CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
11 of Marpenoth 1371, Year of the Unstrung Harp
Master Derk turned out to be a middle-aged halfling with big clever hands, and perpetual expression of mild curiosity painted on his kind myopic face. In a sense, he was an exact opposite of his noisy, over-zealous spouse, but perhaps that was what made their marriage a success - he was too preoccupied with his own thoughts and the many small but important tasks of his profession to have time to be sufficiently irritated with his wife’s bursts of creativity. We went through the shelves of his shop together, sorting through various herbs, roots, blobs of wax, packets of salamander dust, and dried snake tongues in small jars. I felt a strange pang of nostalgia at some point, but it was quickly replaced with an irrational fear of another vision. That was why I deliberately tore my gaze away from the table with some primitive machinery parts. Presumably, it was going to be another household item enhanced with a useful spell or two. The halfling had a practical streak to his character, and most of the projects in his shop were minor improvements of common kitchen appliances. There was for example a steam-pot with self-tightening lid, and a pepper mill that played a little tune as you rotated the crank. Supposedly, it had a ‘low friction’ enchantment woven in, which made the little device very easy to operate. The secondary effect of that spell rendered it virtually immune to day-to-day wear. But by the small gods of cutlery and cupboards - who would need a perpetual pepper machine! I thought amusedly. At least Derk’s hobby was quite harmless, if a little queer.
The halfling showed me his small collection of obscure arcane enchantments that he had collected over many years by buying them off the traveling mages. These were the scrolls for which his well-organized mind could not find any practical application, and that he did not bother to copy to his own sensible little spellbook. Derk kept them primarily for the purpose of exchanging later for something more useful. I could never understand how one could have unknown magic at his fingertips, and not bother to study it, or play with it out of sheer joy of having a new spell at his disposal, even if it was of a rather esoteric nature. Since he refused to take money for these, we had to barter. At the end, I taught him my own variation of the mend cantrip, which I redesigned over the last two weeks of my travels, to deal with the worst effects that the harsh terrain induced on my gear.
In exchange, he let me study and memorize a nonsensical but elegant enchantment that was a nice addition to the trick, which Omwo and I had planned for tonight’s performance. It was called audible glamour, and it pertained to creation of an acoustic illusion at any spot within the specified radius from the focal point of the casting. Simply speaking, one could force any mundane sound or melody to reproduce itself almost indefinitely at a chosen location, without having to pay the musicians and singers for generating the desired noise. I thought with some degree of sarcasm that Omwo should be grateful that Derk did not think of building a magical device with this kind of permanent effect. The moment it will be out on the streets will mark the end of his profession as a lucrative occupation.
Having finished my business with Master Sixthtoe, but still in possession of a few hours before the designated time for the show, I decided to spend an hour or so exploring the village before settling down to the serious business of studying my spellbook, and sorting through all the magical accoutrements that I purchased from the halfling wise man. The most important item that I procured was a wide belt of soft leather, equipped with multitude of tiny compartments, various pockets, and slots. All the vials with multi-colored liquids, desiccated body parts of strange animals, and small bags of bad-smelling powders that I now carried in my pouch required examination, labeling, and creative organizing. I did not really look forward to this work, but it had to be done eventually. On my way out of the Derk’s shop, I passed a small shrine with the crude statue of Arvoreen clutching two short swords to his muscular chest. The stone warrior gave me a stern unsmiling look of his blind eyes, but I ignored the halfling god’s displeasure, and left him to his grim contemplations, no doubt on the nature of the tall people’s perfidy.
Outside the chapel, the world was full of cold, blue brilliance pouring like water from the clear autumn sky framed by majestic outlines of the reddish-brown peaks, some of which were crowned with never-melting snow caps. After the warm and stuffy atmosphere of the shop, the crisp mountain air made me giddy - a sensation not dissimilar to that joyful lightheadedness that one might experience after drinking a full glass of sparkling wine. Since I had never tasted anything of the kind in the life that I claimed as mine own, I wondered briefly if Joneleth was actively channeling these well-forgotten tastes and images into my consciousness, or if I was borrowing from his suppressed memories on my own volition. It hardly mattered at the moment, but the thought gave me a painful jolt. I walked briskly to the edge of the rocky precipice that formed the natural barrier between the village and the narrow valley below, and stopped, taking a deep breath.
