Monday, August 12, 2013

Artistic Liberties: by M. J. Morgan

The next chord he strummed came in an almost irritatingly beautiful tone.  He faced the opposite side of the small grove, his ears tuned to the sound of the instrument, which bore a striking resemblance to some sort of lute, leaning in the crook of his elbow.  He frowned, picking the strings individually as if he was in the middle of deciding something.
A woman sat on the other side of the grove, twiddling with a large, plumy quill pen while staring at a blank piece of parchment.
She tapped her fingers on her knee for a few moments before her cavernous dark eyes lifted to address her companion, “Eanrin, whichever way you want to end the tune, it sounds beautiful, but I cannot write anything until you tell me the words.”
The man acknowledged her with a smile, “Well, shall I serenade you with the ballad of Rose Awaits the Moonlight so far, then?”
Dame Imraldera sat on an immense fallen log with the parchment propped on a large book for ease of use.  Her inkwell was nested in a knot on said log as she prepared to pen another one of his pieces.  For now, they had chosen a small outcropping of trees in relative distance to the festivities so Eanrin could allow his creative spirit to “breathe” before he would have to escort a young audacious prince back to Parumvir.
The poet readied his voice and strummed the first chord, and Imraldera prepared her pen.
Dark was the night upon which begins
A tale of passion to rouse the soul
Queen mother bore child ‘cross the gates
Atoning for acrimonious sins
Or so the tale’s been told.

Oh, beauteous girl
How deep is thy skin
That thy mother should leave thee
With world of beasts therein

Amongst the Wood for many long years
In shadow of a mischievous prince
So frozen and dark that no one could see
Past the mask that veiled the tears
And such it has been ever since

Oh, beauteous girl
How fair is thy skin
That thy prince should banish thee
To broken world of thy kin

King father didst thus prepare the night
With which he was to seize a dream
To redeem lives from a most gruesome fate
Knights and princes did pursue to fight
For lady whose eyes did gleam

Oh, beauteous girl
How deep is thy skin
That many would see thy zeal
And seek for thine heart to win

Mischievous prince arrived to give his life
For lady fair who would become queen
When reunited the prince spoke many things
To one who may become his wife
Or so has yet to be seen

Upon his parting the prince obliged
To sweep her from her feet and then
Bestow a gift upon the young queen’s lips
To profess truth instead of lies
And journey through forests Golden.

