(23 Charlatos 5115, The Landing)

Last week she accepted a precious gift from Lady Inurtia. She knew the cittern was special the moment she touched it. Made from ebonwood, it was eahnor-inset and came in its own beautiful, matching case. As she gently smoothed her hand over the wood, she wondered if the instrument had its own song, or just its own voice. She gazed at it in wonder …

Stemming from the bridge of the cittern, thin tendrils of eahnor twine across the surface grains of ebonwood.  They gradually condense into larger veins that meet at the base of the smoothly finished neck.  As the inset veins slowly transform, they merge into a leafy stalk that gives way to a large crown of carved larkspur.  Each blossom of the spiked flower cluster serves as elaborately adorned tuning peg.

In her room, she sang to it, listening for the hint of a song it in. But it did not sing to her. However, there was yet a distinctive sense of presence about the instrument, which seemed to match her confusion and melancholy. Her bond could not have been more instant or dear to the eahnor-inset cittern.

In the days since then, she played it almost all the time. She knew the harp was sounding fussy about being ignored, but he was just going to have to deal with it. She was going to find the story of the cittern, sooner or later, all she needed to do was figure out how.

It happened sooner. Tonight, the story found her. In the most unlikely of situations. The instrument broke against her soul with her torn heart.

Earlier tonight, she was in the small park off the Town Square in the Landing where a seamstress had come – quite another story. As the woman handed the bardess her new cloak, all gorgeous and beautiful, the seamstress announced that a man standing there was paying all the bills for the work done, and pointed to him. All eyes in the park turned to the giantman bard, Lord Entil.

“I am confused why I am not paying for your work, m’lady?” she asked, hardly believing her ears.

“Because a wealthy person paid for you,” Entil said to the bardess, and then added, “And he may even associate with elves. I also heard that he’s very handsome.”

“Thank you ever so much, m’Lord,” she acknowledged him with a respectful curtsy for this unexpected gift. “This was very generous for a complete stranger. I am Luxelle, an aspiring bardess.”

He leaned over and whispered to her, “There are always ways to repay kindness.”

Of course there was, and she would sing him a song for the thoughtfulness tonight. She was pretty sure that was not what he had in mind at all, but she had no intention of falling to his obvious ploys. She put the cittern away that she had been playing for the seamstress and pulled out her harp.

His gaze followed her hands as they went to the music case and she saw his face lose all its color, as if he had seen a ghost. Out of all the people in the city, in this hand full of complete strangers in the park with the Seamstress, the bardess had introduced herself to the one man who knew the story of the cittern. She could tell by the look on his face that this was not part of the ploy. His tune had changed entirely.

She took the cittern back out and handed it to him. In a hushed voice, he verified it was the same instrument, and asked about the case.

“Tell me you have the case, too?” his whispered question was urgent and almost pleading.

She did. It was in her closet. She went back to get it. By this time, she wanted it verified that the set had not been broken up, too. His heartfelt interest spoke leagues of depth, of time. She would see this through tonight.

As the Seamstress called Entil’s name next, Luxie told him she wanted to hear the story of the instrument. He nodded in agreement, and the bardess took cittern, its case, and herself back to the Square to sit, and play the cittern for what she already knew would be the last time. The Cittern seemed to know it, too.

She fingered a mournful 8 bar chord progression in D minor, humming an improvised melody softly with it as her mind raced. It was not even 5 minutes before the Lord Entil came to find her. He suggested a quieter place because the story was long, and he showed her a garden to sit in.

“May I see the cittern again?” he asked her.

“Of course,” she replied immediately, relinquishing her claim upon the beautiful instrument with those words. He did not know that; he was lost in the cittern’s glory, in memories, and he began to spin out the long tale. She willed the tears be gone, and named her sense of loss as nothing but self-pity. With that, she gave her complete attention to the story.

She listened to the tale with her heart, not really her mind. The details did not matter, not now. It was a tale of discovery, of hurt, of betrayal. It was the story of dreadful vengeance and lives lost to a self-induced madness. She felt the instrument might be the only hope of redemption in the storyline. And all of that happened to someone of his family, the tie was near, threaded loosely as it was.

“What is the Cittern’s name?” she asked him as he was winding down the history.

“Unhinged,” he told her.

As he confessed to her how happy he was to have seen the cittern again, the bardess gave him the matching case.

“You should keep it, you know,” she told him with a soft smile and a nod. “I know she belongs with you.”

He offered to compensate her, and she shook her head. This felt like returning a lost child to their parents, albeit one you have grown attached to.

By the time she got back to Town Square, she was fast loosing the tenuous hold on her emotions, and scrambled up the tree, skirt and all, to find solace in the quiet heart of the Old Oak, where she knew she could weep and be understood.

The instrument broke against her soul with her torn heart.

The Old Oak held her safe in the hollow.


Author: GSBardess

A young bardess named Luxelle is currently learning her trade and hoping to one day make a name for her songs in GemStone IV. Follow along with her adventures in life and song.

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