Saturday, December 05, 2009

Maybe I should have split this up. Oh well. Saliim Amir, Bard

Not long ago, in a land of the shining desert, lived a bard known throughout as Hamahn the Weaver of Words and his young apprentice, Saliim. Together they wandered the dry earth of their home land bringing tales of great men and the gods to every corner of every town they came to. They also learned much from each town and composed even more songs and stories to tell as they traveled.

As they traveled, Hamahn would sing aloud, attracting other travelers who came and went, as if they were moths drawn to Hamahn’s flame. Saliim, however, was not allowed to sing a note. He was hired as an apprentice, but was treated more like a pack mule. Hamahn taught him very little of the trade directly, but Saliim was a bright lad and watched as much of his master’s performances as he could.

When Hamahn would sing a song, or tell a tale, Saliim would take notes that he hid in his pack. When his master would play an instrument, Saliim would watch him closely, scrutinizing every movement, memorizing every nuance, and at night, while his master slept (usually very heavily due to the drinks others would buy him) he would practice by repeating what his master had done until it was perfect. Sometimes it would take many days for him to learn the instrument, but one in particular seemed to come easily to him. It was almost as if he had a kinship with the wood of its casing. He caressed the strings like a lover’s body, playing his fingers lightly across them, or dancing across them with a fiery passion. The zither, like a piece of his body and soul that had been lost to him for so long, was the one instrument that he loved like no other. And, of course, this was the one instrument that Hamahn shied away from, so, to his heart-broken dismay, Saliim’s stolen lessons on it were very few, and leagues between.

Days whirled, like the wind, into months. Months flowed, like the golden sand, into years. And Saliim found himself becoming a man. And with that came an understanding in him of many of the songs his master had sung. He experienced passion, adventure, heart-break, love, loss, kinship, betrayal, and a myriad of other emotions that he now understood to be fuel for the dancing fire of song and story. But all were fleeting and lasted only as long as his visits to the towns would let them. All but one, that is.

As the days wore on and the nights came chasing after, a dark seed of resentment and loathing had blossomed into a thorny vine in his heart, and that vine had coiled itself around the image of his master. The master who would not let Saliim express himself, unless in song or tale that Hamahn chose for the lad; the master who stamped on the embers of hope that arose in Saliim when he offered a piece of masterwork that he had toiled over for many months, only to be mocked and soon after tossed into the flames of the nearest fire; the master that found Saliim singing to a small group of children the story of Hamahn and his magical tales of wonder, and thrashed him in front of them for his insolence and further punished him by not allowing him to speak a word for a month.

Saliim did not wish the old man dead. No, that would have been too easy a punishment. Saliim wished worse upon him, but did not dare go against his master, for he did not know any other life than that of an apprentice. He pondered striking out to earn his own fortune, but faltered, fearing that his master may be right and he may not be good enough and would die alone and starving in some gutter.

This was the life of Saliim for many more years, and it may have continued that way until the death of the Weaver of Words, had it not been for a matter of greed in the old bard.

One day, as they were traveling in a town near the outskirts of the royal city, they happened upon a tavern. It was one they had been to many times in the past, and the keeper was a kind man who had a fondness for entertainers of all sorts. As they entered, Saliim was struck by a cacophony of sound that, at first, stunned his poor brain from the mere variety of sounds, but soon flowed into the sound of a multitude of instruments trying to wrap themselves around the same song. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, he saw a wonder that nearly broke his heart to overflowing with utter joy. Sitting at nearly every table and overflowing the bar were bards. Every single person other than the tavern keeper and a few apprentices like himself was a bard of one type or another, and all of them musicians. As the beauty of this realization struck him, the tones of the performers’ instruments all seemed to alight with the song they were playing. All of them began to glow in his mind as they all found the tune of the song they were attempting and one by one, they fell into perfect harmony with one another until in Saliim’s mind’s eye they were all aflame and dancing with the tune like candles caught in a breeze.

