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Made in eg
Otiose in a Niche

Cairo, Egypt

All the way down…
A Tale from the Realms of Orchester

+++Level 1: The Heroes of Posaune+++

The Broken Vessel was an out of the way bar in the craftsmen district of Posaune, on an alleyway off of Potter’s Row. The sort of place masters and journeymen (and perhaps a few bold apprentices) would get a few ales before staggering home after a hard day’s work. Or hard day’s idleness depending on the season. Hardly the sort of place anyone would expect to find anything involving the future of the world.
But the Broken Vessel had a private back room, seldom used but for meetings of the guild masters or occasionally a discrete customer commissioning some erotic vases for his private use. And of course, for tonight’s urgent meeting.

“The Crown of Kings!” declared Männerchor, his rolled R’s announcing his proud heritage as clearly as the Regent’s Herald himself could. His mane of silver hair, his long white beard, his ivory robes, his eyes so grey the seemed to lack pupils, he was a striking figure capable of intimidating even the host of heroes assembled in this room. He carried no weapon, had no guards or retinue, but the Medallion of the Moon on his breast gave him a level of authority even the New Kings would have to envy.

From his long fingertips silver sparks flew, forming a glowing outline of a towering golden helm with seven tiers, each tier a crown in and of itself. “For an age, the Crown of Kings was the mark of the High King and a sign of unity of the Severn Kingdoms. Forged for Trompete the Mighty, passed to his son Becken the Great, then to the heads of Horn the Hammer, Violoncello the Unready, Oboe the Fat, Flöte the Bald and finally to Kleineflöte the Iron Fisted. We do not know if the Crown of Kings corrupted him or if he corrupted the crown but his reign is rightly remembered as the Age of Fire and Blood!” The image of the crown faded, replaced by images of the sword-wielding thugs rampaging through the streets. “No honest man was safe in his home, no babe safe his mother’s arms as Kleineflöte’s thugs roamed the kingdom seeking his foes both real and imagined. When he was overthrown, the new Kings vowed there would never be a High King again, and the Crown of Kings was sealed away in the Caverns of Cataclysm where none would ever retrieve it. Or so we believed!”

The assembled heroes did not challenge the implication that Männerchor had been there centuries ago when Kleineflöte’s reign met its bloody end. There were legends that placed Männerchor at events far more ancient. None but he could say whether he was the same man, or some descendent or heir using the same name to create the illusion of a single wizard battling darkness across the ages. And none of the assembled heroes dared to ask.

“Even now the Master of Shadow’s minions seek the Crown of Kings so that he may subjugate the Seven Kingdoms under one ruler, his puppet! I dare not turn to any of the New Kings, lest they be tempted to seize the Crown for themselves, only a small band, unaligned to any kingdom, can do what must be done and cast the Crown into the Pit of Eternity where it shall finally be lost forever!”

The sparks crackled into a howling vortex sucking the air from the room, even the hardened heroes shuddered before it until with a final howl, which pulled in curtains from the wall and serviettes from the table, it vanished, and Männerchor with it.

For a minute the room was silent.

“Well don’t that just beat anything!” ‘Slick’ Streicher said, nervously tossing a dirk from hand to hand. “Find the thing that no one is ever supposed to find, don’t keep it, don’t melt it down, don’t sell it, just toss into the one place no one’s supposed to go!”

“With no clue where to find it, and the one man who was there when it was locked away just pulled a disappearing act!” Add Bassgitarre, ever the pragmatic hunter. “I’ve heard legends of course, every village has them about some lost shepherd boy falling down a well and discovering the entrance to the Caverns of Cataclysm, but that’s all they are, stories. If you ask, it always happened to their neighbor’s cousin’s best friend from three villages over. Useless, old wives’ tales.”

