Sunday, June 7, 2009
"How did your Father pass?" Zildjian asked quietly.
"An old deaf grizzly got into our smokehouse…" Feeling my emotions, I had to adjust my posture to keep my tone even as I explained. "The bear was still working on him when I showed with my rifle, and when he saw me he turned his attention to me. I tried vocals but the griz kept coming for me and I had to shoot him. My Father had already passed when I got to him."
I was barely controlled in my report and could see that the Bookeeper was deeply moved. "Keeper, I…"
"Call me Marshall or Zildjian." He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. "How is your Mom fairing?"
"She's angry. Did you know them both?" I wondered why this man had never been mentioned.
"The four of us were great friends. Then I got this job after…"
Sara arrived with a refill. "Cookie's back on the job and should be filling your plates directly. I have to go to the bank now that it's open and our morning rush is over." She flashed a big smile. "He won't mind bringing your plates as long as there won't be anymore surprises."
Zildjian looked as though he had welcomed the interruption so I did not re-apply the question after Sara left. Cookie soon came with our breakfast, a big burly giant who looked a little flushed. I found out later that the ruddy color never left him.
"He looks as though he can handle himself..." I said as he disappeared back into the kitchen, I wondered if he were ever used for support.
Zildjian doctored his hash browns and seemed to know my thoughts saying, "He is very useful as back up but he can be a little uncontrollable." He raised his cup. "What of your parent's ward? Does she study?"
"Two years younger than me and has been constantly exposed to craft: Father, Mother, and myself. She dabbles in it with intensity. Her vocals are powerful and focused, but will she study? She seems disinterested. I think she wants to avoid the Keep membership."
I paused and looked at the Keeper, his eyes closed, a bite of sausage and hash on his fork.
I continued. "I am a little jealous over the ability she doesn't care to develop… seems a waste. Whoever her parents were, they were members of a Keep. She could easily pass for fifteen years old and she is nearly my age at seventy-eight. Even with only one parent as a Keeper or Wizard she would age at a normal rate as a citizen…"
Stunned by the truth that I had just realized, I asked, "She's your daughter isn't she?"
Zildjian asked, "What do you think?"
"I think if that was your full measure, you're not much of a Bookeeper." I was glad that got a laugh. "Honestly… I think you got your chords full with Bender Mack. His Black Market Keep doesn't have the constraints of law that hobble you."
"You know of him?" He looked a little surprised.
"Why wouldn't I?" I asked. I wanted to know what he knew of me.
"Well, if you live near your Dad, it must mean you're the better part of five counties away from us. Mack is not that well known… and the fact that you know of him, tells me you draw information. This being true, it places you just a few steps from being a Wizard yourself." He was clear, his information round and effective, his understanding was compelling.
"Are you straight?" Even though his Keep demanded it, he was somewhat out of favor, so I figured I'd better ask.
Zildjian replied, "Yeah. You?"
"Yep. Could you use a Deputy?" I asked.
"Depends," he replied in the same tone. "What are your hours of study?"
"When I am awake."
"Good and plain answer. Yes, you can start immediately I'll send notification to the Masters of the Keep, your wages started this morning two thirds of full Bookeeper." He sugared his coffee. "Your Father may never have mentioned me, but we are old friends. I have been waiting for you to show. If you want to study with me you'll need his permission… even though you're grown." He was gauging me again.
"We buried him last week. Now it's just my Mother, their ward, and me. I have Mother's permission if you need that."
Zildjian's eyes welled, and he shook his head no.
The Bookeeper's presentation was well delivered but short. From it I gained enough confidence of his measure to be satisfied. He was plain and good enough to maintain his standing, but with enough complexity to fall from favor with his Keep. But mostly, he was not concerned in his performance, he was honest.
At his conclusion, Mr. Importance rose and hurried to the front door clutching the napkin. When the door shut we sat in silence for another twenty seconds before the waitress emerged from the kitchen with coffee.
She appeared to be about thirty, with dark hair worn up, and dark eyes. She was pleasantly excited in contrast to Mr. Important who seemed shaken and afraid.
Zildjian, hearing her footsteps on the hardwood nearing our table, said as he started to rise, "Tama, this is Sara, the café owner." The Keeper smiled and glanced up at her she was patting him on the shoulder to keep him seated.
"Pleased to meet you. Tama, is it?" She moved the pot to her left hand to shake with her right.
I rose shaking her hand and replied, "Yes, that's right. Nice place."
"It will be nicer once the cook composes himself. It still amazes me how differently you people affect us citizens… sit down young man." She smiled. "Either of you hungry?"
I decided not to remind her that as a Keep member I have nearly fifty years on her, instead I simply replied, "Yeah, I think I will have your breakfast special and a coffee."
Zildjian nodded. "Me, too. Give Bill my apologies when you see him next, I hope Cookie enjoyed the performance."
"I think he did. He's gone into the walk-in to cool off. I might have to cook your orders myself. They'll be up in a bit." She poured the coffee and left us to ourselves.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Just through the front door the Keeper walked over to the counter. He seemed to be writing on a napkin. When he finished he handed the napkin to Mr. Important guy from outside. Then he turned to me, gesturing to an empty table with the menus in his left hand.
As we sat down, he handed me one of them. "Have whatever you like as long as it's on the menu. Don't worry about the price; it's part of my expenses. When you're ready I'd like to pose a few questions if you don't mind."
