Actually, I felt the Bluesmanís presence well before I met him. As I sat drinking the whisky, Trixie, a tall and thin, light brown-haired lovely maiden came by to check on me. She had to ask twice if I wanted another round before I noticed her - that was how strong the Bluesmanís spell was. You see, normally, Iíd have used my gifts to just touch her mind, tickle her, so to speak, just enough that sheíd find me intriguing. I simply replied, "No thank you," tipped her and worked my way toward the corner that he was using as an impromptu stage. Those of you who know me and my libido, as well as Trixie and her charms will better appreciate the power of this manís Ďsongí.
As I approached the man I noticed something else that was odd. Every lifeform in the bar was Ďtunedí in to his song. I gently felt the mind of Max, the bartender. His synapses were firing in perfect rhythm with the Bluesmanís song. Even the Dírrish ambassador, Kazsh-ak Tier, was enthralled, his antennas were swaying with the beat as his giant scorpionís tail tapped out the backbeat.
For the first time, I really looked at the Bluesman. He was a thin black man, probably in his thirties. He pounded on a homemade Ďguitarí, it was a six-stringed instrument that made beautiful tones. His hands were large and callused, his face bore many scars. But his eyes were what I noticed the most. They were white, with no retina or pupil. This man was clearly blind, playing his music for the credits people would toss into his hat placed at his feet.
I tossed a 5-credit coin into the hat, he smiled and said "Thank you" inside my mind.
"Youíve got the gift." I thought to him.
"Not near as strong as yours." He thought back, never missing a beat.
I sat down at the table beside him, he kept playing as we Ďtalkedí. "I can feel your pain, Devion Mull." He told me. "Of all the people in this bar, your pain is the strongest. Thatís where I get my music, from pain. Your pain is strong enough to draw in all these people. Can you see the Dírrish?"
"Yes, I can."
"Look closely at his eyes." He thought, as his fingers worked the guitar with precise motions.
"My God. Heís crying!"
"Has been for ten clicks now."
"I didnít realize I was so transparent. Where did you learn your skills? I spent a half dozen years training in the psionic forces, yet you saw through my shields." I told him.
"Iíve had no formal training. I just had to stay alive. My parents were captured by the Grinkunís before I was born. They were sent to the slave mines deep below the surface. I was born blind, the slave-master wanted to kill me, but apparently I had the gift even back then. He couldnít bring himself to do it. This, a creature that rejoiced in the beating of slaves."
"My God. Donít you have enough pain of your own to draw from?"
"I have plenty. But today, yours is sharper. What happened, Devion Mull?"
"I came to Bethdish to help a friend. His name is Garrond Rosh, we grew up together on Lagranthe. His daughter, Sara, has been attacked by a Psigourmand, and I was the only person he thought could help him."
"What attacked her?"
"A Psigourmand. Itís a tiny transdimensional creature, a lot like a tick. It burrows into the victims mind, feeding on their emotions and psionic powers. His daughter will die, because I failed. Iíve never encountered a Psigourmand this powerful before. Iíve fought for profit a hundred times over, never to be beaten. But when it really matters, I failed."
"I see." He said, as the giant scorpion slowly moved over to place a coin in his hat.
"At least youíve profited from my pain." I motioned to Trixie to bring me another Green Eyes. I watched closely this time, her mind was being touched by the song also. When I paid her, she dropped the tip into his hat and walked away.
"Yes, Iíve got fourteen credits in that hat now. Iím usually lucky to make five in a night. Your pain is strong, Iím sorry for you."
"What happened to your parents?" I asked.
"They are still in the mines. I was able to escape with a merchant Grinkun who thought he could make a profit from my abilities. He did, for a while. Then his mouth got the best of him. A bounty hunter blasted him on an independent base for a rude comment. Nobody cared about a dead Grinkun, so I found myself alone. I worked my way here, to the City of Lights, one song at a time."
"I just realized, I donít know your name." I replied.
"Donít have a name. They just call me Bluesman."
"Your song is powerful. I never thought Iíd see a Dírrish cry. I didn't know eyes on stalks could cry."
