I’ve decided to post the chapter one of Gleeman’s Tales to my blog. Feel free to read it and post below any comments or questions. (If you are interested in continuing to read Gleeman’s, it is available through Wattpad. Or check the link here for specific chapters).
Approaching the carpenter’s quaint storefront, a familiar whiff of sawdust and damp polish assailed Gnochi’s nostrils. The sign, carved with intricate designs and the words: ‘Mirage Woods,’ welcomed the bard, though they swung in silence on hinges coated in a generous layer of oil. Gnochi fumbled at the handle and pushed into the store.
Warm dry air smelling of lemon and wood-shavings’ comforting musk welcomed Gnochi. As the door closed behind Gnochi, the residual ring of the small bell above the door faded into a darkened store. The rushing sea-breeze failed to seep through the door, so a deafening silence covered Gnochi’s ears like wool.
A woman’s faint voice, rooms away, fluttered into his ears. “I’ll be right up. Just taking a batch of catgut off the boil.” Gnochi’s mouth split in a smile rarer than the sun’s warmth during a winteryear. He paced the storefront, his boots scuffing a fine layer of dust into the air. Resting on the front counter was a separated guitar neck and body. A singular notch that corresponded with an opening on the body of the guitar was hollowed into the neck. Gnochi eyed the width of the guitar’s neck, taking measurement of the niche with his mind. The hollow sound of footfalls announced a woman’s approach, though they stopped just short of the storefront and the rough sound of heavy brushing came through the door.
“I apologize for my tardiness and appearance. You leave the cat on for too long without working it, and all sorts of bad critters start peeking in.” The woman pushed through to the storefront, still brushing dust and dirt from her dirty coveralls and plain jerkin. She took one look at Gnochi and scowled. “Exactly my point. Had I taken care of this before, I wouldn’t have such a pest besetting my wares.” Gnochi smiled at her remark. “And I suppose my eyes are not seeing dust in the shape of your rough mug. This is the Gnochi Gleeman. Only bard I know who can take such a rip with a grin atop his lips.” At the mention, Gnochi’s face resumed its neutral frown. “As I recall it,” she continued, “we were never to speak again.” The carpenter tapped her boots and motioned scratching her short hair in thought. “What was the phrase you used? Something from the first age, no doubt. Oh yes,” she snapped. “When hell freezes over. Still don’t know what hell is, but it’s probably frigid there now, eh Gnochi?” The woman laughed.
“Your memory is sharp as ever, I see, Mirage,” Gnochi muttered, his voice, scant-used of late, croaking as though it pained to speak. Making a show of looking around the empty store, he asked, “Business not treating you well? Oh and by the way, I could’ve filched half of your merchandise before you even came around to the front,” he bragged.
“But your omnipresent honesty prevented you, I see,” Mirage said, taking a jab. “It’s good to see you again, Gnochi.” Mirage smiled, revealing a set of polished wooden teeth. What have you been up to? Enjoying retirement, you old man? Where’s that niece who was supposedly going to sap all of your time?” Gnochi looked to the floor, not trusting his eyes to conceal his anguish. “Oh, I didn’t…”
“It’s a long story,” Gnochi winced at his unfortunate choice of words. “Listen, I need your help.”
“I figured as much. The only time I see your hide in here is when you need something from me. I should rename my shop: Gnochi’s Brothel.”
“I need a guitar.”
“Well you’re in luck. It just so happens I was making one right here,” Mirage gestured to the guitar sitting unfinished on the counter. She squatted low, looking through her lower cabinets, muttering all the while about gluing the plug into the neck, the headstock to the neck, and finally the neck to the body. She mumbled something about catgut too, but Gnochi dragged his attention back to the niche.
“Let me try something.” Gnochi fished through his pack and retrieved a slender hilt-less blade. Mirage eyed the dark tempered blade in his hand.
“You always carry an unmade sword with you?”
Ignoring the question, Gnochi slid the grip of the blade into the slot through the neck. About finger’s width of grip jutted out of the neck before the blade that, at a half-arm’s length, would sit through much of the guitar’s hollow body. “Can you specially carve that cavity around this grip?”
“What kind of guitar are you looking for, exactly?”
“I can’t really go into it.”
“Well, I’m not about to defile one of my children without any explanation. Spill, Gleeman.”
“I have a contract. I need to…smuggle something into Blue Haven. This blade.”
“You’re clearly in with the wrong people right now Gnochi. I can make you disappear if you want. Your sister and niece too–”
“No,” Gnochi asserted. “This isn’t something I can back out of.”
“Okay, okay.” Mirage looked hard at Gnochi, her eyes asking the questions her mouth feared. “I’ll do it.” Mirage began chiseling a deeper cavity. Gnochi watched with fascination, then after a few minutes began wandering the store. He saw her samples of wood dangling from the ceiling like a chandelier. An idea formed in his mind.
“Mirage, do you have winter-bush wood in stock?”
“Not enough for a full guitar, but I should have some sheets around, why?”
“Can you make the headstock out of winter-bush?”
“I could, but you know that winter-bush is poisonous. You pull the tuning pegs out of the headstock and they will be small poisoned daggers.”
“I’ll be careful,” Gnochi dodged further conversation. Mirage looked at him from across the store. Outside, a man’s shout silenced a dog that started barking.
“That’s going to take some time. I’ll need a day to work on it.”
“I’ll be in town.” Gnochi walked to the counter.
“Good. There’s the matter of payment.”
“Yes,” Gnochi said, pulling a pouch from his pack, which rang with loose pence.
“No, I don’t want your money. You can repay me another way. Are you familiar with the dock district’s most regaled inn, The Red Queen Bee?”
“I’m retired,” Gnochi grumbled.
“There is no other payment I’ll accept. It’s a story at the inn, or I take this monstrosity back.”
Gnochi huffed to himself and smoothed down his wiry moustache. “Fine. One story. Tomorrow night.”
“Good. We’ve got several boats scheduled to dock tomorrow, so the inn should be packed.” Mirage rubbed a sheet of sandpaper on the inside of the guitar neck. She blew a loose strand of rusty copper hair from her eyes, launching a billow of dust into the air. “Harry! Jules!” Two children padded into the front room, their faces also smattered with grime and dust.
“Yes Mistress,” they answered in unison.
“Go to Sipp’s inn. Tell her that Gnochi will be her entertainment for tomorrow night and to prepare for her biggest crowd,” Mirage instructed. “Then tell your friends who are criers that there’ll be once in a winteryear entertainment at the Red Queen Bee tomorrow night.” Mirage put the neck down, fished a few coins out of her pocket and handed them to the children. “These are for the criers only. I don’t want to see you two sneaking any sweets or I’ll make you sweep out all the dust from the back room, understand?” The children nodded and ran out into the street giggling amongst themselves.
“Just like old times I see,” Gnochi remarked.
“Different apprentices, same troubles.”
“That’s not what I meant, Mirage.”
“What? You kept telling me that the reason you had two fancy names was because you were a master bard. Well, I’m helping you maintain that status,” she said with a wink and a smile. “Now get out of here. I have more work to do before I can finish your freakish guitar.”