And as he saw this, he also felt a stirring in him that he had known was there his whole life but was just now discovering. This flame, this light, this energy, it had a life of its own. And as he realized this, the stirring soon was caught up in the flame and caught like dry and brittle tinder. He knew that this energy could be harnessed. It could be used by anyone who had the knowledge of it. He closed his eyes and watched it dance, and soon he was dancing with it. And as he pulled it closer to him, it merged with him and he could feel it moving inside of him, and he knew that he had always had this in him. He knew it like your heart knows your blood, like your tongue knows flavor. He just knew it.

He opened his eyes, and to his astonishment, he was dancing on a table in the midst of the bards, his zither in his hands singing along with the rest, and as he looked around him, he could see a faint light about each of the other bards and their instruments, and as the song went on, he saw the lights mingle with one another. All but one. Hamahn, who was watching him with an icy stare through his cold white aura, was not joining in on this miracle of music. He watched Saliim, and Saliim felt himself falter and with that one mistake, he felt the fire in his soul snuff out. It was still there, inside of him he knew, but it had become grey ash.

The bards about him cheered for him to continue to play, but he merely shuffled his way off of the table and over to Hamahn. Hamahn thanked the tavern keep and led them out into the streets again. They found an Inn not far away and Hamahn said he was tired and wanted to find a nice bed for the night. He told Saliim that, as a punishment for his “outburst” and his “shameful behavior” in front of Hamahn’s peers, he was to sleep in the stables. Saliim bowed his head and started away, and then, out of some morbid curiosity, he turned back and spoke to his master in a small, timid voice.

“Master,” he said, his voice quavering with fear, “was… was I any good?”

Hamahn glared at him for what seemed like days. Finally, he shook his head slowly and asked in return, “did you see them laughing back there? Did you see how jolly and raucous they were?”

Saliim felt a glimmer of hope. “Yes, master,” he said, “I did.”

“My boy,” Hamahn said, a small smile curving his lips, “they were not laughing with you, but at you.” With that, he spun on his heals and into the Inn.

The next morning, when Saliim awoke, he found his zither lying broken and mangled near him in the hay of the stable. When he went to his master, he dared not mention it. Undoubtedly, it was another punishment for his unskilled and embarrassing display in the tavern. But the vine of loathing grew longer and gripped tighter in him around its prey.

But, as stated before, things were already moving toward change for the young man. For, the night before, while Saliim danced and played and sang with the bards, Hamahn spoke to his friend, the tavern keep, and he told the old bard the reason that so many of his fellows had gathered here. The Sultan had called for all bards throughout the land to come to his palace. He wanted to commission one of them to write a song for him about his life thus far and if he found them suitable to the task, he may even keep them on as the palace musician.

Of course, Hamahn could not pass up such an offer, but when he saw his apprentice with the other bards, and saw the way his life-light shone and flowed with the others, and the way it seemed to take control of the others’ auras, leading them into such a joyous frenzy, he felt a yearning pulling him to join, but it was soon cut by the blade of jealousy and he knew that he had to do something to keep the boy in line. He had seen the boy’s talents flare up before, but never to this level.
He had to put a stop to it, or he would lose his acclaimed place in this world as Weaver of Words to a mere underling. No, that would not do at all. And as his mind was thinking those thoughts, he saw, with a gleaming clarity, the target at which to strike and how to crush the boy’s flame, possibly for good. His old zither seemed to glow a bright white as he watched it sing under the boys dancing fingers. He knew exactly what needed to be done.

The next morning, Saliim met him in the common room of the inn with all of their packs and ready to travel. Hamahn told him the news of the night before and that they would soon be traveling to the palace to take up the offer of the sultan, and if he was good, Hamahn may even let him assist him in researching information for the song. This lifted the young man’s spirit some, because he knew many of the stories of the most recent war waged between the sultan and a nearby land. He had heard much during their travels, but then he became dismayed. He could not remember a single piece of information from the townspeople that was worthy of a song of praise for the sultan. All he could recall hearing was how much the war had cost the people of the land and how the sultan had done his best to minimize that, but with little success. He began to mention this to his mention this to his master, but Hamahn told him to hush and not to worry. There would be plenty of information in the palace archives, which is where Saliim would be spending much of his time. Saliim nodded, but still didn’t have much hope, for this sultan was young, not much older than himself, and his accomplishments did not seem to merit a song, let alone much of a tale. But he followed his master’s lead, as he had always done.
When they arrived at the palace, Saliim was overcome with awe. He had never seen a building of such greatness. They had traveled to many lands, and he had seen many palaces and great homes, but this was unprecedented. The gates of the city seemed to be made of a shining metal he had never seen before. It was so burnished that it almost seemed to give off light.

