Part Twenty-Two August 11, 2016
He felt water gushing into his throat before everything became dark. He saw the skull of his dream. It filled his vision until all he could see was its teeth and lower jaw. The lower jaw opened so that the skull appeared to be smiling. The skull floated closer. Bran felt its teeth clench onto his jewel. He tried to lift his arms up so he could push it away but he felt the mud of the swamp holding him down; he was helpless. The necklace began to rise off his neck as the skull moved upwards. Something grabbed a hold of him from behind. His arms were free from the mud. He pushed at the skull, hardly noticing its icy surface. The necklace was almost off. In a flash he saw a mammoth golden-haired paw strike the skull. The skull let go of the jewel. The paw swatted the skull again, causing it to spin away. Jolting to a stop the skull turned slightly to his left. Bran began to turn in that direction. As he did, he saw a powerful, golden-haired paw and foreleg that looked like it belonged to a creature he had seen depicted in a schoolbook. Beyond the foreleg he saw a mane with long strands of white and gold hair. He began to look up the monstrous body when everything went black again.
Bran spat out water. Someone was holding his head up and he was on his back. He heard voices.
“Jacob saw him and ran to help, but…,” a man with a gruff voice was saying.
“He’s fine, he just stinks.” The voice belonged to Master Kadar.
“Too bad they cut out Jacob’s tongue. He could have called for others,” the gruff voiced man said.
“Jacob did fine,” the Master said with unusual warmth.
Bran opened his eyes. He was inside the doorway to the shop. Leaning over him was Master Kadar and a tall man garbed in a grey cloak. He looked around for another, the one known as Jacob. Ignoring the Master and the tall man he got up and subconsciously wiped some of the muck from his clothes. As he brushed himself off he looked down the log path towards another man. He got up and stepped onto the path. His body rebelled, fearful of falling in again, but he forced himself to move along the logs.
An average sized man stood before him. The man’s body was barrel chested and the legs heavy with strength. Bran stared long and hard at the man. The man’s head was disfigured with scars along the left side. The nose had been broken and was reset poorly so the tip bent in an almost perpendicular direction to the chin. “Jacob?” he croaked.
The man shifted uneasily before nodding his head.
Bran put out his right hand. At that moment he fully realised what the man had done. A lump filled his throat. “Thank you,” he said with a choke.
Jacob raised his own right hand where only three fingers remained. As their hands met Jacob pulled Bran to his chest and slapped him on the back.
The tall man came over. Bran looked into the eyes that were only slightly higher than his own. The eyes were steely blue. The face was middle-aged and covered in weather wrinkles. In all, the face was lean like a fox’s and the eyes just as keen. The man wore a cowl over his head. The cloak he wore was made of grey fleece. It reached just below the ankles. At the rim of the cloak two mud covered feet pointed out. The man smiled. “We must go,” he said with a slight bow of his head.
Bran watched Jacob and the grey cloaked man leave. From behind him he heard the Master coming forward. “You can leave now to,” the Master said dryly. “You smell worse than the Excretatory.”
Bran didn’t bother to look back to say good-bye to the Master, he just headed straight for Cleansing, however he heard the Master following him as far as the logs.
As he came up towards the chestnut trees he saw only a few figures moving about in the starlight. The jam was over. He went to the shore of Cleansing and looked across to the Lady Bard’s side. He wondered if they ever made it to the concert, and whether Jordan was still over there.
The next morning Jordan looked dazed and he had a faraway look in his eyes. A half smile was fixed on the left side of his face. “You had a better night than I,” Bran complained.
“Your night could not compare to mine,” Jordan said with feverish vanity. Jordan turned and looked at him. Bran’s blond-haired comrade winked at him. “Tell you and Peter at Cleansing.”
Bran found the singing lesson long and dreary that day. The night before still wavered in his mind. He saw flashes of what looked to be a skull, and something else. The lesson seemed to drag on even longer when he unfortunately caught a glimpse of Jordan’s smirk.
When the time came to bathe he, Jordan, and Peter quickly moved ahead of Sheen. Sheen’s head rose in suspicion and he tried to follow them to see what was going on but Jordan had Bran and Peter run to avoid their unwanted comrade.
At Cleansing Jordan snarled at Sheen. “If you come near me today I’ll give you a thrashing, lumpy.”
Peter glared at Jordan. “We’ll practice that ‘Languid’ song together, later,” Peter shouted to Sheen.
Jordan cursed. “Why bother?” He snarled, “The fat thing can sing alone.”
Peter’s eyes flashed dangerously. Jordan lowered his head. Of the four of them, Peter was the link. He got along with everyone, and Bran knew that he, Jordan and Sheen could always rely on their red-headed comrade.
“Okay, I’ll lay off Sheen, but listen!” Jordan began. “Last night when I went over to the Lady Bard’s side, there were four of the older girls bathing. So I pointed out that we were having a jam session and asked if they would like to join. One of the girls said she would go and mention it to one of the Mistress Lady Bards. I was alone with three of them.” Jordan’s eyes alighted with excitement. “I began chatting about this and that when one of the girls, with beautiful blonde hair and ebony skin asked me to tell her about the Gentlemen Bard side. So we walked down the beach a little bit. I suggested we go into the water and talk, and she agreed. I told her a little bit about playing the lute–.”
“You know how to play?” Peter interrupted in disbelief.
Jordan waived his right hand with annoyance. “No, no, I faked it. So she tells me that in her year they get together midway through and have a dance with the Gentlemen Bards–of the same year. Well, I said I knew how to dance. So she asks me to show her a few moves. I get up real close to her naked body, and something happens.” Jordan shook his head with disbelief. “Anyway I get close to her, and she feels it against her. Suddenly her hands are on it. Both of us are looking with, you know, that awkward look. So I lean in close and kiss her. Next thing I know her legs are wrapped around my waist and I’m inside of her. She’s gasping, I’m gasping.” Again Jordan shook his head in disbelief. “It was the highlight of my life.”
“Maybe I should go,” Peter said much to Bran’s surprise. Peter and Jordan moved off slightly and began discussing a plan to get Peter over to the Lady Bards’ side. Peter turned his head from the huddle and looked at Bran. “You gonna try Bran.”
Bran smiled weakly at his comrades. His right hand grasped the jewel, “I can’t,” he said apologetically.