Heavens to Murgatroyd, it's another chapter of... The Minstrel's PathPart 10by Kim McFarland ***** It was a world carved out of soil. The tunnels were not solid, reliable rock, but earth, packed hard and reinforced with stones and wooden structures that looked like huge Doozer constructions. The ground was perfectly flat, packed down by the tread of thousands of Fraggle feet, even on the outskirts of the colony. Here and there the tunnel bent to accommodate tree roots. This colony was close to the surface. Cantus and M'rray, traveling together, had followed the path that M'rray has plotted on his maps. Eventually they had gone past the maps' range, and were now seeing sights that they had only heard of in legends, including startlingly bright sunlight shining down from above. When they had investigated, they had seen an incomprehensible sight: distance, unfathomable distance in every direction, with wavery grasses and occasional taller things sticking out of it. Above, mottled blue and white, and something so bright they could not look at it. It had unnerved both of them. They had not understood why such strangeness should be so upsetting, and they quickly decided that they should listen to their instincts and remain in the safe underground tunnels where they belonged. After going off the maps Cantus had taken the lead, and M'rray guessed that the Fraggle was following his nose. Heh, Fraggles had good noses for that. Somehow they had avoided significant dangers and setbacks thus far, and had found more colonies. Most were Fraggles, but there had been Pisca and a few other species. Nearly all of them spoke Cantus' language. M'rray was getting lots of practice, now that he had nobody to speak his own language with. When they heard voices Cantus raised the Magic Pipe and began to play softly. * Every Fraggle colony had a central area where everyone could gather. It was the social center of the colony. This colony was constructed much like a rabbit warren, made up of tunnels and rooms dug out of the soil. Because earth was not as stable as limestone, the Fraggles had left the columnlike tap roots of the trees above them alone when they had made this chamber, and had woven other living roots into a kind of ceiling. The walls were carpeted with various plants that had strong root systems. The Fraggles looked over, startled and confused, when the strangers entered. Their instincts warned them that strangers could be enemies, the hill must be protected! But they came in weaponless and playing music, as if the possibility of harm had never occurred to them. Unable to decide what to do, the Fraggles let the strangers—one a rather odd-looking Fraggle, the other an alien creature—walk in unchallenged. Cantus and M'rray walked over to a thick, horizontal root that had, from the look of its polished upper surface, been used as a seat by many Fraggles. He and M'rray sat, playing a gentle tune, while Fraggles gathered around, murmuring curiously. Cantus finished the tune and lowered the pipe. He said, "Greetings, fellow Fraggles. I am Cantus, and this is Murray." M'rray nodded. "We have traveled far, playing our music for the people we meet. Now we wish to play for you. Please, gather your people so they may all listen." The Fraggles paused. Then some left, going out the round tunnels leading out of this chamber. Others walked some distance away, supposedly going back to what they were doing before but, M'rray could see, also keeping an eye on them. He murmured to Cantus, "This is strange." "The acoustics are unusual. Hardly any echo. It must be the earth and plants," Cantus observed. "Right, right..." M'rray said. Cantus waited. He and M'rray had been visiting various colonies, and for each one they played their music and Cantus told them of their kinship with the world through song. Their audiences always listened appreciatively to the music, and politely to his words, but the message wasn't sticking. M'rray wasn't bothered about that; for him it was enough to share music. And, yes, Cantus agreed that that was good, but he knew he had more to give. He had to try harder. * Soon the central cave was filled with Fraggles. To M'rray's eye they seemed to be caught between interest in their visitors, who had walked in as if they belonged, and caution, because these were unknown people, and one a strange, non-Fraggle being. Earlier in their travels this would have worried M'rray, but now he knew that if their audience wasn't afraid or hostile—and none had been so far—they were safe. Cantus said, "Murray, may I borrow your guitar? I want to sing." "Sure." M'rray handed him the guitar, and accepted the Magic Pipe. Cantus said, looking at all the assembled Fraggles, "Thank you for coming to hear me. I hope that you enjoy my song and remember its message." Me, not us, M'rray noted. Hmm. Well, Cantus did have something new planned, so M'rray would find out what it was when the rest of the audience did. Cantus played a lively, up-tempo introduction. M'rray was startled. Cantus usually played gentle, soft music. Cantus sang, "Please hear what I am singing now and hear my words, though strange and newIn the world outside your tunnels there are people strange but still like you.We have traveled through the caverns, we have traversed many tunnelsDivided by wide rivers and connected by thin runnels.The folk who live throughout the Rock may look like you and they might not,We differ in our bodies but we are the same in mind and thought.We must greet them as our brethren, we must meet them with our song.We must fill the stone and air with music to which we all belong." Cantus stopped playing and