THE LEGEND OF DARBANE THE FIDDLER
BY LUCIRINA TELOR VEVAN



This is the story of a young human musician, who decides to study at the side of the Injerín elves of Lýeil'soulá to become a master of his art. But for what price? Read yourself how the talented Darbane the Fiddler became a nightmarish legend for the Injerín, how his arrogance and longing for revenge corrupted his art, and why you can still hear strange melodies when passing through the Shaded Forest...
 

CHAPTER I
THE FINAL EXAM
 

he legend tells that in the moonlit nights, when the mist dances between the trunks of the trees, you can hear the soft singing of a fiddle carried by the wind, a melody soft and haunting. The leaves seem to dance like Brownies to this melody and even the trees sway softly following the rhythm. - But where does this music come from?
 

View picture in full size Picture description. Darbane the Fiddler. Image by Fiorellina.

Many are the versions and many the tales of how this music came to be, and yet even more the guesses.

The elder of the elven Injerín tribe tell that there was once a young human that studied side by side with the elves in the city of Lýeil’soulá, intending to learn the art of music as well as any elven bard.

This particular human, whose name by the way was Darbane, was said to be the only human to ever study in one of the larger bard schools up north, and he was also one of the most promising students. He could play so wonderful that even the sun stopped its wanderings to listen carefully to the many melodies born from his simple fiddle. Darbane quickly advanced from class to class, leaving the younger students, and finally was able to play along with the elder bards. But something disturbed his teachers, though. Darbane didn’t seem to understand the very essence of the music he performed. Unlike others Darbane never played what was in his heart and soul... he merly repeated what they told him to do, though his performances were excellent, they weren’t anything more than just that.

The elder teachers saw with growing worry that Darbane started treating his music in a ruthless way, playing without emotions, stealing the musical themes composed from other students and claiming they were of his own creation. The teachers reprehended him for doing such things several times and Darbane started to grow bitter. He knew he could play better than most of his teachers. The fact that he couldn’t write his own music, to him, was irrelevant. Darbane thought that his teachers were envious of his talent and that was why they treated him unfairly. And slowly hate starting spawning inside his heart and soul.

Even though his ambitions were questionable, there was still one person that Darbane considered his friend, a young elf named Ján’leén. This particular elf was the despair of the teachers in Lýeil’soulá. He could not handle any instrument, fiddle nor flute, for they had the tendency to break in his hands. Unlike at other elves his voice was as melodious as that of a chatterbird. Yet he composed the most wonderful melodies in his head. The notes seemed to flow endlessly from his quill to the parchment. But despite his inability to perform the notes he wrote down, Ján’leén was not bitter. The teachers loved Ján’leén for his cheerful smile and the way he selflessly gave them most of his compositions so they could be given life to the notes by their expert hands and voices.

Ján’leén had pitied Darbane and offered him his friendship and his songs, and Darbane, seeing another soul trapped within the limitations of its body, accepted the friendship gratefully.


 

Many years went by and Darbane grew from a young boy into a man, his skills with the fiddle improving with his aging. Ján’leén also grew into an even better composer, his music known over the entire Sarvonian continent, carried by the bards of Lýeil’soulá.

But it was something darker and more hideous that also had been growing during these years, and that was the dark, empty space in Darbane´s heart. He had become crueler and did now almost anything to reach his goals, stealing the songs of the teachers and twisting them until they were nothing more than pale ghosts of the original melodies. But there was yet a spark of humanity in his soul, shining trough the dark thoughts and intentions.

When the spring came to Lýeil’soulá it was the time for the apprentice bards to put their skills to the test and show if they were worthy of leaving the school, now as master bards. The test was in fact quite simple and did not require any kind of blood spill nor competition: Each of the apprentices were always led to a simple hut in the middle of the shaded forest and left alone for three days and three nights. At the dawn of the fourth day they were returned to their school and asked if in those days of solitude and meditations they have found their song, the song residing deep within their soul. If they can confirm that they have found it, the students are asked to perform the song they have composed in front of the teachers and students and after their successful performance they are free to leave the school. However, if the students can’t find anything within themselves, or are unable to perform their song they have to stay in the school for yet another year of studying and training.

Darbane dreaded this time of year more than anything in the whole world. Six times he was already called to the test and six times he had failed to find what was hidden in the depths of his soul. It was hopeless as it seemed. Darbane now was a grown man that longed for the life outside the walls of the bard school, dreaming of women, recognition and even more, power.

The weeks before the calling for the test began. Darbane tried hard to find his melody, staying in silence for days seeking for inspiration to write his song. He wandered the shaded forest listening to the nightbirds singing in the darkness, but all was in vain, nothing could he find within his soul.

