Sudanese: Imah tina Musik Katujuh
Ilphara was back, now carrying a tray of food, which she laid delicately onto the dining table. There was a pot of tea and a pitcher of what looked like juice, some covered platters, and several slices of toast one a rack that looked like something from the Victorian era; it even had a dish of jam on one end, and another with butter on the other end. Ilphara placed a platter in front of each of us and lifted off the lids to reveal our meals, which were different from one another. I had scrambled eggs that looked like they oozed with cheese, a thick slice of grilled ham, and some roasted potatoes with seasoning. Evander had potatoes but no meat; there was a bowl of cut fruit instead.
“Would you like cakes or oats, miss?” she asked me.
I looked over at the other dishes still on the tray. There were a couple small bowls of oatmeal and a platter of something that looked like a cross between pancakes and cupcakes. There were also tiny ramekins of brown sugar, syrup, and fruit compote.
“Oh, just one cake will be fine, please,” I told her. “This is so much food! I hope the kitchen didn’t have to go to too much trouble…”
“It’s all right, miss,” Ilphara assured me. “Most of this was prepared very early this morning, when the others went down for breakfast. All the cook had to do was warm some things up.”
Then she looked to Evander. “You still like oats, don’t you?”
“I could not imagine breakfast without them,” he replied with a warm smile. “I’d better have only one cake today, though. Is there cream?”
Ilphara grinned and handed him a silver dish with a tiny spoon in it. “Of course, sir.” Then she set the rest of the food around the table, put the tray aside, and poured tea and juice for us.
“Aren’t you going to eat, too?” I asked her.
“That’s so nice of you to ask, miss,” she said with a twinkle in her voice. “Don’t worry though; I’ve eaten already.”
“Would you like her to leave us for a while?” Evander asked me when he saw that she was still standing nearby. “Or would it be all right if she went back to sewing on the couch?”
I think he saw the way I was hesitating, because he added, “Ilphara is a trustworthy young lady. Her purpose is to serve and care for you just as I would, and she will always be respectful of your decisions and opinions.”
“Okay I said,” sharing a smile with them both. “I don’t really have a reason to ask you to leave.”
Ilphara curtsied and thanked me, then headed back to the couch to resume her sewing. Meanwhile, I started in on breakfast, which was better than most places back home could have cooked. We were quiet for several minutes as we ate, focused on quelling our hunger. Once I was a little more satiated, I decided to strike up some conversation.
“Evander, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are all fauns vegetarian? I mean, I was just assuming that you are since you don’t even have eggs…”
“You are quite right, milady,” he replied warmly. “My kind do not consume other animals. I do not generally eat eggs on their own, but as I’m sure you can imagine, they are used in the making of so many other things, including these cakes.”
“I see… so you can have dairy and eggs.”
He nodded. “In fact, milady, you might be interested in taking note that satyrs do eat meat.”
“Really? That might be a handy way to tell the difference at some point. That and your eyes.”
He smiled. “You are keen on details, my dear. That will serve you well no matter what path your life takes.”
“Thanks…” I said, hoping that he didn’t mean I might end of in a life or death situation that would require an eye for detail in order to survive. “So, you were going to tell me about great-uncle Morrigan. how did he feel about being here?”
Evander thought for a moment. “I don’t know how well you remember him, milady, but when he found his way into Tierney Ríocht, the door took him to the villa in Clurichaun forest. Aubré kept me close back then, so I was at his side when Lord Morrigan appeared.”
“Wait, the door doesn’t always lead here?” I asked, worried that I would end up elsewhere the next time I came– if that happened at all, I had to remind myself.
“Ah, milady, that is another matter entirely, and I hope that I do not offend when I suggest to you that we discuss that later on,” he said.
“Sure, okay,” I replied. “So… was Morrigan pretty young when he first came here?”
Evander nodded. “He was young and spry, milady, with a sparkle in the way he saw the world. He seemed… unbothered, shall I say, about the problems of his century.”
“That sounds like what I remember about the times I met him,” I said. “He was already pretty old when he moved to America, but he didn’t seem to mind. He liked to tell stories and play music and hold family gatherings.”
My memories made Evander smile. “He was a man determined to enjoy life, wasn’t he? I will say, he knew full well about the disenchantment going on in the world around him. There were wars and strife… oh, the dangers he’d tell me about!” He pinched the bridge of his nose as the memories of them surfaced.
“I see what you mean… Morrigan would have been a young adult when World War II started.” I shook my head mournfully. “Science was used for so much wrong in those wars… We needed it for things like vaccines and visiting the moon, but…”
“They say that war is a terrible thing no matter who is fighting, nor where, nor how, but I had never expected a realm created and sustained by science to use it in such horrible ways. Imagine our world summoning up magic and music enough to destroy an entire kingdom. I was glad that he and his country stayed out of it.”
“Me, too,” I told him. Morrigan might not have survived it, even in his youth. Either way, I really needed to change the subject. “Actually, he was lucky to be born in Ireland for another reason: America was going through the Great Depression when he would have been a child.”
“Dear Lord Morrigan had luck on his side,” Evander noted. “Luck, and a spirit that couldn’t be extinguished by the disenchantment going on around him. From how he described it, the old ways fell out of favor– worse than that, many people abandoned them altogether.”
