The Nature of Inspiration: Part Three

She considered going back to her dorm, not in the mood for a large crowd, but she was accosted by a group of friends who couldn’t believe she’d just walked up to the back door of the tavern on the arm of a world-famous bard.

She found herself wondering, as they dragged her through the front doors, why it was such a surprise to them for her to be seen in company with the man, but in truth she was afraid to ask. Did they think her not striking enough to garner his attention, not interesting enough to hold him to meaningful conversation? It dampened her mood, and as the crowd grew larger, pushing and shoving sweaty bodies together in what was sure to become a riot, she began to wonder what she was even doing there at all.

But she stayed. He personally asked her to come, and though she highly doubted she would talk with him again now that he’d been wrenched away to accommodate adoring fans, she would support him simply because he asked her to. Even if he had no idea she was out there in the crowd.

Spirits were high, as the chill of spring prepared to yield to oncoming summer warmth. The world always seemed a busier and more forthright place in the days leading up to Belleteyn, as people found themselves looking for potential partners to celebrate fertility with.

Ripe with thoughts of love and hanging heavily on the vine waiting to have their heartstrings plucked, it was the perfect atmosphere for such a concert.

The tavern was packed with people, far more than usual and most of them seemed to be rowdy students from the academy come to watch the famous troubadour perform—a good deal of them young women, all of them screaming drunk and falling all over themselves.

She lost track of her friends, wound up pushing her way through the crowd that continued to pack into the bar for a chance to hear the musician perform, until she arrived near the front of the small stage and waited for the hour of his performance to arrive.

And though the voices were many, the cacophony suggesting no music would be heard at all once he began to play, the moment the troubadour appeared and began strumming the strings of his lute the world itself seemed to hold its breath in anticipation of the tales he would tell.

He sang of love and war, friends and enemies, death, betrayal, hopes and dreams, and for the time being the world was lost, as was he, in the powerful resonance of his voice. He remained in that place, eyes closed as the music carried him away, back to the place he’d first felt the spark of inspiration that brought life to his songs and made them whole, and as she watched him, swaying to the melody as if entranced, she understood things she’d only ever thought she knew before.

About inspiration, the nature of experience and the necessity of the world and all its blessings and troubles to bring such beauty into existence.

It was… life.

He understood it in ways so few others seemed to, captured it so perfectly she swore there were tears in her eyes, slipping down her cheeks. And she wasn’t the only one. All those enraptured by his glory seemed to feel the power he exuded, were drawn in by the inexplicable beauty of his voice.

All of life’s virtues and imperfections, its merits and failures, the magnificence that could only be found in the darkest of places, flickering like a beacon when all hope was lost.

Hope was never truly lost, not even when it died. Light could always be born anew, spirits lifted and broken hearts mended.

And when all was said and done, the crowd placated by that delightful and perfect slice, the tavern owner was able to shift them all back out into the street. They filed together, a single movement that caught her up and ushered her through the doors, into the night. It had started to rain while they were all inside, and the drops felt blissful on her skin, washing away the sweat and ale and pipe smoke from her skin. She somehow managed to disengage from the rolling crowd, found herself standing beneath the awning of the tavern, under pour spout where the rain ran off into the drainage system that flowed beneath the city and into the sewers.

It was cold and perfect, she felt cleansed and alive and so awake even though she knew the hour was late and sleep was a must if she had any intention of rising in the morning at all. Lifting her hands into the dripping locks of her hair, she slicked it back from her face and blinked droplets from her lashes before tilting back her head and letting it wash over her again.

She’d barely drank at all, but she felt drunk. Head-spinning, intoxicated by the sound of his voice, inebriated by the music of his words. It was silly to second-guess the nature for his invitation to watch him perform, but deep down some part of her believed he understood how much she’d needed to see something of the world, something that reached into the deepest part of her and drew her own longing for adventure to the surface so she could truly take a look at it and see exactly why she’d wanted to become a poet in the first place.

She wanted to live.

Really live. See the world, capture its moments and its beauty.

“Go on!” the tavern owner laughed when he saw her twirling slowly beneath the rainspout. “Bar’s closing.”

Nyannah laughed too, backing away from the shower of that stream and flicking water from her fingertips to the street below. And then she ran home, through the streets of the town of Oxenfurt, showing her credentials at the Philosopher’s Gate and then heading straight for her dormitory. There were other students returning, some of them standing without a care as the rain drenched them in deep discussion.

Delighting in the sound of her soggy boots as they splashed through puddles, in the tinkling beauty of rain splashing wind chimes that danced and sang at the command of the soft breeze that carried flower smells and wonder through the night, she’d never felt more alive and inspired, and for the first time in her life she wasn’t questioning the source or nature of that inspiration.

She couldn’t wait until the next lecture, when she had opportunity to tell him how much his words had touched her, reaffirmed her surety for her chosen profession. She wanted to sing to the world, but more than anything, she wanted to see that world, every dark and terrifying passage of it, and she wouldn’t see such places from the illustrated pages of a textbook found in the libraries or taught in the classrooms of Oxenfurt.

Without even lighting the lantern after entering her room, she stripped out of her wet clothes, left them in a puddle on the floor and fell into her bed naked and exhilarated. The meagre lamplight from the courtyard outside streamed through, making beautiful monsters of the shadows, and the chilled breeze drifting in through the opened window, breathing across her skin and raising gooseflesh.

She didn’t know what it was about that night, about the sudden intrusion of a world-famous master poet into her life that had turned everything on its ear, while making sense of all those nuances she’d yet to make sense of on her own. She couldn’t wait to thank Master Genivere, but more than that, she was excited to thank Dandelion for reminding her of what it felt like to be inspired.

About erica

Erica North is the fanfiction pseudonym for fantasy/romance author Jennifer Melzer.
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