“Do you hear that?”

Farrin settled against the boulder he was about to climb. A few feet above him, Fiel had paused, finger in the air, his ear turned to the wind.

The skaald was sweating. His legs were hurting, the pack he was carrying was straining his back, and could still smell the horrible stench of dead fish his clothes had collected at the shore clinging to him.

“If you mean the grinding noise my knees are making, then yes. Yes I can hear it,” he chuckled bitterly. But the look on his son’s face made him pay closer attention.

He listened. They were high up, walking –or rather, climbing– up a narrow path leading to the top of the surreal landscape of a cliff, crowned by an array of broken ships and fallen columns. The wind had picked up, and on it, rode a strange, faint sound.

“Is that… music?”

The necromancer smiled. “Come on. We’re nearly there,” he said as he resumed his climb with a little more enthusiasm.

“You still haven’t told me where you’re taking me,” Farrin grumbled.

“I know. Trust me, you’re going to like it.”

The older norn groaned. At this point, it was useless to argue with his son. He hadn’t told him what he wanted to show him with such dogged insistence during the whole boat trip to Orr, not even hinted at it. He would certainly not spill it now.

Eventually they arrived at a plateau, nestled between three gutted ships and a few toppled arches, perched on top of a massive waterfall. There, Farrin dropped his pack and sat down on a piece of a broken column, wiping his brow as he caught his breath.

“Why do you hate me so… dragging me to a stinking land and making me scale a mountain…“ he whined jokingly. He took a moment to admire the sight that was Orr. Its collapsed temples, its forest of gigantic dead coral, its spires of huge empty sea shells, tall as lighthouses. The old statues of the disgraced god Abaddon, shrouded in the late-afternoon fog, towered in the distance like clawed giants, dominating with their regal bearings over a circular structure.

Even as he complained, Farrin was not impervious to the sheer presence of the history that seeped out every single stone of this place, still raw and powerful, despite the years and the pollution of the elder dragon. Power was rising from Orr, undefeated, if marred and weakened.

Spirits… So this is where you spent all those years.”

This moment of contemplative wonder was cut short. Music was once again in the air. A short, fleeting melody, gone as soon as it came. When Farrin turned he saw nothing, save for his son, who was silently observing him, a smile on his lips.

“You didn’t do that, didn’t you?” Fiel slowly shook his head no, still smiling, and Farrin frowned. “Boy… this better not be a trick–”

Another sound. Drums. Farrin definitely heard drums.

He stood up and headed toward the origin of the sound. High up in the mountain the light was piercing through the thick mists from the land below, dancing around the rotting masts and falling over the ancient tiles like luminescent snow. The breeze was playing with the shredded sails and the dry seaweeds, and among the rustling the skaald heard notes. Voices and plucked strings were echoing around him, stronger and stronger, yet still faint in the air. Here, but not there. Murmurs from behind a thick, invisible veil.

Without thinking, the norn began to hum. He sang after the echoes, replicating them, following them, harmonizing with them. As he did, the notes became clearer, more persistent. He pulled out his lute and played the chords that hung in the air. They were whispered to him, sung to him, and he listened.

Farrin had completely forgotten about his aching back and sore legs. Soon after they had reached the plateau, there he was: standing in the light in the middle of this ruined stage, this broken proscenium, and he was singing. Singing and playing hymns he had never heard before, without hesitation or question. And as the notes trickled from his fingers and lips, the light around him grew brighter, a golden shroud that rang with hundred voices and hundred instruments. Flutes, harps, drums and lutes, a concert of ancient melodies.

Farrin stopped suddenly, regaining his bearing, and the light died down. He was slightly confused, still holding his instrument in his hands, wondering–

“I salute you, fellow Siren.”

The voice was strong but soft, with a strange, otherworldly timber. A ghost was standing in front of him, smiling. A human, dressed in long, unfamiliar robes. He regarded the norn with the warm enthusiasm of someone who had been waiting for a long, long time.

“You have followed the echoes and found your way to the Gallery. The music of the soul… Is it calling to you?”

“I…” Farrin turned to his son. Fiel was standing at a respectful distance, doing his best to contain his excitement. If he wasn’t perturbed by the apparition, Farrin concluded he shouldn’t be either. “Yes,” he continued. “I heard the echoes, and I… I suppose… I felt compelled to join in.”

The ghost’s smile widened. “Orr recognizes you as a sympathetic spirit. I can teach you to call a chancel and conduct your magic.”

“A what?”

The ghost gestured, and behind him a mote of light appeared, golden and bright. What Farrin had originally thought was just the sun piercing through the clouds, revealed to be the imprint of an ancient and powerful magic, filled with music, and persisting in this spot despite the centuries and the corruption. Around it, other specters manifested. All humans, all dressed in the same ancient robes, each carrying a different instrument.

“The Sirens were once great sorcerers,” the first ghost continued. “Only a fraction of their magic remains. As the reliquaries are reclaimed and illuminated, other aspects of Orr also come back to life. Here, the magic of song awaits those who are attuned to it.”

“Songs?”

“Yes. The Divine Dirges. The Sirens are able to attune to the power of their gods, drawing power from them.”

“Gods? The human gods? But… I am norn.”

“This is of no consequence. The Chancel of Echoes resonates with your voice, shines with your music. You are a Siren, and when you are ready, we can begin your training.”

For a moment Farrin stood there motionless. His eyes went back and forth between the ghost, the golden mote of light, and his son.

He was standing in a place of old magic, a treasure almost lost to time. He was speaking to the soul of one that had lived centuries before him, standing on a soil once dead, and now slowly coming back to life.

This was, by far, one of the strangest, most exhilarating, and powerful thing he had ever experienced.

“I am ready.”

For the next two days, Farrin played and sang tirelessly, barely taking any breaks, sleeping only a couple hours at a time. Meanwhile Fiel had set up camp on a far edge of the plateau, observing, taking notes, trying to match his father’s stamina –and failing to do so.

When he had first found this place, a few years prior, he knew than Farrin was the right person to benefit from it. While he could hear the echoes and sense the raw magic that emanated from the place, he could not quite resonate with it. Music was not quite the way magic flowed through him.

Still, he was curious. By taking his father to the Gallery, he knew he would attune to it easily, providing the necromancer with a perfect test subject, while giving the skaald a few new skills to help him protect what was dearest to him –to them: his family.

Soon, Farrin would have to return to his pregnant wife. Help raise Fiel’s new sibling. The dragons, though fewer in numbers, were growing more powerful and aggressive. No one was safe, not completely. Not forever.

Fiel did not know what was in stores for him, his family, Hoelbrak, or even the world. But one thing was certain: he could no longer run. He could no longer hide. He had to prepare, and so did his family.

By any means necessary, by any magical secret he could unearth, he would protect them.

Author BluJ
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Comments (2)

  • ambrosine
    January 22, 2019 at 9:14 am
    You know, the only thing worse than one skaald is two. Farrin and Tove have to be OBNOXIOUS if they share the same space for long.
  • January 22, 2019 at 1:16 pm
    Hehehe....

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