Vay: Vicious Circle
Chapter 4 - Skeletons in the Closet
 
Authors note: Super thanks to Star for her snazzy song "Climb Hazard"! She saved me from another 4 months of writer’s block.
 

"Don’t you think you’ve had enough ale son? Isn’t it time to take a break?" The bartender leaned over the wooden countertop and  stared ahead at the man with a empty beer mug in his hand. The man gave a odd look to the bartender and the bartender gave a short chuckle. "Oh. Nearly forgot who I was talking to The guy who could easily drink me under the table. Sorry Lynx."

Lynx gave a slight nod and peered into his empty beer mug, in thought. "Yeah, s’ok…"

"Ok, spill it, what’s wrong?"

"What do you mean what’s wrong?"

"Oh, come on! You don’t think I know when you have a crisis? It’s the same every time, you come in here, order god knows how many beers, run up a tab so high the King of Penan couldn’t pay it, get sloshed beyond belief and most likely go home to puke your guts out."

"Gee, aren’t you observant?" Lynx scowled, "And I suppose you ask someone to make sure I don’t get into trouble on the way home."

"It has crossed my mind. After all, you’re my best customer."

"Oh, yeah, thanks. It’s nice to know the only reason you TALK to me is because I pay for my beer! Argh!" He slammed his head into the bar counter.

"Well, I haven’t seen you like this for a year now, not since you had that tab and that…guy paid it for you."

"You didn’t have to take my friggin’ har-"

"Forget that! That’s long past. I was just doing my job. Anyway, I’m sick and tired of your subtle whining tonight, so you might as well tell me everything."

"Fine, you really want to know? Don’t know why I’m telling you. I thought the only reason you conversed with me is cuz I drink here."

"Just tell."

"OK, it’s a lover thing." Lynx sighed.

The bartender threw his hands up in the air and turned away. "Whoa, don’t wanna know about that, don’t wanna hear."

 "What?!" Lynx asked, bewildered. "Didn’t you just say you wanted to know my problem? What the hell do you mean you don’t want to hear?"

"Hey! It’s one thing to want to know about your problem, but I don’t want to hear the details! What do you think I am, a shrink?"

"Well, you’re a bartender, doesn’t that come with the job?"

"Hey sonny! I know what your girl needs!" Lynx turned around and moaned. He unfortunately caught the attention of Raggedy Ann. She was named that because of her ragged appearance. She also was old and senile, all of which equaled a very bad combination. "Yer girl needs a good enema! Yeah! She’s all stopped up!"

Lynx rolled his eyes. "I don’t think so, Ann."

"Aww! C’mon! I know a old family recipe-"

"AHEM! C’mon man!"  he turned to the bartender and began to beg. "At least listen long enough so I don’t have to hear her ramble anymore!"

"Fine, but it’s gonna cost ya. Who is this girl, anyway?"

"You know her. I’ll start from the beginning…" And Lynx began to tell the story, embracing old memories…

****

Lynx was, for once, happy. He was finally going to once again jump in his career of being a bard. He had to put his favorite pastime on hold because of the little adventure he had with Sandor, but since the party split up to go their separate ways, nothing was holding him back. He was waiting to see how long it would be before he wowed the crowds, he ran out of money to by his favorite beer. Without his ale, he was only half a man. He knew he was a worthless drunk, but he didn’t care. He was young, single, and having the time of his life.

As Lynx waited , he noticed a crowd of people gathered in a corner of the bar. Being the curious chap that he was, he decided he had to check it out. The crowd was dense, and trying to look at the source of their attention proved quite difficult. Best to ask someone, he thought, so he hesitantly poked the shoulder of a young blonde ditz. She turned around quickly and giggled, her breath smelling of alcohol. "Hi sexy, ya looking for a little bit of…entertainment?" She smiled seductively and Lynx slapped his forehead. Just his luck to talk to a prostitute.

