Aphia Marsuki (a-FEE-ya mahr-SOO-kee)

Invaders are comming, they come through me. - Aphia Marsuki, in her song on the shore
  They had called the art of the Bard dead, supplanted by newer more sophisticated technologies. There were other ways to keep and transmit lore. Other ways to rally public sentiment. Yes, the art of the Bard was quite dead until Aphia Musoki came to the Ahzashenzi court.   She came and became a phenomanon... then a legend.  

Growing in the Jungles

Born in a village in the Muti Jungle, she grew up away from many of the modern modes of entertainment. While radios were known, there was only one television in the entire village, and those who went away and came back brought with them music and whatever else they could manage (the young engineer who brought back a way to get the village indoor plumbing and sewage was viewed as a local hero even though it happened before she was born.)   Yet the older ways were still taught, and cagey old men and women in the village knew that their ways were being forgotten so hand woven or made 'exotic' goods would fetch high prices farther afield, so they carefully husbanded the talents of those who could make. Likewise were the ways of the Bard taught. And the ways of magic. The Priest did not aprove of the magics entirely, and even the oldsters admited he had points. The paths of magic were perilous and as likely as not to lead the magician to their doom. No one should bargain with the Uti. There the Magicians and the Priest completely agreed.   Aphia was born with the Gift of Song, and apprenticed to the village bard. She, with the two other youngesters with the Gift, learned the lays and the histories of their village and all the peoples around them. Paper burned, but the songs a Bard sung engraved itself in the hearts of all who heard it.   The village prospered, but prosperity had its perils in the Jungle. A rival village grew jealous of their prosperity, of children who brought wisdom back from afar, of the strength of their traditions and the works of their hands. They set the Uti on them.   The Magicians and the Priest stood together against that onslaught of nightmare creatures. Before them stood the strongest of the village's warriors. The oldest and the youngest warriors fled with the women and children of the village to give them some protection. All who stayed perished.   The Uti gained. Their claws tore at the dirt. They ripped trees out of their way and flung them at the fleeing villagers... many fell to those first assaults.   Then, to Aphia came a single word as they fled: Sing.   And she did. Sides aching with the need for air for both running and singing she sang. Ancient songs of protection from her people's past. Newer songs brought to the village by those gone away. And last of all hymns taught by the priest.   What Power answered, she was never sure, but a Power answered.   As the Uti closed on those most behind, a young girl with her baby brother in her arms, a lone swordsman stepped from behind the tree and sliced into the Uti, who howled in pain and vanished in smoke and mist.   Then the swordsman vanished. And still they ran.   Each time the Uti seemed to be catching them, these swordsmen would come, defend them, then vanish. Then they came to the border camp of the Ahzashenzi Army, and the Uti faded into the jungle and there were no swordsmen too be seen. Only ordinary soldiers.   The Ahzashi took the refugees in after a brief investigation and for a time Aphia thought her adventures over. But power once roused does not easily lay back down.  

The Ahzashenzi Court

  The Ahzashenzi accepted the refugees without much fuss or bother. They were given the basics and they faded into new lives and new jobs, often making the same things they had before simply to be sold directly in modern store fronts.   For a few of them things were a little different. The Mage apprentices were admitted to the Ahzashenzi Mage Academy, and Aphia came to the attention of the King's chief Musician. Her master, the old Bard that had taught her, was given a place, though mostly to apease the court Historian who was delighted to pick his brain and pay enough for the priveledge   For Aphia this meant her studies continued uninterupted, and to them were added instruments she had never seen before, and vocal instruction in styles she had only heard of.   Her first performance before the king was a roaring success, and yet, she refused to go the route of other performers in this new country of cars and radios and televisions. She gavethree concerts a year: One at the aniversary of the salvation of her village, one at the Day of Rememberance (where all the peoples in that part of the world remember their dead and the honored events of the past), and one at the Feast of Light where all people gathered to bring hope.   The music was unlike these people were used to. She sang neither love ballads, nor bouncy dance music with only fluff for lyrics. She sang of truth, of the past, and of a hope for the future. She sang as appropriate to the celebrations. But she sang as a Bard. Yes, to entertain, but also to weave the songs in to the heart of her audience so they might remember, both the song and themselves.   Her popularity soared. At the King's behest she put out albums and her music, especially once she started writing, was played widely across the country and beyond. And threaded through it all was a tendril of magic. A tendril of hope, and truth as near as she could sing it. Bard's magic. Bard's songs.  

