THE TRIALS AND TRAGEDIES OF DYGAN HEARTSWIND
BY ESKON


In the years immediately preceding the Third Sarvonian War, a youth named Dygan has two purposes. Unaware of his real name, he has set out from his village to find his identity. Even more pressing however, is his quest to redeem himself for misdeeds that he has committed. The road ahead of him is fraught with peril, hardship, and unbearable tragedy. On Dygan's side, he carries with him an assortment of companions, and powerful relics from a long distant day that even he does not fully comprehend. However, they may not be enough for him to undertake the trials that await him, in his quest to look at himself without shame.
 

Chapter II
A
nger Begat Sorrow

t a fork in the road, there are three options. Go one way, the other, or stay there. Every path has its own cost. Be sure you can pay it when you decide to walk down, because there is no turning back.”
-Dygan Heartswind, on choices

The snows were coming down furiously. Moving as fast as he could through the torrent, Dygan gritted his teeth. He was cold, wet, and terribly lonely. Flisgard’s sword hung at his right side, but Dygan doubted that he would ever use it. It was far too cold for any sort of predator to be out. His hair and clothes ruffled through the harsh winds, and the biting temperature stung all throughout his body. He kept his face slightly down, towards the ground, to block some snow from getting into his face, but it helped little. Despite the hood, he could barely feel his nose and ears. His fingers sent shocks of pain whenever he tried to move them. He knew nothing but misery since he left home two days ago, or three, or maybe even four. Time didn’t mean anything now, except survival from one minute to the next, and Dygan didn’t count the minutes. Dygan’s stomach rumbled, much as it had done on numerous occasions. Dygan only brought a little food with him, and he saved it for when he was absolutely hungry. He hadn’t eaten at all since he left, and he sorely missed great tasting food served to him three times a day. A rich breakfast, a mid-day meal and a light dinner, they were foreign luxuries to him now. “I deserve this,” he affirmed himself time and again. He chose to leave his home, and this was the consequence of his rash actions.
 
Today the snow was exceptionally bad. Small flakes came down quickly and stinging with the winter wind. Small flakes, as Dygan knew, meant the snow was going to keep falling. The weather was punishing him for the things he had done, if the weather could indeed do that. Dygan cleared his mind and went back to trekking through the wilderness. After a few more hours of walking, the snow had started to lessen, and light was fading. Using a low, sweeping branch bristling with pine needles as cover from the wind, Dygan tried desperately to build a fire. Fire meant warmth and life, with fire he could carry on to journey further. Flisgard had taught him how to identify a proper starting rock, to create sparks by striking it against his sword. At that time, it seemed like such a useless lesson, but Dygan realized the importance of it now. He pawed through the snow, searching frantically for one. Luckily, Dygan found one without too much difficulty, only a few paces from his campsite. He cleared away an area, assembling some of the drier timber and striking sparks until one caught. He slowly and carefully fed his fire, shielding it from the harsh winds. “Another hour and I would’ve froze,” he breathed out, which ended as a small white cloud a few nailsbreadths in front of his face. Every muscle in his body was aching and sore, because the cold had stiffened them. Dygan sat hunched over the fire for many minutes, trying to absorb all the warmth he could. The life-giving heat from the fire radiated throughout his near frozen hands, giving him a welcome pain as he moved each of his fingers. They weren’t frozen at all, at least not any more. He was alive for another minute at least.

“It was a terrible trip, my first journey to Voldar. It was in the middle of winter, and I had little knowledge of how to survive in the outside world. My days were long, since my pace was slowed due to the snow. My nights were spent with little sleep, and sleep I did find was light. I felt that if I fell asleep, some beast would devour me as I rested. Journeys alone are almost always harsh, and mine was doubly worse, because of my self-torture.”
-Dygan Heartswind, on the days after leaving the village of Tereftan

Dygan was awake for many more hours, confident that if he fell asleep, he would not awaken the next morning. But at last, the young Dygan could stand no more, and he laid down in a cleared spot, under his rickety lean-to. Clutching his cloak tightly around his frame, having no other protection from the elements, he tried desperately to fall asleep. He had to move himself every now and then, to cover himself better with the meager protection he had. He would be cold and sore the next morning, and not at all refreshed, but it was no different from any other night in this winter.

