A Lady's Prerogative: The Devil In Music
Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Two Friends And Some Wine"Quite simply put, she's a musical prodigy. Much in the same way as are you in the arts." Yirfir sat at Mila's table sipping a glass of chardonnay.
"But my focus has mostly been with visual arts. I've delved in the arcanum musica at times though my intuition seems focused around the visual. Where it overlaps music can be said to be through visual symbol. I don't think that I am your person." Mila replied from the other end of the table.
The colourful hand painted walls of Mila's dining area would speak contradictory to Mila's response. They expressed a repressed enthusiasm that she'd nurtured herself for years unbeknownst and perhaps in spite of herself. It had manifested itself upon her walls. Her decorations and of course her candles. Each one elaborately crafted shone ceremoniously as if in the midst of some ancient ritual or rite.
Yirfir always admired Mila for this, for it made her feel special. As if the extra effort was for her or for her shared company, though tonight they were alone. Barris was off in Shepperton off the Thames helping Sato reorganize his store and generally catching up. Barris being very intuitive to Mila's needs had suggested the trip himself. He knew that Mila was an artist at heart and needed her space and sometimes solitude despite his intense passion for her. Mila needed to replenish herself and seeing as both her and Barris had been living in such close proximity, he'd volunteered to visit with Sato.
Mila had pleaded with him not to go, though he intuitively felt otherwise. He knew that she needed her space on occasion and sometimes a few rooms distance between them was not enough. Sato had been planning an overhaul of his shop. Hoping to bring into the fray some of his most recent hidden treasures. Some manuscripts and crib notes allegedly penned by J.R.R. Tolkien himself. A book of half finished puzzles created by Sir Isaac Newton. A child's toy hand crafted by one of the craftsmen in Emperor Edo's employ during the feudal period of Japan. Sato's treasures were many though his shop often required Barris' sense of organization and relevance to potential purchasers. After all, before meeting Mila, Barris had organized Sato's whole store drawing in a much different clientele than Sato had imagined. It remained a peaceful and hidden treasure in Shepperton, yet it had that feel of underground pop culture so relevant to the youth of the day. Sato had once again required Barris' sense of modernized organization to help him. Barris had happily took advantage of the opportunity both giving Mila her much needed space and Sato his much needed organization. After he'd agreed he was gone through a portal of Mila's conjuring within a week.
Mila had spited him at first, scorning all of the advantages their relationship had brought her. Her intense art work during the day and building her tension into her nightly sexual and passionate release with Barris. A pattern into which she'd fallen that may have affected her art. Her spice as Frank Herbert may have put it. Her very sense of self expression. Yet once he'd gone she'd found herself fantasizing about him but more so, herself. Her life and being. She'd expanded rather than expended herself and she'd realized that Barris had recognized that he may be smothering her by living in such close proximity to her. Her love and passion for him only grew from that point though she promised herself that she'd use every moment in his absence to further herself and her goals within the Sanctum. That was precisely when Yirfir had approached her with this proposition in regard to schooling a new student at the Sanctum. An extremely musically gifted young girl who seemed to possess a natural feel for all music in every element. Learning. Melody. Harmony. Rhythm. Sight reading. Theory. Exercises. Composition. Spontaneous improvisation. It didn't matter what her teachers threw at her, she would overcome it overnight. None could figure her ability and connection and when Yirfir had been presented with this potential student of the Sanctum, she immediately thought of Mila's school of Aetherial Artistry.
Mila had been the first Wytch to perfect the integration of artistry into the weave. Art into magic kind. The essence and flow that had been innate to many Women and Men through the teachings of Lyra, the Sanctum's initial founder. It only seemed natural that such intense expression would find its way into the weave. The only knowledge thereof often remained only because of art itself. The first discovered painting upon hidden caves signalling humankind's presence in ancient Aerth. Language had first manifested itself as art through Sumerian Cuniform. Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Chinese Iconoigraphic Language. It seemed that the symbol of art itself had been the very foundations of language and expression. Music was an extension of this concept and Mila had thus felt it as such.
It had first begun with the first human birth or at the very least the birth of the human species. That moment when the little body of a new born child became aware of the beating of its Mother's heart. That in itself was the very essence of rhythm itself. The steady thump, thump, thump... A rhythm that would be with us for the rest of our lives. The very rhythm that none could fight left they fight the very essence of their own body themselves.
Then came the chant of the voice. Perhaps it was that originating from either the Mother herself or the Father had he chosen to stick around for the birth and rearing of his own children. Perhaps what itself had defined the concept of a Husband and Father. One who'd provided the Male chromosomes who would stick around for the rearing of their own children into maturity. Perhaps a stigmatic blow to those who'd abandon their own offspring, leaving their mate to fend for themselves and to birth his children. Perhaps the very definition of a man. One who stays with the mate with which they Father children until the maturity of their mutual children. Whose heart and melody would such a child behold? What supposed man would bear the stigma of their own etching and then abandonment of life in such a way? Their own offspring? Music held more information than most would acknowledge and far beyond what most would comprehend. It spoke to us in ways that only few could understand.
Mila could decipher its language much the same as she could direct her own artistic energy into the weave to become what others would call magic. And that was why Yirfir sought Mila to instruct this prodigy student of the Sanctum. Mila had been the originator of aetherial artistry, a school of magic based around the very arts themselves. It was a part of Mila's very namesake for her Japanese Mother and her Austrian Father named her accordingly. She was first the Japanese noun of Mai, meaning everything, wide and varied. She was of the Austrian/Germanic term leich meaning frail and fragile. Mai leich. Mila. Her name literally meant everything delicate, perhaps much like the arts themselves. If anyone in the Sanctum was suited to guide this prodigy through the rough into maturity as a master of the weave, it was certainly in this case Mila.
"Suppose that I did not accept your student. Hypothetically speaking of course. Where would that put her?" asked Mila who rocked her glass of wine delicately in circles perhaps trying to wet the rim without a spill.
"Jasmer and I have already struggled with this choice. He claim that he sensed a darkness in her that might make her more worthy of the Order Of The Night Wytch. We discussed the matter with Thara and she would have none of it. Her argument being that if she was a musical Wytch that she needed to express. That would defy the very essence of a Night Wytch, which is most often stealth and silence despite Shaela's sometimes outgoing behavior." Yirfir's eyes were distant as she sipped her wine once again recalling her discussion with Jasmer on the matter.
"That doesn't answer my question." Mila responded craning her head to one side.
"The truth is that if we don't find a suitable instructor, that she may be forced to become what we call one of the unnamed. They are students whose talents don't fall within the structure of the Sanctum. We do our best to find everyone their place, but sometimes some do fall through. In such situations the worst case scenario is that they get recruited by the Power Lords to work for the forces of Lorr. Their talents become weapons against us and all because of the bureaucracy we've built around instruction itself. Jasmer and I have struggled to reform this aspect of the Sanctum, but there is much resistance. People are often slow to accept change. That makes moving boulders like moving mountains and that is certainly the case here. This girl needs your guidance Mila regardless of her affinity for the darkness, light or the tween. Much like yourself, we cannot risk losing her to Lorr, though it is a shame that we've lost any in such a way. So my request is more a call to you out of desperation though it really makes sense." Yirfir poured back her glass and the fine nectar hit the back of her throat tickling it all the way to her innards.
Mila got up and poured them each another glass then returned to her own seat at the other end of her table.
"Well then I guess that really leaves me no choice then does it? I'll have to open up my music books and study a bit, though it has been years since I've studied music." Mila smiled somewhat indecisively.
"Excellent! I'm so glad that you are going to do this. You'll really like her Mila. I mean I saw so much of you in her already. Like when we first recruited you. Do you remember that?" Yirfir asked Mila, a smile creeping up the side of her face.
"How could I forget! It was one of the worst torrential rainfalls in ages. I'd been in the big city bringing the gallery my latest collection and there you were in the middle of this weather. Not a drop of rain hit you. Not even one. I was drenched to the bone and there you were oblivious of it altogether. When we spoke I thought that you were with the gallery! That by some weird twist of fate nature's effects ignored you! How could I turn down your invitation to study at your special school from such an enigmatic instructor as yourself?" Mila chuckled as she thought back to that time.
