Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Cleft Brothers

So, here's my entrant for the short story contest. The theme was music. Read and enjoy! (btw, first review got four stars! Yeah!)

The Cleft Brothers

Pianissimo was a small, peaceful land laden with open fields, forests, and many rivers. Everything in the land was soft and light, which made the inhabitants quiet and laid-back.
Well, almost everyone. The Cleft brothers were the only exception.

Treble and Bass were very spunky, loud, and short…standing only about three feet tall. They were also very young. Treble was the eldest at eighteen and Bass was only sixteen. This also meant that they were very immature—especially when it came to their thoughts on the Princesses.

Harmony and Melody were the two rulers of Pianissimo. They were beautiful fairy twins with long black hair and wings that looked similar to a Monarch butterfly’s. They were fine boned with pale skin and gentle dispositions. They were very patient, compassionate rulers, but their patience concerning the Cleft brothers was wearing out.

Nearly every day, Treble and Bass wrote beautiful symphonies, telling the Princesses of their love for them. Treble always wrote to Melody and Bass always wrote to Harmony. The sisters were tired of receiving these letters, which they never answered, and wished that the brothers would stop sending them. They had never met them in person—

—but that was about to change.

Treble and Cleft nearly flew up the stone steps that led to the front door of Clear Notes Castle. They had dressed in their finest, making sure they looked their best before they introduced themselves to the girls they loved.

There were no guards outside the castle door. Pianissimo was a peaceful land with no crime, so there was no need for any. The brothers walked up to the huge wooden doors and knocked in a rhythmic pattern. Only seconds later the door was opened by a chubby elf who was only slightly shorter than they were. His round face was merry and his blue eyes sparkled.

“Welcome! Welcome!” he said with a huge grin. “Come in! Come in!”

With an elegant sweeping gesture, he bid them inside the castle. After he closed the door he looked at the brothers and said, “Now, my boys, what can I do for you? Now, my boys, what can I do for you?”

Bass raised an eyebrow. “Why are you repeating everything that you say?”

The merry elf pointed to himself with his thumb. “Because that’s who I am. Because that’s who I am. I’m Repeat. I’m Repeat. Now, why have you come? Now, why have you come?”

“We wish to see the Princesses Harmony and Melody,” Treble told him.

“Ah, wonderful! Ah, wonderful! Our first visitors of the day! Our first visitors of the day! Please, this way, follow me! Please, this way, follow me!”

The jester cartwheeled and tumbled down the long corridor that led to the throne room. But before they entered, Repeat leaned in close and whispered, “I did not catch your names. I did not catch your names.”

“Treble and Bass Cleft,” Treble supplied.

Repeat nodded and opened the throne room doors. He walked in and bowed. “Your Highnesses, may I present the Cleft brothers, Treble and Bass. Your Highnesses, may I present the Cleft brothers, Treble and Bass.”

Repeat turned around and motioned for them to enter and when they did they saw Princesses Harmony and Melody sitting on their thrones, looking radiant in long, softly clinging white gowns. They also wore elegantly carved bands around their foreheads and certainly were the most beautiful creatures the Cleft brothers had ever seen.

“Thank you, Repeat, for showing them in,” Princess Melody said.

Repeat bowed. “Of course, Your Highness. Of course, Your Highness.” He left the room.
Once the jester had gone, looks of slight irritation appeared on the sisters’ faces. “You two are the Cleft brothers?” Harmony asked.

They bowed low. “Yes, Your Highness,” Bass said.

Melody’s eyes narrowed. “Then that means you are the two aggravating ones who keep sending us those love symphonies.”

They rose. “Yes,” Treble said. “Mine, composed only for the beautiful Princess Melody, are symphonies for the flute.” With this statement he reached under his shirt and produced a silver flute, which he immediately began to play.

“And mine,” Bass said, “are only for the compassionate Harmony, who, like myself, is a lover of the guitar.”

His instrument had been strapped to his back and now he brought it forth, plucking the strings, his fingers dancing over the fret board.

The two symphonies by themselves were truly works of art, but together the two were just a jumble of mixed-up notes, lacking melody and harmony. In the presence of the mistresses of these techniques it was highly insulting and the Princesses cried out at the noise in anger and annoyance.


Only seconds later, the Cleft brothers were literally tossed out of the castle, landing hard on the green grass.

Repeat poked his head out. “Sorry, it was the Princess’s command. Sorry, it was the Princess’s command.” He closed the door.

