A HEROES’ GAME
‘Then why not make your feelings known?’ The Forgotten One pressed.
The hero of Caliet removed the hessian bag from his head in answer. An uneasy silence followed as he lowered his head to the ground.
The Forgotten One stared in horror at the hideous wreck beneath the mask for the first time. Craters exhibited themselves all over his scalp as he lowered his head to the ground. Grotesque wisps of hair draped over the horrid lesions.
‘My owner did this,’ he said with his gaze still at his own feet. ‘As I have told you before, my only friend, I was a tumbler in a travelling show of freaks.’
The Forgotten One nodded.
‘I do not say this out of vanity but I was once a handsome man…not that I was ever a success with the ladies.’
Civa sighed, shrugging before going on.
‘The ringmaster was reluctant to allow me to leave his show as I fattened his purse more than his other exhibits combined.
Sons and daughters of Nusalle he would shout to the crowds…I give you the “Cat man.” This one has gristle for bones! He would say.
The Forgotten One watched as the tumbler replaced his mask over his head.
‘What happened?’ queried the ex-guardsman.
‘He glued the mask to my head so that I could not remove it, thus I was forced to continue on with him until someone paid for my freedom…’
Laughter erupted again from the Lady Nolga, jolting his thoughts back to the present. He grinned faintly to himself, glad that he had introduced the two to each other. They seemed to be getting on well. In time, he felt assured that Civa’s confidence would build in her company.
Already enamoured with his charm he knew that when the day came that he’d reveal his face, she wouldn’t be repulsed by what lie beneath. They appeared to mutter in low tones but the bandaged warrior could tell that they spoke on intimate things. The Lady Nolga rolled her eyes in contemplation before giving an answer to his question.
‘Now for you,’ she said. ‘Remove your mask.’
‘I cannot, my lady.’
‘Then you must speak a truth; why do you wear it?’
The Forgotten One thought his heart would wrench itself in half on the behalf of his friend, knowing that he could do neither the truth nor the dare.
‘Nolga,’ said the axeman. ‘The dare you have set for Civa is no challenge at all. Let us set him something far more worthy.’
Pointing his bandaged limb through the window, he indicated a broken weather vane, on a rooftop several streets away.
‘There, he is to retrieve the rooster on that vane before you can finish that song of your village you sing so well.’
‘So dangerous a task?’ gasped Nolga.
‘Fear not, he has gristle for bones,’ he grinned aside. ‘But nonetheless, let there be a reward for the task. If he does it, it would be for a kiss; do you agree to this?’
Before she could answer, Civa dived through the opening.
Nolga and The Forgotten One leaned through to see his heels slide down a lower roof and dive over the edge for a clothesline. Like the apes of Kundra, he swung from one rope to the next; advancing across the cobbled lanes faster than any man could sprint.
Letting go at the apex of his swing, Civa dropped to an open window, rolling within. Moments later, they saw him re-emerge at the uppermost window of the building and leapt through.
Nolga screamed, yet breathed somewhat easier when she saw him catch hold of the underside of the overhanging eave, arcing up and over on top of the roof.
Civa clambered upward against the slippery shingles until he wrestled the rooster free.
‘You did not sing,’ reminded The Forgotten One.
‘I did in my mind,’ assured Nolga.
‘How far did you get?’
‘I had three verses to go.’
‘Well I had best be going,’ he said, kissing her cheek. ‘I hope you do not relinquish on that kiss. Civa may be hideous to look upon but I have never known a more beautiful soul.’
‘I could already tell this,’ she assured him.
Saying no more, The Forgotten One took up his axe to walk out into the street. A smile drifted over his features at the thought that two more people would no longer tread this earth in loneliness.
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