By: Kiusha Posted on: January 27, 2006
Quickly Aelian stepped into the tunnel, and out of the pouring rain. Anxiously he reached for his sturdy canvas backpack, looked into it, and sighed with relief when he saw that the rain had not caused his journal to get wet. He quickly walked to the other side of the tunnel, and stared into the empty streets.
Obviouly Sirana had not arrived yet, so he sat himself down. Reaching into his backpack for a smoked pork loin sandwich, he quickly pulled back his hand, being too nervous to eat.
He said softly to himself: "I hope she shows up soon. I've been waiting for this for too long already." He stood up again, and paced back and forward, worries filling his mind.
After a while he heard light footsteps. He looked up and there she was, hiding under her thick woollen cloak. She walked quickly in his direction.
"Welcome back to Cyrene, which is now your home as well", she said from under her cloak. "Sirana," he said, I was afraid you weren't going to come.
Looking up at him, Sirana smiled, and for a second Aelian forgot his worries as well as the rain. "Come, let's get home, warm by the fire.", she said.
Together they walked down Cliffside Road, until they reached a grand oak tree in front of two stately mansions. Sirana opened the door to one of them, and ushered him inside.
After closing the door behind them, she called "Marwik, he has arrived!", and guided Aelian through the narrow hallway into a cozy kitchen with a warm fire burning in the hearth.
Putting their wet cloaks on the table, Aelian and Sirana sat down by the fire on a wooden bench, and after a few moments Marik came into the kitchen, carrying a bundle of clothes. He kissed his wife, and said: "I'm glad you made it, Aelian. For a time we were afraid the storms were too severe for anyone to get through them, even you." Aelian said with a wry smile: "You know that wouldn't have stopped me from coming. I've been waiting for this day my entire life!"
"Well Aelian,", Marwik said. "they are not going to be here for some time, so I suggest you get out of those wet clothes, and warm yourself by the fire." He handed the bundle of clothes to Aelian, and left the kitchen with his wife, leaving Aelian some privacy to change his clothes.
Waiting in the hallway, Sirana leaned into the armoire and said: "Have you seen how old he looks? I am really worried about him." Taking her into his arms Marwik said: "I'm sure things will be beter for your brother once this is all over. It was already a relief that he was voted Citizen, and I am sure that the Bardic Council will listen to the same arguments that have convinced the Senate."
Meanwhile Aelian smiled upon seeing the clothes his brother-in-law had given him. Crisp white trousers, a Blufest tunic, and neat shoes with silver clasps. Blue and silver, the colours of Cyrene. Marwik had him look like the model citizen. Perfect for his interview. After changing his clothes, he sat for a while by the fire, warming his hands and feet. Then he put the shoes on, and stepped out into the hallway, carrying his journal with him.
"Let's go into the living room, shall we?", Marwik suggested, and the three of them went into the living, and seated themselves in the comfortable brown leather chaises there. With the candlelight dancing before him, and the pains of his travels slowly slipping away, Aelian began to relax a little. "How long before the Bardic Council will be here?", he asked.
"They should be here within half an hour." Sirana answered, before getting up to put the kettle on.
"Don't be nervous.", Marwik said to Aelian. This IS the first time Ty Beirdd has even granted an occultist an interview, so you have come further than most already. I am sure they will listen to your arguments, and once they see your work, they'll be convinced to let you join them." Aelian answered: "I hope so... I have worked so hard for this. Getting Citizenship was a pain already, but this seems even more difficult." They sat for a while in silence, until Sirana came in with the tea.
While she put the cups on the elaborately carved table, they heard Harmonics coming from the plaza. "I'll get the door", Marwik said. After a few moments he came back accompanied by soft music, followed by a very old white bearded Tsol'aa, wearing white silken robes with a crimson seam, and a fishyeyed Grook in the summer of her life, green skin glistening in the candlelight, her fingers caressing the strings of a harp.
"Leave us", the Tsol'aa said, and after a nod from Sirana, Marwik left the room. "Please, have a seat." Sirana said with a sweet smile. As they seated themselves, the Grook said: "Let's get one thing straight Sirana. As a member of the Bardic Council, you are allowed to be here, but the decision is ours."
"I understand." Sirana said, solemny, "But you know that Aviola.". Aviola blushed, and nodded at Sirana.
