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Vancian magic (2)

August 5, 2013

In Canton Amaze a thousand, two thousand musicians took part in the annual seiach: a vast wash of sound swelling and subsiding like wind, or surf, with occasional tides, vague and indistinct, of clear little waif-bells. More general was the music played by wandering troupes: jigs and wind-ups; set-pieces and sonatas; shararas, sarabands, ballads, caprices, quick-steps. A druithine might accompany such a troupe; more often he wandered alone, playing as he fancied. Lesser folk might sing words or chant poetry; the druithine played only music, to express his total experience, all his joy and grief. Such a person had been Etzwane’s blood-father, the great Dystar. Etzwane had never credited the account of Dystar’s death as related by Feld Maijesto; in his childhood daydreams Etzwane had seen himself wandering the roads of Shant, taking his khitan to fests and gatherings until at last the two met; from here the daydream went in various directions. Sometimes Dystar wept to hear music so lovely; when Etzwane identified himself, Dystar’s wonder exceeded all bounds. Sometimes Dystar and the indomitable youth found themselves opposed in a battle of music; in his mind Etzwane heard the glorious tunes, the rhythms and counter-rhythms, the clink of the jingle-bar, the gratifying rasp of the scratch-box.

The daydreams at last had taken on a ghost of substance. Khitan slung over his narrow back, Etzwane trudged the roads of Shant, and all his future lay before him.

-Jack Vance, The Anome

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