Author's Notes: This story was written while listening to Bach's Fantasy and Fugue (BMW 906) played on a harpsichord; it did not inspire the story ("Grim Grinning Ghosts" did, actually), but it's the song I kept in mind as "Saphir's song." Aunt Genevieve is my own invention; you won't find her in the game.
1. a) lack of agreement; especially: inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one's actions and one's beliefs - compare COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
b) an instance of such inconsistency or disagreement
2. a mingling of discordant sounds; especially: a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE (noun):
psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously (From Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary)
The music of a quill scratching over pages was interrupted by staccato footsteps across the rusty floor. The prisoner stopped writing and bit his lip, afraid to turn and find an unwanted visitor.
"Good morning, Saphir," Jade said as he approached the bars of the other man's cell. "You seem well."
He was right to be afraid; Dist shut his journal and, scowling, turned to face Jade.
"I don't want to see you," he said flatly before going to lie on his bunk.
"Tsk, tsk; you shouldn't be lying," Jade scolded. "You're always so glad to see me. If you were a dog, your tail would be wagging right now."
"Go away." Why won't he leave me alone? I hate you, Jade!
"If that's really what you want," Jade sighed.
"And don't come back!" Dist spat.
Jade shook his head.
"As much as I dislike the name you've picked for yourself, Saphir, I must say it fits you well." He paused. "Dist the Reaper…a very suitable name indeed…"
"Don't call me that! It's Dist the Rose!" My name is Saphir…
"I always supposed you pulled the name from the word 'dissonance;' am I correct in that assumption?"
As if to block out Jade's words, Dist squeezed his eyes shut.
Bawling, Saphir ran into the house with his eyes screwed up in misery.
"Aunt Genie! Aunt Genie!" he cried, standing inside the doorway. "Jade won't let me play with him anymore!"
"Hush, Saphir, you'll wake the twins," Aunt Genevieve scolded as she wept into the room, handkerchief at the ready to wipe away the rivers of watery discharge from Saphir's eyes and nose. "Now, whatever is the matter? I thought you didn't like Jade!"
"I don't!" Saphir wailed. "I hate Jade!" He's my best friend, he thought. Why won't he play with me? I hate him!
"Well, if you don't like him, you don't have to play with him, silly boy!" Genevieve said, wiping her hands on her apron and tucking the soiled handkerchief away. "You're ten years old, for Yulia's sake; you needn't cry about it."
But Saphir's lip was still wobbling, and Genevieve never liked hearing her beloved sister's child cry, so she put her arm around the thin boy and leaned in conspiratorially.
"What say I play your song for you? Quietly, of course; we don't want to wake the twins."
Saphir nodded, and they walked together into the parlor.
As his aunt sat before the harpsichord, Saphir settled onto the cushion on the floor behind her, entranced. Her fingers warmed up with a few brief scales, then flew across the keys in a beautiful baroque song that never failed to fill Saphir with an enormous sense of peace: his song. His aunt played it only for him.
"Aunt Genie," he said after she'd finished, "why are there parts that sound strange in the song?"
Genevieve tried to suppress a smile. "Are you saying I played some wrong notes?"
"No! Um, just…why does it sometimes sound wrong…funny, almost?"
"Oh, the dissonance!" Genevieve motioned to Saphir to watch her fingers. "See how when I play these two notes, it sounds pretty?"
"Yes…" Saphir didn't understand.
"But when I press these two," she pressed one ivory key and the one immediately adjacent to it.
"It sounds wrong!" Saphir said.
"That's dissonance!" Genevieve laughed. "The notes sound funny because they're so close together that they almost sound the same, but not quite." She pressed the notes again. "But," she added while playing around the sustained dissonant notes, "they add some of the richest, most beautiful variation to music."
"Oh, that's really nice!" Saphir smiled. "Thank you, Aunt Genie!"
Genevieve smiled and patted his head.
"If you can do your homework quietly, I'll play it again for you."
Saphir nodded and scooted off to get his quill and exercise book; opening it, he began to carefully copy his spelling words for the week.
"How soon before you can have it ready?"
Saphir set down his quill and quickly read through his notes.
"I could have a prototype set up in a week," he replied. "Less than that if I have assistance."
Jade frowned. "This is a clandestine project; I'll have to ask you to keep this particular piece undercover." He turned away. "I'll see you in a week then."
Saphir started, knocking his ink well over onto his lab coat. "You…you mean I won't see you until then?"
Jade gave the other man a tired look. "I have no need for you until then. Have it ready by next Remday."
And with that, he'd walked out of the lab, leaving Saphir alone.
"You…you bastard," he muttered through clenched teeth. "A whole week? Good thing I never want to see your face again, Jade Bal…Jade Curtiss!"
But what will I do without you for a whole week?
The whole way home from the lab, Saphir was in turmoil. He was used to the inner conflict of loving and hating Jade simultaneously, but today was much worse than usual. As soon as he got home, he flung himself on his bed and pulled his glasses off in a rage.
"I hate Jade, I hate him so much! All he ever does is spend time with Peony…stupid Peony…why doesn't Jade want to spend time with me? I'm much smarter…why won't Jade like me? I hate him! I hate Jade!" I love him so much…
Frustrated and lonely, Saphir closed his eyes and wept bitterly, tormented by his convoluted feelings.
"Although on second thought," Jade continued, "you are possibly the best case of dissonant existence I've ever witnessed. The cognitive dissonance you must experience on a daily basis alone is tremendous."
"Shut up!" Dist snapped. "You have no idea what you're talking about!"
Jade's face softened. "Don't I? Saphir, you know well how discordant sound works in music; of course, there are similar clashes between humans who are too much alike." He slipped a hand through the bar and placed it on Dist's cheek.
"Don't toy with me!" Dist warned, but his body leaned into the touch disobediently.
"Saphir…" There was pain in Jade's eyes Dist had never seen before. "Two notes so similar in pitch sound terrible together at first, but their clash can produce some of the most beautiful music in all of Auldrant."
A shiver went up Dist's spine; the notes of the song his aunt played for him long ago seared his mind, and, ignoring his mind's cry against it, he pressed himself against Jade through the bars of his cell.
Jade pulled back, an odd expression on his face.
"Goodbye, Saphir; I'll visit again at some point…perhaps in a month." He sighed. "I fear I may have done more harm than good coming here." He made his exit hastily, the heavy iron door at the end of the corridor closing somberly behind him.
Shocked, Dist covered his cheek with his hand, feeling imagined warmth there.
"I hate you, Jade," he whispered, tears spilling out behind his glasses. "I hate you."