At the urging of the old man in the castle atop the Cloudspire, Benda did then take up the harp, Eril, and played upon it. The old man sipped from the goblet of wine which his companion, Eradus, king of Devera, filled from a skin.
As on previous occasions, Benda had no idea what song he was playing. The music passed spontaneously through and out of him, as though he himself were the instrument, played upon by some other unseen Master of Song.
When he opened his mouth to sing, the others watched in rapt attention. Each one hearing it, including the singer, understood with perfect crystalline clarity the tale it told, even if — as in Eradus’ case — the language remained foreign to him.
The old man laughed though, in hearing it’s opening lines, and raised his goblet to salute Benda. “A very long time since I’ve heard it! Ha ha!”
The song which Benda sung that day in High Dock castle was the Myrga Majona, and its contents are preserved in the text of that epic.
When Benda had quite finished, the last notes of the harp Eril trailing off into silence, the old man cheered heartily. “Helmoquinth!” he shouted. “Helmoquinth, Anthuor!”
He thrust the goblet of wine in front of Benda, demanding, “Drink! Drink!”
Benda swigged down the rest of the goblet, and Eradus went to fill it. The old man waved him away with a hand, and then took the skin from him, and handed it to Benda.
“Pour! Pour!” he cried to Benda.
Benda took the wine skin, and feeling it in his hand, he found it to be rather more full than he had thought. He poured into the goblet, and the wine flowed freely, and easily filled the goblet.
“Ha, ha!” the old man exclaimed. “Thought so.”
“I’m sorry,” Benda said, confused. “You thought what?”
In response, the old man only took the wine skin, and turned it over to pour into the glass, which was already quite full.
“Now, now!” said Eradus. “Let’s not be too hasty! No need to waste it.”
But only a drop poured out of the skin. The old man palpated the skin with his hands to show them. “It’s quite empty when I take it,” he explained. “But as I said, this cup has the property that when wine is poured into it by the hand of a king, it will never be empty.”
Eradus looked at Benda, who said nothing.
At last, Benda changed the subject. “The song,” he said. “You say you’ve heard it sung before…”
“Sung in a manner such as this? Never,” he said. “But the lyrics to the Song of the Great War Host are well known to those in my order, albeit in a different form…”
On hearing the title of the song, Benda found himself unable to speak.
“Your order?” Eradus asked. “What did you say your name was again?”
“I never said,” replied the old man. He took another swig of wine. “I am called Banarat, of the Order of the Tempest.”
“A storm sage?” replied Eradus, puzzled. “I thought your order was destroyed, long ago.”
Banarat nodded. “It was. Do you see any others in this place? I am the last of my kind.”
“What is this place, then?” asked Benda, recovering himself a bit. “And how came I to know the songs of your vanquished order?”
“The second question,” Banarat said, taking another, and still another glug of wine, “we will explore together in due time. But the first, I can only address by telling you a tale of my own. Perhaps that tale told in answer to your first question will open a door into your second.”
He drained the goblet then dramatically, and plunked it down hard on the table. He seemed, by this time, quite drunk. Eradus, obligingly, filled it fresh. And Banarat began his tale.