Most creative talents find themselves unable to perform magic while being distracted.
— Wagium de Pun, Fallacies of the Crystal Spheres
It was a beautiful summer day and Linsan enjoyed it by happily dancing across the knee-high flowers that had grown up throughout the workshop’s ruins. Brightly-colored petals fluttered around her pale blue skirt as she twirled and dipped. A breeze followed after it, buffing her legs and arms with warm kisses.
Her violin dipped and bobbed with her movements. After three years of lessons, she played comfortably despite bouncing across the soft earth and fragrant blossoms. With every note, the air shimmered around her. The sharp notes sparkled and reflected light, adding to an ethereal glow.
Tisin, her mother, danced next to her. Her laughter and smiles brightened the entire valley. She danced as freely as she could but there was still no way of hiding the skill as she kicked off rocks and flew across the grasses. It looked like she was gliding more than jumping.
Linsan felt a bit of jealous but that didn’t stop her from continuing through the bright melody. Each note rippled across the grasses, swaying them with the waves of sound. In the distance, the music fluttered against the growing tree trunks that may become instruments in another few decades.
She reached the end of the song and slowed her feet.
“No, keep going,” encouraged Tisin. She deftly jumped on the remains of the wall and danced along it. “Keep going!”
Encourage, Linsan hopped on the wall and raced along it, jumping and twirling as she did. Her bare feet smacked against the weather-smoothed rock. The sun-warmed stone felt good against her toes as she raced along the side.
She missed a few of the notes but it didn’t matter. She leaped off the end and landed neatly on the soft ground.
“Bravo!” Her mother clapped. “You were brilliant!”
Panting, Linsan beamed and let the violin slip from underneath her chin. It was slick with sweat from dancing in the sunlight.
“Bow. You always take a bow when you finish.” Tisin bowed deeply, pulling up the bottom of her dress so it caressed the petals of the flowers.
Linsan bowed back. “Thank you, my lady.”
“And thank you, my beautiful lady.” Tisin straightened and hopped around before heading to the blanket on the ground for their picnic. “Come on, you need a break.”
She sat down and picked up a lace, wide-brimmed hat. Setting it on her piled-high brunette hair, she favored Linsan with a smile. “You’ve gotten so good at playing, Honey.”
Still panting, Linsan sat down heavily next to her. She carefully set the violin back into its case. “Daddy’s lessons have helped a lot.”
Tisin smiled and patted the back of Linsan’s hand. Unlike her daughter, she didn’t seem phased by the dancing in the sunlight. With her pale skin, she looked almost ghost-like compared to Linsan’s deep tan from visiting the valley every day. She would burn quickly though, which is why she always wore a hat outside even on cloudy days.
“Thanks for coming with me.”
Tisin smiled and looked around. “Your father used to take me up here when we were courting. We would just sit on the porch of the workshop and watch the red birds fly. There were two nests over there and they had the prettiest little chicks.” She gestured to an empty space.
Linsan looked around at the few remaining walls. They were almost completely erased by time. In a few more years, there wouldn’t be more than a little debris to identify the passing. “It’s sad now, isn’t it?”
Surprised, she looked back at her mother.
Tisin looked happy as she peered around. “I guess I could think about what we lost but why? Sadness and hatred is an anchor, it pulls you down and drowns you.”
Linsan smirked. “Isn’t that one of your lines?”
Tisin gave her a sly smile.
Unable to help smiling herself, Linsan started to say something but then she saw the briefest hint of sadness in her mother’s amber eyes.
Tisin looked down and started pulling out sandwiches from the basket. “You… you wanted the almond butter right?”
Wary, Linsan nodded.
Her mother served the sandwiches. When she was done, she leaned back and braced herself with one hand. “I’m glad you are coming up here. This valley needs all the love it can get.”
“The trees may not recover to make instruments again.”
Tisin shrugged. “Does it matter?”
“That is our tradition. Seven generations.”
“Maybe and maybe not,” Tisin said. “We never know how the future is going to play. Two years ago, I was convinced that Sian—your father—would never play a violin again. But ever since you gained your talent, he’s been playing again. At first, it was to teach you but now, he just does it because it makes him feel good.”
She smiled broadly and licked a bit of butter from the box that held the sandwiches. “I love hearing the sounds of you two playing when I come home.”
“I also love dancing with you. You were always an active child and I was glad that you managed to acquire both your father’s and my skills. Though, your father would rather you stop balancing on the couch while practicing.”
Linsan’s blush grew hotter. She hated standing still when she played. Her father could do it, but as soon as she started getting into the cheerful melodies, her feet started tapping.
