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Prelude to Games

From DivNull RPG

Contained in these pages is a description of this symphony written by Tanador throughout the first portion of the campaign (before the arrival of Iadra). Having proof-read it, it can tell you that is it somewhat painful to read. You can read it a couple of ways. The skim-through-quickly way is bearable, but most of the purpose of this writing is lost. Basically, every sentence in this writing is thought out, and references some aspect of the history of Thorn. Trying to figure out what the sentence means metaphorically may make the reading somewhat easier, but much slower. Also, some of the sentences use imagery to evoke the music’s emotional content rather than describe the music itself. Basically, I’ve never been good at writing musical analysis, so this is a parody of sorts (though not a very humorous one). Any time you see a superscript, it refers to an endnote that describes what the noted item is in the history of Thorn. If you can, please try to guess for yourself before looking. I almost didn’t give you the endnotes, but figured they might brighten up the prose. For what it’s worth, I tried to make this contain several layers of self-referential constructs, I tried to hide them somewhat. I hope you find it at least a bit fun.

This work musically tells the story of the alabaster key and the return of the elves by narrating the history of the tale’s protagonists: Thorn. It is an orchestral work, with six extra feature musicians, some of them on decidedly non-orchestral instruments. Generally, these feature voices tend to intrude apon the more orchestral collective atmosphere, but manage to meld with it, as if part of divine design.

The feature sextet consists of oboe (Kheizget), cello (Fenris), lute (Tanador), trumpet (McBride), dulcimer (Zem) and pan flute (Bron). Throughout the piece, any instrument set apart from the ensemble represents a single entity for the duration of its solo. Any singled out group of instruments is usually a group of entities.

A Symphony by Tanador Verstand Dedicated to the greater glory of living Music, the goddess Lasadulu

I. Prelude[edit]

A single, slow, disembodied whisper (magically generated, if possible): “There are thirteen movements in this work…”, immediately triggering the explosive beginning of the prelude.

This movement details the invasion of Dalenden and Orrim by the red army. If all goes well, this movement will be picked up by the red army as their battle march, which will allow anyone who understands the rest of the symphony to mock them all the more. It is largely a glorious battle anthem and march with a distinct absence of keening death. The beginning is explosive brass and timpani, leading into a largely brass anthem with steady, martial percussion. This movement, written in the key of C, is meant to invoke a feeling of “here comes the invincible tide”. Those who dislike the reds will find likely find this depressing, oppressive, or terrifying. Those who float with the red tide will likely be inspired.

II. Thorns[edit]

Where this movement begins and the prelude ends is uncertain. Towards the end of the prelude, a pianissimo tone from an oboe cascades steadily downward across three octaves in two measures, growing slightly louder, and ending in such a way to transform the key into D. Following this, occasional pricks of staccato single notes from the lead oboe quietly intrude into the prelude, joined by similar tones from the lead cello.

After a short period, three things happen at the same time: instruments start dropping one at a time from the main prelude, the oboe and the cello begin to slowly, but still in stabbing tones eventually coalescing into a harmonic melody, and a lute begins a similar punctuational entrance, disconnected from the rest.

After the prelude has stopped and the oboe/cello duet has come to the fore, a second duet of clarinet and violin begins, with the violin1 repeating the same passive phrase over and over. The clarinet2 is active, and becomes even more so as the oboe/cello duet seem to wrap around its melody, overcoming it. The oboe/cello duet continues, this time joined by the violin. Through all this the lute as been increasing its presence randomly, but not to a fully notable level.

As the oboe/cello duet continues, the lute builds into a more concrete melody, using some of the aspects of the oboe/cello, but still separated from them. The clarinet, meanwhile is becoming agitated and enters the foreground. The lute begins matching some notes with the clarinet, shadowing it quietly, and the oboe/cello and first violin quiet to nothing. Suddenly, a sequence of percussives from a woodblock sound out with a “tok3…tik…tok.” On the “tik” the clarinet falls silent in mid phrase.