“That’s true. The twentieth century saw a lot of change… Some would call it growth and development; some might call it ‘losing touch with the past.'”
“For all that he saw and lived through, he never lost his sense of wonder. He always seemed glad to come here,” Evander went on. “I think perhaps meeting an elf and a faun on his first visit helped a great deal.”
“Oh, I’m certain it did,” I agreed. “But then… what about Jean-Marc?”
Evander’s smile grew wider. “Ah, how Lord Morrigan’s tale grows more and more exciting. You see, because he still believed in older folklore like the Sidhe, and he refused to live what he called a ‘cold, hard life of science,’ he pulled up a chair– and I do mean that he did precisely that– and listened to what Aubré wanted to tell him. He had so many questions, and he was quite eager to help.”
He must have seen the look on my face, because he quickly backtracked and explained, “I do not mean to unnerve you with tales of what must seem like pure acceptance, milady. I mean only to answer your questions about how Lord Morrigan felt about being here. I would be remiss to ignore or deny that he might have liked being here better than he did living on Earth. ‘Ireland is lovely,’ he would say, ‘but the world is changing so fast.'”
“Okay… so he was willing to hear what Aubré had to say. How does that connect to him meeting Jean-Marc?”
“That is because of how things go when a new Terran comes to us. It was different with the first, of course, but the second one met Brom and my father, who explained Tierney Ríocht and what they needed him to do. They helped him find the next musician– that would have been Nikolai– as well as the second mansion, where he would teach how to play his instrument, and eventually write the second song. When the next Terran came, he met Nikolai, who help repeat that cycle.”
“I think I understand,” I told him. “Everyone meets the musician found and taught by the previous Terran… and they have to find and teach the next one?”
“Indeed, milady. The Terrans also arrive in the mansion or villa or what have you of the previous one. Lord Morrigan arrived in Lord Owen’s, but found his own soon enough, and you came in through Lord Morrigan’s.”
“Oh… Well I guess that explains my earlier question,” I said. “But how do the people from my world know how to find the musician?”
“There is some guidance in the Ballad of Ríocht Ceoil.”
“What… Wait I haven’t heard of this ballad before.”
“It is an ancient work,” Evander explained. “The Ballad of the Kingdom of Music, you could also call it. Lord Morrigan liked to compare it to mythologies, epic, and religious works from Earth. Whichever way you regard it, it speaks of the eighteen pillars needed to sustain and safeguard our world– our universe, your great-uncle would say I was better off calling it.”
“Eighteen?” I repeated. “Is that… is that number at all related to the fact that Morrigan was the seventh one to come here?”
“It is, I must admit.” he said, “though I wonder why you seem troubled by that detail.”
“I…” I paused and pushed a lock of hair out of my face. “I’m just wondering how the people of your world are going to get eighteen people from mine to do what you want– or need– or whatever.”
“I understand,” he replied. He finished off the last of his food and laid the silverware across the plate. “Lord Morrigan was worried for the future as well. For all the wonder he had in his mind, he also had a practical side. He worried that whoever would follow him would have a difficult time accepting this.”
“Hang on– did he know it would be me?”
Evander shook his head, as calm and slow as ever. “He may have hoped so, milady, but he could not have been certain.”
“I told you that he willed the house to me, right? So doesn’t that mean he knew I would be next?”
“Perhaps it can better be explained like this: it was not his choice who would be next. As I said, he might have hoped it would be you. Imagine that he had left the house to someone else, though; you would have ended up there somehow. It might have been a family gathering, or perhaps you live with them as roommates, or the other person might have decided they don’t want the house and gave it to you instead. Something would have happened.”
“Now you’re talking about fate and destiny.”
“Not in the way you might be worried about, milady,” he said. “Generally, we in Tierney Ríocht do not believe that all details are preconceived. You are the eighth Terran to come to us because you have the right set of characteristics, and the timing was right. I would not go so far as to say that your birth and life events were orchestrated so as to put you here, however. If you had not existed, there would have been another Moss who could come to us.”
“Woah… okay, that’s a lot to take in.”
Evander nodded. “We can discuss something else if you like,” he suggested.
“Er, no, it’s okay. I asked the question and you answered it. I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. So there’s a document alluding to the fact that there will eventually be eighteen of us… your world will have eighteen musicians all trained with different instruments.”
“That is correct so far.”
“And it has hints on how to go about the whole process?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes, milady. It isn’t always easy to interpret, though. When it came to the seventh, there was talk of royalty, and we thought perhaps the prince himself was to become involved.”
“He wasn’t though, was he?” I asked. “Jean-Marc said he was in service of the king, so he’s no prince.”
“Fortunately,” he replied with a nod, “Jean-Marc was His Majesty’s minister of culture, so he was not terribly far from what we’d thought.”
“How do you know when you’ve fount the right person?” I asked. “If I do this, how will I know I’ve found the next musician? And don’t try saying something like, ‘you’ll just know.’ I can’t– gah, with something as epic as what you need, I need something more than that to work with.”
“Very well, milady,” Evander replied, sitting up straighter. “The truth is, ‘just knowing’ is insufficient for us as well. Rather, when a Terran meets the musician they are to train, they resonate with one another.”
This song reminds me of the fauns of Tierney Ríocht; light and friendly, kind and spirited, but also very proper when the need arises.