"Well truth be said, you couldn't. Much the same as Lima." Yirfir responded sipping her glass.
"I'm sorry, who?" Mila asked.
"Lima. The girl that you're going to be instructing." Yirfir advised her.
"How is that spelled may I ask?" Mila queried Yirfir.
"Hmmmm. I believe it is L * I * M * A *. Lima." Yirfir responded.
"You mean that this girl has the exact same letters in her first name as I do?" Mila asked completely stunned by the blatant coincidence.
"I never thought of it but yes. I suppose that she does." Yirfir chuckled at Mila's observation.
"Don't you find that a little bit... coincidental?" Mila asked just a little bit shaken.
"That depends upon how you view this coincidence. I mean it might be a sign. Jasmer and I already discussed this too you know." Yirfir assured her.
"What haven't you discussed?" Mila asked Yirfir somewhat eased and more playfully.
"We haven't discussed the matter of why Barris always seems to show up in his under shorts in nearly every adventure we've had. I mean the rest of us when we're whisked away to appear in some distance place, show up more or less clothed, and yet Barris always appears in his gauchies." Yirfir's pitch grew and they both burst out laughing.
"It does seem a bit odd. Doesn't it? Maybe that Chance fellow has something to do with it no doubt?" Mila responded after she'd caught her breath.
There was a moment of well timed silence as they both realize that their talk had come to an end as had their night.
"I must take my leave and make my way back to the Sanctum. I promised Jasmer that this would take no more than an hour. I'm already two hours overdue. Thank you so much for the hospitality Mila. You are such a good hostess as always." Yirfir stood up from her place at Mila's dining table.
"It was my pleasure. I love having the company. It's been a little bit strange living in an empty house with Barris gone temporarily." Mila replied getting to her feet assessing the clean up.
"One more pressing matter. You do realize that because Lima is an uninitiated prospect to the Sanctum that there will be no display of the weave from you or others while she is present, unless in defense of her or yourself. As far as developing her abilities with the weave, as a teacher you are required to guide her towards her own discovery thereof and not to influence her. You'll also have to choose where you'd like to teach and evaluate her readiness for your school of Aetherial Artistry. I was thinking..." Yirfir explained the matter until Mila interrupted.
"Why not here? I mean I've got just about everything I need for the task." Mila asked enthusiastically.
"That's a relief. I was hoping that you'd offer. You're going to need a piano, violin and a cello. The Sanctum is willing to provide you with these items from our vault if you'd like, or if you choose you can weave them into existence yourself. The choice is yours." Yirfir offered.
"From the vault? You mean the Sanctum has a collection of musical instruments too?" Mila asked a little bit surprised by the possibility.
"Yes. We started keeping them in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Power Lords about six or seven centuries ago here on the Prime Plane. The Power Lords were notorious for manipulating the leaders of human kind, steering them into wars and conflict all in the name of the Power Lords' interests. Many of these items were long at risk of theft or destruction. We decided that they were too important to the Aerth's history to lose to meaningless conflict so we started storing them. Of course being held in the Sanctum and the Mid Space, they have not aged a day. Some of the instruments have a bit of a history as well." Yirfir advised Mila.
"Well now you've got my interest. I'd love to put such instruments to good use. I'll accept your kind offer." Mila said excitedly.
"I will arrange to have them sent to you tomorrow around the noon hour. As far as care and tuning is concerned, the rest is up to you." Yirfir confirmed the delivery with Mila who accepted graciously.
A moment later Yirfir was gone, disappearing into a portal of her casting and Mila was once again alone.
"I guess I had better get this cleaned up and make space for my new guests in the study." Mila said thinking aloud.
Dreams Like NothingTwo weeks had passed since her dinner and drinks with Yirfir. Mila been exhausted having spent an obsessive twenty seven hours around the clock working on a particular painting. She'd finally late the next evening succumbed to exhaustion and crawled into her bed. Mila was not used to sleeping alone since Barris had taken up beside her. Since that time she'd also become unfamiliar with his absence of embrace. He was part of the way around the world. In an apartment above a shop in Shepperton just off the Thames and perhaps no further than a stone throw or two from Nelony's flat, though that was of no consequence for the purposes of this story.
Nelony had recently left for a trip on a luxury cruise that she'd won thanks to her seemingly fortunate participation in a monthly draw in which she'd partaken.
Sato's shop no more than five blocks from Nelony's flat had existed as such without their mutual knowledge until one particular eve in August, proving to Nelony that the world indeed was a small one after all.
Alivale had felt like a distant Ontario dream. The township of which no one had ever heard. The Witch's escape as it had been called. A cry from West View which had long been replaced by the cities of the lake. Lost to water and wind alike. Lost in the city of Burlington from close to which it had spawned in ages past.
Mila's dreams were not about cities of the past nor present. Nor were they about art. Love. Neither gone nor never held.
Mila had scolded Yirfir in her dreams for she was solely responsible for bringing this disaster into her life. They'd argued to the point of breathlessness before one of them resorted to the weave itself. Yirfir had woven an expulsion of being and cast it solely upon Mila. Mila struggled in her sleep as the tendrils of magic and maelstrom dug into her musculature. Like voracious roots seeking to find the source of Mila's very soul and rip it from time and space alike.
"Tamper not with forces you fail to fully understand lest your end come swiftly." Yirfir's visage was replaced by that of a tall hoof cloven demon of horns and claws appearing much as the kind of rendering you'd find to frighten the masses into a belief of some sort to thwart this behemoth.
Mila found herself held fast in the grip of terror that this thing might be real. A demon as espoused and explained by many zealots and the dogma of a thousand men. She struggled between her religiously rooted fears and rationalism until she had finally managed to peel her eyes open with her hands.
She woke up in the dark and a fine mist of sweat and tears. She'd not had nightmares of that kind for ages. She thought back to her youth only to recall that she'd cast off the last of them in her early twenties. She'd managed to find peace and solace in her artwork. Her paintings mostly for they would take her away from the desperation of her young heart and mind.
She lay in bed so moved by her experience that she rose from the covers and went down stairs and drew herself a cup of water from the tap. She proceeded into the study to confront the painting of Suzannia and Margaret from her favourite comfy chair.
"This wasn't your doing was it?" Mila asked aloud waiting for them to appear.
She was greeted only with silence and the grin of their faces from Mila's painting. Mila eyed them suspiciously and then withdrew, deciding that they were not behind her unimaginable terror. She looked over to the tiny grand piano admiring its curvature and shape. Perhaps much the same way that a man would admire the curves of a woman's body from a safe distance. There was no sexuality in her admiration but perhaps a small amount of sensuality. Perhaps intended as the very spark of music itself.
She walked over to the black lacquered beast and towards the front keyboard taking a seat on the bench. She had not touched it since it had arrived and this was her first encounter with the instrument. She admired the elaborately carved borders on its hard wood canopy. An artisan had also carved inscription after inscription across the flats of its outer housing. Perhaps drawn from a dialect of Latin, Greek or even Phoenician as all three languages at one time had a vocabulary of twenty two letters, eventually becoming one of the modern alphabets that we all know and love with the addition of four more to make twenty six. Mila made a mental note to herself to thank Yirfir for such a lovely instrument with which to work with this student. By that moment she had forgotten about her dream and the demon altogether.
Her hands found their way to the keyboard and she began playing delicately. She was by no means a pianist though she had studied for a short time in school. During the time she'd learned to read music amply enough to communicate with other musicians about musical ideas. Instead she'd ended up favouring the violin and cello. It wasn't until her special schooling at the Sanctum that she actually explored music through one of their instructors. Rumour had it that he'd been a mentor to some of history's notable composers and performers before retiring to the safety of the Mid-Space and the Sanctum. It was from that point that Mila had a chance to explore her musical side, which she would later integrate into her overall curriculum for her own Order of Aetherial Artistry.
