The Painter, The Storyteller by C.E.Nowill

The rain pelted the deck of the ship, as it always did on this part of the sea. The sea was roiling, unquiet. Simply, chaotic.
His ashen-blonde hair was still wet, and his clothes were less soaked-through than before, but he could still feel the damp of his clothes when he moved. The barrel of ale the captain had cracked open was certainly helping him forget that he decided to stand in the rain and think. What a decision that was.
The ship was sailing cautiously on the Talking Tides now, it had been for a handful of days. The Talking Tides were named such because they told lies and truths and secrets and names of things that they had no right to know.
So, he had stood out in the rain a half hour prior and watched the black waves of the Yyn and tried to listen for the whispers, well, for anything really. After ten minutes he wanted to give up, after thirty, he did.
“Oi, Kae, tell us a story, one last one for the road,” Impris, the deckhand said to Kae. Just as the sailor said that, the captain bellowed that they spotted the Port of Misdren. They would be at port in under an hour. He would make it a quick one. One his parents told him. He would tell the Moon of the Yyn.
“Yeah, paint us a picture, storyteller,” Imprev said. Over the course of the last few weeks, the brothers had enjoyed his stories, practically begging for another after one story was finished. A warm feeling began to settle in Kae’s gut when they’d ask. This is what he did best.
It was a story his parents had built, like minstrel to song.
“They say that many sailors never dare to sail the Yyn sea; that the most desperate will traverse the black waters, but these travellers were always a pair that dared. This is the story of their honeymoon.” Kae said, smoking his last cigarette. There were a few low whistles. One sailor told him to get to love-making portion of the story. Kae audibly scoffed and told him that it would come in time. This sent the crew into a frenzy of jeers. Baryn yelled drunkenly told him to get on with it. And so, he did, in fact, get on with it.
“The travellers had seen the world,” Kae said, his face thoughtful, a mask of memory. “Learning languages and buying into the court gossip as they visited the churches of Isk. Yet, the couple had never found someone willing to take them over the Yyn Sea. The rumours and stories had done their work and secured fear into the hearts of sailors and captains alike. When Devron Fyal had got on one knee for his love, he asked her to captain the ship that sailed them across the Yyn as she was the best sailor he’d ever met.
“She had leapt up in a fit of joy and exclaimed yes to both proposals. And so, they set off to accomplish the last task before they could settle into a life of marriage and retirement. It was almost a year, five of the six months of the year had passed, before they had savings enough to try. Soon they were on a ship named the Scowlbreaker and they were spending their honeymoon on the most dangerous place in the world.
“It thrilled them to pass the ships wrecked by rock and hidden dangers and it drove them wild with desire. Now I won’t go into the gory details of their desire, but they had certainly enjoyed themselves. A little too much; their hearts were full with the danger, full with love, full with a feeling that left them drunk.
“The last night they were on the Yyn, the moon was full, and the mist was thick. The pair of daring were well into the throes of passion when the Scowlbreaker started to sink and the couple did not notice until it was late, almost impossible to escape with their lives. So, the pair of daring didn’t try to escape.
“They just held tight to each other and kissed each other deeply, their hearts were warm as they drowned in the cold sea. Most rumour mongers say that the pair were stupid; but they were the pair of daring, and they feared nothing, not even death at the hands of a monster. Alas, a rock had sunk the ship, tore the hull right open, and filled with water quickly. I am not most rumour mongers; I am a storyteller and they had died in the Yyn sea for the good of our world. Their warm hearts were said to drive away the cold monsters that lurked beneath and sought destruction. And thus, we haven’t been attacked, nor have any ships on the Yyn sea in nearly three centuries.”
Everyone had applauded at the end of the story and clapped Kae on the back and poured him three more drinks that he had to refuse else he would not be walking off this ship. Well, not without swaying and most likely falling into the water. He got up from the floor, and now, considerably drier than he was before, he started to pack his things.
His belongings were mostly leather-bound journals filled from cover to cover; a few maps; a contacts book; his small, rather expensive pistol; and arm-length hatchet. He tucked the latter away into the waist of his pants, concealing it with his cloak, and packed the rest into a trunk.
It would soon be a time for hunting.
