This story picks up immediately after The Weeping Man. You can read more of the Great Master’s stories and other spiritual allegories on this link:
The woman known as the Great Master and her friend, Engagé–whom the locals called Gage–explored Chanter for some time. In the village that sings, they spent time at the different markets where large groups of people came together to sing. They explored the small nooks, tavern gatherings, family parties that invited the public in, gatherings that didn’t invite the public in, and more. They both reveled in the joyful sounds.
But the Great Master began to notice a subtle theme hidden in the songs. It made her uneasy.
“We’ve been hanging about this place for awhile, but I”m not clear on what we are doing,” Gage wondered.
“Neither am I.” She smiled.
Gage smiled reflexively. His sense of concern dissipated.
“There’s a large ceremony at the town square tonight. What do you think about going?”
“I’ll go wherever you go.”
The night came. The town square was alight with colorful lanterns, banners, and tents. The townsfolk wore brilliant clothing of every hue imaginable. The Great Master and Gage also wore local clothing. She wore a bright rose gown with pink and lavender trim. He wore a bright yellow tunic with purple trim.
After initial revelry and games, a woman–one of the five co-leaders of the town–announced the opening of the ceremony.
“These leaders are young. Younger than I’ve ever seen in a town,” the Great Master commented.
The woman leader wore a large red and green top hat along with blue and black striped pants and a yellow blouse. She announced herself as Häbi and welcomed everyone to the Great Peace Celebration.
“For the last four years, we have had peace!”
“Thanks to all of your hard work, we continue to have plenty of dyes to meet all of our obligations. Thanks to the miners and farmers!”
“Thanks to the refiners!”
“Thanks to the dye makers, packers, and shippers!”
“Thanks to everyone. Now let’s celebrate!”
The singing exploded with joy. Drinks passed. Food freely given. People danced and laughed. And sang even more loudly.
The Great Master and Gage delighted in the festivities, but something in the songs nagged at her. She found herself singing less or even discordantly. She found her voice wanting to harmonize with a deeper more somber sound.
Gage looked at her as he heard her singing change.
“What is it?”
She looked at him and then around the celebration. She saw an old man with an eye patch seated on a barrel. He sighed heavily and drank his beer slowly. He did not sing.
She walked over to him with Gage following.
“Hello,” she said.
He looked at her and then away.
“Are you enjoying the celebration?”
He said nothing.
“Why not?” she responded already knowing the answer.
“You’re an outsider.”
“Okay.” She stood up and thanked him for his time. She noticed that behind him was an old building. She peered through a window to see a group of older people with similar demeanors.
They walked away from the celebration.
“What was that?” Gage asked.
“I don’t know.”
After the celebration, the Great Master could see more people like the old man. Hard, cold like the stone of the surrounding mountains. The merry signing continued, but these few rarely sang. When they did, the Great Master most clearly heard the somber low notes of a feeling that she’d not experienced in some time.
“I know what this feeling is.”
“What?” Gage inquired.
Gage looked around and listened to the sounds of the singing. “May I be of service?”
“Of course, dear friend.”
He left without saying more.
The Great Master did not see him for a few days.
She sat near a fountain tearing off pieces of fresh baked bread to share with a small group of children. She handed a piece to Gage when he reappeared one afternoon.
“I have news,” Gage said solemnly.
She saw the look in his eyes and encouraged the children to play a game of tag around the opposite side of the fountain.
“The peace they talked about in that celebration had a price tag. Four years ago, the people of Julmus–a city in the Deep North–had been conquering and subjugating nearby towns. I was told that they wanted to build and are building something called a nation.”
The Great Master frowned.
“Do you know what that is?”
Gage continued. “The Julmusians came here and told them that Chanter would be spared if they sent a certain amount of dye to the city. Apparently the leader there and his supporters love colorful clothes. They also told the people here to stay out of their war with the Libren and Paix peoples.”
“Who are they?”
