Chapter 4
24 Sp'gin (We'yetday)

George Taverner had inherited the Boar & Bear seven years ago, upon the death of his father. The establishment had been opened forty-five years before that, by George's grandparents, Jacques and Adeline. In those days, travel between villages was quite rare, so there was little need for inns. Indeed, Jacques's original intention had merely been to open a tavern; it was Adeline's idea to build a few rooms above the tavern. They both came from families of hunters, which was what inspired the name they'd chosen for their establishment. However, Adeline said that a two-part name called for a two-part business, and an inn seemed to her to be a natural choice for their secondary undertaking. Still, there was only enough space for five rooms, none of them particularly large. The largest of these would be occupied by Jacques and Adeline themselves, and when their son Rafael was born, one of the rooms became his. Even then, it was rare for all three guest rooms to be occupied. These days, George and Marie lived in the room that had once belonged to Jacques and Adeline, and Tom had Rafael's old room. Since the Coming of the Order, travel had become more common, so it was now rare for the Boar & Bear to have any vacancies. At present, one of the rooms was taken by Darius, one by Alecstar and Cameron, and one by Ginger and Emma. It wasn't a problem that there was no room for Tino, as he almost always obtained his own lodging, wherever the Band traveled.

The seven soon-to-be traveling companions spent the next several days making preparations for their journey, as well as getting used to thinking of themselves, collectively, as 'the Chaos.' At first, Darius expected there to be eight in their party, but Ginger explained to him that Tino usually traveled alone, and met them at their destinations. However, she did fill Tino in on the details of their meeting, as she'd promised. Tino himself wished everyone luck with their rebellion, but said he couldn't officially join the Chaos, as he was a pacifist. It was a subword that took Tom and Darius a moment to grasp, but when they did, Darius said, "Damn, I wish everyone was a pacifist. That'd be freaking awesome." Tino also promised to meet up with them at some point during their journey, and said he looked forward to getting to know both Darius and Tiejo better.

Early on We'yetday afternoon, exactly one week after the Chaos had formed, Alecstar and Cameron gave Tom his final flying lesson, while Emma was out buying the last of the supplies they'd need for the trip. Tomorrow would be a day of rest for everyone, and the next day, their adventure would begin. But today, Darius, Ginger, Tiejo, and Tino gathered at the Boar & Bear. The tavern rarely had many customers at that time of day, so it was no great sacrifice that George and Marie had decided to close the establishment for a few hours, to give their nephew's band the chance to practice. However, they took frequent breaks, to converse with the adventurers. It was still common practice, when getting to know someone new, to ask about their so-called 'Order-names.' The surname law had only been enacted eight years ago, in 904 (and many clans or individuals hadn't bothered choosing a surname until the First Census, in 905). So, when the four young musicians (all of them sixteen years old) arrived to begin practice, that was among the first questions everyone asked. George introduced Darius and his friends to the kids, who were already fans of Ginger and Tino's band. (No mention was made of the planned rebellion, of course.) He then introduced his nephew.

"Friends, this is Marc Protestant. Marie's brother's son."

"Pleased to meet you," said Ginger, and the others echoed the sentiment.

Tino said, "Marie, your family's name is Protestant? I did not know that. No relation to Ginj, eh?"

Handing him a cup of coffee, she replied, "Now, you know 'Protestant' isn't exactly a regular clan-name. Just ever so many folks as feel a great connection to that denomination chose it. Enough as the Order's census-takers realized it'd be useless trying to make them all stick to the general 'one name to one clan' rule. Besides, they wanted to demonstrate their willingness to let bygones be bygones, and accept the continued existence of the Protestants, after the war."

"And, a cynic might say, it'd be an easy way of identifying their enemies if they ever wanted to dispose of them," said Darius.

"A cynic might, yes," said Marie. "But of course, whatever truth there might be in that, the Order would surely also realize that a great many people who chose other names would also be Protestants by religious practice. So they'd have to be careful; there'd be plenty of friends left around to avenge such a disposal, even start a whole new war. I think they're not so interested in creating martyrs. ...Who wants cookies?" Whatever she talked about, her voice never failed to hold the same cheerful tone, which could be jarring to those who didn't know her well. Luckily, everyone here had spent at least a little time with her before, except Tiejo, who took almost everything in life in stride. They all nodded, and she popped back into the kitchen. She was not one who often worried about spoiling meals.

Tiejo had obviously been having trouble refraining from interrupting. When Marie left the room, he could see that Tino was about to change the subject, and hurried to get a word in edgewise. "Like Streetrats, are Protestants. Rats all."

"Excuse me?" said Ginger, not yet sure whether to be amused or offended.

"Not such clan-name. Many non-relatives. Kind of thing as Streetrats, large not-family. Fellowship, or other subword Darius helping me find will be, hmmm? Streetrats, and Dockrats, Hillrats, Riverrats, Woodrats... all. But Order does not fear, as maybe they do Protestants; Order does not care, simply. Unimportant, are 'rats, call us what we will."

"Ah, I see," she said, nodding. She still wasn't quite sure about amusement, but she had decided offense was out.

