The Water Bell

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The Water Bell FinalThe royal city was known throughout the kingdom because it was home to a most famous—and most infamous object—a cursed bell.  The Water Bell, some called it, for legends say its sound was like the trickling of a fountain.  Chime, some called it, for an object so lovely and intriguing must have a name.  The Bell had been cursed for generations, but when it first was forged, it was made as a blessing. 

A man named Epifanio was king in those times. His court magician was a noble sorceress by the name of Delfina.  She traveled far and wide to learn the magics of many lands.  And after one such journey, she set to work and crafted a fine silver bell for the city, and being a sorceress, she cast a spell upon the bell.

“Any who hears the sound of this bell must tell the truth,” she told the king.  “For one day and one night, only the truth.”

The Bell was meant to illuminate the truth, no matter how bitter, painful or horrible that truth may be, for as long as the song of the bell sounded within the hearer’s mind.

The court rejoiced.  Delfina had given them the means to govern the kingdom with justice.  In those times, grievances among the people would be heard directly by the king.  The bell was rung before each trial, in the presence of all—no one who spoke could speak a lie.  Crime in the kingdom all but vanished.  A golden age descended upon the people and all praised the name of the sorceress who had brought them peace.

But every good thing comes to an end.  It so happened that the king was caught in an adulterous affair. The witness was a castle servant.  The High Council was willing to dismiss the accusation without trial, for the king denied it, the queen was with child, and the woman whom the king supposedly had a dalliance with could not be found.  But Delfina insisted that the Council question the king in the presence of the Bell.  The king refused.  The story had reached the people, however, and they were eager to see their king face the Bell.  For it seemed to the people that their king was hiding from the truth.  Still the king refused, insisting that his word was beyond reproach because he was king.  But rumors of cowardice spread and soon reached the ears of the Council.

Put before the trial of the Bell, the king failed.  Epifanio might have been forgiven his indiscretion by the people, and perhaps even by his queen, but his lies marked him as unworthy.  He was forced to step down as king.  As his last act, he did what he had never done in his entire reign.  He sentenced the sorceress Delfina to be put to death for conspiring towards the downfall of the king.  An ancient law decreed that a monarch’s last request upon leaving the throne must always be honored.  The High Council had no choice but to oblige.

A chopping block was found in the deeper dungeons of the castle.  Many gathered in the city square to watch, horrified but fascinated as well.  For Epifanio’s reign had been a peaceful and gentle one.  As Delfina was dragged to the chopping block she turned to the king and uttered a curse.

“You shine brightest among your people, Epifanio, but your voice shall be the smallest, for all who hear the sound of this bell henceforth will no longer just speak only the truth, but will hear only the truth until death.”

The people’s reaction to Delfina’s execution was unexpected.  Remorse befell them for the sorceress had been beloved.  Epifanio disappeared.  He was never again seen in the kingdom.

The queen ruled henceforth.  She took no other husband, but bore her child, a daughter in due time. And she made every attempt to do away with the cursed Bell.  But it could not be melted, crushed, or rent apart.  Finally, the queen ordered the bell to be wrapped in cloth and locked away.  It was never to be used.

But there soon came a monarch who was curious and far enough removed from the time of the curse to feel no danger from the Bell.  A queen named Filucia, whose mind was as bright and shining as her golden hair and her golden face.  She ordered the Bell unpacked, for she had a notion that even cursed as it was, the Bell could be used to return truth and justice to the kingdom.

She asked for volunteers among her councilors and courtiers.  The Bell would be rung in the presence of the volunteers, who from that moment would speak and hear only the truth.  When lies were spoken in the presence of those who had heard the cursed Bell, they heard nothing at all.  Filucia established an order to train the bell-hearers to hear trials, question witnesses, and those accused.  Those in the order came to be known as the Bell Judges, or the Auricles.  And the queen declared that there must always be several bell-hearers.

“The burden of truth cannot be borne by just one,” she said.

The kingdom became much as it once was with the presence of the Auricles.  Queen Filucia’s reign was prosperous and peaceful.  The years passed, generations came and went.  The Auricles, realizing how vital they were in keeping the city safe and peaceful began demanding more pay and privileges.  For they sacrificed much.  Auricles rarely married and even more rarely had children.  Not all lies are evils.  Some are told out of kindness and mercy.  But an Auricle could no sooner tell a merciful lie than a hateful one.  And such relentless truth made it difficult for them to maintain friendship and family.

