Stroked, Sinned & Soaked

            The bards bathed back to back. Scrubbing firmly, and running fingers through wet hair. The two men were relaxed in the water. It was a mutual moment of tranquility, now that the old gaffer had stopped singing. Even the headache of his hangover seemed dull now, in the quiet water. Only the soft splashings of their bathing, the gentle waves against the old dock, and the pitter-patter of modest rain could be heard.

            "Eliash, we've got to purchase a canoe this afternoon."

            "We got more than enough tips last night, unless you spent all those crownlets on that--" the eunuch stopped himself, On that whore. How insensitive of me.

            "She chose not to monger herself to me," Johm answered solemnly. "Took to me like I was some kind of prize."

            "Mm-hmm," Eliash replied.

            "Shouldn't have, cousin. Naieyle's sword'd make me more fruitless than you, if she found out."

            Eliash laughed high and softly, I should be more consoling, not laughing at his petty jest.

            Johm faced the Slough Inlet, while Eliash looked out across the marshy river as he wrung his mop of dark brown hair. The rain fell harder, then, torrentially intense.

            Then, the eunuch saw a face emerge from the water. He swore, he recognized it. It was unmistakable, how she gasped for air. A gasp he had seen before. Does she intend to toy with his addled memory of last night?

            "Is something wrong, El?"

            He had always felt that Johm was the protector of their troupe. His cousin's shoulders were broader and he had grown taller in adolescence. And Eliash's magical talents had no use in combat. Johm had protected him in bar fights and lyrical squabbles. Now, though, it was his turn.

            Her arms pulled her closer to them with every stroke.

            "Time to show that old man. Sing the first three verses of the Lied Upon Thee ballad," Eliash instructed. "Don't use your falsetto, though, so as not to grate our senses."

            "All right," Johm answered, with a reluctant tone of interrogation. He cleared his throat.

            Rain fell all around them. The temperature was dropping.

            "Yoo-ou liii-ied upoo-on me-ee," he began, "And yoo-ou to-oold me-ee, Tha-at yo-oou lo-ove me-ee!"

            With his cousin distracted, the eunuch made firm eye contact with her as her face came up for breath. The sounds of her splashing were muffled by the downpour, and the singing.

            "Yeet, I he-eard it ii-in your voooiice," Johm continued, his voice rising in a crescendo, "Sa-aw ii-in your eyes, yoo-our choo-oice!"

            She stopped her breaststroke, and stood in the water a few feet away.

            A loon called out in the distance, and the rain kept falling without mercy.

            Eliash cocked his head to one side.

            "Yo-ou too-old me it was no-othing though I kne-eew you'd liii-iied upon me! Kne-eew you'd lied to-oo me!" Tears welled up in Johm's eyes, as he looked out at the empty beach-side houses. The rain washed them away.

            The eunuch drew his smile slyly up to one side, and pretended to be happy to see her. One shot at this.

            She walked towards them, slowly, the water up past her breasts. Her smile met his, and she moved her eyes to the naked back behind him.

            He shifted his stance, moving towards her, into deep water. Eliash had a diminutive height, thus only his head was above the water. Indeed, that is her.

            "Yo-ou thought I woo-oould noo-oot knoo-ooow," Johm was now singing in top volume, his deep voice thick with emotion.

            Eliash's fist arched out of the water, and slammed forcefully into the side of her head. His other hand was already covering her throat in case she screamed.

            She lost her balance and her consciousness, then fell up to the surface where she floated like a waterlogged tree.

            And as his cousin kept singing, the eunuch placed one foot against the edge of a rock, and then pushed off with it. In doing so, he pushed the floating body away, towards the shadows beneath the old dock. No more will you come between Johm and Naieyle!

            "Aaa-and now you woo-oonde-er why I'm go-g-g-g-gone."

            "Stop!" Eliash said as he dog-paddled around Johm's side. "You remembered the lyrics perfectly. And we wrote that how long ago?"

            "Two years ago," Johm answered. "Why the sudden nostalgia?"

            "I don't know," Eliash lied. "Boredom, I guess."

            And the wench of the slough floated calmly in the shadowy reeds below the old pier.


The End

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