Birds of a Feather III: A Song of Whispers
Swallowed by the silence of my confinement, my days consisted of the strange and steady rhythm of the coming and going of my new teacher. Not because Gael was tired of me coming home broken or wanted me to learn literacy, but because he knew there was a darkness inside of me he could wield as a weapon if only it could be tamed.
Every morning Constance would come, and every evening she would leave me at the hands of some third-grade medic patching me back up. Their work was nothing compared to how Gael had managed to stitch my wings back on some weeks before. But with my darkness discovered and Gael’s ambition to turn me into a weapon, the ability to stretch my wings and fly off if I wanted to, was enough for him to lock me up and leave me at the mercy of those amateurs.
Constance was a cruel teacher, despite being an absolute master in the art of fighting and weaponry—maybe even because of that. There was nothing she couldn’t turn into something deadly in her hands. But no matter how skilled she was, she sucked at being a teacher. She would beat me again and again, until I found a way to stay out of trouble: growing stronger, nimbler and more cunning every lesson.
She’d said someday I would beat—if not defeat her, and boy, do I tell you… I waited for that day a long, long time before that happened.
One day after training, I was left in my room inside the wall that surrounded The Keep of Whispers. I’d lived there for months, practicing, eating, sleeping… boring myself to near death. It was in the silence of this room, I learned why this keep was one of whispers.
At first, I thought it was because of the uncountable amount of shady deals exchanged like greetings on an old fashioned postcard. As I grew older, I thought it was because of the vast, white noise of whispers and murmurs that followed me through every
narrow corner of the maze-like city. But only when I was locked inside my room, with nothing or no one to speak with aside from Constance… only then, in the silent hours of the nights, did I learn about the whispers.
The Keep was cold, located on the most northern border of the continent. A place where ice grew in the night and settled in the morning, accumulating into a massive glacier over the centuries. Ice that spoke an ancient language—a language of whispers with echoes for answers. Every crack or creak turned into a song and every song turned into a whisper of peace. A sound of darkness. A darkness I recognized and reconciled with. An embrace of cold, bittersweet vibrations, as my ear rested against the window while I slept… waiting for the next morning, when Constance would wake me with a tray of modest breakfast and a note from Gael.
Good morning, Gideon.
I hope you slept well. I’m glad to hear Contance’s reports are promising. It appears you have surprised her with your ability to rebound, and it makes me proud.
Please understand that you are not here because I hate you. I put you in this room because you have turned out to be my greatest creation.
I hope someday, in better circumstances, I’ll get you to meet my daughter.
But all things aside… I cannot let you go for now. There is a potential in you that I simply cannot let fly.
Constance will look after you for a while—until you are ready.
We’ll see each other soon again.
Every morning he’d have written something similar. And every morning, Constance would say something about it. Something like, “The sooner you defeat me, the sooner you will see him again, maybe even meet Glasha. Be weary though. Knowing Gael, none of this is going to come for free.”
It took me a while before I started to understand what she meant. In fact, it took me until the very day I finally managed to riposte and stick my blade—Lizzy Bogden’s blade— straight into her back when Constance didn’t see it coming.
Her final words still echo in the songs of the ice: “It stirred deep in your bones, didn’t it? This feeling, chasing you like a ravenous cancer.” Her breaths grew more shallow with every word. Blood trickled from her mouth as she sank to the floor. “You’re a killer, Gideon. And Gael Griswold will sell you as one.”
Gael had given me Bogden’s blade as a reminder of that. And while I drew it from Constance’s back, fiddling it around my fingers until I swirled it with the perfection of a surgeon, Gael was already accepting a final offer on my price.
When Constance didn’t check in with Gael that day, the door to my room was opened with another key than the one hanging around her neck. In the shadow of the dark corridor behind him, Gael stood in the company of another man; a man as tall as a tree but as skinny as a rake. Around his belt hung a band of computer parts I recognized to be memory slots.
“Gideon,” Gael started, “I would like you to meet John Datchery.” He waved his hand at his companion with a smile. “He has been waiting for you for months. It pleases me to see you are finally ready.”
“What do you want?” I snarled like a wild child. My wings flapped as though making ready to shoot off. My fingers curled around the blade, knuckles turning white in my iron grasp.
“John wishes to offer you a job,” Gael answered, “and a roof over your head in return.”
“I already have one… of both.”
Gael chuckled modestly and nodded his head at John Datchery to assure him things were going to be alright. “He is going to offer you a job I cannot give you. Gideon, you have spent enough time in the junkyards… I would hate to see your talents wasted.”
I looked at my hands, still covered in Constance’s blood, trembling and shaking violently. Panic washed over me at the thought of being sold to do this for the rest of my life. But I forced my heart to stop hammering inside my chest, focussing on the song of the ice outside the window and feeling its cold tranquility fill the hollow of my heart.
John Datchery stepped forward. “Enough of this. Listen, boy. You are coming with me, my crew needs someone like you. Now, I paid a good amount of seeds and tech for you, so I am not asking for your agreement. I do, however, demand your compliance, understood?”
“What will you have me do?” I allowed the cold vibration of the ice to rush over me like a blanket. I allowed it to render me senseless, cool and calm, but tense like a crack in the surface, about to make its echo into the world.
“You will collect bounties. You will collect depths. You will protect me and my crew from prying outsiders. You, my boy—will be my henchman.”