Part Nineteen                                                             August 6, 2016


In the morning Bran felt a foot prodding into his side.  “Get up,” Algin growled.  The foot drove in a little deeper.

“I’m up!” Bran snarled.

The Master smiled at him.  “Little tired?”

“Yes,” he groaned and the Master laughed.

“I’ve noticed that most of you know how to hum from the diaphragm, except for you Bran.  So I’m going to let Sheen help the rest of you get those higher notes.  Meanwhile, I am going to work on Bran’s breathing.”

Jordan groaned. “I think I should learn how to sing from the diaphragm too.”  He hummed horribly to prove his point.

“You’ll work with Sheen,” the Master replied.  “Let’s go Bran.  You and I will practice at Cleansing.”

“We have to stay here, with Sheen?”  Jordan whined.

“Remember what the word Master means Jordan,” the Master said with a smirk.  The Master leaned over to Bran, “Let’s go Bran, before our blond friend starts whining about the weather.”

As they walked towards Cleansing the Master began to whistle.  The whistling was playful and with perfect pitch.

“How did the campus get here?” Bran asked.

“The truth?  You may not want to be a Bard if I tell you that.”  The Master looked him in the eye.  “I see by your solemn face that you need to know.  All right.  Many, many, grandfathers of you and I ago, the Druids were fanatics.  They argued, that for the sake of nature, they needed control over vast areas of land.  More and more people began to shun the Druids.  Eventually our nature loving friends disappeared into the thickest part of the forest.”  The Master paused to contemplate.  “Sure you want me to continue?”  In reply, Bran waited in silence.

“The early Bards, and even some today, are of questionable moral, or lack of.  At the house of nobles they became second only to the jester in entertainment.  Many Bards became filthy rich.”  The Master chuckled.  “It was not the money, but the womanising that hurt the Bard’s reputation.  The richer Bards could afford mercenary guards, but the poorer ones often took up fencing in order to protect themselves from jealous husbands.  More often than not the poorer Bards, who womanised, fled into the forests.  The Druids began to offer them protection, but the Bards had to agree to pay a dues every time they entered Druid territory.”  They were almost at Cleansing.

“Eventually some of the noble sons became Bards.  These nobles wanted to open schools, but they would need certain woods to make the lutes for the campus, and the Druids, who considered these woods endangered, guarded them ferociously.  The Bard nobles, who dearly loved the lute, began to understand the Druids’ protective attitude.  The trees that made their lutes should be protected.  So, they encouraged their parents to buy huge tracks of lands for the Druids, who would in turn grow food for the noble families.  Gradually the noble Bards sought to establish righteous schools within the Druid territories that their parents financed.  Rules were established after many decades of argument and the Bard campus became officially established.”

“But I saw girls across the pond,” Bran said.  He was caught up in the history of the campus, but he knew when they reached Cleansing the Master would begin the voice lessons.

The Master looked fondly across the pond.  “While the male Bards became notorious for wooing women, a group of women took up the lyre and began to woo men.  It’s rather funny.  Even today the women Bards are considered innocent, but I know they are greater charmers than we men.  While we sing of battle and death, and love, the women Bards sing of life.  You and I, Bran, can only seduce the mind and the body.  Women who are charmed by us know it is occurring, but the Lady Bards, they play the lyre as if each chord were a silver strand attached to our most inner being.  Strange isn’t it?  We are harsh and they are gentle.  Don’t let what appears weak fool you.  That weakness is seduction.  I would rather be beaten then tormented spiritually by the sound of their voices—that echo to our souls through the strings of their lyres.”

They stopped short of the beach that led into Cleansing.  Bran stared across the pond.  There they were, the Lady Bards, naked and playful.

“Keep your eyes off the Bardesses, or you won’t be able to concentrate on the lesson,” the Master warned.  Bran quickly turned his head away.  He could feel his face hot with embarresment.

“Now, take several deep breaths so I can observe how you’re breathing.”  Bran breathed in deeply.  His chest expanded and he breathed slowly out.  “You can hold a lot of air, but now instead of expanding your chest, try to expand your stomach.”  Bran breathed deeply again but instead of his stomach expanding his chest did.  “Watch me.”  The Master breathed deeply through his nose.  He could see the Master’s stomach expand.  When the Master breathed out he released the air through his mouth.  Bran tried breathing through his nose, and his stomach expanded.  “You have it!” the Master shouted.  “Now, breathe through the nose and out of the mouth.”  Bran tried again. “If you do this too long you’ll knock yourself out.  I want you to practice every morning.  Understand?”

“Yes,” Bran replied.

“Listen,” the Master said.  He expanded his chest instead of his stomach.  His voice flowed out smoothly but quickly failed.  He inflated his stomach and hummed.  The sound was full and died out slowly.  “You have much more control when you sing from the stomach.  Try shouting sometime by expanding your chest then try it after expanding your stomach.  The second time you shout will be much more potent then the first time.  Now let’s head back.”

“Not a very long lesson,” Bran said.

“No, but a very important one if you want to continue at the campus.”

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