Music is Magic
Two sisters sat down on the huge root of a tree, watching as several others prepared a part of the large celebration area for dancing. One human, the other elven, both had identical looks on their faces as they watched the musicians file toward the ‘stage’. It was no more than a raised stone level within the paved clearing, but it fit well on such a night. The performers were already moving in with various instruments strapped to their backs. All were dressed in white, with their long hair done as elaborately as Rowena’s. Silna blew out a soft breath through her nose, a sound that translated to annoyance.
“What is wrong?” Rowena asked, seeing the emotion etched into her sister’s otherwise blank face. “You’re not thinking about skipping the dance, are you? You already made up your mind-” Silna shook her head and Rowena stopped, lifting a brow and following Silna’s gaze.
It ended on a group of young males, most with white hair, but one with brown and white who was looking in their direction.
“He has done nothing but watch me since he arrived,” Silna admitted, her jaw shifting as she moved her gaze outward, scanning the crowd in a seemingly lazy way.
“Then he is interested in you,” Rowena said in a low tone, her voice carrying a questioning lilt to it.
“If he is so interested, why does he not act?”
“Maybe he is waiting for you to dance,” Rowena replied, watching her sister’s reaction with an odd look.
She knew that the dance Silna would participate in was meant to clarify her status as an available female of age. It was an offer of sorts, for it was otherwise hard to tell if a younger elf was being courted. Such dances were held at the larger ceremonies not only to help pair off different bloodlines, but to keep the old traditions alive. There was always a dance for young females, and another for young males.
“Oh, bright fates above,” Silna’s voice came out on a whisper.
Her posture straightening to a rigid point, and her blue eyes focused hard on something at the other end of the clearing. Rowena followed it and saw Tey’ven. Though he did not wear his layered white cloak, the white streaks in his black hair stood out as easily as his darker attire did against the snow. She was surprised to see one of Ta’llevny’s secretive group of riders out of his normal attire and casually attending a ceremony. The site made her wonder if any of the other riders were slipping easily into the crowd, unknown to everyone but those who knew them. He stood talking to two others that were dressed similarly, and the way he flashed his teeth in a rare smile made Rowena guess that they were his mother and father.
“He does look dashing when he smiles,” Rowena admitted, whispering in her own language.
Silna said nothing in reply, though Rowena’s years with her made it easy to read that her sister was nervous. She put her hand lightly over the elf’s long fingered one, and watched the musicians gather with interest. A flash of white wings caught her eye, and she looked up to see a medium-sized owl land on a branch high above the makeshift stage. In drawing her eyes back down, Rowena thought she saw Dolen taking a seat on the side of the stage. Her breath caught in a tiny gasp as she realized that it was Dolen.
“Another surprise,” she smirked to herself, watching as he carefully pulled out a long wooden instrument.
His white hair was done in braided rows on the sides, pulled back at the top and left hanging at the bottom. He wore white as the others did, but his bright green eyes set him apart from the rest as he scanned the groups making their way to the dance circle. Even with the enigmatic Tey’ven standing within sight range, Rowena could not keep her eyes away from Dolen.
“I think you will want to dance as well,” Silna’s voice was a sly drawl, but she had spoken in Rowena’s native tongue. Still, she shot her sister a short glare as her cheeks heated.
Swallowing hard, Silna stood and looked as resolved and mature as she could. Apparently, the comment had reminded her that the dance was imminent. Rowena nodded and offered her a short smile, letting go of her hand with one comforting pat.
“I’ll be on the edge of the outer circle,” she promised, knowing that was as close as she could get without entering the circle of young elves.
She allowed Silna to make her way over, watching as groups gathered nearby to watch a friend or family member dance. Many were male, as the females would dance first that evening. Once it seemed as though everyone had taken a place, Rowena crept up as carefully as she could, doing her best to remain unnoticed. Family member or not, she was the only human attending, and there were many who still thought it a bad omen.
- - - - - - - - - - - - --
The musicians took their places, and Dolen shifted in his seat, lifting the large wooden instrument, called the iflun, in front of him so that it sat correctly. Others warmed up, while he merely set his breathing at an even pattern, allowing his lungs to slowly stretch and prepare for a strenuous night of playing.
How he had acquired the nerve to ask himself into the musical group was beyond him. He had seen Rowena and her guests into the forest, and then moved off to keep out of their way. She and Silna’s conversation about the ceremony had reminded him that both had plans to attend. For the first time in years, he was not on duty, and his mind was able to grasp the fact that he would be invited to attend as well. So, he had quickened his pace and returned home, dressing in his best winter clothing and wrapping his old wooden instrument in furs before strapping it to his back where his bow usually sat. From there, Dolen had moved on to find someone he had not seen in a long time. His own mother attended these ceremonies yearly, and he knew she would be playing her string instrument at the ceremony that year.
