May 28, 2017, 01:21:47 PM

Author Topic: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread  (Read 348 times)

Offline xiagan

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[May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« on: April 30, 2017, 10:05:23 PM »

Music plays a huge part in our lives and so it's no wonder that it has its part in fantasy too.
There are countless ways in which to include it. As a song to set the mood or as a part of your world building (see the famous example above). As the integral theme of the story (and it's magic) like in Pratchett's Soul Music. As something your MC is very good at like Kvothe in Name of the Wind, or many other ways, small or story defining.

This month we want you to write a short story in which music plays a significant part in your world building, your character's life or your plot.


1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The story must contain some kind of musical element.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys next to the 'youtube' symbol.

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by choosing 'post anonymously' while posting it (see here how it works) or sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close May 31th/June 1st, 2017 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Jeff Pryor

Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2017, 01:38:58 AM »
The Tough Room (1057 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
I didn’t want to go on stage. It wasn’t stage-fright, although I was scared as hell. I’d seen what happened to people who performed on that stage. Hell, I’d even participated. That was why they were making me go up there.

You’d think I’d have been suspicious about a tavern in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never been one for restraint when it came to drinking though, and I’d been on the road for a long time. Instead of asking questions, I threw my coins on the table and counted my blessings.

It was like most other taverns. The bald barkeep had the look of a retired adventurer, and a pair of buxom wenches patrolled the common room. Then there was the stage that would be my doom.

The ale was good, and the wenches kept it coming. I was three mugs in when the first singer took the stage. He was a tall man, with barely any hair left on his head. His voice wasn’t bad, but he kept forgetting the words.

After his third mistake, a bearded man two tables over from me stood up. Before I even knew what he was doing, he threw a knife at the tall man. It landed in the singer’s chest, and he fell to the ground.

I expected an uproar, but there was none. A few others looked as confused as I was, but most of the people just went about their business. A pair of men carried the tall man’s body away, while another cleaned up the blood and returned the knife to the bearded man. This was none of my business, and I was content to keep it that way.

I was brought another mug, and another after that. I was halfway through the second when another singer took the stage. This one remembered the words, but his voice wasn’t made for singing. He wasn’t even halfway through the song when a dwarf in the corner brandished a crossbow and brought the performance to an end. Once again, the patrons of the tavern ignored the murder and the body was removed. If I were a smart man, I’d have left then. I’m not though, and I didn’t. One of the wenches brought me another mug.

Three more singers took their turns. Each had flaws and each met their end. The first couldn’t stay with the beat, and took a thrown hammer to the face. The second barely got started before breaking into a coughing spell. A pair of knives silenced him. The third wasn’t bad, but couldn’t hit the higher notes. He wouldn’t hit any notes with a throwing ax buried in his throat.

Meanwhile, the wenches kept bringing the ale and I kept drinking it. Another singer came out and I cheered along with the others. I had no doubt that this one would join the others in death, but I no longer cared. It was none of my business.

This one was bad. I mean really bad. It seemed all the faults had been taken from the others and given to this poor man. Nobody reacted though. He continued to sing, though that was a liberal use of the word. I could blame the ale, but I’ve always had a bit of a violent streak in me. Nobody else was going to stop the man. I pulled my knife and threw it as I came to my feet. It seemed to slowly spin through the air before burying itself in the singer’s chest. I’d aimed for his throat, but the ale had my aim off a bit.

All eyes in the room turned toward me as the man fell to the ground. The bearded man, the dwarf, and all the others came to their feet. They all shouted at once, but I only heard the bearded man.

“You murdered my favorite singer,” he shouted. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“I didn’t know,” I said. Why couldn’t I have just minded my own business? “I was just following your examples, figuring it was the local custom.”

“Can’t you read?” the dwarf asked. He pointed at a sign on the wall which read: “Don't Kill Tommy!”. I hadn’t noticed it. I’m not even sure it had been there before then. I told him that, but it didn’t help.

“I hope you can sing better than Tommy did,” the bearded man said. “You’ll be going on stage next.”

I’ve always had a fair voice, and have never been shy about using it. This place was different though. I wanted no part of that stage. The door was about twenty paces away, and I was determined to get there. I threw my shoulder into the man who’d thrown the ax into the throat of the singer with the baritone voice. He fell to the ground, but grabbed my foot on the way down. I landed hard, and was pulled to my feet even harder. The bearded man drove his fist into my gut, which brought up some of the ale I’d consumed.

