A charming agent of the Harpers whose speciality it is to recruit the like-minded to a worthy cause.
Sitting near a fire with the stars above, my grandfather Seanair would call me: “File come, come my boy!” gesturing to his next to him. I enjoyed listening to my grandfather’s voice. Yes, this is where it began. My grandfather spun and strung poems, songs, stories effortlessly together. His magical lexicon had no limits. Those who listened were soon transported by his music & words. They could smell the sea air, hear battle cries, feel the chill of mountain air.
Seanair Ceol, my grandfather, and I travelled endlessly between camps, markets, and towns. We never stayed anywhere longer than a fortnight. Looking back now, I see his efforts to instil some routine. Every day I had to read a poem and repeat it by memory the next day. Play two songs – one from sheet, one from memory.
My grandfather would have daily sayings that he would use.
When it was time to travel: “never let the audience hear the same song or story twice,” he’d say. “Unless of course they are drunk.”
At the age of six I added: “or stupid barbarians from the north.”
Putting his finger to his lips, he would advise: “Hush, they may be stupid but, have great hearing.” From that day forward I would only whisper my part of the routine.
It was the age of seven when I first asked Seanair: “Grandfather what of my parents?” He continued to stride along. I clearly remember five of his strides to ten of mine.
“Grandfather please, I want to learn of my parents. Please could I meet them through your stories?”
He squeezed my hand tightly, turned looked at me a tear in his eye. “You my boy need to learn another instrument, how about the bag pipes?”
The age of eight my grandfather and I began travelling with small army regiments entertaining the troops. As part of his earnings he negotiated that I would be trained to use a sword. The next four years combat training was added to my routine, three times daily. During this time I focused on war history, stories and tactics. Listening to raw unpolished stories of battles told soldiers. I would memorize, polish, and perhaps stretch these tales to add to my sheath.
At the age of twelve a song bird landed on my grandfather’s shoulder carrying a note. After reading the message he looked to me: “Son – never let the audience hear the same song or story twice.”
We began a trek to the North that day.
Walking along the road I asked “where are we going grandfather?”
“To the north to the giants” he replied.
I had heard stories of the giants, mankind feared them.
“Giants? Do you wish to be eaten?” I asked nervously, chuckling.
“Why do you fear them File?” Pausing to catch his breath. “Because you don’t know them.”
This memory stands out because this is the moment I realized my grandfather had aged. Our strides, five of his now equal two of mine. He no longer played the lute – not because the audience didn’t appreciate it – but becaus of his arthritis.
“What mankind doesn’t know, or understand, they fear” he added.
The rest of the trek continued with the same routines. Several months travelling lead us to the frozen north. After ten days traveling of no sight of mankind, we sighted our first giant.
My grandfather grasped my shoulder “son let’s make camp here”.
That night my grandfather told me a story of the past. Giants, dragons, elves, dwarves, gnomes, empires and Magic!
“Now son, some of these are are dust and forgotten. Some of these are real” pointing over his shoulder in the direction of the giant. “Some are hiding, some are hidden”. Pulling his cowl up to shelter him from the cold.
“Magic is in your blood” pulling out his flute. “You have mastered your trade. Now – time to master your magic”. He Played a few notes; suddenly, the chill is removed from the air.
“Now boy you have touched and trampled upon your magic with your performances.” Pointing to my satchel. “pull out your flute, now you will learn to dance with your magic like the finest ballerina.”
Over the next few months, protected by the isolation of the north, my grandfather taught me the ways of the magical bard. As the months passed, the magic seemed to rejuvenate him. After a lesson he smiled and reached out to my hand, squeezing it.“Son, never let the audience hear the same song or story twice.” We must finish our trek.
Walking along we came across giant tracks. One giant stride equalled three of mine.
A smile came across my face when I noticed it also equalled eight of my grand fathers.
“Long ago File I asked you to learn the bag pipes.”
“Yes, I remember grandfather” I replied
“They were burned, for being witches.” Suddenly I noticed his stride shorten. “Your father wasn’t discreet with his magic. Humans fear the unknown, giants, elfs, magic.”
My grandfather pulled up his cowl. For the first time in months the winter chill bit at my cheeks.
With anger in his voice my grandfather said, “Ignorant humans will destroy anything they doesn’t understand!” Stopping turning to face me “this is why you must hide your magic.”
Soon we came across a sign_ Fuck off or be killed Human meat needed for stew_
From under his cowl “ah! come on only one league more”
“Wait grandfather did you read the sign?!” I asked in a panic.
He looked at the sign “Yes, did you read the sign or did you look at it?”
“What?” I asked
He pointed to the the sign “Read the sign!”
Following his pointing finger I read the sign again:_ Welcome, one league more Food and bedding awaits_
Soon we came across a camp of twentyish tents. As we came closer the tents were of all different colours, size, shapes. Written upon them were different languages. The camp was covered in tracks as different as the tents. Yet, no one was to be seen.
Again my grandfathers space lengthened as he boldly headed towards the largest tent in the middle. Pulling out a flute, he opened the flap to the large tent. He strides in a few notes played on his flute boldly “I’m here my friends, allow me to introduce my grandson File Ceol.”
Turning back towards the group gathered in the tent. Waving his hands and arms collectively. He smiled. “File, we are the Harpers.”