Turning back to Marc, Tino asked, "Any spirit-talkers in your family, then?"

Marc glanced at his uncle, then quickly looked away. George's mother had been a spirit-talker, who had died in the war when Marc was seven years old. He'd never even met her, as it was before his aunt had married George, but he knew enough about her to worry that Tino's question might bring up painful memories for his uncle. To forestall this, he hastened to reply, "My cousin Drew. He sometimes gets us songs from other worlds through one of his spirit friends. You guys-" He was interrupted by Marie returning with a platter of cookies, of which everyone got up to partake, then returned to their seats. "You guys get any songs like that?"

Ginger said, "Mostly, Cameron and Emma write our stuff. But we do get a few offworld songs, whether from spirits I know, or just stuff that other 'talkers have already published."

Marc nodded, and began introducing his band-mates. "Anyway, this is our lead singer, Rain W.," he said, gesturing in the direction of the short, freckle-faced girl carrying a Frinn horn case.

With her free left hand, she waved. "Hi, everybody."

"W?" asked Darius. "Is that your whole order-name?"

"Well... no. I just feel kinda silly using my real surname with my first name. See, my folks are weather-predictors, they've both always loved the weather. They do a column on it for a local daily journal. So, it seemed only natural for them to name me after one of their favorite types of weather- they met in the rain one spring day you know, and married in it, and still frequently dance in it. And years later, when the surname law was passed, it seemed similarly natural for them to choose a name based on their profession, as most people did. So they called themselves 'Weatherprophet.' Which makes me Rain Weatherprophet. They neglected to consider that when choosing the surname. Parents are good at causing their kids no end of embarrassment, yeah?"

There were a few nods of agreement. Rain said no more, so Marc continued the introductions. Pointing to the tallest of the young musicians, he said, "Jae Furthingtame."

"Your folks must be in a fun line of work," said Ginger.

"You might think that. Of course, they continually get more scrapes and bruises than I ever got when I was a kid. But at least I've never lacked for good pets."

"Tiejo furthing had," said Tiejo. "Streetfurthing, he was, untame but good. Warm, soft, purr, good protection and alarm. Rennon, called him. Good Rennon. Cute cute. Good furthing." His smile fell away as he added, "Miss him, I do."

"I'm sorry," said Ginger. "I wish I could have met him; I love furthings. Even if most of them are rather 'untame.'"

After a few moments of silence, Marc looked toward the other girl in the group. "Anyway, this is-"

"Anja Frontrun," she introduced herself. "As for my surname, I guess you may've heard of my dad, Zip Frontrun."

"Indeed," said Darius. "Gold medalist for running at two World Fairs. No mystery, then, about the derivation of that name." Anja smiled and nodded.

Ginger was still looking at Jae, or rather at his instrument, which he'd just taken out of its case. "Excuse me, Jae, I don't believe I've ever seen one of those. What is it?"

He grinned broadly and held it out to her. She took it carefully yet eagerly, running her hands over its body and strings. "It's a majitar," he said. "Very rare. I couldn't tell you how many there are in world, but I expect you could count them on one hand. I learned to play from the man who invented it, a Sorreter named Guy Artisan. He said the basic design is based on an old Earth instrument a spirit told him about. I forget what he called it, but the majitar is named for it. The 'maj' part is from majik- that's M-A-J-I-K, a spelling he says he prefers to the regular one. Anyway, apparently there were several different types of the Earth instrument, and the one he wanted to make required a science a wee bit beyond us yet, so he used majik instead. It's not quite the same effect, but close enough."

"How often does the magic have to be recharged?" asked Ginger. (She realized she'd been mentally spelling the word the usual way, almost said 'Sorry, I mean majik,' but stopped herself when she realized the pronunciation was the same either way.)

"Depending on how much it's played, every five to ten years. I've had it now three years, and I keep in touch with Guy via t-mail. He's a world-traveler, you know. Anyway, he should be back around this way by the time it needs recharging. Unless we get a whole lot of gigs soon." And he glanced at George.

"We'll see, son. Do well, and the audience will demand more."

"So, you can't just take it to any commercial Sorreter?" asked Darius.

"Oh, of course no other Sorreters know Guy's brand of majik."

"He'll have to train others in making and recharging these," said Ginger, handing it back to Jae.

"Perhaps. Anyway, I never let pass an opportunity to remind him I'd love to be apprenticed to him, if he's ever interested in taking any on."

"Speaking of rare instruments- Anja, I've never seen one of those," said Tino, pointing to a rather large and odd-looking contraption already set up on the stage.

"Ah, rarer still. Unique, in fact. I invented it myself. It's called a microlliope, and I'm the only one in the world who can play it. Like Jae's majitar, it's based on an Earth instrument, but I've had to do my best to reproduce it. It's not quite the same, and that's only partly intentional. I mean, I was trying to make a smaller, more portable version of it. One could only take that so far, though, and still retain anything of the original."

The other three members of the band beamed at her. Marc said, "We're so proud. Little genius inventor we've got here, not to mention being a great musician. And Jae with his majitar, and Rain's a damn good singer...."

