Anacrusis

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Of the Wee Music Man

Of The Wee Music Man



As woods faded into a misty field, the air became cooler and filled with the scents of the land, and Ink’s cloak swept in a serpentine manner through the breeze. He scratched his eye, which squelched in satisfaction.

It was giving him gip.

A drystane dyke of sleeping stones too lazy to do anything else confronted them - well, not really. Had they been awake, they may have given the Hero a small blink of acknowledgement and went back to their quiet contentment. Stones didn’t have much use for a hero, see?

“You’re kidding me, right!?” Asked Coda, “You have cool powers too?” She made a fist that sparked slightly, and was far too close to Ink’s face for his liking.

He flinched and shook his head, “Nah.”

“Oh. Was that you then, T? Back at the treehouse?”

Toven shook his head.

“So… Did I do that?”

“Mh, right, yes, it was me.” The Reaper yawned agitated, “But it’s not a ‘cool power’. That’s about all I can do anyway, it really takes it out of you.” Ink put his hood up, cold and tired.

“All out of mojo, huh?” Coda said, and sighed when she was met only with “mh.”

Ink was all out of mojo. Quite funny, really. In Ahbon, magic was generally known as mojo. Some people were born with an abundance of it, though that was getting rare these days. There were hardly any magic users left, just far descendants of powerful mages who could do a measly thing or two, like read tea leaves or walk through the odd wall. Only one of the original Witches of the Zunoscionn Cult of Organised Witches remained, and she had been fired and stripped of her membership a few days before the rest of the group suffered a sudden extinction. Just as well then, I suppose.

Ink dragged on wearily through a lazy sea of spoonwood pentagons, and onto the drystane wall he rested. Old posts with barbed wire lined the top of the wall, sheep in the distance said, “Baaaaa” as sheep tend to do.

“Where to now, Toven?” Ink sighed.

Toven looked around a bit, but the slightly purple mist obscured anything over ten meters away in any direction.

“Uh… Pr-Probably that way?” He said, pointing in the general direction of Pier. It had been a while since Toven had left the forest, and he couldn’t remember there being any paths past this wall. Well, his memory didn’t fail him.

A wooden gate lay set in the wall, laden with moss and algae made slick from the mist. Coda climbed over it; it was one of those gates with a complex opening mechanism with a lever or latch or spring-locked sliding bar.

“B-be carefully!” Toven warned.

“Hey I’m fine T! What are you worrying about?” Coda said.

“Not you.” Said Ink, wincing at the creaking of the wood, then stated, “The gate looks decrepit.”

Toven blushed, for it was in fact not the gate that he had been worrying about. Ink pulled the spring-locked lever atop the gate, which produced a squeal like a cry into the night - and at about the same time, a small crooked antler sprouted from the nail on Toven’s index finger.

“Yo what’s that!” Coda blurted, having witnessed this strange occurrence.

Toven took the broom from his shoulder and fumbled within the red cloth sack, “S-sorry” He said, “It happ-pens sometimes.” He brought out a pair of clippers that looked a lot like wire cutters and proceeded to snip the gnarly ivory from the tip of his fingertips which now, Ink noticed, were white and oddly solid looking. “S-sorry.”

There was a silence.

“Nah, you’re good.” Said Coda, amused.

“Mh.” Said Ink - he was becoming numb to the oddities.

The trio proceeded through the gate and didn’t know where to go from there. The mist was thick, and all three of them shared an awkward moment of “what do we do now?”

“We could play Marco Pollo?” Coda suggested, scratching skin flakes off her face.

“Brilliant.” Said Ink with a moderate amount of sarcasm. That was the best worst idea he had heard all day. The grass rippled towards the mountains with a trickle of dew, and above the silence something horrible sounded in the distance. “Do you hear that?”

The others were quiet. The mist rippled in putrid waves that emitted the sound of music. Accordion music. Awful music. Accompanied by awful, awful singing. Ink pulled the sides of his hood down a little more.

After a small discussion, the pair were walking out towards the music (if you could call it that) and Ink was tagging on behind. Of course they were going to follow this terrible and slightly creepy noise out into the middle of a misty field - that was just how it was, I mean why wouldn’t they? Common sense meant nothing to them, as Ink was beginning to see.

The noise got louder as they came closer to the source as that is how noise works, and soon the music blessed their eardrums like worms with nothing to give but their own ingested dirt. Eventually from out of the grey came the black - the ebony - the egg white-stained trailer; a cosy little shack-on-wheels that had once been petite and beautiful, but was now pitiful and vandalised by innocent people subjected to the terrible music it produced. Inside, a little man was playing his accordion.

-This can’t go on. - Thought the Reaper.

“He could have directions. You should knock or something.” Said Ink.

“Yeah yeah, I was about to.” Coda then proceeded to climb the quaint little staircase that led to the front door of the trailer. She pounded it with a glowing fist, quite loudly.

“SLAM” Said her fist against the door. This didn’t seem to bother the musician inside, for he seemed to have gotten louder if anything. Coda punched again.

“SLAM” - there was a weak squeal from inside, but that was just the man’s bloody singing.

"SLAM" - She struck the door harder, threatening to break it off of its hinges. -this should work- she thought, starting to question her technique -You knock on the door and something happens, right? -

But nothing happened. The blades of grass fanned out from beneath the trailer in waves, either for dramatic effect or because they too could not stand to hear such a terrible sound and were desperately trying to crawl to escape. The slamming and the music continued for another five minutes before the musician ceased their performance on what you would be very generous to call an imperfect cadence.