He raised his head to her, his eyebrows high on his head, “Yes?”
“That last part didn’t happen.”
Imraldera had stopped writing.  She was regarding him with a very slightly amused frown, that, of course, he could not see, but probably felt nonetheless; especially considering the impish smirk that was curling across his face.
“It makes for such a wonderful tune, though, does it not?”
She sighed, “Eanrin, were that the world was a perfect place…”
“The dragon-eaten rascal most certainly should have stepped up as a man would have done.”
The woman raised her eyebrows, “Oh, you mean like you?”
“Of course.”
Though there was very evidently much to say on the subject, he said nothing more about it and moved on, “So, what do you think?”
Passing off the subject and attempting to focus, she tapped her chin with the feathery end of her quill.  Licking her lips, she considered her words to the famous musician carefully, “It’s beautiful, Eanrin, but it’s certainly different from the usual.”
Narrowing her eyes to pinpoint her focus, she spoke again, slowly, “Well, the musical style’s a little different.  You are direct and to the point through most of it, normally you have a tendency to babble on whatever subject the work is about.”
He scrunched his nose, “What does it matter now?  The tale will go down in history and be known for its—”
“Bizarre rhyme scheme?”
Feigning offense, he pressed a hand to his chest and scoffed, “Now, now, old girl, you should really know by now that jealousy is quite unbecoming.”
A roll of the eyes accentuated her words, “So what’s the reason for the directivity, Eanrin?  I know you are not fond of Lionheart, but must the entire tale be boiled down into a single song?  I would have thought you would have written a few of them, at least.”
He huffed again, “Really now, this is a masterpiece for the amount of time I had.  I had to have something before I lose the rest of my sanity taking Prince Felix back to the Near World.”
A smile crossed her face, “And the last part of that song, Eanrin?  I would hate to have to write in the scrolls that you lie in your music as well.”
His expression flashed with something strange for just a quick moment, almost too quick for her to catch, but she knew better.  If she asked him about it, he would undoubtedly state once again that a man is entitled to a few secrets, so she need not bother.  Eanrin’s devious smirk returned, “As far as I am concerned, that is what happened, and that is all.”
Placing her quill to the side, she responded, “Why must you insist on taking these things to extremes?”
The musician sighed and shook his head, a smile still on his face, “Do you not know, my dear, that one day, the world shall be mine?”
Her smile widened, “Oh really?  Is this your new conquest, oh notorious musical one?”
He nodded, “Of course.  And when I do, everything will be as it should.  Lads will become men and profess their undying love, whisking their ladies into a world of happy endings.”
This time, she nearly choked on her laughter, pressing a hand to her mouth to hide its sound, “You know, Eanrin…”
Imraldera’s abyssal eyes held on him, and he inclined his head most slightly to listen to her without making it obvious to the untrained eye.
Her grin was badly hidden, “I do believe you are slightly delusional.”
 It was unclear whether Eanrin took her seriously or not, for the pout that hung on his lips was characteristically vague.  He crossed his arms, his instrument in one hand as the other hand clenched around his bicep, waiting for her to continue.
She did, “As the self-proclaimed Prince of High Romantic Verse, you show nearly no emotion for yourself.  I must say, I begin to wonder if you have any at all; perhaps your music is your way of trying to adopt others’ emotions as your own?”
This time, his golden mane visibly bristled, “Really, old girl.  And how, might I ask, are you going to prove this one?  I am not a man to run from a challenge.  Very well.  Find proof of your plight and I will concede.”
It was a little difficult to try not to have a little bit of fun at this point.  She had to consider all her options with the most care.  He would undoubtedly try to argue with the Gleamdren excuse, but perhaps that would do her argument more good than harm.  A thought came to her.
It was a sad thought, and if she had been alone for a few days, it probably would have hurt a great deal. 
In this situation, however, in a setting fresh from festivities and loved ones, she felt perhaps it was a thought that could easily be passed from her mind until a later date when she was once again relatively alone with words and flashbacks spiraling about in her head.
With the warmth of those loved ones nearby and the comical nature of the challenge, Imraldera felt more intrepid at the thought of saying such things.  And because the notion was a bit painful would be exactly why she would emerge the victor.
So the woman took a deep breath and answered the challenge, a calm expression, save the curious raised eyebrows, settled on her face.
“Eanrin?  When…was the last time you sang to me?”
When he made to object, she finished, “Not for me, Eanrin.  To me.”
It was evident then that both knew exactly what she was asking.  It had been a frightfully long time, if at all, since the poet had ever written a thing concerning or directed at her.
However, Imraldera was sadly mistaken to think that this would secure her victory in this challenge with her companion.
Eanrin’s voice had spluttered.  And as Imraldera’s dark eyes found their way to his face, his whole hand was clasped across his mouth and nose, the skin under his eye patches visibly heated.  His eyebrows were low and drawn together, and, though he couldn’t see her, he turned his head away. 
Enveloping the man’s face was an altogether flustered and troubled expression.
To see the epitome of grace and charm fumbling like a disconcerted boy over her suggestion, Imraldera was sure she was seeing things. 
Then the blind poet uttered a feral growl, his voice barely above a murmur as he seemed to concede on an entirely different notion of defeat, “Dragon’s teeth, woman.”