“I wouldn’t say… no clue.” Said Blockflöte the Scholar with a thin smile. He gestured casually at the chair where Männerchor had been just moments ago. There in his space was a small package wrapped in parchment. Streicher snatched it with the skill and dexterity that was his hallmark, he unbundled it to find a small clear gem, and writing on the parchment. He looked at it for a moment before sheepishly handing it to Blockflöte, unfortunately Streicher’s many skills did not include knowledge of letters.

“Streicher…” Said Tiefe patiently. The Uncrowned Queen voice was as gracious as ever, and as firm as the steel in her armor. She glanced pointedly at his closed left hand. “What, oh this, sorry Blockflöte, forgot I’d picked this up.” He handed over the clear gem as well.

Blockflöte accepted the gem without comment, for he was already obsessed with the map before him. Some landmarks were clear, others marked by vague runes and cryptic rhymes.

When you stand beneath the moon
Hold aloft the flower in bloom
Strike the gong and hear the tone
Touch it then to your clear stone
When the bell begins to toll
Then the light will show your goal

“That’s the closest I can translate it to the common tongue. This riddle is written at the pass of Englischhorn. Three days ride from here. It seems that will have to be our first destination. Let’s hope its meaning becomes clear once we arrive.”

“We must have faith in Männerchor’s wisdom. His ways are mysterious, his plans cryptic, but he has never steered us wrong. We leave immediately.” Tiefe decided.

“Seems a lot of trouble for not much reward.” Streicher griped. “We should’ve gotten the wizard to pay up front.”

“Come now Streicher, whatever happens, think of the songs they will sing of us!” Young Glockenspiel, the traveling minstrel, plucked a few notes on her lyre. “And great songs will last much longer than gold does in your pockets!”

Streicher grumbled but his companions were already leaving out the back door. He shrugged and followed. Experience had taught him that when wizards were involved there’d be treasure sooner or later.

+++Level 2: The Order of Euphonium+++

The White Tower of Euphonium stood deep in the whitened woods, guarded by the seventy-seven Ivory Warriors. Taller than the tallest tree, capped in purist white marble, it was glistening beacon of light and hope for the honest folk of the Seven Realms. To the Euphonium rode Männerchor on a steed with a silver mane. He passed the bone-armored warriors guarding the argent gates and rode through the gardens of lilies, jumping from the saddle and ascending the 777 steps to the council chamber at its summit. His six brothers and sisters were already assembled and deep in debate.

“Are we even sure the Shadow Master is looking for Kleineflöte’s heirs?” Said Klarinette, frustration creeping into her voice. “I just spend the last six months crisscrossing the Seven Realms tracking down bastard descendants of that madman and twisting the arms of temples and holy orders to take them in! I keep having to claim to random birth marks are proof a child is the chosen one just to get people to cooperate!”

“Oh poor you! Got some saddle sores did you? Well I just sent seventy-seven Knights of the Silver Blade into the Valley of Oblivion to learn if the Master of Shadows truly lives again. A year of fighting the beasts of darkness and all we have to show for it is sixty dead knights and some vague ramblings howled by dying beasts. The Knights will need at least a generation to recover!” Violine wailed. She had mentored and nurtured the Knights for three centuries and her love for the order was well known. Männerchor sympathized. Especially in light of his own tidings.

“My brothers and sisters, the Fellowship of Liebesoboe has failed. Devoured in the Swamps of Sorrow. Therefore, I just sent another band of heroes to retrieve the Crown of Kings. The fourth band to attempt the task.” Männerchor explained.

“The fourth band… so far.” Violine spat.

“Have you considered just telling them where the damn thing is.” Gitarre sniped. “Seems it would save everyone a lot of trouble.”

“Oh fine, just let them ride around the Seven Realms with an accurate map to the Caverns of Cataclysm! Perhaps I should sent a copy to the Master of Shadows too while I’m at it!” Männerchor roared back.

“If the Master of Shadows even lives.” Violine added bitterly.

