Part Twenty August 7, 2016
As they came up to the chestnut tree, Jordan was throwing dirt at Sheen. Algin laughed while Peter half-heartily asked Jordan to stop. The Master moaned and quickened his step. Bran could see Sheen’s face turning bright red. Jordan caught sight of the Master and dropped the piece of dirt he was about to throw. Screaming like a frenzied bird, Sheen dashed after Jordan. A look of absolute astonishment crossed Jordan’s face as Sheen pounced on him. The two began fighting. Peter and the Master tried to break them up, but neither was successful. Bran saw Algin take out his knife and meander up to the fighters. He could just imagine how Algin would stop the fight so he ran up himself. Without much thought he grabbed Sheen by the waist and using his knee for momentum he yanked him out of Jordan’s grip and threw him onto the grass.
Peter looked at him with a mixture of disbelief and respect. “Well, we know who the strongest is,” Peter said as the Master grabbed Jordan by the ear and marched him up to the chestnut tree. The Master scolded Jordan until Jordan was in tears. Next the Master went over to Sheen. Bran could not hear his words but it seemed the Master wasn’t trying to verbally bash Sheen, but instead soothe the boy.
That night Jordan had to wash all the dishes at the Hall. Bran hated to watch his comrade covered in sweat over steaming pots. Having to wash dishes alone meant someone was being punished; and Jordan was embarrassed. Both Bran and Peter had offered to help but the Master forbade them.
It was getting dark when Bran started off to the blacksmith shop. As he left he heard the Master wearily ask Peter if he would help Jordan, who was still doing dishes. Both Peter and the Master went off to help.
Bran walked past Ballard’s guardhouse. The inside was dark and empty. He looked through the window. He saw nothing inside but a massive chair. He continued on to the log path. With each step the logs bobbed and the bugs attacked. He felt annoyed at the creepy annoyances, they reminded him of his journey to the campus, but he was also amused that no bugs bit him beyond the marsh. From a distance he could see the light of the lantern inside the shack and the orange glow of the furnace. A gush of sadness overcame him. For a moment he wished his father were inside. Both the blacksmith shack and the marsh reminded him of home.
The next day and the days following were good to him. He became better friends with Peter and Jordan while staying ambivalent towards Sheen and Algin. In the blacksmith shop he spoke to Master Kadar only of the task at hand. His voice improved, but the Master told him, with some disappointment that he may have to always sing in the lower octaves. That would mean he could only sing backup if he played with other Bards and the songs he could sing on his own would be limited. He had told the Master about helping the farmer’s of his village with harvest. The Master shook his head, and told him the dust from the hay, and oats may have damaged his throat. Bran shrugged it off he could live with only the lower octaves. He never planned to be a travelling Bard. Unlike the others he had smithing to fall back on.
Half way through the year, when life at the campus seemed consistent, a bad event occurred. Bran didn’t know why but he was sad to see one of his comrades leave.
At the hall where they ate, Algin had left early to use Excretatory. That was not uncommon, especially at lunchtime. It was that Algin did not return to the chestnut tree. The Master asked Peter to go search for him. When Peter returned he was alone.
“What happened?” the Master asked anxiously.
Peter looked down humbly at the earth. “Not good,” he mumbled.
“Well? Is he dead?” The Master’s eyes blinked with confusion and worry.
“Algin- Algin tried to stea…,” Peter’s voice broke.
“Where is he?” the Master shouted.
“A Master Rouse has him…somewhere.” Master Rennell rushed off.
Bran walked up to Peter. “I never cared much for Algin’s attitude but he is a comrade.”
“Not any more,” Peter said harshly. Peter turned around and kicked the chestnut tree as if Algin’s actions were his responsibility.
Bran and the others waited on the Master until dusk. They did nothing for all that time. Jordan tried to make wisecracks, but Peter’s dismal mood brought even the blond-haired jester to silence. It was nearly supper when the Master returned. The normally happy face was flushed with sweat and anger. Peter immediately went over to the Master.
“Is he gone?”
The Master began shaking his head. “I argued forever, but the rules are rules. You won’t see Algin again.”
Jordan looked up at the Master from where he was lying on the grass. “What did he do?”