Her background in music and theory was solid and well founded, though she'd understood that the best qualities a teacher of music could have would be to help unify a student with their own innate heart and soul for the love of music. To be able to put a student in touch with their own innate passion for music for it was universal. It consisted of three major components which aligned themselves with an aspect of the being of every person alive. Rhythm. The meter, pronunciation and pacing of a musical piece. Harmony. The combination of a multitude of voices to build tension and produce resolve. Melody. The story teller whose dialog gave context to the Rhythm and Harmony. The direction of the piece and most certainly the narrator thereof.
All of music consisted of these three ideas regardless of whether they followed the foundation of the equal temperament scale, of which most if not all Western musical instrumentation and composition is based or any other scaling possible that involves the frequency and harmonics of sound. There were a variety of different temperaments possible. For instance in the East, a form of tuning known as quarter scaling is common. Whereby the distance in frequency between notes was not a half tone as is common in equal temperament scaling, but by a distance of quarter tone scaling, giving rise to new harmonic variation and complexity. Often inviting in the sense that the unfamiliar can become exciting and new. It has the potential to invigorate a vastly explored medium and perhaps is what often binds us through our differences and tastes in music.
Mila first played an A note in her right hand. She followed that with a low F for bass in the left hand. She topped her right hand with C and E, both natural forming a relaxing Major seventh chord whose pronounced harmony gave her rest and resolve despite her nightmare. She built tension once again by shifting the A in her right hand up to a B flat, which suspended the third of the original chord giving rise to drama. She further built it much the same way that she may have built sexual tension with Barris during one of their romantic evenings together by progressing to a B flat Minor Seventh chord, resolving the earlier tension of the suspended fourth of F Major Seventh to a the Four Minor Seventh of the F Major Ionian Mode. B flat Minor was not native to the key of F, so it sounded alien to the initial feel, while at some primal source it was still somehow related. Connected. She did much of this not by technically thinking about it like a calculator but instead with her intuition and perhaps her heart. The rules of music did her well in this situation, but of course as any serious musician knows, in order to break the rules you have to know them.
From this point she could have followed common pattern and thinking, perhaps progressing to the obvious chording of C Major, which would have brought her to the Five of F, a common resolution point in music but instead she chose to elevate it in a different direction, perhaps still following the rules of the circle of fifths and instead moving to E flat Major from where she'd drop to D minor (which naturally occurred in the key of F) and then eventually to C Major, putting herself back into position to arrive harmoniously from whence she'd ventured to F Major Seventh. After sustaining the chord for a time beyond measure, she felt at peace and stumbled up the stairs and back into bed. Perhaps it had been predictable enough to allow her the comfort of familiarity while introducing some not so common progressing of the harmony, which to her represented the courage to try something just a little different. Not much, but yet something.
Student ArrivalMila had spent the remaining day prepping the other instruments for Lima's arrival. Over the prior week she'd put together a curriculum for Lima's study which was designed to evaluate her present abilities as an instrumentalist while exposing her ability to empathize with a variety of different composers, for empathy was one of the key aspects of developing the weave of Aetherial Artistry. Mila's own school of magic did not rely on the works and compositions of other artists but rather explored their essence for they each had a flavour, tone and potential of their own. This was key to their expression as magic and developing one's own ability to elicit as such.
Most of the focus Mila had intended would be on theory and with the piano in order to establish a good foundation, especially in terms of harmony and percussion. The Cello and the Violin would help establish Lima's sense of melody and her expression of the internal lyric. That was how Mila had planned her evaluation of Lima and from the outcome Mila would then customize the rest of the course according to Lima's own path. Though Lima would make these choices without being aware that choices were being made at all.
Choice is a difficult concept for many to understand lest they've lost choice altogether. Mila considered this as she performed for herself at the piano. Fingers finding flux for fearless fame from far finished festivities flawlessly. Though it had been many years since she'd played, she managed to recall a piece from Chopin's Polonaises and nearly flawlessly. For any player of music there was always the presence of self criticism, perhaps of the most constructive kind. After all it was the tamer of the ego and the tempo of the soul. As she played there emitted an unfamiliar sound from the door alarm. Mila immediately ceased her personal recital and stood from the piano bench. Her student had arrived.
Mila opened the door and was presented with a girl about her height, though a slight bit heavier at the hips. Her hair was tinted a dark auburn with blonde streaks and hilights, not uncommon for the expression of a young woman having survived puberty having recently graduated to the stage of the young adult. Her eyes were a mix of chestnut brown and deep crimson and ochre spindles the branched to her pupils mysteriously. Her lips were tiny and deep red in colour mostly from the application of makeup she'd chosen. They were not unlike two swirls of strawberry licorice.
The cab driver had brought the last of her bags from the boot, and had placed them just beside Mila's student. He waited patiently and silently for his payment. Lima took a moment to take in the lady she'd heard so much about. Mila, an accomplished artist and some would say a prodigy at that. Mila wore a lavender day dress and had let her hair down despite Barris' current absence. She wore little in the way of makeup, though it was something she'd enjoyed playing with from time to time. Instead she'd focused more on her applied arts and projects while Barris stayed in London with Sato. Mila's smile greeted Lima and she seemed to conceal her delight.
"Uhhh... I'd better get my things and take care of my driver." Lima nervously turned and kneeled going through one of her bags until she withdrew a small pink purse. She pulled and counted several bills from the purse handing them to the driver. The driver fished through his pockets routinely feigning a search for change though he already knew that she'd stop him, and she did. He thanked her and got in his car and drove back to the city two hours away.
"Let me help you get your things to your room. Then I can formally introduce myself and show you around the place you'll be living for the next three weeks." Mila stepped out to onto the veranda picking up two of Lima's bags.
Together they both hauled Lima's luggage up the stairs and to the guest room Mila had already prepared.
"This is where you'll be sleeping for next three weeks. Its cosy, quiet and comfortable. I should know, after all I used to sleep in here after purchasing this house many years ago. The hardwood floors creak on occasion, especially when it rains. Perhaps its the old girl reluctantly showing her age, but she`s still got dignity." Mila looked towards the walls and ceilings of the house simultaneously anthropomorphising her home.
After they'd put Lima's bags into the room Mila had allotted for her, Mila introduced herself.
"I'm Mila Rendebelle,though Mila you can call me Mila although I think that goes without saying these days. I mean, what do you think?" Mila asked her quest.
"These days?" Lima paused thinking about the idea for a moment before continuing.
"I agree. I'll call you Mila if that's alright. I'm Lima. Lima McCrowden but of course you can call me Lima. Pronounced like the city in Peru." Lima smiled awkwardly not very good with introduction much like Mila.
"How old are you?" Mila asked Lima.
"I'm twenty years old. Actually I turned twenty a few weeks ago." Lima told Mila.
"Good. What do you drink?" Mila asked Lima.
"What?" Lima responded a little bit defensively.
"I mean what do you drink? Wine? Beer? Liquor? Scotch?" Mila asked her politely thinking a drink might be the best way to break the proverbial ice.
"Wine will be fine." Lima responded.
"Oh, you're a poet too?" Mila quibbed with her bringing a chuckle forth from Lima.
"Only when I rhyme..." Lima replied still chuckling from Mila's sense of humour.
"Well lets have a few rhymes together shall we?" Mila proposed.
"That sounds like fun." Lima responded.
"You do like the piano I take it?" Mila confirmed with her.
"I love it, for what little I know." Lima followed Mila down from her room and down the stairs.
"Little? Yirfir told me that you've been playing Chopin recently?" Mila asked.
"Well yes, I do warm up on Chopin and Schuman." Lima responded.
"Clara?" Mila confirmed.
"Yes, of course. What other Schuman is there when it comes to the piano?" Lima did not hesitate.
"Oh I do so love you already. A girl after my own heart." Mila replied well on her way to getting acquainted with her student."
They rounded the corner and headed towards Mila's dining room and towards her bar.
"Do you prefer red or white? This is not a trick question mind you, there's no hidden code to my Wine collection." Mila confirmed.
"White please." Lima responded.
"Sparkling or not?" Mila asked her.
Lima thought for a moment and then replied.