"Um. No. Just tell what all of this ruckus is about?"

The girl pouted, obviously pissed that she wasn’t going to go anywhere with this guy, and walked off in a huff, not even answering his question. Lynx sighed, that really got me somewhere, he thought. He was about to ask another pretty lady when he heard a crash nearby, the sound of a beer mug breaking on the wooden floor. Swerving his head to the source of the noise, his eyes landed upon a large brute of  a man, and a lady. Lynx blinked his eyes once, then again, and again. He couldn’t believe it. She was a looker! The best thing about her, was that she looked so different from all of the other ladies in this bar. She was like a breath of fresh air in Lynx’s wild life.

She was tall and  limber, but well-figured. Her straight, medium length brown hair fell perfectly around her olive face, and her lips were formed into a scowl. She wasn’t petite and made-up like the other women in the bar. Lynx realized that this girl probably wasn’t wearing any make up, all of her beauty was natural. She wore a long brown trench coat and a multi-colored scarf. Lynx figured she had to be a traveler of some sort, she sure had a rustic look about her. Her brown eyes registered annoyance as the large man was looming over her.

The man himself wasn’t much to look at. He looked like some sort of ogre, compared to someone as hearty, yet beautiful, as her. His laugh sounded something like a constipated donkey and a insane goat, and he was obviously advancing on her, another fine idiot waiting to score with yet another nameless girl. Lynx was about ready to go break up the fight himself, when the girl suddenly rose from her chair and in one swift motion,  kneed him in the groin, then pelted him in the face. He staggered back, and the girl reached behind her barstool, pulling out a long, wooden pike. Lynx grinned widely, not only was she cute, but she was spunky! He liked that in a woman.

"Do you still want to go all the way with me, jackass?" her voice ice cold. "I suggest you turn your sorry little ass around and go out the way you came in. Got it?" The man obviously was all bark, and no bite, and turned heel and walked away. Pleased with herself, the girl smirked briefly, then sat down at her barstool.

"Wow!" Lynx whooped. "She’s somethin’, all right! Whooo!"

"Yeah," another man behind him piped in. "and she’s first to sing tonight!"

The man’s words slowly sinked in Lynx’s brain, and he did a double take "WHAT? What do you MEAN she’s SINGING tonight? This is MY bar! I SING here."

"Well, it’s not anymore…well, depends on how good she is. Didn’t you notice her name on the entertainment roster?" The man pointed to the exact same corner Lynx tried to worm his way into minutes ago. Lynx groaned. "Gawdammit. Just what a need, competition, and a beautiful one at that…This is gonna be a long day…"

****

Of course, Lynx had no choice but to wait around and see just how wonderful this girl was. Hours passed, and Lynx’s mood grew more sour since he didn’t have his world class ale. What was the point of being a bar without some beer in his hand? He tried begging some of his old buddies for a gold piece or two, but they all accused him of never paying his bills. He couldn’t blame them, they were right!

"HEY! You! Shaddup you buncha yella bellied saps!" The crowd cheered and a fat man ambled up on the shabbily built stage. He was supposedly the guy who hired the entertainment, but Lynx doubted he really did a whole lot for this bar, since his hands always seemed to be in someone else’s pants. "I gotta ‘new girl for ya alls, so you betta not complain no more, see? Okay, I wantcha to put ‘yo hands together for Gwen Montanile, tha Desert Rose. The crowd cheered again as the girl coolly walked onto the stage in graceful strides.

Gwen Montanile…hmmm

Gwen hefted a guitar onto her lap, throwing a support strap over her back. She smiled, obviously a stage act, and cleared her throat. "Well, nice to meet you all tonight, name’s Gwen, but you all know that. I hope you can put your beer down long enough to listen to me before you go home drunk as sows. But…heh. You’ll all do it anyway. Anyway, this is a song I sing when I’m new in town. I’ve seen the whole world, practically, and this is sorta a ‘welcome’ song. A nice love… song, if you could call it that. Let’s get this show on the road." She began to strum a melody on her guitar, and sang.

