K J Kabza - [BCS277 S01] - The Bone Flute Quartet (html)

Home > Other > K J Kabza - [BCS277 S01] - The Bone Flute Quartet (html) > Page 2
K J Kabza - [BCS277 S01] - The Bone Flute Quartet (html) Page 2

by The Bone Flute Quartet (html)

  But it was too late for that.

  Around these bits of Myrra Ferrinn, her bones as hollow as the bones of raptors, her power chained in unbreathed melodies, the dust and rock of the desert began to gather, as water rushes to fill a bucket depressed in a well. A ghostly form took shape, a nimbus of a sandstorm in human proportion.

  The wind sang through its bones.

  The thing sat up.

  I do not know how spoke the ghost of Myrra Ferrinn, but speak she did; and chips of quartz glittered in a tight dance in the orbits of her eyes.

  “Oh—I am together again, at last!”

  She stretched her arms to the sky; she tipped back her head. Sand trickled down, to suggest the rich tresses of her hair. “And who is it that’s come, now, to open my private backdoor into the world? Who’s there?”

  My tongue cleaved to my mouth. But I managed. “I... my name is Bretchen. Mistress Ferrinn.”

  “Bretchen.” Myrra Ferrinn cackled, a glorious, full-throated witch’s ululation. “I couldn’t even begin to guess why my triumphant return has been placed in the hands of a child, but regardless, it appears I owe you a boon. What is the blackest desire that slumbers in your heart, my dear?”

  I trembled. I couldn’t dare ask Myrra Ferrinn, she of the slavering wolves, she of the feasting crows, to take me as an apprentice; that would be insolent, and too much. But I could at least ask her advice. “I... I would like to become a witch someday, Mistress Ferrinn. But I don’t even know where to begin, exactly, so please—if you can tell me—what should I do next?”

  Myrra Ferrinn cackled again. “An excellent question, a clever question. How wise you are to ask me. But it is terribly forbidden knowledge, you know; and even way out here, in the Wronglands, there could be spies.” She dropped her voice. “Come close to me, and I’ll whisper the secret in your ear.”

  I shivered in anticipation. Myrra Ferrinn raised a dust-storm hand, her swirling fingers tipped with wicked shards of rock, and beckoned me closer.

  I set down my bag and obeyed.

  But as I leaned in toward her open mouth, toward her quartz-pool eyes and those wicked, wicked fingers, I thought: if I were Myrra Ferrinn, and I had but the barest toehold in the mortal world, I would revivify myself with a gruesome ritual. I would slit the throat of the first warm body I came across and I would drink its blood, down to the very last drop.

  But the problem was, in this arrangement, that person would be me.

  And I needed my blood. You can’t become a witch without blood.

  So, at the last moment, as Myrra Ferrinn sucked in a desert-parched breath and readied a hand to strike, I snatched up a rock. Then I jumped backwards and rammed it down, as hard as I could, on the bone flute in her right leg.

  Oh, how she screamed. A thousand-fold more brightly than all the screams of all my childhood drawn-and-quartered games combined.

  The bone flute shattered. The maelstrom of Myrra Ferrinn collapsed into a sloppy dust-devil, the bone flutes in her arms clattering to the desert floor. I rammed the right-hand one with my rock, and it too shattered.

  The dust-devil collapsed. The wind blew a thin, keening shriek through the pair of remaining flutes, an eerie wail that rose and fell and would not stop.

  I snatched up my poor Ommama’s flute and thrust it into my bag. Then I squeezed the bone flute of High-Flying Jack and played as I had never played before, hard and long and loud. The sky itself rushed to the earth to please me, and before I could say, “Butcher’s choice,” a tight cocoon of cloud gripped me and carried me west and west and west, all the way home.

  I landed at sunset. Only then, when my feet hit the ground, did I start sobbing.

  That eerie wail of wind had not stopped. Now shrieking myself, I set High-Flying Jack’s bone flute on the ground, raised my boot-heel above it, and stomped it to pieces.

  Silence at last.

  It was here that my Ommama and Mémé found me: in the front yard, screaming, stomping on fragments of bone. Mémé’s firm hands pulled me away. “Bretchen! What in the name of... why are you... what are you... explain yourself!”

  They pulled me inside. Mémé sat me by the fire and wrapped me in a quilt, and while Ommama clucked her tongue and poured me a bowl of stew, I cried and told them everything. When Mémé’s face tightened in anger at how we had deceived her, I only cried all the more.

  By the end, my bowl empty of stew, in the midst of my sniffles and hiccups, I mumbled out an apology. But Mémé only sighed and knelt to hold me. “My poor Bretchen. My poor sweet creature. Oh, little bunny, don’t apologize. Blackness knows how hard I’ve tried to fight this day, but to be truthful, I could always see it coming.”

  Ommama smiled. “Me too. And how marvelous.”

  “Marvelous?” I shouted, from within the fortress of Mémé’s arms. “Marvelous how? I nearly died!” I kicked my bag at her. It fell over, and my Ommama’s precious, ill-storied flute clattered out. “All because of your stupid cursed flute!”

  Ommama’s smile grew brighter. “Ah—but you didn’t die, now, did you?”

  I felt so furious, I spit at her.

  Mémé gasped, but Ommama only laughed. She picked up the bone flute, tapping at its holes with her wizened fingers. “Do you know what power this bone flute contains? It’s the power of long, long life. Wonderfully long. Do you know how old I am? Would you believe—two hundred years?

  “I am not truly your Mémé’s Mémé. I am, in fact, your great-great... well, never mind the number. The important part is, I was there at the bloody execution of Myrra Ferrinn, and throughout the gory aftermath. This flute, from the very beginning, was entrusted to me.

  “And now. To answer the question that has been vexing you so.” Her eyes sparkled. “What should you do next, if you desire to become a witch? You should find a witch and, instead of asking outright for an apprenticeship, prove yourself worthy of one. How do you do that? She will give you a test in secret, which you must unknowingly pass to her satisfaction. And, seeing as how all I hoped for you to do was convince Jack of Bowragon to let you play his flute, so that you might have a taste of flying—well!”

  I looked back and forth between she and Mémé, and Mémé’s face revealed all. My Ommama was not lying. “But... if all of this is true... then Myrra Ferrinn was your mistress. And I killed her, sort of. So aren’t you angry with me?”

  “Angry?” Ommama laughed again. “No, dear child! I’m proud; proud as poundcake! Do you have any idea what marvels of witchcraft I’ve learned across two hundred years? And how delicious a witch you shall become, you who are cunning enough to have slain the shade of Myrra Ferrinn as an untrained youth?”

  I wiped my nose on my sleeve, too overwhelmed to speak.

  Mémé leaned over. She kissed my forehead, gently. “Bretchen,” she said, kindly. “You can still change your mind. You don’t have to employ yourself with something so dangerous as witchery. It’s not too late to go to the knittery instead.”

  I said nothing.

  Ommama raised her eyebrows.

  Then I wriggled an arm free of the quilt and Mémé’s embrace. I held my hand out to Ommama.

  Without needing to ask what I wanted, she placed in my palm the last bone flute of Myrra Ferrinn, her smile as hard as rocks, her eyes as ruthless as iron spears.

  © Copyright 2019 K.J. Kabza




‹ Prev