"I think that sparkling would be nice!" Lima smiled.
"Yes of course. Nothing like a little bit of little bubbly." Mila replied.
Mila poured them each a glass then raised her and spoke.
"Here's to a voyage of self discovery and a musical education. May I be a worthy teacher." Mila clinked glasses with that of Lima.
"...and I a worthy student..." Lima returned the gesture and they both drank to education, exploration and expression.
They stayed in the kitchen where they spoke for a moment.
"So do you live here alone?" Lima asked.
"No. My beloved Barris lives here with me too, though he's away in London right now with a friend. I've spent the last month alone here and that was enough of a vacation for me. You arrived just in time it would seem. What about you if you don't mind me asking?" Mila sipped from her wine.
"Me? Oh, uhh I live with my Aunt. My parents are separated and both mostly dysfunctional or recovering from their brand of dysfunctionality. I mean we're all dysfunctional in one way or another. Some of us are better at coping than others." Lima answered.
"How's life with your Aunt. Is she the one who encouraged you to pursue music?" Mila asked pondering poor Lima's life.
"Oh its great! She's really adorable though I started pursuing music much earlier. As a means of escape from my parents' bickering and arguments. It really put me at peace in the worst of times so I stuck with it, mostly self taught until I opted for a music class at Junior High School. From there I studied every year at school until I graduated from high school. By that time my parents had divorced and I'd been invited to live with my Aunt. I continued my practice at home mostly on a violin though from time to time I'll visit a community center where I have access to a large Upright Piano." Lima briefly explained her life's path to Mila.
"Being here, there won't be any kind of pressures, other than I'll expect you to keep your living space tidy and to respect my house and property. Other than that you can wake up and go to bed as you see fit. We'll work your curriculum around that, but something about you tells me that you're more disciplined than you appear. Don't worry, I won't hold it against you." Mila responded.
"Well during school I was very much on time for every class and always had my homework done. A model student in many ways because it helped me to escape from some of the situations at home. During the summer holidays I tended to stay up late at night and sleep in the morning. That's when I found out that I'm really a night person who also likes to be up early." Lima happily replied as Mila poured her another glass.
"You too? I like early mornings too, but only if I'm seeing them after a long night." Mila admitted honestly.
"I stay up late, maybe around two or three. I go to bed and then I'm up again at eight or nine with energy to last the day." Lima smiled again thanking Mila for the fresh drink.
"Well met. I hope that you'll enjoy your time here at least as much as I'm enjoying your company." Mila toasted once again clinking Lima's glass.
"Let me give you a tour." Mila suggested.
"Please, do." Lima followed Mila.
Mila led Lima through her home making her at least a little bit familiar with the three floors. The upstairs, the main floor and the basement.
Mila had taken over most of the rooms with her artwork and currently had two studios in the house from which to work on painting, sculpting and whatever she'd hoped to pursue in her media of self expression. Her upstairs studio was for her painting mostly. Often it was the haven she'd lock herself within when obsessed with a vision or idea. Barris being the loving fellow that he was had come to understand her, and only interrupted her with food or drink, making sure that she remained nourished such times. He'd work on projects around the house, improving their residence in some way or if the weather and season was right, he'd go out and harvest apples from orchard. On occasion when he so felt inspired, he'd pursue his hand at poetry, only revealing any such works to Mila when he felt that he'd perfected them for her eyes. She'd appreciated the fact that he'd volunteered to visit Sato, perhaps to give her some space for a time so she could grow in ways their proximity to each other would not allow.
After the tour Mila and Lima settled down in the living room which was just across the hall from where she'd placed the piano. They'd broken the ice and were chatting about their life in school, their old flames and the more zany and humorous moments of their past.
"...by that time Barris had somehow managed to lock himself outside. I was still in town shopping by that time. I'd taken one of my paintings to a local gallery and art dealer and was on my way to the grocer. It'd taken me forty five minutes in the grocers. So on my way back to the house, I drove up Trentwood Drive and low and behold, there's Barris walking on the road towards town, in his nothing more than his gauchies with a newspaper in hand. He flagged me down upon seeing me and of course I picked him up. His first words to me were: please don't tell Sato about this. I couldn't help myself but to laugh uncontrollably for hours after that." Mila finished her story for Lima and they both laughed for a time thanks to the humour but mostly the wine.
"So who is your favourite composer?" Lima asked Mila out of curiosity.
"That's a good question. I don't really have one favourite composer. Depends on my mood I guess. Tchaikovsky. Mozart. Beethoven. Bach. Chopin. Holst. Rachmaninoff. As far as classical is concerned. Fleetwood Mac. Simon and Garfunkel. Janis Joplin. Heart. Alannah Myles. Metric. Lady Gaga. As far as pop is concerned. My tastes are varied. What about you? What music do you feel the most?" Mila asked Lima responding to her question.
"I really like Rachmaninoff. Chopin too. Holst. Schuman as I mentioned before. I don't really listen to pop music. It just doesn't click with me though I really like Katy Perry. Nickie Minaj. The Ting Tings. Lady Gaga. Taylor Swift. Arianna Grande. Bjorke. Oh, and Radiohead." Lima trailed off as Mila spoke.
"Oh certainly. It really sounds like pop music is just not your thing though I can't quite figure our how the last two fit in." Mila said sarcastically.
"This is going to sound kind of strange, but sometimes I hear voices. In my head. They tell me what not to play. They say if I play certain songs, I'm going to hell..." Lima's voice underlined the sudden silence that had taken them both.
"What? You mean these voices don't like the music you play?" Mila asked.
"No. Its like they don't want me to play certain pieces of music at all. Something about them I guess. The musical pieces I mean. These voices... they tell me that bad things will happen if I don't listen to them. That he will come." Lima's gaze drifted downwards to her own lap.
"Who? Who will come?" Mila inquired urgently.
"...The devil." Lima answered as she began to cry.
Music To Sooth The BeastMila had managed to calm Lima enough to continue their talk and decided to turn on some music. She was about to put on one of Lima's selections when she paused realizing she should first ask if it would be alright with Lima.
"I'm going to put some music on. Would on of your selections be alright?" Mila asked her carefully.
"Alright. I've never heard the voice when I've listened to any of those performers. I'd love to hear some music." Lima answered.
Mila quickly concocted a playlist with a combination of Lima's favourite artists. A moment later her stereo came to life and warming up Lima's mood. Mila returned to her place on the sofa beside Lima.
"Tell me Lima. Do you mean that these voices say that the actual devil will come if you play certain pieces?" Mila asked.
"I'm not comfortable talking about this. I mean... yes. That's what they mean. The voices." Lima replied sipping on her fresh glass of wine.
"You sound like you are already quite familiar with music theory. Perhaps together we can figure out what it is about the music that they feel will bring the devil?" Mila proposed to Lima.
"I've tried to figure this out myself. I couldn't. I tried everything. The key. The time signature. The composer. The era. Everything! The voices would still trouble me when I tried to play certain pieces!" Lima protested.
"What about dynamics? Is there something about the volume or the emotional intensity of the piece that coincides with these voices?" Mila asked a look of sincere concern across her brow.
Lima thought about the question for a moment, perhaps considering her words very carefully before she tried to elicit her fears once again.
"No. When the voices come it is as if they are trying to make me hurt. To feel great pain or despair. They almost always precede the arrival of the one true evil." Lima seemed to shrink into the couch as if the cushions may protect her from her own memory and thoughts.
Mila had heard references to the devil many times over the course of her life. She'd been raised in a family who took religion lightly, allowing for her to develop her own sense of belonging to whatever she'd found to make sense. In her prior time line, the one in which her parents and Barris had perished, she'd discovered religion after their death. Perhaps as a means to keep them alive through belief alone and even more so to be confirmed by the mass agreement of others who felt the same.