The royal treasury suffered for their demands.  And the High Council saw no need for so many Bell Judges.  So it came to pass that Filucia’s law was revoked.  The kingdom would only have one Auricle at a time.  As only the Auricle could hear the sound of the Bell, each one was tested to assure that he or she had not merely pretended to ring the Bell.  Each listened to testimony from those whom the royal court knew to be lying or telling the truth.  The Bell Judge was blindfolded and made to listen only and judge truth from lies.  And so became the new way of justice in the kingdom.

Kings and queens ruled and died.  They prospered or failed.  But always the Bell was there, and always the Auricle.  And because each Auricle was required to speak only the truth, the integrity of the Auricle became even more respected by the people than that of their monarchs.

Then came the time of the Auricle named Rylan.  For five years he had served a king and queen that were well-loved by their people, though they were not so terribly capable of ruling.  In truth, they were best at parading before the people in their beautiful silks and colors.  And they sincerely loved their people.  Once more, the name and face of the Auricle was overshadowed by that of the monarchs.

Rylan did not mind.  His passion for justice had compelled him to strive for the position that personified justice—that of the Auricle.  And all was well, for a time.

*****

One morning, Rylan woke to the sound of a strange deep humming.  He heard it as he readied himself for the work of the day.  He heard it when he made his way to the castle.  And though it was overwhelmed by the sounds of the people in the square, he felt it in his skull.  There was something strange about the city square as well.  It was always abuzz with rumor, but there was an edge of unease to that morning’s gossip.  There were whispers and mumbling where there should have been shameless shouting and raucous laughter.  When people saw him walk through the square, he received nods of what seemed relief.  A castle guard saw him approach and escorted him through the crowd into the castle.  As he stepped into the throne room, a palace official greeted him grimly, and he was told the news.

The king and queen were dead.

The castle guards kept the people in the square from entering the castle.  And when Rylan walked past the throne room and into the next part of the castle, he saw why.  The circular chamber beyond was a wide open space and in its center was a pedestal on which rested a glass case, which contained the Water Bell.  Or so it should have been.  The Bell was not there.  And as he was rushed past the chamber, Rylan was told the news.

The Water Bell was stolen.

Neither deed could be done.  It was impossible.  The king and queen were so well-loved and well-guarded.  The Water Bell was on display always in the central chamber, visible to all who passed.  There were seven guards that surrounded the glass case in which the Bell was housed.  They had irregular shifts.  They were trained in special practices of observation and even practices of spells and enchantments.  Always the Bell was watched, so that no one could take it without being seen.

Rylan caught a glimpse of the Royal Cleric, who was directing his accolytes to examine the chamber.  As he passed the Bell chamber, Rylan noted that the Bell Guards were gone.  Castle guards stood in their places.

Rylan questioned the seven guards of the Bell chamber, finding nothing of use in their statements.  All as one had a hazy memory of the last hour.  They remembered the chiming of the tower bell that marked the sixth hour of the morning.  It was now the eighth hour and so the crime was still fresh.

He was next led to the royal bedchamber, which was crowded with other officials and royal guards.  His superior, the High Judge, led him to the royal bed.  The royal couple was still lying on it.  Someone had laid a sheet over their bodies.  There was no blood anywhere in the room.  No signs of struggle or skirmish.  Nothing looked amiss.  And yet, one of the clerics declared to him that the king and queen had been murdered.  The cleric pulled back the sheet of the royal bed.

Rylan recoiled.  The king and queen lay there afflicted.  Their hair had turned white.  Their eyes had turned white.  Their tongues had swollen past their lips, which were a sickly blue.  It was highly unlikely that the merry king and queen had afflicted themselves so.  And yet, without proof it was decided that the people would be told that the monarchs had died in their sleep, so devoted to each other, that they went into death together.  The people, in their grief, in their shock, may believe such words, for such words would offer much-needed comfort.

But news had already left the castle, it seemed.  The rumor had already spread from the servants who had found the monarchs and the guards to whom they had reported it, to those outside of the castle.

Rylan next questioned the servants and castle guards who had been in the castle.  The clerics, who were masters of chemicals, consulted their books and their powders and potions, for clues to the poison that was used.  And the High Judge drafted a list of names and instructed the royal guards to quietly begin gathering those who were suspected of the crimes.

