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[A Fractured Song] - Chapter 30 - Fantasy, Isekai (Portal Fantasy), Adventure

Cover Art
Teaser: Last chapter, Frances helped out the fae-kin Timur and promptly fell asleep. The next morning, Edana and Igraine react to finding out the events of last night.
Story Summary: After years of beatings and neglect from her parents, 13-year old Frances was summoned with her entire class to the fantastical world of Durannon to fight the monsters invading the human kingdoms and defeat the "Demon King." If she succeeds, she might have the home she never had. But if she can't overcome the trauma and self-loathing inflicted on her by her abusive parents, Frances will die, and be summoned back to the home she escaped, on the day that she left.
[The Beginning] [<=Chapter 29] [Chapter Index and Blurb] [Chapter 31=>]
[Current Map of Durannon]
The first thing Edana did that morning after a morning bath and breakfast was to check her crystal ball. She assumed that at this point Frances would have awoken and it wouldn’t be too intrusive to spy on her student.
Frances was still asleep and was having a nightmare. She was tossing and turning on her pallet, curled into a fetal position. Tears streamed down her eyes and she was whimpering under her breath. Edana winced. She was definitely going to make sure Frances got a nice cake or chocolate after this exercise—
Edana’s mind ground to a complete halt as a tailed figure crouched by Frances and yelled, “Frances? What's wrong? Frances!”
Frances’s eyes opened and she heaved in deep, gasping breaths. “Oh, Timur. I’m sorry I woke you.”
“I was up making breakfast.” The Alavari, this Timur, pressed a water skin into Frances’s hands. “Besides, there’s no need to apologize. Were you dreaming about um… your parents?”
Frances gave a quick nod and sipped the waterskin. Edana in the meanwhile grabbed her hand mirror and focused on Igraine.
“Igraine, do you happen to notice a trogre with Frances?” Edana asked.
“Yeah, Edana. I’m seeing this too, and I have an arrow on the quiver for the half-breed,” hissed the ranger.
“Don’t shoot him. I think…” Edana quashed her impulse to teleport over to the forest and push the stranger away. “I think he’s friendly.”
“Are you sure?” Igraine demanded.
“Yes. I can see into the hut. He’s…” Edana blinked as she watched the pair sit down by the fire and eat. “They’re just eating breakfast… like friends.”
“That… must be the oddest thing you’ve ever seen in your life.”
“One of the oddest,” Edana said. She took a deep breath. “Let’s just watch them for now. They are probably going to separate at some point. When that happens, approach Frances.”
“So, where are you off to?” Frances asked Timur later that morning as they prepared to leave the village.
The prince of Alavaria smiled. “Home. Back across the mountain passes. I have a darling niece called Morgan. She is the cutest harpy-orc to terrorize the family. She cried buckets when I left and I think she’ll be happy to see me. And I need to go back to my… father, and with eyes more open than before.” He grimaced. “I do hope you’re wrong.”
“I hope I’m wrong too,” Frances said quietly. She regarded Timur with a frown. "Why are you going back, though? Are you sure your father isn't going to punish you? The curse was to make you kill Edana, not befriend a mage and ask her to help."
"Dad didn't actually banish me." Timur scratched his head. "I probably should have mentioned it earlier, but he didn't really want to do it, but the Alavari court were crying for blood after Vertingen and his hand was forced to give me an appropriate punishment. It's why he made the actual drain of magic so minor."
Frances still felt incredibly skeptical but she didn't know what else to say to Timur to make him stay. There was also the matter that she didn't know what was typical for Alavari punishments and so she stayed silent.
"Of course, I'm not going to tell him I befriended a mage. I'll make something up and I think he'll be alright with my return." Timur pointed to a direction with his hand. “By the way, there’s a village, a populated one, about four days walk south-west of here.” The trogre pursed his lips. “How are you going to explain the contract to your mentor? I doubt that she will be pleased you are channelling magic to an Alavari prince.”
Frances pursed her lips and gave Timur a hesitant smile. “I’m going to say that I saved her from having to kill a boy.”
“Pardon?” Timur spluttered.
“My mentor is Edana Firehand.” Frances smiled sheepishly as Timur stared at her with a poleaxed expression. “I’m sorry for hiding it from you. Um... you are a boy right?”