When her prior time line was rewritten and her parents lives returned to her with the power of the amulet, she'd truly taken the time to consider the nature of belief. The question of God and the Devil and the superstition entailed within. Ironically being a well established Wytch of an order of her own invention, she'd still established a disciplined regimen of thought. Time upon which she'd consider the mortality and mysteries of life and she'd come to this conclusion: it will forever remain a mystery, for death by its very nature and definition implies the absence of consciousness. Absence of perception. Of cognition. Of memory. In this sense she did not believe in death. It was irrelevant. What we'd named death was in fact just the sudden absence of people who'd been a part of our lives. No different than speaking on a phone and having the line suddenly cut off. It did not mean that the person on the other end of the line ceased to exist anymore than you'd have ceased to exist from their point of view. It just meant that you could no longer communicate, interact or share moments as you once had.
God and the devil were merely archetypes to explain the sudden means by which that absence of person or presence of pain was brought upon us. To give it reason or motive. One representing the feminine aspect of creation while the other represented the masculine through destruction. Each concept a necessary component to the never ending cycle of creation and destruction, for creation rose from the ashes of the destroyed, once again to become the bed of destruction upon which creation was founded. The very nature of the masculine of the devil was to tame or control the force of creation through the domination of fear or hatred. Ideas that had been programmed into our psyche for the ages and from which all conscious beings were bound to be liberated. Perhaps the true sense of enlightenment and one which Mila admitted to herself that she was far from achieving or understanding thoroughly.
After all, she'd still loved when Barris had found his masculine confidence and bore her in his arms by slight force. As if to ask her if she'd choose to submit or defy? She'd always choose to make him earn it for the creative always had to tame the destructive and come into balance. There was no destruction without creation for the absence of the created left nothing to be destroyed. Creation and destruction were dependent upon the existence of possibility. Having all of the answers to such questions left no room for possibility and therefore no room for creation or destruction. Mystery was therefore always more important than the answers that it begat for the price of knowing all means the possibility of none.
In this sense, the one true evil to which Lima referred was in fact imbalance itself. To attempt to take in the absence of something to be taken. Perhaps to buy it from a future point in time, much like an imposed debt. Like Rumplestiltskin opting for the first born child of the Miller's golden haired daughter. Taking something from someone by an imposed debt built upon deceit before its value was fully understood. Perhaps this was the true evil to which Lima referred.
"When this one true evil arrives, when you hear its voice, do you feel that something is being taken away from you?" Mila asked her quietly.
"Yes! I mean no. I mean... it feels like something is being given and taken. Oh... I don't know what I mean!" tears began streaming down Lima's face, like diamonds born of her pain.
Mila comforted her as best as she could while considering her next offer very carefully. Mila had agreed not to expose Lima to any facets of the craft, for the risks of doing so before a student was fully evaluated were far too great. She had to introduce possibility without revealing any answers or incurring questions for it was the only way that Mila knew that she could assist Lima.
Mila produced a handkerchief for Lima who accepted it, drying her eyes carefully.
"Lima. We're going to solve your problem tonight. Consider this a special night, and we're just before a special time. A magical time where all sorts of possibilities lay dormant and waiting for us to discover. They can help us to understand your problem. Where it lays within your music. I'm going to have to ask you to trust me and together we'll meet the devil and deal that beast their due. It's the chance to be free." Mila suggested brushing Lima's hair.
"Really? Free is good. I'd like for those voices to be silent. To be gone once and for all." Lima responded.
"We can try it, and if it doesn't work that doesn't mean that you won't be free. It just means that we'll have to keep trying until we succeed. What do say?" Mila asked her firmly.
"It's a deal!" Lima smiled joyfully allowing a bit more of herself to shine.
She then grabbed her wine glass and held it up waiting for Mila to do the same.
"Deal." Mila said clinking her glass with Lima's sealing their deal.
"Now, we can't rely on the music I put on. You're going to have to play for us both and hope the devil takes the bait." Mila gestured towards the piano.
"I think that I can do that." Lima replied taking a seat at the bench.
The First Piece And LessonShe began delicately at first, the opening notes of a piece she'd memorized after much practice and repetition. She'd managed to commit it to being as if it had become a part of her. Playing music is like that. Even if you don't write the music yourself, you tend bond with that which moves you and it remains a part of you for the rest of your life. This piece was one as such and certainly as much.
"You play this wonderfully." Mila said quietly and innocuously beginning to weave a spell.
Lima continued playing still finding her pace within the piece. Mila observed this and noticed that despite her deft touch, she still sounded slightly uncomfortable and at least enough so that Mila understood through her understanding of the aetherial weave.
"How do you feel about its tonal flavour?" Mila asked her.
"I'm not sure what you mean." Lima returned.
"Have you ever tried playing this piece in another key?" Mila posed still creating her weave and binding.
"No. That would just make the whole piece sound lower or higher depending upon which way you changed key, wouldn't it?" asked Lima who'd never given it much consideration.
"That's true, and if this piece had a vocal part it might make some of the higher notes a little easier upon the vocalist but there's more to it than that. Consider that every key has its own tonal flavour that goes beyond transposition. At least in acoustic instruments and maybe some very well crafted digital ones." Mila described stepping behind Lima as she played.
"But aren't they just different versions of the same notes. Different frequencies? Like if I go up a key, it will sound higher...?" Lima confirmed still trying to grasp the concept.
"I asked the same thing of my music teacher as well, and he patiently tried to describe what can only be heard and perhaps felt, though there's even more to it than that." Mila let her spell forth binding Lima's senses with her own.
"I'm still not quite sure that I understand." Lima paused and turned around on the bench to face Mila.
"The piano, harpsichord, clavier, harp and guitar or any instrument for that matter aren't just producing tones of an exact frequency across every octave. They're imperfect in a pleasant way. Perhaps that's what makes instruments so appealing at some profound level. Each note you play has complex tones that are layered across each other in ways difficult to describe and visualize, however we can hear them. Those nuances have different tonal flavours that we don't notice at first and if left untold, we'd likely not notice them until long into our musical journey. At some point some of the more experienced veterans of music noticed this and tried to explain it to their students. It goes much further than that." Mila explained.
"Further in what sense?" Lima asked.
"You have different tonal flavours and you also have keys which suit the shape of your hands more easily than other keys. Those are keys with which you'll feel the most comfortable and that will reflect in your playing and your comfort in playing. When you combine these two factors you add an immense dimension to any piece, for it can sound tonally renewed by this observation. My teacher taught me the same thing and though I'm far from your ability, I quickly took notice of it." Mila paused for a moment as Lima spoke.
"But what about different instruments? I mean different instruments have different shapes?" Lima pressed Mila.
"Precisely. Playing this piece on a piano may sound tonally to your liking in the key of Ab, while for others it might be the key of D. On a different instrument this once again is completely different for the same person because of the shape of your hands. That lends itself to your playing style. Try a different key of the same piece for yourself." Mila suggested.
"I'm not very comfortable with transposition yet but I'll give it a try. I always liked the scale Eb Major, it feels natural for some reason. Not like B Major." Lima explained.
"Don't worry too much about that now. You'll overcome discomfort with different keys the more you learn about modes of your different keys and scales. Suffice it to say that can refer to any Major scale as being Ionian. So if you like the Eb Major scale, you can also call it Eb Major Ionian. So go ahead and try this piece in the key of Eb Major if you'd like." Mila urged Lima.
"All right. Here goes." Lima began to play shakily at first.
Mila could feel Lima's tension now directly. She could even taste Lima's senses of her own playing and her nervousness with the given task. Lima's tension slowly lessened as her familiarity with her favourite Major scale took hold. She found herself struggling less with certain intervals while she slightly had to adjust her posture with others. As she'd found a comfortable stride she observed that the piece did indeed have a different feeling aside from the difference in pitch. It was as if the piece had a different soul or body, something that she could not quite put her fingers upon she punned to herself.
When she'd grown the most comfortable with her pacing and the feel of the piece, that's when the voices came. They started quietly at first and slowly grew in presence and baring. It sounded like the dissent of a crowd. Like a deathly ritual of hate voiced by hundreds in whispers and scoffs. As it grew it crossed the threshold of Mila's acuity and she too was able to experience Lima's peril unbeknownst to Lima.
Lima continued playing trying to persevere though ultimately knowing what was to come.
