Grievous Music – a fantasy short story

by Carole Nomarhas
Grievous Music
Rondaihl music is the most beautiful and unearthly music in the mapped world. Salem, has never heard anything like it. It is a magical music capable of moving mind and heart and spirit and body. But Rondai is also a land where music is sacred, where only a chosen few are permitted to become musicians. To the Rondaihl music is not something for mere amusement or pleasure, but for healing, and often a matter of life or death.
Salem, a foreign musician, abandoned in Rondai when his trader Master is driven out, finds himself in a land where he barely knows the language, and certainly does not understand the customs. When he begs for the chance to become a musician in Rondai, he soon finds that music in this strange land is truly a matter of life or death and not only for him.
Stone whispered and slipped under Salem’s fingers. The muscles in his straining arms shook, wrenched by the weight they were being forced to bear. The world tilted as he glanced down to the courtyard below, his vision awash with sudden vertigo.
He would die from the fall.
They called to him to surrender.
He was beaten either way: surrender or fall. There was no other retreat open to him. He inched along and caught the rounded stone of one of the balustrade struts, balanced a foot against the wall and hauled himself upwards, shoulders and arms screaming at this new effort. Hands reached for him and dragged him up and over. He collapsed as he landed, half sitting with his back to the rim of the balcony. That respite was brief. His captors pulled him to his feet and checked him for weapons. Then there were questions, loud and many, but he could only shake his head, dizzily.
“The music…” His limited vocabulary in the local patois failed him for a moment, and he tried to search for another word. He couldn’t find one. “I only wanted to listen.”
There was a murmur at that, frowns, another question he didn’t quite understand. They released him abruptly, and he rubbed at his arms, surprised to be free. Until a single stinging note sounded, as one of the guards put a small bone whistle to his lips, and blew that shattering note directly in Salem’s ear.

Grievous Music is a Ditmar nominated short story of approximately 7500 words.