As Coda was mid-swing, the door finally opened and spilled a warm light out into the field a fraction, and only a fraction because the door was only partially opened; it was on a short chain.

“And who” Said the self-absorbed yet innocent voice from inside, “are you?”

Coda raised Toven an eyebrow, and the boy opened his mouth to say something but before he could, she said “Fans.”

“Ah! Well in that case, you will be able to answer the following question without too much trouble: what key was my third bagpipe symphony in!?”

Coda shrugged, “I dunno?”

The door closed, and for just a moment it seemed as if that was all they would see of the wee music man, but then it swung open again, fully this time.

“CORRECT ANSWER!”

It took everyone a moment to register the little man standing just below her, his tophat just as tall as he was wide - and he was wider than he was tall - and the black, golden-embroidered cylinder barely reached the Hero’s chin. “Salutations, loyal fans! You now stand before the mmmmmmmmonumentally mmmmmmmagnificent NNNNNNNNNapoleon Bone-A-Petii. But, I suppose you already knew that.”

Nobody knew that, but the name seemed vaguely familiar to Coda. “Hey, d’you know me?”

Napoleon the monumentally magnificent looked up, and examined her face, and she examined his - which was not a face at all, in fact where a face should have been there was simply a happy/sad porcelain theatre mask. After some intense thinking and chin-massaging, Napoleon simply shook his head and said, “Apologies dear fan, but I can’t say I ever have.”

Coda felt very slightly disappointed.

“I see you are emitting a bright red glow,” he continued, “does your occupation by chance consist of being the leader of a pack of antlered animals that carry gifts to people at night?”

“... I mean, sorta.”

The man then turned to Toven, “And you quiet chap… Greetings!”

Toven smiled and waved back nervously.

“Aaaand who’s the dead one?”

Napoleon was referring to Ink, who was asleep on wet grass. Without giving anyone a chance to respond, Napoleon ushered them all inside and insisted that they all be gifted with autographs for their pilgrimage to his trailer, though nobody had a pen. Awoken by Coda, Ink numbly dragged himself from his weird dreams and inside the small shack-on-wheels.

It was truly the domain of an entertainer - stringed instruments on every wall and boxes of puppets scattered about the inside – and the inside was larger than the outside yet somehow managed to be even more cramped than it looked. This place, whilst disobeying the basic laws of physics, was still built for a singular someone of a more petite stature. A shutter on the wall opened to the outside, with little red curtains in the corners. That was obviously where the puppet shows would take place, but just where did this little man keep his little socks? – In a chest of drawers set right against the wall.

“Is there anything at all that the monumentally magnificent Napoleon can do for you musical bunch?”

Ink cracked open an eye, but it was Coda who spoke, “Yeah, actually! D’you mind taking us somewhere in this little trailer of yours?”

“Little? Don’t you mean…” Napoleon burst into a dramatic pose, ”Humble!"

An acoustic guitar fell with a wooden clatter.

“Of course, friends! You came all this way to witness me, it is the llllleast that I can do! Where is it that you want to go?”

Toven was not a very large person, yet he had somehow managed to become the only one left without somewhere to sit down. Despite this, he enthusiastically said, “We’re go-going to Atlantis, to give b-back the sun!” and then followed that up with, “B-But you don’t have to take us that far!”

The man seemed to consider this - it was hard to tell because his face was made of porcelain, yet his body language suggested so. “It’s been a while since I toured in Atlantis. My fans in the Amethyst City are incredibly supportive with their eggs of apprrrrrrrreciation on my walls and such! Yes! We shall go to the Capital, the Violet Star! Thank you, noble fan, for that is the best idea I have heard all month!”

“We c-could st-stop by at Pier first. It’ll b-be evening by the time w-we get there.”

And there were no other towns near Pier where they could stop for the night, meaning it would take a full day of travelling to reach the next settlement. See, Ahbon used to be much bigger, yet now is confined to a small radius of light around the Capital, which is Atlantis. Outside this radius great but poisonous mushroom forests sit taller than any tree, just out of view, and what dwells in them is not known for all who leave the radius always either simultaneously freeze to death and shrink into a singularity in the sub-zero-kelvin temperatures or wake up on top of their own bed sheets with no recollection of what they witnessed, and none of them ever seem to feel like the same person that they were before. Strange. Anyway, because Ahbon has become so small, most of the population tend to live in the Capital - where the light is strongest - paying only temporary visits to the rest of the world, and few actually live in the little towns and settlements scattered around the place like beads from a broken necklace.

So, Napoleon liked Toven’s idea, deciding to tour the whole route to Atlantis to gain an angry mob-like following that Napoleon called his “fanbase”. He liked the idea so much that he excitedly hopped up and down on the spot for a moment, before pouring out a basket of puppets for Toven to sit on. Ink still snored with his head against the wall, and Coda stared at the acoustic guitar with strange eyes. Napoleon opened a small hatch in the front of the shack, and squeezed himself out onto a small ebony plateau, black tuxedo trailing as he went. Then his eyes adjusted, and his giddy mood took a dramatic turn for the worse.

“Oh.” He said to himself. On front of him, where his steed used to be, was now nothing more than a pile of stark white bones lying between a pair of empty reigns.

Oops.

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