Holes & Strings

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Xylo Cornet lives in a quiet little house on the outskirts of a busy village. He has an ailment in his left arm and has been seeking the help of what is known as a “musición” to heal him.

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Chapter 1: Melodies

Songs, one of the greatest treasures in human life, are everywhere. They exist within many human cultures. Music has been used to help cure depression, create smiles, mend broken hearts, and even help create friends. This is the tale of music and sound’s impact of a large and unique world.

On the outskirts of a village was a small wooden house. Two meters beside it, under a cloudless sky, was an old tree that hunched over like an old man towards the house. Not far from the tree was a brick well. The house had many vines stretched out across its left side and was surrounded by a field of light-green grass with a path that led to the village.

In the house, a man stood in front of a mirror, shaving his facial hair with a sharp, hand-sized blade. Between him and the mirror was a stand that held a bowl of water and a light-brown basin filled with a bit of hair. Surrounding him were pots, a basket of clothes, and two small shelves loaded with books. There was also some wood next to a pillow and sheets for sleeping on the floor.

The man put the blade in the basin, splashed water on his chin, and then looked at his spotless white face. He had brown eyes and short, midnight black hair. A brown feather with white striped patterns was tied to the left side of his hair by a dark-red string. Around his neck was a necklace that held a smooth, black sphere to his chest. His clothes consisted of grey tunic pants and a grey shirt.

The man slipped on a pair of grey moccasins and grabbed some wood. He rolled his sleeves up and looked at his left arm. It was a darker color that the rest of his body and had pulsing black veins. He sighed.

There was a knock at his door.

“I’ll be there in a second,” the man said.

“Don’t bother, Xylo,” the person at the door replied with excitement. “I’m not staying long. There’s a musición coming to town!”

“Really?!” Xylo responded. “Who? It must not be a famous one.”

“The town is gathering as he passes by,” the guy at the door said. “Before I came to tell you, I heard people talking about how he was known for his profession in melodies of healing.”

“You’re not kidding, right?” Xylo replied.

“Come to the village and see for yourself,” the guy at the door said as he hurried off.

Xylo opened the door and saw the village in the distance. He could hear the people in the village cheering. The village was made of brick streets with sellers and buyers on each side, conducting business. The small, sturdy buildings were made up of tan bricks and stood strong. The streets were wide and, at this moment, filled with townspeople.

When Xylo made it to the village, he saw the people surrounding a man. The man had a hood covering his eyes, but a smile could clearly be seen on his bearded white face. He was wearing a worn-out, ash brown gown. He shook the hands of many as he slowly walked through the crowd.

“I guess it is true,” Xylo mumbled.

There were a few people on the sidelines, watching the crowd. Xylo went and stood next to them, waiting for a chance to speak to the hooded man.

“Why is everyone so glad to see that man?” a young man beside Xylo asked.

“He’s a musición,” a big man with his arms crossed said. “Haven’t you heard that one was in town?”

“What exactly is that?” the young man asked.

“You must be visiting,” the big man chuckled.

“Is it that obvious?” the young man replied. “I’m from Garmid.”

“Ah, yes,” the big man responded. “You’ve come a long way from your home, the place with no music. You must be here to trade.”

“Yes,” the young man replied. “My homeland is not that bad. There is music. We just don’t have those music people like that guy.”

“They’re called musicións,” the big man corrected. “Musicións, not to be confused with musicians, are people who can play notes using specially made instruments that enable a variety of things to happen. People seek out musicións. In exchange for money, or food in poorer lands, a musición is more than happy to play melodies for people that will bring about fortune, fame, and so much more. Fortune and fame is what most people ask for.”

“You expect me to believe that?” the young man snickered. “If a person just listens to certain songs played by a musición, they can somehow get rich. Why don’t musicións just play for themselves and get rich? I played an instrument before; nothing like that ever happened to me.”

“Some melodies only work on everyone except the user, the one playing the instrument,” Xylo blurted. “You may have played an instrument, but it more than likely wasn’t made by the specific material that enables the instrument to have such abilities. It is not merely the notes alone that possess power.”

“What?” the young man responded. “Are you some kind of expert?”

“I’m a guy who is just going to ask that musición to heal my left arm,” Xylo smirked.

“Xylo,” the big man said as he rubbed his red beard. “I’m sure you’ve already heard, but that musición excels in melodies of healing.”

“I’m aware,” Xylo replied as he walked off. “Next time you see me, I’ll be a changed man.”

The crowd was in Xylo’s way. “This could be a problem,” he mumbled.

Making little progress, Xylo persisted through. “Hey!” he called out.

Xylo raised his arm. His sleeve came down. The musición stopped and stared at Xylo’s arm. The crowd’s volume grew faint.

“This man!” the musición announced. “He is the seventh ill one I have seen in this village. I will attend to his needs accordingly after the other sick people. Tell me, sir, what is your name?”

“It’s Xylo. Xylo of Apris.”

“So you are from this land,” the musición responded. “Let us not be so formal. What is your family name?”

