Postfest XIV(Richfest 2010):The Chanter of Spirits
Date: Mon, September 20, 2010
Topic: Rogue's Gallery
“Destiny is not always something we seek, but often something we find.” - Caswil Gastingil.
The Chanter of Spirits
I, like many other people, loved stories and tales of other lands and people. The son of a carpenter knows many things of different wood’s, chairs, tables, floors, roofs, and more. Treat them with oils prevent water damage, ways to spot rotting and insect infection. Yes, quite boring I know!
So you can imagine when stories of elves riding griffons, knights slaying dragons, dwarves battling giants, and cloud floating castles are spread, how ones attention can be deterred. My favorite story is the one of Caswil Gastingil. He was a merchant’s son whose love of music, dance, and poetry rivaled my own. A talented man who wrote songs and poetry much to the chagrin of his family wishes. Often was he scolded for wasting time on pursuing the arts. Caswil was forced to run the family business instead of pursuing his life’s dream. On his eighteenth birthday Caswil had a flute fashioned from rosewood he would often play it at night when the rest in his house slept. The flute was one of the few things Caswil enjoyed, he despised the merchant's life, and the flute was his escape.
One fateful day, Caswil was responsible for sending the wrong caravan in route to one of the Gastingil’s routes. This caused a loss of income, his father and his mother did not approve. After much scolding Caswil slipped away to escape and play ascending climb on his rosewood flute. Midway through the enticing wind instrument's melody, his father found him and took Caswil's flute. "This is why you can’t concentrate! This is why we lost money! All you’ll do is fail if you continue this fool’s errand!" exclaimed Caswil's father. "I will sell this flute of yours to make up for losses we suffered by your mistakes. It’s time you think about your future, Caswil. I will speak to your mother. Perhaps it’s time for you to wed. Maybe the responsibility of taking care of a wife and children will set you straight." Caswil tried to protest but his father was unyielding. "We all must be responsible for our mistakes Caswil. Luckily for you, this will just cost you a flute. Now get some rest. I would hate to see any more mistakes." Caswil's father scowled.
Caswil did focus more on the family business record routes; manage books, all with a heavy heart. Having lost his true love of playing the flute, Caswil turned to poetry as a means of escape. Yet it was nothing like having the strings of one’s heart soar on the winds of the instrument. Caswil was to wed the daughter of a former rival merchant family. She was a pretty woman but Caswil could not think of anything besides the fact his life was just another transaction to be made by his family. A date was announced it would be shortly after his twentieth birthday. Caswil Gastingil and Jentrivi Estrilal would be wed, and Estrilal and Gastingil families would be one.
It’s not that Caswil did not wish to wed or have a family of his own. He just wanted it on his terms. Besides, all he would think about was his rosewood flute, and how much he missed its melodic tone. Poetry was fine, but it just weighed on his heart; he would often cry to himself after reciting his poetry. His poems all focused on forgotten dreams and personal loss. One such poem was called Rosewood's Voice. Anyone who read it would know it pertained to Caswil's flute.
It was Caswil's twentieth birthday he was to be wed in a week. A small dinner then bed was all to be had for this birthday; his wedding had taken up more than enough money. That night Caswil went to bed he read from his book of poetry, and then closed his eyes for the last time.
The next morning he was found in his bed with his book opened to the page with the poem Rosewood's voice.
You see, Caswil never got to realize his dream and I don’t want to suffer his fate. If not for his interaction I might of.
It was one faithful night or more like a few faithful ones that lead to the most important day of my life. Every night after hearing of Caswil's fate, I would hear an enchanting melody in the night’s air. I at first thought it was just nature’s lullaby but instead every night it would get louder and more enticing. Surprisingly I was the only one awakened by the melodic tune. Well curiosity got the best of me. I had to know its source. On a few occasions it lead me to the cemetery I was self deterred on several nights to enter, but tonight was different.
The cemetery seemed a little less imposing this time I searched for minutes though it felt like hours. An open crypt now I was not one to impose on the dead, but the sweet melody lead me here, and curiosity got me this far so I had to enter. Once inside I assure you every inch of that crypt was examined. I saw the coffins each a different member of the Gastingil family, all were unmolested except for one. Slowly I peeked inside the coffin the lid laid aside as if it was never sealed. Inside were a book and a rosewood flute, yet no body. I was hesitant but once again curiosity got the best of me. The book belonged to Caswil and his name was engraved along the back of the flute.
Outside I heard snorting and grunting, and an all too familiar smell in the night’s air. Orcs! I took up the flute and the book; the sweet melody dispersed. I rushed outside and could see the orcs not but 30 yards away from me. My heart was pounding, and all I could do was hasten my retreat. The orcs pursued persistent buggers. Luckily for me, intellect was not a factor in giving them the slip.