The lute, suddenly alone, begins to meander into a melody. A periodic, soft hissing4, made by all members of the string section not currently playing, begins to intercept the lute. The lute’s melody is disturbed by the hiss each time it sounds. A lower violin5 enters, shadowing the lute’s notes much like the lute echoed the clarinet. This violin and the rattle never co-exist until they all meet at once in a crescendo of panic. The lute becomes chaotic, then falls silent. The violin quivers rapidly, in time to the hiss. The hiss gets louder and louder (magically enhanced if need be), then suddenly stops. At the same time the violin sounds a shrill tone, hesitates for one beat, the begins to quiver again. Gradually, it quiets to a whisper while becoming more steady.

As the violin falls silent, the lute picks up its earlier melody, and the oboe and cello duet enter again. These two themes gradually intertwine into the major theme of the symphony. (The theme will be expanded and altered by more voices as the work continues.)

The theme reaches a concluding point and stops, followed by a complicated, authoritarian voice from a bass violin6. This voice stops and the lute/oboe/cello voice plays a counter, more tentative reply. What follows is a point-counterpoint of the two voices, with the first violin repeating the passive phrase from before throughout. The counterpoint gains speed and volume, building to a climax which stops with both voices rapidly sounding the final phrase.

III. Tortuga[edit]

After a pause, an andante, sprightly, humorous and slightly nautical movement begins in the key of E, using all instruments other than brass, percussion and the featured lute/oboe/cello. Among the more notable voices in the crowd are the violins7, which form a lightly dominating, if peculiar, presence over the rest of the ensemble. Once the theme of this movement has been established, the lute/oboe/cello voice incorporates itself into the theme. The violins form a lightly dominating presence over them as well.

The mood turns darker, as if warning of an impending storm. Pianissimo martial percussion sets in, becoming slowly louder. The violins crescendo as well, becoming more authoritarian and allegro. Brass joins the percussion8, sounding a theme which is almost, but not quite, recognizable as the martial theme from the prelude. All pomp is stripped from it and it feels deadlier. It is also slightly nautical.

When both major voices reach forte, they begin to clash and mix. Single concussive timpani blast and cymbals crash in the maelstrom, similar in frequency to a catapult, forming the skeleton of the clash. The lute/oboe/cello voice breaks into its component pieces, each augmenting the violins in a different way.

The piece builds in ferocity, culminating with a large crash and chaotic scattering of the melody. Instruments, mostly violins, seem to unsynchronize and collapse in on their own melodies. The lute, oboe, cello and a single violin scatter similarly, but disentangle themselves from the chaos. As the chaos winds down, the lute, oboe and cello unite into a tattered variation of the main theme, joined by the violin. The violin stays on the outskirts of the theme, but augments it peculiarly, the chaos still flapping in the background.

The chaos gives way to the martial theme, which crescendos until it drowns out the lute, oboe, cello and violin. The brass and most of the the percussion diminuendos out of the theme, leaving timpani sounding a largo beat. Abruptly, the timpani stop.

IV. Dominion[edit]

The basic melody began in the second movement begins again, this time slowly in the key of F. Almost immediately, it is set upon by four violins9. They sound either threatening or terrified, in the way that only violins can, using a recognizable, weaker variant of the prelude. They seem to issue a command. After a quarter-note rest, the lute, oboe, and cello explode into a flurry. To oboe sounds a sharp tone and one of the violins stops. The cello sounds a similar sharp note and another violin stops. The lute sounds the same note and another violin stops. Only the first violin remains, back to its terrified stance. The other instruments stop, leaving the first violin wavering. Gradually, it begins playing a simple repetition of the basic melody10. This variation differs more from the other variations than they vary from each other. It is sadder, like a mute prophet of doom. The cello/oboe/lute voices join it. Soon the four voices slowly fade.

After a pause, the solo oboe gives a brief, staccato flutter, almost as if it was saying “whazzat?” The rest of the ensemble begins a nearly inaudible humming11, using their voices, not their instruments. Some hum a single low note, others undulate slowly through a sine-wave of tones. Some intone a verving susurrus, while others interject countertones at random. The effect, once loud enough to hear, will sound like an unearthly quarrel of insects or worse. It should make the crowd feel uneasy and paranoid, like something stands behind them. The quality of the tones should be such that it gives an impression of coming from everywhere, and coming to get the audience.