“Well, yes. I’m fourteen.” Timur slapped his hand to his face. “No apologies needed. But yes, that is a fine explanation.”
The pair averted their eyes. Timur upwards and Frances downwards, not quite sure what to say.
“Good luck,” Timur said finally, extending his six-fingered hand. Frances took it, firmly.
“I hope we can see each other again in the future, under better circumstances,” Frances said, smiling.
“That would be wonderful.” With that, Timur turned and marched away, waving back at Frances. She waved back and started on her own journey southwest.
She was about a good hour away when she heard the rustle of tree branches and saw a green-brown cloaked figure stepping in front of her.
“Igraine?” Frances stammered. “What are you doing here?”
“Following you. Been following you all this time. We’re ending this exercise now.” The ranger raised a hand mirror and to Frances’s surprise, she saw Edana at her desk.
“Master? What’s going on? I’m so glad to see you!” Frances exclaimed, walking up to the mirror.
Edana smiled, but Frances could tell that it was filled with nervous energy. “I’m glad to see you too my dear student. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you Igraine was watching you. I was also watching you through a crystal ball. But… we also know something happened last night that we missed. Can you please tell us what happened?”
Frances swallowed and explained to the silent Igraine and Edana what had happened and the nature of the contract. She showed her copy to Edana and Igraine, who perused it without a word.
However, Igraine’s grip had tightened on her bow and she was scowling by the time Frances finished, but Edana looked thoughtful.
“Edana should I hunt Timur down and force him to break that contract?” Igraine asked.
“No!” Frances exclaimed, while Edana also said, “No,” albeit more calmly.
“He’ll die—Wait you agree with me, Master?” Frances asked.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Edana nodded. “I would not have done what you did, Frances, and I don’t think what you did was the wisest thing. You’re going to have to take much longer to recover your magic from now on. You have aided a political enemy who might try to prevent you from killing King Thorgoth. Finally, the contract is well-worded, but there may be other side-effects that we can’t anticipate.”
Frances winced at that. She didn’t like the idea of there being side effects. She had just wanted to help Timur and it had seemed the best way. Besides, she couldn’t, or perhaps didn’t want to imagine the idea of him becoming her enemy in the future. He just seemed so nice, and sincere.
But then Edana sighed and smiled. “All that being said, you are alive, you are safe, and I think you did the right thing given the circumstances. So I respect your decision. You were also right in that I don't want to have to kill another youth.”
What Edana didn't tell her student was that she was already thinking of the world after the war. She had already decided it would be far easier to negotiate with an Alavari king, like Timur, who was sympathetic and sincere in his interactions with humans. In the long term, Edana knew that allowing this prince to head back to his kingdom could only benefit the human kingdoms. That kind of politicking was something she was going to teach her student eventually, just not right now.
“I still think it was extremely reckless… even if it did keep the situation deescalated,” Igraine said begrudgingly.
Despite the ranger’s grouchy tone, Frances couldn’t help but sigh in relief. If her master thought it was the right thing to do, then it couldn’t have been that bad.
“For the moment, we are going to end the exercise. Your wilderness training isn’t over, though. There were some things we noticed about how you behaved during your solo trip that we need to discuss,” Edana remarked.
Frances nodded and smiled. “Yes, Master.”
Dear Journal,
I spent two more weeks doing wilderness training including another week where I had to navigate to civilization. I did much better this time, though, it didn’t feel like it.
When we returned to Salpheron, Master Edana continued my war magic training, with a dizzying variety of exercises, spars and duels. Unfortunately, she was right. The contract I signed with Timur doesn’t affect how much magic I have, but I need to rest for longer after using my magic. Edana uses this time to teach me about the history of Durannon and the different Alavari species.
This training is so different from the lessons I had in my first year with Edana. Then, I was just learning the basic principles of magic, how it worked, how to best evoke it, and how to create spells. I also spent a lot of time in my first year in Durannon learning to ride and saddle a horse.
I also learned that apparently, the things I learnt in my first year were things that most mages my age spend five years learning. Not the horse-riding of course, but the things related to using magic.
Most mages from the various human orders, such as Edana’s White Order, speculate that I mastered invoking magic quickly because of my Otherworlder heritage. Most of my classmates are also able to master the fundamentals quite easily, and on general, are more powerful than typical mages recruited in Durannon.