The view was magnificent, almost stunningly so. The granite wall under my feet dropped almost vertically, hiding the narrow stone shelf, from which we were lifted up yesterday in the wicker basket. There was a vague trajectory of the river at the bottom of the canyon - a dim silver band woven through the blue-green stalks of the distant trees. I looked up, slowly turning around for a better view. The mountain, upon which the Perch was scattered like a small collection of building blocks thrown by a careless child, did not end at this level, but after forming a kind of a small shoulder continued upwards, soon disappearing from view in the tattered shroud of white clouds. The slope above was covered with a sturdy growth of mountain fir, and tamarack, dotted with an occasional clump of dwarf oaks. And very high above the level of the small plateau upon which I was standing, almost hidden among the swirl of the shifting vapors, I saw the dark, gaping mouth of a cave. Something moved among the clouds, and the thick, wet blanket of fog hid the opening as quickly as it was revealed, as if drawing a curtain over the secret door. I shrugged. My imagination was probably playing tricks with my mind again. After yesterday’s nightmare, it was a miracle that I was not seeing small green dancing men under every bush.
I strolled through the village, ignoring the curious stares of rare passersby, and answering with a polite, silent nod on every circumspect greeting. I imagine, I made a rather ridiculous figure, towering three feet or more over the short but hefty Perch citizens. Omwo reached almost up to my waist, but he was taller than most of his mountain kin. The village consisted of barely a handful of round stone cairns that were built over the entrances into the deeper burrows, and a few more conventional structures, with low walls constructed out of rough grey stone, and roofed over with thin wooden logs, reinforced with clay. The Sixthtoes’ house looked like a palace compared to many of these huts. Almost every house had a small vegetable garden, surrounded by the same gray stone wall. These patches of greenery were now filled with dry stalks of harvested corn, and some brighter spots, where a few late pumpkins and overripe melons were still visible among the dead brown stems and leaves. A number of scrawny chickens, and a milk goat with a small kid haunted the streets. Simply speaking, Perch was the most uninspiring, if picturesque halfling village one could imagine in existence. I was ready to turn around and make my way back to the square box of Olphara’s house, when something unusual finally caught my bored eye.
After the last turn, the single narrow street of the village that followed the mountainside (along which I was currently walking), ended on a small round plaza, paved with the same roughly chiseled flagstones that were used in construction of every other road and sidewalk in Perch. In the middle of the square stood a low stone arch, built of the same material, and covered with irregular white, orange, and green spots of lichen. I could swear that it looked considerably older than any other building in the hold, including the Sixthtoes’ dwelling and all the low spherical domes that according to Olphara were the oldest houses in the outpost. From the middle of that ancient structure, hung a very old bronze bell, twice as tall as the tallest halfling in Perch. Its tongue was tied with a coil of rope, as thick as the thigh of an adult halfling. The free end of the rope ended with a big knot that almost touched the flagstones. It was quite possible for a halfling to put both of her feet on the knot if so desired, and swing freely on the rope, thus ringing the bell that she could not have possibly sounded in any other way. I noted that the rope was relatively new compared to the rest of the portico, and that there were runes on the bell that looked suspiciously like the letters of an elven alphabet, styled to fit the Common speech. I squinted at the half-visible words.
‘We have made a covenant with thee, and this is our agreement ... should hang the bell under the arch and sound it at the time of ...’
The rest of the phrase was covered under the thick layers of green and white crust.
I stretched out my hand, curious enough to risk touching the bell as a sudden desire to swipe away the annoying layer of oxide and mildew, and see the remainder of the inscription took root in my mind… and dropped it. Something stopped me from moving my fingers any further and crossing the last few inches between them and the green, flaking surface of the bell. It was not because I sensed a trap or a magical barrier, rather, a warning was whispered in my mind loudly enough to stop me from finishing the deed. Perhaps, I was only too aware of the consequences of my past rash decisions, and the survival instinct was finally kicking in.
“Good boy,” a loud, self-confident, and extremely annoying female voice chirruped behind my back. If there was one creature in Perch, who could make a statement in a tone ringing with that infernal confidence, and faked superiority, it was Olphara Sixthtoe.
“Never touch something that does not belong to you, unless you are absolutely sure it is not going to bite your fingers off,” the halfling matron continued smugly. She was still wearing the same virulently bright shawl over her shoulders. Today, she was also leaning on a gnarled, crooked staff, of the size entirely too big for her height. It gave her somewhat sinister and witchy look. I wondered how I did not hear her approach. That stick of hers must have made quite a loud noise striking the stone pavement.