When he awoke, the first rays of dawn were peeking out over the horizon. The sky was clear, and it appeared to be a slightly warmer day. The snow wouldn’t melt, but at least no more would accumulate, which would slow Dygan’s progress even more dramatically than it already did. He built a fire to warm himself as well as to finally give in to his hunger and eat some of the food he did bring with him. Even with Dygan’s sub-par cooking skills, his own hunger made the rather bland taste of the breads and salted meats taste quite nicely. He ate frugally, knowing that there would be many more days like this one where he would need food as well. His stomach grumbled when its expectancy of more food was denied. Despite the small pains, Dygan packed up, tore down his shelter, and continued onward. No more rest, he had a journey to take. Still hungry and still tired, he plodded forth through the snow.
He had gained some ground before he stopped to camp. It was suicide to walk from dawn to dusk, Dygan knew that much. He camped every couple of hours, to warm himself. It was a long process of finding shelter and building a fire, just like before. This time however, the winds weren’t blowing, so there was no danger of having the fire snuff out. For the first time since his journey began, Dygan was able to look up at the overcast sky and ponder the turn of events.

If I had just thought everything through instead of… Dygan stopped himself. It was his own fault; it wouldn’t relieve him to reaffirm that. What was I thinking? Dygan asked himself, but he already knew that he wasn’t thinking. He was acting like a small child throwing a temper tantrum, not as a youth of his age. With time, his mind moved away from those past moments where his life was changed forever. It went back to the present, where Dygan was freezing in what seemed to be a futile search for answers and redemption. Dygan thought of how terribly lonely he was. Before all of this mess started, he had no end of friends to talk to, to entertain himself with, to entrust with secrets, to do anything at all with. Even the worst moments with his friends were better than this solitary sojourn. At least someone was with him.

“It only takes a moment to begin a lifetime of sorrow.
-Lyla Aerosire, on memories

“The one who searches the hardest for answers within will find them the least often.”
-Dygan Heartswind, on answers

A growl brought him to his senses. Dygan laid his hand on Flisgard’s sword and looked around. Wolves, on all sides, had appeared during his thoughts. They were waiting for the perfect time to strike. They were hungry, just as Dygan was. A wayward village boy was the only food available in this snowy terrain, and they were going to capitalize on it. Five against one, terrible odds.

Dygan drew his weapon.

He was determined to not die as a nameless vagabond in the middle of some forest path. Flisgard’s sword seemed to gleam, despite the low light in the area. It was curious, but nowhere near as pressing as defending himself from the pack of wolves. At this time, Dygan remembered that he had no idea how to fight against a hungry animal. He knew how to defend and attack against an armed person, whether it was a dwarf with an axe or a human with a sword. He knew tactics and cunning in battle, but all of his knowledge meant nothing to a four-legged beast with basic animal instinct. The first wolf leapt at him with a guttural snarl.

Duck and move to the right, keep focused on the attacker, came a voice inside of his own head. Dygan thought it was odd, and the wolf was able to tear at him, ripping its sharp teeth into the human’s right leg.

Strike now!
, the voice commanded again. Not as surprised, Dygan sliced downward, nicking the lupine beast on the side of the body. The wolf yelped, and another wolf from behind joined into the fray.

Get down!
Whatever this voice was, it was saving his life, so Dygan released his rational thought from his mind, concentrating solely upon the voice. His legs dropped him into an agile crouch. The wolf, which had been going for the back of his neck, landed in the snow in front of him, kicking up small clouds of white as he tried to turn.

Now attack! Dygan thrust forward, catching the animal in its exposed flank. Without being told, Dygan already rose and planted his foot on the dying creature to remove his sword. Blood gleamed red against the sparkling metal.

The next two wolves were unfazed and began attacking, working together to bring down the larger foe.

Get one in front of the other; limit the amount of opponents.
Dygan circled to the left, putting one wolf in between the other, just like the voice had said. The wolf in the rear tried to get around, but Dygan kept the pace even.