Edana agrees with the general theory about Otherworlders being more powerful mages than those from Durannon, but has a different theory about the training time. She thinks that while the modern world has no magic, there are a lot of depictions of magic and fantastical things, which makes it easier for Otherworlders like me to conceive of using magic. This speeds the training time. She and I have discussed to great length the myths and legends in my world, and their depictions, often finding things that my world has gotten… oddly accurate. We can only speculate as to why.
Still, Edana continues to praise me for my progress in war magic training. She says that I’m leagues ahead of my other classmates. There’s no way that’s the case, but… Master Edana is not one to lie. But how could I be better than my classmates?
No matter, if Master Edana thinks I’m doing well, then I’m doing well.
Dear Journal,
I’ve mentioned that the scariest of the war magic exercises is when I duel my master. Today, I sparred with several observers from the Red Order who were sent to test my skills. It was at first a pretty scary experience, but I think I did alright against them. I made a few mistakes, but Master Edana seemed very proud.
Um, so, there are several Mage Orders in the Human Kingdoms. From what I can tell, they have varying levels of independence. Some like Edana’s White Order, stand resolutely above the affairs of the human kingdoms and only intervene to assist against natural disasters, large-scale bandit raids, or crises that affect the entire Human Kingdoms. They also guard the Temple of Heroes, that summoned us to this world.
Then there are the mage orders tied to specific kingdoms. The purple-robed mages I saw at the Battle of Vertingen are the Purple Order, funded directly by the Kingdom of Lapanteria. The Kingdom of Erisdale, where Salpheron is, has the Red Order. The Kingdom of Roranoak, to our far west, has the Yellow Robes.
There are then even smaller mage orders, but those seem to have limited influence on state affairs.
I’m also beginning to realize why Prince Sebastian, Baroness Morgan and the Lapanterians, were so frightened of Master Edana.
Compared to Master Edana, the Red Order mages seemed… slower. I didn’t figure out why until I sat down to write in you, Journal, but Master Edana is not only a powerful mage, she’s incredibly skilled.
She can evoke magic quickly and she’s frightfully intelligent in how she uses her spells. She chains notes and motifs together to form combinations of spells that summon fireballs that blindside you, shift the ground from under you to trap your feet, all while she sets your clothes on fire.
If she hadn’t made sure to cast so many shield spells on me that we’d take half an hour to prepare before starting a spar, I’d run away a long time ago. As it is… my hair has been smelling very sooty of late.
The odd thing is that I find this fun. I am learning so much about how magic can be used and sparring with Master Edana… is private, something only she and I can do. I kind of like that. And most of all, I’m glad I made her proud.
A month later...
Dear Journal,
I don’t have much time, but I’m finally being sent on a mission. Edana was reluctant, but she told me that she needs to send a mage to support the defence of Leipmont and since I knew the woods, I should go.
She also mentioned to me that the Red Order mages were very impressed with my progress. They’ve deemed me ready and that she agreed with them.
That surprised me. I thought I had just done well. I mean… I think I just did well, but then again, I know I have problems feeling happy with myself. Edana’s probably right and I just underestimated myself. It’s… really hard to believe, though. And since this is actually the first mission that I’ve been properly asked to go on. I can only wonder how it will go.
Dear Journal,
My station for the next month is Fort Dalian at the Westfall Pass. I’m here mostly to help strengthen the fort’s defences, mostly by moving earth and tree trunks with my magic. However, they expect an attack from the Alavari.
From what I’ve heard, my classmates have been deployed to other fronts to press the limited advantage the victory at Vertingen gave the humans.
I only hope I do as well as them.
Dear Journal,
We were attacked today. Thanks to the palisades and ditches I help make, we blunted it, barely.
There were so many. Orcs, trolls, ogres and goblins. They all kind of blurred together as we fought to keep them off the walls. I…
I did my part. I had to. They were trying to kill me. They could have killed me. I… cast so many spells.
Frances put down her quill and slammed her journal shut. With trembling hands, she threw her journal aside and pulled the blanket over herself.
Outside, she could hear the watch sentries for their convoy muttering. They were all heading back to Erisdale.
Frances hoped they could go back faster. She didn’t know how to talk about what she felt, about the new faces that woke her up at night.
