Rondo Alla Contrattempo

Part Nine of the Sonata in Red series.
Part One: A Song of Glory
Part Two: A Choir of Intrigue
Part Three: Etude in the Sun
Part Four: A Requiem in the Dark
Part Five: Hymns of Terror
Part Six: Refrain from the Past
Part Seven: Refrain from the Past (pt. 2)
Part Eight: A Fugue in Three Parts

My instincts flared at Sebastian’s message. Sensing danger without origin I rapidly expand my senses into the night. I can hear the heart beats of all four guards stationed in the hall past the door beating with unaltered calm. Beyond the window the breathy whisper of the cool night air carries the almost silent rustle of an owls feathers to me. The only change in the vicinity radiates from the terrified cues of the elderly man lain before me in the dark. The message I receive is garbled and confusing, Sebastian is deceiving me, but not lying. He is afraid, but not of me. Most importantly, we are alone.

“Now is not the time for games, Sebastian,” I whisper, flavouring my words with so thin a film of malice that his only his animal instincts will recognise it. Goosebumps raise across his flesh and his heart trembles but his demeanour stays firm.
I can sense a trace of something upon him so fragile and distant that it may never have existed at all. The imperceptible air dispelled unceremoniously by Sebastian stirring to his feet. I know the aged servant is too cowardly to endanger his own life by defying me here, so I allow him to stand keeping within three paces of him. A distance where I can react to any sudden actions he may take faster than he could react.
Slowly he dodders across the room towards a large wooden desk, my heightened senses can feel his old bones grinding painfully against themselves with every step. A key that hung from his neck inserted into a concealed key hole to unlock the desks draw. Beneath a false bottom within he draws an envelope sealed with wax by an unfamiliar seal.

“Take it,” he commands flatly, the weariness in his voice born of more than age, “I don’t know anything more about who your message came from. This envelope and the instructions for your message simply appeared here one night while I was asleep.”

I study him closely. Again, he’s not telling me everything but his words carry the ring of truth with them. My instincts tell me that I’ve learned everything I can from him, his was but a walk on part in greater performance. Concealing the message into the folds of my robe, I step into the night and out of sight.
Embracing the grey, like a spirit I glide across rooftops and down alleys with all of the alacrity and grace I can muster. Searching intently for something I do not find. The early morning sun banishes the darkness shining its blinding light across the Dawn Wall above. The tallest shadows of the morning conceal my final grey steps to my hideout. An east facing cavern in the cliff face overlooking night town, practically invisible in the shadow of the dawn sun.

With Sebastian’s revelation it is certain that my vague goal of finding Sophia as a flash had succeeded and was more than I had bargained for. Whoever is pulling the strings, whether they are Sophia’s allies, enemies or incidental, they had managed to both find me and predict the mistakes and corrections I would make.
I study the seal, considering having it examined before breaking it. Discarding the idea, I reason that any that could be traced could be forged. The contents of the envelope would be far more beneficial to me. The paper within is thick, expensive paper, the kind nobility use for letters. One side of the pages is blank, turning it over I find a message written in cursive text in a fine ink.

Dear Nightingale,

Do not continue. The path you are walking is on from which you cannot return. The answers you seek will bring you neither satisfaction, nor happiness. If you are wise you will turn back now, while you still can. 

A Friend

I fold the letter along its crease, returning it to the envelope. The familiar hollow feeling of fatigue that follows the use of the grey creeps through me, making it difficult to think. None of this is making any sense.
According to Sebastian the instructions for my meeting with the crow and this letter urging me to abandon this mission arrived on the same night. Either they were delivered separately or together. If separate, why would the second allow the first to remain if they are in conflict. If together, why would one messenger be delivering contradictory messages?
Tired frustration fills me as I creep down from my hiding place. Rather than the answers I had hoped for, last nights mission had just raised more questions. The walk through Night Town returned feeling to my limbs and parted the mists in my head.
No message from Olivia told me she hadn’t finished investigating my lordling-by-proxy. I’d been distracted by the setting of our first meeting, I’d expected an amateur was behind this mission at but no amateur would take anywhere near this long for Olivia to uncover. Perhaps the guards might be worth investigating, but more likely they’d be dead ends much like Sebastian. It didn’t matter, either way there was only two real choices ahead of me. Performing the job, or not. I’m no stranger to threats, I’d ignored one with far greater weight than this just last night on a whim. It seemed the only answers I was going to get would be find inside the Baronet’s estate.


Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

11 thoughts on “Rondo Alla Contrattempo”

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