The guards that stood by it were no less impressive. Their armor, though sparse, shone with such a polished brilliance that it was difficult to look directly at it. Hamahn introduced himself to the guards and was told he would have to wait for an escort. They pulled a rope near the gate and a bell could be heard ringing on the other side of the gate. A young man opened a little window in the gate and the guards instructed him to find someone to escort the bard to the sultan’s viewing room. The boy ran off and the guard pointed them to a waiting area near the gate. Hamahn nodded and the two of them sat on a bench nearby. While they waited, Hamahn reached into one of the packs, as he did, Saliim stiffened. Hamahn halted a second and then he spoke softly to the young man.

“You have been sufficiently punished for your insolence. I will not strike you. I am merely trying to reach in the pack and retrieve my recorder.”

Saliim relaxed a little and removed the pack form his shoulders.

“I am sorry, master,” he said quietly, “allow me to get it for you.”
This much servitude pleased the older man, and he let Saliim fumble through the pack for him. He smiled to the guards as the young man produce his instrument.
Hamahn put the recorder to his lips and began to play slowly and softly. As he did, Saliim could see his aura begin to surround him. It was still a white color, but it didn’t look as cold as before. It looked like lamp light, and as Hamahn played, it began to grow stronger and envelope his recorder and radiate softly from him. You could see its effect on the guards as well. Their stance began to relax some and as Hamahn played, more and more people were drawn near the gate to hear the performance. Soon there was a crowd about the gates and everyone, including the guards, was swaying to the music. Saliim noticed that he too was swaying. Music was a kind magic, and infectious kind of magic that touched everyone around it.

“What is all this?!” The voice broke the spell of the music and the passers-by all smiled and went along their way. The guards immediately stiffened back to full attention. The bard and his apprentice turned to see a man standing in the open gate. He was an elderly man dressed in a silver and blue gown and wearing a hat that hung around his head and neck in ribbons of silver, blue, and gold. He looked sternly at the guards and then turned to Hamahn.

“Ah,” the man said, “another bard.” He almost spat the word and his face screwed up into a look of disgust.

“If you would follow me,” he said, “I will take you to meet with his majesty. I am Kamath, the high scribe to his greatness. Personally, I do not see the reason behind the sultan’s need for the likes of you, but…” He trailed off and motioned for them to follow.

As they entered the gates, Saliim was again struck by what he saw. It was all so opulent and amazing to him. Everywhere he looked there was shining glass and marble columns. Some of the columns were carved with images of dancing girls or great animals he had heard of only in tales. Some were covered in carvings of scenes of long fought wars, others in scenes of sexual pleasures he had never dreamed of. These made the young man blush, and Hamahn laughed at the young man’s chagrin.
As they walked further into the palace, they came to a large room. The floor of the room was polished so such a high shine that it was almost like looking into a mirror. He was so stricken with its beauty that when he looked back up, he realized that Kamath and Hamahn were well ahead of him and he had to jog to catch up.

He looked at the rest of the room and at the opposite end; he saw a throne lavished with pillows and cushions. It stood empty, and Saliim looked around, wondering where the sultan was. He saw many doors lining the walls, each with a guard beside it with a gleaming scimitar. They watched the group as they made their way to the throne with an intent glare.

Saliim was stopped suddenly when he ran into his master who had halted. They both stumbled a little then righted themselves. Hamahn glared at the boy and he stepped away slowly.