The seven wizards looked at each other. Gitarre chuckled, Violine giggled, Männerchor let loose a belly laugh that had been held back far too long. Klarinette waved her wand and refilled their drinks. Hats came off, staves were put aside, belts and robes loosened and Order of Euphonium relaxed in their chairs.

“I must confess I made the map a fair bit easier this time. Even a blunt instrument like Tiefe and an over-inflated peacock like Blockflöte should be able to follow it. I mean how much clearer can I make things?” Männerchor moaned.

“Oh dear Männerchor, you must not underestimate the stupidity of these mortals.” Klarinette shook her head. “The stories I could tell you. I ask a Temple to take in an orphan boy, tell them the fate of the world may rest on his shoulders, and they have the gall to ask for a donation!”

“What did you do?”

“What could I do? I gave them a pouch of gold and promised them more when I returned for the boy. Of course, the coins will turn to lead in a few weeks, but no doubt they will consider it a lesson about greed or some such.”

They all laughed.

“Oh I have to tell you about the ‘ancient prophesy’ I planted in the library of Trommelstocke!” Gitarre began. “I made the damn thing up in about five minutes, it goes-“

He looked up, so did the others. Quickly robes were tightened, hats restored, staves floated back into open hands. Cups disappeared into the aether. Decorum was restored to the Order of Euphonium as the diamond doors opened and Grand Mage Zymbal entered the chamber. His bald head was covered by a cap of finest gold filigree, and his robes such a bright combination of oranges and yellows they almost made the Symbol of the Sun on his breast disappear against them.

“My lord!” Seven voices cried. They performed the sign of the moon over their breasts. Zymbal answered them with the sign of the sun. Then with a gesture he bid them be seated.

“I know you have doubts.” Grand Mage Zymbal declared, stamping his staff on the floor the chamber. “I know the sacrifices have been many.” He stamped it again. “But I must ask for your faith! For the Seven Kingdoms are but a small corner of the Hundred Realms, and the battle here will be but a small part of the great war for the fate of this world. Remember always when the forces of the darkness gather, only through unity can the light shine through!” He brought his staff down a third time and great golden light filled the room. Even the assembled wizards had to shade their eyes, when they could see again, he was gone.

Silence reigned, but only for a moment.

“Well that bloody helps!” Gitarre muttered. “Guess I’ll just go back to sitting in inns and muttering cryptic riddles to passing mercenaries.”

“At least you’ll have a comfortable chair…” Klarinette responded with a smile. “I’d be happy to sit on my arse for a month instead of riding to every hamlet and village looking for the bloody chosen one! I’ve found sixteen chosen ones so far and I’ve still got dozens of villages on my list.”

“Better that then to bury another brave soul.” Violine whispered. Everyone grew silent.

“Hey everyone, I think the world can survive another day without our care. What do you say to another round of drinks!” Männerchor didn’t wait for an answer before spinning his wand in growing circles calling forth cups and bottles from the heavens themselves. “We’ll be a bit more enthusiastic for our missions after a night of good drinks and better company!”

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2022/08/30 10:27:27

Made in eg
Otiose in a Niche

Cairo, Egypt

(and now with no further commercial interruption... the exciting conclusion)

+++Level 3: The Grand Congress of Kastagnetten+++

Atop the tallest peak of the Hundred Realms, reachable only through trials and ordeals that would shatter the mind and body of the strongest mortal stands the impenetrable citadel of Kastagnetten. Its golden walls reflecting light like a second sun to the precious few mortals who’d glimpsed it. Even from miles away the fortress shined with enough gold to slate the avarice of even a man like Streicher.

And to Kastagnetten came the Grand Mage Zymbal riding atop a mighty eagle whose golden brown feathers seemed to be made of the same stuff. The eagle descended gracefully to the plateau and Zymbal alighted with a grace unexpected for a man of his seeming age. Even more unexpected if you knew his age was measured not in years but in millennia.

