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Library: Play the blues

Books

Author: kapu
Date:Dec 6 2006

(Act 1: A little boy getting ready to bed.)


"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep..."

The young boy had already forgotten rest of the prayer his grandmother taught
him long ago. Tonight it didn't bother him at all. Not even a hint of that
awkward moment he was accustomed to any normal night, holding his breath like
silence itself would complete his prayer for him.

He closed his eyes and reminisced his encounter with the Man of games earlier
that very day. The man had appeared a little bit frightening at first. He
reminded the boy about his uncle once. His uncle had came to the boy's
village, his clothes smelling of sulfur and fire almost, ragged. The boy
remembered his uncle's stare and confident smile when he had lifted his
innocent child eyes from his plays. The man he had met today by the moat had
had that same kind of determination in his moves adults often have when they
seem know something a child knows not.

The boy wasn't afraid any more, the Man of games had made him a promise. They
had played a fair game, a rather boring one to say the least. The prize. That
was the catch. That's what made a smile on the little boy's face when he kept
his eyes closed and welcomed a yawn.

Tomorrow would show if the man would keep his promise. If he would - which the
boy had no reason to deny - his father would be proud of him. The boy could
even get a spoonful of their better jelly with his pancakes his grandmother
would surely bake him. Jelly from last autumn's apples, the good autumn. Whole
village would cheer for him. This must've been the feeling adults got when
they always speak of doing good for someone else, not only for yourself. He
felt almost too good about himself, the prize he had asked had surprised
himself for a moment too. Weird.

"Tomorrow I wake up as an adult .. my father will see .." the boy sighed and
smiled as the lights of the world went out, sounds died and silence took over.
For good.

- - - 

(Act 2: A man standing in a forest.)


"Moths, but what kind of moths could achieve such a thing?" the Captain asked
himself as if saying that out loud would make it clearer. What kind of moths
would destroy a scroll this way? Paper intact, only the parts with ink gone.
Captain forced a short laugh as he thought how he might seem to an outsider,
all dressed up like a soldier - a sword in other hand ready to defend him
against any imaginable foes - and a paper scroll in other. A paper scroll that
looked more like a lace cloth or a veil he remembered young girls used to wear
on midsummer at his home village. Laughing, yes - this was ridiculous even tho
he know there was nothing funny about it.

He had met a runner shortly before. The runner had told him briefly about some
bad news from the east. He had told Captain would receive further instructions
later on when Shadowkeep's pigeons were set loose and he would get his
personal objectives from the Guild. And now, clenching an empty scroll of lacy
paper in his hands, "These, are my orders!" he laughed.

"Yes, Sir! Very much so, Sir! I'll get right on it, Sir!" the Captain yelled
to his own disillusion alone in the middle of the woods. He had recognized
Jander's signet on the scroll, nothing more. No text - no words - no nothing.
Just a red signet on top, green ribbon around it and all the parts with
supposed news or orders gone, like eaten away. Deteriorated. Gone. One thing
was for sure nonetheless. If Jander from bards' guild sent him a pigeon
carrying a scroll, it was urgent. And it was bad.

"Captain, focus .." he tried to calm himself. He wasn't really a captain of
anything or anyone. The nickname had been a joke. Smallest of the small
children in his home village. Always trying to keep up with the older children
and their ways. Elder had started to call him Captain, as if that would
encourage not so much the little one himself, but others around him to mark
his potential. Had that worked or not - he had been known as the Captain
since.

- - -

"I must haste myself to the old keep at the Inn, yes?" he reassured himself
what he knew was the only reasonable thing to do. "Not to Shadowkeep, but away
and fast" he continued, like he would even need more signs about what was
going on. Something evil had come to 'keep and the balance of the world was
shifting. He felt it right away when he had woken up in the middle of the
night. Has it been a scream - or a scream in his dream? Or both. Something.
The night was of faulty color, black as always but somehow different. Like
blacker, pitch black that was not so common this time of year. It was still
few hours to sunrise but the sky should have already had a hint of a morning
to it. Not this time. Black.

