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Dissonant Counterpoint

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"I never thought Octavian was a bad guy, just a misguided one. He was a bit full of himself, but still willing to help, even if I was just another 'unconventional' musician. We were friends after that - for a little while, at least..."


Shortly after blowing his way into yet another small village, Octavian had learned from folks around the bar at the tavern that there was a legend surrounding a graveyard a short distance outside of town. The supposed reasons for the disturbances spanned everything from hooligan kids to the restless dead – though, of course, that last one was ridiculous. Still, there were rumors of strange music and screaming coming from the old sealed crypt out that way, and so one night around midnight Octavian could not help his curiosity, and decided to go and investigate.

He was rather disappointed to find, instead of anything paranormal, a young man sitting on a headstone aggressively strumming a battered old lute (even worse off than Octavian’s own, and that was saying something considering what he'd been through) and screeching horrendously at the moon as if it were the reason for all of his life’s problems.

The strange fellow didn't seem to notice Octavian's staring at him from the distance right away, and so the bard hid himself behind one of the stone columns bordering the iron fence-gate, peering over the top at the oddity with fuzzy eyebrows furrowed low over his eyes.

Even though the young man was merely a smudge of blue and red from here, he was still very, very audible, going at it not singing so much as he was screaming in a tone that Octavian wasn’t sure human vocal cords could stand for long periods. There was still some…strange sort of music to it; he was playing his lute as well, strong chords with powerful intent. It was an interesting dissonance, even if the voice was starting to hurt his head.

Out of curiosity and a desire to make the dreadful cacophony stop, Octavian stood to his full height and stepped around the pillar, gingerly opening the rusted old gate and stepping into the halls of the dead. The squeal of the gate didn’t seem to register to the young man, but Octavian’s presence did, for as he approached, the man abruptly stopped his playing and yelling, jumping to his feet and holding his lute like a weapon.

Octavian held out his hands in a gesture of peace and gave a slightly-too-wide smile of encouragement that made him look a bit of a hack, though did stop approaching. “Now, now, don’t get the wrong idea, I mean no harm.”

The man squinted at him, looking him over before apparently deciding he wasn’t a threat. He lowered the lute to his side and glanced off into the distance dismissively.

“Oh…welcome.”

Octavian was surprised the man’s voice was only slightly hoarse after all of that noise he'd been making. Still, it wasn’t something to dwell on.

“What was all of that, anyway?”

The man folded one arm across his chest, glaring at the ground, now. “Practice.”

Octavian cocked a brow, “Are you…some sort of musician?” 'Music' almost seemed like an improper word for what he'd just heard, but it was the closest one he had.

“I guess. Can’t sing, though.” The man gave a dismissive shrug, scratching the back of his head.

“So you do…that?”

“It’s…experimental.”

“And is that why you’re out here so late?”

“Uh…yeah. It’s nice out here. Fits the aesthetic, you know? And no one comes to bother me. People back there don’t really appreciate my style.”

The man gave a huff of what seemed to be disgust, and Octavian was immediately intrigued. Experimental, then? Not appreciated? Why…was this some other manner of outcast...'musician,' a mistreated bard? Like himself? It seemed unlikely, but oh, how he longed for a hint of understanding after such a long time.

So, Octavian decided to press this line of inquiry. “You know, I am a bard as well…”

“Yeah, you’re that Octavian guy, aren’t you?" He didn't sound impressed. "People are already talking about you.”

“Good things?” Octavian replied, hopefully.

“No.”

Octavian sighed, “I should have expected. I just came here a few days ago, I’m a tad…underappreciated myself. Ahead of my time, I’m afraid. It’s why I came here.”

The man looked up at him. Octavian could properly take in his appearance now – shaggy black hair that was too long; scruffy, short black beard on his chin; a well-built, broad-shouldered fellow about as tall as he was, which was rare considering Octavian often caught his head on doorways.

“You too?” The man seemed guarded, but his dark eyes sparked with interest.

Octavian clapped his hands together, “Yes, yes! These people refuse to acknowledge what they don’t understand, it’s a tragedy, really. I think we may be in a similar situation.”

“Heh…I doubt it.” He glanced away again, shoulders slumping.

Octavian paused a moment, rubbing his chin under his own beard, before a smug smirk crossed his face. “Perhaps not. I don’t hide out here. I will play until I am noticed.”

“I tried that. Doesn’t work out too well.”

“Well, you could try again? I don’t have much coin to spare but I could at least watch…some of that…eh…interesting display of yours?”

The man seemed to consider it, before giving him a harsh look, eyes narrowed. “Look, I’m not stupid. You’re bluffing to make me feel better, you don’t like it.”

Octavian was somewhat taken aback by this, flustered. “O-oh, well, it’s certainly unusual and…noisy and dissonant but…well, what sort of man would I be if I didn’t at least give another underappreciated musician a chance.”

The man fell silent, turning away from him, a little hunched over himself. This really wasn’t the talkative sort, was it…Octavian struggled for words, but eventually found a suitable distraction.

“You know my name, but what should I call you?”

The man hesitated. Then he glanced over his shoulder.

“…Uh…Fret. I go by Fret.”

“Then Fret. I will see you tomorrow. And you will come and watch me as well!”

…It didn’t look like Octavian was going to give the poor fellow a choice in the matter.