Notes of a Minstrel
As she walks the road to the walls of the Crossing, her mind indeed does travel in strange paths. Muddy roads. Dusty roads. It seems that roads have been her constant companion her whole life. Roads, and her delicate cittern. Slung now in it's oilcloth over her shoulder, she thinks once more of Alexander... the man... the boy really... that introduced her to both roads and her cittern.
She was nine when she had first seen him. He had heard her singing to the younger children in the orphanage and had come in to ask the priestesses about her. What he had heard must have impressed him, because he came in and asked her to sing for him. She smiled, because singing was always fun... easy. So she sang. Sang a lullaby for this boy troubadour.... he must have only been 16...but so talented... so kind. The next thing she knew, she was on the road with him, learning his craft.... and learning so much more. Morals. Ethics. A kind, gentle spirit... what it was like to have family. Traveling through the roads those years, she learned all these things as Alexander became her teacher... and her brother. Eventually, they were no longer master and apprentice, but partners... he singing the jolly songs and telling the tall stories, she singing the songs that touched the heart and the soul.
She remembers the night that he gave her the cittern.... and a ring. A ring that matched his, and declared his love. Surprise, that his feelings were the same as hers, feelings that she had hidden for so long. He had said that he had waited.... he wanted her to be old enough to decide.. as if she had ever had a doubt. They kissed that night... she was 16, and life was wonderful. The roads had led her down a bright path indeed. They kissed.... and they waited for the wedding night for any more than that. Commitment and loyalty meant much to him.... things he taught her well.
Trudging onward, she remembers how easily that light had dimmed. The muffled whisper, waking her up. "Bandits! Wake up, my Lynn! Shh!" His eyes bright from the reflection of the moon, so very bright that night. The embers from the fire were gone, but the moon showed everything in the clearing well. Too well. His blonde hair. That too was bright. Shining. It is funny the things that you remember. Instinctively, she reached for her cittern, the only thing she had of any value, wondering why this was happening. Were they mistaken for others? Who would attack two itinerant minstrels? There was no time for any more thoughts as the bandits began their attack. Diving behind the log as the arrows began to fly, the panic welling up in her breast, her eyes wide with fear and desperation. Alexander, letting fly with his bow, hearing the grunt as one of his arrows struck home. Cursing herself for never having learned any fighting skills, she cowered behind the log. "Alex!! Let's go... run... we can make it!" His smile, still so sweet and brave in her memory as he nodded..."Yes Lynn.... you first.. Run, Love!" Words which she heeded quickly. Her own heart beating as she ran, swiftly, clutching the cittern, the branches whipping at her face, her body, her own breath loud in her ears. Running. Running.... until she realized that her breath was the only one she heard. Falling in the sodden leaves, gasping for breath, she then realizes she had never heard him run. She remembers the sound of his arrows still flying as she had run... a sound that had never registered, until now. She lays there, trying to master her fear.... to get up... to go back... to help him. To be there for him.
The bright sun of daylight. She remembers that sun. That day. The burned camp. The scattered belongings of two minstrels, with no valuables at all. The body, almost unrecognizable except for blonde hair and a cheap tin ring that matched the one on her finger, not even worth the time of the bandits to remove. Not worth anything, except to two happy minstrels on a bright road.
The road to the Crossing, a muddy one. Bright, perhaps too..... but not as bright as the one she had traveled before she had abandoned Alexander. Before she did not go back to aid him. Before her failures, the first of so many in her life. As she adjusts the weight of the cittern on her shoulder, she realizes that no roads will ever be that bright again.
"You must choose your path, Lynn. The time for a decision has come." The words echo in her mind as she lay in the dark room. The priestesses have been so good to her these past two years. But now they require a choice, a choice she has dreaded since she arrived.
They had found her, prompted by a vision from the goddess, laying prostrate on the hastily dug grave she had somehow buried him in. Leading her away, a broken reed, they had given him the proper rites and took her back, back to the orphanage that she had grown up in.
She remembers little of the next weeks, months maybe. The dark time, she still thinks of it as, travelling in the unlit paths of her own inadequate soul. But the priestesses had been gentle, yet insistent, continually bringing the children to her, somehow knowing that their needs would draw her out, knowing that she needed to be needed at that time.
She fingers the tin ring hung around her neck. A decision. The priestesses know that her heart is not fully with the goddess. She is long past the age where most put off the grey robe of an acolyte for the blue robes of the order.
The children have been wonderful. She loves helping to raise these little ones with no home, no other family. After all, she was once one of them. She enjoys the little healing skills she has been taught, the small lessons in discernment and theology. But...... to put on the blue.... to renounce much of the outside world..... even to renounce..... She looks over at the cittern in the corner. Touched not at all since she has been here.
