The Ebony Violin

September 1, 2007
The wood was stubborn. Well, most woods were, but, on the whole, ebony must have been the worst for carving. There were shavings of wood and sawdust all over the workbench on which the ebony rested. It could almost have been a chocolate factory, so rich and beautiful were the ebony shavings—as if some huge block of chocolate was being carved for a special occasion. The night breeze and the rustling treetops whispered eerily from above. It was a rich, full night –one that swallowed up all extraneous noises and sensations. The moon was full overhead, and the stars glittered like diamonds in the black sky. Pale shadows of the forest danced here and there in time to the subtle movements of the forest, just beyond the reach of the silver moonlight. The trees gradually fell silent. Thomas paused, listening for any sound that would betray an intruder. But all was silent; the night was as soundless as ever. It was peaceful in a twisted sort of way, he thought as he checked the surrounding area. He glanced at a silver pocket watch on the table. It was only two oÕclock in the morning. No one is up at this time, he thought to himself, thinking of the village which lay beyond the secluded pathway he had taken to this clearing, just as he had done many nights identical to this one. He was alone, save for the whispering trees. Thomas blew on the wood, scattering sawdust everywhere. ItÕs almost done, he thought. The gypsy had told him that it would be more apt to work if he carved only by the light of the full moon. He picked up a new tool and began scraping at the sides of the ebony figure. What were her instructions exactly? He asked himself. She had said that after I finished it, I could only play it at midnight and to make certain that I had one of her personal items nearby. He stared down at the workbench. There was a piece of paper folded delicately on top of it, tied with a scarlet ribbon in an extravagant bow. It was addressed to him in beautiful, calligraphic handwriting. Sarah. She had been so lovely. In fact, it was generally agreed in the village that she was the most beautiful. Everyone assumed that she would marry for wealth and power in the cities to the north. And she could have. Her parents wanted her to. She had the beauty of the korrigan, and the voice of the sirens. Her eyes were a deep emerald green, her hair a radiant auburn. She had a fair complexion, with ruby lips and pearly teeth that dazzled all who saw her. Sarah and Thomas had a relatively short courtship, and they always said it was because they had fallen in love at first sight, just like in the fairy tales they were told as children. Those who beheld them, as well as her parents, still expected her to leave him for the north and the cities and suitors who awaited her. Next to Sarah, Thomas was comparatively plain. He was a carpenter with large, muscular shoulders and chestnut brown hair. He was tall, with tanned skin and bright hazel eyes that sparkled almost as stunningly as SarahÕs when they were together. He had never been paid much attention in his life, except for his exceptional woodwork. As a child, his fairy tales were read to him by one of the widows of the village. Thomas was an orphan, but he showed an aptitude for craftsmanship early on. He was fortunate to become an apprentice to the master carpenter of the village, and he learned all he knew from that man, who became like a father to him. Thomas was devastated when his master died, but took over the work of his master as a testament to him. Sarah was an enormous help, getting him through the death of the closest thing he had ever had to a father. Naturally, as was bound to happen, the two of them fell in love. They constantly wrote letters to one another and spent as much time as possible together. Needless to say, the people of the town were shocked when, as was also bound to happen, Thomas announced their intentions to become husband and wife that year in June. Thomas blinked a couple times, remembering that he needed to finish carving the ebony. He labored for a few more minutes and brushed the shavings away from his work. He held it up to the moonlight. It was a perfectly crafted violin. It gleamed darkly beneath the full moon, and it was the most extravagant violin that had ever been conceived. Along the edges of the instrument, Thomas had painstakingly carved vines, which delicately wrapped themselves upward along the neck of the violin, ending in a beautiful flowered bouquet. Though it had not yet been polished, the ebony glowed with a sheen of its own. Thomas lowered it. He still had to string it and polish it, but otherwise it was finished. After so many months of crafting the violin, it was nearly finished. He couldnÕt help but let slip a few tears. It was almost done.