The Call: by Christy Shimamoto

    A wood thrush sang its sweet and wild song in the distance. “Won’t you follow me?” The silver voice asked. “No! I won’t!” She cried, “It’s my choice! I’ll serve myself! I’ll do what I want! You and the dragon are the same! You demand my full allegiance! I’ll be free!”
    “You can’t stay on the fence forever,” the voice sang, “if you stay too long, you’ll fall over. I love you. True freedom is found in serving me. Won’t you follow me?” “No! It’s my choice! I’ll stay on the fence for as long as I want!”
    With that, she tried to run away from that pure melody, tried to go far beyond where the song could reach her ears. Another voice took its place. “You’re already mine. You’ve been mine since the day you were born!” This voice was hard and cruel. The dragon was always taunting, always torturing her soul. “You’re mine. Look at all I can give to you! Pleasure, money, and no obligations! You can’t escape me, so why try? Just give in.”
    She took up drinking and smoking, weed and cocaine. And yet still the thrush’s voice called “I still love you, won’t you follow me?”
    Then one day, she saw a church sign. It read: “Sinners Welcome”. But how could there be forgiveness after all she had done? The dragon screamed in her ear, “You’ll never be clean! You’re mine forever!” And yet the bird still called, “Follow me.”
     In she went, besides all the dragon’s protesting. “You see,” the young pastor said, “we don’t have to stay on the devil’s side of the fence forever. If you just accept, you can be taken over from death to life.” At the end of the service, the pastor said a salvation prayer. The wood thrush asked once more, “I love you no matter what you’ve done. Won’t you follow me?” And the girl surrendered. “Yes!” She cried.
Will you follow Him?
He’s calling you.