Move to the right! This time the call was urgent, as if it had to be followed. A third wolf had entered the battle, and the wolf’s jaws tore Dygan’s cloak. With a quick counter-attack, Dygan swiped downward while the animal still had the cloak in its teeth. His sword cut down the front-right leg, a cut parallel to the bone. That wolf limped off while the other two continued. “There’s just no end,” Dygan thought aloud in his frustration. The two wolves were the last attackers; the wounded had maintained a circle around their prey to prevent escape. The two glared fiercely at their quarry, which had killed one and injured two. The two wolves attacked at almost right angles to each other, quite a messy situation. Dygan backed up, the closing teeth missing by near nailsbreadths. They were so near; Dygan could feel the warm wolf breath coming from their snouts. Dygan spun to the left, using the extra momentum to land a stronger blow upon the next beast, ripping into its hindquarters. The remaining wolf stopped and ran off into the forest until it was out of sight, along with the other three wolves that had survived the skirmish.

Dygan understood now why these wolves weren’t all rushing to kill him at once. It wasn’t a battle to kill, it was a battle to judge whether or not this new creature was a threat. Dygan had underestimated the intelligence of these wolves. But on his mind now was the even stranger occurrence involving his survival. Quickly however, Dygan went to bandage his own wound, on the calf of his right leg. It was painful, but shallow. He would survive.

“Hello?” he asked. “Is someone there?” Dygan was trying to reference the person who was speaking inside his head. Dygan owed him severely. There was no response of course, save the small whistling of the breeze. “My friend, do not be frightened. I mean you no harm. I wish to thank you for your assistance”, Dygan said aloud. Still no answer could be gained. There was not even the scampering of feet from someone who wished to remain in the shadows.

Dygan’s eyes fell to the wolf he had slain. It was truly dead; the sword had gone right through it. The fur was bloodstained, but that was not was Dygan was looking at. He was looking at the wolf itself. “Well…even if I die soon after, at least I won’t starve.” Dygan grabbed his sword, having no other tool, and he skinned the wolf as best he could. He gutted it and took the parts to a ditch about 50 peds away and dumped the contents, being careful to bury them to hide the scent as best he could. He moved his camp away from where he killed the wolf as well. No sense in having a bigger, much more dangerous predator smell dead wolf and come running.

He set water upon the small cooking pot that was in the meager supplies he did have. He put the meat into the pot, adding some various plants Raye had taught him to identify as edible. Not tasty, but edible. He cooked the makeshift stew and consumed it right out of the pot. It wasn’t great tasting, but the broth was warm, which flowed through his aching muscles once again. Besides which, he was hungry, and he wouldn’t have to delve into his remaining rations with this. He scraped the pot clean, letting the wolf-meat settle in his stomach before he continued on. It was a neverending cycle.

His journey was uneventful for the next days, except that he moved astronomically slower because of the wound that was hastily bandaged on his leg. Twice since he received it had strain reopened the savage cut the wolf had given him. His food supplies, even after he had stored the dead wolf as food, were started to dwindle. Since he had no way of preserving it, he had to eat as much of the wolf as he could each time he stopped to camp. Quickly then had the extra food been depleted and he was down to the bare minimum again. It was getting increasingly difficult to keep moving forward, but it wasn’t hopelessness or a sense of futility, it was pure fatigue that held him back.

Must go on, he told himself. With no companions for support, he had to rely upon his own drive and will to survive to make it through to civilization. He let slip a yawn, and then the words “…So sleepy…” unconsciously escaped from his mouth. Dygan’s mind raced back to another one of life’s little wisdoms Flisgard had taught him so long ago.

Flisgard had taken Dygan out hunting. Despite their lack of success, they still had an enjoyable day, stalking and setting rabbit snares. Particularly amusing, at least to Flisgard, was Dygan falling into the hole they had dug and covered with leaves. Dygan didn’t think it was fun at all. “Son, let me tell you something: If it’s cold, and you’re sleepy, then you are in trouble. You can’t go on without sleep, and when you sleep, you stand a chance to not wake up. This will happen when you are extremely cold, so make sure you keep warm if you’re ever out traveling.”

Dygan held on to that memory for a few moments more, holding the image of Flisgard if nothing else. However, he had to let it go, so he could get back to his journey. The memory of Flisgard would only serve to slow him down, which was something he could not afford to do, despite the comfort that the memory gave him.