“Surely you would not object if I satisfy my curiosity by clearing away the dirt?” I offered politely“The inscription was put on the bell so that everybody could read it. Why would you want to make a secret of it?”
“We should hang the bell under the arch and sound it at the time of imminent danger, so that the Guardian would hear it and be prepared,” she said coolly. “Not that this had helped him at the end. The hin were keen enough to watch for his archenemy and rival, who had never come. The humans came in his stead. There was a traitor among the hin, who had led the Qysar andhis men to the cave by the goat trails around the village. And so, when the bell was rung they were already upon the Guardian in numbers greater than stars in the sky, or fish in the water, and anything that these mountains had seen in a thousand years. It was a terrible battle and many of them were slain, but so was the Guardian, and afterwards the Qysar claimed the treasure. So the legend says. That was the end of Rhimnasarl the Shining, the Great Silver Wyrm, and his allied hin tribe. They were all either killed or taken prisoner, and sold into slavery on the Calimport slave markets. My great grandmother was one of these who were enslaved. What else do you want to know, mageling?”
“Archenemy of his?” I raised an eyebrow quizzically.
“Rhimnasarl had had a rival among the dragon-kin - the Blue Wyrm Iryklagathra, the Sharpfangs. That was who the hin were supposed to look for, in return for the Shining One’s protection. But when Sharpfangs had finally arrived to challenge Rhimnasarl to a duel, it was already too late - the silver dragon was dead, his headless body rotting at the bottom of the gorge, and his skull mounted on the wall in the Qysar’s great throne room. For centuries afterwards, Sharpfangs has been haunting these mountains in impotent rage, as his long-anticipated prey was virtually snatched out of his jaws, or so he thought. But about two hundred years ago he finally withdrew back to the endless spans of sand that cover the Great Calim Desert.” The halfling’s tanned, wrinkled face creased in a wary smile as she continued. “The blue dragons are not really made for the life in the mountains, and the old lizard was getting old, and was complaining that his very bones ache in these unfair climes.” Olphara shifted from feet to feet, shaking her head, and her multitude of tiny braids, stringed with lapis lazuli twinkled on the cold wind. I wondered if she disagreed with the dragon. She herself seemed inseparable from the mountains.
“I can certainly commiserate with him. My own bones are not doing any better,” I muttered derisively. “Let’s just hope he will stay there for the time being, shall we?”
“Do not speak of these things lightly, young elf! Sharpfangs was the horror of the hin and human settlements along the entire western and northern side of the Marching Mountains. He must be over two thousand years old by now, too old even for a dragon. That was why he ceased his barrage of terror, and went to ground, probably to die in his sleep somewhere deep under the cover of warm sands.”
“Fascinating,” I replied with polite interest. “So, all these quaint local names: the Dragon Perch, the Qysar’s Hunt, even the Silver Ghost - they actually have historical roots? But if you say all the halflings were either killed or enslaved...”
“This village was an empty ruin for over eight hundred years,” she answered incisively, as if explaining it to a small child. “Ever since Rhimnasarl the Shining was slain by the hand of the last Qysar Shoon the Fourth, about a thousand years ago. The Shoon Empire had fallen, and the sands had been blown into a high dune over the grave of the Qysar, but nobody dared to come and live here while the Sharpfangs was still looking for his revenge.”
“But your people are here now,” I noted neutrally. “And the bell has a new rope. Are you telling me it is actually a thousand years old?”
“Are you daft?” Olphara asked crisply. “I told you yesterday the Perch is a hundred years old, not a thousand. We rebuilt it from scratch. Of course the bell was made to resemble the one from the legend! The superstition is old, but it still has some protection value. No giant tribe would dare to storm the Rhimnasarl’s Perch. His Yawning Cavern is still up there, at the mountain’s top. You can see it from here in good weather. Too bad we have such thick influx of fog today. The view is quite stunning.”
“Are you telling me it is empty now?” I asked suspiciously. “And the rope is just for show? Then why would not you let me sound the bell?”