Treble sat up and rubbed his right shoulder. “That little elf is sure a lot stronger than he looks.”
Groaning as he got to his feet, Bass grumbled, “You can say that again.”

At that instant, laughter could be heard, laughter that was in perfect key and harmony. The brothers looked to their left and saw the Four Parts hovering in the air.

The Four Parts—Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Baritone—were tiny wood nymphs that barely stood an inch tall. They had a soft yellowish glow about them and from a distance could easily be mistaken for fireflies.

“What are you laughing at?” Bass demanded, clearly showing his bad mood.

This statement only made the light laughter continue.

The Four Parts were not unknown to Treble and Bass. At one time, they had all been playmates, but whereas the Four Parts had matured, the Cleft brothers had not.

“Thrown out of the castle, eh kids?” Tenor asked with a smile. He wore a brown leaf kilt and his long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

“Oh, you must have been bad boys,” Alto said, laughing. She had a very lean figure, short choppy brown hair, and wore yellow leaves.

“We just went in to see our girls,” Treble said meekly.

Baritone, a chubbier nymph who wore orange leaves, snorted. “Those fairies are the most beautiful creatures in the land. There is no way they would consider dating either one of you, ugly as you two are.”

“Hey!” Bass yelled.

“Oh, Baritone, hush your mouth,” Soprano said. She was the fattest of the four with red hair and wearing green leaves. She smiled at the brothers. “These two are just as cute as ever.”

The brothers beamed.

“So, what got the two of you kicked out of the castle?” Alto asked.

“Well, we began playing our symphonies for Melody and Harmony…” Treble began.

“Don’t tell me the two of you played them at the same time!” Tenor said, appalled.

Treble looked sheepish and scraped his booted foot against the ground. “Uh…we kinda did.”

“Oh no!” Baritone said, laughing, his belly jiggling. “You really insulted those girls. Harmony and Melody don’t like anything out of order, and what you two were doing certainly was. You just created Noise, and that is the one thing the princesses despise and the only thing they hate more so than Unison.”

“Oh, Baritone, what do you know?” Soprano complained. “You know that everyone here in Pianissimo fears Unison! I’d much rather hear Noise than face him!”

“I’m sick of this talk,” Bass said. He turned to his brother. “C’mon, Treble. Let’s go home and talk strategy on how to get our girls back.”

As they trotted down the trail, Tenor yelled after them, “How can you call them your girls when you haven’t even gotten them yet?”

The Four Parts laughed and flew back into the forest.


The land of Forte lay far beyond Pianissimo’s borders. These two lands were not on friendly terms. It was hard for the people of the two lands to get along because the natives of Pianissimo were quiet and laid-back whereas the inhabitants of Forte were loud and powerful. In this case, opposites did not attract.

Forte was ruled by Unison, a man who hated parts. He stood in his chamber, gazing into his crystal ball, in which he could see the two Princesses of Pianissimo: Harmony and Melody. He literally cringed as he thought their names…that was how much he despised variation in music.
Blessed with a keen ear in music, Unison could hear the harmonizing tones and soft pitches that came from Pianissimo, though that land was miles away. The sound made his very soul quiver.
Unison was tired of always hearing the lovely strands of musical harmony and melody coming from Pianissimo. He hated always having to hear the music from that land because no matter how much he tried, he could not block the notes from his mind.

Frustrated, his hate for Melody and Harmony growing, Unison made his way to his castle’s roof. Once there he called out at the top of his lungs and two great dragons, one green and the other white, came soaring across the country and landed on the castle roof in front of their master. Named for the sounds they made they were called Flat and Sharp.

“I have a task for you, my pets,” Unison said. “Fly to the land of Pianissimo and bring its Princesses, Harmony and Melody, to me!”

Nodding to indicate that they understood their orders, the magnificent dragons beat their wings and rose into the orange sky, immediately obeying their master’s order.


Sitting at their desks in their little cottage, Treble and Bass were each working on another symphony to send to Melody and Harmony. All was quiet and still…nothing unusual, until a loud note pierced the sky and it made the brothers cringe.

“Never heard anyone hit a flat note like that,” Bass commented.

Treble shrugged and they both went back to work, trying to shake of the uneasy feeling they both harbored. But when another screech pierced the air, this one sharp, and the sounds of terrified shouts could be heard, the brothers dropped their quill pins and rushed outside.
“Look up there!” Bass cried.