Kamath sniffed dismissively and stepped to one of the doors and went through. A moment later, he stepped back through it and announced, “Presenting his royal highness, sultan Timahat, son of the great Mustavar, son of lord Shaeridh, son of-”

“Kamath,” the king exclaimed, stopping the scribe. “They are bards. I believe they know who I am.”

Kamath bowed and stepped away out of sight.

“Forgive him,” the sultan said with a small smile, “he sometimes takes his position as scribe too far, but he is a good man. I understand you are Hamahn, the Weaver of Words. I have heard wonderful things about you and your work.”

Hamahn bowed deeply, and Saliim followed suit.

“You are too kind, my lord,” the bard said as he bowed, “but I am mere bard of the land, no more. I admit to having some modest talent with tale and tune, but that is all.”

“I think,” said the sultan, inclining his head a little to acknowledge the bow, “that you may be too modest. I have heard many of your songs sung through others’ lips, and they are most impressive. Perhaps you would do me the kindness of performing something for me today. As you have no doubt heard, I am looking to employ a court musician, and would like to hear each and every bard perform his best for me so that I may make the most accurate choice.”

“I would be most pleased, your majesty,” Hamahn said with a bright smile. “I have but one question for you, my lord. What instrument would you prefer, for I know many?”

“Ah,” said the sultan, smiling broadly, “and a fine question it is. You are the first to ask this of me and that pleases me greatly. I have always had a fondness for the delicate sounds of the zither, if you would, master bard.”
Hamahn smiled and turned towards his apprentice, but stopped as realization struck him.

“Your… your greatness,” he stammered, “I am afraid that due to the clumsiness of my apprentice here, that my zither is no longer with us. It was destroyed and could not be repaired. Perhaps your highness would prefer a different instrument? The harp, perhaps?”

A small frown briefly flitted over the sultan’s face, but was soon replaced with another smile, not as bright as the last.

“That will be fine, sir bard.”

Hamahn turned to Saliim who had the harp ready in his hands for his master. After a short moment to tune it, he began to play one of his most well known songs, The Song of Hassir, the Great, about the sultan who conquered the lands to the south with an army of only ten. It was a pleasant song and it soon all who listened were swaying to its rhythms. The sultan closed his eyes and sat back in his chair, savoring each note as it flowed from the instrument to his ears.

When the song ended, he sat forward again and clapped his hands. He then told the bard of what he wanted from the one he chose as court musician and that he was planning to have all the bards compete by creating a song to his glory and once he had heard them, he would make his decision.

“I assume,” lord Tihamat said, “that you will want to review the royal records for accuracy, like the others. I have given all permission to the record rooms under close scrutiny of my highest scribe, Kamath, and his staff. If you need to view anything, ask them for assistance. I have also prepared rooms for you and your apprentice. Kamath will show you to them.”

With that, the sultan nodded and rose from his seat. He looked at Hamahn who bowed and then at Saliim. For a moment, their eyes locked and then Saliim bowed deeply. When he rose again, he could see the tail of the sultan’s robes gliding around the door he had entered through.

The next few days were very busy for Saliim. He seemed to be on his feet all hours of the day and night, either running back and forth to the record room for his master, or running errands in town, or working to condition all of Hamahn’s instruments, so that they would be in their best shape for the performance of the Song of Tihamat.

When he did get some free time, he worked to learn all he could from the records for use in the future for his master. When he was not doing that, though, he spent a few stolen minutes every day trying to repair the ruined zither he had kept hidden from his master. Much of the wood was damaged and needed to be patched or replaced, so he used what he could find in the scrap wood pile near the fireplace in their room, whittling it down and lacquering it to match as best he could. The most difficult work however was on the metalwork of the piece. It needed to be straightened where it was dented and in some places, entirely replaced.

One day, while he was on a task to the metal workers for his master, to have them work on his silver harp, Saliim brought along the zither, hidden under his cloak. He gave the instructions and the harp to the smith. On his way out, he stopped off to see the smith’s apprentice and asked what he could do to help. The boy was maybe six or seven years younger than Saliim, but he spoke as if he were much older. He told Saliim that he could probably fix it, but that he had never worked on such a device, so it may not be perfect. Saliim asked him to do what he could and paid him two silver pieces.