Her mother chuckled. “You’ve destroyed many chairs over the years. And your bed. Two of them.” She was smiling as she spoke.
Another shrug. “No matter. I’d rather have a daughter who found her passions than a pristine bed that was too small for me to sleep in. Your father might not say it, but he’s found a new life teaching you how to play. I’m content.”
Unsure of how to respond, Linsan focused on eating as she slowly cooled down.
Tisin ate only a few bites before she tilted her hat over her face and leaned back. Her slender arms supported her with her angle. She smiled and closed her eyes.
Linsan glanced at her. There was something not being said. Her mother had been home for almost a month when usually she only stayed for a week at most before going to rehearsals or out on tour. But Linsan hadn’t seen her mother do anything since she returned.
“Mommy?” She blushed. “Mom?”
“As much as I really enjoy spending time, what is going on?”
Tisin smile broadly and she shrugged. “No shows right now.”
“What about The Mayor’s Mistress?” It was one of the more recent plays that had started in town.
Her mother didn’t answer for a moment. Then she sighed. “You know that girl, Valian?”
“She was in my class in school.”
“She got the role of the mother.”
“She’s seventeen!” Linsan shook her head. “That can’t be right.”
“Eighteen, she was born a year before you, but the director thought she pulled off a better mother than me.”
“How can that be? You are a wonderful mother!”
Tisin grinned. “You would think so, but no.”
With a frown, Linsan said, “Why not?”
Another shrug. “For most women, there are only four roles in a lifetime: the innocent child, the petulant teenager, the mother, and the grandmother. I’m just not old enough to be a grandmother and directors like Kavinar prefer younger-looking women.”
It didn’t seem right. Her mother was a wonderful actress. She had been touring Kormar for over twenty years and there were dozens of awards to her name. Linsan had stacks of posters and notices with her face on it as the leading role.
“What about Gone Without Water?”
“It’s a gay piece, no women.”
“And that monster one? Um…” Linsan’s voice trailed off as she tried to remember the name.
”No Soul Left Uneaten. My tits were never large enough for Tabil and I won’t cheat on your father.” Tisin did a little shimmy and a grin, but there was a hollowness in her eyes.
Linsan reached down and plucked some flowers. She toyed with the petals, working her thumb along the edge until it crumbled. “Are we going to have trouble with money then?”
For the first time in Linsan’s memory, Tisin’s smile faded.
A cold shiver ran down Linsan’s spine.
“We have enough for a while,” came the less-than-cheerful response. Tisin shifted slightly, sitting up. She reached for the jar of ice water they had brought with them. “This will only be a couple of months. We’ve saved up enough that we don’t have to worry for… quite a while.”
Hating the feeling of dread that draped over her, Linsan thought about their situation. She never had to worry about money, but she knew it was always tight ever since the fire. It had been years since they lost everything, everything but a few boxes and Palisis, her father’s last violin.
“No,” said Tisin said sharply.
Linsan jumped. “What?”
“We will never sell that.” Her mother’s eyes were hard.
The feeling of dread rose up and a sweat prickled Linsan’s brow. “But, it would—”
Seeing the tears in her mother’s eyes, Linsan nodded. “Sorry.”
As quickly as the sadness and hardness appeared, they were gone behind Tisin’s beautiful smile. “Come on, I think you need a bit more practice.”
Linsan was thankful for the change of topic. She forced a smile on her lips. “Practice? You said I was wonderful.”
“Well, you misplayed a few notes with that last little bit.”
“It’s hard to play while bouncing on rocks!”
Tisin smoothly stood up. “The best way to get better is to practice. Come on.”
Linsan picked up her violin and started to play. After only a few notes, she was already swaying in time with the complex melody that she was learning. She focused on keeping the music around her, causing ripples in the air instead of lashing out or knocking things over.
Her mother pirouetted next to the picnic basket and then began to dance.
With a smile, Linsan let herself sink into the music. She gracefully brought each note out of the wooden instrument.
Her mother began to sing. It was the wrong song.
Linsan’s concentration broke.
Tisin look at her with a grin. “Why did you stop?”
“You’re singing the wrong song!”
“Sorry, which one?”
”Three Queens of Melodol. From your last play?”
With a grin, Tisin said, “Right. I’ll get it. Start up again.”
Linsan took a deep breath and started to play.
Tisin started back into the wrong song.
“What?” There was a playful tone in her mother’s voice.
“Wrong song! I can’t play with you singing the wrong thing!” Linsan knew that there was a whine rising up in her voice but she couldn’t resist.
“You should after four years.”
“Well, I can’t.”
Tisin padded over. With a smirk, she leaned over and kissed Linsan on the forehead. “Now we have two things to practice.”