Part 1

Iniss wandered around the scattered wagons. The merchants and peddlers milled about, unpacking their wares as they prepared to sell some goods in this small town. Iniss couldn't remember the name of the town. From what he had seen, very little happened here and the arrival of this merchant caravan seemed to be the highlight of the year. The townspeople were beginning to pour out of their homes to peruse the goods for sale, and even though it was only midmorning, the central square was beginning to fill with people.

He simply walked around, pausing every so often to purchase things that he needed. Spare cloak, a small lantern and some food. As he passed each person, he listened to them. Each spoke in the merchant tongue that prevailed in the region, but deeper then their words he could hear their music. Humans all, they reverberated with the music of passion and creation. Strong, strident tunes, that's what he liked best about humans. Though they themselves may not be good people, he loved listening to the music that set them apart as a race.

Iniss wandered further through the crowd, hearing the music around him shift and blend. People came together and their individual notes combined to form fascinating harmonies. When Iniss passed a pair shouting at each other about prices, he could feel the tension in the discordant notes that they emitted. When he passed a mother holding her child by the hand, he could hear the love that they shared.

The music though was sour. Iniss couldn't quite explain it, nor was it something unique to this town. Everywhere he went, he could hear the music of the world around him start to sicken and change, becoming something vile to his ears. Other songmasters that he knew said that they heard the same thing everywhere they went. Something was changing in the world and it was destroying the music that they could hear in everything. The world was never quiet for a songmaster, but this change was making that gift into a curse.

He pulled his cloak closer around him, making sure that his hood was down far enough to hide his face. Each time he stopped to examine the wares of one of the merchants he could feel them trying to catch a glimpse of his face through his hood. They could try, but the music was bound to his cloak and concealed him from their eyes. None of these simple folk could see him. It was better this way.

Finally, he decided that he had sufficient supplies for the next leg of his journey. Though the change was everywhere, Iniss was confident that something was responsible for it. He meant to find out. Exiting the crowded square and leaving behind the townsfolk and their music, he began heading towards the small wall that protected the town from the world. The town was on the edge of a large forest and legends always abounded about the vile things that lurked in its heart.

Iniss simply snorted. Legends always spoke about vile things, never the truth.

A soft note caught his attention. Iniss stopped and turned to stare down the street that he had come to. A simple figure sat on a doorstep in the distance. This strange music was coming from him. What was this? It had hints of humanity to it, but the underlying tune was something else entirely. Also, there seemed something underneath the music, some strident, rumbling yet separate song.

That separate song wasn't sour.

Iniss couldn't stop himself. He walked down the street until he stopped in front of the figure. He stared down at the boy on the steps. The boy stared up at him. What was this strange music? He puzzled over this until he realized that the boy was staring up at him with wide eyes. What…? Could this boy see through the shadows of his hood?

Before he could figure out what to do, the boy licked his lips and spoke in a low voice. "What are you?"

Iniss jerked his head back. How had this boy seen through his hood? Even those practiced in the magical arts could only see darkness. They may be able to determine that some form of their art was blocking their eyes, but they wouldn't be able to pierce it so easily. What was this boy?

Iniss crouched down in front of the boy, holding his hands out to let him know that he meant no harm. "Can you see my face?"

The boy leaned away from Iniss, eyes still focused on his hood. He silently nodded. Iniss regarded this child with narrowed eyes. He was thin, dressed in simple clothing with a shapeless hat covering his hair. His face was narrow and dirty, but those eyes seemed to belong to someone older. The boy could only be around fifteen, but those eyes spoke decades. "How can you see my face?"


Iniss jumped. He had been so focused on the boy he hadn't heard the other man walk up behind him. He stood up and turned. It was one of the merchants. This man ignored Iniss and simply walked up to the boy, taking him by his arm and hauling him to his feet. "What were you thinking, Besh? Wandering off like that when we had work to do. Sandav needs your help unloading some cloth from his wagon and you had better stick around to help him after that."

"I know, I know." The boy wrenched himself free of the man's grip, rubbing his arm and began walking down the street. The man followed. As they got a little farther, Iniss saw the boy look over his shoulder. The boy's eyes weren't afraid, but seemed filled with an emotion that Iniss couldn't define. The two turned a corner and their music died down.

Iniss stood in the nearly empty street, staring at where the boy had gone. It was strange that he had seen Iniss' face, but in the wide world strange things happened. However, Iniss couldn't get the boy's music out of his mind.

It hadn't been sour.

Maybe he wasn't done with this town quite yet. He walked back towards the crowded town square.