In despair Darbane went to the room of his friend, Ján’leén and asked for help how he could manage to make his exam this time.
“Ján, my dearest and only friend!”, he said. “You know what I am now facing. This will be the seventh time the elders call me to the test and it is my last chance and hope. If I fail this time I will not be allowed to leave the Lýeil’soulá. I must stay here and rot away!”

Walking furiously around the room Darbane looked at the stonewall and slammed a fist into it, causing his knuckles to bleed. Ján’leén was used to the fiery temper of his friend, but he knew that something was different about him; something was starting to gnaw away his soul.

“What do you want me to do, Darbane?”, Ján replied. “Challenge the elders? Stop the test? I am but a simple elf, and even if you are my friend I cannot interfere in the test!”

Darbane turned and stared at his friend, never before had Ján been so harsh in his words. Never before had he denied him his help. He felt a rage unknown to him start to build inside him as he walked over to Ján and picked him up by the neck of his shirt.

“Now you listen to me, elf! I will not stay in this rotten town forever, my skills as a musician are being wasted here, I don’t belong here among the new students anymore. My skills have long ago equaled, no, surpassed the skills of those used to be my teachers.

I am going to ask you one more time. I know you have been working on a very special song lately, a song that would exceed all your other songs. I also know that you have showed noone this song yet, and that makes it perfect for me. If you are my friend you will give me that song now so I can perform it in front of the elders and pass the test. - Now where is it?”

Ján looked in disbelief at the hands that were holding him off the ground. Was this infuriated beast really his friend Darbane? And did he really want to trick the elders using his song? Looking at the dark eyes of his former friend, Ján realized that Darbane was not jesting, he would do anything to escape Lýeil’soulá... even if it would signify to dishonor himself and Ján with him.

Ján threw a short glance at the parchments on his desk before looking back at Darbane.

“No. I will not give you my song, Darbane,” Ján answered. “It is not meant for you, and it has never been meant for you. That song is to Danía and only for her! I don’t care if you cast the dishonor upon yourself, but don’t drag me with you! The test must be done alone and you know it. So let me go!”

How strange it was to see Ján rise in anger, the gentle, quiet elf was struggling to free himself from the grasp of Darbane. In a haze the human saw the elf ball his fingers into a tight fist and slamming it into his face. Staring at the elf in disbelief and shock, Darbane let go of him, lifting one hand to the side of his mouth as he felt something warm running down his chin, looking at the hand he saw that it was blood.

“You filthy elf, how dare you do this to me?” shouted Darbane. “You, who have no musical skills at all, dare to hit the greatest musician in all Lýeil’soulá?”

Darbane almost growled at Ján before turning and locking the door, blocking off the only escape route, lifting his own fist and getting ready to return the blow he received: “Now lets see if you are as good with the fist as you are with the quill, friend!”

Darbane spat out this last word as if it was poison before he aimed a blow toward Ján’s face. Ján easily ducked under the fist and returned the blow with one of his on, straight into the ribs, bruising the soft flesh on the chest of who used to be his friend. Darbane felt the blow to the ribs but this only added more fire to the rage that was starting to grow inside him. Managing to give Ján a hard punch on the side of his face, he smirked evilly. He was maybe not as fast as the elf but he was stronger and had more endurance, so he was certain that he would win this fight.

Ján saw the smirk and for a second he wondered what had happened to his friend to make him act this way. It sure had to be something more than just the desire to escape the bard school, and then he realized what it was. Darbane, who claimed to be the best musician in all Lýeil’soulá did not understand, he did not understand what music was, and Ján had never realized this and never done anything to help him. This simple, yet terrible truth made Ján let down his guard for one single second, one single fatal second.

Darbane saw the elf lower his fists and sensed the opportunity to attack. With all his strength he placed a blow on Ján’s chin. Ján, being distracted, got hit with full force and stumbled backwards, toward his bed. Darbane smiled as he thought he had won the fight, but his smile soon was turned into an expression of fear as Ján lost his balance and fell backwards, his head hitting against the bed frame. But it was not this that made Darbane grow pale, it was the horrible sound of Ján’s neck snapping as his head was forced into an unnatural angle, his eyes opening in nameless horror a second before they lost all light, the now lifeless body dropping to the floor.

Darbane rushed to the side of his friend but he knew already, that it was too late. As he knelt beside the fallen body he saw that Ján’s eyes were dull and the spark of life that used to burn in them was gone…

In shock Darbane realized that he was responsible for the death of his friend, his only friend. Slowly he stood up, feeling not only the death of his friend, but also of a part of him that was kind and that was able to care for another person.

Walking like his head weighted too much for his body he moved over to the desk where Ján kept all his writing implements and parchments. He started digging through the things, seeking the parchment he came looking for. Under a thin book he finally found a parchment covered with Ján’s writings. The song!