“It is bad luck to bother the dragon idly,” Olphara winked at me, draping the fringed end of the bright blue shawl over her left shoulder, “even the dead one. And don’t you have a task to attend to? I thought you were helping our talented bard to entertain the children tonight. Everybody is so excited about it. My dear husband is a great healer, and quite a decent mage, but he lacks fantasy. Oh, don’t take me wrong,” she added hastily noticing my ironic stare. “He would protect the village to his last breath, and would probably beat you if you challenge him to a magical duel! But he is not really interested in the art of illusion, and that bright and sparkly side of magic that makes it so much fun.” Her eyes suddenly acquired a dreamy expression. “Now, there was a human mage once, who was traveling in these parts. He could pull flowers out of his hat, and conjure magical beasts out of thin air... I would love to see an act like this again before I die,” the halfling woman finished on an oddly sadder note, and nodded at me, looking almost like Chyil in his more melancholic moments.
I realized - she was much older than she looked. It probably took a lot of strength to maintain the self-assured, energetic facade at her age. I gave her a quick glance, and she returned it with a smile most gentle and forgiving, again reminding me of the old priest from Amkethran, and his most annoyingly intrusive ways.
“I guess I should be going now,” I muttered somewhat uncertainly, “I bet Omwo is looking for me already.”
“He most certainly is,” Olphara nodded her quick agreement, “And you would be wise to leave our poor bell alone, and join him. Would you be so kind to lead the way, young one?”
I did so reluctantly, and she followed, striking loudly with the end of her stick at the stone pavement.
“Now, I know you are probably as old as I am, mageling. You elven folk are renowned for your longitude. But it is also known that years do not necessarily mean maturity, and you look like you can use a bit of motherly advice. So, humor this old woman, and pretend that you are listening to me, even if you are not. It is not going to hurt you to listen, once in a while. The girl that travels in your company, how do you feel about her?”
The walk back to her house took much longer than I had anticipated.
* * * * *
I still remember that night almost like it happened yesterday, although the minor details, such as what Omwo was singing and in what order have slipped my mind, which is not surprising under the circumstances. The festivities began at twilight. Five bright bonfires were lit on the stony field just outside the village - the one that was closest to the mountainside and the famed basket elevator. The device was maintained and operated by Derk and two of his silent, broad-shouldered, hairy-toed grandsons. It was a rather crude arrangement of blocks, wheels, and stone counterweights, but a single halfling could lift the weight of a basket and two adult humans up the wall without much difficulty with its help.
The elevator was busy tonight, hauling up basketfuls of hin families from the two neighboring holds. A remarkable undertaking, really, since a halfling family with less than half a dozen children was considered unusually small. Upon arrival, the newcomers were greeted by their friends, relatives and acquaintances from Perch, and led in to join the celebrations. The crowd quickly scattered around the fires, making good use of cauldrons with stew and honeyed porridge, spits with roasted chickens, barrels of pickles gherkins and onions, trays with freshly baked loafs of bread and meat pies, and other provisions freely distributed from several covered stalls. Two huge barrels of ale completed the picture of an abundant feast that was provided and paid for by the Sixthtoe clan. An expensive undertaking, but a stroke of genius as means of appeasing public opinion - I gathered that was Olphara's way of maintaining her popularity among her kin. As the petty tyrants go, she was not that bad. Her small mountain kingdom prospered, and everywhere I could see the halflings were enjoying themselves enormously, even without the promised entertainment. Already, above the noise of the celebrating crowd, I could hear twanging of banjo strings, and shrill notes of a shepherd flute, accompanied by equally discordant but enthusiastic singing.
As the evening progressed, Omwo moved around passing from fire to fire, exchanging silly jokes, and telling one or the other out of his endless queue of stories about his exploits in the Great Desert, and in the Water Woman's temple, modestly omitting the part about the treasure. Soon, the little actor was practicality glowing from all the attention he was getting. To my utter amusement, I discovered that he was rather vain, and not immune to the charms of his rosy-cheeked curly-haired kinswomen. Surprisingly enough, some of the ladies (even though a little shy at first) tended to forget about his baldness and homely frog-like countenance, charmed by his jovial disposition and dashing, roguish manners. It should also be noted that while I was exploring the village, he had had adventures of his own. At least one of the results was very obvious: the halfling had exchanged his tattered green robes for a colorful local outfit of home-spun wool, which included a knitted vest of such a virulent combination of red and purple that it made my eyes hurt. I suspected Olphara's little kitchen maid Allice was responsible.