More days passed and as Saliim was researching for his master, he found something amazing was happening. From all he was reading and all he knew from the townspeople from around the land, in his mind was forming a song. The song told of how the people struggled to survive the during times of great hardship and how, though he tried his hardest, the sultan could not overcome the dark times for his people, but kept the worst at bay.

It told of a child in the street whose father was killed by enemy soldiers on the front lines and whose mother was raped and killed by bandits while their was no one who could protect them and how he hid in a closet while his life and youth was torn from him in a single moment.

It told of a new bride who feared she would never see her husband again, and how she struggled day by day to survive, and how, when her love finally came home to her, he was missing one of his arms, but that did not dull her love for him and that even though times were hard from then on, they still had one another and that made them more wealthy than the sultan himself.

It told of the struggles the sultan faced, the decisions he had to make, the life he made for himself and his people and how he defeated those who tried to invade and enslave his land, but cried in pain at what it had cost his people because he was so inexperienced, but that he had learned from those mistakes and would do everything he could for his people to make up for them.

It flowed from him like water from a spout and he realized, to his amazement that while the song played in his head, he had written it out, music and all without even realizing he had picked up his quill. He read through what he had written and was amazed, yet again, by the beauty of his work. It even had a title: The Weight of Rule. He realized suddenly what he held, and in a moment of panic, looked around him to make sure his master was not in the room. If he had seen what his apprentice had created, he would surely destroy it. So, like the zither, Saliim hid it away.
He continued bringing research to his master and preparing the instruments until the day of the performances. Saliim was returning on an errand in town. When he stepped into Hamahn’s chambers, he saw the bard leaning over something on his desk. Saliim assumed he was doing some final revisions on his ballad and moved past him to put things away.

He was stopped short by his master’s hand on his shoulder.

“What,” Hamahn said turning to him with rage, “is the meaning of this?!” His master’s voice rose as he produced the zither. It gleamed in the light like new. The bent and broken metal had been completely restored. The wood had been lacquered anew and gleamed in the light from the window and in the bottom corner was imbedded one of the silver coins he had given the smith’s apprentice. Saliim started to smile at the sight of his instruments refurbished beauty, but then he saw the look in his master’s eyes and every ounce of joy flitted away in a flash.

“Well,” exclaimed the bard. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“M-m-master,” Saliim stuttered trying to get his mind to focus on a way to save the new incarnation of the instrument he loved. “Master, I am sorry,” he said, “I just thought that if I could repair it, maybe you would allow me to keep it, so that you may teach me to play it as eloquently as yourself.”

“Really,” asked Hamahn, a dark smile curling his face. “That is what you thought? Well, in that case, maybe you can explain something else to me then. When this arrived and I recognized it, I realized you had kept it secret from me, and that made me wonder what else you had been keeping secret from me. So I searched your things, and you won’t believe what I found.”

A lump of ice slid up Saliim’s spine and lodged in his throat. His fears were confirmed when his master produced from the desk his work, The Weight of Rule.

“Perhaps you thought you could impress the sultan with this… this…” Hamahn searched for the correct word, but it wouldn’t come. “Well, ‘apprentice,’ I can tell you now, you are mistaken. This… ‘thing’ you have created is not what rulers wish of their songs. They want songs of their greatness, not their weaknesses. They require boosts to their egos, not condemnation of their past deeds.”
Hamahn shook his head.

“If this,” he said after a minute, “is what you have learned after so many years of my diligent teachings, then perhaps I was correct after all. You will never be a bard. You do not understand what it means to be a musician. You do not understand what it takes to hone your craft to precision. I release you from my service and employ. You are on your own from this day forth.”

He flung the music at Saliim, shortly followed by the zither. “Take your things and get out of my sight.”