I knew I could not return home, so I left for a time and traveled to Nyrond. I was searching for a minstrel named Ferwond. Truth be told, he was the finest flute player I have ever heard. I apprenticed with him for a time and learned much of the musical arts. If I were to help Caswil live his dream I needed to be able to play his flute as eloquently as he once did. Unfortunately, I was more apt to singing and oratory. Though Ferwond tutored me well, he told me to use my strengths and incorporate it into the instrument. This is a trick he learned, and it hides some of the latent weaknesses in one's performance. I utilized this method often, and with Ferwond’s help I mastered the flute.
We traveled to the Flinty hills, as it was one of Ferwond’s favorite stops- a small gnomish village named Farcinth. I had never heard of this place, and Ferwond said he never spoke much of it because the gnomes there did not wish it to be spoken of. It was here we met a good old friend of Ferwond named Marco Wildfeet. Marco was famous for his hatred of ogres. He even had a song, and it went something like this:
“My name is Marco Wildfeet.
I’m as brave and as sure as they come.
I’ll beat an ogre while playing with them.
I taunt them, tease them, and then I run.
Run up from behind them. Hit’ em in the arse-
Something I would not recommend,
As ogres are all full of gas!”
I thought it was hilarious. He was quite a likable fellow and adopted this village as his own. You see, ogres had been responsible for killing his clan. Marco did not like big folk much, but ogres he had a certain kind of hatred for.
It wasn’t long after meeting Marco that Ferwond was lost to us. A chance encounter with some ogres, and Ferwond was no more. To this day I still blame myself. If only I was skilled in combat. If only I did not allow myself to get cornered by the ogres. Ferwond was like an older brother to me. His death really hurt me. Marco got the ogre who killed him, but we had to cover his body and leave him out in the hills. I told myself that I would never let my lack of skill be the death of someone again.
I returned to Nyrond, my surrogate home. With some of the skills I had learned from Marco I was able to earn some coin as a performer. I sought martial training, but I could not grasp traditional martial concepts. Discouraged, I performed at local fighter guilds and the occasional tavern. When all hope was lost, I met this peculiar individual- Pietre Louver was his name. At first I thought him to be an expert dancer. He moved with such grace and form the likes of which I had never seen. His walk was even graceful; ever on his toes with each step when he moved forward. It appeared as if he could leap at anytime, yet somehow keep his composure.
In a deep eloquent voice he said “My name is Pietre, and you are a good performer.” I was taken aback a bit and replied “I appreciate your compliment Pietre, but why is it not 'great'?” To this Pietre boldly replied “Because dear sir, I was not involved.” “Well then. Show me your artistry.” I replied.
In true form he did like a swan graces the surface of the pond. He moved, his hands thrust down his sides and he pulled out two long thin blades. Somehow he thrust forward with one blade, while curling the other behind his back. His foot work was as impressive as his handling of the blades. The steps looked timed and poised exactly as his martial mastery was displayed. Almost like a dance, a dance of whirling blades, spinning thrusts, feints, and recoveries. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. Then he pivoted and turned his attention to me, moving ever faster, never did his eyes flinch as he stared deeply at me. I knew not what action to take was he to attack me or was this part of his performance? The blades came from one side then the next. I dodge right, and then a blade came to my left. As I tried to maneuver away from his assault, I noticed something strange. I was held in place against the wall while my jerkin was pierced, I was not bleeding at all. He pinned me and moved his face closely to mine. I cringed expecting to be told I was to die. Instead he pressed his lips against mine. Baffled at least awaiting my death. He told me be ready for tomorrows class. He removed his blades and then sauntered away. Now I never been kissed by a man before and was not looking forward to it occurring again. However if perchance, I could learn to fight with skill equal to his, then maybe I should risk it.
It took a night of drinking to wash Pietre lips from my mouth.
I arrived at the Louver Mansion.
It seems Pietre is a rich man. In fact he is a lesser nobleman of Nyrondese decent. His mansion is attended too by an all male staff. I was escorted through the main entrance by one of his servants. He led me to a courtyard in the back of the mansion. There Pietre was sparing with various individuals. It looked more like a performance for bystanders. He would have a servant in each corner of the courtyard. One servant had tea, another wine, one had bread, and the last one carried cheese. Pietre would glide through the courtyard taking a sample from each servant. All while defending himself from one of four opponents. He out maneuvered each one almost like he anticipated there moves. When all four went to converge on Pietre, he made a move I never seen. A quick thrust and circled action with his blade he would hit the hilt of his opponent’s weapon and disarm them. Masterfully he would disarm his opponent then follow through with a kick or an elbow as they where prone. He defeated them easily and surprisingly with little to non perspiration on his part. He saw me and rushed to my side. Sauntering alongside him was a golden haired lithe framed woman whose dress hugs her curves snugly in some places and relaxing in others. Her soft blue eyes and pursing lips could melt and man’s heart. To say she was beautiful would be an insult, she was more divine in appearance then anyone could be.