The humming starts so soft none can hear it, except perhaps the oboe. The oboe begins to alternate from a confused, rushing jumble through brambles, to a methodical, stalking melody and back again. As it does so, the humming grows slowly but steadily louder. As it does, it becomes even more menacing and evil. The oboe begins to take on a more purposeful, combative air. It begins to interact with the hum, now nearly drowning it out. This begins a series of half notes (long notes for this movement) which end in a quick punctuating stop. At each, the hum reacts, as if begin struck, sounding more angry.

At this point, the cello enters, as if from a distance, using the same combative theme as the oboe. The cello crescendos to join the oboe, joining it with the long punctuated notes, but non-synchronously. As this goes on, the humming becomes panicked, then disjointed. The oboe and cello begin to become more refined, almost hitting a stride. The humming shatters with a howl. As the howl subsides, the oboe and cello diminish to nothing.

Silence.

V. Queen[edit]

A complex sequence from the dulcimer soloist begins, a dual harmony, vaguely Orrite phrase in G. It stops abruptly, and a lone bell12 sounds, somewhat interrogatively, in the G above middle C. The dulcimer begins again with the same theme, but with less complexity. Again it is interrupted by the bell. The dulcimer begins once more, this time a mere shadow of of its original complexity. Again the bell sounds. After a full rest, the dulcimer begins to sound out lone whole notes, also in G above middle C. After eight notes pass, the bell joins them.

After eight more such notes have sounded, cello, oboe, lute and first violin burst into a purposeful melody that, while vaguely disorganized, is somehow cohesive in its detachment. In the measure it begins, the dulcimer continues its pattern with one more whole note (making thirteen in the sequence, a dozen overt and one obscured), joined by a half note from the bell, followed by a short cluster of alarm. The cello, oboe, lute and violin quartet solidify into a main melody, containing hidden references to the dulcimer melody earlier, though only detailed musical analysis might make this noticeable on any level other than a subconscious one. The dulcimer quickly shifts into a variation on its original theme, much more focused, specific and threatening, but not overly so. It moves in counterpoint to the trio.

The quartet and the dulcimer begin to move, not exactly with or against each other, but occasionally interfering with each other with both moving in the same direction. This evolves for a minute or so, gradually settling to a steady state. In the interim, the bell sounds occasionally, though it is generally ignored by other instruments.

Into this tableau come a second counter melody from the whole string section13 (apart from the first violin). Starting softly, it is instantly menacing. The quartet and the dulcimer instantly unify and become tightly organized. The strings gain volume and speed, like rushing water. The quintet gains pace as well, with the dulcimer becoming the predominant voice. The quintet and the strings rush to an extremely loud climax, sounding like a breaking wave.

As the rush subsides, the growing silence is shattered by by a roar from the brass section. This leads into a surging theme, noble, powerful and ancient. It is meant to totally immobilize an audience with its graceful power. Containing the latter half of this movement, this theme is Megista’s, inspired entirely by her entrance in Asturia. The music is meant to make the listener feel both the physical power of Magista as well as the burden of a thousand years of life.

In keeping with the major theme of this symphony, this movement stops abruptly, but not instantly. When it does, only the slight sound of sleighbells14 can be heard, apparently having started earlier, but drowned out by the brass.

VI. Filippe[edit]

The trumpet soloist plays for the first time, alone, in the key of A. Playing a complicated but slowly paced semi-nautical piece, the soloist is joined by a tuba15. The two begin a friendly romp, welcome comic relief from the oppression of the last movement. The trumpet and tuba seem to be conversing, or even teaching each other. It is unclear whether one voice repeats the other, or corrects it, but it is all in good fun.

Into this come four stealthy, malevolent clarinets16. The trumpet/tuba conversation becomes softer, more serious, but fades to nothing quickly. The clarinets continue, and the string sections17 start, quiet, subdued and afraid. The clarinets continue as before, but soon eight violins18 separate themselves from the rest, with jumbled, almost innocent purpose. After eight measures of this, the clarinets, without warning, begin a flurry of notes in four part harmony, even more malicious than before. They do not last long, but while they play, each of the violins, almost randomly, sounds a brief shriek, then stops. For a moment, the clarinets stop, leaving the rest of the string section to huddle in fear. Then the clarinets begin again.