Saliim was stunned. He just stood there for a moment, his dreams crushed and his bleak future running through his head. After a moment, he collected a bag with his clothes and his money. He stuffed the zither and the music into the bag and left the room. Hamahn didn’t say a word; he didn’t even look at him.

Saliim found his way down to the smithy again and thanked the apprentice for his work, and tried to repay the silver piece that had been worked into his zither, but the boy just smiled and declined.

“My friend,” he said with a smile, “I cannot accept that. I saw what love you had for that instrument and I thought to myself, if I could put that much love into my work as you did into caring for that, then I will surely become a great smith one day. The coin is there to remind you of this time and to help you remember its worth and perhaps remember me a little as well, for you have truly touched my life with how much you care for your craft.”

Saliim began to smile but stopped. When the apprentice asked him why, Saliim told him of what had happened between Hamahn and himself. The apprentice shook his head and said he was sorry. They wished each other the best of luck and parted.
As Saliim was leaving the palace, he passed in front of the viewing room and heard the notes of a song drift out. He looked inside and saw an audience watching the performance of the bards. He snuck in and stood among the people to listen as the bards performed for the sultan. They were all very good, some better than others and all of the songs were along the same theme. They told of the sultan’s greatness and benevolence, or his bravery and wisdom. All of which was true in a sense, but all of their songs had been so embellished that they lost some of their sincerity. And as they performed, he saw the glow of their craft surround them. He knew he would never attain this and that saddened him greatly.

Saliim was about to leave when he heard that his master announced as the next performance. He stopped and debated whether or not to stay, but decided that it would be the apt punishment to hear what a real musician would sing. He knew his master would out shine these others, because he was Hamahn, the Weaver of Words. None could compare.

His master produced his silver harp and a small drum which he sat at his feet. He removed his slipper and began tapping a rhythm on it with his toes. Saliim had seen this many times and knew it showed a level of skill that most did not possess.
Hamahn began strumming his harp and soon was into his song. Like the others, he could see a glow about his former master and he listened as the song rolled over the crowd. As the song progressed though, he was suddenly struck by something that nearly crushed him to his knees in shock.

Hamahn’s song, though performed with more flare and a touch more skill, was no different than the rest. It was a song of great praise for the sultan, but again, it was so overdone in compliment that it sounded insincere.

He was astounded, and as the song came to a close, he realized that for all of his master’s pomp and self congratulation, he was no better than any other musician here, and after another moment, he realized that his master was not only no better than the other bards, but he was no better than Saliim himself.

At this Saliim could not contain himself and suddenly blurted out, “That’s it?!?”

Every eye in the room turned to him in one motion, including Hamahn’s.

He suddenly felt very uncomfortable. He had not meant to say what he was thinking, but there it was. Hamahn was glaring at him with rage burning in his eyes.

“Is what it,” he demanded.
Saliim didn’t know what to do, so he said what came to him first.

“After all that work,” he said. “After all the pages and pages of information I brought to you; after all of the days of struggling under your command so that you could meet the deadline set by the sultan for this song, this is the best you can come up with? You, the great Weaver of Words can do no better?”

Upon reflection, Saliim later realized he could have been more tactful, but at the time, it was all he could do other than go completely mad at the thought that his life had been wasted in the employ of such a windbag.

“You ingrate,” Hamahn said in a raised voice, “if you think you can do any better with your little piece of what I only just dare to call ‘music,’ then why don’t you come up here and perform it for his majesty.” He turned to the sultan and bowed, “Forgive me for the interruption, your highness, but I wish to let you know that this little backstabber has gone behind my back and written a piece of trash that he thinks is worthy of your ears. That is why he is no longer my apprentice. I have washed my hands of him and suggest that you do the same, your greatness.”
The Tihamat looked from Hamahn to Saliim and made his decision.

“I think,” he said loud enough for the entire room to hear, “that I will be the judge of such a thing, sir bard.” He motioned to Saliim. “Come forward boy and play your song for me. I promise you that no harm will come to you from me or from your former master. I simply wish to hear your composition.”

