clock” he growled at her from the doorway “be ready when you are sent for, my dear.” Jack disappeared down the hallway leaving Shana to be escorted back to her chamber by his men. The clock on the wall told Shana that she had fifteen minutes left to find a way out of this room. But she was no closer to discovering a means of escape than she had been hours ago. And judging by what little light she could see through her dirty window, night was fast approaching. Even if she could find a way out of this tower, Shana had no idea where she was or how to return home. The fire in the hearth was beginning to burn low. Shana stared into the flickering flame of the room’s only candle and suddenly realized that she had found a weapon. She would use the candle stick to fight her way out of this tower. Charlie and Ivan were right on time. As soon as Shana heard the lock turn she took up her position behind the door and raised the candle stick above her head. She was prepared to do whatever was necessary to get past her guards and flee this plush prison cell. When Ivan poked his head into the darkened chamber, Shana brought the candlestick down on his skull with as much force as she could muster. Ivan grunted with pain and promptly dropped like a rock onto the floor. Shana pulled the door open and took a swing at Charlie as he stood in the hallway looking very surprised. The candlestick caught Charlie in the chin and he fell back just enough for Shana to slip past. Gathering the heavy skirt of the velvet gown in one hand and still carrying her candlestick in the other, she hurried to the stairs. Shana Rose could hear the deep murmur of male voices somewhere below as she continued her headlong descent towards the first floor and escape. However, on the second floor landing Shana’s bid for freedom came to an abrupt halt. Four disreputable looking men were walking towards the door of the dinning hall as Shana came careening down the stairwell. One of the men blocked Shana’s path. She swung at the brigand with her weapon, but he grabbed her wrist and twisted it until the candlestick clattered to the floor. The fearsome looking murderer then dragged Shana into a bone crushing embrace. “What have we here?” he exclaimed “Looks to be a princess in search of a prince!” The other men laughed. A man with a green topknot caught hold of her long braided hair and gave it a tug. “A fey wood nymph we’ve caught. Look at these fiery red locks!” Shana continued to struggle “Take your hands off me this instant!” she demanded, bringing another round of laughter from the men. “You heard the lady” said a chilling voice from the doorway of the dinning hall “unhand her at once.” Shana turned to see Jack scowling at the group. “At once!” he commanded. Shana was released so quickly that she nearly fell. Jack strode forward and wrapped his fingers painfully around Shana’s upper arm. He yanked her away from the circle of brigands and propelled her down the hall towards the dinning room. “Taking your leave without staying good bye?” he hissed into her ear “Not very gracious of you, my dear.” He cast an angry glance towards the stairway. Charlie and Ivan were hurrying down to the second floor landing. Blood ran from the wounds that Shana had inflicted. The two men stopped short when they saw Jack. The look on their faces was one of terror. “I will deal with you both later.” he dismissed Charlie and Ivan with a wave of his hand. “You can not keep me locked up in this tower like a pet.” Shana told him indignantly. “What a novel idea.” He chuckled as he hauled her along with him “You would make a lovely pet. But first you should learn to obey your master.” “Please let me go, Jack” Shana pleaded. “When it suits me. I am enjoying the excitement of your company.” Jack laughed. “You are certainly full of surprises.” “Have you sent word to my sisters that I am safe?” she asked, trying to break his hold upon her arm. “All in good time” Jack replied. He forcefully guided her to the head of the long dining table “We don’t want my bothersome brothers nosing around, now do we my pet?” “You must send word!” she felt her anger rising “I will not cause my family any more worry than I already have.” Jack held out a chair at the head of the table. “We will discuss this after dinner. For now try to behave in front of my men.” he ordered with a look of warning. Seething with anger, Shana plopped down into the chair. She would bide her time and find a way to escape. The night was still young. Jack was insane if he thought he could control her. Truly insane. “That’s better, my pet.” Smiling at his victory over her, Jack took a seat beside Shana. The brigands from the hallway filed in and found their places at the long table in silence. They eyed Jack with obvious fear. Shana wondered what power Jack could have over warriors such as these to make them obey his every command. Dinner was served by a pretty young woman dressed in homespun clothing. She looked frightened as she brought trays of food and drink into the room. Jack ignored the servant completely while he discussed the dungeon crawl with his men. But Shana was very much aware every time the heavy wooden door of the dining room opened and closed. The door was not being locked. If Shana could slip away from the table she might be able to leave through that exit. “Is it true that we have a lone warrior laying siege to the tower?” Jack laughed as he poured wine into his goblet. “Aye, my lord” answered one of the warriors with a long black beard “he has been watching the entrance all day despite our best efforts to convince him otherwise.” “This man has defeated three guards at once?” Jack asked. “Aye, five times he did this” reported the brigand with a green topknot “Shall we send more men to drive him away?” “I think not” Jack laughed “He poses no threat to us. Let him freeze all night if he wishes.” he helped himself to the roasted chicken “Any idea who he is or what he wants?” “I have seen his face in the dungeons.” the black bearded man said “He belongs to the house of Lord Augustus. They fancy themselves to be protectors of innocence or some such rubbish.” he finished his goblet of wine and dragged the back of his hand across his mustache. “Protectors of innocence?” Jack turned and eyed Shana suspiciously “Do you know this man, Shana? Are you kin to the house of Augustus?” “I have never heard of Lord Augustus.” Shana replied, pushing the food around on her plate with a fork. “Well, perhaps he has come to the wrong place” Jack laughed “There is no one in need of his heroic efforts here.” All the warriors joined in the laughter and the subject returned to the murdering of innocent victims in the dungeon. Shana ate little as the meal progressed. Her thoughts were focused on escaping the tower and returning to her family. The men drank heavily and their talk became louder. They bragged about the many murders they had committed in Despise and all of the loot which had been acquired from their victims. It was at this point that the conversation