"I'll reserve final judgement til I've heard you all play," said Tino, "but I think you kids are gonna be big. I'm proud to have met you. ...Y'know, you all kinda remind me of a band I used to be in, back in the '90s, though we surely couldn't have been nearly as good or have had the potential you all probably have.... Anyway, I'm afraid I didn't show up much. Constantly disappointing the others."

"Some things never change," said Ginger dryly.

Tino, sitting beside her, grinned and put an arm around her, gave her a little squeeze and a peck on the cheek. "Yup. But hey, I'm a lot better about such things than I used to be. Really."

"Well," she admitted, "at least you're always there for performances. And your performance is never disappointing."

"So, Tino, what's your order-name?" Anja asked. "Mr. Taverner didn't mention that, as he did the others."

Tino shrugged. "Never saw the need for one. Orderlies don't bother me."

"But what about the census-takers?" asked Marc.

"Saw neither hide nor hair of them. Fell between the cracks, I did."

"Good singer slash ocarina-player 'Streetrat' can be," said Tiejo.

Tino grinned. "Thanks. I may take you up on that."

"Or 'Protestant,'" said Ginger, giving him a squeeze of her own.

"Now that's an even more attractive offer."

"I think," said Darius with a sudden thought, "that we're missing something of fundamental importance here." All eyes turned to him. After a moment's dramatic pause he asked, "Well? What's the name of the band?"

"Black Radly," the teenagers said in unison. Marc continued, "It's from a Terran book that was suggested to Drew by one of his spirits. 'Black Radly' was the name of a type of bow, in the book. What that could possibly have to do with music or with us, I'm sure I don't know. All I can say is, when I read-"

"When each of us in turn read," Anja corrected.

"...When we each read the name of the bow, we all had the same reaction: 'That'd be a cool name for a band.'"

"Indeed," said Darius. "Well, I should like to read that book myself, someday, if I can find a copy. I love offworld books and such. Especially from Earth."

"Doesn't everybody?" asked Ginger.

"I know I do," said Tino. "And hey, I've even read that book. Those books, I should say. Damn good series."

The four kids stared at Tino in surprise. "A series?" asked Marc. "Drew never mentioned that; we've only read the one. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure it is the only book by that author that's available on the Land. It was just published here last year. So how'd you know it's a series?"

"That's another mystery about Tino," said Ginger. "He knows so much about Earth, you'd think he was a spirit-talker, himself. You aren't, are you? It suddenly occurs to me I've never even asked."

"Nope," Tino said with his usual boyish grin. She didn't bother pressing for more information; she knew him well enough to know it wouldn't be forthcoming. Turning to Marc, he said, "Anyway, it's possible neither your cousin nor the publisher even know about the rest of the books. You should ask Drew to ask his spirit friend about it. Spirits don't always volunteer specific information which would seem to be directly related to the conversations they're having... so I hear."

"That's certainly true enough," said Ginger. "As much as I love my own spirit friends, they can be damned frustrating to talk to sometimes. Which is a big reason I don't do it professionally. That, and of course my love of music..."

"Speaking of which," said Jae, "perhaps we should get on with practicing for tonight."

Rain said, "Ginger, Tino, I'm sure we'd all be honored if... you wouldn't mind giving us notes on our performance?"

"The honor would be ours," said Ginger. "Just keep in mind, you're not us, and need not- should not- conform to our style. It's okay to learn from others, as long as you always remember to be yourselves."

"Naturally," said Rain.

The kids went up on stage and finished setting up their instruments. Their small, informal audience didn't have long to wait before the band was ready. Jae's majitar opened the first number; it was not difficult to believe that the instrument was indeed at least partially magical. In a few moments, Jae's playing was joined by his singing; both started out low, quiet, slow. At the same time, Anja began playing her microlliope, just as softly and slowly. The song went on in this vein for a centhour, when suddenly Marc's drums thundered to life, temporarily overshadowing the other two. Then the speed and volume of all the instruments leveled off, and Rain took over lead vocals, while Jae contributed backing vocals, for the remainder of the song. His majitar occasionally produced sounds even louder and faster than Marc's initial drum work.

The style was not entirely unfamiliar to Ginger and Tino, who had heard recordings of similar music from other worlds, provided by one of the spirits Ginger knew. But they'd never heard its like from a Landian band, nor had anyone else in the room heard any such sound, at all. They all decided unequivocally that it was high time for this music to come to the Land. George was already thinking of what Frank would do if he heard these kids play, and made a mental note to invite him one night soon; tonight, if possible. The first song was played uninterrupted, and everyone stood and applauded when it was finished. Subsequent songs were played sometimes haltingly- this was a practice session- and sometimes completely. Everyone offered up their opinions and advice at any chance, though mostly all they could think to say was, 'Don't change a thing.'

After lunch, Black Radly continued practicing, with George and Marie as their only audience. The others went to meet up with Alecstar, Emma, Cameron, and Tom. They'd all return to the tavern later to watch Black Radly's first official performance, enjoy some drinks, and generally relax. Tom didn't much care for the music, but everyone else agreed it was a fun night, and a great start to the weekin. But as welcome as the next day's rest was, they were all eager for their adventure to begin....

chapter 5

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