In Untold Story 1, I invited readers to give me their ideas of what happened to one incarnation of the band down in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. The first story in response was by Sally Koetsveld – and today we have a new take on it from Yvon Hintz, who last week gave as a Story Told for Hungary’s Goblin Park.
Breath of God
Although the site itself was new, workers were convinced that there was something old and evil in the Royal salt mine in Wieliczka. They said that it lived in the underground lake and caused a feeling of unease throughout the galleries. Although work was going on as normal the men were unhappy and fearful which meant that production was not as good as it could have been.
Johannes and his band had come to the attention of one of the owners of the Polish salt mining company. He learned that the musicians were not only creators of pleasing music but that there was magic in their songs and rhythms… magic that could overcome evil. He had heard of them defeating a vicious dragon in neighbouring Bohemia and thought they might do some good in the mine… either soothing the disturbing presence or driving it out.
They felt something as soon as they entered the mine. Agnes, the most sensitive of the group, said that it was an ancient evil with great power. It was dangerous, but also lazy… it didn’t want to move. Johannes wanted to tell the mine owners to let it lie but Agnes assured him that if left, it might one day become so annoyed by the workers that it would rise up in anger and kill someone. Better, she said, for them to raise it now and deal with it.
They began to play. Johannes tapped his drums, Hugo played the violin, Agnes plucked her dulcimer, young Galfridus blew on a gemshorn and Maud sang a chant that wove between the music, pulling all the sounds into a harmonious whole. The music shimmered off the grey walls. It was heard by the workers in the galleries, it was heard by men carving a statue and it must have been heard by anything sentient in the waters of the lake, but it caused no response.
Galfridus suggested they add something new to the mix. He had bought an odd instrument from one of the mine workers, who had purchased it in a distant land but found himself unable to master it. It was based on the simple goat skin and flute arrangement made by farmers but with a better bag and flute and several drones. It was badly out of tune, but he had worked on it and now it produced a sound so sweet that he had named it Breath of God.
Breath of God, when Galfridus first fired it up, caused the musicians to cover their ears in torment, but as the pressure in the bag built and the sounds from the drones and the chanter came into harmony with each other it became less noise and more recognisable music. The sound… a cross between a violin and a flute… skirled through the mine and was heard even by people as far away as the village.
Johannes agreed that when properly played it did produce a rich, full sound with intriguing harmonies and that it was most definitely loud enough to wake the dead, but thought that on this occasion it might be better if they stuck with their tried and true instruments. Galfridus packed away the Breath of God.
They renewed their effort till at last the lake began to stir. The waters rippled, the air seemed to throb and a deep groan shuddered through the mine. Agnes told them that it was awake and aware. A quiver crept into her voice as she added that it was very, very strong. Johannes looked at his little group and wondered if their power would be enough to contain the ancient evil they were about to call forth.
He would later blame himself for this moment of doubt for in that moment something burst from the lake and an invisible force swiped at the five musicians. Agnes and Maud shrieked as they were knocked down, Hugo cried out for the safety of his violin and Johannes himself gave a cry of pain as he was flung bodily from the shore of the lake to hit the wall. His head cracked against the rock hard salt and he felt his senses begin to leave his body. Fear coursed through him. Without him… without all of them playing, the thing they had just let loose would be free to leave the lake and roam and kill. What had they done? He tried to lift himself up but his limbs refused to move. He could only watch in helpless horror as the unseen evil battered his comrades around the chamber. He feared they would all be killed.
Maud tried to sing even as she took refuge behind a barrel, but there was a quaver in her voice that ruined the magic. Hugo cradled his violin and tried to draw the bow across it strings. His arm was battered away from the instrument. Agnes saw her beloved dulcimer mashed into splinters and a tangle of strings.
Then Galfridus rose with the bag of Breath of God tucked under his arm. The steady drone of multiple, tuned pipes filled the air, quickly joined by the higher, complex tones from the chanter. The ground beneath them shuddered and the lake waters heaved as the thing protested. Galfridus took a step toward the lake, something howled objection, he took another step and the groan became a shriek, he walked slowly and steadily and the Breath of God seemed like a wall of sound that matched the ancient forced and pushed against it…. pushing it back little by little toward the lake. The water splashed and heaved, then settled, rippled and was still.
As he was being carried from the mine Johannes heard young Galfridus boasting about the power of the Breath of God. He told him that he had done well and had probably saved their lives, but that he should pack away the instrument because there was a good chance that the miner who had owned it, had tried to play it while at work and that it, in fact, had been the thing that had originally roused the ire of the ancient in the lake.
– Yvon Hintz
Yvon is a writer and artist from WA. Read/see her work at Word Cafe: Yvon HIntz.
Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.
Stay tuned for the next Untold Story!
New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.