A Song of Phish and Fire (as told by GRR Martin). Phish UIC night One.

Night came upon the great Medwestern city, Chicago, with a brilliant sun setting over the great buildings and hovels alike. The Pavilion stood over the western reach of the city, a squat, dark building, lit only by it’s brilliant blue lights along the main entrance. Kaufmak entered from the Dancers Gate, usually reserved for those that performed on the main promenade, but the lateness of the hour forced the crimson cloaks to push people in all of the doors because they feared the mob might grow restless waiting, especially if the music started before they entered. The Blood Cloaks did not need to worry. Those that followed the Knights of Light and Sound were rarely an angry lot, the last uprising occurring at least a score of years ago at the Great Keep of Red Rocks. A misunderstanding between those that followed the old gods and the new erupted when one of the Children of Light had fallen and broke his leg. The maester of the local village insisted upon calling a litter and taking the youth to the Medica, but the Children of Light surrounded their fallen brother and began praying to the old gods to help heal him. Soon the local constables were called and a melee erupted. Eventually four more Children were wounded, a constable bloodied and The Knights forbidden to return to Red Rocks. But that was the last such episode. Many of the Children smoked sweet leaf, calming their mood and, they believed, opened their minds more to spells and wonders of their devotions.

After a slow cue through the gate, Kaufmak entered the Pavilion and was assaulted both in sight and scent. The mass of his fellow Children was barely shuffling along the main concourse, most looking for food, drink, sweet leaf, or to take a piss. The smell of all these things hung in the air. Blood sausages and grilled beef were strong scents, only matched by the smell of men who had been in the hot sun all day. The winemaids were doing a brisk business and the small tavern tables were drawing ale into large flagons from even larger kegs. Despite the crowded conditions, the feeling of celebration permeated the room. Men and women happily rubbed against one another and bawdy jokes and the laughter that only happy drunkards can make filled air. Kaufmak decided he was hungry and decided to buy a small loaf of twisted bread and a flagon of Southern Ale. The bread was stuffed with sweet cheese that filled his mouth with a thickness almost like lard and he quickly dispatched the rest of the vile creation and washed it down with his drink. Southern Ale was best served over ice, almost frozen if one could procure it that way. Unfortunately for Kaufmak, this vintage was barely cold and yet tasted watered down so much that instead of its usual dark color it appeared almost amber. Even so, Kaufmak was more thirsty than picky and he finished his drink and moved on to his seat for the invocation.

Unfortunately for Kaufmak he was relegated to the upper levels of the pavilion where the air was hot and heavy with stink. He found his seat among some of the younger Children who were already excited about the coming ceremony. “What do you think will start the festival?” he was asked by a comely lad with long hair and a hemp necklace.

“That is best left to chance, trying to guess what the Light Knights will do is like trying to guess what the weather will be like in a month,” he said.

They didn’t have to wait long. The Knights came out on stage, Gage Martell surrounded by his dulcimers and harpsichords, Hemphrey Stonehouse with his fiddle, Rickard Goodbrother with his lute, and Jon Weaver on drums.* They began with two fast tunes, Wagon Train and Rift then played to the audience with The Seven Left Chicago, which through the already excited crowd into a frenzy on the dance floor. The entire Pavilion was pulsing with heat and lust, sweat mingling with the stench too much sweet leaf smoke, but no one cared. By the time the Knights played their ode to the Starks, Wolf’s Brother, the crowd was at the mercy of the sound and the light. Finally, there was a respite from the blistering pace and Hemphrey sang a ballad, followed by a song from Rickard. That was enough of a break and the wonder that is Reba was played followed by the set-ending finale, Maesters Blues.

After the short break, just enough time to catch ones breath and take a piss, the more playful side of the Knights came out. This warmed the heart of Kaufmak, who felt he might never see the lighthearted side of the Knights again. While they were in much better spirits since the long winter had taken them away for a time, a certain seriousness that only age can bring seemed to have descended on the Knights and the age of japes and jests had left. But the second set on this first night in Chicago changed Kaufmak’s thinking. He could hear their laughter, see their smiles and feel their joy. All of the crowd felt it as well. The song list was jovial not so much by how they played, but by the similarities in the song names. All were one word and tripped off the tongue, Sand, Light, Dirt, Waves, Undermind, Steam and Fire. Some were disappointed that the brief named set was so short, but Hemphrey announced that Chicago had no curfew and they would play as long as they wanted. Deep into the night, the Knights kept playing, and playing. Before the end, they embarked on a final song to send the faithful out into the darkness, Harold Hood. It was the perfect song to walk out of the Pavilion into the cold night. It made Kaufmak feel good, anxious for the next two nights of the Knights of Sound gathering.

*If you want your Westeros name, go here.

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