Babe, careful when you play with fire,
You can never stop, take it so much higher.
I’m not gonna take the fall for you this time,
Babe, your own heart is on the line.

Lynx blinked and looked back in her direction. Now what was this?

Speed child, never can move to fast,
When you gonna learn it isn’t gonna last?
Even the highest high must come down,
Before you know it back on the ground.

You’re going too high, too fast, too near
Babe where will you be when it all disappears?

A voice from the back piped up "Hey Lynx, where’s the pot-"

"Shut up," Lynx hissed back, "I’m trying to hear this!"

Over the edge, fallin hard, can't stop climb hazard...
Over the edge, the higher you go, the harder you fall,
Are you willing to risk the climb hazard?

Gwen smiled, a genuine one, and stood up. She gracefully hefted the guitar into her hands, and walked towards the front of the stage. Glancing at her face, Lynx idly wondered if her indifference was all an act.

Vanity, pride, you’re too full of yourself,
Crawl back inside, put your ego on the shelf,
Don’t turn around, nothing’s the same,
You’ve given the calm to the burning flame,

I really love you, don’t you see?
But you want me to change to what I can’t be!

Gwen then when on to an instrumental chorus, so worked up into her song that she was oblivious to what was happening around her. Lynx sadly realized that everyone else was oblivious to her as well. What could be missing? She then went on to her final verse.

Pretty face, mournful eyes,
Poisonous smile, all too wise,
But you’ll fall, your empire a shard,
Can you handle the climb hazard?
 

With a flourish, she strummed her final cord, and bowed. The applause, at best, was mediocre. The smile Gwen had on her face melted instantly, replaced by a scowl. Angrily, she slammed her guitar into it’s case, mumbling, "Every town, every bar, it’s the same. What the hell was I thinking?"

Lynx was absolutely dumbfounded. She was good, the best he ever heard, actually. But Lynx finally realized what was missing in her songs. It was subtle, but it kept her from being absolutely perfect. She needed another instrument. Hell, she needed a whole orchestra. She was THAT good. She shouldn’t be singing in peddly bars, she should have a bloody contract and an agent. It’s just too bad she didn’t have one…

If there was a little light-bulb over Lynx’s head, if flickered on at that moment. The best idea he ever had in his short life flooded into his head, and he turned to the bartender. "Sorry man, can’t sing tonight. Might miss out on a golden opportunity!" Gwen finished her song and was met with a mediocre applause. As she headed out a door to the back of the bar, Lynx followed right behind her, like a misquote eager for a bite…

****

A cool blast of air greeted Lynx as the back door swing open. He involuntarily shivered, cursing himself that he always had a knack for forgetting that he lived in a desert, and every sane person knew that it  grew cold during the night. Craning his head to the right, he saw her sitting on an old crate, flicking her lighter once or twice, grinning with satisfaction as it caught, then brought the quivering flame up to the cigarette in her lips,  and took a few puffs. Her head turned to Lynx for a second, then she sighed and looked in the other direction.

"Well," Lynx muttered, "that went well." He sat down next to her, but she didn’t acknowledge his presence in the slightest. "Um…f it counts for anything, I thought you were quite good."

Gwen laughed bitterly. "No you didn’t. If you’re hitting on me-"

"What makes you think I’m hitting on you? I’m being perfectly honest. You were good…but…"

Gwen raised her eyebrow, obviously interested, "But what?"

Lynx sighed. "You were good, but not great. The problem is your voice is incredible, but you just don’t have enough instrumentals to back you up. The sounds is something that everyone’s heard before, but with another instrument…" he trailed off, looking at Gwen’s face, which was now blank, just staring at Lynx. Lynx mentally slapped himself, What the hell was I thinking?!