If you like this serial don't forget to hit that upvote button, subscribe by leaving a comment in the Writers Butler Bot below, or join Redditserials Discord server and type ?rank A Fractured Song into the #welcome and roles channel. I hang there fairly frequently so feel free to ping me there. Or ask any questions you have down below.
Author's Note: Woooot people liked the last chapter and I loved the responses as it gave me more ideas for the arcs I already planned, allowing me to make them even better. You all had very insightful comments! As for the upcoming arcs...well the arc that I thought up after reading the chapter comments involves politics and intrigue.
Regarding Frances's journal entries and how the battle at Fort Dalian was just mentioned, in this case, I felt I had to skip Fort Dalian a bit because... the big change/development is coming in the next update which I've titled, "War Stories" where Edana and Frances have a heart to heart about... "War Stories." I'll let you imagine things.
Question of the update: favourite music/musicians? Frances likes singing obviously, and while I need to work on fleshing out the Erisdalian and Durannon musical background, if I could make a quick guess... Frances would love acapella and musicals like Wicked. Edana for her part would find rock and pop music fascinating and probably be a fan of Lady Gaga and Queen.
submitted by vren55 to redditserials

[A Fractured Song] - Chapter 29 - Fantasy, Isekai (Portal Fantasy), Adventure

Cover Art
Teaser: Frances finds a hut to sleep in an abandoned village. But she's not alone and at night, she's confronted with a fae-kin. But all is not quite what it seems.
Story Summary: After years of beatings and neglect from her parents, 13-year old Frances was summoned with her entire class to the fantastical world of Durannon to fight the monsters invading the human kingdoms and defeat the "Demon King." If she succeeds, she might have the home she never had. But if she can't overcome the trauma and self-loathing inflicted on her by her abusive parents, Frances will die, and be summoned back to the home she escaped, on the day that she left.
[The Beginning] [<=Chapter 28] [Chapter Index and Blurb] [Chapter 30=>]
[Current Map of Durannon]
As she left the cover of the trees, Frances realized that the village was deserted.
The thatched, or shingled roofs were holed. There were no sounds of children playing, or adults at work. The fields surrounding the village were overgrown and filled with weeds. The paths were choked with grass and wildflowers.
The smoke that Frances had seen was gone.
Frances blinked. She knew she had seen the smoke. Unless she had imagined the smoke?
Frances pinched herself, winced, rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand, and took another look. There was no smoke. She didn’t feel bad, though. What if the lack of food was causing hallucinations?
Frances, her stomach turning with unease, entered the village, a mere circle of one-room houses around what once was a shared paddock, and a hand pump. There was nobody there. From the dust in the houses and how parts of the roofs were falling in, it didn’t seem there had been people here in awhile.
Sighing, Frances started to explore the houses. Most were built from wood, but some were of wattle and daub construction. All of them were in various stages of rotting or falling apart. She quickly found two houses that seemed to be in the best shape and after checking the roof, went to forage some food and get a bucket of water.
Frances was so preoccupied with finding some food, tinder to cook it, and water that she could clean herself and drink, that she didn’t notice black eyes watching her from the distance.
“The village was abandoned after all?” Edana asked Igraine that night.
“Yup,” said the ranger as she hoisted her bag of rations up the tree. This was in case any bears came snooping around in the night.
Edana frowned. “I swear I saw smoke.”
“Nah. Didn’t look like the village was disturbed. I would have liked to get closer, but it seemed as deserted as before,” Igraine said.
“Why was this village deserted by the way?”
“Too close to the border and too isolated. The village’s got good soil, but it was too far from any markets and roads to grow, and it’s too close to the border to risk developing it too much. The mountains protect the village, but monsters can still find their way through the passes.”
“Ah, so you decided to leave it barren and hard to travel through rather than create another strategic weak point—” Edana yawned and pinched her nose. “Sorry Igraine, I’m going to have to call it a night and turn off my scrying spell. I’ll talk to you tomorrow morning.”
Igraine grunted, but in a warm tone said, “Good night, Edana.”
Sleep had claimed Frances quickly. She was exhausted from the walk, the tree climb and foraging. Thankfully, the house she found had the remains of a wooden pallet that she stacked some wild hay and grasses on. Frances knew it would stain her dress, but after days of sleeping without a blanket on the cold ground, she needed some small comfort.
The door to the house that she found didn’t have a lock and its doorknob had broken, but she’d managed to stick a rock in the jamb to hold it shut.
