Hello everyone. I’m happy to see you back in the car for the road trip that is The Guitar Mancer. As I write this introduction, the month of June is soon to arrive. Here in the USA, it’s Memorial Day weekend. It’s actually a somber holiday, but over the years it came to represent the beginning of summer. However, in the novel, it’s not summer at all, it is New Year’s Day 1970.
Each week I’ve featured a vintage auto at the beginning of the post. The Karmann Ghia above was one of the “things” left in a comment from a lovely blogger-chef. Which brings me to…
This Week’s Featured Blogger
Floridian, Cheryl has nine, count ’em nine, websites. I always start with Cheryl “Cheffie Cooks” Wiser and move around from that point. You will find recipes galore at her blogs. Speaking of which, these Baked Center Cut Pork Chops-with Apple Cream & Mushroom Gravy would have been a great New Years Day meal for our heroes. So be sure to pay Cheryl a visit.
About This Episode
This road trip is going at a novel’s pace. A fantasy writer would not explain all the magical elements of the story right up front. For one thing it would be tedious. For another it would take away some mystery. So you’ve been nibbling small servings as we go.
As you’d expect by the title, the mythology of this story centers on mancers. Along the way I’ve been giving you some idea of what mancers are. However, Luci hasn’t been in on the small bites of magical information that I’ve been feeding you. This time Bodaway and Tam begin to explain all mancers to Luci.
There was an old southern superstition where I grew up. My grandmother always said that whatever you did on New Year’s Day, you’d be doing all year. Then she, and everyone else, sat down and refused to do any work.
I can’t help wondering if Luci might have pondered that old wives’ tale while her first day of 1970 got stranger and stranger.
Episode 9 — Mancers
The electric Farberware percolator chugged away. The kitchen quickly filled with the aroma of fresh coffee. It was a comforting scent on a winter day. It also gave a homey feeling to a circumstance that was otherwise unnerving in its strangeness.
Luci needed that familiar kitchen coziness. She looked at the two men. The one who sat at the table with her was a complete stranger. The other paced the room restlessly; she had barely met him. Her mind went to a third stranger. The day before, the guitarist, Yamata Orochi had a mesmerizing and frightening effect on her. She gave her head a sharp shake, refusing to let the thought take hold.
The Apache shaman raised an eyebrow at her involuntary movement, but he didn’t say anything. A moment earlier, outside her home, he had made introductions. He called himself Bodaway Thunder, and then named Tammarand Ben Taliesin, or Tam as Mr. Blaylock called him.
It might have gone against popular wisdom in many places, but Luci had the hospitality conventions that were part of the culture in which she was raised. She invited them into the bungalow.
Besides, there was no doubt in her mind that the two men had information that she needed to know. She had never liked feeling left out while everyone else knew something. So she led them to the kitchen, where they sat down at the table to talk.
Bodaway explained that the hawk was looking for the kitten. Freyja was apparently content after her human found the mewing object of her search. She flew to the tall hickory tree. Luci had the distinct feeling that the hawk watched their every move through the kitchen window. She wondered if the bird could hear their conversation as well.
As Luci looked out the window and up at the big hawk in the branches, the kitten startled her by jumping to the windowsill.
“Why your kitten-ness, I didn’t know you could jump so high!” she exclaimed.
“Is that what you’re calling him?” Tam asked in an incredulous tone that earned him an offended look from Luci.
“It’s okay,” the shaman inserted. “The kitten will let you know his name.”
At first Luci thought the tall man was joking, but he looked serious. She could feel the hawk’s intent gaze on the kitten. She found it quite unnerving, and said so.
Bodaway Thunder gave a deep chuckle. “Oh don’t worry. Freyja doesn’t plan to eat him. She recognizes him for one of her kind,” he said.
“Her kind?” Luci asked. “Did you notice that she’s a bird and he’s a cat?” she remarked and then hoped that had not come out as sarcastic as it sounded to her own ears.
