Tag Archive: Arthur

Music inside

Music Inside

Arthur listened to the choir sing, wanting to join in – wanting to dance. He did neither. He sat still. His feet were flat and firm against the tiled floor. His hands were folded primly in his lap. His back was straight and his gaze was focused straight ahead. He kept the smile that threatened from his lips. Father would not approve. Music was not for the upper class to make. Dances were staid and proper not full of wild bounces and spins like the groundlings in the audience.

His eyes darted over to his parents, prim and proper as he was. Then the movement of the singers and the crowd distracted him from them. The singers rocked and swayed. They clapped their hands and smiled, looking at each other and not their audience. The groundlings spun, some even sang along. One boy caught his eye and he couldn’t help but respond to the contagious grin with a soft smile of his own.

The boy’s grin widened and he grabbed another boy’s hand, gesturing up to Arthur. The other boy also shot him a smile. Arthur blushed, suddenly embarrassed – uncertain. His eyes went to his father, who was now scowling at him.

“Sorry,” he whispered, casting his gaze down.

“Many nights we prayed,” Michael sang, gesturing for Arthur to join in. “C’mon, you know this one, sing with me,” he encouraged. “Many nights we prayed…”

“With no proof anyone could hear, in our hearts a hopeful song, we barely understood,” Elijah continued for him. He took Felicia’s hand as she smiled, ready to join in.

“Now we are not afraid, although we know there’s much to fear,” she sang. She took his hand and held it as she sang, “We were moving mountains long before we knew we could.”

“There can be miracles, when you believe,” they chorused, gathering around him. “Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracles, you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will… You will when you believe.”

“Next verse is all you. Sing, Arthur. You can… it’s the only way for the magic to come out.”

“We need you to sing, Arthur,” Elijah encouraged.

Arthur opened his mouth but no sound came out. He closed his eyes and saw his father’s scowling face. “Open your eyes,” Matilda whispered. “Look at us. Don’t think of anything but the music.”

“In this… time of fear,” Arthur managed, his voice shaking but on pitch. “When prayers so often proved in vain, hope seemed like a summer bird, too swiftly flown away.” All around them a soft green glow began, his voice grew in volume and confidence.

“Yet now I’m standing here,” he continued, gazing over at Michael as the boy echoed him. Allowing himself a small smile, he continued, “with heart so full I can’t explain, seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I’d say.”

Now the entire chorus joined the refrain and Arthur could feel their magic swelling with his. Their light was pushing the darkness away. People around them were beginning to stir. “Sing,” Michael urged them.

“Ashira l’adonai ki gaoh ga-ah,” Felicia sang in her high soft voice. Grinning, she continued, “Ashira l’adonai ki gaoh ga-ah. Mi chamocha baelim adonai.” Matilda grinned and took her hand, joining in as the song continued, “Mi kamocha nedar bakodesh. Nachita v’chas-d’cha am zu ga-alta. Nachita v’chas-d’cha am zu ga-alta. Ashira, ashira, ashira”

Athur began bouncing as they sang and as he and the other boys joined in, repeating the foreign words. Suddenly, he found that he was spinning and dancing with the others. He was, as his father had always warned, losing himself in the music – in the magic – but at the same time he felt so free.

He paused, taking Matilda and Michael by the hand as they sang with the chorus, now growing steadily in numbers “There can be miracles, when you believe. Though hope is frail it’s hard to kill”

Grinning, Elijah echoed, “It’s hard to kill.”

Arthur nodded, smiling broadly back. He looked around seeing his brothers and parents among those beginning to wake from the dreadful slumber. He felt tears start in his eyes as his brothers and mother joined in. “Who knows what miracles you can achieve.”

”You can achieve,” he echoed, nodding at his father. The older man nodded back, joining in as the chorus, now the entire village, continued, “When you believe, somehow you will… Now you will! You will when you believe”

“When you believe!” the men in the chorus echoed.

”You will when you believe,” Michael sang and Arthur joined him, softly singing, “You will believe.”

“We did it,” he whispered. “We won.”

“You did it,” Michael corrected. “Only with you could we have done this, Arthur… only with your voice and magic.”

His father walked over, shaking his head in wonder. “I’m sorry, Arthur. I let my fear of the magic hold you back. If you wish, you can attend the school.”

“Father?” Arthur whispered. He spun back and looked over his friends smiling face. “Father! I do! I wish very much. Thank you with all my heart.” Then for the first time in his life, he laughed and hugged the older man. Such joy was bubbling up in his heart that he couldn’t contain it. Giggling softly, he spun away over the soft earth, hardly noticing that everyplace his feet touched, tiny flowers sprang up.