“That wasn’t very smart,” he said. “I can kill you now, or you can sing and have a chance. It seems like an easy choice to me.”

“I guess I’ll sing then,” I replied, which brings me back to where I started. I didn’t want to go on stage, but here I was. The men took their seats and I searched my mind for the right song. I had to be perfect. Settling on one I’d sang many times in the past, I began. My voice was smooth, and the audience was soon clapping in rhythm.

Everything was perfect until I noticed a man seated at the table I’d previously occupied. It was Tommy, the man who I’d killed! There was no blood on his shirt, and he was very much alive.

I missed a beat. It was a minor mistake, but that was all it took in this tough room. Tommy came to his feet. My knife flew from his fingers and again seemed to slowly spin through the air. I took in the room, knowing this would likely be my last sight. Tommy wasn’t the only one returned to life. All the dead singers were in the audience. They all cheered as the knife landed in my heart and I joined them forever.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2017, 02:55:23 AM by Jeff Pryor »
Author of 'Chosen of Trees and of Talons'

Online Alex Hormann

Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2017, 01:05:08 PM »
The Last Battle
(668 Words)
Twitter: @HormannAlex

Spoiler for Hiden:
And lo! In the last days of the War, the young prince Tychos did lead his people unto the Broken Plains, where battle would be joined against the forces of the malicious General #####. But the men were weary, and did not wish to fight. And so it was agreed that Tychos and ##### would do battle in single combat, through the ancient and respected medium of the Rap Battle.

Your army's the best, to that I'll attest,
But even you cannot fight the future.
Your time is long past - you're fading fast!
When we are done, you'll surely need sutures.

You're no more than a kid! I'll rip you to bits
And I'll dance and I'll spit on your grave.
So lay down your tool, you insolent fool
And I'll see that your parents are saved.

Spare my father? I know you'd much rather
Have his head served on a platter.
I don't mean to rush, but when you are crushed
It'll be your army, not mine, that scatters.

Well that settles that, you arrogant brat.
None can deny I gave you fair chance.
Perhaps it is time, we did away with rhyme
And let our blades do their dance.

You would so easily quit? Contemptible nitwit!
Are you truly so much at a loss
That you would now flee, and leave it to me
To clean up your army of dross?

If I'm to be honest, I'd rather write sonnets
Than engage in the this battle with you.
But you've forced my hand, so I'll defend my land
From you and your army of few?
My earlier statement I herby retract, we both know it a fact
That I'll gladly have your parents killed.
I'll turn their hides into some kind of sofa just as soon as this duel is over.
At rapping I am clearly more skilled.

More skilled than I? A bold claim for one about to die -
To fall on his own sword in shame.
At having been bested by a young rapper, untested.
Why! I have already forgotten your name.
For such is the fate of the loser of this debate
To be forgotten by history.
While my destiny's greater. I'll be celebrated!
For mine is a song of blood, guts and glory.

Your eye-rhymes and half-rhymes are rather quaint.
Your words little more than a verbal feint.
But you could only win by becoming a cheater,
For though I admit you're quite the word-beater,
I doubt you'll cope now I've altered the metre!

Your rhythm and flow are truly exceptional.
At rapping I hereby declare you professional.
But I fear our words have grown rather digressional.
I find your rhymes more conversational
Than confrontational.
This duel should be something truly sensational.
Not merely trite, and recreational.

You accuse me of digression, son?
Your limbs will be digressed from your body by the time I am done.
I am not here to indulge in childish fun,
But to ensure that this war is won.

Won it shall be. Won by me
And my loyal legions.
We'll take it back, the lands seized in attack
And all your rebellious regions.
I've swords and spearmen and dozens of others
Avenging lost fathers and defending their mothers.
You have a ragtag assembly of mercenary hordes,
While I have regiments of barons and lords.
Your numbers may be greater, but I have right on my side.
And I trust in the fates, that they shall decide
The honourable winner of this pathetic feud
Once battle is done and your corpse is on view.
Your ideals are slavery, mine are freedom.
And nothing shall stand between a prince and his kingdom.

And so unto battle the two men marched, and Prince Tychos did seize victory in action just as he did in words. And so he became King Tychos. As for the General, his name has been excised from history. As is only right.

Offline Jmack

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Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2017, 07:10:48 PM »
Well, this is a whole lot better than last month, when I could barely muster a poem.
1,492 words

Men of Hawslyn!

Spoiler for Hiden:
Men of Hawslyn

"Hail, brother!" Ava Mangrave reined in her stallion a short distance from a barrier of felled trees that clogged a narrow ravine etched between two protecting shoulders of hill.