“Xylo Cornet.”

“I see,” the musición said. “Meet me at the inn at midnight. I will play for you Melody of Healing: Song of Restoration.”

The crowd suddenly cheered. Xylo was startled but relieved. It wasn’t often that someone knew the notes to that melody.

When midnight was only a few moments away, Xylo was at his home, preparing to see the musición. He had a solid brown guitar case strapped around his shoulder. On his other shoulder was a bag filled with sixty pieces of gold. As he stepped out of his home, he hooked a rectangular wooden case to his waist on his belt loop. He headed towards the village while smiling up at the full-moon.

Xylo made it to the inn. Musicións were given their own separate room attached to the inn. He stood in front of that room and knocked on the door.

“Hello,” the musición said as he opened the door. “Come in. Come in.”

Xylo took his footwear off at the door and entered. “You don’t know how amazing it is to know someone that knows that melody,” he said. “I was told you excel in melodies of healing.”

Xylo put his belongings down and began fiddling around in his money bag.

“No need for money,” the musición said as he closed the window.

“What?” Xylo responded.

“This song will be free of charge,” the musición said. “Rest your feet.”

Xylo sat on a violet pillow on the floor. He looked around, excited that his arm was about to be healed. There was a circular mat in the center of the room. On the mat were two large pillows for them to sit on. Behind the musición was his luggage, which consisted of two large bags, zipped up tight.

“You’re bags have zippers?” Xylo asked. “Only rich folk have money for that kind of material.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m rich,” the musición said as he put his two-piece silver end-blown flute together. “I’ve just been all over. Even so, where I come from, we don’t have sound proof rooms like this inn does. Why have you brought luggage of your own?”

“I can tell you after the melody,” Xylo cheered. “If you don’t mind me asking, why do you have your day clothes on? You even have your hood on still.”

The musición remained silent. A suspicious smirk appeared on his face as he began playing. A serious of E, C, B, and G notes were played rapidly.

“That’s not right,” Xylo mumbled.

The musición persisted in his tune, now incorporating A and D notes.

“That couldn’t possibly be a melody of healing,” Xylo said as he became more alert. “Don’t play around; this song is dangerous!”

The musición ended the melody with a long high note. The room went silent. Xylo’s eyes were widened. Sweat slid down his temple.

The musición got up and grabbed the two bags behind him. As Xylo was about to speak, a sharp pain thrashed within his chest. His heart began pounding uncontrollably. He tried to speak, but not even a breath came out. The last thing Xylo saw was a deceitful smirk on the musición’s face.

Morning had come. Xylo woke up to several children staring at him. He looked to his side and saw that his arm was bandaged completely with white strips. He sat up holding his chest.

“Watch out children,” a woman said as she came and tended to Xylo.

“Am I healed?” Xylo asked.

“We found you here earlier this morning,” the woman said. “I bandaged your arm for you. Your arm was not healed by that man. Many of the people are outside baffled as to who visited us yesterday.”

Xylo grabbed his belongings and walked outside the inn. The people moved out of his way as he walked back to his house. He kept his head down.

The sun had gone; the moon took its place in the sky. Xylo was sitting in a chair at his house, playing a shiny wooden brown acoustic guitar with black strings. He was playing a slow paced song. A tear dropped from his chin as he silently pulled strings.

There was a knock on the door. Xylo put his guitar down and placed a blanket over it. He opened the door and saw a tall old man with a long black beard. The man placed his lantern down to the ground.

“I’ve been told your name is Xylo,” the old man said. “My name is George. I’m a medic. I’ve been called from a village nearby to examine you.”

“Come in,” Xylo insisted.

“That won’t be necessary,” George replied. “I just have a few questions to ask you. I’m sure you are aware that melodies of healing are typically slow. Was the melody played for you fast paced?”

“Yes,” Xylo responded. “It ended with a lasting high note.”

“I was told out of all the people in this village, that this only happened to you,” George said. “Did your heart begin throbbing wildly before you passed out?”

“Yes,” Xylo answered. “It did.”

“I’m going to tell you something that you will not want to hear,” George said. “I apologize in advance because I cannot stay long to grieve with you. I have to check the others just in case. That deceitful man played a melody of death for you.”

“What does that mean?!” Xylo interrupted.

“You have a little over fifteen months to live,” George said gravely.

Xylo, shocked at the news, stayed silent.

“Unfortunately, I can’t help you,” George said. “Fortunately, there is something you can do.”

Xylo gave his undivided attention to George.

“You can have the outcome of that melody nullified if you find that musición,” George explained. “He can undo it. With such an atrocious act done, I wouldn’t be surprise if he hadn’t attended ethnic school.”

“What if he, you know, refuses?” Xylo asked.

“What other option is there?” George responded. “You either hope he negotiates or except your fate.”

Xylo quietly thought on the situation. “Thank you,” he said as George waved goodbye and walked back to the village.