Treble followed his brother’s arm and saw a great white dragon soaring through the sky. “And over there,” he said, pointing towards the east. “A green one.”

“Why are we being plagued by dragons?” Bass asked, curious.

“You got me.”

For several moments, the dragons disappeared. Treble and Cleft stayed outside, gazing up at the sky, waiting to see if the dragons would return. When it seemed they wouldn’t they turned to go back in their cottage, but then a feminine scream was heard and they turned back around, seeing that the dragons had returned, this time each carrying something in their large paws.

Bass put up his hand to help block out the sun, trying to see better. “What do they have?”

“I can’t tell.”

The dragons flew off in the distance. “What was that all about?”

“I have no idea.”

Suddenly, Repeat came running down the dirt path, his hands high in the air. “Oh, it’s terrible! Oh, it’s terrible!”

“What’s the matter, Repeat?” Treble asked.

“The dragons took the Princesses! The dragons took the Princesses!”

Bass’s eyes grew wide. “You can’t be serious!”

“Of course I am! Of course I am! You can go to Clear Notes Castle and see for yourselves! You can go to Clear Notes Castle and see for yourselves!”

At that moment, the Four Parts appeared. “Have you heard?” Alto asked. “Melody and Harmony are gone!”

Baritone snorted. “You idiot. You see Repeat’s here. Of course they know!”

“Calm down, Baritone,” Tenor said. “The main thing now is to find the Princesses. Without harmony and melody, which is what the Princesses are the mistresses of, the quiet peaceful notes of Pianissimo will become distorted. And if that happens, the land that we know and love will no longer exist.”

“Did anyone see which direction the dragons took?” Soprano asked.

“Towards Forte they went! Towards Forte they went!”

“Forte…” Alto’s voice was quiet.

“Oh no,” Tenor said. “That can only mean one thing.”

Soprano nodded solemnly. “Unison.”

“Unison?” the Cleft brothers repeated.

“Yes! Yes!” Repeat said, clearly agitated. “Unison hates harmony and melody. Unison hates harmony and melody.”

“And with his keen ear in music,” Baritone said, “he can hear the harmonious strands vibrating through our land, even though his domain is miles and miles away.”

“Someone must save the Princesses and bring them back to Pianissimo,” Alto said. “But who?”

Treble and Bass looked at each other. Knowing what the other was thinking they threw their fists in the air and shouted, “We will!”

“Let’s make for Forte!” Treble shouted.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there!” Baritone said. “You boys have no idea what you’re about to get into.”

“Right he is. Right he is.”

“It’s a long road to Forte,” Soprano told them. “You will have to walk the Measured Steps, which are rumored to be very difficult to cross, and before you can enter Forte you will have to Hit The Right Notes. And, to top it off, you will have to defeat Unison before you can rescue Harmony and Melody.”

Tenor held his hand in his chin. “You will need some help.”

“Great!” Bass said. “Four Parts, welcome to the team!”

“Hold on, now!” Baritone exclaimed. “Since when did we volunteer?”

“Baritone, shut up,” Alto said. “We’ve known Treble and Bass since we were kids. If they need our help, we should be willing to give it to them. Isn’t that right, Tenor and Soprano?”
“Of course!” Tenor said with a grin.

“Uh…yeah, I guess,” Soprano said, looking very much like she was not looking forward to the next few days.

“Great!” Treble said. “Repeat, you coming too?”

“No, I must stay at the castle. No, I must stay at the castle. I will help to calm the people’s fright. I will help to calm the people’s fright.”

Bass shrugged. “All right. Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”


With the Four Parts fluttering behind them, Treble and Bass trudged through the forests of Pianissimo till they reached the border of their land. But at the border, they stopped.

“Goodness,” Alto said. “I didn’t think we’d have to cross the Measured Steps so soon.”

Stretching before them, leading up as far as the eye could see, was a staircase that was made of sheet music.

“How are we supposed to cross this?” Treble asked. “Something tells me that there’s a trick to it.”

“Look!” Soprano cried, pointing at the stair’s base. “See what’s printed down there?”

The brothers looked down and saw a 3 printed just above a 4. Bass snapped his fingers, knowing what it meant. “Three-four time. We have to climb up three beats to the measure.”

“But how long is the measure?”

Tenor flew ahead and gazed down at the stairs. “The measure breaks after the fourth stair. You have to climb four stairs to the count of three.”

“I hope you two are good at counting,” Alto said with a giggle.

Treble snorted. “Of course we are! We write symphonies every day, don’t we?”