The high council convened a meeting at which the Prime Legate would be declared the Royal Regent.  The king and queen had no children.  And the Regent would have to rule until their closest heir could be found and brought to the capitol.  He would decide what was to be done to hunt down the regicide and the thief.  For all were certain the two crimes were linked.  The day passed and Rylan did his work of listening and sifting the truth out of the words of the dozens upon dozens brought before him.  He was able to absolve all whom he questioned that day.  All the councilors and courtiers were asked to remain at the castle, both for their service and for their truth.  For they would be questioned on the morrow.  Night fell and at last Rylan retired to the chambers that were always kept for the Auricle.

***

When Rylan entered the chamber, he was exhausted and still too shocked to feel the grief of losing the king and queen he loved, the ones who had raised him to his position, who had had faith in him, and pity for his sacrifice.  Lost in the midst of such thoughts and dizzied by the return of the strange humming sound in the quiet of the chamber, it took him a moment to realize that the dark shadow before the window was a person.  Startled, he froze mid-stride.  But he recovered enough of his wits to place himself on his guard and command the figure to reveal itself.

The figure stepped forward and pulled back his hood.  He waved a hand across the chamber and flames sprung from every candle.  It was a young man with golden hair and bright eyes.  He gave the Auricle his name and trade.  He was a sorcerer named Crevan.  He declared that he was not there to harm Rylan.

Rylan heard that the young sorcerer’s words were true.  But the Auricle had learned to note when people bent the truth around his power to hear it.  The sorcerer had said he was not there to harm Rylan.  But he did not say he wouldn’t do so if he needed to.

The young sorcerer said he had not harmed the monarchs nor had he stolen the Bell, though he feared that he was the reason for both crimes.  He thought he knew who might have done them.  And he believed it all began three days past, when he arrived in the capitol, entered the castle, and requested a royal audience.

Rylan heard every word and so they were true, at least as far as the sorcerer believed.  But he kept up his guard as he listened.  The young sorcerer, his uninvited guest, continued.

The royal court had not seen a court magician for a generation or two.  Crevan declared that he sought to be the court magician and requested a private audience with the king and queen.  He was granted his request.  And so too in the audience were the High Judge, the Royal Lender, the Royal Cleric, and the Prime Legate.  When all others departed the throne room, the young sorcerer revealed that he had another purpose in seeking the royal audience.  That other purpose was the Bell.

“The tales you know of your Bell of truth are filled with many a lie,” he said.  He had spoken the same words to the queen and king.

He told them he had uncovered a rare text written by one who had witnessed the execution of the sorceress Delfina.  The same sorceress who was reputed to have crafted the Bell.  The text revealed that the legend of the Bell that was told in the capitol, in the whole kingdom, was incomplete.  The author wrote of what happened after the sorceress uttered the curse.  The blade of the chopping block separated her head from her body.  And so should her spirit have been cleaved from its mortal cage, free to travel to the Shades and whatever worlds were beyond.  Instead, her spirit became trapped.  All saw her ghost with their mortal eyes. All saw it become bound to the Bell.  The Bell resounded then and made her curse come true.  For all those who stood in the square that morning, to watch her take her last breath, had told their last lies.  The histories did not tell of it, but that generation lived truthfully.  They struggled and suffered, for living truthfully sounds noble, but people are not ready to live truthfully.  The queen did try to destroy the Bell.  And when she failed, she had it locked away.  And it took another two generations for a monarch to think about using the Bell again.

Crevan sought and studied as much as he could of the knowledge of the Bell.  And he discovered that the sorceress’s spirit could be freed if the Water Bell was submerged in the Spirit Well.  The sorcerer saw that Rylan was skeptical, for the Spirit Well was believed to be a legend in the kingdom.  But he reminded the Auricle that in some faraway lands, the Water Bell was as much of a legend.  He spent years searching for the Well, learning how to reach it.  And he finally succeeded.  The Spirit Well was on the border to the underworld, the Shore of the Shades.  Crevan had been there and had seen it.

At last, the young sorcerer traveled to the capitol seeking the Bell, seeking to free the spirit of the sorceress and thereby break her curse as well.

When Crevan had finished his tale for the king and queen, the chamber broke into uproar.  The High Judge and the Prime Legate opposed the taking of the kingdom’s most precious relic.  The Royal Lender believed it was a ruse and that the young sorcerer meant to rob them of their greatest treasure.  The Royal Cleric did not cry out in outrage like the others, but spoke in calm words meant to convince Crevan that his request was unreasonable.  The king and queen silenced their councilors and asked to see the rare text that the sorcerer had found.  Crevan placed it in the hands of the queen.  She asked him to remain in the capitol until she and the king and the High Council could properly consider his request.