Rickard's voice answered from the barricade. "Hail, sister! Have you come to dance? I'd take a turn, but I hear you bedded the last three men you partnered. And the obvious aside... you're really not my type." The ravine erupted with hoots and crude invitations from the men Rickard had rallied to his cause.

Ranked behind Ava, her own sworn men grumbled and fingered their weapons. She glanced over at the gray-cloaked figure waiting nearby. "Well?"

"He did not speak long enough," said the man. His words echoed eerily as though dredged up from a deep-dug well.

"Most days that would be a blessing." Ava chewed her cheek in thought, then summoned her marshal. "Garett, who was that boy sang Molly's Lament by the fire last night?"

The grey-maned soldier had a perpetual squint from years in the field. "Village lad. Barger's troop." He squirted tobacco into the dirt. "Good voice. Tears all round."

"That's the one." She pitched her voice low. "He's to start up with Men of Hawslyn. Make it his own idea, do you understand? A spontaneous offering for those about to die." Garett nodded the way he did when he didn't understand but would do whatever his liege lady asked. He turned and rode back through the lines. Anxiety fought with Ava's self-control. If this idea didn't work, it would be blades and blood all round.

Waiting. She hated waiting. Ava pondered how long it would take Garrett to arrange this unplanned demonstration of authentic emotion.

At last a high, sweet voice rose from midway down the line. Men of Hawslyn. A song like mead to those who lived and fought in this land between the lakes. Once one started it, everyone sang. Her brother wouldn't be able to resist.

And the lad was good.

Men of Hawslyn, to the furrows,
Break your swords in rocky soil.

A shiver ran down Ava's spine. She had to stop herself from singing along.

Men of Hawslyn to the barrows,
Sow the earth with bloody toil.

A mass of deep bass, off-key baritone, and jarring tenor voices joined the first, with a few sopranos sprinkled in. If you hadn't been raised with the words from childhood, you'd never pick them out.

In the morning, Mardin Highsmith
kissed his goodwife and his child,
took his blade from off the mantle,
trod the lane to join the file.

Rickard's men began to sing as well. It didn't matter if soldiers were about to feast or fight, they'd let roast and tempers cool to finish out this song.

"Well?" Ava called over the din.

"There are too many." The hooded man extended claw-like fingers toward the barricade. "I cannot find your brother's one voice among them all."

"You oversold your talent, sir. You said, only get him speaking or singing, and I shall find him."

The wizard turned his shadowed face to Ava. "One voice. I said one voice. Once a voice is in my grip, so is the man."

"Find me that one voice, magician, or it's you'll be in my grip." Ava lazily drew her father's sword, the one she'd used to cut the old bastard down. Was it only three short weeks ago?

In the evening, Mardin Legless
dragged his body past the dead,
quenched his thirst with crimson water,
dug a barrow for his bed.

Ava hated the song. It was just like Hawslynmen to celebrate death and maiming mere moments before doing their damnedest to maim and murder each other. Women wouldn't waste the time on it. If there was work to do, they'd just grab a knife and do it. Chicken, sheep, or men, they all bled the same. And now the two armies were reaching the last verse, all she had to show for this sudden notion of hers was seeing battle-hardened warriors weep into their beards and her oh-so terrifying wizard waste her patience.

One voice? A new idea came to her. She'd get the wizard that one voice.

Ava spurred forward, and the last refrain faltered at the vision of her: sunlight flashing on white horse, white cape, white skin, and streaming, raven hair. The wizard joined her, robes flapping, as she dismounted.

Knowing her brother's men stared back from between the branches, Ava called out. "Men of Hawslyn!" A cold breeze ruffled the grass. "You are my men as surely as you were born between the lakes. Following my brother will bring you only ruin." True words, but her only reply was silence. "I want no blood today, except my traitor brother's. I am eldest, and the throne is rightly mine. But though you are rebels and damned by your own choice, I show you mercy. I challenge my brother the ancient way -- to duel by song and word."

Both sides erupted in confusion, the news passing up and down the lines, until Rickard's laughter rang out loud and long. "Song and word?" he scoffed. "I'd give up my balls before I'd listen to you sing!"

Damn Rickard. This new gamble had to work. He had to take the challenge and sing his turn. If the wizard could seize his voice and force him to bow, many doomed men would live to see out this day. But as she began her song, she felt in her bones she'd been a fool to try.