The extremely tall Apache chuckled and smiled. “No, they are both spirit animals,” he said in a matter of fact way, but Luci looked at him blankly. “Freyja and this little one,” he said picking up the kitten in one huge hand. “Both were born of the astral plane because a mancer would need them. They bear a special calling. They bond to one human and protect and serve that human no matter what.”
“Did Grover tell you nothing of this?” Tam asked having finally settled down with a cup of coffee.
Luci shook her head “no” as she poured another cup of coffee for the shaman and herself. She felt embarrassed by the odor of burned Pop-Tart that permeated the house, but it was getting cold inside so she got up to close the window over the sink.
“And you don’t play any sort of musical instrument at all?” Tam asked dubiously. “Not even a comb with a slip of paper? Spoons?” he added, green eyes twinkling in jest.
“No. I don’t think I’ve ever even touched one,” Luci said. “Why is that so important to you?”
“You have guessed that we, Tammarand and I, are not… We are not ordinary folks?” Bodaway asked but didn’t wait for her to answer. “You can tell that something is different, just from being near us. And the same for Freyja. Isn’t this true?” he asked very gently but Luci could only nod.
“You have ancestors who were like us,” Tam chimed in before she could speak.
“Just what do you mean by like you?” Luci asked not so sure she liked where the conversation was going.
Bodaway smoothly took back control of the dialogue. Luci seemed to respond more levelly to the Apache than she did to Tam. She didn’t know why, but Tam had the ability to irritate her for no apparent reason.
“Let me try to explain it,” Bodaway began. “Among people like us, there are some who are very strongly talented with music. We call those people talents,” he said.
Luci nodded. That was easy enough to follow, so what was the big deal? The shaman waited for her to show that she was with him before continuing.
“A talent can draw out music, from within himself, music that other musicians could never reproduce, no matter how technically correct they were in playing the notes,” he said.
“Yes. I can understand that,” Luci said.
“Once in a generation of generations,” Bodaway said with emphasis. “A talent immerges who has the potential to become a mancer,” he said.
“A mancer?” Luci said, testing the strange word. She looked from one man to the other. “You guys are putting me on, right?”
Tam leaned across the table closer to her. He looked intently into her eyes. “No. Luci, please. You must believe and understand this. It’s critically important,” Tam said urgently.
“My alarmist sounding friend is right,” Bodaway Thunder confirmed. “I’ve read the portends. Dangerous times have arrived.”
“Oh for crying out loud man,” Tam interrupted. “She’s having a hard enough time believing about talents and mancers. Now you’re going to throw ‘portends’ into the mix?”
“Luci understands portends,” Bodaway said sounding a little hurt. “Don’t you?” he asked.
“I understand the word. But what does any of this have to do with me?” she asked.
“I said you had ancestors who were like Bodaway and me. They were mancers,” Tam said more carefully that time.
“Did you think my dad is one of these mancers? Is that why you came here?” Luci asked in astonishment. “But he’s never played—” Luci began, but stopped.
Yet that wasn’t true. She realized that it just seemed that way. Luci reminded herself that Grover was USO band director and was at a reunion with his old cronies. She had heard that her dad could play many instruments. However, he refused to discuss it when she asked. Luci had never seen him play anything. It seemed almost as though he didn’t even like music. Even the radio channels he listened to were all talk.
Had Grover kept a great musical gift hidden from her all her life? It made her sad to think her father may have been a great musician and never played for her.
“Grover Harper is a talented musician,” Tam said. “Mancers, very powerful mancers were in his family line. I thought that somehow the mancer power had manifest late in life with him,” Tam said and he looked like a man who had just learned something that was hard to believe.
“But your father is not a mancer,” Bodaway chimed-in, leaning on the word not.
Both men looked at Luci significantly. “You don’t mean… Surely you don’t mean me!” she exclaimed. “I can’t play anything. I’ve never even touched a musical instrument.”
“That’s just it. You haven’t even touched one,” Bodaway told her. “Your father mistrusted the mancer power. He blamed it for his parents’ death. So he shielded you from it, in case it should be passed down to you. He protected you by keeping music away from you as much as possible,” the shaman said.