"I can hear the voices!" Lima panicked still playing.
"Keep playing. Try to remain calm. I'm here with you. We'll meet this thing together." Mila assured her.
Lima did her best to continue, perhaps drawing some confidence from her newly acquired lesson and the teacher behind her. That was when the wretched one arrived.
"You dare share that music? See what you've wakened upon yourself! I told you not to play this piece and you've transfigured it to a different key?! Did you think it would pass my keen senses?! Suffer you shall!" the voice barked from within Lima and Mila.
"You won't take music from me! I won't let you!" Lima stopped playing, screaming aloud at the unseen.
Mila quickly grabbed at Lima's shoulders rubbing and soothing her trying to calm her down.
"It's alright Lima. You won. Your enemy has a voice. That's the first step." Mila assured her and sincerely so for Mila had experienced first hand what Lima was going through.
She'd experienced similar instances as she'd become familiar with the weave, though from much different sources but often just as malevolent. It was a harrowing experience hearing things that others couldn't and then trying to conduct your life as if all was well. On one hand if you explained your experiences to anyone, you'd quickly be labeled in such a way that would eternally damn your credibility. You'd become a pariah. For Lima it was a burden that she'd only expressed to two people in her life. The first of which was her School Guidance Councilor whom happened to be a part-time member of the Sanctum. He'd taken this information and shared it with some of the healers of the Order Of the Life Well. They'd told him that such occurrences usually were indications of other problems unrelated to health, so he took the problem directly to Yirfir.
Yirfir upon hearing of the problem explained to him the possibilities of what may be going on. Firstly, many of those who are innately sensitive to the weave experience episodic omniscience. That is they can at random times hear the linguistic thoughts of other people for a distance around them. This usually became most pronounced during and for a few years after puberty and in Women, it was also heightened during the peak of their menstrual cycle. Secondly, there may have been a worldly ideology of the Prime plane who were practicing Low Craft, a name coined by the Sanctum to address those unpracticed with the weave who develop skills for the purposes of tormenting or even attempting to control others. She explained that Low Craft was practiced by ideological groups of many varieties and was more of a social radicalization phenomenon than it was related to the weave at all. The third possibility was that it was the result of Extra-Planar Beings trying to make incursions into the Prime plane through the consciousness of a being within the Prime plane, usually a weave sensitive being.
In all three cases, it required the evaluation of a veteran of one of the member Orders Of The Sanctum to determine which of those possibilities it could be. Yirfir had thanked the Guidance Councilor and set about deciding a course of action. She'd brought up the subject during one of her monthly visits with Mila and Mila had offered to tutor Lima if need be. Yirfir did not mention the other two possibilities knowing that Mila would uncover the truth source of this girl's torment.
As Yirfir had estimated, she was correct. Mila now had something to work with in terms of understanding the nature of what threatened her potential student. With that purpose and her obsessive passion for the yearning and learning she'd uncover this mystery and liberate Lima from her hidden chains of torment.
Sound, Heart, Breath, Death?Barris' humour had grounded her. It was the foundation upon which Mila had found herself. Her being. Her soul. Barris had been the answer to her eternal loneliness yet the spark that inspired her to peek further into the holistic state of being. To be alive and aware of as much. No less of life than the air itself and no less lacking than the current of the oceans. After all, love was in fact breath. To breath was to love. To love is to be free. Mila was in love, but was she truly free?
What was freedom if not the the relief of the imaginary bindings of the soul? The clasps that found purchase upon the heart. Why did it bind her soul as if to restrain her art to the confines of one man's mind? She is and was beyond as much and no less to wonder. After all, hadn't Barris left her to find her soul? To explore the being that she couldn't while she was bound. To him. To his being and soul.
Was that really love? If so why was Barris on the other side of the ocean from her? Why was he confined to the memories of his childhood? Why did he find relief with his one true friend. Sato had been everything that Barris had lacked and lost. Why did Barris choose to confide in Sato over her? After all if she truly was his soul mate, his so called twin flame then why did he need to seek answers from her so far away with someone who did not understand her. It was selfish of him to do so. To run and to hide from her. To abandon her in her time of need. Just when Yirfir had laid the burden of a student in her lap. What made him so selfish to run from her. Did he even consider her feelings? She scoffed at his absence and while her student slept she smeared paint down the canvas. Dripping like blood from a hidden wound within her heart. From her point of view she'd come to realize that she'd been betrayed by him. Such betrayal was unforgivable. She could only vent with her brush and palette.
And then silence in what remained of the night as her consciousness abandoned her and left her alone with that same voice. The voice that had spoken during Lima's performance for her. It whispered tricks and plans to her ear. It told her of Barris' deception. Of the wandering of his eyes to the buxon of Sato's daughter. A woman for whom he was truly made. A sexual vixen of his deepest desires, leaving nothing of Mila's expression upon him. She must fix him permanently for his betrayal of her. Teach him that Wytchkind are not to be with so trifled and betrayed.
Voices. Piano. More voices. The early sunlight broke the voices and diminished them to the precipice of her memory. She did not recall them consciously but within her hidden mind they worked their poison.
What A Wytch Does Make?
The sun had crept out and climbed atop of the horizon, sending the long shadows of the orchard reaching for Mila's house. She crawled from her bed and stepped out onto the balcony deck loving the heat and admired the early day. She remembered little of her dreams though the voice she'd heard that had addressed Lima the previous evening still gave her chills. As if it had found purchase on one of the nerves of her teeth, reaching inwards into her spine. A stinging pain that from which she quickly withdrew. Instead she focused upon the positive of the morning sunlight.
After taking in a few quiet moments she found her way downstairs and into the kitchen to make some coffee and latté. Before long the aroma of freshly ground coffee filled the air of the house from top to bottom. Mila instead used the hot water to make herself a specially prepared natural herb latté. A recipe which she'd earned from Serene Fey, one of the healers of the Sanctum. She stepped outside onto the lower back deck to enjoy her hot beverage in the peace of the morning.
"Lima? Help yourself to some morning java." Mila advised her morning guest.
"I was actually hoping for a morning concerto from you Mila." Lima responded.
"A concerto? Like you expect me to play so well as do you?" Mila challenged Lima.
"At least no less my teacher." Lima responded tactfully.
"My student. There are some depths to the heart which doth an instructor conceal... None the lesser nor none less real. Do you wish that I reveal the secrets that keep you enamoured of life's mysteries?" Mila posed to her student thoughtfully.
Lima held her ground pondering the hidden carefully.
"Only the secrets I ponder of the black and white keys." Lima responded.
"Hmmm. Impressive. A good answer for any student. Perhaps you've something to teach me?" Mila toyed with Lima.
"Learning can be an arduous process. Especially when it is masked beneath the obvious." Lima responded in a voice none like her own.
"Theory is masqued within the obvious. The quaintedness of familiarity. It begs for us to believe that we know, when we well do none the so. Know ye? I'd beg to differ for it is in fact the knowing of the rules that leads us to inadequacy. To be lesser so than that of which are we capable. Are you as much? Lesser? Seeking the guidance of those who've found footing freely for foundation's freedom? The learned are none less those of the yearned. Of those two, which are you?" Mila posed.
"I'm an artist. A performer." Lima responded defensively.
"Then if as much is so, why are you also the audience? Is hearing yourself play your sense of self validation? Ego has many ears as does narcissism have many eyes, though one is all that is needed." Mila responded sitting beside Lima on the piano bench.
"You're the artist and teacher here. Why have I not seen evidence of your credentials since I've been here? Do you have something to hide from me?" Lima mired moreso.
"You've ears. Eyes. A mind. But do you have what it takes to pass the fakes? To crush them under the weight of your talent?!" Mila spoke in a voice that wasn't her own.
Hunting with notes beyond fathom.
Polonaise No. 1
It wasn't until Lima retired for the night that she would come to understand what had been taking so much from her all along.
As the clock struck three ad meridian, Lima finally drifted to the point of no return in terms of her restful sleep. Her dreams began their dance as her closed eyes fluttered beneath her lids.
