Leo Ornstein at the Piano (color) by Leon Kroll

A Different Kind of War

Vale is an artist. Not the kind who brushes paint on a canvas or chisels stone off of a sculpture, but the kind who makes sound, and makes it beautiful.

He works for no pay in a small all-night bar called the Rook and Scythe, spending every minute of his life that he doesn't sleep playing the piano. He gets his food and drink on the house since he devotes so much time making the place more attractive to the ears. Also, the owner gets all of his tips.

He is the kind of person who stays quiet unless there is something important to say. To him, the world is such a dull place that he rarely talks at all. 

He is unlike his sibling, who derives entertainment from nearly everything.

But he hasn't seen his sister in quite some time. Blebbeh rarely finds time for him anymore.

His mind is a playground for demons, if that matters. He has seen so much and hurt so much that any thought he has when his fingers are away from ivory keys is torturous. He saw a psychiatrist once, when he had hope left. That psychiatrist took what little he had of money and made it sound as if his mind were a sick dog that needed to be put down. Despite the doctor's ridiculous assumptions, a handful of medications solved nothing, but did manage to make him ever so much more demented.

His sister used to kill animals for fun, but he is the one who needs a therapist.

He would call it unfair, idiotic, even wrong if he believed it merited his words. But, since he hasn't spoken to another soul in almost four months, he must not have too many opinions that do.

This night is the same as any other. Vale plays the piano with as much vigor as always. His music keeps the demons at bay, so he must keep going. He has never stopped once he has started before, not until it was imperative that he get sleep or sustenance. And even then, his mind is filled with the tune of his creation.

He plays.

A stranger talks to the bartender while he does. He does not regard them. His music is more interesting. 

"I... am motherfucking Wrait." The stranger erupts, right before storming out.

He does not blink. The piano is a part of his body. He wills it to and it sings.

Then... he stops.

He has no control over it. His fingers just halt. The tavernkeeper abruptly turns in response, at a loss for words.

Vale stands up from his bench.

"Y-you-you stopped playing..." The bartender sputters out in a state of confusion. 

"I did." His voice is nearly a whisper, but strikes the old man like a bat.

"You talked... D-do you need a hospital?"

"No. I just need to go home."

He walks out and leaves the man bewildered and almost shellshocked. He walks in the brisk, dark night as fast and purposefully as he can without running. He steps over the collapsed body of the stranger who came into the bar that night without missing a beat. He listens to the resounding rings of gunshots in the distance without wincing. He is nearly flattened by a Mod's armored patrol car and doesn't step to the side. He doesn't even blink when a massive explosion wipes out a fourth of the nearby forest. But when he hears the cry of a raven echo from the sky, his jaw drops, his eyes widen, and he almost involuntarily breaks into a sprint.

As long as he has missed his sister, he would recognize her anywhere.

To be continued...

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