Xylo put on a dark, aqua-blue robe that ended at his waist. It had only one sleeve that covered his good arm. He gathered things needed during his travel. He had one bag filled with clothes and toiletries. He put his guitar case around his shoulder and a rectangular box on his waist. He made sure his gold was in his bag, took some wheat from his cabinet, and then left his house.

Xylo walked through the village chewing on a piece of thin wheat. The roads were lit with lanterns. There were some people buying from sellers. He exited the village without looking back.

“Hey, you!” someone from behind Xylo called out.

As Xylo turned around, a young man with unruly brown hair and determined light blue eyes ran to him. The young man had a dark-brown bag strapped around his back. He wore baggy, indigo-colored shorts with a pattern of a lighter blue running just above the hem. He also wore a tight dark-blue undershirt covered with a thin unbuttoned vest of gray and brown fabric.

“You are the one that everyone was worried about this morning, right?” the young man asked.

“Yes,” Xylo replied. “Don’t worry about me. I’m heading out to find that musición and fix things.”

“You have room for one more?” the young man asked.

“You want to come with me?” Xylo responded.

“I’m from Garmid,” the young man said. “My brother came here on trade. I traveled with him with motives to find a certain someone. My name is Brandon Phylum.

“You look inexperienced with traveling,” Xylo said. “How old are you?”

“I’m eighteen years old,” Brandon answered. “I’ll legally be an adult in two years. I can handle traveling. You’re probably not that much older than me.”

“Why did you pick me?” Xylo questioned. “I’m twenty-eight by the way.”

“We have something in common,” Brandon replied. “That musición came to where I live and played that wretched song as he passed through the streets. My father, along with many of my neighbors, was affected. Some people doubt that the music did it to them; they think it’s just a simple illness. My father is in the advance stages of that melody’s power. His body is stiff and he can barely move. He’s been sick about ten months.”

Xylo gave his bag to Brandon and began walking on a path surrounded by grass.

“What is this?” Brandon asked.

“You want to come along, don’t you?” Xylo responded. “The least you can do is carry my bag.”

Brandon sighed. “Xylo,” he said. “Do other people in the village know that you are a musición?”

Xylo stopped in his tracks. “Most, if not all of them do,” he said. “What do you know about musicións?”

“Not much,” Brandon answered. “What’s the difference between a musician and a musición? How come you haven’t healed yourself?”

“Around here, you’re not considered a musician unless you have mastered at least one instrument,” Xylo explained. “In general, anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music is considered a musician. As for musicións, they are capable of making incredible physical things happen by playing certain notes on an instrument. There are many melody types. I’m not familiar with many songs in the melody of healing category; I don’t know one that can heal me.”

Xylo began walking. Brandon followed behind.

“What are the melody types?” Brandon asked.

“Melodies are given types according to the results they produce,” Xylo explained. “For example, the types include: healing, body, beast, mineral, death, rift, and vibration. All melodies can be categorized in one of those types. For further details to differentiate between melodies within the types, they are given a song name. I’ll play one for you now to give you a visual to what I mean. There are many melodies of mineral. But there is only one Melody of Mineral: Song of Little Growth.”

Xylo opened the wooden rectangular case on his waist and took out a shiny ruby-red end-blown flute.

“All songs have different notes,” Xylo said. “In order for the melody to work, the notes must be played exactly. The rhythm must be perfect, not a millisecond sooner or later.”

“It’d be quite the surprise if someone accidently played a melody,” Brandon said.

“That’s why it’s safer for beginners to practice on a regular instrument,” Xylo responded.

“Where are these extraordinary instruments made?” Brandon asked.

“They are made in the City of Malica,” Xylo answered.

Xylo began playing a song with the notes D, B, C, B, A, B, and G in that order. There were but two seconds between each note. A small plant began growing from the ground. It reached up as high as their ankles.

“Wow!” Brandon shouted. “I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes. You created a little tree; you made life.

“Actually,” Xylo said, “it is not alive. It’s technically not even a plant. In exactly twenty-four hours, it will turn back into dirt.”

“On the way, you could show me what you know,” Brandon said enthusiastically.

“Sure,” Xylo said. “We should head to Lutef.”

“What is Lutef?” Brandon mumbled. “We should head for a place called Eanop. A traveler who stopped by the village said he saw the musición heading there.”

“You definitely don’t travel often,” Xylo said. “Lutef is where we can buy a map. If a person ever wanted to buy or sell, that’s the place to go. It’s always crowded by day. Maps cost a lot because no one wants folk traveling unless you are a trader; it’s dangerous.

“Is a map really necessary?” Brandon asked. “Don’t you know your way around?”

“Not really,” Xylo said. “Since you don’t travel often, this will be new to you. There are several major villages and cities. That includes outside of the land of Apris. Along with Lutef, there is Eanop, Malica, Exandrial, and Keyboarous. There are a few others you might know of.”

“I’m not that clueless,” Brandon said. “Even I know about Keyboarous. That city is famous all over.”

The two of them began their journey to Lutef. They kept on a path that led to more grassy fields. That night seemed unending.

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