Kae walked to the steps and made his way up to the deck. He saw the sky had mostly cleared up. It was still cloudy and overcast, but it was no longer a reflection of the black sea. The rain hadn’t stopped, yet the Port of Misdren, although looking a little drab, was a far sight better than the interior of a ship.
He made his way through the busy bustle of the docks, the water almost lapping at the sides of his feet on the jetty. It didn’t take a long time to reach the makeshift customs that could either grant or bar access into Misdren. Swords and pistols were drawn at the new arrivals on the port and random searches were carried out. Shouting in multiple languages could be heard. Kae didn’t hear any shots fired.
It was almost good to be home.
Kae Severyn was trying not to stare. Not at the women in sailing uniforms, certainly not at the flowergirls roaming the docks vying for attention for the afternoon. He was trying not to stare at the wooden post just to his right while the guards checked his paperwork. A thin stake was stabbed into the post and pinned a parchment onto the post. It screamed unwelcome.
While he looked immensely different than he did a year ago, he hoped that the guard had the wit of a simpleton, or at least that he hated his job enough to not care that the man standing in front of him had a vague likeness to the man in the poster. His paperwork said that Phineas Scarp was a woodturner and a self-employed painter from West Yitl, a city a dozen months away by boat. The winds were kind and it took him one month shy of twelve months.
It wasn’t an untruth, not exactly, he was a painter and self-employed at that too. The best lies have an element of truth to them.
Contrary to this, the wanted poster said that, ‘Severyn is wanted for heresy against the church of Iskatar and proselytizing against the Faith of the Holy-Mother, Isk. A bounty is set on his head for two-hundred-thousand bloodbits, dead or alive, this sum will be paid by law if proof of capture is seen by the constabularies.’
As the guard at the border gate was scanning through the leaflets of paperwork, he spoke, with a thick accent that was not from this part of the world.
“Heard about the man prostitutin’ women? Damn devil he be, the Holy-Mother would be ashamed,” he said as he gestured to the poster with his head, his salt and pepper beard swaying lightly as he did so.
Kae was keenly aware of the hatchet resting between his lower back, he prayed he didn’t have to use it for an occasion like this.
“May the Holy-Mother Isk, have no mercy,” was all he said. Eyes of piercing black tore into his flesh, it burned him. While he wasn’t ashamed of his actions opposing the church, he needed this opportunity. Whether blood be shed or saved, it didn’t matter, but he was prepared. Kae had his reasons.
The guard gave a once-over to Phineas Scarp’s paperwork and then looked back up to Kae. Kae watched as the guard looked to the poster for a second time, he fought his eyes, told them not to look. The guard nodded, his eyes slits.
“Praise the Holy-Mother,” the guard said.
He was a free man.
He was home.
The storyteller walked down the cobble road and was forced to dodge a few horse and carts and various vendors as he looked around the city that was his home all those years ago. He saw a tavern with a few lanterns out the front hanging from the sign. He didn’t remember the tavern being there, it used to be a florist. Granted, he hadn’t been here in almost five years and rent was exorbitantly high these days.
He smelled pies, hot and full of lamb and rosemary and other good spices. Gods, he hadn’t had a pie in years. Kae made his way into the tavern.
The Four Serpents was a little run down — the counter had dents on it, the stained-glass windows were cracked in some parts, and faded in others. Despite this, it was busy. The serving girls were whisking around with pint glasses and plates of food.
Kae sat down at one of the only free tables that had no-one else sitting at it. In seconds, a serving girl appeared and basically jumped him, asking him what he’d like to eat, drink and what his name is in the span of about five seconds. Of course, beyond the initial shock, she was friendly and offered up the information to her quite voluntarily.
“Do you have pies?” he asked in Misdren.
The serving girl, who had long blonde hair coming down past her shoulders and a flushed red face cocked her head.
“Do you have pies? Kind of question is that? We’re famous for ‘em,” she replied.
“Sorry, new in town you see,” he said, as if he were a sheep and she were a wolf.
“Jay was it?”
“Kae.”
“Well, Kae, kind of pie would you like?”
“Lamb, rosemary and almond?”
“Why a question?”
“I wasn’t sure if you have it.”
“We’re famous for ‘em,” she repeats, simply.
Kae nods and smiles at her. She reflects the same back at him, and he watches her walk off into the kitchen.