It was the sound of the rock scraping across the hut’s packed earth floor that woke her. Blinking, she could only see the last embers of the fire she’d made in the house’s central firepit, but before she could light the room with her magic, she heard footsteps slap against the ground.
“Pardon the intrusion, miss, but would you mind staying where you are and not doing something silly?” asked a cultured voice, with a strangely gravelly texture.
There was also an implicit threat to those words.
Vainly blinking sleep from her eyes, Frances raised her hands into the air, palms open, and sat up.
She froze. From the flickering torch the stranger held, she could tell that he was slightly taller than her, was fairly broad-shouldered and wide-waisted. If his voice and figure were anything to go by, he was a man, but there was something Frances noticed that made her freeze, well several things.
First, the stranger had a tail similar in shape to that of a lion. Next, while his tanned skin looked quite human, he had eyes with coal-black sclera. Also, she suddenly realized that he had six fingers for his hand and pointed ears.
He, or she, was not human.
But neither could Frances tell if he was a troll or ogre. Trolls had four-fingered hands and feet, but ogres had six fingers. Trolls did have pointed ears, but ogres were the ones with black eyes.
“Are you… an Alavari?” Frances asked in a quiet voice. If she remembered from Edana’s lectures on the fae-kin, or monsters, they preferred the term “Alavari” because it was the one they chose to refer to themselves. That or they liked to be referred to by their species name. Since she had no idea what species he was, she was using Alavari.
“I am not just any Alavari,” the stranger grinned and to Frances’s exhausted astonishment, he posed. One muscle arm was flexed, the other torch-bearing on was in the air.
“I am Timur Greyhammer! Prince of the Alavari! Gaze upon my greatness!”
Frances screwed her eyes shut, wiped them with the back of her hand, and opened them again.
Timur was still posing.
“Are you not impressed?” he asked, grinning widely.
Broken sentences ran through Frances’s mind as she tried to form words she hadn’t used in several days. It didn’t help that while she was trying to figure out what to say, her eyes kept taking in little bits of detail, such as Timur’s clothing. He was wearing what would have been a good quality cotton tunic and trousers if they weren’t so worn out and frayed at the ends. There was also a dagger in a fine leather belt, along with a chipped but polished war axe. A velvet jacket with some frayed edges was draped over his shoulders and loosely tied around his neck.
“I think you look alright,” Frances said as honestly as she could.
Thankfully, it seemed the right thing to say because Timur relaxed his pose. “Why thank you. I must say, I am quite surprised by your calm demeanour. Most humans would run away screaming from an Alavari, or call them monsters.”
Frances swallowed, hard and stayed silent. Timur couldn’t know that she was an Otherworlder and she could not let him find out. Prince or not, that fact was too dangerous for him to know.
“What is a young girl like yourself doing in the middle of nowhere?” Timur asked, his voice casual in tone.
“I was doing wilderness survival training. My mentors deposited me here and are letting me navigate myself back to civilization,” Frances said. She knew the best lies had an element of the truth. She just needed to recall what Igraine told her.
“Aren’t you only thirteen?” Timur asked.
“I think twelve it is the typical age to begin training to become a ranger,” Frances said, remembering one of Igraine’s offhand comments.
Timur pursed his lips. “Huh. Well, that explains your condition.” The Alavari narrowed his eyes slightly. “You saw the smoke and came here didn’t you?”
Frances nodded, realizing she hadn’t been seeing things.
Timur sighed. “Well that was mine, and when you get back to civilization, can I have your promise that you won’t tell anybody I am here?”
Her immediate impulse drove Frances to say yes, but her instincts were telling her something was rather odd about this.
“I can do that, Timur, but may I ask a few questions of my own?”
The shoulders of the Alavari relaxed and he smiled. “I think it is only fair. Please, go ahead.”
Frances swallowed and brought the beginnings of a spell to the forefront of her mind. She did not know how Timur would react to this.
“If you are truly a prince, and don’t want to be discovered, why don’t you just kill me?
As she expected, Timur’s entire demeanour shifted. What she didn’t expect was for his eyes to widen and for him to take a step back.
“You are not just a common human girl are you?” Timur asked in a somewhat awed voice that was taut with suspicion.