They began their long climb. “Watch the stairs,” Soprano warned. “The beats and measures might change. If they do, you will have to compensate quickly because if you don’t, this stairway will not lead to Forte, but just become a never-ending road to nowhere.”

Soprano’s speculation turned out to be true. Soon it changed to four-four time, then six-eight time, and then twelve-eight time.

Huffing, trying to keep count, Treble said, “I think… something’s wrong. I think…this stairway is… never-ending.”

“No, it’s not!” Tenor exclaimed. “I can see the end!”

“Good,” Bass said, for he hated the burning in his leg muscles.

When they came to the top of the stairs a great wall of notes stood in front of them, extending in all directions, blocking their way.

“Now what do we do?”

“Simple,” Baritone said. “You have to Hit The Right Notes.”

Alto looked at the wall in dismay. “But how are we to know which notes are right and which are wrong? We can’t just guess.”

“Wait!” Bass snapped, holding up his hand. “Be quiet and listen.”

He was obeyed and every pair of ears could hear several instruments, in unison, playing the same notes over and over again.

“That’s our key,” Bass said. “Now we have to figure out what notes they are playing and hit the right ones on the wall in the proper order. Treble, you know notes better than I do. What are they playing?”

Treble closed his eyes as the invisible instruments played the bar again. “B flat, A, D sharp, C, F, A flat.”

“Four Parts, this is where you come in! Find those notes and hit them in the right order! Don’t mess up because we don’t know what will happen if we do.”

“Right,” Tenor said with a salute and the Four Parts took off. Within ten seconds they hit the correct notes on the wall and in the right order.

“Good job!” Treble praised them.

But the wall didn’t come down. “What’s wrong?” Baritone asked.

“Another strand’s being played! Treble, what are the notes?”

A few seconds passed. “D, F, C flat, B sharp, A, A sharp, B flat, D sharp.”


Again, the Four Parts took off. “Hitting D,” Alto said.

“Now F,” Tenor shouted.

“Now hitting B sharp,” Baritone said.

“Don’t do that, you fool!” Soprano cried. “C flat comes before B sharp.”

“No it doesn’t!”

“D, F, C flat, B sharp, A, A sharp, B flat, D sharp,” Treble shouted again.

Muttering, Baritone waited for Soprano to hit C flat before he smacked B sharp.

The rest of the notes were hit in the right order without anymore confusion, but still the wall didn’t come down. “Now what?” Soprano called.

“Another set!” Treble said. He drew his eyebrows together. “Strange. This time it’s just the note B being repeated six times.”

“And B is right here!” Alto shouted. “Stand back, everyone, the wall is coming down!”

She hit the note six times but still the wall did not come down. “Another set?” she asked.

“No,” Bass said. “The notes just keep repeating themselves.”

Treble smacked his forehead. “How could I be so stupid? This time it’s not the note that matters, but the length. Four Parts, whole note, half note, dotted quarter note, eighth note, whole note!”
Once again, the Four Parts hovered into motion and hit the notes in sequence and this time, the wall came crumbling down and for the first time in their lives the six companions laid eyes on the land of Forte.


Forte was a land that was covered in ash and had a permanent orange sky. The strands of music heard in this land were loud and powerful. It was very strange and frightening for the Pianissimo natives.

“Look,” Tenor said nervously, pointing to the east. “There’s Unison’s castle. The Princesses will be there.”

Treble licked his dry lips. “Let’s go.”

Slowly, they made their way to the castle. The people of Forte…goblins, wolves, and vultures…paid them no mind as they passed through. It brought both relief and fear.

They reached the castle and walked into the great hall. Standing the in middle of the huge room was a tall man in blood red robes with black hair and pointed teeth.


He spread his arms before them. “Welcome to my humble home,” he said, his voice deep. “What can I do for you?”

“You can release Melody and Harmony!” Bass shouted.

Unison threw back his head and laughed. “Idiot. Do you really think I would release them to you? They are the mistresses of harmony and melody, the two things I hate most in the entire world. Already the balance of music from your land had begun to unravel. I’ve never heard tones that sounded better.”

Tenor sped to hover between Treble and Bass. “Hurry,” he whispered. “Play your music. Only the by the strands of musical harmony can you defeat him!”

Treble whipped out his silver flute and Bass brought around his guitar. Immediately they began to play, but something was wrong.

It was their music. They could not play in harmony. No matter how they tried, no matter what notes they hit, the flute and guitar were in perfect unison.