In the days that passed, the young sorcerer had been threatened with poison, but he had managed to avoid it.  But he feared that the same person who tried to kill him had succeeded in killing the king and queen and taking the Bell.

The Auricle listened and marveled at the story, but he was puzzled as to why the king and queen had not summoned him right away.

“Fear of the truth,” the sorcerer said.

Even if his words were supreme and undeniable truth, it was still much to ask.  If they let Crevan have the Bell, they would risk it being lost to the kingdom.  Either stolen on its way to the Spirit Well, or drowned in the well itself.  Or destroyed by the touch of the underworld.  And so they did not summon Rylan, for the truth would not matter if the royal decision about the Bell’s fate was to keep it safe in the castle as it had been for many generations.

The young sorcerer spoke the truth as he knew it, but his story was so fantastic, that Rylan was still hard-pressed to believe it.  It was a strange feeling, disbelief in another’s words.  Rylan had not experienced the like in a long while.  Nor had he experienced curiosity.  For he wondered aloud what stake this young sorcerer had in the Water Bell’s fate, and why he should seek to break the Bell’s curse and free the trapped spirit within.

At this, Crevan’s face filled with regret.  He admitted that he was descended from the disgraced noble family that had once ruled the kingdom and had betrayed it.  He was descended from the old king, Epifanio.  Crevan sought to redeem his family’s good name and be welcomed back home, back from the exile into which his unworthy ancestor had fled.  At first, he sought only to break the curse, but when he discovered that the spirit of the sorceress had been trapped in the Bell, he felt compelled that he should be the one to free her.

Rylan urged the young sorcerer to come with him, to seek audience with the High Judge.  For she could not doubt the Auricle’s word.  But Crevan resisted.  Only a few knew of his audience with the king and queen.  The High Judge was one of those few and he believed she could well be the murderer.  Like the others, she had the reason and the means to do the evil deeds that were done.

For the king and queen did not dismiss Crevan outright.  They might have granted his request.  The kingdom might have lost the Bell, and such a loss would be a blow to all those high councilors.  The Cleric would lose a relic of worship.  The Lender would lose a treasure against which the kingdom could borrow great wealth.  The High Judge would lose the power to make Auricles.  And the Legate, who was now Royal Regent, had nothing to lose and all to gain with the heirless monarchs gone.

Crevan was convinced that one of them was guilty.  And that the only way to bring them to justice was to find the Bell.  For that, he needed Rylan’s help.  Rylan was bound to the Bell.  He had heard the Bell sound.  And to his ears, it would never stop sounding.  The curse made it so.  Rylan heard the Bell once, but its enchantment would endure for his lifetime.  He alone could follow the sound to where the Bell was now kept.

Rylan wondered about the strange humming he heard.  Crevan could not say if that was the Bell.  But he had a plan that he hoped would lead them to it quickly.  The young sorcerer pulled a scroll from his coat, and as he pulled it, the scroll seemed to grow longer and longer until it was taller than Crevan.  Crevan unrolled it upon the floor of Rylan’s chamber.  It was a map.  The sorcerer produced a rod that he said was used for dowsing, for finding hidden things, particularly things that were linked to the element of water.  Crevan had used the rod and many an ancient spell and rare object to find the Spirit Well.  He believed that Rylan could use the rod to find the Water Bell with no need for spells or incantations, because of his link to the Bell.  And so the Auricle did what he did best.  He listened.  And he waved the dowsing rod over the map until the strange humming became clearer and louder.  And he struck his rod upon the map where the hum was loudest.

Rylan despaired when he saw that the rod struck upon a distant shore, as far from the kingdom as could be.  And he marveled again that the Bell thief should have traveled so far in so short a time.

But the young sorcerer gave comfort.  His eyes gleamed with secret knowledge and he declared their enemy a fellow sorcerer and one who knew secret paths that could let one travel hundreds of leagues in mere moments.  For by some coincidence or some providence, the place where the Bell should be was the very place where Crevan sought to take it, the Shore of the Shades.

***

The Auricle and the sorcerer stole out of the castle in the deepest hours of the night.  Rylan led them to the castle crypts and the graveyard that surrounded it, just as Crevan requested.  The young sorcerer waved his hand over the grounds and called the place a doorway that led to the lands beyond life.  They could use that doorway to take them to the Shore of the Shades.  Fearing the Bell would move from its place, that it would end up leagues away again, both men worked to help Crevan prepare the spell that was needed to open the doorway and reach it.  Neither remarked that the Bell seemed to be where Crevan had sought to take it.