Sarah had died. It was inconceivable. She had fallen into a river near the village and been swept away with the overpowering current. Thomas was there. He had watched her dazzling eyes disappear for the last time beneath the churning oblivion as he helplessly ran along the banks of the torrential flow, yelling with all his might for the help of whomever would come. By the time the people of the village had arrived to help, they found only Thomas bent double on the bank weeping uncontrollably for Sarah. He sank his hands deep into the mud on the bank, tears streaming from his face begging for her return. He was about to dive into the river, but several men held him back. His face was red and wet with tears. On his face he wore a look of utmost pain, as if someone were actively torturing him. He writhed and struggled like a wild animal, trying to break free from the crushing collective grip of the men of the village. LET GO OF ME!Ó he roared, trying to break free from his captors. SheÕs gone, Tom,Ó someone kept saying. But he refused to believe it. LET ME GO NOW!Ó he bellowed with all his might. It was quite some time before they were able to calm him down. He had collapsed against a tree trunk, still being guarded by the villagers. He whimpered and sobbed pathetically into the tree. He was, after several hours, taken back to his home in the village. It was there he stayed for days on end. Nobody went into his carpentry shop for any reason, though it was still technically open. One unlucky priest who had tried to venture forth into the house to offer his services suffered a broken arm and was thrown back out onto the street. Thomas wept again, allowing his tears to cascade over the violin in his hands. Over so many months of carving and crafting, it had truly become a part of him—as real as an extra limb—his own flesh. SarahÓ he whispered to the cold, unfeeling night. He clutched his sides in pain and sank to his knees, still keeping a firm hold on the precious violin. I must not do this. I have got to focus he chided himself. Soon IÕll be with you, my love,Ó he promised the chill, night air. When Thomas had finally come out of his house, it was in the dead of night, when the streets were utterly deserted and the life of all his surroundings seemed extinguished. He strode with a kind of ominous finality towards the west of the village along a loosely graveled path through the surrounding woods. All was silent and still, and he moved quickly, eager to accomplish his task. He walked for several minutes, each step carrying him farther from the village.
He eventually came to a large, wooden, covered wagon. He rapped harshly on the door. Madame Vadoma!Ó he called. There was no answer after several seconds. He pounded again on the door, harder this time. Madame Vadoma!Ó he yelled, more loudly this time. Again, there was no answer. He was almost ready to bang on the door again, when it opened slowly. Come in –and quickly!Ó came a voice from inside. He stepped into the wagon. It was dimly lit, and it smelled of incense. The room was sparsely furnished, with only a bed in the far corner and a plain wooden chair, as well as a table on which a single candle burned, perfuming the air with a pungent spiciness. Also on the table were several brilliantly colored cards which Thomas did not recognize arrayed in a circle about the burning candle.
IÕve been expecting a visitor,Ó Madame Vadoma said, waggling her finger at him. She had curly graying hair which was held back with a red bandana, and large wooden earrings. She also wore an intricately patterned skirt, and about her shoulders she clutched a loosely woven black shawl. Madame Vadoma,Ó Thomas began curtly, I need a spell to bring my Sarah back to life.Ó Madame VadomaÕs eyes widened. It cannot be done,Ó she said, shaking her head vigorously, her wooden earrings clinking against one another. Those who attempt such madness, they areÉ itÕs notÉyou canÕt,Ó she said, trailing off and retreating from Thomas as though she might contract a disease from standing too near him. Thomas continued to talk with Madame Vadoma, pressing her for the secrets of the life and death spells she knew. He wouldnÕt listen to her warnings that they were dangerous and never actually meant to be attempted. Into the long and dark hours of the night they bickered, Madame Vadoma seeking to keep him from the craziness he sought, and he arguing that his life was meaningless without Sarah. Madame Vadoma sighed. I will tell you of this forbidden thing, then,Ó she said quietly. She finally told him of the way that she knew to bring him closer to his deceased fiancée. She told him of the technique of creating a device to unite their souls, and the use of a personal item of hers to strengthen the spell and give it direction. She cautioned him incessantly and warned him one last time of the dangers of the spell and of the horrors he was to experience should it fail. Thomas, having accomplished his goal, left Madame Vadoma, still shaking her massive curls at him, and strode back to his house, closing the door and bolting it with a loud clink. If witchcraft is what it takes to bring my beloved back, then may I be the most powerful sorcerer of them all! He thought, beginning to plan his next move. Thomas held the violin against the moonlight again. It was done! It was strung, polished, and ready to play. But it was not midnight, so the spell would have to wait until tomorrow. I will succeed, he promised himself, clearing a place for himself on the moss-encrusted floor of the forest. He would sleep here tonight, he thought, removing his shirt and wadding it up to make a pillow. He stretched himself out on the ground, placing his hands behind his head, feeling a grim sense of accomplishment.
The next day seemed to last for a small eternity. It wore on endlessly, daring him to start the exacting spell too early. Thomas restlessly paced around his secluded clearing in the woods. He anticipated nightfall with a calmness uncharacteristic of his circumstance. He watched his pocket watch on the workbench, waiting for the right hour.
In the dirt, he had drawn a circle and inscribed within it a five-pointed star. At each of the five points, he placed one candle of incense, and in the center of the circle, he placed the love letter from Sarah.

