Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dirge, Part One

I sit on the crumbling stone wall, looking out over the bleak gray field, patches of dying weeds spring forth from the gravel here and there to mark spots of color on the otherwise drab expanse outside the village of Malm, Not too small and not too large, Malm had once been a trading post for the Kingdom as a whole… but then the mines precious veins of ore dried up, and the fields grew barren and rocky, and the merchants began to avoid Malm altogether on their trading routes.
And slowly, Malm began to die.

Little by little, family by family, the once vibrant village shrank until only a few dozen families remained, convinced that the village would prosper once again. The churches were full of worshipers, praying to false gods in hope of salvation. The bars were full of farmers and miners looking to drown their sorrows, telling tales of day’s longs since past, days of glory and opulence.
Turning the knob at the end of my violin, I adjusted the tautness of a string while running my bow slowly over the bridge, eliciting a low mournful cry; a cry echoed in the wind the whistled past me into town. While the village of Malm died a slow death, I supped at the table of a victor and a saint, savoring their misery as it fueled my fires ever more.
Crossing my legs, I watch as another procession of mourners made their way from the village, through the gates and wall leading into the field. Dressed in swathes of black, six men carried a stretcher with a body, wrapped in white woolen burial garb, between them, as several children followed behind them crying, all being led by a solemn looking man reading from a weathered book, crying out to the heavens to save the soul of this unfortunate person.
Bringing my violin back up to my neck, I rest my chin on the base and begin playing a deep, soulful tune, summoning the wind to come and whip about the fluttering robes of the men and children present. I smiled as I watched the priest look around, as if he sensed me.
Perhaps he did.
I hop down from the wall, still playing my mournful dirge as I slowly approached the funeral procession. The six men had lowered the body to the ground before moving to gather rocks, some shoveling gravel over the body while others merely placed larger rocks on places over her body. The field was well suited for this.
That was why it was the graveyard after all.
Looking around, I smiled at the vast landscape of burial mounds, of dusty piles of gravel and rocks encasing the dead in an earthen womb, as if to protect them from my song.
I screech a long sharp cord on my violin, a sudden burst of bitter wind cracking down on the troupe, causing a round of shivers to shudder across the collected bodies. The priest continued to preach as the men covered the body, one man patting the gravel with a shovel to cover the bodies legs as two other men took larger rocks, using them to pile over the feet and ankles of the corpse. The only people not working were the children.
A young boy, no older than five summers, held the hand of what had to be his sister, both dirty in ill-fitted clothes that were worn and faded from frequent use. The sister was crying silently, while the boy merely stared at the growing pile of stones in abject wonder. Halting my soulful song, I moved close enough to the two to listen to their conversation.
“It’s just us now Nico,” the girl said, sniffling as she pulled back at her dirty blonde hair, folding it over her ear, “I don’t know what we’ll do now that she’s gone.”
“Can’t we just find Daddy?” The boy asked, looking up at the girl, tugging on her hand.
She shook her head slowly. “I told you Nico, Daddy went away. Far, far away. And he won’t be coming back.”
“How do you know?” The boy asked, turning to watch the body receive another layer of oblong rocks, covering the lower torso.
“Because he left over two years ago,” the girl said, her tears coming in stronger now, “and nobody ever comes back to this wretched little town.”
“Then why don’t we go find him?” Nico asked, tugging on his sisters hand as he did so.
She turned from the burial-in-progress and knelt down on one knee. “Because we can’t afford to go off looking for him. We have Mom’s shop to manage now, and I’m going to need your help doing it.”
“But I don’t wanna…” Nico pouted, looking over at the gravesite as it grew over the shrouded form of his mother.
His sister grabbed his face, twisting it away from the morose scene to look at her. “No Nico! No more whining! Now we have to take care of ourselves.”
I smirk at that, fiddling with the my violin as I circle around the two, ignoring the men as they pile up stone upon stone atop the corpse. The girl is ambitious, oh how ambitious! She dreams of being the only tailor in Malm, of getting enough money together to leave the village and head for the bigger cities. Funny, as I peer into her dreams I don’t see her brother anywhere.
Looking at the boy, all I see is a desire to be with his mother or father and sister. Simple and primal, he has no desire for the finer things in life like fancy toys, just family.
“Such loyalty,” I whisper, eyeing the child as he begins to cry petulantly, “deserves a fitting reward.”

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