She had gladly accepted his offer to help, stating that the group was in sore need of an iflun, especially with the songs they were meant to play. Mother and son had sat for an hour, speaking little and playing soft tunes in a quiet section of the forest. Now Dolen glanced to her and smiled softly as his breathing slowed into a near perfect pattern. He fingered the instrument idly, stretching his long digits and preparing them too for the night’s music set.
He had just settled in to begin playing, his mouth hovering over the iflun, when he caught sight of Rowena standing on the edge of the circle. Though she obviously was trying not to be seen, Dolen’s eyes seemed to catch and hold just as his breath did. Another instant later she met his gaze, and though he slid easily into the beginning of the age old song, he had to break eye contact in order to continue playing.
The female dancers began the motions that they had all been taught at one point or another in their young lives. Flowing dresses slid over their bodies as they moved in unison, white hair lifting in a flourish when they turned. The dance was something passed down from mother to daughter over centuries, and though not all females took part in it, those that did knew it well before performing at a ceremony. Mothers and fathers looked on with a mixture of pride and nostalgia, while younger males looked on with heated gazes.
Dolen found himself struggling to concentrate, so he kept his eyes closed, letting his mind shift from the image of Rowena her flowing white dress to the feel and the sound of the music as it engulfed him. Soon he was back into the rhythm, the low tones of his instrument rising to a more audible level as he played. The dancers moved on, carried by both their own memories and the sound of the music, which seemed to give them energy enough to dance for hours.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lora pursed her lips and winced as she moved herself to sit down. She ached in places that she did not wish to mention, and did her best to hide the fact. The ride to Tarragon had taken nearly twelve hours, and she fought the urge to glare at her brothers and Vance, who were actively exploring the small clearing around them.
A flash of blue caught her eye and she forgot her temper, smiling broadly at the small fairy who floated before her, whistling and bumbling out what might be a sentence or two in another language. The female fairy tugged at her own blue locks of hair, tiny brows lifting as her head tilted. Lora thought for a moment as the fairy moved around in circles, before feeling a tug on her own hair. She sat forward, remembering Rowena’s warning about fairies and long hair. Grinning, she let her hair fall free and heard a flurry of excited fairy voices behind her. Lora sat still for them as they pulled softly at her hair. She leaned her head on her arms and closed her eyes, thinking that it was a very calming feeling.
“She’s tired, leave her be.”
Vance’s voice broke into her sleep as she woke, blinking a few times to remember where she was and who she was with. Sparkling lights moved about as the fairies went to and fro, either on their own business or just to circle one of the humans and chitter in their language.
“Sorry, those two have an endless energy supply,” Vance said again, kneeling in front of her and tilting his head. “The fairies seem to have annexed your hair.”
Not knowing how she looked, Lora quickly sat up and put a hand to her hair, but Vance smiled and lifted his brows.
“Oh, it looks lovely on you. I’m afraid they might think to do mine next,” he smirked, eyeing the flitting creatures above them with a shift of his brown eyes.
He stood and moved to sit next to her, and only then did Lora realize that she had been moved. She sat in what seemed like a chair that had been built to the tree roots, a saddle pad under her, and a fur cloak lying on her legs.
“Long rides like that can be tiring,” Vance sighed as he settled into the seat, watching Dale and Cameron practice their sword fighting in a nearby clearing with amusement. “Are they always so...” he seemed at a loss for words.
Lora sat back and made herself more comfortable, smirking as she watched her brothers go about the deft maneuvers they had been taught years ago.
“They’ll sleep like the dead tonight,” she replied, looking around her. “I certainly won’t sleep any longer though,” her voice was restless, and she wished she had thought to bring something to busy her hands with.
At her words, Vance made a remembering sound in his throat and sat up, moving to retrieve his pack from the tree-home that had been made for them. He sat back down, shuffling through the earth toned pack for a moment before pulling out what looked like a flute, and then another string instrument that looked like a shrunken harp. At her confused look, he shrugged.
“I thought we would be waiting outside of the forest for at least one night, if not two. So, I brought some entertainment.”
The second prince lifted both wooden instruments and looked them over, a wavy piece of hair falling from his rough ponytail to lay on the side of his face. Lora resisted the sudden urge to tuck it behind his ear, while he ignored it.
“They’re old, but they still sound nice,” he beckoned the two brothers over to join them, and they did, fairies following curiously in their wake.