"Let's get started then, shall we?", the Tsol'aa said. "Greetings Aelian. I am Sandro, and my companion here is Aviola, as you've heard. We will be conducting your interview, and besides the standard questions, we will talk to you about the difficulties involved in accepting an occultist among our ranks. Let us start with the standard questions, if that's alright with you." Aelian nodded.
"Good.", Sandro said. "First of all, why do you want to join Ty Beirdd?" Aelian answered: "I have been an artist my entire life, I have loved to draw and paint from when I was a small boy. Being part of a House of Bards has been a dream of mine for a very long time." Sandro nodded. "And what do you expect from us?", he asked. "I expect to find a warm home, a place to share my art, inspire others, and be inspired by their work.", Aelian said.
Aviola's jaw clenched at the word "home", and her music became a little tense. At a look from Sandro, she managed to compose herself, the music turning soft and tender again. No one else had noticed the change.
"And what do you have to bring to Ty Beirdd?", Sandro asked. Aelian didn't say a word, but handed his journal over to Sandro. Sandro started leaving through the sketches and drawings inside, wonder beginning to show in his face. Sirana noticed this and said: "And that's not all, Sandro. Look at that painting on the wall over there. That is one of his best pieces. Truly you must realize that this is the best work Ty Beirdd has seen in years."
Quickly checking himself, Sandro said: "It is not bad, I agree, but the question remains if it is enough to justify bringing an occultist into our House."
"Why would it be acceptable for us to let you in?" Sandro asked Aelian. "Because the reason you would not accept an Occultist is because of your reputation. You are afraid that I, being an Occultist, will bring chaos, and act in ways that are detrimental to the structure of Ty Beirdd. But you must realize that there is more to me than an Occultist. I am first and foremost an artist, and want to join Ty Beirdd not to bring chaos, but to bring art. I have talked to the Senate about the exact same thing. I am not evil. Chaotic and evil are two different things, and even if I can't agree with laws and regulations and structures, I can still live by them and accept them, in the knowledge that it will serve my art to do so."
"Why would you become an Occultist if you live for art?" Sandro asked. "You must have known at the time that it would jeopardize your changes of getting into Ty Beirdd." Aelian said, hiding his already growing impatience: "My uncle was an Occultist. One of the first ways I got into contact with art was through his Tarots. The first drawings I made were Tarot cards. I became an Occultist because of art, not in spite of it."
"Still you must understand our hesitation.", Sandro said, "many of us fear you, and letting you join may cause a rift in the House, even if you are on your best behavior."
Sirana, knowing her brother, saw that he could barely keep a check on his anger, and she knew that if he would show it, it would not be in his interest. She said to him, speaking Sireni, their mother's language: "Aelian, relax. You have to understand. Sandor is a Tsol'aa. He will not make this decision quickly. And the fear he speaks of is quite real. Look at Aviola, she is a prime example." Aviola, meanwhile, in her fear, began to change her music, blending seemingly distinct musical ideas into a majestic whole. Recognizing the Harmonius, Sirana said to her in anger: "Aviola, even if you are afraid of my brother, why won't you trust me? Must you listen in when I speak to him privately?"
Sandro looked at Aviola and said: "Alright everyone, relax. This is no more than an interview, remember?", but even he started to lose his composure. Aviola sighed and returned to her previous soothing melody. "So Aelian," Sandro said, "do you understand our fear?"
Aelian said, his temper having got the best of him: "No. I don't understand. And I can't respect it. I have done nothing but good. I have sworn my allegiance to Cyrene, which should show you I am serious about following the structure and rules, despite my being an Occultist." His voice grew louder. "Nobody in Ty Beirdd has anything to fear from me. All I want, is to share my art. Anyone who still fears me now is despicable, and I feel nothing but contempt for them!."
Aviola's music stopped, and her expression had changed from hidden fear to rage. Walking up to Sandro, she touched his arm. Sandro looked at her, and said with a cold voice. "So you despise us... So be it. You think your work will get you in Ty Beirdd? Soon you will know how wrong you are." With these angry words, Sandro digged up a flute from his robes, and nodding at Aviola they began to play. As they played together, a Minuet came from their instruments.
