Tuesday, 22 June 2010

100 Theme Challenge: Precious Treasure

As mentioned a my first post for the day, I have a new work in progress, Spirit Song, and am starting the 100 theme challenge. In this post, I give you the first challenge, number 36: Precious Treasure.

#36: Precious Treasure

She's beautiful.

Marc examined the instrument lying there, silenced. Just beyond hearing he could hear it singing. Not just because he'd heard it the night before, or because he always imagined his patients' voices. No, every string, wave in the varnish, line in the grain, pulsed under his fingers. This was no normal instrument. It must be old to have such life, and ancient to have such patience.

"Can you fix her?" the owner asked, though that wasn't quite right. Partner fit better, as the bard relied on the instrument as much as it did on him. Or even nephew, as something this old would be a family heirloom, as much a person as its temporary owners.

"I believe so, " Marc replied only a tiny fraction of his curiosity and excitement breaking through his practised professionalism. "I cannot say that I worked on such a piece in a long time. Of either type, quality or age." It wasn't his imagination that it hummed at the praise.

"Yes, lyres aren't very common around here, or even any more, " the bard said. Even if he earnt his bread through performing, he seemed rather reluctant to engage in mere small talk.

"What's her name?" Marc asked, it wasn't right to operate on a patient without knowing their name.

"Agriope, " he answered.

"Like the story?"

"The very one." A challenge, did you dare argue with him? An obviously accomplished bardmage?

He couldn't mean what I think he means.

Marc didn't take the dare, "Where are you from?"

A brief storm on the bard's stoic face, "From the sea, a place no one visits."

There was silence, Marc considering what else he dared ask one of his idols. The bard merely silent, nothing he wanted to share.

"Be careful with her, " he said, breaking the silence, "She is very precious to me." With that he turned, a left Marc's workshop.

Alone, or more accurately the only human in the room, Marc examined the lyre again. The back of the soundbox and the arms were intricately carved with images of forests, animals and inhuman dancers. They were dancing, or at least that's what his eyes saw.

Cautiously, still awaiting her to snap at him for daring to touch her, Marc plucked one of her strings. The soft La that rang out was nearly perfect. He would need one of his tuning forks to get it further. But holding in his hands he could feel what he couldn't hear. The whole body resonated with the sound but in places sections had split and warped, adding dissonance.

Marc let out a sigh. The bard obviously cared for her, both emotionally and physically. This was a simple check and touch up. There were no serious breaks or replacements to be done.

A shift in the hum gave him a second's warning before his master came in.

"Already started? Good. Paid triple for midday tomorrow." With that terse instruction he was gone before Marc could report the simplicity of the job.

Gently placing her on the workbench. Marc ducked out to light a pinch of incense for steady hands. He couldn't bear to hurt her even beyond the repercussions from his master.

Settling in his place again, he gazed over his tools before picking Agriope up again. Less cautiously but no less carefully, he plucked the other six strings, floating in the sound.

"Agriope, my name is Marcato of Florona and I will be repairing you today."

The echoing tones resolved into a major chord.

Relax. It's just an ancient, foreign instrument. What's the worst that can happen?

The line of sunlight worked its way across the room slowly. Across the floor, up the stool, across Marc's back before gaining his shoulder and lancing his eyes from there. Head cradled in his arms he groaned, and scrunched his eyes against the glare.

Haven't had enough sleep for it to be morning.

Groggily he blinked and looked at his night's work. Agriope lay exposed on a drying rack nearby. It hadn't taken very long to glue the cracks in her soundbox and add another coat of lacquer to prevent further. It had however been quite late, or maybe early, by the time he finished carving a new crossbar for her.

The piece had snapped when Marc had released the tension on the strings. But not so messily as to prevent him using it as reference for the carving. Not that he had been totally faithful. Marc had taken the opportunity to fix tuning pins to the crossbar. A luxury that Agriope had not previously possessed.

Taking a deep breath, of air slightly heavy with solvents, Marc began putting his patient back together. The new crossbar fit with only a slight sanding, and the new strings were nice and taut.

Good as new.

A quick check of the clock tower visible from Marc's window if you leaned over just right, told him that he had just over an hour before the bard would return for his lyre.

That hour passed quickly enough through menial tasks that Marc had been putting off in favour of larger more pressing concerns. In fact, he was sweeping the workshop when one of the apprentices informed that his client had returned.

Strictly, the velvet was only meant to be used for presenting newly crafted instruments. And even then really only those finished by the workshop's master. But a combination of Marc's seniority and the obvious quality of Agriope permitted him to. Not that he expected the bard to take the velvet anyway.

The bard was standing in the anteroom, settling with the master. Marc tried to ignore the sum of coins changing hands. He waited patiently for them to finish before coming forward.

"Agriope, sir bard." Marc said, holding it out.

The bard picked her up carefully, strummed her once, not bothering to separate the notes. Satisfied with the sound, he looked fondly at her. A look which became unreadible when he saw the new crossbar.

"What did you do to her?"

"I'm sorry but the crossbar split when I unstrung her, " Marc answered, and held out a small velvet bag. "I glued it but it wouldn't be strong enough to do its job anymore."

The bard stood there for a moment not taking the bag. Just looking at the new crossbar, and fiddled with a tuning peg absently.

Marc held his breath, the bard was probably asking Agriope what she thought. He had last night but the bard would be more able to interpret her response.

The bard smirked slightly, "She says to thank you. And that you should keep it." A pause, listening to it again. "Treasure it."

With all the enigmatic disregard that those who dealt with the spirits earnt, the bard strummed a short tune and went on his way.

Marc made his way back to his station and retrieved the crossbar. His finger idly tracing the waves carved on it while his eyes rested on the bird hovering.

I wish I could fly away.

[+/-] show/hide story

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