The notes that danced over the paper were now all that was left of Ján’leén. And Darbane was now going to claim it as his own. Clutching the parchment in his hand he left the room as fast as he could, oblivious of taking the thin book with him along with the scroll, just as he hasn’t realized the murder he had committed. Quietly he closed the door behind him so noone would discover the body before he was far away from the room.

As the loud screams of Danía rang through the air, Darbane had already reached his room and was leaning against the closed door, covering his face with his free hand.

That night and the next day the songs of Lýeil’soulá were filled with mourning and sadness over the passing of Ján, the most loved and loving student of the school, the soft tones of the mourning songs floating trough the air, reaching the room where Darbane had locked himself.

Darbane recognized immediately the songs that his friend wrote, each note piercing trough his mind and heart like a dagger causing him pain. Her knew that no one suspected him and that everybody thought that he was mourning his friend locked inside his room. Even Danía, who never had been very fond of him thought he was in deep grief and came to offer him comfort.

But Darbane was beyond any feelings. He simply sat on the floor contemplating the sheet of music that he stole from Ján's room, learning the melody by heart and preparing himself for the day of the test that was drawing nearer.

Darbane did not intend on failing this time, no. He would be out of the school this year and he would never again return. The thin book lying on his desk had not been opened since he took it from Ján's room, and he knew that he wouldn't be able to return it now, since the teachers had already disposed of what little possessions his elven friend had.

Finally the week of the test arrived.

Many of the youngest and some elder bard students were growing more anxious each day with the closeness of the test, many of the youngest were afraid of passing so many days alone and completely isolated from their classmates and teachers, while the older ones, among them Darbane, waited in calm for their turn to take the test.

The days went by as the younglings finished their test with more or less success. Darbane played the song again and again in his head, making sure that he wouldn't forget a single note. He knew in his darkened heart that this was Ján's masterpiece, and it would most certainly free him from the school with great honors. But even the perspective of such glorious moment brought a smile to his lips, they were contracted in a rictus of concentration and something that resembled disdain, but for what? For the other students, his teachers? Or was it a deep disdain and hate for himself that made even this moment of triumph grow bitter?

The turn came to the older students and he watched as some of them were returned to the school for one more year of study and others were now free to leave the Lýeil’soulá, having turned into master bards.

Darbane smirked coldly to his teachers as they announced it was his turn and shaked their hands slowly, almost as if they knew he was going to fail.

‘Not this time, never again,’ Darbane thought to himself as he entered the confines of the forest in search for his hut. He found it quite quickly. He didn't even care to look inside, he knew this place by heart. A place of annual schame.

Instead of entering his hut and meditate, he started wandering the forest, humming the song he was going to play to the elders, repeating it note by note from beginning to end, daring not to change a single note in fear of altering the whole song and thus fail the exam.

He lend no ears to the frantic singings of the nightbirds calling out for mates nor the soft wind whispering through the trees, he didn't hear the soft clucking of a spring that seemed to sing in the darkness, not the thousands of crickets creating their own symphony in the grass. He was deaf to all the music around him. The only melody he heard was that of his hate filled soul and the one created by his dead friend that he hissed between his teeth as he waited for the three days to pass.

At the end of the third day he returned to the Lýeil’soulá to complete the final part of his test.

Still smirking he walked to stand in front of the elders and lifted his violin to his shoulder and prepared his bow to start playing, waiting for the signal from his teacher.

The old man seemed almost completely resigned as he nodded slowly, indicating that Darbane could start playing. He had been here several times before and every time he was dissapointed with this student, why would this time prove different?

Closing his eyes and concentrating on remembering the melody, Darbane started playing, the bow gliding easily over the strings and producing one of the most beautiful musics that anyone had ever heard. Even the old and half deaf bard that lived in the west wing was moved by the melody, crying like a little child when the notes reached his ancient ears and touched his most remote memories, the ones of his first true love and the sorrow he felt when he had lost her.

The same happened to every student and teacher present, all of them were touched by the soft music coming from Darbane's violin. Even though Darbane could not create his own music, his talent managed to give life to the notes written by Ján, and the combined forces of both talents were too much to bear for any of the students. They soon were all crying and begging him to stop playing his sad song.

But Darbane wasn’t listening. He only heard the music he was playing, seeing the effect it had on the others, and the absence of effect it had on him. This just left him feeling even more hollow than he was, making his heart fill more and more with hate for the arrogance people had showed towards his earlier trials to pass the test. And it was hate for the ones that could create melodies of such beauty and perfection as the one he was playing now, yet they did not have the talent to play them with such skill as he did. He was the best and most skilled musician that had come out of the schools in Lýeil’soulá, yet he was not able to write a simple song! Why did the Gods hate him so much and give him what he could not use, why did they gift him with one hand and deprive him with the other? And he played evn more furious. - Looking over the many crying students he felt that he hated them all, that he was better than them in so many ways, and he despised them with all his heart.