Corin and the Bard: by Clara

           King Grosveneur was slumped in his throne, massaging his head with one of his hands. He didn’t care if the whole of his court was watching this display of overwhelming disappointment concerning his son. He just wanted to do what was right. Grosveneur lifted his head  briefly from the comfort of his hand only to see the court staring at him unblinkingly. “Well?” He asked, a little more loudly than he had meant to. The word echoed throughout the hall. “He’s my son.” The King of Beauclair looked around at the people who were supposed to be advising him and frowned. He knew what they expected of him, but he just simply couldn’t banish his only child; no matter how great the offense. “Bring him here.”
The King’s command was quickly transferred to a guard who was standing at the doors of the Throne Room. Almost as quickly, Gervais, Prince of Beauclair, walked into the room, his boot heels clicking hollowly throughout the court.
            Gervais’s manner was not of one who stood on the brink of banishment for his gambling debts. It was the manner of someone who was much too important to care about some petty offense he might have caused. King Grosveneur picked up on his son’s attitude, and wasn’t at all surprised. This was just the way he had expected Gervais to act.  Gervais stopped a few feet away from Grosveneur’s throne.  
“What is it, Father?”
Grosveneur’s expression darkened. Gervais pretended not to notice, and instead began to examine his elegant lace cuffs. The King traced his fingers over the complicated filigree on his throne, never taking his eyes off the proud man standing in front of him.
“You have a rather large gambling debt, son.”
Gervais looked up and snorted. “Yes, I know.
Grosveneur took a deep breath and then stood up. “Gervais,” He clenched his fists at his side while he looked at the seemingly disinterested man in front of him. “You have given me little choice of what to do with you.”
“Oh, please, Father!” Gervais scoffed. “You have every choice. You are the King!” Gervais’s face turned red, and a vein at his temple throbbed. It was obvious now that Gervais was very much concerned by what his father might do. The room became even more silent as Grosveneur sucked in a breath and tapped his thigh with his finger. Even Gervais stood stock still and appeared to be holding his breath. Then the King of Beauclair spoke.
“I hereby banish Gervais, Prince of Beauclair, my son, and heir to the throne. His banishment shall be lifted as soon as his debts are paid. You must leave immediately.”
Gervais stared in shock at his father. “You’re not serious.”
Grosveneur raised an eyebrow. “Oh, but I am. And I did say immediately.” His tone was shockingly hard. Gervais took a step back, made a sarcastic bow, and left the room. Shortly thereafter, everyone else left too. After all, no one wanted to see their King cry. 
“Parumvir is nothing to Beauclair…do you not agree?”
Corin Geoff groaned inwardly as another question was hurtled at him from the fop of a prince he was accompanying. When he had volunteered to guard the banished prince, he had imagined great adventures to befall him…but already six weeks had passed and they had found no form of excitement; except for when Gervais had sunk waist deep in mud, nearly ruining his favorite outfit. Mud was hard to get out of clothes, as Corin had soon discovered. Realizing that he had not answered the Prince’s question yet, he quickly supplied him with one.
“Of course, My Prince. Nothing to Beauclair at all.” 
Gervais smiled and nudged his horse onward, clueless that when he rode ahead, Corin lifted his eyes to heaven and mouthed, Why me? One of the other guards rode ahead and patted his shoulder sympathetically as he passed. Ever since Corin had successfully purged the mud from the Prince’s clothes, he had become Gervais’s favorite person. At first it wasn’t so bad. Gervais had been fairly sullen and quiet throughout the first half of their trip, therefore, he had not been bothering Corin. Then they had crossed the border to Parumvir, and suddenly, Gervais was lively, talkative, and to Corin, very annoying. He guessed that the Prince was practicing his “charming” skills for the Princess of Parumvir.
Corin slowed his horse down so that he was well behind the other soldiers. This was nice. No nagging prince, no muttering soldiers...just the forest and the birds. Corin took a deep breath and closed his eyes. There was something calming about woods. Then Corin realized he had fallen a good ways behind the rest of the men. So he tapped his horse lightly to catch up with the others, the jingling of his horse’s belled bridal causing squirrels to scatter. As Corin neared his group, he heard Gervais call to him from up front.
“Where’s my favorite soldier? Corin! Come ride with me!” Gervais waved Corin up to his side and settled down to tell him all about his wooing of the Fair Lady Genevieve. 
Village folk crowded around the Prince of Beauclair and his infantry as the group neared the castle. The crowd was full of “oohs” and “ahs”, and Gervais countered their interest with smiles and waves. Corin felt sick as he realized that this was probably the most adventure he would encounter. The princess would probably fall in love with Gervais at first sight.
And that would be that.