“Somewhere out there your gift instrument is waiting. The one you have a gift for playing; the one you can play better than any other instrument. You just haven’t been exposed to it yet,” Tam said.
“I think that the first time you put your hands on it — whatever it is, you will just suddenly begin to play it. You will play it without even knowing how you play,” Bodaway told her with earnest passion that gave her goose bumps.
“Is that how it was for you?” Luci asked the Apache and he nodded with a broad smile. “And you are a… a mancer?”
Bodaway nodded again and Luci turned to Tam. “And you are one too?” she asked.
“Oi! You don’t need to sound like that’s such a surprise, Wee Mouse,” Tam said pretending to be wounded by her words.
Luci thought that if he persisted in calling her “Wee Mouse” she might in fact wound him.
“So you’re telling me that it’s magic? You’re saying that you two are also… magic?” she asked.
It all sounded like an elaborate prank to Luci. She could imagine going to her first day at work and Tam telling everybody what a gullible fool she was. Luci was beginning to feel irritated. She frowned at them both and folded her arms.
“Erm… yes, you’d pretty much have to call it magic,” Tam admitted.
Tam’s accent seemed to hum in Luci’s ears as he spoke. The sensation was slight, but she noticed it. Bodaway Thunder gave her a knowing grin and another rumble of a chuckle. Luci looked at the Apache in confusion.
“In its most simple form a mancer’s power can influence someone’s decision or affect their mood. Most mancers can’t use their power — their music for much more than that. However, in its most advanced form, the power of a mancer could move small objects, effect the internal workings of machines, or create and direct energy — power. The power within a great mancer could bring beauty and happiness or pain and death,” he finished on a dramatic note.
Her mind again flashed to the strange guitarist and his pale gray eyes. Luci stamped down hard on the thought to make it go away.
Taking a deep breath and expelling it in a burst, Luci shook her head slowly. Her mouth twisted into an expression of contempt. She’d had about all of the foolishness she could stand.
“I see that conveniently neither of you have a musical instrument with you. So that saves you from having to prove this nonsense. April Fools’ Day is in April. Maybe wherever you come from they do the same thing on New Year’s Day,” she said derisively.
“Oh, so it’s proof you want, is it?” Tam asked as if accepting a challenge.
He gave a quick look all around the kitchen. His eyes alighted on the drain board next to the sink. Tam picked up the copper bottom Revere Ware pan in which Luci had made hot chocolate the night before. Then he opened a drawer, but raised his eyebrows looking at her as if asking permission. He removed two knives from the flatware set. In an afterthought he also picked up a water glass.
Tam placed the pan, bottom up, along with glass and the knives on the table in front of Bodaway. The tall man’s mouth quirked in an expression that Luci could have sworn was mischievous anticipation.
“That is my favorite pan,” Luci said in a warning voice. “What are you planning on doing with it?”
“You hear that? Make sure you don’t dint or scratch it,” Tam told the shaman.
A droplet of water on the copper reflected a beam of sunlight. Bodaway smiled pleasurably as he touched the drop with one finger and then caressed the rim of the glass, producing a perfect note of music. The tone reverberated throughout the kitchen, growing louder.
Then he picked up the table knives by the blades and gently tapped the pan. The click of metal to metal made a tone that eased upward to match the tone of the glass and the two sounds merged.
The rhythm of his tapping reached into the tense spot between Luci’s shoulders. She felt those muscles relax. Without realizing it, she started moving her shoulders to the beat.
Bodaway continued tapping the knife with one hand, but with the other he ran a finger around the glass again, producing a second note. The two notes came together in a reverberating chord. Outside the hawk cried a single long note that made three part harmony.
The kitten sat beside the Apache’s feet and rubbed his head against Bodaway’s long denim clad calf. Luci thought the cat was purring in rhythm to the beat. She glanced a Tam and saw that his eyes were closed as he gently swayed to the sounds.
Listening to the music, Luci felt peaceful and content. With the relaxation came inexplicable happiness. Bodaway gradually played slower and softer until he finally stopped and placed the knives on the table.
Neither man said a word. They waited expectantly for Luci to speak. “That was… amazing,” she eventually whispered.