That night, he was hungry enough to eat his remaining food. Dygan breathed a deep sigh, he had nothing more to eat save the occasional edible plant, and he wouldn’t last too long with that. He had no idea where he was, but he had gone too far to turn back. He would freeze to death long before he could reach Tereftan, and his fate was only unsure if he went forward. This is it, then. Dygan felt very insecure and astronomically lonelier than he had ever been since the start of the disastrous trip. He bowed his head and whispered a prayer to Seyella. “If I am destined to do more than die after fleeing the troubles that I have caused, then I beg of you to hear my plea. If I am not destined to freeze to death this day, then I ask of you to show me a sign.”

“Boy, are you alive?” came a male voice suddenly from behind him. Dygan wheeled around to see a tall, skinny, older man. “You obviously are alive. You must have some fortitude to be out in this winter.” The old man chuckled. He had grey hair and a moustache, but Dygan could barely see his hair because of the hat he wore. It was a standard hat, but it had a feather in it, poking out from the bottom-left. “What are you doing out here?” the old man asked.

Dygan was unsure whether to tell this man the truth or not. He had just met him, after all. However, he wasn’t going to lie, that only led to trouble. “I am searching for something,” he answered truthfully.

“Can I be asking what?” the old man’s moustache twiddled as he spoke.

“Well, it’s sort of personal.”

“I understand. Well, have you lost your company or are you all on your own and have lost your way? – In case it is the latter: Look, I’m traveling with a caravan, and we could use an extra sword around in case you’re heading in the same direction. So, how about you travel with us? You’ll get some food and a warmer place to sleep in return for your assistance.”

It was the sign Dygan had hoped for. He wasn’t going to die here. He could find his family; he could learn his real name. Dygan could scarce nod his head, but the old man understood. He led Dygan to what he said was his ‘caravan’. In fact it was a single wagon, with one other person standing guard, and a massive man he was. He also carried a massive sword that was taller than Dygan was, and his stern, uncaring poise showed that he was not afraid to use it.

“That’s Merick,” the old man said, “and in the back of the wagon, we got a fine healer. She’s a Mindsmoother, and her name’s Ilara. As for me, I am the traveler,” the old man started acting very flamboyantly, adding sweeping motions with his hands. It was as if his introduction was a practiced routine, and not just any routine, but the routine of a showman. “I am the vagabond; I am the wanderer. I am Melrous Frethon, otherwise known as Melrous ‘the Windfooted’. I’m a moving minstrel, or at least I was in my younger days.” The old man had a large smile and spoke with a knowing sense of humor. “What’s your name?”

“My name is Dygan, Sir Melrous.” Dygan addressed him politely, not really knowing how to address a ‘moving minstrel’. No harm in being polite, Dygan thought.

“If you want to be polite, and I sense you do,” Melrous told him, his mood shifting abruptly from humorous to informative with almost no transition. “Call me Melrous, just Melrous. Not sir, or lord, or anything like that. I’m just Melrous.”

“As you wish… Melrous.” Dygan caught himself from saying ‘Sir’.

“Do you have a family name as well, Dygan?”

Dygan thought about how he was going to answer that question. Again, he didn’t want to lie, especially since Melrous probably had saved his life. He looked down at his feet, trying to think of what he could possibly say.

“Hmmm…” Melrous hummed, bringing him back to the real world. “Well, maybe you don’t trust me fully enough yet. I understand, Dygan. I’ll be around if you change your mind.” Melrous walked back before he had a chance to protest.

“Melrous doesn’t like people keeping secrets from him,” the incredibly muscular Merick told him. “Especially something like your family name. He can’t stand it when people don’t trust it with that. It’s doubly worse for him since he gave you his own.”

“Well…things are a bit more complicated than me not wishing to tell him,” Dygan explained.

“Are they?”

“They are. In a way that even I don’t comprehend the full meaning of.”

“Maybe you’re just overcomplicating things. You either cannot tell him your family name, or you don’t want to. Those are the only reasons a person doesn’t answer a question. You seem capable of speaking, therefore, you then must not want to tell him.”

Dygan couldn’t refute that logic. Despite Merick’s neutral pose and tough-guy appearance, he had some measure of intelligence past that of killing.

“Well, it’s a rather touchy situation. I don’t really wish to share it with anyone at this time.”

“You see, the word you just used was ‘wish’.”

”Well, maybe you’re right. But I’ve just met him, so I think we’ll all have to bear my silence for a while until I feel a little more comfortable.”

“I will not stop you, Dygan.”