No trolls, no giants, no strange faerie folk…just a betrothed prince and princess. Corin was pulled out of his muse by the castle gates opening. He was so caught up in self-pity that he hadn’t realized that they were this close to the castle. A short, fat man bustled out of the castle doors and bowed to Gervais. As they had neared the castle, Corin had fallen behind Gervais and the rest of the soldiers, so he couldn’t hear what the man was saying. Gervais suddenly dismounted, so Corin and his comrades did as well.
The little man escorted Gervais into the castle and left all of the Prince’s men standing in the courtyard.  Corin scowled at Gervais’s back and rolled his eyes when he saw the prince turn to wink at a stern looking old lady. The last sight he saw before the doors closed was the woman fluttering her hands about and rushing up a flight of stairs. The Prince’s men looked around feeling quite awkward. No one had shown any bit of interest in them so far. Then the doors to the castle opened up again. The same little fat man came bobbing out over to the men. He stood at the front of them, (on his tip-toes) and said in a quivering voice, “Will Corin Geoff please step out? His Highness, Prince Gervais, requests his assistance.”
Corin sighed. He thought that Gervais would have completely forgotten him, but, apparently, he was wrong. Corin stepped sullenly forward, and followed the dithering man up the steps of the Parumvir castle.
“This way, sir.” The little man held his hand out to the left hallway. They walked up a flight of stairs, and Corin (completely forgetting his impending encounter with the Prince) looked awestruck around himself. Beauclairs palace was nothing to this. While Corin’s home palace was garish and fashionable, Parumvir’s was tasteful and unique. Corin wanted to stop to inspect paintings and busts of past family members, but the little man was leading him quickly down the hallway. At last, Corin’s guide stopped at the front of a door.
“This is the Prince’s room.” Without another word, the little man scurried off, while Corin knocked on the door.
Corin grimaced at his Princes voice. He sounded quite at home here already; and he hadn’t even seen the Princess yet. Gervais turned around when Corin walked inside his room, and frowned. “I need your help, dear friend.”
Corin coughed. “With what?” There was nothing worse, Corin thought, than being a Prince’s confidant. Gervais raised an eyebrow, and Corin checked himself. He added a, “Your Majesty.” which seemed to satisfy Gervais. The Prince gestured for Corin to sit as he did so himself. “Romancing is a delicate operation that should not be taken lightly. Wine?” Gervais picked up a glass of wine off of a table beside his chair and held it out to Corin, who refused. Gervais shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He sighed and sipped the wine delicately. “Where was I? Ah, yes. A painter must not make a mistake on his canvas; if he does, he must get a new canvas.” He looked meaningfully at Corin. “And I don’t want to have to get a new canvas.”
Corin tapped his heels on the floor. “Yes, yes. No one wants to get a new canvas, but what does this have to do with me?”
“The point where you come in, dear fellow,” Finally, he was getting to the point. “Is when I sing to the Princess.”
“What?” Corin didn’t think he wanted to know where this was heading.
Gervais must have noticed Corin’s distressed face, because he said, “Not to worry. I only need you to write a song for me. You see, I can’t sing without my music written down for me. My fool of a father rushed me out of the palace so fast, I forgot to bring my most favored music, and I cannot for the life of me remember a single song! You will help me, won’t you?”
Corin opened and closed his mouth like a fish. “Write your own song! You know more about music than I do!” Corin was standing up now, and yelling at the Prince. How could Gervais expect him to do that? It was humiliating!
I am a soldier! Not some prince’s personal bard! Corin’s thoughts flew from anger to indignity. What did Gervais expect him to come up with anyway? The Prince himself was calm and collected. He had expected this. “You have no choice, Corin.”
The Prince had a point. He was just a soldier and had to do his Prince’s bidding. Corin’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “When does it need to be done?”
Gervais smiled. “Good man.” He stood up. “In answer to your question, tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow-…now wait just a minute! That’s not long enough! May I at least find a song for you to sing and not have to write it?”
Gervais pondered that a moment. “No. She mustn’t know it.” Then he patted Corin’s shoulder. “Why don’t you go outside? Find some inspiration, hm? Whatever you choose to do, leave my room. You’re tracking mud on the rug.”
Gratefully, Corin left Gervais’s room and stood in the corridor. Now which way led to the outside?  
Corin looked up at the sun. It was a hot day, he was sweating, and he had not had even a hint of inspiration. Then a thought struck him. Why did he have to be outside for inspiration? Surely the insides of the castle would be just as inspiring. Just as he was heading up the castle steps, the doors opened and a cat marched out; its tail held as high as though it was a flag flying from a castle’s turret. It pranced deftly down the stairs, and paused in front of Corin. The cat looked up and showed Corin it’s ugly face. Corin stared in awe. He was looking at a cat with no eyes that moved as sure as though it owned the world. Perhaps this was the inspiration he had been looking for?