The oboe, lute, cello, dulcimer and first violin quintet enter, each playing their variation of the basic theme from the second and fourth movement. The clarinets take no notice, but the strings change slightly. Throughout the movement, the strings take up the basic melody, but so slowly you barely notice.

The oboe suddenly picks up the hunting theme from the eight violins earlier in the movement, followed soon after by the rest of the quintet. This goes on for eight measures, at which point the tuba sounds very softly, as if making its presence known, but not entering the scene. The tuba stops and another eight measures follow, somewhat faster than the first. The clarinets, still in their stealthy background mode, stop suddenly. One starts again, with the same flurry as before. The quintet flurries back. Suddenly the trumpet and the tuba enter with their own flurry. The clarinet hurries down the scale, getting softer as it does. The tuba and the trumpet join the hunting theme of the quintet, and the four clarinets begin again.

The tuba drops out of the hunting theme and the theme takes on more purpose. It continues for eight measures, then the clarinets begin to flurry again, joined immediately after by the sextet. The oboe, trumpet, dulcimer, lute and cello become extremely organized five part harmony. The first violin joins the harmony somewhat, but remains outside it. In rapid succession, the following occur: a clarinet sounds a high note and becomes slight, the first violin shrieks like those at the beginning of the movement, the five part harmony gets louder, the remaining clarinets drop out one by one. All music stops save the first violin, repeating its shriek in longer and softer ways until it is silent.

The lute begins to play the variant of the main theme played by the first violin in the fourth movement. Most of the orchestra join the lute voice and the whole becomes an orchestrated version of the Song For the Undead that Tanador composed and played for the dead in the Luecrotta lair. This continues for the remaining third of the movement, and contains one of the only “proper” endings in the whole symphony.

VII. Matrimony[edit]

After a long pause (perhaps an intermission), a wedding theme begins in the key of B. The movement has two parts. The intent of the first part is to make every maiden in the audience want to have this piece played when she gets married. Tanador wants this to become the “Here Comes the Bride” of his era. This part comprises a full three-quarters of this movement, and ends such that this part can be played without the last part.

In the remaining fourth of the piece, the wedding turns ugly. A bassoon and timpani19 combine to form a roaring demand. The trumpet answers back, as does the lute. The three voices trade off and the rest of the wedding theme disintegrates. Not far into the exchange, the trumpet steps up to a C. Each exchange thereafter takes a step up the scale and becomes more agitated. When we reach B again, it is the lute’s turn. It makes a proclamation, which is followed immediately by the “tok” sound from the second movement, then silence.

VIII. Prison[edit]

The pan flute soloist begins in the key of C, an old note like the cry of a hawk. Surrounded by long pauses, it sounds three more times, the last a note lower than the first. As this last note plays, the bass violin theme from the second movement appears for eight notes, then vanishes. The pan flute begins a slow melody, innocent, slow and depressing. The other five featured players add to it, entering one at a time in this order: dulcimer, lute, oboe, cello, trumpet. Each instrument plays their variant of the main theme, but this is somewhat hard to spot as the tempo is largo, about half of its previous state. At this pace, the theme is depressing, defeated.

A group of five instruments begins: a rattle20, a violin19, a viola22, a french horn23 and multi-toned woodblock24. They are slow as well, but oppressive, with elements of the martial theme from the fourth movement. The two voice merge, though not peacefully. In a short time, and with a few “tok”s from the woodblock, the martial voice overpowers the sextet, which now continue voicing only every other note. The trumpet is muted. The martial theme continues for a time, then drops out, leaving the viola behind.

The sextet theme continues, even more depressing than before, now joined by a new violin25. The violin voice sounds unfamiliar; though it fits in with the theme, it carries its own melody. The violin, lute, and viola take the foreground, and perform a brief, slow, dance. This ends with the viola and the violin fading slowly to nothing, and the main theme takes over again for eight measures.

The violin theme returns softly. It gains speed and volume joined by the string section26, especially the bass violin. As the tempo increases, the main theme matches it, getting volume and all its notes back. The two themes mix and meander for a time, with the strings becoming less assertive.