Mila too had finally turned in struggling against the forces trying to keep her awake in front of the canvas, where she assaulted memories of Barris with colour. Deep inside of her mind, she had grabbed firm hold of her own psyche slowly leading her body towards the bed and forcing sleep upon it. Wresting from the grasp of the demon its control over her body.
Mila then began a ritual within her mind that she'd learnt reading the works of Carl Gustav Jung. She'd adapted it of course to her own school of magic, Aetherial Artistry and it became a part of her understanding of the weave. A means of rapid lucidity into the dream state. A point where she essentially was asleep but in full control of her own faculties. Consciously aware while in the midst of the dream state.
Through the aether that separated the master bedroom of her home from the guest room in which Lima now slept, she reached out to Lima's mind and dream state. Connecting them until their dream worlds merged. Mila could barely deal with the demon upon her own, but with Lima's help they would find the source of its power once and for all.
Lima was suddenly in a grand museum. Its halls lined with the greatest works of art ever produced and many that were yet unrealized. Timeless and of pure potentiality. Music filled the halls ever changing with every sight Lima perceived. She ultimately felt nothing but freedom for the first time. She felt a hand upon her shoulder and turned quickly to see who it was, finding Mila smiling at her.
Lima hugged Mila happily overjoyed to her instructor and friend doing much better than she'd been only hours ago.
"You're..." Lima started.
"Better. Yes. I'm much better but we only have as long as my body is asleep to do this." Mila advised Lima, still smiling.
"To do what?" Lima asked.
"To face our demon together. To free us both of this once and for all." Mila explained.
"I don't get it? Demons are evil aren't they? I mean they're attracted by doing evil things, aren't they?" Lima asked Mila.
"Not exactly. Life and experience will teach you many of the answers that you seek to that question. Depending upon those experiences and your choices, you'll come to your own understanding if your courageous enough or you might find comfort in everyone else's understanding. Neither is wrong per se but they lead to very different places of being. Our journeys have become intertwined. This isn't about evil. This is about each of us understanding ourselves." Mila did her best to describe her understanding though not quite reaching Lima.
Lima looked puzzled for a moment.
"There are some things that cannot be described and must be lived. Experienced in order to understand. Trust me." Mila summarized.
"Where are we going?" asked Lima.
"We're going to pursue the demon through that painting." Mila turned and pointed to a painting on the wall depicting a pile of burning debris, an angry crowd tossing debris onto the pyre as fuel.
"Its a symbol of to where we're pursuing the demon. Just concentrate upon it and take it in..." as Mila elicited her words they were slowly consumed by the canvas.
At once they appeared in the midst of a stone chamber hall, wearing clothing of the late dark ages. Both were garbed in the expensive fashions of courtesans, as a chamber of musicians surrounded them in the hall. Each with a music stand and parchment paper, hand quilled notes ran across the pages. There were the clefs of various octaves for each different instrumentation and their corresponding key signatures for certain instruments. For some the key of C was concert Bb for instance. Lima picked up on this immediately, with Mila taking a bit longer to recognize the significance.
Mila however held the conductor's baton while another stand stood beside Lima where an ink well held two quills. A stack of pages each etched with several leger lines, the musical staff ran parallel across their surfaces.
Mila turned around examining each person in the chamber. Most appeared to be musicians while another two who sat directly behind Lima and Mila wore clothing of the clergy. Appearing dressed as Monks, perhaps Gregorian though Mila was not certain.
"Continue the composition..." one of the Monks spoke.
"Aye. Let it be so, Lady Lima." Mila curtsied instinctively.
"Composition? You mean this?" Lima asked pointing the parchment.
The Monks looked at each other quizzically.
"Begging thy forgiveness Milady, Mine aers 'twere a taint shy?" one of the Monks spoke addressing Lima.
"Pardon?" Lima asked, Mila appearing a little flustered.
"Nay, t'isn't so serious. Thine scribe annotated pure joy as the Lord's." the other Monk answered.
Mila quickly pulled Lima's ear closer to explain.
"The word pardon has a much different context here in this time. We're court composers. We've been commissioned to compose... something. Probably for a special occasion of some sort. These are the representatives of the Church who make sure that we're not inviting the devil. They approve everything we write as we write it. If we go astray in so far as the Church rules by using certain intervals, or phrases we could be tried for Witchcraft or Sorcery. How's your counterpoint?" Mila explained.
"Counterpoint?! I mean I remember it a bit, some of the intervals but I can't remember all of the phrases and exceptions! We're dead for sure!" Lima panicked into Mila's ear.
"Lima, I trust you. You are capable of far more than you know. Don't give up." Mila urged Lima.
"Alright. I'll do my best." Lima replied a little shaken.
"That's better. Let me do the speaking. You do the scoring. Musically I mean." Mila assured Lima that they'd be alright if they stuck together.
"My apologies Milord. Shan't happenstance such mistakes of arts. Purely and for thine as much mine Lord." Mila responded to the Monks.
Lima looked over the musicians noticing one of them shaking his head. Lima winked at him and he smiled back at her, blushing a little.
"Shall we start from the last Coda, and progress 'til the end? Lima you can work to finish the missing section prior to the Coda and perhaps we can finish this piece in time for the..." Mila looked around quizzically.
"...for the Baron's Ball. He has a rather delightful announcement for the guest, which I'm just hinting might be reflected in our piece..." one of the musicians caught on to Mila's dilemma addressing both her and Lima.
"Thank you my kind Sir." Mila curtsied, taking up her Conductor's baton in hand and beginning the count.
Lima listened as the piece started and within the first four bars got a feel for the melodic motif, and the rather difficult linear counterpoint harmony which seemed to dance with it, as if relaying command of the melodic apparatus itself. Like the playful bantering of conversation. Seeing as this was the end of the piece, it was summarizing what had already been said, while adding a climactic rise to relieve the already growing anticipation of the resolution. Finally as Mila metered the piece along, coaxing it as best she could, it finished upon a neopolitan arrival that tickled the tonic. Both counterpoint melodies had arrived to the same point, signifying agreement and contentedness given the finale's arrival to the major tonic, the Ionian mode of the key and piece.
"Ahhhh. That is just so beautiful..." Mila blushed at the musician's performances.
"So, would that mean that we are dismissed or shall we just improvise the missing section. The bridge as 'twere?" asked one of the viol players.
"We cannot risk such a piece to be fouled by the Devil." one of the Monks answered the musician.
"I beg your pardon, but improvisation is not the Devil's territory for it encompasses God given freewill of melodic interpretation does it not?" asked the viol player.
"A reason then by which should be adhered the Church's guidance in such matters of our God given freewill, for are we not the divine guides? There shall be no more discussion. Finish the piece for our approval. We'll not have the presence of offensive intervals or progressions of melody giving entrance to the Devil at the Baron's Ball." the Monk finalized his decision gagging any further reply on the matter.
During this time Lima had been busily scribing with the quill upon the rough staff of the parchment she'd been given to finish the piece. The first few bars appeared sloppily etched but their legibility improved as it went on finally arriving at the Coda and DC AL Coda bars of the piece. There was a moment of silence as she whistled the piece to herself following it once through for the entirety of the thirty two bars she'd already written. She then quickly jumped back to the beginning and began scribing the counterpoint melody for what would become the bridge for the piece.
The bridge which is often described in terms of the part C of any piece of music whose form follows the pattern: A B A C A B, perhaps the origin for the Genesis song of the same name. The bridge is often distinct and distinguished from the motif followed by the A and B sections, and introduces the listener to the struggle point of the music before it finally concludes and the tension is resolved in the A and B sections of the finale. Most music seems to mirror this pattern despite how often many composers have tried to defy it regardless of the style as well. Lima did not quite have a name for her understanding of this but she intuitively had an ability for it.
"We're waiting Milady..." the Monk addressed her.
"...just two more notes and there! All done." she exclaimed running the finished pages to the musician who'd blushed at her moments earlier.
He looked at it for a moment and then remarked.
"Beautiful as a blossom, yet challenges the spirit." he said to her as he began scribing a copy for the string section.
One of the string section quickly scribed it for the horns and then they were done.