"Music touches all species. Even Dírrishes and Grinkuns."
"Wait!" I said out-loud, an accident of my excitement. I smiled a Ďsorryí smile and shrugged my shoulders at the staring patrons. "Thatís it!" I thought it, this time. "Your music can touch all creatures. If you could distract the Psigourmand with your song, let him feed on the emotions and let his guard down, I could kill him. I know I could!"
"Sounds dangerous. Can this Psigourmand pass to another host?"
"No, not without returning to their dimension. If he does that, it would seriously weaken him, and I could kill him or at least prevent him from returning. Weíve got to try. Itís the only hope for that poor girl, Sara."
"I donít know about this." The Bluesman mentally sighed. "I donít know how to control my powers like you do. I donít have the discipline."
"All you have to do is play your music. Iíll do the rest. If we can save the girl, Iíll help you. My friend has money, perhaps we could hire some mercenaries to break your parents free."
"Now youíre talking! You get the girl here and Iíll play my songs."
I jumped to my feet and ran to a com-panel. I called Garrond Rosh and told him to bring Sara to the Mare Inebrium immediately. He protested, saying that she was too weak, but I insisted that I could save her. But it had to be here and now.
I went to Max, the bartender and explained that I needed to bend the rules regarding minors in the bar for a little while. His will was strong- stronger than I'd thought it would be, it took a lot of massaging to make his words come out yes. But finally I convinced him that it was the right thing to do.
Garrond Rosh appeared at the door with Sara in his arms. The girl was pale and fluttering in and out of consciousness. I had him lay her down on one of the floating tables as I felt the Psigourmandís presence.
"Didnít get enough, eh?" the beast asked. "This time Iíll crush you."
I nodded at the Bluesman to start his song as I felt a burning sensation growing from the base of my skull. If anything the Psigourmand was even stronger now. "You cannot have this girl. Go back to your dimension now, while you still have the choice." The pain in my skull grew stronger, my best shields couldnít block this attack. I knew that if I survived, Iíd have the mother of all headaches.
Then I noticed it happening. The Bluesmanís song was building, the other minds in the room were joining in on the beat. The Dírrishís stinger tapped in perfect time. I strained to feel the mind of the Psigourmand. Itís rhythm was flowing with the song. I closed off my mind as best I could, hoping to feign failure. The Psigourmand fed on the emotions, unaware that the pain was making it an easier target. Itís feasting brought its guard down, in its gluttonous orgy it grew sloppy.
Then something amazing happened. In my mind I felt every other mind in the bar, giving me strength and courage. The Dírrishís thoughts were there, telling me to strike with my non-existant stinger. Trixie was there with her thin bladed dagger, Max was there with the biggest blaster I'd ever seen in my life- the one I now new he kept hid under the register. But mostly, Garrond Rosh was there, bare-fisted but ready to fight for his daughter. Together we struck the Psigourmand.
"No! It canít be." The beast screamed. "How? You are many now, how did you?"
The Bluesman pounded his guitar, I struck with a mind blast that literally sent the young girl into a convulsion. I felt for the Psigourmand, searching out its nauseating signature in her mind. It was gone.
I fell to my knees as the Bluesman strummed the finale of his song. After a moment of complete silence, I heard Sara struggled to speak, calling "Daddy?"
I let out a tremendous yell of victory. The bar patrons looked at me with surprise and shock as the spell wore off. Max yelled, "Get that minor out of my bar now!"
I took the Bluesman back with me to my hotel room, where I downed a handful of headache pills and we both slept until late the next afternoon. Once we found something to eat, I discovered that Garrond Rosh had credited my bank account a hefty sum in appreciation, with a sincere and touching note apologizing for ever doubting me. Sara had left a message promising to make a cake for her Ďwonderful uncle Devion.í
Later that evening, the Bluesman and I went to the Military room at the Mare Inebrium. We had mercenaries to interview.
Jim Peters, 33 year old father of 2, living in central Indiana. Unpublished as yet, currently working on a novel as well as the ever-present short story that demands to be written.
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