For an instant, the chord dances on the air, scintillating in its purity. The harp strings vibrate feverishly, creative energy radiating from them. For an instant, the world holds its breath, existence itself converging upon this single sound.
His hand comes to rest upon the harp strings, stilling them. The strings are tense, as if protesting this new restriction. They do not realize that silence is more than simply the absence of noise. Few people do make the distinction. Even fewer come to the conclusion that is so obvious for him.
Silence is as important to music as sound.
His hand falls away from the harp. The spell is broken; the world begins to move again. He can sense its activity beyond his closed eyes: distant, removed, but unmistakable. He has always been good at shutting out anything he does not want to deal with; consequences have never been an issue for him. He would wonder what sort of effect this might have on his music, if he did not risk finding the answer unsatisfactory.
Instead, he focuses the whole of his being on his playing, and plucks the next chord.
(The sheer face of a cliff rises before him, indifferent to his music. While geographically close, it is the farthest thing from his mind. No mountain is eternal, and he has little interesting in the transient.
He pays the landscape little attention; he pays the mortal figure on top of it even less.)
The ringing chord dies, and is followed by a silence more abrupt and less musical than the former one. There is nothing deliberate about this stillness.
Joar Addam Nesossin hesitates.
He is not composing today; from the moment he sacrificed his mortality, he has been largely without inspiration. It is as if the musical genius had been ripped from him alongside all anxiety about the day when death would revoke his potential for future achievement. A part of him would wonder whether true music is irrevocably tied to mortality and the human emotion that it allows, but the answer is more than he would care to face.
Immortality can ultimately be only an augmentation of what he is, he reasons. His recent drought is simply the result of the removal of the burden of needing to create as quickly as possible. It will inevitably pass, and is nothing to worry about. As such, he pushes the concern away from him.
It is ironic, he decides idly, that what should have given him an eternity to compose and play has diminished his ability to create at all.
He is not bitter. It will only be a matter of time before he is able to return to and surpass the musical genius he once possessed.
Quite literally, he has all the time in the world.
(While the mountain itself is unaffected by the sound of the chord, the same does not hold true for everything in the area.
Upon the peak, unobserved but not unnoticed, a man bends over a set of calculations. Distracted from his study by the sound of a nearby melody, he looks up. Curious, he pulls away from his work, rises, and approaches the edge of the cliff.
The sight below fills him with dread, though he is not certain why. Against his better judgment, he leans forward…)
C sharp diminished.
Absently strumming the chord, he finds the “March of Death” resonating through his head. He shuts his eyes again, savouring the timbre of the music, for the moment unwilling to share its glory with the oblivious world around him. It is one of the most powerful pieces he knows, awe-inspiring in its magnitude and its emotional depth.
He has never yet written anything that comes close to approaching it.
Music like that… many believe that such a masterpiece can only be conceived from great suffering. Many believe that a truly great composer must be forged in sorrow and hardship. Many believe that such trials broaden a man’s perspective and allow him to achieve heights unimagined.
It may even be true, he decides.
As important as reason is, true music transcends it. No amount of rationality can illuminate the emotional depths from which unforgettable music emanates. Only the most potent and genuine of human experiences can give rise such affective pieces. Imitation can never be enough.
Asmodean has always avoided suffering, but he is no stranger to it.
He wonders where that leaves him.
The chord falls from his fingers. As if of its own volition, “March of Death” trails after it. The technique is perfect; Nesossin is as skilled a musician as anyone in the Westlands, and better than most. But he does not know what it means to mourn; even as he idly he lets the music flow through him, he knows that he is not capable of doing it justice.
Not yet, at least. He will have an eternity to perfect it.
A cry rings out, shocking in its discordance. Distracted from his music and from his song, Nesossin glances up in time to see a man come too near to the side of the cliff above him, and slip over the edge. He watches as the man clings desperately to the brink of the cliff.
Nesossin does not need to embrace Saidin to sense the stranger’s terror.
Rather than jarring the sudden horror of the moment, the note seems to somehow add to it, giving voice to the dismay and impending doom that the stranger faces. Almost unconsciously, Nesossin has begun to play again. A small portion of his mind converges upon the man on the cliff, morbidly fascinated by his predicament. The rest remains immersed in the glory of the music now flowing from him.
It would take but a small brush of Saidin to spare this single life.
This thought is the farthest thing from Asmodean’s mind.
He is no longer mortal, and does not think in the same manner as mortal men. He has traded his soul for his music, and now measures things against a different standard. He would never seek to remove a source of inspiration, especially considering how rare it has become recently.
(The man struggles against the side of the cliff, occasionally kicking loose rocks free in his panic. In his terror—and his certain knowledge that pleas would be unanswered—he ignores the figure far beneath, whose very presence indirectly brought him to this unfortunate fate.
As the edge of the cliff gives way, the man lunges desperately for a nearby clump of grass, itself barely clinging to rocks.)
As the next note sings through the air, he cannot understand how a person so fragile, so… limited could struggle so hard against the inevitability of their mortality. He watches, distracted, as the hanging man’s grasp upon the cliff side—upon life itself—loosens.
Though he stands so close to the very event of another’s death, he feels he could not possibly be more distant.
He can almost taste the stranger’s terror and desperation, his proximity to death. Bending all of his considerable mastery to the task, he attempts to weave the emotions into the fabric of his song. He believes that without knowledge of death—and even the thought of acquiring such knowledge himself is beyond what he is willing to face—the ability to truly play March of Death will elude him.
Nesossin wonders if feeding off of another’s pain in such a manner will strip him of the last of his humanity.
Asmodean plays on.
C sharp diminished.
(The blade of grass snaps free…)
As the final notes ring out, Asmodean rests his hand against the harp strings, finishing his elegy. He does not fully understand what has transpired, and rests comfortably in the belief that he never will.