She stares at it a long time, as the sun rises and more stirrings are heard all around her. To truly give up the life she had so enjoyed.... that he had taught her? The people, the roads leading.. .who knows where? Only over the next hill, as he used to say. To give up.... music?
Standing, she retrieves the instrument, runs her hand along the smooth wood. Fingering, then tightening the strings, Tuning to as close an approximation as these strings will now get to the proper intonation. Her fingers, almost too soft to play now without pain. But, finally....she softly plays a chord. A simple D Major chord. A chord that she listens to as it reverberates in the room; a chord that she feels as it resonates in her heart. Memories come rushing back.... but not the memories she had so dreaded. Memories..... of smiling faces and of laughter; of back slapping and sweet touches in the crowd; memories of warmth and tender moments. She remembers..... he had made them laugh; she had made them cry and reach for their loved one. Both were good things in this world, a healing in their own way as good as what the priestesses taught. She figures maybe someday, she can bring laughter as well....
The grey robe is taken off, the clothes.... and the boots.... are put on. As the priestesses of the goddess hear the lilting sounds of music, and a clear voice lifting an ode in memory of a golden haired minstrel, they know the decision has been made.....
The ash and the willow; the maple and oak,
stand guard over the green silent mound.
All is silent, not a word is spoke,
yet listen closely, and music is found.
The wind's soft whisper, a stream's playful bubbling,
the soft creaking branches of the trees.
The music plays softly, not at all troubling,
Nothing plays in the minor of keys.
The maple and oak, the ash and the willow,
stand guard over me as I cry.
I lay down beside you, green mound is my pillow
as I sing to you my last lullaby
Each note wakes a memory as weeping I sing
and the leaves rustle gently o'er me
Soft whispers laden, my voice softly breaking,
as I know I must go and leave you be.
The ash and the willow, the maple and oak
stand guard in a silent grove.
I stand by you gazing, not a word can be spoke
as I say good-bye to you, my love.''
== Parts III and IV appear to be ripped out. ==
She sighed. When would she ever get any good at this? She picked up another throwing knife, and aimed at the target. Maybe this time she would do better than missing by 10 inches. Of course, why should this time be any different from the last twenty-eight throws?
‘Quin had taught her the rudiments of throwing small blades, but it had not been an area of specialty for the guardswoman. ‘Close enough’ had been good enough for the big guardswoman, who had preferred to close with the sword. The petite minstrel needed to be better than that .
She wondered briefly how ‘Quin was, and she hoped she was happy. The guardswoman was still in in Ilithi, in some noble or other’s garrison, presumably living with her girlfriend who had finally returned sobbing to her. The girlfriend hadn’t liked Lynn; Lynn hadn’t been particularly fond of her either. It had been time to part ways, and the minstrel had decided to travel to Zoluren for a while, instead of returning to Theren. The trip had been good for her, she had learned people here liked her singing, and she had gained confidence in writing and performing her own songs.
The minstrel went and collected the ten throwing knives and returned, facing the target once more. She really should sleep, she had played late last night at the Unicorn Inn and was playing there again tonight. But this small glade she had found in the woods outside Kaerna was so peaceful and restful, she had no wish to return to a small, stuffy room. She emptied her mind and took aim.
Huh? She looked around slowly. She could have sworn she had heard a giggle. She looked around the clearing, into the woods.. nothing. Maybe it was a bird? She was pretty sure these woods were safe, and the closest dangerous creatures, rock trolls, DEFINITELY did not giggle. She shook her head, picked up another knife, and aimed…
She looked around. Ok, that was definitely a giggle. She walked towards the trees slowly, then stopped as a figure stepped out, into the clearing. Another minstrel!
Ah, but more than just another minstrel, she thought, as her heart skipped a beat. This elven lass was beautiful, dressed all in brown and green leathers, but not drab forest garb like a ranger would wear. Everything was worn with the flamboyant flair of a minstrel, from the cut of the supple leathers to the jaunty angles of the lute and the longbow slung over her back. She was still giggling as she sauntered over to Lynn, mirth in the elven eyes. “Wouldn’t this be better, lass?”, she said, and in one fluid motion drew out a throwing blade, turned and flung it at the target.
Lynn gasped, as the blade buried itself dead center in the target. The elf smiled and bowed, laughter still just a breath away. "Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Maiyadhin …. And you are that minstrel at the Unicorn, Daerlynn, is it?"
Lynn felt herself blush, somehow feeling nice that this beautiful elf knew her name. She finally stammered out a quiet, "Aye..."
The elf smiled one of those laughing smiles at the minstrel, and went on, "Well, you sing well.. but your knife throwing is abysmal... here, let me show you a few things..."
And, wouldn’t you know... she did.