“He didn’t steal anything. Another boy was gloating about an interesting rock he found in Cleansing. Algin took it out of his hands and said something like “It’s just quartz”. The other boy demanded it back; and Algin refused to return it. So the boy went to tell. Algin took out his knife and nicked the boy’s right ear. The boy ran off and told Master Rouse.” Master Rennell sat down with his back to the chestnut tree. To Bran he looked exhausted.
“So he’s gone,” Peter said dolefully.
Bran stepped forward. “I always thought Algin would make a better assassin than a Bard, but still, he is, was, our comrade.”
“Not anymore,” Peter reminded him.
Bran saw a knowing look come over Master Rennell’s face. The Master’s fingers began to play the strings of his lute. Energy began to fill the air. “Jordan,” the Master half sang, “do you remember that song you like so much?”
Jordan jumped to his feet. The Master began playing his lute more-and-more feverishly. Jordan stomped on the ground. He started to clap as he stepped around and around. He sang:
Do you see the pretty girl
Uh huh, she’s going to be mine
And, like a rich man
I’ll keep her beauty
I’ll keep her beauty
Like a sweet dessert
The master began to twang the chords of his lute as Jordan sang with more passion:
She’s coming this way
Like a fire she burns me
Jordan stopped singing. He kicked the earth and spun in the air. Bran could see that he was lost in his song. Jordan started again:
Did you see the pretty girl
Here she comes
She- she’s going to be mine
Bran found himself standing up. He couldn’t fight the music. Jordan wasn’t a great singer, but he sang this particular song with so much passion. Sheen also stood up. Together they sang backup for Jordan.
Here she comes
Do you see her
Peter’s dower face lifted. It looked stuck between sadness and temptation but he couldn’t resist Jordan’s and the Master’s enthusiasm.
Be with me my love
We’ll dance below the stars
And the sea will whisper our love
To this whole world
Peter imitated Jordan’s steps. In unison Bran, Sheen, and Peter clapped while Jordan sang.
No matter what
No matter who
You are my moisture
Keeping me wet
So I won’t dry up
Take a look at my girl
She’s got long hair
Down to her hips
Umm, and she sways them
For me, uh-uh-huh
The Master belted out the tune with such ferocity that other Bards began to gather round. And with the Master’s increased playing so to did Jordan’s vigour.
Here she comes
Take a look at her
We’re together now
I feel so wild inside
It’s- it’s because
She’s mine for all time…
Jordan held the last word until his voice finally broke.
Most of the Campus now headed their way. A middle aged Master with lively eyes shouted, “Is this a concert? We’re coming too.”
Bran moved back under the chestnut tree. He leaned against its trunk and watched in fascination. Never had he seen so many conglomerate in one place. In a short time many of the Masters, including Master Rennell were gathered in the centre of a large circle of apprentices. Chattering incoherently the Masters seemed to be discussing which songs to sing. The Masters broke away from their gathering. He saw them forming their own apprentices into groups. Some of the Older Masters combined their groups. He could not believe what he was about to see. He walked over to his Master. “Is this real?” he asked with awe.
The Master gleefully wiped sweat from his forehead. He looked at Bran with sparkling eyes. “Occasionally Masters, but more often students, will get an impulse to sing. If their passion is great enough a jam session is held. It’s somewhat an unwritten rule.”
Bran felt a little embarrassed. “What is a jam session?” he asked.
The Master slapped him on the left shoulder, “Just a bunch of musicians playing passionately.”
Jordan jumped between him and the Master. “What about the Lady Bards, should I ask them over?” Bran could not believe Jordan’s gall.
“Sure,” the Master replied. “But you’ll have to swim across.” There was a hint of worry in the Master’s voice. “Take Bran with you, at least to the shore to watch in case you get numb swimming. If you do just swim on your back and Bran you call for help.”
Jordan’s eyes alit with excitement. “Time to go Bran.”
Bran wanted to see the jam session but he had told Jordan he would help him get to the other side. He found himself half running as he tried to catch up as Jordan pushed other Bards aside. At Cleansing Jordan tore off his clothes and threw them into Bran’s arms. Without another word he dashed into the water and was off.