Saliim stood stock still. He couldn’t move. Every muscle in his body froze in amazement. That is until someone behind him shoved him forward. He turned to see who had pushed him as he stumbled towards the front and turned to see the smith’s apprentice grinning widely at him. When he turned again, he was at the foot of the throne.

“Y-y-y-your majesty,” he said, fearing the worst, “I do not believe my work to be good enough to touch your ears. I wish not to offend one as great as you.”

“You see,” exclaimed Hamahn, “even he knows his work is garbage.”

“Silence,” the sultan said to Hamahn, and the bard stepped back, bowing his head. Tihamat turned to Saliim.

“Young friend,” he said, “I have seen you in my archives working all hours of the day and many nights. I have seen your dedication to your craft. I do not wish to punish you for your work, I merely wish to hear its results.

“Please,” he said softly, a small light of compassion glowing in his eyes, “play your song for me. Do not take heed of all these others abut you. Sing your song for me, young one. It is only for you and for me, no other.”

Saliim gave a small smile and drew out his zither. This brought a smile to the sultan’s lips as well.

Saliim began to play and as he did, he realized that the flame in his was beginning to rekindle again. It flared into life as he played and he could see a faint light forming over his fingers. He realized this was his light, his music, his… magic. As the realization flooded him, so did the light and the song and the words and he realized he could share this light with all around him. As he played, he let his light flow from him into the crowd, into the sultan, into the bards. Soon, even though the notes were foreign to them, the other bards were playing along with Saliim. They were again, caught up in the song. And with their performances, their lights grew in them and flowed between each other as well. All but one. Hamahn sat on the floor, crushed. Not a shred of light flowed from him. He merely sat and wept softly as the rest of the bards took up the song.

As the tune was caught up, Saliim began to sing. He sang of the boy who was left all alone. He sang of the reunited lovers who hand found true wealth. He sang of the weight a leader must bear. And as he sang of this, he looked upon the sultan, who had, astonishingly, produced a small zither of his own and was playing Saliim’s song. The sultan was playing his song.

As the song wound to a close, Saliim lowered his head. When the last note had gone quiet in the room, only silence reigned. You couldn’t even hear a breath being drawn. Saliim thought for a moment that maybe Hamahn had been right all along, and that maybe he had imagined it all. Then from behind him, he heard a pair of strong hands clapping. Then more hands joined in. Then voices rose in cheer. He lifted his head and saw that the sultan was standing in front of him, clapping as well. He couldn’t believe it.

Then everything went black.

*************

“That was ten years ago to this day,” Saliim said to his new friend who sat across from him. They had met earlier that evening in this Inn in Sasserine, a coastal city “It seems like only yesterday that the sultan sent me on this quest for songs of another land. As you can guess I was not given the title of court musician. It was given to one of the other performers, I can’t remember which.

“Apparently I had passed out from all the excitement and when I awoke, the sultan himself was tending to me with a cold rag. He said he had never heard so much beauty and so much pain put into a song before. He said he knew now what his kingdom truly felt of him and that he wanted me to translate the rest of the world into a language that he could understand, the language of song. So here I am, a decade later. I have explored from shore to shore this continent. I have written songs from every corner and sent them to the sultan, and been paid well for my troubles.

“And now, like you, I will travel into unknown territory. It’s strange to think that I have traveled these last ten years and never had a long sea journey. But I guess there is no time like the present eh?

“It’s been good talking to you, friend, but I think I need to get off to bed. Big day tomorrow, and all. Perhaps I’ll see you again if I come around this way. What was your name again,” Saliim asked as he extended his hand.

“Istyrin. And who knows. We may see each other again sooner than you think.”

5 comments:

Aerin said...

Wow, fantastic Dave! And...lets not hide behind words, Hamahn is Rachael isn't it? You poor thing!

Lummox said...

She stole my song...

Aerin said...

and broke your 'instrument'

Lummox said...

Wait... Do you mean that as a metaphor... for my hammer? And by the way, these are not the hammer... *holding up my hands*

Nathan McKinney said...

250 XP!!!
Great stuff.