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Old 12-17-2002, 09:46 AM   #1
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Default The Story of Andredien - Chapter 2 (warning, fairly long post)

Chapter Two

Andredien's heart missed a beat. He was thunderstruck. No Choice? What did that mean? What did he do? He started to stammer, his usual aplomb and composure gone.

Sylia raised her hand in a placating gesture. "Hear me out."

"But Mother--"

"Shut up!" she interrupted him. Andredien was stunned: he could not remember his mother ever raising her voice. Not against him, anyway.

"You must hear me out, now. I know the Warriors think highly of you, apart from your lack of discipline. Your skills are among the finest, they say. But you will not become a Warrior."

"But why?" he cried out. "I've been fighting the orcs as well and as often as any of them!"

"I know, I know. But... There are many things you don't know. About yourself, where you came from, and what you must do."

"So," he sneered sarcastically, "what is it I must do, then?"

Sylia sighed. Here we go, she thought. "You must become a Bard."

"A Bard? A Bard?" he shouted. "A travelling singer of silly little songs, a teller of tall tales, a mendicant, eking out a living from tavern to tavern on the scraps tossed him by his audience? I'd rather--"

His rant was suddenly interrupted as Sylia's bellow propelled him and his chair across the room, against the wall. The breath was knocked out of him and he lay on the floor amid the wreckage of the chair, stunned and fighting for air. His nose was bleeding, his head hurt, and he was sure he'd sprained or broken a wrist.

Then, Sylia started to sing. It sounded like two voices at the same time, as if she were not only singing in harmony with herself, but two entirely different melodies. He felt himself lifted gently into the air and, as he floated back towards the table, he felt the pain in his wrist, nose and ears vanish. In the few seconds it took to glide across the room, his wounds had all healed. Dumbstruck and silent, he grabbed another chair and sat down again. He looked at his mother with an expression of awe: his mother, gentle singer of lullabies, one of the finest tailors of spider silk in Kelethin... Who was she? What, in the gods' names, did she do just then?

Sylia took a deep breath, as the music left Andredien's mind, and said, "Never forget, Deeny, that I am a Bard. And that you don't know the first thing about them - not yet."

He looked down, humbled. The ease with which she'd hurled him across the room was staggering. He could never have hit anyone that hard, not even with the finest plate gloves in the city. He looked up at his mother and nodded to her. "Go on. I'll not interrupt again."

"Deeny, you are sixteen now. By our customs and laws, a man. And yes, tomorrow is the Choosing. But you are one of the few whose Fate is Chosen for them. Do not consider it demeaning." Sylia paused, seemingly to straighten something out in her head before continuing: "I think I'd best just start from the beginning, and then you can ask any questions later."

"All right."

At that moment, food was brought to the table. Sylia decided to gain some time by eating. They sat in silence while the meal was consumed, until she wiped her mouth, sat back, took a deep breath and launched into her tale.

"The first thing you must know, to even begin to understand, is that you are not my real son." She raised a finger when she saw his jaw drop open, a 'but' already making its way to his lips. He swallowed it, and she continued. "Your mother, Tunare take her soul, was a young Elf from Felwithe, one of the highest-born. I guess you get a lot of your looks from her. And your father was a human. Whence he came, I do not know. Your mother died giving birth to you, here, in my arms. You see, when your mother was barely older than you are now, and set out to discover the world, taking her Enchantments across Faydwer and Antonica, she met this man, this Monk. He was a man of the cloth, but also a fighter of great prowess. He took her under his wing, protecting her, taking her to all the finest Enchanter Guilds across Antonica."

"A Monk? How can he be my father, then? Aren't Monks supposed to--"

"Yes, they are. But life often deals us strange cards, and this is what happened: your mother and this man had repaired to an inn in the Commonlands, resting up after a day's fighting before returning to Freeport, where they were due to take the boat back to Butcherblock Mountains the next day. They were celebrating their good fortune with much good food and, more importantly, much wine. Too much wine, as it turned out. Your mother, of course, was used to our Elven wine. Her family would never consider drinking anything but the best. But your father... I guess his usual ascetism didn't give him much of a head for drink. And your mother was very beautiful, as all High Elves are."

Andredien looked sick. He'd already worked out the rest. He opened his mouth again, but closed it sharply when he saw his mother's expression. His mother! Hah! Not really, was she? He was confused.

