Swivla -Vibration of Life-
Lingering behind the group, Swivla walks slowly grinning distantly and gazing absently at a pair of sprites fluttering in leaping bounds among the flowers lining the path. Ahead of her is a group of a dozen students following a serious looking woman with a long braid of dark hair. Glancing back at Swivla sternly, she doubles her pace and the group soon falls out of sight further down the trail. While the young girl is only oblivious to her class’s disappearance for a few minutes she quickly realizes that they aren’t in sight anymore. Cursing to herself and waving farewell to the sprites, she starts to sprint down the path that winds down the hilly terrain leading to the nearby forest. Her short cropped hair rustles with the wind fighting her momentum as she runs down the path. She is dressed in a very boyish style of breeches, boots, and a simple tunic; and is totally in her element running with her face to the sun, the wind in her hair, and her legs pumping so hard down the vast grassy hill lands that she feels she is gliding. Disappearing in the distance behind her is the majestic spiraling minarets and breathtakingly beautiful groves of Leuthilpar, the capital city of Evermeet, Island of the Elves.
Reaching the edge of the woods where the path enters its depths, she begins to hear the faint sound of Mistress Lehnalia leading the class in an old song of blessed Arvandor. Swivla slows herself to a fast walk, and tries to still her breathing, so it does not give her away too much. Trying to look calm and innocent, she slowly catches up with the group and resumes her place trailing behind them. Never much one for words, she often felt a distinct gap between herself and the other kids her age. Somehow she was different. She wasn’t interested in learning the courtly ways of being a lady. In fact she rarely went to any of her classes anymore, other than music class, that is. The elves of Leuthilspar love music very much, and it was one of the few things about life in the city that she truly loved, despite the fact that she didn’t seem very successful at it. She was terrible at remembering the right words to songs, because she had never had much use for words anyway. Of course she could talk to people, if necessary, but she detested it. She also had a terrible sense of time, and was known for starting verses late and stretching syllables elsewhere. This left her often being the a problem for the Mistress Grovesinger, who perhaps understood on some level what her class meant to Swivla, but was unable to see other ways to learn music than her own, and so stubbornly kept trying to prod her into doing things the ‘proper’ way.
Swivla hadn’t been with the group for five minutes when Val, a boy her age who had been assigned to be her drumming tutor, glanced back nervously. When he saw she had reappeared back down the path, he looked momentarily relieved and then quickly looked back ahead, keeping with the group. The woods were getting thicker and thicker the deeper they plunged. Hanging ferns draping along the path ripple gently scattering beams of dusty sunlight about the thick bases of ancient trees. Big puffy mushrooms grow in clusters among the tangled roots, where tiny little people with the legs of crickets lounge drowsily beneath their shade. Walking at a brisk pace through the wondrous forest, the class soon comes upon a sudden break in the thick woods opening up into a wide clearing, pierced twice by slender curving towers. Wrapping widely around the bases of the two towers in a figure eight is a thick wall of rose bushes that enclose a beautiful elven garden. The gardens have many finely crafted stone tables and benches scattered precisely about the various clusters of unusual flowers. Here and there an elf in the long white robes of a wizard sits with his face studiously buried in a book.
Gathering the class around a statue of a dragon bearing an elven rider standing on the far side of the gardens, the Mistress Grovesinger gives a long droning speech about the power inherent in the ancient elven songweaving techniques. Zoning out, Swivla stares up at the sides of the tower near them, letting her imagination create scenes of what wizardly things might go on up there. Finishing her speech on the relationship between music and sorcery, the Mistress Grovesinger sits down with her delicately carved harp and begins to pluck out a simple melody. The students all begin pulling out their own instruments, lyres and drums and fiddles and flutes of various styles. Val sits down next to Swivla, grasping a large djembe drum between his knees. Giving him a wide smile, she unslings her unusual lyre from her back. A single ribbed string of strangely thick metallic wire runs up the unusually long neck of her lyre. Giving the bizarre lyre a preliminary double pluck of the string sends a deep and throaty Buh-BUHM emanating from within its bulbous body. Nodding back at her with a kind grin he pulls a small wood handled brush from a loop in his belt and begins rhythmically circling the taut edge of his drum, tshhh, sht-t-tshhhh, sht-t-. Together they formed a rhythmic and full sound that most students simply regard as the background to the real music. Suddenly a boy with thick spectacles gives his mandolin a harsh double strum, trying to follow the teacher’s harp playing. A beautiful young noble girl with long braids of platinum blond hair and an extravagant looking flute plays a lilting tune dancing atop the teacher’s melodic pluckings. As a class the whole group begins to pull together into a single song of delicate fae beauty.
