The Ballad of the Kingdom of Music – Bailéad Ríocht Ceoil [ re-ochtcoe-ill] – Part IV
He who found the Oracle was the first to seek a gateway to Earth, and to find a descendant of Moss. He came from a family both noble and brave, his strength tempered by his intellect. Himself a descendant of Moss and another of the Terrans who held dear the wonder of magic and myth, he was warm and protective.
He found the first key to the gateway to Earth, and once he opened the door, it was not long before a young lady of nobility that matched his own found her way through. She had both intellect and grace, but was also a joyful spirit and did not shy away from ideas of magic. Her music resounded for all who heard it and brought hope to the people of our realm.
Hers was the first of the new songs, the first to share its light and offer its glory. She brought knowledge of the harpsichord to the realm of magic and music, and its sound and tunes have been cherished ever since. The joy and hope she brought did not fade even when her life came to an end, and even now she is remembered with the greatest fondness.
The home of the first musician did not see another Terran until half a century had passed. His house was rich with life and music and joy, and that only increased on the bright spring day when the next of Moss’s descendants found their way into Tierney Ríocht.
The man who found the magic door was strong and large. His work was laborious, but he never lost an opportunity to make music. Drums were his passion, their rhythm as important to him as his own heartbeat. He journeyed far and wide with the first musician, learning about the many areas of the world, until he could no longer resist the call of the mountains.
They left the plains and crossed over the rolling hills until they came to the foot of the mountains. there they met the centaurs, who rejoiced to learn that another Terran had come to share his music and teach his instrument. They were one of the creatures most threatened if the world were to crumble again, and in turn they were especially willing to help those who could save it. Therefore, they carried the men up the mountain on their backs.
The Terran found the grand entrance to the dwarves caverns near the top of the mountain. Inside, he explored the tunnels and cities, never minding how deep they went, until they found the river that ran through the center of the mountain. In the village built around that river, the Terran found the man he sought, the man whom he would teach how to build drums and keep rhythm on them, and to harmonize with others. The dwarves were proud the the world’s second musician was one of them, and also that his palace watched over the great river hidden in the heart of the mountain.
“That was you, Nikolai,” I pointed out. “Were the dwarves friendly with the centaurs even before Brendan Moss came to Tierney Ríocht?”
“We were,” he confirmed, “though they didn’t always live around our mountains. Their ancestral lands were destroyed when Moss was slain. Those who could escape in time fled as far as they could.”
“In different directions,” Aubré added. “Some settled in the mountains, but others met up with the fauns and fled even further, Then there are those who came to Clurichaun.”
“Oh, don’t say it like it’s been a problem for the elves,” Tobias chided him. “The centaurs have been respectful to all those who’ve given them refuge.”
“They have,” Aubré agreed, though something seemed to be weighing heavy on his mind. “They help maintain the lands that have yet to crumble, and they help the Terrans who come here whenever the need arises.”
His words make me realize something I had yet to ask. “Has… has any more of Tierney Ríocht crumbled since… since Brom found the Oracle and met Ashleen?”
Tobias shook his head. “Not as far as we can tell.”
“Not unless it was small pieces,” Aubré added.
Tobias gave him a tired look. “The whole point of the music that the Terrans bring us is that it stops the damage from being done.”
“Well, has anyone been to the far reaches of the world to see what’s going on out there?” I asked.
“Ooooh!” Larsa exclaimed. “Maybe the land is even healing!”
“I doubt it,” Aubré said with a sigh. “We haven’t even gathered half of the musicians the ballad says we’ll need. Besides that, it could be that the land won’t heal until all of them are together, and all of their their songs are played.”
Larsa was not about to let the elf’s pessimism get to him, though; I love that about him. He quickly changed the subject to ask, “Can we hear the song Brendan wrote? Was it just for drums?”
Nikolai got up from the armchair and handed the scroll to Tobias, then stepped across the room to sit in the center of an arrangement of large drums.