Dygan was informed of what to do in order to continue traveling with Melrous. At times where they were camping, Merick and he were to switch off taking watch, while the other three rested. Merick immediately mentioned that he needed no help and would substitute himself for Dygan whenever he was needed. Dygan and Merick would also switch off walking outside of the wagon as first guard, while the other was warm inside the caravan, waiting for his turn to walk. Melrous would be driving, and Ilara would stay in the back of the wagon. It would be slow, since there was snowfall, but Melrous said that he made this trip in harsher winters, and he was still on time. Whether that had any truth, Dygan couldn’t tell, but Melrous certainly seemed to know what he was doing.

The day after, Dygan was starting to get his strength back. Whether it was the physical comfort that he now experienced with bedding and a large fire, or the mental comfort of having people to talk to, Dygan didn’t know, but he was glad he had both. He was undeserving, but it was necessary if he was going to make it to Voldar and his real family. He had no money, and his services as a swordsman were not bought, only traded for travel and the chance at life, a bargain Dygan felt he was getting too much while giving little.

They traveled for a few days, making remarkable progress. Dygan tried as hard as he could to make himself useful, so despite Merick’s offer, Dygan walked and stood watch for his appointed times. However, Dygan stayed mostly to himself throughout the trip. He avoided talk when he could. When it wasn’t an option, he always changed the subject when it turned to him or his past. They were his allies, but they didn’t need to know something that personal like his past. Not at this time, anyway.

It was uneventful, despite the cold. “Well,” Melrous turned to Dygan. “We’re stopping here before we move out to Voldar.” He gestured with one hand to a small town. In the distance, Dygan thought he could make out a larger city, but he wasn’t certain. “This is the place I was born, Dygan. I travel here every year. Keeps good relations with the people I grew up with.”

“Really? You’re that close with who you grew up with?” Dygan thought about the people in Tereftan. Farmer Gerdroc, the lazy worker who still managed to get his crops harvested no matter how long he procrastinated or drank. The stern-faced innkeeper and his stableboy son, how perfectly opposite they were, but they shared some of the same face. Elly, he particularly thought of Elly. She would always blush and wink when he walked by. Dygan could see in her expression how her heart fluttered when he talked to her. How did she feel now, that he had run away from home? Would she be waiting for him to come back and smile? Would she curse his name for leaving without notice? Would she just forget about him and move on with her life?

“I am. Long distances don’t mean much to good friends,” Melrous brought him back from his memories. “And I hope you brought some money with you. I stay in the inn by paying with my performances, but I’m afraid you’ll be sleeping on hay in the stables if you can’t pay. My influence doesn’t extend beyond gladdened hearts, and I like it that way.”

“Hmm… I don’t have anything.”

”You could sell your sword perhaps? The gem on that alone will be an incredible sum!”

Dygan laid a protective hand over the curved blade. It had been Flisgard’s last wish that he used it to find his family. Dygan shook his head. “This sword is a part of me,” he said.

“Unfortunate then. It looks like you’ll have a few more rough nights ahead of you. I don’t know how you are going to make it in Voldar, with no money. - What are you going to do now? What are you going to do then?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’ll just find a spot in the streets to curl up or find someone who’ll take me in. Slim chance of that, I know. It’s going to be hard, I know.” Dygan refrained from saying he deserved it.

“Well, maybe I can help you out. Son, can you play the flute?”
”What?” Dygan was confused. What did musical talent have to do with anything?

“Did I stutter? Can you play or not?”

“Uh… just a little.” Dygan knew the basic notes, but he was never really good at it. With luck, he sounded like a novice.

“Well, I hope you can learn quick, because I could use you in my performance. You’ll get free room and food, and as long as you don’t do anything stupid, you stay for nothing.”

Dygan thought about the offer for a second. He’d have to be at least passable if he didn’t want to get thrown out. But even a chance was better than nothing. “Well, I’ll give it a try.”

Dygan and Melrous discussed this proposal as the caravan made its way down to the town. Melrous said all Dygan had to do was reach inside himself, as music was just an expression of what one felt inside. Dygan was pretty sure he’d muck it all up, but he would try to give it his best anyway.

They had scarce entered the town when children started to clutter around them, one in particular shouted out, “Grandpa!” and ran over to the bard, pushing his way past the other kids.