As the class draws the song to its conclusion, winding softly back down to silence, an older man who has been listening at the back of the group begins clapping his applause. Walking though the cluster of students, he gives the teacher a hug.
“Mistress Grovesinger, it has been too long! Long days and pleasant nights to you,” he says smiling broadly.
She curtseys gracefully and replies, “May you have the same. I hope we are not intruding.”
The archmage nods thoughtfully and looks around the gardens at students that seem very busy with their work. “No, not intruding. I’m afraid my students are very busy though, final projects are due tomorrow and there is a lot of hustle to finish up!” The archmage chuckles. “If you were hoping to pair up with my students, I’m afraid that will have to wait until another day.”
The good Mistress nods with a smile that doesn’t seem to touch her eyes, “Well, we will still be quite honored to enjoy these gardens for our daily lesson, nonetheless.”
Smiling happily the archmage winks, “And I will be glad for the distraction, without classes to teach today.” The Mistress nods and strums an awkward chord on her harp to regain the attention of the class. The students cease their whispers, and grasp their instruments, preparing to follow anything their teacher might begin playing.
Throughout the afternoon, the class plays many wonderful songs. The grove is a beautiful and relaxing place to have class, and even the teacher’s usually hardened features seem to soften a bit. The archmage spends his time lounging near the group, and seems completely oblivious as bright colorful lights come spilling from one of the windows of the towers. The class however, stutters in their song as they look up in wonder at the spray of magical energy pouring from the window. Unnoticed by the class, a tiny faerie dragon flutters to the archmage’s ear and begins whispering frantically in a tinkling voice. His brow slowly becomes furrowed, and when the faerie dragon finishes talking, the archmage leaps to his feet. “If you will excuse me, I must run damage control on an over ambitious apprentice.”
Just as the archmage is heading toward the nearest tower’s entrance, a deep rumble emanates from 40 feet up. Black smoke begins streaming out of the windows pouring down the sides of the tower. Panicky students pick up their things and start running frantically back and forth. The archmage starts shouting for order, trying to direct his students to remain calm and stay together. The Grovesinger is doing the same, when an explosion bursts from the tower, sending a rumbling wave of heat across everything in the gardens. Cursing vividly, the Grovesinger demands her students huddle around her and begins playing a potent melody on her harp. An aura of protection is palpable within the radius of her song. The towers’ gardens, meanwhile, have become permeated with a slight darkening, an indisputable taint that seems to be overwhelming the area surrounding the towers. From the explosion, a jagged scar has been left in the side of one of the towers, leaving a charred room exposed.
Suddenly a second explosion comes from the exposed room, and the top of the tower begins to topple, sliding slowly to one side, and then falling violently into the gardens. A jet a dark energy is spraying straight up from the standing remains of the tower, filling the sky with darkness. Bricks and rubble fly haphazardly all over the place. Some rocks pelt the Grovesinger’s protective aura, bouncing clear. The students however, totally panic, grabbing the Mistress for security. Distracted, she stutters in her song, dropping her protection momentarily, and a brick hits her in the head. The teacher is sent sprawling with a nasty blood caked wound to the skull. The class completely freaking out now, stands motionless in total shock. Swivla however, was lost in the beautiful song her teacher was singing, completely ignoring the world around her. When the song is interrupted, she looks up from her reverie in annoyance. Finding her mind snapped back to the world around her, she instinctively picks up the verse where her teacher left off. Singing her own wordless version of the tune she was enthralled in, she plucks out a deep version of the melody on her lyre. The aura seems to spring back, though it is much weaker than her teacher’s, and it seems to waver in between the plucked notes. Frowning at the gaps in the music, she wishes she played the viola or even the fiddle, with their steady and continual sound-making. Glancing around, she sees instruments left on the ground all around the class. Swooping, she grabs the fiddle player’s bow. She doesn’t play the fiddle, and actually never liked that whiny high pitched sound anyways. She places the bow against her lyre’s single thick cord, and drags it making a crooning throaty hum. The vibration of the sound immediately carries the protective aura outward into a sphere that is nearly the size of her teacher’s aura. Smiling with ecstatic joy, she is again swept away, lost in the music, chasing the song with all her heart.