"Men of Hawslyn to your women,
Swing your sword where it belongs
Leave my brother to his whining
He'll kneel to me before e'er long."

She paused for Rickard to come out of hiding, then went on before the moment dragged. She barely registered marshal Garrett's return to his usual station behind her.

"Men of Hawslyn to the harvest,
To your babes and to your farms,
Leave poor Rickard to my mercy,
Little boy won't come to harm."

He came at last, pushing through the barricade, striding forward like he was walking into one of his favorite taverns.

"Get ready, wizar--" Ava's voice stopped in her throat. Power gripped her mind, bending her immediately to an iron will.

"Shh," the wizard's voice whispered in her mind. Her stomach heaved and her head pounded. "Peace now. Don't try to fight me. Shh."

Rickard stopped some paces away, a smile stretched falsely from ear to ear. "Song and word?" he jeered. "Those are ways so ancient they creak. Do you think this is one of our old nursery games?" He stepped forward again until only a few feet separated them. Ava tried to move her lips, her jaw, anything. Gods, what had she been thinking?

Hatred infused her brother's voice. "I'm not playing games, Ava. I'm not the boy I was three weeks ago, and I'm not singing for you or anyone. If come you at us, we'll grind you into dog's meat. We'll--" his eyes bulged, and his words choked off.

The wizard stepped calmly between them, turning his hooded face from one to the other. "You so-called nobles. I loathe your kind as I loathe little else. You pretend your petty squabbles matter, and countless men and women die for your vanity."

Ava was just able to meet her brother's eyes, but closed them against the fury and fear in his.

"Now," the wizard continued," you will return to your people and call off this pointless battle. Then you will appoint me as regent. Someone has to guide this backward kingdom, and I nominate m--"

An arrow sprang out from the wizard's mouth, spraying blood and teeth, taking his face with it and tumbling his body to the ground. The grip on Ava's mind vanished, leaving her gasping.

Garret stood a few yards away, cradling a cross bow. "Never did trust wizards."

"What was that?!" Rickard gagged and spat. "Was that your doing, witch?"

Ava nearly cringed. It had been her doing, her foolishness. She took a long breath to regain her control. "Rickard. Rickard, perhaps we should --"

"Oh, no." Her brother chopped his hand through the air. "No peace between us. Not now, not ever." He jabbed an accusing finger at her. "You killed our father."

"He killed my mother!"

"Because she was a conniving bitch, just like you!"

Ava tried to find her brother in this stranger's face. A flash of memory seized her: Rickard in the nursery, crying over a skinned knee while she kissed away his tears. Then it was gone, and all her delay with it.

"Go," she said.

Rickard stalked off without a backward look.

By the time Ava remounted, the village lad's voice had risen once more.

Men of Hawslyn.

By the time the bloody work began, the raging of a thousand men crashed in her ears.

Men of Hawslyn!

Men of Hawslyn!

« Last Edit: May 21, 2017, 12:51:48 PM by Jmack »
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2017, 01:38:38 AM »
The Arch Magus and the Black Sorceress

1098 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
   In the clear silence of a cloudless, windless evening sky, a full moon rose over the seaside city. A dark and silent disquiet lay over the roofs and chimneys like a fog. No lights shone from any window. No dog barked. Even the waves came in shushed sighs. This night a new Arch Magus would ascend to rule. Or not. And in the morning, someone’s remains would be rolled into the bay.

   They met in the broad, open space of the Queen’s Square, flanked by the lower city’s alleys on one side, and the Heights’ wide stone avenues on the other. The square shone bright beneath the moon. Gone were the vendors’ tents and tables, the farmers’ market-carts, and the fishmongers’ racks. The livestock pens had been taken down and carried away.

   Despite her age, Arch Magus Grolliker approached with steady, even steps, the tapping of her white staff and the whispering of her pearly robes the only sounds. A silver, opal-studded circlet swept back her silver braids. She moved to the square’s north corner, the defender’s traditional position. She whispered, and her wards ignited around her, glimmering incandescent blue spheres.

   The young upstart, the black sorceress Quelliard, entered the square, her sable gown shining, her spear-pointed staff across her shoulders. Coal-black tresses bounced and swayed with every step.

   There were no pleasantries or bows of courteous equals. Only Grolliker’s sigh and Quelliard’s smirk.

   Quelliard growled in her throat and danced spinning into the square, her gown and shadowy mane twirling behind her as she pirhouetted across the flagstones. Her staff whirled into a single hand that carved a glowing circle through the air around her. Her song started as little more than a whisper, low and sultry tones that crept up from beneath the gauzy silence.