Captain knew the way. Few hours on foot to city, easy fast terrain. If he was
lucky he could catch a riverboat south to Inn of Four winds and be there
before noon. No boats available meant more marching, good fast road though if
it came to that. He set afoot and hoped for the first option.

Hiking through the woods he was repeatedly troubled by the image of his son in
trouble somehow. His son he had left to his grandma to look after back home.
Thank lord he hadn't left them at Shadowkeep, in the eye of the change - he
thought. Captain knew the shock was upon from the east, not the west. The
morning sky had a splint of color in the west, and not the east as it supposed
to.

"Blueberry pancakes" he promised out loud. Blueberry pancakes was what he was
going eat with his son after this thing got sorted out. Remembering the times
the two had spent nights at this very forest, picking blueberries and dozing
off around the campfire - lips blue, happy. Feeling instantly better the
Captain lowered his gaze a bit to the ground to spot some blueberries. The
idea of rushing to the Inn with his lips blue, in full armor and sword raised
made him chuckle. But there were no blueberries. Anywhere. He shrugged the
idea and picked up the pace.

- - -

(Act 3: En route to river city.)


Three hours to the walk and Captain came upon a familiar hill in the horizon.
A hill which marked the beginning of the lands of the city by the river. It
was dawning already, but the sky wasn't the usual light blue - a promise of
clear sunny day - but of yellow and red. 

"It's not burning or anything?". Haven't spoken in hours the Captain was a bit
embarrassed to hear his own voice. And it was true, there was no sign of smoke
or smell of anything burning although the sky had the color. He ran uphill to
greet the flag of the city. Hail the good old flag and hurry down to the city
to catch a boat downstream, that's a plan as good as any - he thought.

Reaching the top the Captain came upon two things at the same time: the flag
wasn't all there and the city below was in chaos. The flagpole stood as
straight as ever but the flag was torn, there was some of it still up in the
pole and two pieces laying on the ground.

"Who would do such a thing!" the Captain screamed out loud when he came upon
the disgrace. City folk had always made sure their flag represented their
pride and just ways. Shining white background, with a royal blue cross. They
had always been careful that the flag didn't even touch the ground when they
lowered it down to get washed. And now it was ripped in pieces. He realized he
was making himself too upset over the flag on purpose, as if turning his mind
of the city in distress below. Screams could be heard, people running
aimlessly around and horses fleeing in panic. And the river - it was no more.
It was all gone.

- - -

Riding his horse south the Captain tried to comprehend what happened an hour
earlier. He had come upon the city, her flag was torn and the whole city in
chaos. And the river was gone, nothing left but an empty channel. Murky, muddy
bottom had had a few dead fish lying around and even they had been like
skeletons of themselves. Not skeletons of a fish, but skeletons of their
entire being. Grey, dead, but not eaten. Half of everything.

He had been able to calm a stray horse. He had had to abandon the saddle
because it was broken, and he felt himself a bit uncomfortable riding at this
speed but he know he had to. The city has not been in war with anyone,
although even the city seal on the saddle had been carved off. There had not
been an enemy. Just panic. He couldn't help but hope for some answers if he
ever got to the Inn. Perhaps there would be some of the other bards and
soldiers.

There might be some news from Shadowkeep and what was going on the in the
world. At least old Frion the barkeeper should be there, he never left his
post. And lord Meneor, he had military background so he could organize a
counter attack if they had figured out at whom. Or what. Riding south a road
next to an empty river channel, Captain hoped for the best.

- - -

(Act 4: The inn.)


The Inn was there - where it had always been - in the most magnificent tree.
The tree had however once been elsewhere before it was ripped off it's roots
and placed here on the crossroad in the southern realm. Captain felt relieved.
Nothing seemingly wrong here. He tied his horse before the stairs and felt bad
for a moment because he couldn't offer his steed anything to drink, there was
no water. Rushing upstairs Captain hoped he would meet knights, loremasters
and soldiers alike up there. Frion would serve strong Shadowkepian beer and a
meeting would be held, explaining
everything. If it came to that, he would volunteer his life to a battle
against whatever it was.

Seizing a short pause before turning the handle on the door Captain heard
familiar voices from the Inn. Concentrating on a "As you were, gentlemen!"
greeting and a wide smile he would pose he entered.