When all was ready, Crevan took as final tribute to the spell, a few drops of blood from each of them.  He sprinkled the drops along the archway under which he had built the spell.  And he beckoned Rylan to step forth.

***

They stepped through the archway and as they did, the strange humming grew so loud, it was near unbearable.  Rylan clapped his hands to his ears and saw a strange sight before him.  They stood on the shore of a beach made with gray and black sands that swirled in eddies.  On three sides, the beach was surrounded by great walls of jagged stone.  And on the fourth, was a great ocean.  Rylan thought he saw land in the distance, but it was surrounded by mist and gloom.

But his gazed flicked back to the shore as he caught movement to their right.  He saw the Water Bell.  The most magnificent Bell, speckless, flawless, its silver glowing all the more brightly against the black sands and the gray waters.  Beside it was a familiar figure.  And a familiar face.

The Royal Regent.  And yet, he seemed different.  He must have been three heads taller.  And the height made him seem leaner.  He wore gray-black robes that seemed speckled with silver.  The robes stirred as if tossed by winds, but Rylan felt no wind.  He stood before a common-looking well.

Rylan glanced to his side and saw that the young sorcerer had braced himself as if for a fight.  His fists were clenched and seemed to be holding something that glowed with a greenish light.  Rylan’s heart began to hammer.  He wanted to shut his eyes, but he could no sooner shun the sight of the truth as he could the sound of truth.  He heard the humming of the Bell and it was loud, but it was in some ways calming.  He clung to the sound as he and the sorcerer walked forth.

The Regent had noticed them.  He stepped in front of the Bell as he watched them approach.

“What manner of creature is he?” Rylan whispered to the young sorcerer.

“I do not know.”

The Regent held out a hand to halt them and he spoke.

“You would toss this treasure deeper into this cursed world, when it belongs high, high up in the firmament.”

“We seek to dip the Bell into the Spirit Well,” Rylan said.  “We do not mean to lose it there.  Are you not here to do the same?”

The Regent waved a hand toward the Bell.  “Once I rid the treasure of the unwanted creature that clings to it, I will take it up into the heavens.  I will bring it home.”

There was a strange resonance to the Regent’s voice.

“You’re lying,” Rylan said, awed.  He could barely discern it.  A subtle ripple of untruth.

“I have lied many times in your presence, Auricle.  Such is my power, because I am one who made such things as this treasure.  I am one to whom it belongs.”

The Regent’s voice seemed to ripple and echo from the Bell.

“The conjurer who bumbled into finding the broken chime, and recasting it in this grotesque and clumsy shape, did not build it.  And yet the treasure did not punish her for the untruth of saying she made it.  Not while she lived anyway.”

Rylan heard the resonance again, in some of the Regent’s words, pushing against the Bell.  The Regent was telling a tale of half-truths and half-lies.  Never had the Auricle had to struggle to hear the truth after he had heard the Bell, but he struggled now.

“Tell the truth,” Rylan said.  And the Bell glowed at the sound of his command.  The Regent seemed to flinch just a bit and in that moment, the young sorcerer charged forward and threw himself at the Regent in a fury of green fire.

The Regent flicked a hand and flung Crevan aside.  The young sorcerer lay on the beach, his body still.  Rylan moved toward him, but the Regent held up a hand to halt him.

Rylan heard the humming in the Bell.  It was not painful now.  It was almost lovely, like a choir singing a liquid song.

“You are not meant to have it,” the Regent said.  And he spoke the truth.

“Perhaps,” Rylan said.  “But neither are you.”

The Regent lifted the Bell.  And it hummed painfully again.  And Rylan understood.  The Bell, and the spirit within it, did not want to be plunged in the Spirit Well.

“You know I am compelled to speak only the truth,” Rylan said.  “Hear me.  We will keep the Bell safe. I will make sure that we surrender it to its rightful heir when he, or she, comes to claim it.”

“My people made the…Bell.  I am its rightful heir.”

“Tell the truth!”

The Bell sounded then.  It gleamed in white-hot silver and it sounded so loud and sonorously that the Regent dropped it and it sounded again.  The Regent clapped his hands to his ears.

But Rylan, who heard only beauty, rushed forth and grabbed up the Bell.  Its sound vibrated through the bones of his hand.  The giant Bell seemed to grow smaller and it was as light as parchment.

