The Red Blade
Part Five – Mistress of the Voice
Carse drew himself up to his full height, his adolescent frame growing tall, though it had not as yet filled out to match, giving him a lanky appearance. He let air fill his lungs, breathing deep, as he prepared to let voice a song. Madame Natazde, of the cold, northern Navodian lands, stood across from him in the large and airy room she used to train him in, tapping a beat with one booted foot. A tall woman, taller even than he, with pale hair and eyes rarely seen among Akuvians, she had drilled Carse relentlessly from the day he had arrived at Athradies’ villa, day in and day out, no matter what other lessons he also had. Reading, writing and languages, swordplay and knife work, disarming traps and locks, the use of crossbows and the art of stealth, all had been imparted upon him, yet always Madame Natazde insisted that he spend each morning with her, moulding and strengthening his singing voice.
“Concentrate,” she called out, her Akuvian heavily accented. “I will be listening close, no?”
Carse put aside his thoughts and concentrated wholly on the singing, letting the first notes fly. His boyish voice, that once had been full of raw promise, had been refined into something pure and clear by her efforts, like the finest crystal, without blemish or imperfection. The song that Athradies had him sing on the first day of their meeting, The Old Man of the River, he could now reproduce note perfect.
Since those early days, they had moved on, and now Madame Natazde inflicted upon him songs of the most fiendish cunning and composition, some of which he much feared had not been arranged with the human voice in mind, straining his abilities to their very limits to reproduce alien tunes and notes. And Madame Natazde never seemed to be happy with mere perfection when she could go beyond that.
The song filled the room as he let it forth, the notes ringing in the high domed roof, where mosaics of constellations showed, shards of yellow standing out against a deep azure. He sung from the belly, just as Madame Natazde had instructed, the song an intricate rising and falling tune, sung in a language he did not know, or recognise. It required all of his concentration to not stumble over the rapid changes within the song, the peaks and troughs of notes and words. When the last note and word fell away, he felt physically drained, as much as when he sparred with Ilafra, his hair damp with the effort of it.
Madame Natazde said nothing as she studied him with her pales eyes, simply nodding and motioned for him to begin again, giving no voice to any mistakes she may have heard.
Once more Carse took breath and began to sing.