After a second, Aviola said with a cold stare: "Aelian, I order you to light up your journal, using the candle." Aelian wanted to laugh at her, but was shocked to find that his body responded to her words, and that he was actually putting his journal in the flame. Sirana tried to stop him, and he looked at her, great sorrow in his eyes, as he pushed her aside. "Marwik, please come!", Sirana cried, and Marwik came running in from the kitchen. Seeing what was happening, he hit the flute out of Sandro's hands. As the music stopped, Aelian pulled his journal away from the candle, and put the flames out using a blanket that had laid on the couch. He frantically flipped the pages, but they all saw that there every single drawing and sketch had been damaged, some more then others, but none had their original beauty. Tears started to flow from Aelian's eyes, as he stood there like a statue, in complete shock.
"You will both leave my house now!", Sirana shouted at Aviola and Sandro. "I thought you were my friends, but I was clearly mistaken!" Coming to their senses, Aviola and Sandro looked at each other, and quietly left the house with hanging shoulders.
As they left, Sirana turned to Aelian, who had curled himself up into a ball, crying without end. Softly she took him by the hand, and let him to a silent bedroom, laying him down on the bed. At a loss for words, she just looked at him, starting to cry at his pain herself. As she left the room she said: "I'll get you some food later."
Sirana went back to the living, where she and Marwik then curled up on the couch together, sitting in silence, consoling each other with their presence. An hour or more passed before Sirana got up to check on Aelian, and bring him a cup of tea and a sandwich. As she walked into the room, she gasped in shock. "Marwik, he's gone!" she shouted, staring at the open window and the wet curtains.
They went outside, were it was already getting dark, as the obscured sun sunk beneath the city walls. Searching the streets frantically, they finally reached the canal, where they saw a group of people standing together. Amongst them were Aviola and Sandro, the latter dripping water. Aviola noticed Sirana looking at them, and she beckoned her, an troubled look upon her face. As Sirana and Marwik advanced, the crowd parted, and revealed the body of Aelian lying there, on the edge of the canal, his face pale and swollen, his hair and clothes soaked. Sirana rushed towards him, and shook him urgently. "Aelian", she said, "wake up... wake up!". But Aelian would not wake. "He jumped into the canal.", Sandro said sadly. "I'm afraid he won't make it. I was too late." "He rushed passed us." Aviola said. "I don't think he even saw us. We followed him, but he was to fast. When we got to the canal, he had already jumped. Sandro jumped in after him, but it took to long to get him to the surface." "He had weighed himself down." Sandro said solemnly, staring into the distance. "You did what you could.", Sirana said softly. "Thanks for trying." Sirana and Marwik took the body, and carried it to their home.
As the first rays of the morning sun crept through the trees, the squeaking wheels of the carriage could be heard on the hidden path. Walking besides the coffin, all dressed in black, Sirana said her prayers to the Great Mother, while Marwik, leading the horse, kept silent, biting his lip.
Slowly they guided the horse towards Yggdrasil, looking up at the World Tree in awe.
Together they gently put Aelian's corpse into the Flame, hope shining in their eyes. A few seconds passed, as they held their breath, and suddenly, they saw Aelian's lips part, and his torso slowly begin to move up and down. Sirana fell down on her knees, crying with joy. "Thank you , Maya, thank you!", she exclaimed through her tears. Marwik reached out, and took Aelian's hand, upon which Aelian opened his eyes, squinting at the sunlight.
As Sirana and Marwik helped him sit up, tears started to flow down his face. "I can't do it, Sirana...", he said with a trembling voice. "Yes you can," she said, "together we can, as long as we don't make the same mistakes they did. I am no longer a member of Ty Beirdd." And she reached out and gently touched his cheek.
"I'm still not sure about what happened", Aviola said, slowly shaking her head. Sandro, looking out of the window answered softly: "We were wrong in disrespecting him. Yes, it was our decision whether or not to let him join Ty Beirdd. But we should have heard him out without bias, and we should have given him a chance. And most importantly, we shouldn't have lashed out in anger, and we definitely shouldn't have let him destroy his work."
"But we did", Aviola sighed, "and we destroyed him. And we lost the contribution his work could have been to us, and we lost one of our greatest poets as well." Together they stood there for a while, pensive, staring out into the garden.
This story is entirely a work of fiction, taking place in Cyrene near the ancient oak tree, in one of the abandoned houses. Any simililarities between the characters and any members of Ty Beirdd, either living or deceased are purely coincidental.