“Ha ha ha!” Unison laughed triumphantly. “No matter what you play, it will be the same!”

“What are we waiting for?” Soprano asked the other Parts. “Let’s hit it!”

But the same thing happened to them. No matter how hard they tried, the Four Parts sang in perfect unison.

Again Unison’s laugher echoed through the halls. You cannot defeat the power of my uniting spell!”

Treble, Bass, and the Four Parts did not know what to do. No matter how they tried, voices and instruments hit the same notes with absolutely no blending or harmony.

“It’s useless!” Bass cried.

Suddenly, the Princesses of Pianissimo, Harmony and Melody, flew into the hall. At the sight of them the look of triumph fled from Unison’s features.

Baritone’s mouth dropped. “How…”

Harmony smiled. “Unison is making the notes you sing and play the exact same pitch and tone. However, all of you are thinking the correct notes and pitches.”

“In your thoughts there is harmony and melody. This broke Unison’s binding spell on us and set us free.”

The six companions had stopped their boring music. “So… this is it?” Treble asked.

“No!” Unison cried. “No, I am not defeated yet!”

He thrust his arms out wide. At that moment there was a sound of music so horrible it could only be defined as a horrible screech. Outside, Flat and Sharp’s screeches could be heard. All from Pianissimo covered their ears and fell to their knees at the offending Noise.

“What do we do?!” Bass cried.

“Play!” the Princesses demanded.


“Trust us!”

The Cleft brothers tore their hands away from their ears and began to play their music, which was still coming out in boring unison.


As she said this, the mistress of harmony shot out her hand. Strands of music flowed from her fingertips and to the instruments that Treble and Bass were playing. Instantly, they were able to play different pitches and it made Unison cringe. Though outside the castle, Flat and Sharp could hear the music and it made them screech in agony.


The mistress of melody shot out her hand and strands of music flowed from her own fingertips, but this strand went to the Four Parts. “Now sing. Sing!”

Baritone and Tenor opened their mouths and beautiful music came from their vocal cords. Alto did as well.

Bass grinned. “And it ain’t over till the fat nymph sings!”

Once the words escaped his lips, Soprano sang a pure note. The Four Parts blended in perfect harmony. The singing and instruments made the most beautiful music Forte had ever heard, which meant that all the inhabitants despised it, yet there was nowhere they could run to escape it.

Unison could not stand the harmony and melody of the music that surrounded him. He began to disappear, crying, “No! No! Noooooooooooo!”

Unison disappeared completely and was defeated.


Back at Clear Notes Castle, the Princesses Harmony and Melody were sitting once again on their thrones, exactly where they belonged. Treble, Bass, and the Four Parts stood before them.

“The six of you were willing to risk your lives to help us,” Harmony said with a gentle smile. “You all possess a rare courage that deserves to be rewarded.”

“In all actuality, Your Highnesses,” Alto said with a bow, “it was Treble and Bass who wished to save you. My brothers, sister, and I merely tagged along to lend what assistance we could.”
“This is true, Your Highnesses,” Tenor said.

“So, what are you saying?” Melody asked. “That you should not be rewarded?”

Baritone nodded. “No one was willing to go to Forte and face Unison until these two brats, who lack common sense, decided that they would go traipsing off into the unknown.”

Soprano smiled. “So, Your Highnesses, the reward must go to Treble and Bass Cleft.”

Harmony nodded. “If that is indeed what you wish. Repeat!”

He entered the throne room immediately. “Yes? Yes?”

“Please see the Four Parts out.”

He bowed. “As you wish, my lady. As you wish, my lady.”

When they were gone, the Princesses focused their gaze on the Cleft brothers. “It was a brave thing you did,” Melody said.

Treble bowed. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, sweet Melody.”

“And I claim the same, perfect Harmony.”

The sisters exchanged grins. “As was stated earlier,” Harmony said, “such bravery cannot go without a reward. What is it the two of you wish?”

The brothers exchanged knowing smiles. They knew exactly what they were going to ask of the Princesses. Beaming, they looked back at them.

“A date!”

Once again the Cleft brothers found themselves tossed out of Clear Notes Castle by the merry jester. Repeat then threw two dates at them. Looking at them, Treble and Bass stuck their tongues out at him as, laughing, Repeat closed the door.

Yes, life had returned to normal in Pianissimo.


Audrey May said...

LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Madison said...

Thanks, Audrey!!!!