  Death against life,
  Flesh torn from flesh and life born of strife.”

Her voice rose like a wind, sharp and shrill. Bitter with the anger and strength of her youth, her voice became a thing of wild wind and terrible wonder:

  “Darker powers - surge to motion!
  Wake this crone from foolish notions!
  Scourging shadows - burn her! Lash her!
  Hellfire rage and Darkflame blast her!”

   Silent lightning leapt from Quelliard’s spear-point to Grolliker’s wards, over and over and over. Showers of golden sparks shot up and rained down around the old woman. Quelliard spun to a stop, hoisted her staff high, and lowered the point at her foe.

   From every shadow, whispering echoes resonated as her voice climbed to the ceiling of the sky:
  “Two queens never rule together,
  No queen lives or rules forever,
  Deadly now we crash together,
  White swan chokes on raven’s feather!”

   A swirling stormcloud of ghostly ravens issued from the shadows, thundering into Grolliker’s buckling wards like a thousand evil arrows. The torrent blotted out the Arch Magus’s wards and shining robes. Panting with exertion, Quelliard faltered and lowered her spear-staff, and the storm ended. A dark and foreboding frown slid across her mouth as the Arch Magus emerged, leaning wearily on her staff with both hands.
The old Arch Magus giggled, lightly at first, as though at a small joke shared among friends. But Grolliker’s giggle grew to a belly-rumbling laugh, the very sound of which made Quelliard’s eyes glower with hatred.

   “Verily,” old Gronniker said, wiping a tear from her eye. She moved toward the center of the square, not with the stride of a ruling Arch Magus or the whirling acrobatics of her challenger, but with the light, single-step shuffle of a girl playing rope-skip, the tap of her staff marking time as she danced with her moon-shadow. Her opponent fell back before her as she advanced.

  “One-step, two-step, three-step, four,”
   Her voice neither rose to the sky nor grumbled with the solemnity of the earth, but chittered with the glee of childhood:
  “Quelliard! Quelliard! At my door!”

   Grolliker paused on one foot, thin hands waving playfully in the air for balance. She raised her face to her opponent, pulled her lips between her teeth as if straining against a deep and determined mirth, then stuck out her tongue and grimaced like a child.

  “Five-step, six-step, seven-step, eight!
  Quelliard’s young but the hour grows late!”

   Grolliker set her staff before her and let go. It stood immobile as the old Arch Magus bent one arm around it and raised the other as though leading a dance partner. She sauntered around her staff as she began a new, slower song, her tone ringing with the wisdom of maturity:
  “A woeful weapon is raging anger, it cuts its wielders’ hands,
  But happy hearts make stalwart armor, a lasting shield that stands.”

   Grolliker’s voice grew merry as she moved first this way, then that way, pressing her opponent back. The words rolled from her as rich and luxuriant as a young wife’s hair as she made her way toward Quelliard.

  “The war you fight is yours alone, your quarrel’s not with me,
  You waste your rage so far from home, consumed with jealousy,
  You think that all that’s had or held must come from bitter strife,
  And seeking now to make your mark, you come to take my life?”

   Grolliker raised her staff and reached out with the tip toward Quelliard, who stood powerless to stop her. She stared at the end of the staff that would take her life should it touch her.

The old Arch Magus’ voice dropped to a whispered confession:
  “An older, nobler, greater power,
  Fills my mind and heart this hour,
  Your burning bitter hate and rage,
  The vigor of your youthful age,
  Can neither mar nor wrest from me,
  The crown you sought in envy.”

   Quelliard could retreat no further and stood teetering at the edge of the square. Grolliker shook her head sadly at the young woman.
  “Go now to your darkened grave beneath the full moon’s light,
  Fullfill the promise that you made, begin your endless plight.

  Bend your knees before you meet him,
  And tell your master when you greet him,

  That though your voice was strong and fierce,
  Your song could not my armor pierce.

  An older, nobler, greater power,
  Filled my mind and heart this hour,

  A boundless love, a joy, a laughter,
  That heard but once is heard thereafter.”

   Grolliker gently but irresistably pushed her staff into contact with Quelliard’s breastbone, and the spell took the black sorceress’s life. Quelliard slumped to the ground, staring up with eyes that now beheld a very different darkness. The Arch Magus turned and shuffled away to the slow rhythm of the tapping of her staff, humming to herself.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Yun Li

Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2017, 06:28:10 AM »
Gray Band

1144 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was a usual morning in Graytown. The sun rose over the top of the Gray Mountains and brightened the Gray Valley and the town on the north side of it. It's mayor had just left his house and was walking to the town hall. He cast a gloomy look at the sky and guessed if it's going to be a rain later on and if it is, then, would his leg be bothering him a lot or just a little.