Frances shook her head, feeling somewhat sad at that. She was still scared of what Timur might do,—he was armed after all—but after what her parents had done to her, and Vertingen, she found it quite easy to stay calm.
“Well, I suppose it’d do no harm to tell you.” Timur dipped his torch into the firepit, lighting the wood remnants, and took a spot against the wall. The Alavari took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh.
“In truth, strange maiden, I do not have long to live and I would rather spend my remaining time peacefully.”
Frances’s eyes widened, but she stayed silent. There was long-buried anguish and resigned despair in Timur’s gravelly voice. It was in his posture and how his head seemed to sink into his shoulders. He disguised it well with his casual attitude and loose way of speaking, but it was there. If she hadn’t had so much experience hiding her own trauma, she might not have recognized it. He was telling the truth.
“Are you not going to ask more questions?” Timur asked, glancing at Frances.
He didn’t look that big, or dangerous when he sat down. Rather, Timur looked vulnerable.
Frances couldn’t help it, her heart ached for the fae, who… if he was telling the truth about that too, and she was beginning to suspect he was.
“Would you like me to? Or would you prefer not to say more?” she asked, quietly.
Timur looked at her. His eyes wide, and while it was hard to read because of his black sclera, Frances knew he was caught off guard.
“You are a very curious human, miss?”
Frances breathed out. “Frances. Just Frances. And you should know, I am perhaps not the best person for you to tell me things.”
“I am going to die soon, what’s the difference?” Timur replied pointedly.
“I’m an Otherworlder mage, Your Highness,” Frances said. For good measure, she raised her hand and hummed. Some of the wood Frances had piled up close to the firepit levitated into the pit, making the fire spark and pop.
Timur flinched, but aside from that, all he did was blink at her, his expression switching from confused to awe, and back to confusion. His tail flicking left and right as his emotions see-sawed.
“I imagined your kind would be scarier.”
Her? Scary? A sad giggle escaped from the hand that Frances clamped over her mouth. When she got herself under control, she said, “I thought the son of the “Demon King” would be scarier.”
Timur snorted and shook his head, but he was clearly trying not to laugh, and from what Frances could see, pain.
“My father is terrifying, but no. I have half-brothers and half-sisters who are folk I imagine even humans would find to be excellent company.” Timur, still smiling, sighed. “I imagine you’re curious as to why I’m dying?”
Frances was, but she could see and hear so much hurt that she hesitated.
“I am, Timur, but you don’t have to tell me.” She paused. She had an idea, but Frances wasn’t sure if it was a good one.
Trust your instincts.
“If you do tell me, I can see what I can do to help,” Frances said.
Timur started at Frances and a slight sneer twisted his features, “You do realize I am a monster? I could be buttering you up and waiting for the best moment to slay you.”
“I remember you said you didn’t want to kill me. And besides—” Frances remembered the aching bruises on her arms, hearing worthless waste-of-space in her ears “—humans can be just as terrible monsters.”
Timur blinked at that and he looked thoughtful, and more than a little suspicious. Yet, a resigned look came over his features and he sighed.
“I made a mistake, a big one, and as punishment, my father cursed me.”
Frances’s eyes widened, but she held back her questions. Timur watched her, silent. Slowly as if waiting for her to interrupt, he continued.
“So I am a half-ogre, half-troll—a trogre. I have an ogre’s magic and a troll’s affinity with the earth. My father sent me to assist General Berengia at the Fourth Battle of Vertingen. Um, it’s…”
“I am familiar with Vertingen,” Frances said. She swallowed. “I was there as a medic.”
“Ah, well then you know that Edana Firehand appeared out of nowhere and burned our reinforcements.” Timur grimaced. “What you don’t know was that General Berengia and several senior commanders of our forces also got wounded in the battle. Command fell to me, and I decided to retreat instead of pressing the attack. I didn’t realize that the Kingdom of Lapanteria had taken so many casualties, or that the Firehand was wounded. If I attacked that night… I would have killed the Firehand. Instead, I withdrew my army that night and missed the opportunity.”
Frances did her best not to shake at Timur’s revelation and just managed to by clasping her hands together. Timur had wanted to kill her mentor. If he’d made a different decision that night, he might have succeeded and killed her as well.