Gwen, much to Lynx’s surprise, smirked. "You’re not bad, stranger. You’re the first person who has not only been honest with me, but who isn’t asking for sex." She fumbled through her bag, and pulled out a cigarette. "Smoke?"

:Lynx sighed in relief and nodded. "Sometimes."

Gwen then threw the cigarette into his lap, pulling out her lighter, she flicked it once and the flame spurted out. "Okay, so there’s something missing in my music, the question is, she finished lighting his match and looked straight into his eyes, "is what should be done about it?"

"Well, perhaps you need a partner…or manager. It’s a thought."

"And I suppose this ‘partner’ or ‘manager’ would be you, correct?"

"Well, nothing gets by you, does it?"

Gwen laughed, patting her spear. "And what makes me think you’re not just some con-artist who’s out for every cent I have? I’ve run into that problem before, you know. I’m not about to go through that again," she scowled, "Way too messy for my tastes."

"Well," Lynx coughed, "think about it this way. Judging from what you did tonight in the bar, and that nice, large spear you have…I’d be an idiot to piss you off. Anyway, it’s a suggestion. Personally, my friends have commented that my harp playing is incredible…but…my singing sucks. I’m in the same boat as you. " Lynx stood up and stretched slowly. "If we were partners, we’d make quite a bit of money, split 50/50. But hey…it’s your choice. Just look for me sometime, I’m always here. " Lynx winked and walked toward the door, slowly.

3……2……1……

"WAIT!"

Lynx smiled to himself. "Score." He turned back to Gwen, the smile gone. "Yes?"

Gwen strolled up to him, gracefully. Lynx wondered if this girl was a cat in a past life, she had grace nearly oozing out her. Even her eyes had a cat-like quality to them. "Okay, you win. I’m interested. Here’s the deal. One night. You and me. If we’re successful, I might stick with you a little longer. Deal?" She thrust her hand forward, and Lynx shook it. "Deal."

Gwen was about to leave, when she stopped suddenly, as if she forgot something. "Oh, by the way…what’s your name.’

"Lynx…Lynx Pen- Lynx Penzer."

"Gwen Montanile. Charmed."

***

"..and then she left." Lynx stopped momentarily to sigh loudly.

The bartender, who was wiping beer mugs, stared at Lynx. "That’s it? When does this little story of yours become interesting?"

"I’m getting to it!" Lynx muttered. "Anyway, just like I thought, we were good…damn good. Never seen that much cash on a singing gig. So we partnered up. Seemed logical at the time. Then, she found out my little secret…"

***

After about three months of successful gigs, Lynx finally had enough for his beers, and a better apartment. As for love, well, it was a business relationship only. But Lynx learned early on that pressing this woman for a relationship was bad news. Besides, she seemed perfectly fine as a close friend…even though there were little things that seemed odd about her.

For starters, she rarely told anything about her past. He knew her age, recent events in her lifetime, and her favorite brand of ale, but where she was from, or what happened when she was a child, she never brought up. Whenever Lynx tried to bring something up, she’d always change the subject. Gwen’s personality was like a puzzle-box. You keep trying different ways to rearrange the pieces to see the final products, but no matter what combination you tried, you got nowhere.

Then again, Lynx was being rather hypocritical. One night Lynx went to the bar for his usual singing gig,  he found Gwen waiting for him at the entrance, her cat-like eyes glaring at him coldly.  It reminded him of the way she glared at that lecher the first night he met her, and he realized right then, that he was in deep. He was about to say something until she began to speak, in harsh and cool tones.

"Hello Lynx. No, wait…that’s not right, is it? Isn’t it Leopold Penan, 14th Crown Prince of Penan? Why, I think it is. Funny how this never came up, isn’t it?" She began to pat her spear, with a bitter smile on her face.

Lynx’s didn’t try to deny her accusations, especially since they were the truth. He let out a long sigh, not quite looking in her eyes. "Where’d you find out?"