Eight oÕclockÉ

Ten oÕclockÉ

Eleven oÕclockÉ.
Midnight. Thomas was ready. He lit the incense candles and spoke the incantation: May mine love which has fled this land Be united with me by my hand. I call you, Sarah, back from the oblivion so deep, Come to me, wake from your eternal sleep! Thomas carefully picked up the bow and drew it across the strings, evoking a sweet, resonant note from the instrument. He began to play in earnest. He had no musical experience whatsoever, but it didnÕt matter. The instrument was a part of him, and his sincerity was poured forth into his music. The sound from the enchanted violin was the richest and most symphonic sound the earth had ever witnessed. He played loudly and deeply and richly and slowly and passionately. He played for hours until finally, in the center of the circle he had drawn, a vaporous mist began to form. It was white, almost silver in the moonlight. It was undulating and unformed, but it was most definitely a person trying to manifest itself. Thomas continued his melody, drawing from the violin the most complex chords and rhythms. As his song reached its climax, he saw two brief green flashes of light within the mist –two emerald flashes of light. It was a start. He had nearly achieved a corporeal Sarah on his first try. Thomas collapsed, gasping at the outer edge of the earthen circle for his breath. He shivered uncontrollably, tears streaming down his face. His hair had turned a pale shade of blond, and his eyes had turned a muddy brown color. He smiled savagely, reared back his head and laughed, like a wolf howling at the moon. Thomas continued this ritual every night, each time getting a more clearly defined result. The ghost of Sarah seemed to become more real each time. But every time he repeated this ritual, a little bit more of him was worn away. His hair had turned snow white, and his eyes, once a sparkling hazel, were now deep red. His skin was pale as the moonlight and his body appeared wan and bony. Several years later, an ebony violin was discovered in the woods behind a carpentry workshop. Near it there was a workbench, several candle stubs, and a love letter to someone by the name of Thomas. The building, once ThomasÕs carpentry shop, eventually became the home of a world-renowned violin maker –Stradivarius. The ebony violin was always considered too exquisite to play, and it was kept on display there in the shop, but never sold. On quiet nights in the town, when the moon is full, several have claimed seeing two ghostly figures walking hand in hand along the edge of the woods. One is feminine, with radiant features, the other is tall and masculine. Some even claim to have seen a brief flash of two shining emerald lights, just before the two figures disappear amongst the trees, still whispering about a night long ago, when a man and woman were reunited, not even death keeping them apart.

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