Graytown was a small outpost of mankind surrounded by beautiful wildlands. Definitely not a place where wealthy city dwellers would like their offsprings to settle in, as they don't usually consider wild bears and snakes to be beautiful. Apart from animals the valley was inhabited by a dozen of farmers with their families; there was one inn in the town, one smith, a sawmill, a local fool, a knight to protect them all, and, of course, the mayor.

"Hi, Tom!" a milkman shouted as the mayor passed by his house.

"Hi, Bill, how are you?"

"Could be better," said the milkman putting a full barrel on a carriage. "Pain in the shoulder will kill me, it's twitching all day long!"

"Chin up, Bill, chin up!"

Town hall stood on the main and only square of Graytown. Rolf, the fool, was usually seen near it, while his flute, unfortunately, could be heard from afar. That morning wasn't an exception. The fool was playing loud and with determination but not much of a talent.

"Bah!" said the mayor. "Same melody all these years, Rolf. Couldn't you learn something new?"

And right after his words a sound of drum came from the mountains.

"Boom. Boom. Bara-boom!"

"Hm," said the mayor looking at the sky anxiously. "That doesn’t sound like something good . . ."

Soon everyone in the town was very anxious. Sir Logan, the knight, was sent to scout the valley, but found nothing at all. What was even more strange, the sound was heard only within Graytown and was fading fast outside of it’s borders. Thanks goodness it was gone at sundown, and everyone could sleep.

On the next morning, however, the drumming resumed. It wasn’t so loud now, but soon a beautiful violin joined it. Longing, weeping, flying from afar, it's mysterious voice overwhelmed the town.

"Whoever is behind this, a ghost or an elf, it must be stoped!" said woodcutter John to his apprentice.

"Yes sir!" the boy replied.

"I would cut his hands off!" his master added heavily.

The woodcutter hated his job as well as the half of the Graytowners, and only his good character prevented him from messing things up already.

"That's awful!" said the milkman to his wife and children during dinner. "The mayor has to do something. Because of these annoying sounds my shoulder's getting even worse!"

And his right shoulder indeed was moving up and down uncontrollably.

On the third day a lute sound came up. It's romantic intonation resembled sir Logan of a time when he was young and questing in the name of his lady. He even recalled a dance that he learned at the king's court.

All townsmen gathered at the main square to decide how to get rid of the music. Only Rolf didn't join them, but he was standing near the hall as usually and playing as good as never before with a new and solid backing.

"Outrageous!" exclaimed one of the farmers while his hands were making waves in the air. "I can not rest after work because of the damn buzzing!"

"We should stop it before we all get sick!" yielded another farmer while his right foot was drawing circles.
"There must be someone to blame!" said the woodcutter.

"And he must be somewhere near!" added the knight while trying to practice some of the dance steps.

A witch hunt began. Every house, every storage was opened and searched thoroughly, but with no result. In the end people even blamed the fool in doing dark magic, but failed to catch him because of nervous motions their hands and legs were doing all the time; and everyone gave up.

After ten days some more instruments joined the invisible orchestra. And in the morning the woodcutter said to his apprentice, rhythmically waving his axe in the air:

"You know, I'm kind of starting to enjoy it."

"Yes, sir!" answered the boy, jumping high.

That day townsfolk decided to make a dance party on the square.

"I have to admit," said the mayor cautiously, "it makes things more lively around here."

"Indeed," agreed the milkman and both of his shoulders were moving smoothly now.

On the day twenty orcs invaded Graytown, but the knight was too busy to fight them as he was learning new pas.

"I would kill you!" said Garhg the Big Boss when orcs surrounded sir Logan on the square. "I would pillage your damn town!" he added. "But I can't do a thing . . ."

His hands were flying so fast that he was to unable hold his axe or a shield. Together with his orc-boys, they danced boogie woogie on the square until late night and then felt down completely exhausted.

It was the day thirty when the mayor was going to the town hall, whistling and jumping as usual. He looked at the sun, smiled and though that maybe he can use the music to attract tourist to Graytown, and maybe he can even change the name of the town to something more… attractive. Rolf was at his position, but today the fool stood still and with surprisingly grim expression on his face.