With confidence he strode into the central corridor, more and more of his peers joining him until they formed a procession of ninety-nine men and women (if that is the correct term for these near-immortals) positively glowing with power. A mortal, were one so foolish to look, would be blinded, shortly before the flesh was cooked from the mortal’s skull. There was no assemblage of power as great in all the Hundred Realms. But in their hearts the Grand Magi wondered if it would be enough.

The procession broke into columns and the columns snaked among the thrones of the central chamber and the Grand Magi were seated. There was no gossip among their ranks, no questioning or catching up, there was nothing to say, they were Grand Magi, they already knew.

In the center of the chamber a black throne was surrounded by a swirl of lights which coalesced into a figure in dark robes, punctuated by specks of purist light. The assembled Grand Magi greeted the figure with the sign of the sun, the newcomer greeted them with the sign of the star. Sopran, Supreme Warlock of Kastagnetten began to speak. He used but a whisper but knew the Grand Magi would hear every word.

“My brothers and sisters, I return to you from communion with the Goddess of Light.”

Ninety-nine Grand Magi nodded. Of course, they already knew this.

“I confirm the forces of darkness, in many guises, in many forms, move now to strike at the One Hundred Realms. And that our battles, our sacrifices, are but a portion of the great war that shakes the stars themselves.”

Ninety-nine Grand Magi nodded once more.

“But the Goddess of Light is with us my sons and daughters, and we shall stand strong against the darkness. Remember always, that even when the clouds grow thick, the shadows deep, when the sun has long since set, the stars are always with us!”

If the nods of the ninety-nine Grand Magi were any slighter this time no one would be able to prove it.
“I must go, for the Goddess of Light calls once more. Now go forth my sons and daughters and forever bring the light against the darkness.”

And with that he faded from view.

“Well bugger me sideways with me own staff!” Zymbal shouted. His oath lost among the cries and anger of ninety-nine other voices. “Stars are always with us, a bleeding apprentice could have given me that!”

“Come now, that’s not the dumbest thing we’ve ever heard. Remember the Wirbeltrommel Wars two or three millennia ago, what did they say, ‘Darkness will forever be cast out by the light’ something like that.” His ancient colleague Bariton said beside him. “Not much comfort when a bloody Dudelsack is ripping your arm off!” He waved his arm around a few times. “Took a bloody age to grow back.”

Zymbal laughed, “Yeah good times Bariton, good times. But all I’m asking here is, is that really all he gets out of his divine communion? ‘Stars are always with us’? I could be Supreme Warlock if that’s all it takes.”

“You’re stressed Zymbal, we all are. Come on, me and Orgel are hitting a bar in Liebesgeige. Good ale, not watered down, good music, warm fire, you’ll feel better.”

“Thanks Bariton, but what in the name of the light am I going to tell my wizards? The stars are always with us… I mean how about ‘Even in the darkest night, beyond the storm clouds the stars will always shine’? That at least sounds poetic.”

“See Zymbal, you’re already coming up with answers. You have to have confidence, you’ve been at this, what? Three, four millennia? For Sopran that’s barely the blink of an eye. He knows what he’s doing. Just do what I do come up with something super vague, tell them it will be clear when the time is right and then take credit when the light prevails.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Well if the light doesn’t prevail we won’t have much to worry about either way will we!”

The two laughed and headed for the bar.

+++Level 4: The Great Communion of Celesta+++

Supreme Warlock Sopran found himself drifting in sea of darkness. One thousand, seven hundred and twenty-seven other points of light orbited with him, all around a single shining figure, Celesta herself, the Goddess of Light.

She was like a statue, but one carved from a mountain of marble. It is said that one her armor was carved the names of every righteous being who had fallen batting the dark. If this was true, Sopran thought, it was fortunate the goddess was the size of a mountain, she’d need the space. He shook his head, such cynicism was ill-becoming a Supreme Warlock!