He gets out of his chair and walks to the bar. Now that he was off the ship, he could have more ale without the fear of drowning. He fumbled a step and bumped into a lady at her table. She was young and smelt of cherry wine, her shoulders were padded and big. He apologised profusely and stumbled halfway through his Misdren as well as his steps. She scolded him for a second before he got to walk away.
If she had a keen eye, she might have considered the fact that he was walking to the bar, which was on her left, but he tripped and fell on her right side. If she had a keen eye, she may have considered the way he fumbled his words and grammar, yet had the same perfect Misdren accent.
He took out an embroidered purse – some might have noted that it was oddly feminine for a man of twenty summers to have – from the folds of his cloak, smiled and put a bit of silver on the bar.
“What’ll you have?” the bartender said, his voice gruff to Kae’s ears. The stench of lingering sweat filled Kae’s nose. The barkeep looked to the embroidered purse, then to down the back of the room near the door.
“Honey beer please,” Kae said.
“Right, it’ll be over with your pie, that okay?”
Kae nodded.
The barkeep nodded.
For the next thirty minutes Kae sat at the front of the tavern, ate his pie and drank his beer while he pointedly ignored all the movement and quiet hushed shrieking from the lady he fell over.
Just as he got to the door of the Four Serpents, he lingered, his face a mix of half-hidden horror and quiet calm. His wanted poster was plastered on the walls of the tavern. He’d been too interested in the prospect of a hot pie that he had failed to notice.
He turned around to the bar, and while not entirely surprised that the barkeep was standing in front of him, he was surprised by his size. He was a good foot taller than Kae and could easily crush his bones to a fine dust and snort them. Kae smiled and gave him a half-toothy.
“Hail the Holy-Mother,” the barkeep said as he swung with a fist almost as big as his head. The barkeep was burly, likely not wanting to miss his chance at garnering a proper life in this shithole.
It was over in a few seconds. Kae had ducked under the swing and took advantage of the burly man’s slow speed. He pulled out the hatchet from his hiding place and swung slowly at the man’s neck, stopping mid-ark so it pressed lightly against his neck.
“Fuck your Holy-Mother,” Kae said. The man, resigned to forfeit the fight, scowled deep, the spittle on his teeth showing. Kae had made an enemy. The others in the tavern watched on as Kae backed out the door, the hatchet still trained on the barkeep.
Despite the fight, Kae was happy.
It wouldn’t last though. Tonight, would be a night of sorrow.
It took a few hours, but eventually, after constantly watching over his shoulder, he found the copse he came here for. The trees were old enough be chopped down, but not so old that they were too big for Kae to chop. The sunlight was almost fully gone now, and the lamplight provided most of the glow onto the trees.
Kae got to work chopping the tree, the low light was only just enough to see what he was doing. He would be painting in darkness tonight. It didn’t bother him though.
Before he knew it, the tree was down, and he had sliced it up into thin wooden slices.
He then began to paint onto two of the wooden disks. Each stroke was delicate, deliberate. Planned. He mixed colours by the lamplight to create a skin tone that matched his. They would have liked their son to paint them.
He began to cry, silently. He remembered the time they had died. They had died right here. Kae had watched as they faded away into nothing, a plague struck the pair, they didn’t die together, but close enough that they know not life without one another. He painted his father’s burnished gold hair, and his mother’s chestnut brown. He painted their eyes – his father’s a bright green, like Kae’s – and his mother’s, a blue as clear as the sea.
He painted the smiles on the pair of faces, he even managed to capture the adoration that the wrinkles on their faces portrayed.
It was Kae’s best work.
He had been practicing for months in his journals. He thought of how much they loved each other. It was absolute. Temptation comes and quickly goes, but not for them, no, temptation never came. They loved only each other, so whole and so complete.
Kae began to wipe his tears as finished up the paintings.
It was like Imprev said, paint us a picture, and so, he had.
“Mr Severyn,” A voice that was deep and full of spit called out in the darkness.
“You owe me two-hundred-thousand bloodbits, and I’m collecting,” he said, Kae turning towards the voice as he finished. A half-hundred torches were lighting up the night sky.
Blood shed it was.

 

About the Author:

Cameron Nowill is a third year professional writing student that has been writing fantasy for half a decade. He aims to publish his books and keep refining his craft in the future. He loves building worlds from scratch, despite this, he has quite possibly the worst memory known to man.

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