“You never told me you had a family,” Dygan was surprised that a person who moved around as much as this had a child, much less a grandchild.

“I don’t. I am a member of this community, called ‘Master Melrous’ by most, but the children prefer to call me their grandfather. Let them, is what I say. It’s not doing any harm to anyone.”

“Grandfather, will you tell us more stories?” the child asked, with a child-like insistence that reminded Dygan of the life he had spent before the horrible truth had dawned upon him. He shook his head; it wasn’t the time to think about things that were forever gone to him.

“Perhaps I will, little ones,” he smiled at them with a wry grin that set every tiny child ecstatic. After they all had cleared, “Well, I hope the kids like your playing, because I think they’ll need a little music as well as my tales.” Melrous handed him the instrument he was to play. It was carved out of wood, albeit very smooth. Dygan put it to his lips and blew a single, clear note. He tried to put his fingers over a few holes, and managed to get a few notes out before a high-pitched squeak. Melrous grimaced, “Well, if you practice you’ll get better. Just remember, music comes from inside. You express yourself through it.”

“I’ll remember that.” Melrous took another step and was swamped by other people. It must feel nice, Dygan said to himself, to be welcomed warmly by so many people from a journey like Melrous. But Dygan wondered if Melrous was leading a good life. He had no children, apparently, and he was old enough to be a grandfather. Or was it that ‘grandfather’ wasn’t actually having grandchildren, but caring for someone as if they were? Dygan didn’t understand, and he didn’t think he was. He had been forced to grow up quite quickly, and the carefree childlike days still burned brightly in his mind, but he still didn’t have the wisdom he needed. Melrous, however, seemed that while a part of him gained an understanding for the world, part of him never grew up. “Maybe that’s why he doesn’t get tired like most older people do.” Dygan had observed Melrous during the journey, and he never seemed to just want to stop and rest, like numerous of Dygan’s elders in Tereftan wanted to do.

Again, Dygan had picked a bad time to remember things past. No serious consequences, like getting ambushed by wolves, but Dygan knew he had to keep his mind focused if he didn’t want to only sit and dwell upon what could have been. If he were going to change what he had done, he would have to keep his mind clear so he could better concentrate on the matters at hand. As much as the prospect of no longer thinking about Tereftan pained him, it was a necessary sacrifice to be made.

“The greatest comfort one day can be the greatest pain the next.”
-Dygan Heartswind, on a change of mindset

Although he resolved to not think about it, a part of Dygan’s mind, the realistic portion anyway, knew that his thought would always fall back to that assortment of houses and farms. Dygan sighed softly, and resigned himself to that. Maybe he deserved to keep thinking about things he could never receive. It was more painful however, than when a man reached for unattainable goals. That man would never receive it, and perhaps he already knew that. Dygan however, wished for something he had and lost, and something he knew he couldn’t get. However, he could feel what it was like having a background in the Naronell household, living a normal life without thought that he was actually an adopted child from some other family. It was nice to think he had a real family. Blissful ignorance, some called it.
 
Dygan moved toward Melrous, already the center of attention. In a few seconds, everyone was inviting the bard to eat at his or her house and entertain his or her children. To most of these, Melrous just chuckled and shook his head. He wasn’t dismissive, but he already had plans. “Find me at the inn, as always,” he would say to others.

“Master Melrous?” the innkeeper, a slightly overweight man with thinning blond hair and a goatee to match, addressed the older man when he entered the wooden inn. “How many rooms? The doors are always open for you.”

“You do an old man a great kindness, and I see you’ve kept the inn looking new.”

“Well, I’m getting too old to repair roofs and matters. My sons take care of that now. I still do some things around this place, but I keep my feet on the ground now.”

Melrous laughed, “You always said that we would be a couple of old fools before you came down from daydreaming on the inn roof. Well, I say we’ll both be long dead before I stop traveling and learning melodies from far-off places.”

“And that’s how it’s going to be, my old friend. We wouldn’t have you any other way. What do you need?”

“I’ll need something warm to shake the chill out of the air, and rooms for all four of my travelers. The girl,” he gestured to Ilara, “will take one. Merick is big enough to take a room by himself, and this young boy here and myself will take the last.”