At all times the human group had at least two fairies stopped and hovering over them, watching for a moment before leaving to be replaced by a few more. Some hovered around Lora’s hair as she spoke with the group, pulling and replacing strands in the now elaborately done braidwork. The small creatures moved as bees did around a hive, which could account for their ability to remain warm in a freezing environment.
Dale produced a drum and Cameron took up the flute, which surprised Lora more than anything, for she had not known her brothers to be musically inclined. Soon, the group was working on picking up a familiar tune, stopping to fix wrong notes, or words (when Lora figured she could sing while the rest played), and all four grinned as the fairies decided to join in.
All about the forest, soft music floated through the trees. Smiles were passed from being to being more freely than usual, and those who didn’t celebrate slept in peace for the evening. Even those camped far outside the boundaries of the forest were kept in a deep sleep, their fire dying down in the moonlight.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Realizing she had apparently forgotten to breathe, Rowena took in a slow, controlled gasp of air. Ever careful not to disturb the silent audience around her, she focused on getting her breath before again concentrating on Dolen’s work, her head tilted to the side unconsciously as she watched.
At first, she had watched her sister avidly, smiling as the elf moved through her dance as gracefully as those by her side. Her straight hair made beautiful motions around her, as if the moves had been meant to send it spiraling and swaying as her skirt was. Biting her lip, Rowena fought back a grin as she realized that both the brown haired male she had mentioned earlier and Tey’ven were watching the dancers. Though the latter was further back, his gaze more hooded, Rowena hoped that it was Silna he watched. Ghost or not, she knew Tey’ven was no more than an extremely gifted elf, one who was as warm blooded as any of them.
Those thoughts somehow trailed easily back to Dolen, and her gaze had followed. Unexpectedly she had found him looking directly back at her, just before lowering his mouth to the instrument he played. From there she had simply been entranced. Though his eyes remained closed, the simple look he had given her bored into her mind. It was a surprise enough that Dolen was attending the ceremony, for he was usually as reclusive as she and Silna on nights like these. Even more astonishing was that he played with the musicians. Rowena had never known Dolen to be so apt with an instrument, and as she heard the deep tones that were obviously coming from the huge woodwind he played, she realized that she did not know him as well as she might have thought.
For those reasons, she found herself watching with rapt interest. To see him so passionate about something stirred an emotion inside Rowena that had been sleeping for what seemed like forever. Her eyes focused on the soft flutter of his eyelids, the rise and fall of his chest as he took in and released measured breaths. Most interesting to watch were his fingers, which slid carefully up and around the woodwind as he played, covering different holes to create different sounds. He even used his knees during some parts, but Rowena found herself focusing steadily on his long fingers. All other sounds and motions around her ceased to matter. Dolen’s fingers lifted and fell, deftly moving with more grace than she thought she had ever seen from one area to the next. So careful and concentrated were his motions that she began to wonder what his fingers could do to skin.
Red in the face, Rowena turned herself abruptly from the crowd, swallowing hard as she did her best to slip away unnoticed. She had to brace herself against a tree and fan her own face to try and cool the heat that had risen so quickly, despite the chill in the air. Her eyes scanned the surrounding area to make sure no one saw, but to her luck, it seemed as though everyone was concentrating on the dance as it came to an end. She turned, putting on a soft smile and once again approaching the group, sorely hoping that any signs of her earlier thoughts were invisible.
“How was I?” Silna breathed out airily, her face nearly as flushed as Rowena’s had been moments earlier.
Rowena caught her sister in a hug and practically crooned at her.
“Lovely. It was so lovely, Sil,” she answered, using her nickname in an effort to prove her honesty.
Silna grinned, unable to hold back her elven manners, gripping Rowena’s hand tightly as she caught her breath.
“I was so worried that I would forget, but the music just took me. I could not help but dance.”
“I nearly joined in myself. It was well played,” Rowena said, averting her gaze and grasping for a subject change. “You should be out alone so that you can be approached.”
“I promised we would visit your human friends this evening,” Silna said, glancing around her in a sudden wary fashion. Rowena smiled.
“I will hold you to it! But at least spend some time alone and give your watchers a chance to compliment you.”
With a grudging turn of her face, Silna let go of Rowena’s hands and moved off, leaving Rowena herself to practically fall back against the tree. Unable to help herself, she immediately looked in the direction of Dolen’s seat, only to find it empty. The musicians had dispersed throughout the crowd. Part of her sighed with relief, but another part sighed with disappointment. In lieu of his disappearance, she settled into the tree more casually, allowing herself to blend in to the winter backdrop and watch the beautiful inhabitants of Tarragon socialize.