Rylan ran to the young sorcerer and dropped to his knees beside Crevan’s still form.  The sorcerer was breathing, but he was still insensible.  Rylan saw the archway of the graveyard they had traveled from.  It was only yards away and yet he could not carry both the sorcerer and the Bell at once.  And he feared the Regent would recover any moment, for the sound of the Bell was fading.

He set the Bell down, meaning to take the young sorcerer through the arch and come back for it, but then he heard a voice, calling to him, from the Bell.

“Auricle.”  A face appeared on the surface of the Bell.  The face of a woman.  “Will you take my place?”

It had to be the sorceress.  “We can free you,” Rylan said.

“No, I am not trapped, Auricle.  And the tale you know is not the truth.  I am bound to the Bell by choice, but if you take my place, as its guardian, I can save you and I can save the sorcerer.”

Rylan hesitated.  He did not want to die and become a spirit bound to the Bell.  And yet, if he did nothing, the Regent would kill him and kill Crevan and take the Bell.

“I want to say ‘yes,’ but I don’t want to die.”

“You will not die.  You will live.  You must live, and guard the Bell.  Will you take my place?”

The Regent had risen.

“Yes,” Rylan said.

“Touch the Bell and free me.”

The Water Bell Spirit

Rylan reached out and touched the Bell and as he did he saw the ghost of the sorceress as the people in the castle square must have seen it when she died so many generations past.  She rose from the Bell and surged toward the Spirit Well.  Her ghostly form spun around the Regent, who struggled against it as if he were a fly trapped in a web.  And she pulled him back and over into the well.  Soundlessly, he fell.

The Auricle wasted no time.  Stunned, he saw that the giant Bell had shrunk and flattened.  It glinted in the black sand like a piece of silver shaped like a bell.  But he knew it was the Water Bell, for he still heard its song.  He grasped the young sorcerer under the arms and dragged him toward the archway.  He burned with questions.  And he shivered with fear.

Fear won out.  And once he pulled Crevan back through the archway into the safety of the castle graveyard, he disturbed the various elements of the spell that the sorcerer had cast and watched the doorway disappear.

*****

The Auricle sat by the young sorcerer’s bedside until he was healed.  Crevan slept for three days before waking.  When he heard Rylan’s tale, he was more miserable to learn he had missed seeing the sorceress and freeing her himself than he was to learn that the Regent’s attack had left him with some lasting injuries.  The bones of his left foot had been mangled from the inside and no healer had been able to fix it.  It might have been worse had the Regent’s curse not merely glanced across the young sorcerer.

On Rylan’s word and evidence found thereafter, the High Court judged the Royal Regent guilty of regicide and guilty of stealing the Water Bell.  Neither the Regent nor the Bell had been found.  Rylan showed the young sorcerer where the Bell truly was.  For it hung now as a charm around the Auricle’s neck.  The curse upon it was broken.  Rylan was still compelled to tell the truth, so long as he wore the Bell.  And he always wore the Bell, for if he removed it, it shrieked at him in most painful ways.  He did not know what he had agreed to when he agreed to be its guardian.  But he found that he was no longer deaf to lies.  He could hear them, but he knew them for lies.

He was a guardian of truth, and yet, in hiding the Bell, he was hiding a truth from his people.  But he did not know yet how to separate himself from the Bell.  If he could change its form back to what it was, return it to its case, and still guard it as he had been tasked to do, he would do so at once.

Crevan suggested they return to the Spirit Well and summon the spirit of the sorceress Delfina, so she could explain to them all that was hidden and secret and unknown and untrue.  Who and what the Regent was.  What truly happened in her time with the king and her death.  But Rylan deemed it too dangerous and reckless for them to return until they were prepared.

“The Regent spoke the truth when he said his people made the Bell first and that Delfina found it broken and repaired it and recast it into what we knew.  The sorceress only unlocked one of the Bell’s mysteries.  The sound of truth.  There is more.”  Rylan lifted up the bell pendant.  “Till now, I have let the truth come to me.  But there are deeper truths, buried truths, ancients truths that I cannot hear unless I search for them and find them.”  He looked at Crevan.  “Would you be interested in helping me find them?”

The young sorcerer answered with wide eager eyes and a gaping smile.  “Of course, we must begin at once.  There are texts.  We can start with your own library.  But what of your duties as Auricle?”

“Truth has been both a curse and a blessing to my people,” Rylan said.  “But for a people to be good, truth is a necessity.  I will be their Auricle still.  And as the only one who knows I can remove the Bell and lie, you must be the one who keeps me honest.  For the burden of truth cannot be borne by just one.”

 

Copyright © 2014 by Nila L. Patel.

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