Then, among the many students a female voice, strangled with tears started screaming at him.

“You thief, you lying thief! Murderer!”

The voice came from Danía, the woman Ján had written the song to, as she made her way through the crowd toward Darbane and the teachers.

Darbane's teacher lifted his hand, indicating Darbane to stop playing and then turned to the girl.

“Who are you calling thief and murderer ? Is it my student here? - What motives or reason do you have to accuse him in such a way?” The teacher was confused and looked at his student. Darbane just crossed his arms over his chest, his cold eyes meeting those of the teacher before moving to look at Danía. If looks could kill Darbane would have been a murderer that same instant.

Danía walked over to the teacher. “I call him thief because the song that he claims as his own didn't come from his soul, the song that he plays so skillfully is not of his making. Are you all so deaf, masters, that you can't recognize Ján's soul in that song, not Darbane’s?” The elf was crying and shaking with anger as she talked to the teacher, barely managing to hold back her tears for enough time to speak.

The teacher stared at her, his eyes wide as her words hit him with full force. And suddenly he comprehended: It was true! - No one but Ján'Leen had ever managed to make him cry with his melodies, noone else than the dead elf could have written such a beautiful and sad melody.

“Darbane, is what this woman says true?” he asked his student.

Darbane smirked and shook his head.

“She doesn't know what she is talking about, she is too deep into the grief of losing Ján. He was my friend, everybody here knows this. Why would I dishonor him and myself by stealing his melody?” Darbane answered.

The answer was given with cold and harsh words. He knew that the only evidence, the roll of parchment where the song was written, was now only part of the ash in the fireplace he had lit in the hut. Noone could prove that the song didn't belong to him, since no one had ever seen the notes before. He felt quite confident that he would not be discovered.

“If that is so, then may we search your room to see if we find anything that could prove that you are not speaking the truth?” the teacher asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

Darbane only nodded and smirked. “You may search all you wish, for I have nothing to hide from you.”

The teachers all parted to his room along with Danía and Darbane. Many hands searched for any piece of parchment that could indicate that Darbane was lying, but nobody found anything. Darbane stood smirking all the time, knowing that they wouldn't find a proof, at least that was what he thought.

Danía was getting more and more desperate. If she didn't find anything now then the murderer of Ján would go unpunished, she was sure, and the final melody of her love would be given to a person she was detesting.

The teachers didn't find anything and were about to leave when she spotted something under Darbane's bed, a thin, green book that she recognized quite easily. Ján's journal!

Darbane turned pale as she saw her take the book that he had taken from Ján's room out from its hiding place. He had completely forgot about it.

Danía gave the book to the teachers and they all read what was written in the journal, of how Ján was writing a very special song for his beloved, and there were also small pieces of the song written down, notes that had been claimed by Darbane to be his own not an hour ago.

The teachers turned toward Darbane, and for the first time he saw anger in their eyes.

“Darbane of the human kind, you have betrayed the trust we had in you and you have also deprived the world of one of the most talented composers ever. You are not welcome in the Lýeil’soulá anymore, nor will you be welcome in any other Injerín city. You have cast disgrace upon yourself and the human kind. Now leave, before we find the mercy we have given you to be too much of a gift for a vermin like yourself!”

The teacher's words were cold and stern as he glared at Darbane. Then he took a step forward and grabbed the fiddle that was still resting in Darbane's hand and smashed it on the cold stone floor. “Never again shall this fiddle play any of your stolen melodies. You have soiled it beyond repair, as you have soiled yourself and the gift given so kindly to you by the Gods.”

Darbane did nothing but sneer at the elves before walking out of his room, not stopping his stride as he left the school behind, entering the darkness of the Shaded Forest. This was what he had yearned for, freedom to do whatever he wished to do... but if it was so, why did it taste so bitter? - An though, he also felt happy somehow, relieved by the mild punishment of the elves to just ban him from their community. He smirked again to himself. But his newly gained freedom also brought up thoughts of revenge...

However, the fiddle lying crushed on the floor of his room now had been his companion ever since he had come to the school and now it was nothing more than broken pieces of wood and string.

“Curse them, curse their kind! Well, I will make myself a better fiddle, a more beautiful and well sounding fiddle than any fiddle made in Lýeil’soulá. And then I will come back and show those pitiful elves who is the most talented bard of them all.”

And muttering like this Darbane set of toward the south, determined to return one day to this very same place and demonstrate once and for all the talent he possessed that made him better than any other bard, living or dead.

He would show them...
 

Story written by Lucirina Telor Vevan View Profile