It was all there, carved in brown ancient wood. The bar was there. Thank
goodness. There was a warm fire burning, a scent of beer could be sensed. But
the bar was empty, there was noone to be seen. Tables and chairs scattered
around, bar unattended. Just when Captain thought about the voices he had
heard through the door just a moment earlier there was a shy sobbing
"..hello?.." from the corner.

It was Frion. Crouched and burying his face between his legs and arms.
Shivering and his voice without the normal tone. "mmm-me, Captain, sir" he
replied cautiously, closing in on Frion in the corner. "What's going on,
where's Lord Meneor?" Captain asked checking the rest of the inn.

Frion sounded a moment like he was sobbing tears and told that he had sent
Meneor away to gather and warn everyone. Captain was the first to arrive after
Meneor had left some hours ago. Ill news from Shadowkeep had descended during
the night. "YES! I know this, I've seen!" Captain shrieked, "What news? Who?
Argh what the hell are you sitting down in the corner like that!". The Captain
held a small pause as to emphasize his authority to get some answers and
waited.

Frion started to stand up from the dark corner and sighed stating "Because ..
See for yourself, because I can't anymore..." and he stood up and opened his
gentle blue eyes which weren't  there anymore and looked - or pretended to
look - right through Captain. His eyes were gone, as was Captain's will to
live at the moment along with any further idea what had happened or what was
about to.

- - -

(Act 5: A little boy waking up.)


The boy woke up slowly, like children do. No important agenda of things to do.
No sudden rush to daily chores. There had been an interesting dream though. A
dream with a man and some game and some prize. And his father. No, not a
dream. It happened. Yes, it really happened - the little boy remembered. He
had been just wandering about in the nearby moat and encountered a man that
had smelled like, like a fire maybe. Or like his uncle when he returned from
his work at that volcano mine years ago. The man had had a beard and pointy
eyes. The boy remembered
he was afraid of the man at first, but when he had spoken he proved out to be
no threat.

His voice had been calm and friendly almost. Convincing. Yes that was what his
father had always said when there came some man from the city to collect
taxes. That they sounded convincing, never mind the nature of their job. And
this man at the moat had suggested the boy a simple game of dice. And the
prize should be anything the boy wanted. Anything. And they had played.

The game was about a simple throw of dice. One each. If the boy won, he would
get one wish fulfilled. One only, not three like in those fairy tales his
grandmother used to read to him. It had sounded a little complicated until the
man had showed his die, which had six sides to it. It was simple, both threw
once and they would check the score.

They had started. The smelly man got six on his throw, the best. The boy had
felt sorry because he knew six was the best score and he thought he couldn't
win. The man had noticed the grave look on the little boy's face and promised
to fill his wish if he got six also. Which he then did. It was a tie, six
against six. The man said that because tomorrow was going to be sixth day of
the sixth month, and it was so jolly a coincidence, he would count this score
in favor of the boy. The boy didn't know much about calendar. But he won. The
boy won. And he got the wish. The man said he had to be quick though, and 
decide the prize without delay. The man said he had had not so merry past with
wishes that had been thoroughly determined.
Then he had winked and smiled.

Bewildered of the power of the wish the boy tried to think hard of one single
thing he would like. Snowballs from the icy mountain perhaps, or should he ask
the man if he could make the boy grow up faster. The boy thought hard and
wrinkled his eyes. He thought about his father and wondered what he would do
in this situation. He was so wise. "Maybe I should ask something my father
already has figured out needed change, he knows best!" the boy discovered. The
man had lit up and asked for details. "What would that be then, young master?"
he had said and crossed his arms.

The boy knew it. He knew what was going to be his wish. His father had
complained about this many times before. Every now and then when the boy had
asked his father to come play with him instead of playing his instruments, he
had replied: "I'm playing the blues, son.."

And when the boy had asked his father why, why he was playing the blues his
father had said "Well the world is full of it, that's why. And I can't make
the blues go away just like that you know, young man.." and he had smiled and
ignored the little boy and stayed up all night with his guitars and flutes.

The smelly man waited in anticipation and smiled, "Your wish?"

And the boy shouted out in joy, "Make the blues of the world go away!".




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