“Hello young Aoric!” Pietre chimed. “This is my lovely lady friend Evangeline Tourve." She is the only woman who can get me to rise.” The young goddess spoke in a very attractive Nyrondese accent. “Aye! Pietre your friend here can get us both to rise, no?” I thanked the gods I learned the language from Ferwond years ago. I replied in Nyrondese to her and Pietre “Yes. It appears beautiful things grow in abundance in Nyrond.” Before I knew it she had a small dagger to my throat. Then she softly said “I want to play with Aoric for a while Pietre, before you have your fun.” I pursed my lips waiting to have her kiss me. Unfortunately she had slid to the courtyard with a dagger in both hands. “Come Aor-ric, I want to spar with you.” said Evangeline. Pietre frowned a bit, and replied “Go Aoric! Take my blade and cut that bitch!”
I held the blade out hoping to amuse her, instead she place the dagger in her right hand and hit the tip of my blade. She ran the blade to my hilt and placed her back to me. Then she leaned back breathing softly on my neck, and then she whispers softly to me, “Aor-ric.” while running her arms down my own and frees the sword from my hand. I smiled and looked at her then replied “What is it goddess?" Her leg was bent with her foot touching the inside of my right leg. "You need more practice.” she cooed. Then she tripped me, and I went sprawling backwards to the floor.
Pietre quickly, yet elegantly, raced to my side. He held out his hand and pulled me up from the floor. Evangeline darted in quickly blades over Pietre head. He slide back his left foot while sliding his right foot forward bending his right knee and quickly retrieved the blade I dropped then parried Evangeline’s assault. With a slight grin Evangeline stated “I would expect no less from you Pietre.” Pietre rose from his position stared deeply at Evangeline, both mimicked the others actions there they stood graciously as if some passionate dance was to take place. Pietre then shouted his commands to me “Aoric! Quickly to my side! Grab my waist and try to follow my movements!” I rushed over not knowing what to expect, I grabbed a sash around his waist, and then he and Evangeline moved towards one another. I could not believe my eyes Evangeline and Pietre clashed blade against blade all while I tried to follow Pietre movements. It was a dance indeed. Somehow the flow of the battle determined ones steps. Evangeline came in trying to pierce Pietre defenses, when she failed I got hit on my backside by the flat of her blade. She smiled each time it happened, this is the way she flirted with me. Enraged Pietre undid his sash and I sprawled out nearly falling to the ground again. “Evangeline!” he replied. “Aoric is my student. You will not play with him.” I knew when I was bested, and retreated to the end of the courtyard which led to the steps from the mansion. Yet they continued each one taking breaks from the fluid motion of their blades. I had noticed that Pietre and Evangeline did not take their eyes off each other the entire time. Unlike when he sparred with his other opponents Pietre was facing someone who was his equal. Both Pietre and Evangeline would bark instructions to me, on how to turn and engage an enemy. The dueling continued until, they were spent from their display of martial prowess. That night we bathe together in a large pool on Pietre estate. I will tell you one thing Evangeline was responsible for my arousal, yet it was tempered by Pietre's arousal for me. Nothing happened, not that Pietre did not try, luckily for me, it was a large pool.
For months this continued, though with each improvement I made, Evangeline would take me at night and I would be chased by Pietre in the day. Blessed and cursed you can say as both where skilled swordsman or woman respectively. Pietre found out about me and Evangeline and he was heartbroken. I don’t know why I never encouraged him ever and I never slept with him. He had told me his feelings and I informed him I was flattered but not interested in the same gender. I decided to leave the mansion and told him I appreciated him tutoring me. He hugged me and gave me one of his rapiers. He told me to continue to practice and that as long as I carried the blade he would be with me.
Evangeline saw me off, and hired some men to help me retrieve Ferwond body. I came by Marco again in the hills and he and I travelled back to Nyrond with Ferwond and gave him his proper burial. Pietre has paid for everything. All I did was tell him Caswil story and recite Rosewoods voice for him. Pietre told me to go back home and visit Caswils site, that there may be more answers for me there. This is when Pietre told me that I was the Chanter of Spirits, the bard who speaks for the dead.
Back to Edgefield I would return to my family briefly of course, I would stop at many villages along the way, and told the stories of both Caswil and Ferwond. Rosewoods voice pulled the strings of most women and musicians hearts. Marco accompanied me and he was quite the talented musician amongst many other talents as well. I learned much from Marco; it appeared as there was not a skill he could not achieve with at least minimal success. Marco told me approach all tasks with a similar style and applies knowledge of one thing to equate it to the task at hand, and you can never fail.