"Where's mine Milady?" the Monk addressed her impatiently.
"I do apologize. You can have the original." Lima ran the pages back to the Monk, handing Mila one of the copies.
"From the beginning of the new section and right through until the end of the piece on one... two... three... four..." Mila counted them in with her baton and they began Lima's bridge section as the Monk proof read the piece for any counterpoint errors that violated the Church's protocol for musical expression.
As they played Mila's gut filled with butterflies from the rising emotional tension of the bridge which crescendoed back into the A section of the finale omitting the DC AL Coda bar with Lima's substituted climax. The piece played through finally coming to an end as it had before, though with a much more resolute feeling of finality and release that underlined the power of music.
The musicians got to their feet and applauded Lima's addition. She in turn curtsied and applauded them until the Monk interrupted the celebration.
"I see here there is a matter that will have to be taken up with the Church! In the start of this section, there is a fracture of God's harmony with a dissonant pairing that is in clear violation of our musical protocol. Not to mention which after proceeding through the same error twice, it progresses once through the Diablus itself, the half octave at the climax! You are in grave trouble with the Church! You will answer to authority for this travesty!" the Monk exclaimed.
"You're speaking far too soon before you've convened with us on this matter. There is no such fouling as you've indicated." the musician who'd blushed at Lima spoke up, bringing his copy to the Monk.
The Monk snatched the copy from the musician examining it in comparison to Lima's copy. There were three discrepancies at the very places that the Monk had contended. On Lima's copy of the music it appeared that her inability to write with a quill had her notation appear sloppy, giving rise to a parallax error of one semi-tone either way. The musician had interpreted the error in the direction that made the piece adhere to the rules of counterpoint, though they'd played it questionable during the most recent recital. It appeared that the Monk had not made the same interpretation but had seen it as favoring the Devil in Music.
"There seems to be foul forces at work here!" the Monk exclaimed.
"Only as foul as you've first seen for yourself. Isn't it ironic how each of us musicians in the chamber saw it favoring our's and hers' God given freewill, yet you saw the work of the Devil. Perhaps your expertise has given you a failing bias?" the musician spoke in Lima's defence.
"I could have sworn those notes were in violation. It appears you did well Milady. I apologize for my misinterpretation. The piece will be played as it is written and stands." the Monks approved.
They then stood and left the chamber as the remaining musicians gathered their instruments and music and did the same.
The viol player along with one of the flugelhorn player stayed to congratulate Lima and Mila for their efforts.
"I'm grateful that you stood up us. It is a shame that our voices, both spoken and musical must be silenced all too oft on matters of the Church and gender. Again we're grateful for what you did and said." Mila addressed the musicians.
"Do not worry Milady. We shan't murder your piece at the Baron's Ball, but we will play it how we think it should be played. I rather liked the interpretation with the half octave, didn't you?" the viol player turned to the flugelhorn player, who agreed in turn.
"Perhaps the only Devils in music are the Devils that attempt to limit its expression." spoke the flugelhorn player.
"Someday in the distance that lays ahead for us all, that willn't be obstacle." the viol player summarized.
The room suddenly began to fade as Lima and Mila were once again pulled back into the painting. The musicians and the chamber disappeared as they were thrust yet again into unfamiliar surroundings. This time they coughed as they materialized in the midst of a smoke filled room. The smell of bourbon whiskey permeated what remained of the air making it difficult for them to breath after the dank but clean air of the chamber in of the fourteen hundred.
Mila looked around the room seeing that she was at the center of attention and that there were a well dressed audience looking upon her. She looked around behind her seeing that she was in fact on a stage, with many other musicians behind her. There was an acoustic guitarist. There was a complete horn section. There was a string section. There were woodwinds and reeds as well. Lima appeared to be holding onto a clarinet herself and stood beside the piano player, whose fingers graced a fourteen foot grand.
Lima had stepped forward to whisper in Mila's ear.
"They've got some very old music. It appears to be big band music of some kind." Lima told Mila.
"You mean like Jazz?" Mila verified with her.
"No. I don't think so. I think they used to call them cappers?" Lima asked.
"...Flappers~! This is the nineteen twenties!" Mila exclaimed.
"What happened during the nineteen twenties that involves the Devil in music?" Lima yelled quizzically into Mila's ear.
"I don't know, but I'll bet it has something to do with the piano player and the guitar player. I recognize them. I think that they used to play barrel house music and early blues. The guitar player played for a bluegrass band. The others are certainly big band players. There's many flavors of players here tonight in the band. Maybe something big is going to happen?" Mila suggested gesturing for Lima to get back to her place by the reeds.
"How's everyone doing tonight?" Mila asked the crowd speaking into the ancient microphone which was amplified by a couple of speakers.
In fact, none of the other instruments (except for the acoustic guitar) were amplified themselves. In a room like this it required the vocals to be amplified when backed by such a medium sized orchestra of about twenty people.
The crowd hollered at Mila, cheering a bit for her. Some of the people on the floor were eager to dance, some of whom weren't waiting for any music to do so.
"It looks like the bourbon's louder than the band tonight. Its good to see some people up and dancing. We've got a great set of music for you here so lets get this party started!" Mila riled the audience as the drummer counted them in.
As the intro played, Mila cast a spell that would enable her to achieve the vocal demands of the song. Yes, sometimes even wytches who were not professional vocalists needed a little help. The weave had also helped her with the lyrics, none of which she'd known prior to the casting. With the help of magic nearly anything is possible and as much so in the absence of belief, anything is impossible. With both belief and magic present Mila contributed to their performance.
"Walkin' hand in hand.
Dancin' to the band.
There's nothing like a melody
while walking in the sand." Mila sang the first verse.
"Prancing through the street.
The Rhythm moves your feet.
There's nothing like the summer time
to warm you to the beat." she continued with the second verse.
Bridge to second verse
"Our feet find the
space. Our rhythm
Bb7 (Bb7#9 Bb bass)
finds the grace.
A7 (Bb7#9 A bass)
When you feel your heart racing then you know you've lost your pace." Mila continued.
Much of the audience was already up on the floor dancing the Charleston, which comfortably matched the push and tempo of the piece. Mila wasn't certain if it was the liquor or the music (or both) but the night was already off to a great start.
Just outside of the establishment a large crowd had gathered, raising signs above their head stating the dangers that such music posed for any true believers. One said read "the road to hell is paved with dance hall craze". Another stated "Music and alcohol: the door gifts at the gates of hell".
Mila continued with her set, oblivious of the commotion outside of the doors while the patrons filled the dance floor. It wasn't until well into the set that she'd noticed that most, if not all of the people in the bar weren't drinking from wine glasses or pint glasses. They were in fact drinking from tea and coffee cups as if to obscure the fact that they were drinking alcohol.
It was at that moment that Mila had realized where they were: Chicago and likely some time during the prohibition. When she'd finished the last tune in the set, she quickly thanked the audience and told them that the band would be back after a short break.
She then grabbed Lima's hand and dragged her towards the front door of the establishment. As they neared the enormous doors, they suddenly burst open revealing a onslaught of uniformed Officers.
"Raid!" someone yelled from within the bar.
At that moment the protesters may have very well been right, because the inside of the establishment had suddenly become a hellish nightmare as people ran in every direction in attempt to evade the raiding Officers. Some who'd been a little more experienced staid their place and simply dumped their alcohol into the provided buckets.
"I think I know where and when we are!" Mila yelled hoping Lima would hear her.
"Where?" Lima matched Mila's propensity for volume.
"We're in the time of the 1920s. During the prohibition. Alcohol is illegal here. This is a raid!" Mila clung to Lima pulling her away from the oncoming wave of Officers.
"But alcohol wasn't illegal in Canada. Was it?" Lima confirmed with Mila.
"No. You're right. It wasn't. We're not in Canada anymore Toto." Mila yelled back at her.
"Then where are we?" Lima demanded.
"We're in Chicago." Mila managed to join a group moving towards the rear exit of the bar and funneled towards it with Lima in tow.
The Devil In Music will be continued...
Brian Joseph Johns