“That is the power of a mancer’s music,” Tam said quietly.
“Can you do that too?” she asked Tam.
“No, not with percussion instruments. Bodaway is a drum mancer,” Tam said as if that was supposed to clarify things. Seeing the look on her face he added, “The drums are his gift instrument, the one where he has the greatest ability.”
“And you’re trying to tell me that you think I can do something like that? Well, I’m sorry but you’re just wrong. I can barely carry a tune in the shower. I can’t dance because I have two left feet and no rhythm at all. What you’re suggesting is just crazy,” Luci said adamantly.
Bodaway looked at her and shook his head gloomily. So did Tam, but the shaman won the prize for having the saddest big brown eyes. He could match Grover Harper for the puppy-dog expression. It was worse than looking at a puppy.
“You were right Tam,” he said. “I didn’t realize what a terrible thing it was when you said it, but keeping a potential mancer away from music, submerging their latent talent… I know her father wanted to protect her, but to me this seems like a crime,” Bodaway said to Luci’s astonishment.
“What are you saying?” she exclaimed. “My father has never harmed me in any way,” Luci added in her dad’s defense.
“Luci, we know he was just protecting you. He must have sensed your potential. And apparently it really frightened him. Grover set things up so there was as little music in your life as possible. He allowed you to believe you had no sort of musical ability at all, probably encouraged the belief. To us, as mancers, it is sad,” the shaman tried to explain. “To us, the idea of having all music taken away is a horrible thing. It’s probably the worst fate a mancer can imagine,” the Apache said and looked down at the table.
Tam looked into her eyes and spoke softly. “Have you ever been so moved by music before? Let alone by pots and pans?” he added with a playful glint in his green eyes.
“Only once,” Luci said and both men looked surprised. “But it was the opposite of this. This was wonderful. It was almost… healing,” she said.
Luci misunderstood their reaction when she said that she had in fact experienced being greatly moved by music, so she heaped on the compliments in case she had hurt anyone’s feelings. She soon saw that was not what was on their minds.
“The opposite of this you say?” Tam asked, his expression changing from surprise to fear.
It alarmed Luci for him to look afraid. She remembered the overheard conversation between Tam and her father. Something had both of them worried. Plus a little while earlier, listening to the two men when she found them in her front yard, she gathered that they were upset when they mistakenly thought her dad had not left town for his own safety.
She turned to Bodaway and saw an expression in his dark eyes that was at least as worried as Tam looked. In answer to the flood of questions that erupted from the two men, she told them about her encounter with the strange guitarist.
“He was just some kind of creepy weirdo,” she said not wanting to think about it. “He even had a reproduction of B. B. King’s guitar, Lucille,” she finished.
Or she thought she was finished with the subject of the guitarist. Tam and Bodaway, however, poured another flood of questions at her about Yamata Orochi. After a thorough grilling the two men stopped interrogating her and stared at each other.
“This is bad. Really bad,” said the Apache.
“The guitar mancer is already here?” Tam said in apparent denial. “He’s already found her, and undoubtedly recognized the potential that we didn’t see at first,” the sandy haired man added.
“Speak for yourself. You’re the one who didn’t notice her,” Bodaway said dryly. “I think we need to high tail it out of here. We’ve got to get back to the Mother.”
“What does that mean? The Mother? You two are starting to scar me. What in the Sam Hill is going on?” Luci demanded as a chill ran down her spine.
End serial episode 9
Hmmm… In fantasy stories, when a character finds out they have a magical power, there’s usually some fun to be had with it. However, it doesn’t seem that way for Luci. If you think back to the episode where Tam got the message from Bodaway, Tam had noticed musicians were suddenly losing their ability to play. He seemed to think something sinister was happening. Will a power that Luci doesn’t yet even possess place her in danger?
The prospects don’t exactly seem sunny. However, back when today’s featured blogger made that comment filled with “things” from the late 60s, Cheryl mentioned the old Beatles song “Good Day Sunshine.” So here’s one more treat.
Until next time, keep on truckin.’ Mega hugs!
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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