“Master’s Work” by Tod Heil
He never taught me how his most important work, prized by both nobles and merchants alike, was made. If I ever asked his expression would turn wistful and reply something along the lines, I would learn after he dies.
A month passed since I found him in his workshop covered in a thin layer of ice, his corpse next to his workbench overlooking the sea. Next to his hand lay a peculiar example of his work, an oblong spherical shape with several raised thorns at odd angles. In my hand now against the flickering light from the fireplace the sculpture had a dark core I could make out through its rough translucent surface. There seemed to be an illusion caused perhaps by the light, the piece appeared to go transparent, revealing black filaments radiating out in strange patterns from its dark core. After some time the twisted lines acquired a weird written language alien to me. An illusion of transparency, caused perhaps by the light, revealed black filaments radiating out in strange patterns from its core, coalescing in my mind, the twisted lines formed a weird written language alien to me.
Singing. How long it took me until I noticed a singing I can not say. It came not from outside my cottage, but from my master’s sculpture.
A heavy knock at the door startled me. I fumbled the object. It did not fail. Another loud knock broke me into a cold sweat. A deep resonant voice spoke from behind the door in some language I had not heard until now. It sound as if it asked a question with a mouth not quite human.
A moment went black. Time lost. My sight restored to the door open, a massive form crouched, shoulders turned to the side. It cleared the door frame. The thing unfolded itself and stood. I could not move from fright. Its head, aquatic in nature, pasted the rafters almost reaching the vaulted ceiling. The creature’s skin, reminded me of a dolphin I had seen washed up on the beach this past spring. Its stomach, chest and face was stark white while the rest of him was a marbleized swirl of warm grays and dark blacks. Gold bands encircled muscular upper arms. In its right hand he carried a full sack like bag made of weaved seaweed. Its midsection, covered in a granular material tight against its skin, crept a pattern emphasizing a monstrous appendage.
The male creature bend down. Its head next to my ear. Breath warm, smelt of clean salt, and open sea. It whisper. “You are the master now. I will teach you our secret ways.”