The Invasion

For the first time in her life, Aphia found herself constantly by the sea, with a people who were not afraid to look out over the waters. Her own people held that the Sea was a peril to be avoided, but these people chanced it. Many never came back.   Perhaps a mile from the coast was wrapped a perpetual mist. Legends had it that is had been laid upon the land for some grevious sin of the people. Other legends said there was no land through that mist. No world, only the world of the gods if you could see through.   The Ahzashi viewed it as a challenge but none had ever made it through. They had mapped the way around the entire coast of the continent, but never made it through the mist.   Then one day something came out of the mist.   A small boat washed ashore its sailors dead from the claws of something: Save one who was almost dead from exposure on top of his wounds and the infection in them. The Healers saved him, but for days he raved.   He raved about being followed. By great ships with black sails and black hulls. By wizards who commanded the creatures of the sea and brought with them Uti as trained pets.   The Court stood divided. Surely the man was simply suffering from exposure. Surely. But Aphia new otherwise. After all, had not her village been destroyed by those who could command the Uti?   Now she stood before the court, not a child, but a woman grown and turned her face to the king and she sang. She sang the tale of her village. And as she did she wove a spell of courage into those who would recieve it, for she would not force those who did not desire to be helped.   It wasn't enough.   The King commanded scouts and they were sent. But Aphia knew the invasion was comming. She argued that a coast watch be set and the King agreed.   Days turned to weeks. Turned to months. No enemy appeared, and the coast watch faded.   Aphia grew restless. A restlessness that brought itself forth in the music she wrote. She sought sollace from her Priest, but he, too, was disturbed. The gods of her childhood were silent, and the God whose priest had stood with her people seemed to be asking something. But of whom?   One morning Aphia, herself, rose and went to the coast. There she stood. For once not in the modern gear she had adopted since coming to this new land, but in the costume of a ahthuki, a sheild maiden, with her dark skin painted and a spear in her hand. She carried no instrument but she was a bard. With her stood the old man who had first taught her the art of the bard.   And as she stood on the ridge, not with the modern radio or cell phone, but with a brazier three feet wide, piled with brush to light a signal. A shape coalesced in the mist, the shape of a ship.   Her master hesitated, then begged her to flee. For what good thing could come out of these mists? She refused and raised her torch high. And the first ship became truth in the mist.   Her master fled, but she raised her voice in song and the beacon flame blazed beside her. As she sang, figures came, not just out of the mist. Even as her master fled, others joined her, taking up the song she crafted for them, even though none had ever heard it before.   Half way through a vast fleet of black ships stood clearly visibile, but they could not seem to land. To Aphia's eyes it seemed to be the shore was lined with shining swordsmen... the same swordsmen that had saved her people.   What was on those ships no one ever found, for they could find no landing, but the defenders spoke of creatures of horrors, and many fell to the fire arrows that were launched even as the ships were forced to turn back.   Forced to turn back by a song.   Aphia herself was the last to turn from that coast when the black ships sailed away. She did not know if any other had heard: Their leader had promised to return. She intended to be waiting.

The Song on the Shore:

I stand on a hill over looking the sea
The invaders are coming.
They come through me.   Some say I should run, they say I should flee.
Yet invaders are coming.
They come through me.   To this land have I fled and here I will stay.
And none shall ever drive me away.   I come of my choosing.
I go of my will.
The invaders are coming.
I stand here, still.   Sometimes it is running.
Sometimes it’s a fight.
Some times it is pain
In the dead of night.   The land they can take.
Life and wealth too. There is far more than these they never will shake.   This land is a will they never can know.
This land is a hope they never will show.   I stand on the ridge with my face to the sea.
Invaders are coming. They come through me.
Dark, soft brown
Curly black
Skin Tone/Pigmentation
Dusky bronze

Cover image: by Jordan Donaldson


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12 Feb, 2022 05:48

Near the end "the same swordsmen that had saved her village" I would change village to "people" as you say several times that her village was destroyed. Your main text could be broken up by a quote or 2 but other than that great job. I like the idea of a bard from an indigenous people going to a modern world and keeping with their traditions, although I'm sure there was some culture shock and struggle there.   The only other thing that stood out to me as slightly incongruous: is the world outside the mist more or less technologically advanced? It seemed a bit strange to me the invaders came on "black ships with black sails" in a world with radios, television, as I would assume they would have similarly advanced propulsion methods (diesel engines, or steam engines at the very least)

As always, it would be appreciated if you would stop by my challenge article The Storm Giant Empire and leave some feedback.   If you are looking for things to read from summer camp there is also my Summer Camp 2022 Reading Challenge.. Happy worldbuilding.
12 Feb, 2022 12:54

Good thought on people vs. village. For the rest of it, I'm not sure what is outside the mist. (Down side of being a pantser.) I'll probably have to write the story to find out. Given the amount of magic flying about in this story possibly something magic. I'll post a link when I finish it out. (At this point this is literally all there is of the world.)

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
12 Feb, 2022 09:16

Great article! This is a really fascinating story :D I really love how you've depicted this type of magical singing, the Utis, and those mysterious foreigners! One thing you could add is a bit more about Aphia's feelings about the new culture in which she is integrating (the culture shock like drunkenpanda said), and also at the end the reception she received for what she has done :D

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
12 Feb, 2022 12:58

Thank you ma'am. I will likely add to this after the challenge is over, but for the moment I was trying to stay well within the 2500 limit. I've got some wiggle room so I may add a little in there now that I've gotten some sleep.

13 Feb, 2022 18:13

Great story! Really liking the mystery of the commanding of Uti's and how they reappeared after they had destroyed her village so long ago. Her powers seem to be pretty great where all else is failing. I wonder if she will need to use them again at some point.

Feel free to check out my WorldEmber 2022 page if you want to see what I am up to!