"A little bird told me. Does it really matter? Look, you disgusting swine, I hate being lied to, especially to power-hungry blue-bloodied royals who think they can push the peasant population around! Did you find this amusing? Fun? What kind of ruler are you to get smashed up at bars! You disgust me!"

"If it makes any difference to you, " Lynx began, "I AM the Prince, but in name only. I have no power."

"And why is that?" Gwen pressed.

"Because I gave it up. Okay, you’re right, I am him. I lied to you. I’m sorry. Can’t say any more than that. I used to be the prince, but I was a spoiled rotten little shit who knew nothing about ruling a country. So I ran. Yeah, ran like the little coward I was. I met up with Sandor then," Lynx paused, " I DID tell you about him, right?"

"Yeah, several times. Mostly when you were sloshed."

"Well, when I met him, the Danek killed my father and put a puppet government in his place. Of course, I was not a happy man. My old man was an uptight bastard, but he deserves credit for actually ruling this country with some class. When I met Sandor, I was drinking away my sorrow’s over my Dad’s death. My rebellion towards my status eventually lead to my exile."

"When Sandor overthrew the puppet king, I had no choice to tell them who I really was, which surprised the crap out of him, you must imagine. I made a promise to the people that if I couldn’t find a better king to rule this country, I’d do it. I knew that was a promise I couldn’t keep. Look at me, Gwen, and tell me I can rule a country. You could call me a coward, but I know nothing about rule. I don’t want to spend my life as some fat king with ladies fanning me all day long. Sure, it SOUNDS nice at first, but god damn, how boring that must get!"

"Lynx…" Gwen began.

"No, hear me out. My cousin wanted to rule Penan, and I let him. I don’t like the guy, I always thought he was a pompous idiot who had no musical taste, but he was extremely talented with politics…so think about it Gwen, I could either rule this place, and watch it slide into ruin, or give up my status and let someone who knew what the hell he was doing keep it, at the very least, stable. What would you have done?"

Gwen sighed, her face softening slightly. "But you still haven’t told me why you lied. Trust is important in a friendship, Lynx."

Lynx shrugged. "Why tell? You said it yourself…you hate royals pushing you around. I have no power to push, Gwen. If you take away the title, you’ll see I have just as much power as you. So why tell you something that could put false barriers in our friendship." Lynx shook his head, realizing this entire conversation was futile. He lost her. "I am sorry, I just hope you see where I came from."

He turned to leave her alone, when he felt a firm hand on his back, and a chuckle. "Damn, Lynx. You sure know how to dig yourself a hole, don’t you?"

"Yeah, " Lynx muttered, "It’s what I do best."

Gwen laughed and patted Lynx heartily on the back, her cold smile gone. "Listen, flyboy, why not come over to my place to…you know…talk?"

Lynx blinked. "Talk? You’re actually forgiving me on this one?"

"Well, you were sincere…and as long as you have nothing else to surprise me with, why should I be upset? God! You must think I’m so uptight…"

"Not really." And he smiled.

***

"So, I went over to her place, and we talked…and talked…and then one thing led into another, and then we…" He trailed off, smiling widely.

"You what?" The bartender asked.

"You know."

"No, I don’t, what?"

"We, um, sorta made out, you flippin’ moron."

"Oh." The Bartender blushed, and coughed. "You still haven’t gotten to your problem. I’m set to close up shop soon."

"Oh, I so love how sensitive you are. Really, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside." Lynx sneered.

"Well, cry me up a river. Just get to your dilemma."

"Fine. The dilemma is that I think she’s pulling what I did early on. She’s hiding something massive from me…really massive."

***

After their little rendezvous in Gwen’s apartment, the friendship blossomed into love, and Lynx finally felt satisfied. For starters, he actually loved the girl, and didn’t view her as a one-night stand, like he did with anyone else. Gwen was intelligent, she was a lot like him, and he thought about her constantly. They weren’t the sappy sort of lovers, who constantly bought each other flowers, saying meaningless words like ‘Oh, honey bunny’, they were simply two people who seemed like a perfect match.