As for me, I was firmly set on achieving my main objective for the evening - to be left alone, as much as it was possible for a six feet tall individual in the assembly of three feet tall halflings, with every one of them overly excited about the coming performance, and thus full of most aggravating questions and wild speculations. I was waiting for the designated time cringingly, fending off the most annoying attempts at conversation, and desperately looking for a distraction. Mirriam convinced her suspicious twin to leave Henna and her saddlebags in Gonk’s care for a few hours, and join us at the top. But it looked like the Esamon's children were preoccupied with a personal problem of some sort, for after a short introduction to the elders, and a few brief words with me and Omwo, Mirri pulled her brother aside and they removed themselves from our company.
Strangely enough, it made me feel abandoned. Yes, I avoided Mirriam all day, as I felt she deserved a little punishment after that melodramatic spectacle in the elevator. And the Dame Sixthtoe's chastisement did not improve my disposition towards the girl. In fact, it had just the opposite effect, since I was determined to prove that my private life was nobody's business but my own. But I missed Kessen’s brisk and playful conversation, and Mirri’s company when she was not brooding over her hurt feelings, was still more pleasant than Omwo’s incessant stream of anecdotes, half of which included elves presented as comical, and ridiculously effeminate figures. At least Mirriam had some sense in her head to respect and value me for all that I did for her and her brother, even if that affection sometimes took a slightly annoying form. Still, I could not blame her much for that weakness. Firstly, it is ridiculous to despise someone for falling in love with you (frankly speaking - that did not happen to me very often), and secondly, I was to some extent responsible for it. Surely, she would not have taken her fancy for the first handsome elf she had seen in her life half that seriously, if not for the untimely kiss.
Was she seriously upset with me? I wondered idly, promising to myself yet again to be easier on the romantically inclined maiden. After all, I did not want her to lose interest in me altogether, or start nurturing any ideas of revenge in her pretty head. The memory of the tricks that she had played on me in Amkethran was fresh enough, and I wondered if Chyil still had the dry snake head that was Mirri's first token of affection. To think of it, my magic started to return after I met Mirriam, and the Water Woman's prophecy clearly stated that my life would depend on my association with the twins. All of a sudden, I wished I had taken the reptile’s head with me as a good luck charm, but then decided the girl herself was a decent substitute. Nevertheless, I could not stop thinking about how much did Mirriam share with the halfling matron. Blast it - I was not used to be the object of female gossip! And her absence at the moment when I really needed distraction was not doing me much good either. Omwo's visible joviality and smugness about tonight's act did not rub off. It turned out - I was having a bit of stage fright.
I was so distraught with all these matters and the imaginary horrors of public embarrassment, that I almost missed the beginning of the show. To give Omwo some credit, the little rascal planned it that way, and his first act was supposed to start naturally, without any announcement. After reciting one of his more amusing stories, (naturally, it involved giant specters of genies Calim and Memnon chasing us out of the underground tomb that was full of wicked traps, and haunted by mummies), he seemingly out of nowhere produced a musical instrument and continued his tale in a manner of a ballad.
Now, this instrument in itself was so peculiar, to say the least, that it deserves to be accounted for in detail. The halfling drawharp is a stringed instrument, most closely related to a fiddle. The simplest way to describe it would be to say that it consists of a soup plate mounted on a broom handle. Four strings of a various lengths are usually mounted on the broom as they are passed through the small holes specially drilled in the plate for this purpose. The instrument is played by sliding and twisting the plate up and down, and along the broomstick; that causes the strings to give off warbling tones that dance along the whole scale with a speed that no other instrument can match, or so Omwo had claimed. To my untrained ear, the drawharp sounded like a half a dozen angry cats simultaneously pulled out of the bag by their tails, but the crowd went wild at the first sound of it.
Indeed, Omwo seemed to strike gold with his choice of accompaniment. He soon switched from his improvised song to another one. That was an old hin ballad of the wars between the Ghostwise and Strongheart clans, and the eventual exodus of what was left of the Ghostwise tribes from Luiren: the ancient halfling realm of the south that occupies the territory somewhere between Dambrath and Eastern Shaar. By that time, the crowd had made a wide circle around the bard, forcing him to move to the center of the rough triangle formed by the bonfires. The children were ushered forward and placed in the first circle around him, sitting on the rough woolen rugs specially brought for this occasion from the village. My own part was relatively small in this first act. I was supposed to provide the illumination and 'special effects', as Omwo had called it.