“My father rightfully chastised me for my cowardice, and his justice was to cast a curse on me.” Timur pushed up the sleeve of his shirt and Frances could see a red mark glowing in a way that reminded her of dried blood. “The curse drains one’s magic, slowly, until they die. The only way to break this curse is if I kill Edana Firehand, or maybe have it broken by some mage. He forbade me from asking anybody from Alavaria, or using any resources from Alavaria to achieve this task.”
Timur sighed. “So… I came here, ostensibly to go on a suicide mission to kill Edana or force a human mage to break the curse. But honestly... I’m just here to find some peace.”
Frances swallowed. There were so many questions and thoughts that were running through her head. Because Timur had failed, she’d succeeded. And yet, because of that, his father had cursed him. She couldn’t stop mulling on the coincidence.
Seeing that the ogre-troll wasn’t saying anything, Frances decided to give voice to the biggest of the questions she had.
“Timur… why do you say your father is right to curse you?”
“I made a major error in judgement. I cost my kingdom a victory. Of course, I should be punished,” Timur said.
Frances felt her heart sink and old anger burn anew. She knew Timur was wrong about his father. She also knew that if Timur was telling the truth, then she knew what King Thorgoth was. She’d seen it—no, she still felt its effects even now.
“I… I don’t know the Alavari well, Timur. But… I do not think that kind of punishment is common.” Timur’s eyes narrowed, but Frances forged on. “I learnt in my studies that there are the Black and White Courts that can judge you. I also learnt that Alavari parents treat their children not too differently from human parents.”
“Are you implying my father’s judgement is wrong?” Timur hissed.
Frances felt the fear return. The ogre-troll was glaring at her now, his fists balled.
“What do you know about Alavari, Frances? You are not even from this world. Are you not an interloper? A stranger?” Timur demanded.
“I am, but…Well, it’s just that from what you told me… your own father gave you a death sentence,” Frances said.
Timur flinched at that. “He is my father. He knows what is right and just. He must have had his reasons. Hell, maybe he knows I can kill Edana Firehand.”
However, the Alavari’s hesitation was clear, and Frances seized on that to continue. She had a pretty good idea of the self-denial he was gripped in, and how dangerous it was. Frances knew she had to approach the topic delicately, but she had to tell Timur, much as Edana had done in what seemed like so long ago.
“I think you know it’s not possible, Timur, and I think you know that. It’s why you haven’t tried to do so,” Frances said.
“And that’s my fault alright! Not my father’s!” Timur retorted, jumping to his feet. He stormed towards her, and she sat, frozen. His eyes were narrowed and jaw clenched.
And yet, Frances wasn’t afraid because she was sure that his anger was not from rage, but from anguish.
“Who the hell are you to insult him! He is a great king and has led our kingdom for many years and he’s continuing to lead us through this war! You haven’t even met him!” Timur hissed. “By Galena, you were summoned to kill him! You have no love for him.”
“No. I don’t know him. But… Timur, I…” Frances winced as the painful memories of only a year ago resurfaced in her mind’s eye. “I just thought this sounded similar to what my mother and step-father would do.”
Timur blinked and his anger faded to confusion. His ears were stiff as if he’d picked up the hurt in her voice. “What did your parents do?”
“Hit me. Daily. Starve me, and tell me all the while that I deserved it because I was a worthless waste-of-space and that I deserved it all.” Frances had to catch her breath and try to steel herself to continue. She didn’t notice Timur’s eyes widen and his shoulders sag.
“You’re right. I don’t know King Thorgoth. I may have this all wrong, but I… I still care about my mother even now. I’m angry at her… furious even, but I still care about her. That’s what she did to me,” Frances confessed, her eyes moistening.
The Alavari slowly sat down next to Frances’s pallet. For a long moment, he didn’t even meet her gaze.
When he did, his eyes were filled with remorse and an indecisive hesitation. Frances was pretty sure that Timur wasn’t completely convinced by her, but he was thinking.
“I’m sorry for my outburst. I… I see where you are coming from now.” Timurproduced a worn but clean handkerchief from a pocket and gave it to Frances. She accepted it with a soft “thanks” and used it to wipe her eyes.
“How did you survive? How are you doing now?” Timur asked.
“I… I don’t know how I survived. If the Temple of Heroes didn’t summon me, I don’t think I would have for much longer. As for now, my mentor E—she takes care of me now.” Frances managed a weak smile. “Thanks for asking.”