If there was anything that Arthur could point to and say was his favorite thing about his job, it was the stories. He knew that some of it was his memory problems, but every traveler who stepped through the doors of the inn seemed to have a new and different tale to tell.

As the prestige of the Tilting Tankard grew the people who visited came from further and further away from the little village. Everyone wanted to see the inn where all the races of the world managed to set aside their difference and work together. So too, the tales began to come from further and further away.

Sometimes, when Arthur wasn’t serving patrons and had a moment to pause and listen, he would daydream about going to those places. He knew it was just silly dreaming. He would never find his way back if he left the inn. Still, in his dreams, he visited places that were as far as he could imagine from the little inn he called home.

Grin Like a Dog

Baxter couldn’t help but smile as he watched the proprietor of the inn chat up the little bard that had come in out of the cold. Bergren was usually shy and reserved around women almost to the point of standoffishness. Today, however, he was as charming and genial a host as he was to the men of the nearby village. Baxter knew what the change was about and welcomed it.

“He likes her,” Columbine said as she picked up a pitcher of ale and several mugs. “She seems to fancy him too.”

“One can hope,” Baxter said. “The elders would be much happier about him if he took a wife.”

“Why?” Nicholas asked. “Do they feel that way about everyone – or just the proprietor?”

“Businesses can be passed down – and taxed – only if the owner has an heir upon his death. Master Bergren was named the late owner’s heir, but that’s not likely to happen again and the town’s leaders would be happier if the inn – especially as prosperous an inn as this one – remained on the tax rolls,” Baxter explained. “The other way of dealing with it would be to try to buy it out from under him – provided that they can find someone with an heir and enough money – which they likely could.”

“That wouldn’t be good though – for us?” Nicholas said softly.

“Very few eldar would employ such a mix of races,” Baxter said. “The fact that I’m only informally trained in brewery would cause me problems too. Master Bergren is the best man for the job – as far as we’re concerned. If he gets a wife, then the village elder hasn’t a leg to stand on, though.” His grin turned slightly feral as he added, “That would upset the apple cart.”

Arthur nodded as he joined them. He smiled slightly before bringing the lovely bard a mug of cider. All in all, he hoped that things worked out well for the pair – and not just for the sake of his job.

Can You Hear the Distance

Arthur was always surprised by how mature some lings acted while others acted like the children they seemed to be. The inn staff worked to prepare the inn for a night’s business amid the rumbles and crashes of lightning.

For Columbine, the sounds were a background noise; meant to be ignored, just as they were for Alair and Baxter. However both Mirabelle and Ally seemed terrified of the flashing lightning and rolling thunder. A thought occurred to him and he knelt between the two girls, able to meet their eyes for once.

“You can hear how far away the lighting is, you know,” he said.

“You can hear it?” Baxter said, looking up from the bar. “How’s that.”

Arthur paused, remembering something his mother had taught him many years ago. “When you see a flash of lightning, start counting blue monkeys. Every five blue monkeys is a whole mile.”

“There’s no such thing as blue monkeys,” Mirabelle said, chuckling softly.

“Counting such silly things is part of the fun,” Arthur said, with a shrug. He noticed Columbine grinning and smiled back. He knew that his mother had told him to count second by using the phrase “blue monkey” because thinking of something so silly would keep his mind off being scared. Counting how far away the lightning actually was also helped. It didn’t seem so terrible once it was given some distance.

In moments both girls were back at work and seemed les frightened of the storm outside. They even began something of a contest, competing with each other to see who could count more lightning strikes. Arthur shrugged and returned to work, not really remembering how the girls had learned the trick but glad that it was reassuring them.

Columbine looked over the room and then at the oldest of her five younger siblings. “Mind the place while I’m gone,” she said. “Everyone is old enough to tell you what they need, if you just ask. Don’t forget to eat lunch. I’ll be home before bedtime.”

“It’ll be alright?” Grais asked softly. He glanced around for a moment. The house was spotless. The leftover ham from the night before had been sliced for lunch. Bread was cooling on the windowsill, also for lunch. Soup was simmering on the stovetop for supper. Everything was ready. That wasn’t what he was asking about.

“We’ll be alright. Do your chores. Read your school assignments and don’t let the soup burn. When Mama comes home from the clinic, you’ll be able to show her how well you can take care of the house,” Columbine assured him.

She nodded at his confident smile and headed out the door. Word had gotten around town that the tavern on the edge of the village, now known as the Tilting Tankard, was hiring. Already they’d hired a server, chef, barkeep and kitchen helper. She hoped they had room for more.

It didn’t take her long to reach the bustling place. Unlike previous times she’d passed the building during daylight hours, the seats were all filled. With just one server, the wait was long however and Columbine hoped that this boded well for her.