The strings are suddenly replaced with the brass section. They echo the sextet’s previous half note theme, at half the tempo of the main theme as well. The result of this mix that of dread approach, as if you are coming up to something breathtaking and dangerous. Once this sound asserts itself, a flute27 sounds out a very pure, optimistic phrase. When the flute sings, most of the brass drops out, leaving only the bass brass instruments, which become a background.

The flute and the sextet begin to interact, connect, disconnect. As they continue, the flute begins to become incorporated into the main theme. Once fully incorporated, the theme starts to slow and the sextet begins to drop out until just the lute and the flute attempt to shrug off the brass. After a time, only the flute remains. Soon after, it begins playing only every other note. This continues for eight measures and then only the brass remains. It stops as well.

IX. Traps[edit]

The first violin begins the passive, repeating phrase it played in the second movement, in D. This phrase is soon covered by what follows, but it is always present if you listen for it. The phrase repeats eight times, then goes up a note, then repeats eight more times and so on. In the end, it gets around to a D an octave higher. Right when it should go up to the next E, the tenth movement begins.

Over this, an adventurous theme begins. Throughout it all, the symphony plays a main, environmental setting, to which the featured sextet react. The sextet splinters into a collection of individual voices. Usually, two or three of them are purposefully harmonizing at any given time. At all times, however, the voices all fit into the symphony. In addition, each time the first violin changes key, the symphony changes a bit, both in key and tone. These changes don’t build to anything obvious, but they alter the feel slightly. The sextet alters dramatically to face these changes.

In each of the eight changes, a specific percussive element is featured. They are, in order: high chimes sounding like running water; hundreds of fingers tapping against the seat of chairs, sounding like a myriad of tiny legs, scurrying; a millstone, cycling so that sounds like a rotating rock; two tympani, loping around; random cymbals; slight tympani, turning into rolling thunder; metalophones, playing hide and seek; all percussion roaring, like an open forge.

The open forge roars, and the movement builds to a climax. The climax builds up loudly to the next movement, cutting off instantly.

X. Eight[edit]

The first violin shifts up to E, and this movement begins very quietly. The lute begins playing the procession of eight that Tanador played in the spiral room in Mount Haralkken. The sextet adds to it, providing a melody over the repeating scale. The orchestra soon joins it, simply at first.

As the music goes on it gets more complex. It begins to draw on phrases from previously in the symphony, as if all of what came before was spiraling into now. The first violin’s repeating theme continues to go up the scale. As it changes, the orchestra switches to a new theme from before. Often, the orchestra splits, siting two themes simultaneously.

The first violin cycles back to E, and all other instruments stop. All musicians but the first violin begin to sing “aaaaaahh”, a low e. When the first violin changes keys, the orchestra sings in f. This continues along up to mid d.

On the next switch, the singing goes back to low e, then glissandos rapidly downward and into a sigh.

A “click”, like two magnets coming together, is heard.

XI. Procession[edit]

The featured sextet fall silent. They are not heard from again. What begins is the music heard when all the people came through the alabaster gate. If possible, some of the sounds should be produced magically, as instruments of the time wont be able to get the sound exactly right. This movement concludes just before the evil begins to come.

XII. Sar[edit]

This movement contains the rest of the music heard in the throne room: the coming of the evil, the arrival of the god, and the sacrifice of Fenris. As the music fades out, a slight martial drum beat begins, pianissimo, as if far away, but coming closer. The same whisper that started the symphony intones: “For these twelve cannot encompass this passing / That the service will weigh upon the earth again.”

Silence.


  1. The Alabaster Key
  2. The merchant who had the key
  3. A reference to someone teleporting
  4. The evil Nyissan preist
  5. Don Ally
  6. Old Wolf
  7. Captain Tortuga
  8. The Red Army’s Black Ship
  9. Some Red Guardsmen, who we killed very quickly
  10. Filippe
  11. The ghost that K. Killed the in forest
  12. Lady Narita
  13. The Leviathan
  14. Necron
  15. Glodeth
  16. The leucrotta
  17. The members of Durnik’s village
  18. A villager hunting party
  19. The enraged father
  20. Agachack
  21. Antovel
  22. Brimbrax
  23. Donnes Krell
  24. Malachi
  25. Efrem
  26. Alaunoboto
  27. Alassabon