Kirkson came later in the night and found Flattery in a distressed state. The meal, brought by Maryje earlier, stood cold and untouched.

"Not hungry at all?" mused Kirkson, expecting the figure lying on the bed to rise at the sound of his steps. It didn't. From where Kirkson was standing it looked as though it was a sack of potatoes.

"Flattery?" called Kirkson, his voice slightly guilty from mentioning this name. Flattery moved and rose up. "Ah, you were sleeping, just as I—" Kirkson's voice ceased when he saw Flattery's face. It was impossible to mistake the bruise for anything else. " — As I thought", he finished. "What happened to you?" He bit his lip, immediately realizing exactly what happened.

Flattery didn't say anything. He was angry at the way Kirkson looked at him, this shocked look reminded him of Maryje.

"Um, I shouldn't be surprised, though," Kirkson said. "Master is as dark as a thundercloud today. Is it painful?" He waved his hand at Flattery's face. "Maybe I could find some potion to –"

"No," Flattery lied. It was painful but not in the way Kirkson imagined.

"All right." Kirkson looked lost. "I don't even know what to say."

"If you continue saying I should sing, I might kill you."

Kirkson smiled wearily. It was nothing like a joke. "Then I won't say anything of the sort. I am thinking if I could help you in any way. Perhaps, if I talk to Master, things will get better."

Flattery wished Kirkson stopped saying that things would get better. Flattery had seen all the indication that things would never get better for him. Someone as optimistic as Kirkson couldn't understand what it was like.

Kirkson continued: "I'm sure he didn't want to hurt you."

If he didn't want to hurt me, Flattery thought, why had he even bothered to give me the ability to feel pain? The answer came at once, and this time it really didn't matter if it was his own conclusion or his father's. Emotions were necessary to perform the songs. As simple as that.

Kirkson saw that his attempts to be sympathetic were too far from hitting the target, so he gave up.

"Do you want any new books?" he offered at last.

"No. I haven't read all of the ones you gave me yet."

"Do you like them?"

"No. But they will do."

"May I say that you'd better eat something before you drop dead of starvation?"

"Are you being funny?" Flattery's voice became imperious and for the first time reminded Kirkson of Finder's.

Kirkson stood his ground. "No. I'm being reasonable. There's no point in diminishing your chances for survival. I know what I'm saying."

Flattery shrugged Kirkson's advice away, but, nevertheless, when the apprentice left, took the bowl.

He knew that Father would come again and he would have to face him. He also knew that Father would try to make him sing again, maybe would kill him while doing so, but there was just one thing Flattery was certain about: he would neither sing, nor would he say a word to Father ever again.


Author's comment:

And that is pretty much it.) I decided to pull the curtain down here, because it would be too much of a heart-breaking experience for me to write the part when… urgh, go and read the book.))) It is really the best book I've ever read (the Finder's Stone trilogy by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb). It's amazing how gracefully it combines thrilling adventure with mature ideas.

Writing this story made me think of many things I have never noticed as a reader. For instance, I never really understood that Flattery's words "I don't want his thoughts" might actually mean that a part of Flattery's own mind must have constantly been telling him that he must sing Finder's songs. Imagine how torturous it must have been.

I'm kind of proud of the role I gave to Maryje in my fic. I had no particular plan for her until I remembered the part in the book that always puzzled me, the way Flattery lost his nerve at Giogi's taunt "The lady never loved you; she was terrified of you". Flattery couldn't possibly expect Cat to love him while he did everything to frighten her for his amusement. Why did the taunt work? Perhaps, once he had good reason to expect Maryje to love him and was bitterly disappointed to find she was terrified of him. It's just my guess, but it makes sense in terms of the character's psychology.

And finally, I suspect that Flattery must have had nightmares in his first days of life, just like Alias did, but my story is depressing enough without any nightmares, so I cut it out. I also cut out any mention of the second door in the workshop (there was no need in mentioning it) and the disintegration ring. I know, it would be a brilliant move to mention the ring, in terms of foreshadowing, but I had no logical need for it in the story and couldn't just make Finder say something like "Check it out, I have a cool disintegration ring and you don't, you looser!" and leave it on his desk.:))

Thanks again for being here with me, I hope you enjoyed what you've read.)