The questions were expected; the kindness and manners were not. I said, "Sir, we can size each other up by beating around the bush if you want. I ain't hungry, I'd just like coffee and an appointment with you to go over measures." My tone and delivery barely qualified as spell but there was enough there to be recognized without being considered a threat. More a genuine, Keep greeting.
He responded with the same measure. "I was hoping you would be plain and honest enough to expose. What kind of Keep did you study with?"
"Three levels plain and good. Four trimesters complex study in minor measures and my Father is a Lyrics Wizard. And he and I get along fine." A straightforward answer no tone seemed called for. The Keeper's posture relaxed a little.
He asked, "Why come to me?"
"You were recommended by a Marketeer who I had to set down hard... from a little dispute over a frail who happened to be my parent's ward. He recognized certain tones that he later told me reminded him of you." I gestured to him. "From still other sources, I have heard differing reviews of your work… sometimes plain descriptors… sometimes complex. And, you're a full Keep representative… even if you do happen to be out of favor with that body."
His green eyes were half closed as he listened to me describe and I knew he was drawing it out of me. I kept my delivery plain. Fear would be apparent on a less experienced Singer brought on by his draw. I finished, "Curiosity, more than anything, Book-Keeper. I wanted to know your measure."
Evidently my appointment was right then and there, as he started with plain tones that had some distant mixtures of the complex. Mr. Important who sat at the café bar covered his face. The cook and waitress could no longer be seen through the kitchen's pick-up window. And I was glad we were the only five in the diner.
I sensed his truth.
"Keeper Zildjian?" was the first thing I heard as rounded the corner on to Main Street, the roar of the mass transit behind me was slowly waning, thus exposing the slow rhythmic sound of the nearest wind generator.
His name, more than the title, caught my attention but I did not turn to see him right away.
Rather, I stood on Main Street and was looking over, a mid-morning Wallace that seemed to embrace the warm Spring weather. At nearly nine-thirty in the morning most folks were settled into their business offices and the street showed little activity, just myself, the Keeper and the person who called his name. I started toward the café.
I had come to town that day to find out what manner of Keeper this Zildjian was; I had heard mixed reports.
I adjusted the grip I had on my backpack. As I closed the distance, I surveyed the broken concrete sidewalk in front of the café that they stood on. I figured that the Keeper was probably the one eyeballing me as he listened to an official-looking-someone who seemed to think a lot of himself… maybe the Mayor. Found out later it was the Mayor's assistant, Bill.
I nodded to the Keeper, who nodded back, as he gestured to the man to go before him inside the café. The Keeper looked as though he had good measure, but you never can tell just by sight.
He closed the ten steps to greet me as I stepped up onto the sidewalk. "Morning sir… would you like to join us for breakfast?"
I could tell he was gauging my expression. He added, "I'm buying."
I moved the strap to my left hand to shake his, knowing that real contact could read him a little better than mere appearance. "Be glad to, Keeper. My name is… "
"Tama. Yeah, I've heard a little about you. You're one of three other Keep Singers in these parts and I've heard your description before. Let's head in." He turned to the café.
Singer is a gentle term for what we do. I followed him inside.
Marshall Zildjian has been Book-Keeper for the county of Nod for near two centuries, and really hadn't been looking for work when he found this gig.
Nod is and was an average size county, but the size of their problems was huge at the time of Marshall's hiring. The issue itself was of the common kind. Common, that is, since the end of the Great Oppression where a little over six billion people were murdered at the whim of a few power brokers. The good news? The carnage and desperate want of those days ended when those fat cats were rounded up and put down for their crimes.
Presently, there is plenty too much of everything to go around except laws and advanced technology. That stuff is hoarded by the new brokers and dispensed to the various territories and counties through the Master Bookeepers, both official and Black Market.
Stuck smack dab in the middle of the eastern Sierra foothills, Nod can be found in what used to be referred to as the State of Nevada. It's more, than less; a group of mountain communities nestled among the woods with the few eastern towns of that county, seeing more high desert and less pine.
Marshall had come to Wallace, the county seat, as a freelance Wizard just passing through looking to get cleaned up, and fed, before moving on.
Just as Marshall was mounting his horse to leave, he'd been confronted by Wallace's version of the aforementioned common problem... one of the locals, a drunken Black Market Bookeeper and Sorcerer, who tried bullying the Wizard into giving him his horse.
Marshall measured a spell to set the inebriated Sorcerer down. The spell itself had been a simple melody but had been enough to back him off his attempt. It had also gained the notice of the town leaders who at that time had no resident authority to prevent this Marketeer from imposing himself on the citizens, they persuaded Zildjian to take up a "temporary" position as an interim Bookeeping Representative.
Nearly twelve years passed before the city fathers decided to approach Zildjian about a "permanent" position, and although he never "officially" accepted it, he has been Nod's Bookeeper Officiant ever since.
Over the years the Sorcerer continued his errant behavior, though in a more incremental and sometimes subdued fashion.
Marshall eventually came to discover the craft name he went by, but knew that it was only a spell caster's choice and not his given name. County Nod had him on their register as Mack. The craft name he had chosen was Bender, and his voice was fairly strong for a Black Market Sorcerer.
Their contention persisted until Bender either left or died and that was sixty-some years ago. Had it not been for the very county laws that the Keeper was trying to uphold, Bender would have sung his last minor note a hundred years back. And that is where the Marshall's story really begins and if it ends I will try and record that as well if I am able.
I am Deputy Keeper Tama. I'm a Wizard, and I became a Sorcerer student of Wizard Zildjian back at the onset of the real trouble.