"What's wrong?" the mayor asked and immediately understood himself. The music was gone. Forever as it turned out later.

A silent grayness fell on the town; and one day the mayor asked the fool, with a blink of hope in his voce, "Rolf, are you going to play?"

"Don't know, probably . . ." Rolf's tone was even more grave than his face.

"Could you play, please?" begged mayor. "Just some simple country tune? You know, as before?"

"I will try . . ." Rolf raised his head and took the flute. His eyes sparkled. "I will do my best!"

And so he started. And in the evening the milkman joined him with his new drum made of a barrel. On the next day the woodcutter came with an old violin that grandpa passed to him. And one farmer brought a horn on the third day, while another, a roughly made lute. And the mayor was singing on the fifth day. And yes, all that time sir Logan was dancing on the square.

And so they played forth. Maybe not as good as the mysterious musicians, but well enough to make things more lively around Graytown. And, of course, they managed to repel the second invasion of orcs without any blood spilt.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2017, 07:33:15 PM by Yun Li »

Offline tebakutis

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Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2017, 09:41:36 PM »
Here's my story for this month! For anyone who has read Glyphbinder, yes, this is set in the same world, though it is set hundreds of years earlier. The fact that our theme was music and so much of my magic system revolved around singing was impossible to pass up, but I hope the story will still stand alone.

Here, at 1,500 words, is my story for this month's theme, Music.

Twitter @TEricBakutis

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Fivesworn Council sang the Hymn of Revocation shortly after the sun topped the fertile mountains of the Green Ridge. Aria had just finished hanging laundry when the first neophyte began to sob. She found him—Tym—collapsed on a rock twenty paces down a well-worn path of grass and stone.

In the camp below, Tym’s anguished weeping was joined by others who had discovered what they had lost. The neophyte camp was a descending mess of mud and straw huts, and it filled with the wails of those wronged by this morning’s hymn. Beyond the camp, the mirrored sheet of Pale Lake stretched out to the grand forests of Rain, trees that swayed and rustled with the warm morning wind. The horizon beyond those great and ancient trees was bright and blue, with a smattering of wispy cloud.

It was a very pretty day for the world they all knew to end.

Aria had been warned, of course, but she had not known the hymn would be sung today. The machinations of the Fivesworn Council were unknowable to all save those elected to it, but Aria knew more than most. Few were trusted like those who could neither speak nor write, and Bloodsinger Octavia trusted Aria like her own daughter. For all intents and purposes, Aria was.

Today there would be shouting across the Bloodsinger camp, loud protests, perhaps even rioting. Yet even those terrors would be a small price to pay for ensuring a woman like Catylia Devane never sang souls into the Underside again. Few in the camp knew one untouched by the deep and dreadful dirges of the Deathsinger, yet Catylia’s impending victory, Aria knew, was only one reason for the hymn.

Aria reached Tym and squeezed his shoulder. He was just sixteen, one year younger than her, living a life that was blessed and perfect. His life was not perfect any longer.

Tym looked up, eyes red and cheeks wet, but he didn’t ask Aria if she knew what had happened or why. Why would he? Aria’s brother had silenced her with a song when she was just two years old, and even the Fivesworn Council couldn’t undo what he had done to her. Her brother couldn’t either, being dead.

Aria knelt before Tym and mouthed the words she could not speak. “Are you okay?”

He waved her off, waved that he would be fine, and Aria could imagine what he must be thinking right now. This was temporary. This would pass, and he would sing again soon. He was so very, very wrong.

She left Tym to fantasize and ascended the path of grass and stone that led to the Fivesworn Council. As she walked, she passed Bloodsinger Apprentices and Journeymages emerging from their fine wooden lodges. They sang together with determination and elegance, sang songs that were pitch-perfect, beautiful, and haunting, but those songs no longer changed the world. They never would again.

By the time Aria reached the towering three-story lodge of the Fivesworn Council, she was covered in sweat and the sun hung high. She heard no sobbing or singing any longer. Only hands of the council—men and women like her—were allowed beyond the Woodsung Gate, though that would change when everyone learned the gate had lost its power to repel. The gate, like the Bloodsingers, was no more.

Octavia met her with a freshly-inked tome of blood glyphs in hand. She looked impossibly regal in her crimson robes. The spiky vine tattoos winding across Octavia’s dark skin and bald head were as intricate as those on her arms and legs, signs of her place of honor at the head of all tribes. The rest of the Fivesworn Council, Aria knew, was gone, fled before the wrath of those they ruled could find them.

