Part Twenty-Five                                                         August 14, 2016


“Sounds of Sorrow,” the Master said.  Bran started singing.  The Master raised his right hand.

For each consecutive lore he kept a nervous eye on the Master’s left hand.  On the eighth lore the Master’s left hand began raising, but the Master cursed and put his hand down and raised his right instead.  By the ninth song Bran could feel his voice going hoarse.

“River of Sleep,” the Master said for the fifteenth song.  Bran’s eyes dropped.  He felt crushed.  River of Sleep was one of the very difficult lores that called for many verses in the higher octaves.  The Master stared emphatically into his rueful eyes.  “No,” the Master said, “lets do ‘The Ship of Voyage’ instead.”

Bran stopped holding his breath and bowed his head in thanks.  He wiped sweat from his forehead and sang:

Where did the giants of Atla come?

No one knows for certain

But their dark galleys do come

Through the mists of a far off land

And they sing as they sail

They sing of the voyage,

The forever voyage


These giants, do they see?

For legends say they are blind,

Yet they steer their huge ships,

Into seas where no one else dare

Have you heard what the old sailors say?


The giants of Atla,

Not seen for decades return,

When you see a giant cloud in the sea,

It is one of their ships,

Surrounded in mist


The giants from Atla, do they go blind?

Some say they never dock,

But eat from the sea,

As they travel on their ship,

Along an infinite voyage


The old Master raised his right arm. “You need much work Bran of Darwin, but you have passed.  Gerald of Luhr,” the Master called out.

Bran was exhausted.  He found Peter, Jordan, Sheen and the Master nearby.  He sat down on the ground and breathed deeply.

“Well?” Peter asked, trying to hide a nervous twitch in his right knee.

“I made it, but barely,” Bran replied.  His voice was dry and cracked.

Jordan crouched beside him.  “That old fart really kept you a long time.  I heard he told you to sing one song and then changed his mind, what a duck excrete,” Jordan scowled.

“No,” Bran said with reverie, “he’s a kind Master.  Otherwise, I would have failed.  He originally asked me to sing River of Sleep.”

Peter gasped.  “You are lucky he didn’t ask you to sing that!  I think Sheen’s the only one who can sing that song properly.”

“And me,” Jordan added.

Jordan and Peter waited a long time before it was their turn.  Sheen, forced to wait an excruciating amount of time went through phases of emotions.  One moment he was calm, the next he was fidgety, and occasionally he was on the verge of tears.  All through it Bran, the Master, Peter, and sometimes Jordan encouraged him.  Bran could see problems brewing once Jordan was finished.  His blond comrade passed.  This meant with his early nervousness expired Jordan would be ruthless to Sheen.  Jordan started taunting Sheen once Peter was gone to be tested.  Jordan constantly suggested that Sheen’s voice squeaked when it did not.  Finally Bran stood up.  He grabbed Jordan by the left ear and dragged him to Cleansing.

Jordan cursed all the way to the pond.  At Cleansing Bran let him go by tossing him into the water.  “I’ll rip you in two!” Jordan cursed.

Bran stared coolly at him.  “You’re a friend Jordan,” he said, “but if you think you can match me you’ll be sorry.  You have no idea what I went through to get here, and you have no idea what kind of physical strength blacksmithing gives you.”

Jordan half-crouched, as if ready to attack.  Bran just stood straight and tall, and looked directly into Jordan’s eyes.  Jordan lunged at him.  Without much concern Bran stepped sideways and pushed Jordan into the water again.  Jordan got to his feet and punched Bran in the face. Bran took the blow and simultaneously grabbed Jordan’s wrist.  He felt the sting of the blow but forced himself to ignore it.  He could feel anger like he never felt before overwhelming him.  Jordan let out a cry as Bran’s hand clenched his wrist tighter.  Jordan fell to his knees pulling Bran into the water.  From the corner of his left eye Bran saw Peter rushing towards them.  Peter didn’t stop at the shoreline but plunged in and threw all his weight against Bran.

Bran did not know what overcame him, but he grabbed around Peter’s throat and forced his friend underwater.  He could see little bubbles streaming towards the surface.  Something inside made him jolt.  He let go of Peter’s neck and pulled the red head to the surface.  He felt terrible inside.  Peter gasped and started to turn on him.  He could see Peter was about to strike him; but he felt so bad he didn’t lift an arm to block the coming blow.  Peter hesitated and the blow never came.  Instead, Peter turned his attention to Jordan who was stalking around them ready to jump in.  “Better behave Jordan,” Peter cursed as he trudged out of the water.

Soaked and weary Bran went with Peter and Jordon back to the testing area.  The Master looked suspiciously at them, but said nothing.  Bran forgot his anger towards Jordan and shame at nearly killing Peter as he listened to a voice as clear and angelic as a spoon tapping crystal.  It was Sheen.  The boy’s voice moved hypnotically through the verses of River of Sleep.  The song Bran dreaded singing was one of the most beautiful pieces, and Sheen sang it to its fullest.  When the song ended the first year Masters and apprentices applauded with roaring shouts of approval.

“That’s his sixteenth song!” the Master shouted.  “Never, never before has a tested apprentice been asked for an encore.”

Sheen listened to the roaring applause with a face of shy content.  Silently the boy stepped away from the applauding hands.  Bran felt a warmth inside for Sheen, and before even Peter could congratulate Sheen, Bran was slapping Sheen on the back.  “You’re going to be a Master someday,” he predicted.

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