When the owner had a free moment, Columbine approached him. He was leaning on a side door and fanning his flushed face. “Excuse me,” she said softly. When he looked at her curiously, she asked, “I wonder if you might be interested in hiring another server.”

The man nodded once and said, “We have roast beef with garden vegetables or country stew. Both are served with bread and a drink of the patron’s choice. Think of it as an interview. Take the tables on the left side of the room.”

Following his gesture, Columbine nodded and scurried off. She was her usual friendly cheerful self with the patrons. With the pace of the common room, she was able to leave behind the stress and worry of the household that usually followed her all day long. In the back of her mind, she realized that the job would do more than give the family much-needed income.

Soon everyone was served and the other waiter looked at her with a grin. “Thanks,” he said softly. “Arthur,” he added, extending his hand. He gestured at the barkeep and said, “He’s Baxter. The chef is Alair and his helper is Celeste.”

“Columbine Carolle,” she replied. “The proprietor is?”

“Bergren Shadowmoon,” the man in question said. “You’re hired Miss Carolle. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you sir,” she replied.

“Thanks indeed,” Baxter added. “Maybe now I can stay here and keep an eye on the drunks.”

“Maybe,” Bergren agreed with a smile.

Walk in Empty Places

He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t remember where he’d been. He didn’t know why he was traveling on the empty road. All he knew was that he must keep moving. He paused to drink from streams or eat wild berries that he recognized as food. Perhaps they’d been baked in pies. He didn’t remember that either.

Once he paused to sit on a rock. Arthur frowned as he rubbed his feet. He’d been walking for hours and still had no idea where he was. He was lost in the wilderness. It reminded him of something but he couldn’t remember what. Then he looked up and saw smoke rising in the distance. This reminded him of something too but he couldn’t tell what that was either. He stood and walked toward the smoke, not bothering to follow the road.

It was sunset by the time he reached the source of the smoke. Arthur had traveled over rocky scrubland and through several groves of trees, but he’d kept the smoke plume always directly ahead of him. Now, scraped in half a dozen places and even more footsore than he’d been when he spotted the smoke, he reached his destination. It was an inn.

The inn was at the crossroads of three highways. A small village lay not far away, but the inn had been his destination. He stepped inside and watched the hustle and bustle of the crowd. A small blond man was just barely keeping up with orders shouted by patrons.

Close by someone shouted, “How long does it take to get a simple ale?”

Arthur blinked and went to the bar. He poured the ale and brought it to the man. It was the same thing he’d done in his uncle’s tavern until the building had burned down. That he remembered.

More orders were shouted at him and he did his best to fill them all. Soon everyone was served and he leaned on the bar to catch his breath. The blond man looked up at him and smiled, “Looking for work?” he asked.

Arthur nodded and replied, “I think so.”

“You’re hired,” he said. “Bergren Shadowmoon. I own the place. We have a chef in the back, Alair. He’s gruff but kind. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you,” Arthur murmured before he set off to collect the coins that the patrons were holding out to him.

Arthur remembered reading somewhere that since memories are by their nature imperfect they couldn’t actually be relied on for accuracy. Memories of good times are sugarcoated, making it seem like everything was perfect. Memories of bad times are nightmarish in comparison.

He sighed and looked at the drawing. It was a child’s drawing. He’d drawn it when he was only six. It had been shoved in his pocket before his mother had sent him away to safety. His memories of his parents were fading. When he visualized them, it was only as they were in this drawing – stiff, lacking detail; yet somehow perfect. He wanted them to be perfect. They were his parents after all.

However, there was also the fact that they had been captured and enslaved because of the nature of their magic. There were times when he wondered if what the people of their island believed was true. Was darkness magic inherently evil? Did just using such an element bring that darkness and evil quality into one’s life? He sighed and set the drawing aside. It was time to go to school. Maybe he would get his answers there.

Arthur remembered her from his childhood, though he very much doubted she remembered him. She hadn’t changed much in the past ten years. Her hair was still in a short brown bob, though it had lost the ever-present headband some time in early adolescence.

He didn’t blame her for forgetting him. They had both been in the first grade when he’d disappeared. He’d changed his name to hide from the men who’d killed his parents. Even at the age of six, he’d seen the importance of disappearing rather than being caught by the men.

He kept his memories a secret from everyone – his guardians, their daughter, ten years his senior, and all of his school friends. All that he would tell anyone about his past was that his parents were gone. That was the only truth, anyway. His name, history, former address, family members, and everything else were all lies. He couldn’t tell anyone his secret. He consoled his guilty conscience by telling himself that none of these people were involved. This was just a secret that happened to involve them.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

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