There was a Supreme Warlock from each of the twelve worlds in his shoal, but one of the twelve shoals in each archipelago of worlds, each part of the twelve archipelagos found throughout creation. The scale of their tasks was immeasurable, each Supreme Warlock responsible for hundreds of kingdoms and realms, countless souls, and every one of them a front in the war on darkness.

They began their pleas.

One thousand, seven hundred and twenty-eight voices cried out in discord, even panic. Ruined cities, lost nations, disasters, plagues, volcanos, shattered armies were listed through tears. None demanded anything, they were Supreme Warlocks after all, but the pleas this time were especially… needful.
No answer came.

Sopran looked within his heart, all he heard was the need to continue as best he could.
One by one the Supreme Warlocks faded from the Great Communion, their words spent until at last the Goddess Celesta hung alone in the heavens.

She looked up, spread her great wings, woven from starlight, and flew.

+++Level 5: The Universal Palace of Contratenor+++

In the center of the universe, in the center of all universes, it stands. The Palace of Contratenor, home of the All-Father, the King of the Gods, the Lord of Creation, the All-Powerful being known as Stimme.

And it is to there flew Celesta, Goddess of Light.

As she arrived the gates were thrown open for her, every guard kneeled, every door opened. Even the other gods waiting centuries patiently for their audiences let her pass, for they knew that Celesta was Stimme’s most favored daughter.

In mere moments, as immortals recon such things, she was with in the throne room of her father.
How to describe such a place in mortal terms?

Words like vast, huge, massive, they do not begin to convey the size and scale. Imagine if you could a hall large enough that the Earth and Moon could circle one another with room to spare and you begin to understand.

Celesta made a gesture and the lesser deities, deva, spirits and anima left the chamber. Finally she was alone with her father.

“All-mighty Stimme” she began, her voice breaking slightly, but only slightly, so slightly none but another deity would even detect it, “I bear grim tidings from the Twelve-by-Twelve-by-Twelve Worlds. The forces of darkness advance and even our greatest efforts can only slow it. I beg of you, give me your council that I might lead the mortals to victory, secure for them a few more millennia in the light. Oh All-Father, what shall I do?”

Stimme sat immobile for a time as countless mortals died and were born in the mortal realms. A mountain would have been more dynamic. Celesta hovered obediently, she would not have disturbed her father had not been necessary. Finally one eye opened, a great ruby orb that flooded the chamber in red light. Then a second eye opened like a blue sun falling directly on Celesta. Finally, the third eye, the one in Stimme’s forehead, blazed with yellow light. All-Mighty Stimme cast his three eyes upon the Twelve-by-Twelve-by-Twelve Worlds. White light touched even the darkest corners of the world, even the least mortals paused in their toils and looked to the sky feeling, however fleetingly the touch of the divine. At last the three eyes turned from the Twelve-by-Twelve-by-Twelve Worlds and returned to his beloved daughter Celesta.

Shoulders the size of continents rose and fell in a gesture that can only be described as geological. A mouth the length of a mighty river cracked open for the first time in an age and a voice emerged that could shake the heavens.


Made in eg
Otiose in a Niche

Cairo, Egypt

Author's notes

So this story came out of a talk with the Wonder Twins about what if in Harry Potter (or Lord of the Rings or whatever) the wise wizard archetype really has no idea what he's doing. He just throws out riddles and inspirational speeches and hopes someone somewhere is on top of these things. And what if his boss, the Supreme Wise Wizard also is making it up as he goes along, and so on up the chain.

Characters and place names all come from a German vocabulary list of music-related terms. This is because when I needed a name for the initial outline Glockenspiel was the first thing that came to mind.

The story also has its origins in the fact that I now find myself a middle aged father and manager and yet I don't seem to have acquired any additional wisdom that's supposed to come with these roles, just a slightly improved ability to improvise and pray it all works out.

Hope people liked it. It's currently the most exaulted thread on Dakka for what that's worth but comments are always welcome.

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