Timur shrugged casually, and when Frances was finished wiping her eyes, he accepted the handkerchief back. His eyes downcast, and averted away from her, he looked to be deep in thought.
“You think my father is doing something similar?” he asked, slowly.
“I think so, but again… I don’t know him,” Frances said.
“He… he is terrifying, and my brothers and sisters are all scared of him. But he doesn’t just punish us or others for no reason, at least… that’s what I’ve always thought. Not that it matters. I don’t have long anyway,” Timur said.
Frances turned to face Timur, her eyes on his left shoulder, where the curse mark was. “May I have a look at the mark?”
Timur rolled up his sleeve and Frances leaned in to look. The mark would have looked like a very oddly shaped tattoo, but for the fact that it glowed a bloody red.
Edana had taught her only a little about curses and curse marks so she didn’t recognize this one. She’d been more focused on magical contracts and enchantments. Grimacing, Frances sat back down, thinking.
“Timur, I don’t think I can remove the curse, but I have an idea.” She stood up, clasping her hands behind her back. “You said the curse drains your magic and will until you kill Edana, but your father didn’t say you can’t return to Alavaria right?”
“No. He just forbade me from asking any Alavari to help me with the curse,” Timur said slowly. “What are you suggesting?”
“I could cast a second spell that provides you with a stream of my magic to counteract the effects of the curse. It would have to be a magical contract, but my Master has been teaching me those. We just need some tree bark to write the terms.”
“I have paper and we could use charcoal—” Timur stood up shaking his head. “Wait hold on. Frances, why would you do this for me? I am the son of the king you are sworn to kill. You know I will defend my father.”
“Well... I have two conditions for this.” Frances swallowed at how Timur seemed to brace himself. “I will give you some of my magic, but you cannot force another human magician to break your curse. They can of course agree to do so. I also need you to look at your father and think about if he’s really a just and kind ruler, and if he does try to hurt you, I want you to protect yourself.”
“That…” Timur’s tail flicked back and forth and his gaze grew distant, before suddenly sharpening with disbelief. “Wait, is that all?”
“Um, yeah.” Frances averted her gaze. “Do you have conditions?”
Timur shook his head. “No! I think that is more than reasonable. But still… Why are you helping me, Frances?”
“Because you need help,” Frances said, echoing familiar words that Edana had told her what seemed like an eternity ago.
Timur looked profoundly surprised by this, and he stared at Frances for a long moment, before extending his hand.
“Thank you, Frances.”
Frances shook his hand, which due to the six fingers, was quite a bit larger than hers, and callused. It was warm though, like her own.
“You’re welcome. Let’s do this.”
Writing the contract (both copies for each person involved), re-reading it and finally casting it together took an entire night. It didn’t help that Timur used words of power to cast magic, while Frances invoked her magic through song. It took several tries, but when they were finished, the contract, written in both Common, and words of power (also known as “The Demon Tongue”) on the journal paper that Timur had brought with him, sparkled.
The effect was also immediate. Frances felt a slight tug on her magic that thankfully didn’t seem too severe. Timur stiffened as if he got jolted.
“I… I think that worked,” he gasped.
“Good.” Frances collapsed in her pallet and curled up on herself. “Feel free to… sleep.” She yawned.
“That… seems like a good idea,” said Timur, mirroring her yawn. He took a spot in the corner of the hut, leaving a respectful amount of space between him and Frances.
Before his eyes closed, however, he fixed Frances with a look of almost fervent gratefulness.
“Frances, thank you.”
“You’re… welcome,” Frances managed before her eyelids, heavy with sleep shut.
If you like this serial don't forget to hit that upvote button, subscribe by leaving a comment in the Writers Butler Bot below, or join Redditserials Discord server and type ?rank A Fractured Song into the #welcome and roles channel. I hang there fairly frequently so feel free to ping me there. Or ask any questions you have down below.
Author's Note: I am so glad that everybody seems to have liked the last chapter... but um... this particular chapter is perhaps one of the chapters I'm most unsure about. It's a critical chapter in the story that came about through... well it was planned, but the way I wrote it was like I was flying by the seat of my pants. To put it bluntly, readers for the questions of the day...
Do you actually like this chapter? It's rather intense and a lot of stuff happens in it. What are your thoughts on Timur and what Frances did?
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