“There are a few things I can play solo,” he said as he checked their tension, “but like Brendan, I like to play with others. I like to think of the drums as the heartbeat of the songs we play.”
“Yeah!” Larsa all but cheered. “That’s how I feel when I play the drum with my grandmother.”
Nikolai gave him a warm smile. “You catch onto the beat of a song easily, don’t you?”
Larsa nodded excitedly, not hiding his grin in the least.
“Go look over there,” Nikolai said, using one of his mallets to point to several shelves filled with musical instruments. “See if you can find a drum like the one your used to. Once you have a feel for the song Brendan wrote for us, you can join in.”
“Really?!” Larsa’s face could hardly have been brighter in that moment.
Nikolai and Brom shared a smile as they watched him hop out of his seat and run over to the shelf, where he spent several minutes looking things over. Meanwhile, they warmed up for their duet. When he came back to them, Larsa had a wide frame drum, old enough that it was made of minimally-treated wood and hide. He sat across from Nikolai, ready to listen to the song.
The thing about timpani– and other drums– is that they often get taken for granted. In a symphony, the violins and trumpets are really prominent, but it’s when all the instruments come together that things sounds really good. Drums especially help with that, and the timpani aren’t as simple as they seem at first. They come in a set, and they have different sizes in order to create distinct sounds. My younger brother had considered playing percussion in high school band, thinking it would be easy, but I had to warn him that it wasn’t really that much less work than other instruments. Your arms got a workout instead of your lungs, and your timing had to be impeccable.
Good drummers make percussion look easy, and Nikolai made it look like it came as naturally as humming or walking. He’d had centuries to perfect his rhythm and technique. He knew just how much pressure to use, how fast he had to go, and when to still the surface of the drum. The minuet he played with Brom started off with gentle drumbeats that accentuated and complemented the harpsichord, but then evolved to chase and play with the notes. By the end of the song, the drums had taken the lead, with the harpsichord falling in line with them; it made me wonder what wort of dance would go well with such a song.
Larsa had played along, too, off course. He’d joined in less than halfway through it, earning an approving smile from Nikolai. The young man seemed energized by the end of it– maybe even eager for more.
“It’s so unlike you to invite someone whom you hardly know to join in,” Brom said.
Nikolai smirked and set his mallets down before crossing his arms over his chest. “It’s also not like the Terrans to come in fours like this,” he replied.
“I know some of us were nervous,” Tobias added, glancing in Aubré’s direction, “about the ballad suggesting that things would be different this time, but I think it’s just what we need.”
Larsa grinned at him. “So you think I can help Leila help your world?”
“Larsa–” Killian began, giving him a worried look.
“What?” Stefan all but squawked. “Did you not listen at breakfast when they said there are vampires and werewolves here?”
“Yeah,” Larsa replied. “One of the musicians was turned, too.”
“And they don’t even know if she’s still alive!” Stefan added. “They almost drained Maël!”
“He offered,” Larsa reminded him.
Stefan glowered at him. “You’re acting like this place is a playground where you get to meet unicorns and play music, but it’s dangerous!”
Larsa only looked more excited. “I get to meet a unicorn?”
Tobias chucked. “Only if you’re lucky.”
Stefan glowered at him. “Why are you encouraging him to stay here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Aubré grumbled.
“Tierney Ríocht needs Leila,” Tobias explained when Stefan didn’t respond, “but it could also benefit from the kind of joyful spirit this young man has. I realize that you have concerns, but you also know that we have the means to protect each other and all of you.”
“Leila has asked for your help with her instrument,” Nikolai added, “but a man like you is probably also good with an axe.”
“…Or two or three,” Stefan added.
“Heh, that’s more like it,” Nikolai said. “I have a set of throwing axes that would be just right for you.”
“Before you wander off to practice your weapons,” Tobias said, “could we read my part of the ballad?”
“I want to hear it!” Larsa declared, raising his hand.
I nodded. “I think we should. Then we can talk about what to do about Brielle, since we really can’t continue this without her.”