turned to a chest placed against the wall. The lid was opened and inside Shana saw items which had been stolen from the murdered victims of a recent dungeon hunt. There were magic swords, axes, helmets and shields shining in the candle light. But one item caught the young bard’s attention. It was a golden lap harp. A plan began to form in Shana’s mind. Smiling with sudden hope, she turned to Jack and said “Would you like me to entertain your men with some music, my lord?” Had Jack known Shana better he would have seen the mischief behind that radiant smile. But Jack, who was feeling the effects of his wine, looked pleased at her sudden wish to perform. “That would be lovely, my pet.” Shana continued to beam as she removed the golden lap harp from the chest. She took a seat near the hearth and let her fingers drift across the strings of the instrument. Each note rang out pure and true. The golden lap harp had been tuned recently. But a small trace of blood upon its golden finish only served to bolster Shana’s distain for these men. Without hesitation she began to play the festive songs of a tavern. She hoped the music would encourage the murderers to feel lighthearted and to indulge themselves in the drinking of spirits. The plan seemed to be working as bottles were emptied and the serving woman repeatedly ordered to replenish the supply of wine and ale. The laughter and bragging had reached an almost deafening level when Shana began to play her magic spell. The first note of the spell floated above the din of laughter. Shana had been taught that the spell of peacemaking combined with the effects of alcohol would put a victim to sleep. This would be her first opportunity to experiment with this theory. If it worked she could walk right out of the unlocked door. After only a few minutes of playing her peacemaking spell, the sound of snoring filled the room. Every man at the table was unconscious. The murderer with a long black beard slept face down in his plate of roasted chicken. Jack was slumped to one side of his chair in open mouthed oblivion. Shana pressed her lips tightly together to stifle a laugh. The serving woman had collapsed in a corner, fast asleep. Apparently she had chosen to sample the wine, as well. “Perfect” Shana whispered. Quietly she stood up and hurried to the door, glancing back over her shoulder to make sure that the men continued to sleep. Once outside the room Shana took a chair from the hallway and wedged it under the brass knob of the dining room door. This would give her a few extra minutes to escape should Jack and his henchmen awaken. Shana stopped in the darkened stairwell leading down. On the floor below she could hear the voices of murderers laughing. The remaining brigands were drinking and playing cards around the table in the workshop. Again Shana let her fingers pluck out the notes of the peacemaking spell. Within minutes the sound of snoring filled the first floor of the tower. Shana hurried to the iron double doors. As Shana’s fingers touched the door handle she remembered the loud squeaking which the rusted doors had made upon her arrival. She tip toed over to the racks of weapons hanging upon the wall and chose a sturdy spear. She carried the spear with her as she carefully opened the door. The squeaking noise seemed loud as it echoed off the stone walls. But much to her amazement the sleeping brigands continued to snore. Slipping outside, Shana closed the door and shoved the spear through the iron door handles. She hoped that this would keep Jack and his murderers from following. Shana stood on the snow covered steps and look out into the moon lit woods which surrounded the tower. A frigid wind cut across her exposed skin like a knife. She shivered as she tried to decide which direction to take. “Oh dear. Which way shall I go?” she questioned herself out loud. “If only I knew where the road was.” The sound of a lich’s laughter nearby galvanized Shana into action. She gathered her heavy velvet skirt in one hand, cradled her harp against her side with the other hand and set off running into the forest heading south. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Dominic cautiously trekked through the woods which circled the Grove of Love. The sun had set and a single lantern hanging above the tower’s iron doors cast a small circle of light onto the snow covered steps. The snow had stopped and the moon hung full in the sky. It shed its own mellow light down upon the forest creating eerie shadows among the trees. The rooftop guards had just patrol the east side of the building and then moved on to the south as Dominic approach the tower wall. He felt sure that the thick vines which covered the walls combined with the rough stone would provide the necessary footholds to achieve his goal. Securing his magic bardiche across his back, Dominic began his slow ascent of the tower’s east wall. He wasn’t sure what he would do once he had slaughtered the guards on the roof and forced his way into the building. But he had waited all day for the cover of darkness so that he could enter the home of the Dread Lord Jack. Dominic was determined to rescue Shana Rose. Dominic was about halfway up the tower wall when he heard the iron doors squeaking open. He stopped and held his breath, clinging to the dead vines. Having chosen the east side of the building to scale, Dominic could not see the door. He was unable to tell how many warriors were being sent to challenge him this time. Dominic hoped his footprints in the snow didn’t lead them to his present position. He was vulnerable to attack as he hung like a helpless mongbat on the side of the tower. But in the silence of the night Dominic heard a female voice speaking softly. A woman had come through the front door. No other voice answered the woman. The sound of a single set of footsteps crunched in the snow. Was a woman leaving the tower alone? Had Shana Rose somehow escaped? Pushing away from the tower wall, Dominic dropped into the soft snow. He crouched low as he peered around the side of the stone building. The lantern hanging beside the door revealed a young woman in a blue gown running into the trees towards the south. “God’s teeth!” he whispered a curse in surprise. Even in the moonlight, Dominic could see the flame color of the woman’s hair. His vivid memory of Shana’s bright red tresses convinced him that she was indeed escaping into the woods. Unfortunately Shana Rose was leaving a trail in the snow that even a blind man could follow. Reaching into his pack he removed the oil cloth. Using the cloth like a broom, Dominic tried his best to erase Shana’s footprints as far as the tree line. He was only a few yards away from the tower when he heard the sound of someone rattling the iron doors from the inside. It was then that he saw the spear jammed into the door handles. Dominic gave a low chuckle. Shana was thinking like a true warrior now. Dropping the oil cloth behind some underbrush, Dominic set off at a trot following the tracks of Shana Rose.