"So he fell upon her, in that accursed inn," Sylia continued. "Your mother never told me any details, of course. All I know is that, when he saw what he had done, the wine left his mind, and he ran away, leaving her there, in the inn, sore, bleeding, humiliated. The next day, she journeyed to Freeport alone, and finally returned to Felwithe. It only took a few weeks for her slender frame to betray that she was with child. When pressed with questions, she would refuse to answer, until finally her father, one of the most powerful Enchanters ever, Entered her mind and saw what had happened."

"And then?" Andredien asked, in a small voice.

"And then, as is their Law, they turned her out. A child out of wedlock would already have been a dreadful stain upon the family honour; a child from a mere human made it that much worse. She was ordered to take the shame away; the gates of the city were barred to her from that day on."

"That's--" Andredien started.

"Yes, it is. Remember that the High Elves and the Wood Elves, though all part of Elvenkind, do not live the same way. We do not worship the same gods, nor have the same customs. Your mother, not knowing where to go, came here. She was wandering from platform to platform, until she came here, to my house. It was late, she was tired, hungry, thirsty, so I took her in. She told me her story over the next few months, in little dribs and drabs, whenever she felt she could, or needed to, confide. Until that stormy night when almost all the city was fighting Crushbone yet again, and she gave birth. All my power couldn't save her, and to this day, I do not know what happened. 'Take him, Sylia, you will know what to do when the time comes. Name him Andredien, and make him one of yours,' she said with her dying breath."

"And she never came back?" Andredien asked.

"No, Deeny. Sometimes, you will learn, we do not return from the dead. There can occur times when the Cycles of Reincarnation break for a particular soul, and they do not return. Or at least, not in the body they knew."

"I'm not sure I understand," he said.

"Some day, you will. I'm not sure either that I understand it all. I only came to understand today what she meant by 'make him one of yours'. I used to believe she wanted us to raise you as a Wood Elf, citizen of Kelethin. Now I know she meant me to make you 'one of mine'. A Bard."

Andredien stared at the table. After some minutes, he reached out for the bottle, and poured himself a large glass, which he drained in three gulps. Finally, after staring into it for some time, he said, "That's... a lot." He sighed deeply. "I'm not your son, I'm not going to be a Warrior, and I'm the bastard of some... human." He spat it out like a live cockroach in his mouth.

"My son," Sylia started.

"I'm not your son, am I?" he shouted back, slamming his glass onto the table so hard it shattered, studding his palm with shards. He crushed the rest of the glass in his fist, watching his blood drip onto the table, his anger so fierce it turned his face to russet stone.

"You'll always be my son, Deeny," Sylia said softly. "I've loved you always - nothing will ever change that."

He raised his eyes to hers. She could see tears brimming in them, held from falling by the force of his will. He was stronger than she'd given him credit for. "I love you too, mother," he said, finally. A single tear overflowed from his left eye and ran down his cheek, unheeded. Gently, Sylia reached out to his hand, and unclasped the fingers. He let the bits of glass that weren't embedded in his flesh drop to the table. Then, she sang again, that soft, almost plaintive melody. As she sang, he saw the little shards of glass retreating from his skin, falling onto the table with little tinkling noises as his wounds vanished.

"How do you do that?" he whispered.

"That is what Bards do," she replied softly. "Telling tales and singing folk songs is only an option. You'll see. You'll meet others, and some of them will strike fear into people stronger and more experienced than themselves."

Outside, somewhere, a cockerel crowed, announcing the new day. The first shades of pink were appearing through the other window.

"I think I should go to bed now," Andredien said, standing up. "I'm dead tired."

"We have no time," Sylia said. "We must get going."

"I cannot," he replied. "Really. Just let me sleep."

"No," Sylia said, stood up and went to a chest, from which she took an ancient-looking lute. She started singing and strumming a sweet melody. Within moments, Andredien's fatigue vanished. His mind cleared, the fogs of fatigue evaporating in the morning sun. Again, he looked at his mother with an expression that mixed confusion and admiration.

"Teach me," he breathed in admiration. "I am ready to become a Bard!"

"Time to get started," Sylia said, slinging the lute on her back.
Andredien Sto Helit,
Virtuoso of the 60th missed note
Officer of Les Irréductibles

"Nobody notices what I do - until I stop doing it." -- Ancient Bard Motto
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