While Swivla is oblivious to the world around her, totally immersed in the music. Val is by her side, the only other student with the balls to hold his head together. In his hands is his drum, which unfortunately didn’t fare well against the percussive explosions. Sighing in frustration he tosses the drum aside, scanning the fallen instruments of his classmates. Unfortunately the explosion had the same effect on all the drums. Listening to Swivla’s music with a perfect internal clock, he can hear in his mind the perfect swishing accompaniment. While very expressive, her playing keeps lingering a bit too long here and there, and when it does, the aura would waver. Standing by her side, without knowing what else to do, he begins making the sounds with his teeth. “tshhh, sht-t-tshhhh, sht-t-“ Beginning quietly so as not to distract her. Swivla immediately syncs up with his beat, smiling broadly. Both begin to play louder and more forcefully holding the song together with greater confidence. The protective aura grows to a size that easily dwarfs the aura of their wounded teacher, and takes on a glimmer of additional magical power. Golden light floods the area, pushing the darkness back.
The tower is pouring tendrils of negative energy into the gardens, and now darkness encompasses the entire area of the gardens. Beyond the aura of the song, mage students are screaming in agony. Those caught in the tendrils of darkness; appear to have their life force draining from them. Their skin becomes translucent, and the skeletal structure becomes visible. Hair and clothing seems to be rapidly worn away into dust. Screams can be heard from all around. A glowing portal opens up within the musical aura, the arhcmage is on the other side, dumping a few whimpering magic students onto the ground with the music students. Blinking in and out of existence all around the gardens, the archmage hurriedly grabs his students, tossing them through portals to the safety of the musical aura. Once all of his students have been retrieved, he returns to the group, exhausted. The students cheer his return, as they look around the group checking if anyone is missing.
Weary and almost completely drained of energy, the wizard shakes off the praise of the students. “We aren’t safe yet. The portal is still open, and this song cannot go on forever!” Nodding solemnly, the students back off, giving their master space. Thinking quickly, he stuffs his hands in various pockets, pulling out a large majestic griffon feather. “We MUST close this portal at all costs. If it stays open, it will defile this forest, and the entire Green Isle! You all are old enough to know the price that has been paid for this island...” Frightened stares look bleakly back at him. “I will not force you. I can teleport us all to Leuthilspar if you wish.”
A murmur runs though the students. “ No!! We must clean up this mess! This evil can not be!” Smiling proudly, the archmage simply nods. Murmuring words of power the griffon feather spins in mid air, rising up into the skies. Soon, the entire group of student, mages and musicians begins to rise up too.
“We must all stay in this protective field, and confront the rift itself. Let’s go!” Leading the group, he begins flying toward the fractured tower with its pulsing darkness. As the group floats above the tower, held within the musical aura, the archmage chants spells. One after another the spells fail to close the aperture. Frowning in frustration, he begins the last spell he can think of, and begins chanting loudly. As he concludes the spell, a fiery eruption sprays up from the tower, bathing the group in a momentary shaft of flame, singing hair and clothing. As the flame subsides, a swirling vortex gapes where once the pulsing darkness was, and begins sucking in everything in the area. As the vortex consumes all of the stray rubble, branches, leaves, tables, chairs, books from the towers, and all the things not powerfully rooted to the ground, the group flying above the vortex, starts to sag, flying lower and lower, getting pulled by the vacuous portal that remains.
As the group begins to circle down into the top of the broken tower, where the vortex lies, the song held together by Swivla and Val takes on an edge of furious intensity. The archmage, sags exhaustedly, helpless to cast anymore spells. “ Louder.. louder..” he mumbles to the panicking students. One student casts a simple spell, used to magnify ones voice, on Swivla, bending it to affect her instrument. The song becomes elevated slightly. Nodding agreement, other student magi begin casting their own attempts at the cantrip. The music begins to echo around the entire gardens and radiate out into the forests, purging the darkness from the land. As the music students gather heart, they begin to sing a wordless chorus, “Ooooooohhhhhh, ooohhhh…”
The sphere full of students and teachers is now spinning on the lip of the vortex, and as the group raises their voices as one in a single defiant vibration of elven energy, they are sucked directly in to the portal. With “Whump” the portal is sealed with the group of elves stuck in its gaping orifice, a floor of protective song energy vibrating across the entire planar opening at the feet of the group. As the influx of material is blocked, the portal glows intensely, wavers, and begins crumbling in on itself. The portal is finally sealed, and the darkness is purged, and the group slowly floats down to the ground, warbling tiredly as they touch the ground.
Smiling at the group, the Archmage and the awakened Grovesinger nod their pride at their students. Walking over to Swivla and Val, the teachers snoogie the pair, ruffling their singed, almost entirely gone hair. “You two really held it together there! I still don’t see how we all survived!” The students raise their voices in a cheer. As the group of elves set off for Leuthilspar, they sing an ancient song of elven heroism, adding a new verse.
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