Back to Contests
TitleBardic Dreams
UserVelcora
RankingWinner
Post Date (Visible)December 2020
Content

A haunting, low-noted harmony, hummed by two voices, and unmistakably somber, coaxed me out of my dreams and into wakefulness. As my eyes fluttered open and the variegated shades of leaves in the canopy above blurred their way into focus, the grass below my neck tickled it in just such a way as to send shivers up my spine. The hummed music grew fainter, and then louder, and then fainter again, so that in my state of half-waking, I couldn’t be sure if it was some lingering piece of the dream I was in the process of leaving, or a real sound that foretold some oncoming occurrence unlike the uneventful pleasantries that had preceded my descent into my luxurious nap.

When a third voice joined the chorus, and all three hummed louder than they yet had done, my eyes snapped more sharply open and I sat up just as sharply, inhaling sharply too, to sense in the nearby scents any relevant dangers. Only grass and leaves and dirt and my own musk filled my nostrils. I held very still and let my gaze widen, taking in the whole view softly rather than focusing in on any details that might prevent me from catching movement in my periphery. My whole body was tensed like a cat before the kill, and yet I felt much more like prey than predator. A fuzzy bunny, not a sharp-taloned tiger.

It wasn’t a movement in my periphery, not exactly, that warned me where to look. It was a strange feeling in the small of my back that spurred me to swivel. I whirled, ready for anything, or so I thought. I shrieked, quite an undignified shriek, if I’m being honest, of complete terror and shock. I retreated. In truth, it was more of a stumbling, tripping over myself backwards, bruising my forearm quite badly in the process. I was agog.

Three spirits, ancient by the looks of them, and quite unmistakably incorporeal, floated morosely before me. Their forms twisted in the breeze. It made me feel ill. I put a hand to my sweaty brow. Perhaps I had been ill to start with and that explained the hallucination I was now suffering. Perhaps some venomous snake or spider had injected me while I had slumbered. I reached out a hand towards my strange vision. Three dejected spirits did not dissipate, but the trickle of air pushed by my reaching did affect them. What were they? And why had they come to me?

Gathering my courage, I asked them as much. “I am but a humble fox,” I said, “and a humble bard, and sometimes, too, a tailor. I am not a great hero, nor a clever witch, nor am I a necromancer. Why have you visited me? Why do you visit me still? Are you here to curse me? Have I crossed you in some way?”

I tried to reach for my satchel, trying to think if I had any item within that might protect me in some manner from the powers of this unearthly trio. It was then that my eyes fell upon my precious violin, glinting softly in the afternoon sunshine. To my eye, which had spent nearly all its days under either the sun or moon, there was something wrong with the light that sparkled upon the violin. Not sunlight, I would swear to it, though no sense did it make, but rather moonlight was gently embracing the form of my violin. As my gaze was held by this strange sight, I beheld that further there was a link, a thread of light, or several threads, to be sure, betwixt the violin and the trifold specter.

The ghosts only continued humming and chanting their strange, sad song. But I could see now that I had called them here myself. Flashes of my dream returned to me. I saw myself fiddling among the gravestones of some fog-shrouded cemetery. Singing atop a lone mountain peak beside a delicate, white cairn. Humming through a patch of the tallest wildflowers I’d ever seen. A dark cave where I had plucked a staccato dirge on my violin. A silent grove of grass and saplings. I must have been weaving my bardic magics of music in my sleep. On second thought, perhaps the magics of these ghostly spirits had come into my dreams and played me. There was no way to know for sure. The ghosts did not appear to be forthcoming about the circumstances of their appearance.

I sat there for a full day, listening to the song of the ghosts, and joining in with my voice and my instrument. As a musician, I believed perhaps this would lead me to the secret these specters kept. There were moments I felt I was glimpsing some strange knowledge beyond the veil of the visible world. But I could not keep these revelations; like most parts of my dream, they slipped away, unrecoverable. I know that more than a few times I found tears upon my face, and once I tasted a sour fruit upon my tongue. And I don’t remember drifting off into a deep slumber, but I do remember waking, groggy but well rested.

I lay there for a long time with my eyes still closed, stretching my mind to reach back into the dreams of this second, deeper sleep. I was certain I had performed song again, and in many of the same strange dream locales. Yet one stood out to me most clearly. It was a cozy little woodland cafe. In the dream the patrons had all been mugwumpi. Yet I knew this place. I had been there many times, right in my home commune. When I had been to there in waking life, it had been a mix of Serenwilde residents, many elfen and faelings. Sometime a mugwump or two, true, but in the dream it had only been mugwumps. And there were other differences. It had seemed somehow newer. Had the spirits been showing me something from their lifetime? I was determined to find each place in the dream, to summon the spirits, and to finally discover their purpose. Perhaps then I would be able to recall the secrets I had learned on that magical day of music.

I set off for the café. I needed some kawhe anyways. And some fruit wine besides. I felt my step lighten, lifted with the buoyancy of a new purpose. A quest. I found myself humming a tune. Was that a spirit gently coalescing from in the notes of my song? I raised a curious eyebrow. This would be a marvelous adventure.