“They’re free peoples in the central Tume Forest of the Deep North before the arctic. They trade timber and furs and hunt the native animals of the land.” His eyes looked away into the north. Quiet for moment, Gage returned to his story, “There was a fight in town. But one faction managed to convince the majority to take the deal.”
“The Librens got conquered,” The Great Master assumed.
She raised her eyebrows.
“The Librens and Paix had also ask for aid, and the people here….”
“Said ‘No.’ And now they’re ashamed.” She heard the singing begin again. She listened closely. Nodded her head in response to the tones and timbre.
Masked by the other more joyful notes, the heavy, regretful sounds became unmistakable, and the Great Master could no longer sing their songs.
“We must get to the center of the issue.”
“The building the old man sat in front of on the night of the celebration. We’ll go there tonight.”
Later that day, Gage and the Great Master came to the town center. The Great Master wore a brilliant black gown with white trim. The intensity of the look contrasted with the light, bright colors of the townsfolk clothing.
People noticed. They stepped out of her path as she strode forth, her steps echoing with purpose on the hard stone walkways.
She saw the old man with the eye patch smoking, seated on the barrel where he’d been the night of the celebration.
“I mean to speak with them.”
The old man began to grumble something, but her gaze took hold of him. He froze. He slowly knocked on the door while her eyes wordlessly interrogated him.
The door way opened from the inside where Gage and the Great Master found ten older people drinking, milling about, and speaking in low tones–no singing.
“You are the ones,” her voice proclaimed.
Everyone looked at her. Her eyes pierced through each of them. Most looked down at their cups and feet.
“Who….” an older woman began to say.
“Your cowardice eats at you.”
More people looked away. Some shifted in their seats and on their feet.
After long heavy moments, the words sank heavily onto the shoulder of all present. Gage watched in wonder at what was unfolding.
“What choice did we have?” a man with a thick white beard objected.
She walked to him. Not a tall woman, she seemed to tower over him.
“There are always choices.”
The man tried to scowl, but he covered his eyes instead.
She looked at the others. “No more dyes for Julmus.”
“They’ll come for us,” another woman worried.
The Great Master turned her gaze, a sword cutting down the eyes of everyone who dared to look up in defiance. “You need to get ready.”
Finally, one man could take it no longer, standing and shouting in a nasal voice, “Who are you? Who are you to tell us what to do? We are the elders of this village! We are….” But his words gave out. His objection broke under the weight of his shame. He slumped back into his chair.
“I am an emissary of truth. Now a worse situation looms for you and many others.”
“Isn’t there a good solution?” the first man hoped.
“There is a path out of your shame. Or there is more shame.”
Gage watched it all unfold. He watched the humbling of these proud people and the impact of his friend. He looked up into her eyes and say such clarity that it felt like something broke free in his mind. The clarity of everything and everyone in the room sharpened to a point that felt like it would rip him in two.
“We will head north,” the Great Master stated. “And fix the rest of your mistake.”
Gage followed her out into the cool night. After a moment, he re-collected himself, although everything still was crystal clear.
“What will we do up north?”
“Free the Librens and Paix.”
Interpretation of The Village that Sings
Honestly, we’re at the start of a very long series of stories for the Great Master, so I won’t offer too much interpretation. There will be plenty of things revealed about her and what she is doing along with Gage and his spiritual development.
As usual, be sure to put words you don’t know into an online translation tool. The translations will offer more clarity on what is going on.
Briefly, communal shame is a powerful thing. It suffocates and cripples communities. It leads communities into cycles of suffering that tend to lead towards diversions and self-medication while the initial problems worsen.
At the moment, the sense of shame is still very new for this village, but in time, all the things they do will become infected with this sense of self-loathing.
It’s a bad cycle.
Communal shame has and continues to destroy many communities around the world. It’s only by facing the shame collectively can it be resolved.
The Great Master is not interested in serving suffering. She calls it out where she sees it, and she calls it out from a deep space of clarity that is difficult to deny. This gives her an immensity and power in many of the things she does. You can see this coming out in the very first set of stories with her.
Stay tuned with this series. You’ll learn a lot from her!