Three months later we arrived back in Edgefield, I was playing the flute while Marco danced and displayed his martial talents as well. As good as he was with a blade Marco was even better with a sling or a bow. Not long after my arrival was I taken in by the local authorities and locked away. Three days later the guards brought a visitor to me and old man with eyes that pierce ones soul. He looked so distraught like a great wrong had be fallen him. He questioned me “Why did you disturb my family’s tomb?” “What tomb do you speak of dear sir?” I replied. “Gastingil tomb!” he clamored. “You would not believe me if I told you Lord Gastingil, but I will try and explain what happened if you like.” I repeated my story and was allowed to finish it. It was then that Lord Gastingil ask me “If it’s true, tell me then: what's Caswils most prized possession?" “That is an easy question, my lord. Caswil valued his flute over anything in his life; it offered him an escape from your family business.” “Truly then, what killed my son?" he asked. “Lord Gastingil, your son died because he was afraid to follow his dreams, and missed the one thing which gave him release. He wrote a poem called Rosewood's Voice. If you like, I can recite it for you.” “Yes. Please do so.” And so I did.
Of supple wood, of rosy glow,
Mistress of wind, my heart endures.
Your lips to mine, and mine to yours,
The toils of man, are made undone.
When your voice is heard, divine I become
Now you are gone, forever lost.
My heart is nothing, in angst, in pain,
Without you I wither, each day."
Lord Gastingil wept a little as did I. “You’re good.” he said plainly. “I wish you to die.” “Please!” I begged. “Grant me one last wish.” “Very well. What is it?” Lord Gastingil asked. “I want to play Caswil's flute one last time.” “You wish to play my son's flute? Well, here it is, but I warn you.” he said boldly. “This had best not be a trick.” “Not now my lord. I want to play it at Caswil's tomb. With you present, of course.” “Will you return my son’s body if I grant you your wish?” “My lord, in truth that day within the tomb I never saw your son’s body within the coffin.” “You like to take things, don’t you thief!", he exclaimed. “I shall grant you your wish, and if my son’s body is not returned, I will have you locked inside the tomb, gagged and chained, until you die.” “Fair enough, I guess, my lord. At least I will play a song for your son like he once did for me, and then I will die. I only wish for someone else to carry Caswil's legacy.”
True to his word Lord, Elengtin Gastingil arranged for us to be in the tomb when I played Caswil's flute. Twelve guards were hired to make sure I did not escape. I was given Caswils flute and told I could play. Then Lord Gastingil enquired ”Will you return him to me?" “My lord, I wish I could, but perhaps your son will be elated to hear me play.” “Play then, thief. I’ll grant you that, but as you can see by the cloth and chains here, I meant what I said.” “I apologize for any heart break that has befallen you, Lord Gastingil”. “I will forgive you. I don’t even know that I believe myself."
I played the rosewood flute and chimed the song of Caswil's ascending climb. It was minutes I played and to our disbelief at the end of my song a strange thing appeared. Within the coffin a body appeared. It was as the day he was buried all proper and trimmed, except this corpse displayed a slight grin. Lord Gastingil looked at me and before he could speak, a melodic tone voice filled our ears and the corpse began to speak. “I am glad you returned Aoric.” said the corpse to me. Then it said to Lord Gastingil “Father. Aoric did not steal from me. I gave him my flute and book. They were a gift from me.” Astonished by such a thing, Lord Gastingil cowered, and spoke, trembling, “I know not how this has come to pass, dear thief, but please stop this at once!” The Corpse spoke again. “It is not Aoric, father. It is me who took her away, and wept when I died; so much so you paid triple her price just to return her to me.” “How could you know this!” the lord exclaimed. “I am your son Caswil. Now, let Aoric go father, and give him my flute please.” the corpse replied. “My son, why did you die? Did I press you to hard? Was there something I could have done to prevent this?” The corpse spoke again and said calmly “No. In truth, I was too weak to follow my path in life and I regret it in death. However, father, I live on thanks to Aoric.” With tears in his eyes the lord told me, “Aoric. My son calls. You will you keep my son alive for me?” “My lord. I have kept his memories and songs with me wherever I travel. I keep the dead alive by speaking of them, for your son Caswil and my friend Ferwond shall live through me until I am done.”
Lord Gastingil dropped all charges against me and gave me his son's flute. I told him to keep his son's journal, as I had it memorized and made a copy of it for myself. I promised him I would recite Rosewood's Voice when I returned, and play Caswil ascending climb any time he wished. Unbeknownst to me, Marco got word to my family and I meet with them for a time. I visited lord Gastingil one last time before I continued my travels. Lord Gastingil asked me "What do they call you son?" I replied “I am the Chanter of Spirits- the bard who speaks for the dead.”