It wasn’t until last night that Lynx found another flaw in their seemingly perfect relationship. Both he and Gwen had the night off from singing, so they decided to go to the bar just for fun. Gwen seemed much more relaxed these days, almost feminine, but not quite. Lynx would die with laughter if he ever imagined Gwen in a flowery summer dress…she wasn’t the type. She smacked her beer into the table, and whistled to the bartender, who was not the usual. "Another!"

"Damn girl, you’re gonna drink yourself into he ground!" the young bartender smirked. He pushed a frothy glass to her, and she winked back. "Thanks pal."

Lynx, however, was busy socializing with the usual bar patrons. Meaningless chatter with half conscious people, Lynx thought to himself with a smirk. He noticed newer patrons in the back of the bar, and recognized them as Danek mercenaries. Despite everyone’s obvious dislike of the now fallen Empire, Lynx was forgiving guy. They were powerless now, anyway, so he had nothing to fear, although he did find it rather funny that someone who was a key player in their downfall was the first to forgive and forget.

"Greetings, " one of the mercenaries said, his eyes barely visible from his helmet, "What brings you our way, stranger?"

"Nothing much, but what are you doing in this area?" Lynx voice didn’t have any suspicious tone in it, so the mercenaries felt no threat. They smirked underneath their helmets, a slight gleam in their eyes. "We’re after a fugitive."

 Gwen’s stopped chatting, her dark head slowly turning in Lynx’s direction.

 "See," the mercenary continued, "We’re looking for a Danek peasant who started a rather large rebellion in our country." As Lynx listened, he noticed Gwen out of the corner of his eye, and became nervous. It wasn’t so much the mercenaries that made it uneasy, it was Gwen’s look. Her hands gripped the side of the countertop so hard that her knuckles were white, her eyes wide. Her head darted back and forth, like she was seeking escape.

 "…and so," the mercenary stopped, obviously annoyed, "Are you listening?"

 Lynx jumped, directing his attention back to the mercenary. "Sorry. Go on."
 
 "Anyway, this fugitive is very dangerous. If you hear anything, look for me. I’ll be in town the next few days. The sooner we get the fugtive, the better."

 "Well, maybe my girlfri-" he turned around, only to find Gwen was no where in sight. She had disappeared.

****

 "So you think she’s connected to these mercenaries somehow?" The bartender asked, his brow furrowing in thought.

 "I don’t know. All I know is she was afraid of these guys. I have never seen her afraid. Ever. Something’s up. She was quiet all of today. Wouldn’t speak a word. What should I do?"

 "Ah, and this is where the advice is, eh? There’s only one thing to do, ol’ buddy. Talk to her, ask her for the truth, and pray she doesn’t beat your ass."

 Lynx moaned. "I was afraid you’re gonna say that."

 "Well, it’s the most logical explanation. Obviously, the girl has some serious issues, and you gotta lay down some rules here." he smirked. "But don’t worry, if she throws you outta the house, you’ve got a place to get sloshed at."

 "How’d you know we shared an apartment….unless, " he growled. "You knew about our relationship the whole time! This is all just meaningless gossip to you!"

 "So sue me. I did help you, after all."

 "Argh, forget you, " Lynx hissed, rising from his barstool and quickly snatching his coat. "I’ll figure this out myself!"

 "You do that, ol’ buddy."

 "Screw you!" Lynx slammed the door on the way out. He did have to admit, despite the fact that the bartender was a drunken leech, he did give sound advice. Ask for the truth, but would she give it…and better yet…did he really want to know?

 "Damnit Gwen, " he whispered to himself, "What skeletons are in your closet? What are you hiding from me?" Jamming his hands into the warm coat pockets, he solemnly walked home.

 

Back To the Vay Page
Back to the Novella Cafe
Back to the Main Page