And there I was, dutifully creating small spheres of colored light and moving them around at the appropriate moments. So, when Omwo was reciting the lines related to a particularly savage battle, he had three red globes the size of an apple circling his head that were soon joined by a small but fierce bright ball the size and color of an orange, and a dark and sinister purple one, no larger than a walnut. I was also charged with producing gusts of wind, and sounds of an angry storm, when it came to the main battle and the Ghostwise clan subsequent escape from Luiren, and went as far as creating a small whirlwind and a shower of blue sparks to imitate the lightning effects. All these cheap tricks were extremely popular with the audience, and caused a real storm of applause. Oddly enough, a strange feeling of warmth aroused deep inside my breast at the sound of applause, and slowly spread outwards, finally reaching my cheeks. Why would I feel this way about entertaining a crowd of country bumpkins and their offspring with a couple of apprentice level cantrips, while listening to the most hideous sounds of Omwo's music was beyond me, but I could not deny the fact - I was rather enjoying myself.
At some point I got really caught up in all that nonsense, and when my loquacious partner switched from the valiant sagas of the old days to the modern tales of heroes, fighting sinister cults of dark gods, monsters of the Underdark, and evil necromancers, I made him a nice flash of crimson light fringed with black out of which flew a small but very noisy bat. The creature made a few circles around the fires, screeching loudly, and disappeared with another flash of light - this time of dark yellow shade. I was rather proud of that little trick, but Omwo gave me a dirty look, which I suppose was a tribute to the splat of guano that the critter deposited right at the center of his shiny bald skull to the great delight and excitement of the hin children. That episode was of course my revenge for his prank with the firepepper in my soup, and it taxed my ability of arcane persuasion to the limit. By itself, summoning the animal of that size was a relatively easy task that I was able to perform since the first days of my recovery, when my magic ability was reawakened in Amkethran. But controlling the planar creature's motion and making all the appropriate small illusions was an entirely different matter. After that occasion, the performance went on its merry way without further incidents.
Finally at the end of his act, Omwo asked for the circle between the big bonfires to be cleared, so that the adults could go on with the dancing - the event that was greatly anticipated by everybody from the start. By that moment, many of the children were snoring gently, despite the noise the assembly was making, and the loud twanging of Omwo's instrument (a peculiar sound that I could hardly call music). They were left on their blankets in care of elderly matrons as the festivities proceeded further into the night. One could not have imagined the excitement that came over the halfling crowd at the first sounds of the jig emanating from the drawharp. That was also the signal for my star performance - the magic trick that was supposed to be a culmination of the evening. The original idea to use the illusionary phantasmal force (an interesting addition to my spellbook provided by the unfortunate Naga) came into my mind while we were discussing Omwo's act last night, and took its final shape this very morning after I had found that nifty little spell called audible glamour in Derk's workshop.
I spent the entire evening sitting on a low bench placed in the shaded area a few steps away from the furthest bonfire - an arrangement that was made on my insistence. It was quite practical, since on top of being more comfortable than standing, it also made me look less intimidating, and I could still see and hear everything from there without drawing much attention to myself. That was imperative for the success of our last trick. The moment after Omwo started the first dance pulling and twisting the plate of his drawharp with all the speed and mastery of his fat sausage-like fingers, an exact copy of him suddenly materialized at his back. The double looked exactly like the halfling bard, and was dressed in the same oddly matched woolens, but instead of drawharp it was holding a small fiddle and a string bow. It bowed to the public and immediately assisted his flesh-and-blood prototype in the task of music making by energetically applying the bow to the fiddle strings. I flinched (Alright, he was my own creation but that did not make him sound any better.)
After the first clone joined in the merry tune, and the crowd made a single loud 'Ah!' the second and the third copies of Omwo appeared out of the thin air. These two came with a hunter's horn and a big drum. The band was now complete and my task became even more complicated, as I had to match the sound produced by each instrument with the main melody, and make them all play in rhythm with each other. It took us several hours of practice, with Omwo of playing the parts on each of the related instruments. I have no idea how he managed to collect all that musical junk at the first place, but at the end, I was fairly sure I could remember all of the individual parts and blend them together without making it sound like a complete disgrace. Although now, that I was actually listening to the final result of our joined effort, I was not that confident anymore.