asked, "Do you believe me?" "Yes!" * M'rray was shocked. He had watched the faces of the Fraggles while Cantus had been singing. Normally Fraggles looked relaxed as the music flowed through them, refreshing as a spring breeze. But these Fraggles had seemed… blank, as if the song had stunned them. Yet they had absorbed his message, and now believed Cantus. After all his efforts, he finally made people believe his message! They believed so much it was alarming. For the rest of the day Fraggles had been meeting with Cantus. They sang with him, praised him, promised to carry his message. Cantus, of course, was pleased. As the day wore on M'rray, appalled, took the Magic Pipe and guitar and left the main cavern. * That evening Cantus found M'rray at the tunnel leading out of the colony. Cantus looked disturbed. He said, "Murray, what happened?" "I ask you that," M'rray responded. Cantus shook his head. "I thought that I wasn't trying hard enough, and that was why people didn't believe me. So I did—and now they believe me too much!" "What a problem," M'rray said drily. Cantus sat down and lowered his head into his hands. "They believe, but they don't understand. They believe without thinking. That's not what I wanted, Murray." "How did you do it? You used magic?" Cantus flinched from the accusation. "No! The only magic I have is in that pipe. I simply… convinced them." Cantus realized what he had done. When a Fraggle sang, there was no barrier between his heart and his words. What a Fraggle sang was that Fraggle's truth. Other Fraggles knew that on an instinctive level, and believed him. Cantus had put too much force into his song, and had, without meaning to, mesmerized them, giving them no choice but to believe him. He had bypassed their brains and shot his words into their hearts. M'rray saw flickers of emotion chase across Cantus' face. When the Fraggle looked up, he said, "I need the Magic Pipe." Silently M'rray picked it up and held it out to Cantus. He took it, drew in a breath, and blew. It played a discordant squawk. M'rray watched as Cantus stared at the pipe in surprise and dismay. The Fraggle was silent for a minute. Then he said, "Excuse me," and got up and walked away, leaving the pipe behind. * Several hours later M'rray was becoming worried. Cantus had walked off, abandoning M'rray and even the Magic Pipe. Was he just going to walk away from the mess he'd created? M'rray didn't think so. Cantus would come back for the pipe. There was some sort of mystical connection between the two, and M'rray doubted that Cantus would willingly give it up, even as upset as he was. But M'rray wouldn't give it back to him until he promised to make good. Both the pipe and guitar in hand, he got up to go looking for his friend. He turned a bend, and found Cantus sitting there, chin in his hand, the tip of his tail sweeping slowly back and forth. Startled, M'rray said, "You didn't go far." "I only needed to be alone with my thoughts," Cantus replied. "And?" "Can I borrow your guitar again?" Not the pipe? Wordlessly M'rray held out the guitar. Cantus took it. Together the two went to the central burrow. * Cantus sat on the same root as before. He did not need to say a word; the colony's Fraggles gathered around, eager to hear him. When he raised the guitar to play it they went quiet. Into the breathless silence he said softly, "Listen." He began to play, and sang, "Is song a boon?A song is just the wordsOf those who've sung and heardAnother's tune.Though patter may persuadeThose words, when they are weighed,Fade too soon.What right, I ask, have I,To ask you to relyOn words that I supply?Only you can findYour own truth,Seek and you will findYour own truth. "What is the truth?It lies behind your eyes.It's found within your mind.Seek it and you will find.The innocence of youthCan lead one far astray,So quick to lose one's way.Do not believe in me,For you each hold the key.Listen to my last plea—Your eyes alone can seeYour own truth.Open your eyes and you will seeYour own truth." He played more of the tune on the guitar. He glanced at M'rray, who raised the Magic Pipe and began to play along. Their music joined together, soothing and melodious. * After they finished the colony's Fraggles, a bit disoriented, began to murmur among themselves. The spell was broken. He no longer had any hold on them. They would be confused for a little while, but there was nothing he could do about that. It was not his place to give them answers they had not asked for. "I think it's time to leave," M'rray said quietly. "Yes," Cantus replied. The two stood. Cantus was about to start forward, but M'rray elbowed him. When Cantus looked over M'rray held out the Magic Pipe. Cantus took it, and returned M'rray's guitar. Gingerly Cantus raised the horn and played a single note. It came out bright and clear as spring water. Relieved, Cantus began playing a tune as he walked, and Murray accompanied him. Of the Fraggles they left behind, one watched the two go. Her mind had cleared, but she still believed. She would think about it. Hopefully that they would return some day. ***** Fraggle Rock, Cantus, and Murray are copyright © The Jim Henson Company and are used without permission but with much respect and affection. The overall story is copyright © Kim McFarland (firstname.lastname@example.org). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only. Cantus' songs can be sung to the tune of My Eyes Are Fully Open from Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta Ruddigore and Is Life a Boon from G&S's The Yeomen of The Guard. These songs are in the public domain, not that that applies to filked lyrics.