The innkeeper gestured to the barkeep to bring a drink for his guest, and went back to business. “I assume then that you will grace my crowd with some entertainment?”

”You know me too well, Dragol. This boy here will be assisting me as well.”

“Have you taken on an apprentice then? Or did you pick him up in one of your travels? - He looks ragged, what with that cloak torn up and all.”

Dygan started to say something to protest that rather offensive description, but Melrous interrupted before Dygan said something potentially damaging. “He’s young, and likes to be free. In time, he’ll learn the finer points of not trying to climb down too steep a hill. Trust me, the only thing that was hurt of young Dygan here was his pride.”

“All right then. I hope he’s half as good as you are, Melrous, and I’ll let him stay free as well.”

Melrous went over to the bar to imbibe his drink, while Dygan took the room key and carried the equipment up. The room had two beds, and it was moderately furnished. Besides the two beds and a table, each bed had a chest at the foot of it for storage purposes. Dygan sat on one of the beds, and picked up the flute again. “Just find what I’m trying to say? Easier spoken than accomplished, Melrous.” Dygan didn’t feel anything that he actually wanted to express to anyone. His own troubles were his own, and no one else needed to know about them. If the Mindsmoother knew what he was going through, she had been remarkably silent about it. Perhaps she wanted to gather more information? Dygan tried not to think about his allies scheming and instead tried linking a few notes with Melrous’s instrument. They came out all right, but even Dygan could hear that they sounded… forced. Melrous was correct; Dygan couldn’t express something through music if he wasn’t actually feeling it. Dygan put the flute down, and sighed, knowing there was no use. He would butcher his performance, and then what would happen? Could Melrous convince Dragol to let him stay?

He was interrupted by a polite knock at the door. “Come in,” he answered it, and the door promptly opened. It was Melrous, along with Ilara. “There you are, my boy. I hope you’re practicing. I’ll have you open up, so that you can build the crowd’s expectations. I hope you can put on a good show.” With that, he left as quickly as he came, presumably back to the bar. Ilara still stood there.

“You look troubled,” she commented sympathetically. “Do you need help?”

“No, I’ll be fine. Please, just leave me to myself right now. That’s the best form of good you can do right now,” Dygan tried to brush her away.

Ilara looked saddened, but she respected his wish. “Just remember this, a flask of oil kept bottled away may keep longer, but it does no good to anyone if it’s not used.”
That little saying was one that Raye had often used. Dygan furrowed his brows and forced himself not to think about her. “Maybe if I walk for a bit.”

Dygan took a rather relaxed walk around the town, not getting back to the inn until the sun was starting to fade. When he got back, Melrous was already in his room. “Where did you walk off to? I thought you were going to practice.”

“I just needed to clear my thoughts.”

“Understandable. I hope you are ready.”

Dygan and Melrous made their way downstairs. In the crowd, Dygan knew no one, save Merick and Ilara. “All right my boy, go out there and give it all you’ve got.”

Dygan moved to the center, and he could feel the nervousness like a knot in his stomach. His hands trembled a little as he brought the flute to his lips. With anxiety, he played every note in sequence, running through them in his mind. It brought back memories, and Dygan couldn’t shut them out this time. Trying to learn the flute under the innkeeper, who was very patient with him, but Dygan wasn’t patient with himself and never got any good at it.

That fond memory moved his fingers for him, and blew into the wooden flute as well. Not fully aware of it, he played a sad, haunting melody. Some of the patrons were reminded of days past, just like Dygan was right now. The young boy could even see a small token in the stern Merick’s poise, while Ilara suppressed tears welling in her eyes. Dygan couldn’t see Melrous, and the old man was such an enigma that he couldn’t guess even if he saw his expression. He kept playing, the melody sending the listeners thinking to what they could have done in a day years past. How each of their lives could have been different if they had changed but one thing.

When Dygan finished his improvised melody, the reaction he got from the crowd was amazing. Rather than applaud his efforts, they were too busy in their own world of thought that they didn’t notice he stopped. Unsure of what to do, he left the central room for the sanctity of his own.

“So that’s what he meant by playing from within…” Dygan could hear Melrous trying to liven the mood by telling jokes, and soon, he heard laughter. “That master showman…” Dygan laughed at the prospect of an old man able to switch the moods of a people that fast, and he fell asleep.

Story written by Eskon View Profile