Then Corin realized that the cat was waiting for something. Its tail was twitching in a way that meant it was unhappy. Then Corin realized the problem. He moved out of the cat’s way and watched as it padded surely down the rest of the steps, to head to the garden. Corin followed slowly behind. The peculiar feline seemed to know where it was going, and seemed to have a purpose. Corin saw the cat round a rose bush and then it was gone. He watched but the cat did not reappear. Corin had decided that the insanity of his having to find “inspiration” had caused him to lose his mind when he heard something.
It was a beautiful voice, coming a little ways away from where he was standing. Corin approached the sound with curiosity and wonder. He could just make out the words of the song now. 
“Oh, my love is like the blue, blue moon
Floating on the rim of June!
Oh, my love is like a white, white dove
Soaring in the sky above!”
Just as it was getting even lovelier, Corin stepped on a twig. The singing instantly stopped, but Corin had just enough time to see the cat dart around a hedge. Corin wasn’t about to let it go. He scrambled after it, and watched as it hid in a bush. Corin dove in after it and grabbed the cat’s middle. It hissed and clawed Corin’s hands and face raw, but he would not let go. Finally, Corin had the feline held securely by the scruff of its neck. The cat was now emitting guttural growls and batting at his captors face periodically. Corin laughed at it, which caused more growls. “Now you listen to me.” Corin whispered menacingly at the cat. “I know you had something to do with that song. Now tell me what that was!”
Corin kept his voice soft; he didn’t want anyone hearing him threaten a cat. He shook it and asked again. If someone had asked him why he thought the cat would actually answer, he couldn’t have told them.
“Put. Me. Down.”
Corin nearly dropped the cat when he heard it speak. “You-you really can talk?”
“Yes, and by the way, you are holding a knight of Farthestshore by the scruff of the neck!” Corin dropped the cat. To his surprise, it sat down.  “I am the great Sir Eanrin of Rudiobus! And that song was meant for my true love.” The cat managed to look tragic. “It is meant to be sung to a woman of great beauty.”  The cat curled his tale around his paws. “Tell me, why are you so desperate to find out what song that was?”
Corin sighed. “Prince Gervais needs a song to sing to the Princess. And he wanted me to write one.”
Sir Eanrin snorted. “So you decided to threaten me to give you one. How rude.”
“Forgive me, but I’m quite desperate. I’m just a soldier and I don’t know the first thing about writing a song.”
“Well, I can’t say I understand your position, for my Prince would never make me do something against my will, but, I will help you.”
Corin breathed a sigh of relief. “Then you will give me the song?”
“Since you put me down, yes, I will give your Prince my song. But you must give me one piece of information.” His tail flicked back and forth as he spoke. “Why is that Prince of yours suddenly here to pay his respects to Princess Una?”
Corin paused a moment and then answered. “He was banished from his kingdom for his gambling debts.”
“Was he? How interesting…” Purred Sir Eanrin. “One more thing, what are you doing, a strapping young man, running around finding songs for a prince who hasn’t done a days work in his life?”
Corin thought a while. He had become a soldier in the hope of finding adventure. And he had volunteered to escort his Prince for the same reason. “I thought there would be adventure in it.”
Sir Eanrin sat a moment before saying anything. “If it is adventure you crave, go to the Old Bridge and cross over to the other side into Goldstone Wood. I will make sure you go on the right Path. There will be plenty for you to do there. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some toads to catch for Prince Felix.” Sir Eanrin of Rudiobus was gone after that; padding off to go catch toads. 
Dusk came, and with it, the fog. It rolled in like dragon’s smoke, and settled by the Old Bridge where a figure stood. It was the figure of a man, staring off into the other side of the woods. He had a sword at his side and a bow on his back. He took one step closer towards the other side, and the bridge creaked under his weight . He took another step, and another. Just a few more and he would be in Goldstone Wood.
He took them; and like some sort of hungry animal, the fog swallowed him up, leaving no trace of his leaving.
 But two people saw him leave. Two men who watched the young man take his fate into his own hands.
“Why did you tell him to go, Eanrin?” asked one of them.
“Forgive me, my Prince, but I thought it would be good for him. He yearns for more than the normal life.” Sir Eanrin was standing in his human form, looking sightlessly at Goldstone Wood.
“I will keep him as safe as I can, for now.” Said the Prince of Farthestshore. “The Dragon lies in his future. I pray he will let me save him.”
The two men watched Goldstone Wood a little longer, and then departed when night had finally covered them.