One would think that living in a shire surrounded by the next generation of elite story-tellers would be captivating. Well, life in the shire of Coarrunn is boring as watching moss grow on a fallen log. I’ve been here now for a couple years learning my bardic skills from Master Bard Ais from sun-up to sun-down. Nothing but sit your fuzzy rear here and listen.
We’re bards! We’re supposed to tell!
“Ealaidh.” Seinn, an adolescent wolf several years older than me, ruffled the hair between my ears as he joined me by the river. “Aren’t you supposed to be listening to Ais’s lecture on the Bones of Lore.”
I mock-yawned and smirked. “Makes me snore.”
“This isn’t rhyming class.”
With a toothy grin, I replied, “Why all the sass?”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re such a pain.”
“I can’t complain.”
Tweaking my ear, he couldn’t help a little grin. “That cheeky-nature of yours is going to get you into trouble.”
I wrapped my arms around my legs and sighed. “I just want to do something besides listen all day. We’re minstrels-in-training, shouldn’t we be playing instruments, singing, and stuff?”
Seinn adjusted the red scarf around his neck, a nervous habit of his. “Well, yeah, eventually. I mean, I am, but you won’t for a few more turns of the seasons.”
I shot bolt upright. “What? A few more … what will I be doing in all that time … listening to snore-fests?”
“Fraid so. It’s what the novice whelps do. Now, let’s go.” He turned and trudged off.
I lingered by the rippling stream, finding its voice more interesting than my tutor’s. The sensation of a glare burning at my back stirred me to my footpaws. I kicked a pebble and the water swallowed my offering. Grimly, I embraced my fate and followed Seinn back towards the shire.
We passed by the glade where his harping class was about to start. The wolf offered me a hard glare and pointed over the hill to where Ais would be lecturing. With my shoulders rolled forward, I padded on … until I heard the paws of my fellow slan on the strings.
The tinkling beauty called me. Scampering through the brush I edged to the backside of the class to watch as row after row of older novice bards plucked dutifully in echo of the Master Harpist at the front. The lure pulled me, my footpaws nearly dancing, toward an empty harp at the back of the group.
My paws itched, a sensation so dire that if I didn’t touch the strings to make them sing I would cease to exist. The world lived suspended in those strings and playing them released it.
The first touch, tentative, but it brought forth a delicate cascade of sound. My heart leapt. I slid onto the seat and listened to the tune as played by the Master. Fingers shifted, already knowing the way. The moment the silence fell, I repeated the simple tune with the others. Stopping at the end felt like clogging a river. But I listened again. This time more notes than what I had heard poured through. They didn’t stop at the end of the passage.
Behind my closed eyes, the glade dissolved to be replaced by a mighty star-fall and a celestial river of brilliant lights. Rich blues, purples, and pinks danced in the void. Around me will-o-wisps flickered in brilliant sequences. A speckled beast dove through the celestial waters, one of the mighty dragon-kin. She arched her head and extended her frill releasing a mighty roar that shook the heavens.
A paw grasped my shoulder. I opened my eyes to find the Master Harpist staring at me in awe, a strange twitch to the corner of his eye. “Young one, you should not be playing yet. You have yet to master your powers.”
I withdrew my claws from the strings and folded my paws pleadingly. “But, I must play … ”
He extended a paw over the class, drawing my attention to it. Every student, even Seinn sat slack-jawed staring at the glimmering images projected in the air around me … my celestial river! “You must release them from your enchantment, whelp.” He knelt before me, gazing into my eyes. “In all my years, I have never seen one of such raw power. No, you must be careful and learn slowly or you may convince a beast that something is there when it is not. Or lead them to be lost to the past.”
I stared at the strings, glimpsing the other bards trapped in my image fog. “I … I don’t know how.”
The Master Harpist heaved a sigh. “And that proves my point. You, most of all, must refrain until Ais has tempered your abilities. For now, I want you to mimic what I play.” He carefully plucked out a sequence.
When he finished, I played it. The moment I struck the last note, the bards all blinked and the dreamy expression faded. Seinn stared at me, confusion in his unblinking gaze.
The Master Harpist took my paws and folded them in my lap. “Now, you don’t touch another harp, understand?”
I couldn’t even nod. The lingering sensation of completeness called to me to touch the strings. The instrument itself promised power sweet and alluring. Without even knowing it I had enchanted a dozen other bards-in-training into an enthralled image fog.
My claw drifted toward a string. The Master Harpist pushed it back away. “There’s another class you should be in right now. Your time will come, whelp. But it is most definitely not now. Off with you before you steal my students again.”
Dutifully I left, over my shoulder I watched planning my next chance to play. At least I was no longer bored.