“You must go,” Octavia said.

Aria took the tome and tucked it into her own gray robes. Before long every Bloodsinger in the camp would be marching up here to speak to the council, to demand answers and an undoing of the hymn. All knew a hymn powerful enough to take bloodsinging from the world could only be sung by the Fivesworn Council, and Aria knew the others would never accept that hymn as irreversible.

They would threaten Octavia to get their power back. They would hurt her, if necessary, and still Octavia refused to run. That was why Octavia and the others had known it was time to take that power away.

The countless travesties and slaughters of Catylia Devane had begun the conversation that led to the Hymn of Revocation, but hundreds of daily accidents had ended it. Accidents like those of Aria’s brother, who sang his baby sister into silence one morning because he was tired of hearing her cry.

“Hide it well,” Octavia said, speaking of the tome. “Tell your children and no others. One day, generations from now, those in the centuries beyond ours will be ready to change the world again.”

Aria stared and mouthed one word. “You?”

“I’ll be fine,” Octavia lied. “Someone must explain what happened so the news can spread.”

Aria pointed down the path, then at Octavia. She pointed up the peak.

“I drew the white rock,” Octavia assured her. “And so it is my great honor to explain what we did and why we did it. The others are safely away now, with their own tomes, and you must be away too.”

Now it was Aria’s turn to cry. Octavia pulled her close and hugged her as the first traces of angry shouting carried up the path. Then Octavia stepped away and pointed up the mountain. “Go.”

Aria went. Tears streamed down her cheeks and a lump grew in her useless throat as she climbed to the peak beyond the lodge. On the far side were the mighty waters of the Layn, and once she crossed into the deserts of Tellvan, none would ever find her again. Her old life would end forever.

Aria had sworn to serve Bloodsinger Octavia to the death, but she had always assumed that meant her own death, not Octavia’s. She had always assumed she would be the one the others lynched. She had just started down a treacherous goat path when an anguished shout froze her. “Aria!”

It was Tym. Had he followed her? Had he seen the book? As she turned to find him after her, knife in hand, Aria answered both questions. Tym wanted his power back.

“Give me the book,” Tym grimaced. “The Deathsinger’s coming. How can we stop her if we can’t sing?”

Aria wanted to tell Tym that even Catylia could sing no longer, that nothing anyone could do would ever undo the hymn. Yet she could not tell Tym anything, because her words did not work.

“Give me the book and I’ll let you go,” Tym begged. “Please, Aria!”

She raised one hand in warning, and Tym stopped.  Negotiating. She backed to a drop sheer as a knife.

“What are you doing?” Tym’s eyes grew wide as he anticipated her. “No, don’t!”

Aria’s heels found the edge. She looked down at tiny outcroppings and tiny trees and even wispy clouds, all waiting for her below. Waiting for her fall.

“Don’t do it.” Tym advanced on her once more, knife raised, but he looked worried now, not angry. “Please, Aria, I don’t want to hurt you. Stop!”

He was lying, though he didn’t know it yet. As Aria sliced her index finger with the sharp nail of her thumb, she stepped back off the ledge. Then she fell. Then she scribed. Then everything went white.

* * *

Three days later, after the searching ended, Aria descended a different mountain on a cold morning shadowed by clouds. The miracle that saved her—her scribing, her teleportation, and Octavia’s glyphs—seemed like a dream this morning, except it couldn’t be. This morning, Bloodsinger Octavia was dead.

Years of studying astral glyphs with Octavia had let Aria escape the others, but it still hurt that she had not saved her foster mother. All that remained of Octavia was the book in Aria’s pack and the glyphs it held, written manifestations of all now stolen from the world. Written song.

Aria’s tome would make the world better one day. Her descendants would make the world better one day, yet on this cold morning, that bright future seemed very far away.

Aria heard no pursuit as she descended, but she did hear something else. Singing filled the forests of Rain below her, and this singing came from birds, not humans. Birds sang for pleasure, for camaraderie, not to harm or kill or change.

Birdsong was pure, like human singing would be now. No brother in this new world would accidentally sing his sister mute again.  That was a sacrifice worthy of Octavia. That was a sacrifice Aria could accept.

She wiped her eyes, adjusted her pack, and walked into the forest to change the world.

« Last Edit: May 25, 2017, 07:32:13 PM by tebakutis »
T. Eric Bakutis: 2014 Compton Crook Finalist and author of Tales of the Five Provinces

Book 1: Glyphbinder
Book 2: Demonkin
Book 3: Bloodmender


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