For the Price of a Song

Another Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig, this prompt was to use a random “fantasy character generator” and then write about that. I’ll reveal which two* I used at the end–so as not to ruin the story. This one was harder for me than the subgenre mash-up, but I thought I’d give it a try.

         “Careful with that, damn you,” Eamon said without any heat.
         The boy looked apologetically at the bard as he checked the wooden lute for any damage. Eamon stared down at his mud coated boots, the once-fine leather cracked. The alchemist said he would be here. Eamon didn’t know much about him, other than he was an alchemist. That was all Eamon needed to know.
         “Paedrig, have we anymore wine?” Eamon asked.
         “No, milord,” the boy answered, closing the green leather lid over Eamon’s lute, his most prized possession.
         “Of course not,” Eamon sighed. “Where in the name of all the gods—”
         Rising out of the mist like one of the druids in Eamon’s tales, Iollan the alchemist appeared, striding up the hill into the glen. Eamon stood from his seat on a rock, arms crossed. This close to finally regaining what he had lost, his patience had run dry.
         “Well, Alchemist?” He asked.
         “Have you brought it?” Iollan replied.
         Eamon had learned to look at the alchemist’s one good eye and ignore the scarred mess that made up the left side of his face. His skin looked like it had been burned and then turned into wood. But his voice–it made even the bard slightly jealous. It was deep, musical. Eamon could imagine the alchemist holding audiences spellbound with his tales. But Eamon was lucky he had paid attention to the royal poets and singers and that he had a decent voice. He hated to think what would have happened to him if he had not found a trade so quickly after leaving the court.
         “Yes, yes, I brought the lute,” Eamon wondered why the Alchemist needed it, but knew not to ask.
         “Very good,” Iollan took a bundle of soft cloth from beneath the folds of his thick brown robe and spread it across the ground.
         Eamon leaned closer, glimpsing symbols and runes that he did not recognize.
         “Arabic,” Iollan said. “The tools of my trade.”
         “These scribbles will help me defeat the Usuper?” Eamon asked, his heart grown heavier than one of the great standing stones.
         “These runes will help me do what needs to be done,” Iollan said, his black eye flashing. “I have practiced alchemy since before you were a dream in your royal mother’s head. Do not think, Eamon ó Conaill, that you know better than I because your father was High King.”
        Eamon quailed under that stare and took a step back to lean against his rock as Iollan pulled other strange items from his pockets–stones of every shape and size, misshapen lumps of metal, instruments of copper. Eamon ran his fingers over the lichen that coated the boulder and sighed. The alchemist began to mutter, and Eamon scuffed his toe against the thick moss that grew down to the water’s edge. The alchemist said he needed a running stream and Eamon picked a glen within a days walk to the castle. The alchemist promised he would regain his rightful seat and Eamon had waited twenty long years to re-enter the hall of his father and his father’s father as High King.
         “Your lute,” Iollan said, breaking out of his keening chant.
         Paedrig hurriedly opened the case and handed the lute to Eamon, who held it nervously, fingers caressing the warm wood that was darkened by the oils from his hands and the smoke of a thousand halls and taverns.
         “Sing,” Iollan said, arranging his stones and nubs of metal on his strange cloth.
         “What?” Eamon asked.
         “Sing,” the alchemist repeated, his one eye glaring from beneath the shock of black hair streaked with gray that fell in his face, bedraggled crow’s feathers.
        Eamon plucked a few of the strings hesitantly and began to sing one of his favorite tales of a thief and a princess. The tune sounded eerie as it echoed through the glen, bouncing off the rocks and joined by the whispering of the stream and the dripping trees. He sang on as the alchemist ran his hands over the runes and the stones, muttering furiously under his breath. Eamon sang, until he noticed something odd. The mist seemed to have thickened in front of his face and taken on a golden tint, although a glance upwards assured him that the sun was still hidden behind stony clouds.
         Eamon sang on, although he was beginning to feel out of breath. He looked over at the alchemist and saw him kneeling with his wrinkled hands cupped together. There was a golden substance trapped in them, a shimmering, writhing fluid. Eamon reached the last lines of his song, telling of the thief revealing himself as a true prince and asking for the princess’ hand. He sucked in lungfuls of air, the lute falling to the damp ground as he bent over, gasping. The golden mist thickened with each breath he tried to draw.
         “What…happening…?” he choked.
         Iollan did not answer. The golden liquid flowed over his hands and onto his rune chart and he began to shape it with his fingers, molding it until it was a solid lump of black veined gold. When he was finished, he held it in his gnarled hands. It was roughly the size of a large apple, with none of its smoothness.
         Eamon recognized it as he sank to his knees, fingers digging into the muddy earth as he fought for oxygen.
         “…Stone…” he choked.
         Paedrig was frozen in horror, staring between his master and the alchemist, who had thrown back his cloak and was clutching at the stone, half his lips twisted upward in a smile of ecstasy, his ruined face lit by the stone.
         “Yours was the last thing I needed, you see, the soul of a bard—a bard of princely blood—to create the Stone of Immortality. Heart of a virgin, spirit of a priest—I took them all.”
         Eamon’s sight dimmed as the Alchemist held a cupped hand under the stone and a pure, glimmering stream of liquid flowed forth.

* I used “A forlorn bard fights to regain the throne” and “A veteran alchemist flees a dark past.”

5 thoughts on “For the Price of a Song

  1. That was really well done. I liked the Alchemist quite a bit, even though he was the villain in the story. The bard was interesting also. Nice job, again I really liked it. Very well written. 🙂

  2. I think you did an excellent bit of alchemy yourself in combining the elements of plot, character and atmosphere. This is really well done. Your careful but not tedious attention to detail makes both your world and your characters come alive, darling. You’re really hitting your stride with the last few.

    • Thank you so much! I was definitely hesitant about this one…I felt like I wanted to put so much more in but there just wasn’t room, so yet again I’m glad of the word count constraints. Looks like I need them! Thanks for reading and commenting, as always.

  3. “Eamon’s sight dimmed as the Alchemist held a cupped hand under the stone and a pure, glimmering stream of liquid flowed forth.”
    Wonderful. A thoroughly delightful read!

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