For eight generations, the Sterlig Family crafted some of the most treasured string instruments throughout Gepaul.
— History of Traditional Music
Linsan bounced on her family's new couch. With a flip of her green skirt, she did a somersault along the cushions before flopping against the opposite arm. The couch creaked from the impact but she didn't care. With a grin, she pushed herself over the edge until her head dangled over the blue-and-white patterned rug below.
In her mind's eye, she saw white snakes crawling around the blue waters and slowly reached out to catch one of them before it escaped.
Her fingers bumped against the short hairs of the rug. Stretching further along the arm of the couch, she tried to grab more.
“Are you still alive over there?”
She peeked up past the back of the couch and into her father's brightly lit workroom. He sat is his customary chair behind a heavy wooden table while peering down at the disassembled parts of his latest work. His lenses reflected the light from the chandelier above him; he always put them up to his forehead whenever he worked on small details.
Linsan took a deep breath, taking in the smells of sawdust and stain. It was a comforting scent, like the flowers inside her mother's pillows and the little bottle of perfume her parents saved for special occasions.
“Did you die?” he asked.
She giggled. “No! I'm right here!”
“You weren't crashing around. I wasn't sure. I always heard that if a four-year-old girl ever stopped screaming, she was either sleeping or dead.”
She rolled her body up the arm of the couch and over the back until she was bent over it. One bare foot toyed with the edge of the couch cushion as she watched her father pull out one of his delicate carving tools and hold it over the wooden board on the table.
Lifting her other foot, she waved it. “See? I'm not dead! And I'm five, Daddy! You know that. I'm five and not dead!”
“Oh, good, I was worried there for a moment,” he said with a smile. His eyes never left the wood as he carved out a little curl of red. His fingers flexed for a moment before he cut another curl to match the first. Each one was smaller than the ridge of her fingernail.
He paused for a moment before he wiped the side of his cheek. Sawdust clung to his beard but quickly disappeared among the auburn and gray hairs.
“What are you working on, Daddy?”
“Just a special violin for an old friend.”
“Because she's getting married to the love of her life.”
“Why?” Linsan kicked her feet and stretched out to grab a pillow.
His smile grew broader. “Because she found someone wonderful.”
She grinned. “Why?”
“Because if I don't finish this, I'm going to have to eat you instead. I heard four… no, five-year-old girls are delicious.”
Rolling over, she shook her head. “No, you aren't going to eat me! Mommy would yell at you. And then you'll get spanked.”
Her father had to lift his carving tool as he snorted with amusement. The tip glinted in the lights.
From behind her, her mother spoke up. “Why am I yelling at Daddy?”
Linsan spun around. “Mommy!”
She launched herself off the couch, her bare feet hitting the rug before she remembered the imaginary snakes. With a shriek, she stumbled forward while trying to step over the snakes. “Snakes! Snakes everywhere1”
Her mother dropped the cloth bags in her hand and caught her. Groceries poured out across the floor.
Linsan pressed her cheek against her mother's. The scent of her mother's perfume surrounded her in a cloud. She must have picked up food on the way from her latest show. She turned and pointed to the patterns near the middle of the rug. “There are snakes in the rug,” she whispered dramatically.
“Oh no, did Daddy get rid of them?”
“He's working on Palisis.”
Her mother frowned as she glanced at Linsan's father, her loose curls rolling off her shoulder. “Palisis? Who's that?”
From the other room, her father grunted.
Linsan beamed. “I named his violin. It looked like a Palisis.”
There was a brief silence.
“That's a pretty good name, I like it. Marin will love it.”
“Who is Marin?” asked Linsan.
“Marin was daddy's first wife. That's who the violin is for. She's getting married to mommy's best friend from when she was a little girl.”
She kissed Linsan on the top of her head before lowering her head to speak the voice she used for her dramatic parts. Her mouth opened in mock surprise and shock. “Now, if daddy is trapped by the snakes, that means we have to rescue him. How do we do that?”
Linsan bounced, her smile growing broader. Her auburn hair fluttered everywhere as she spun around a few times. “We dance! They can't bite us if we keep moving!”
Another kiss. “That's right! Snakes can't bite us if we're dancing.” She stood up and took Linsan's hands to pull her into a lively jig to music that no one could hear.
Before long, they were spinning in the living room. Linsan loved when her mother lifted her hand because that meant she got to twirl rapidly. The sweeping arm movements told her she was allowed to spin away knowing her mother would pull her back. She loved each time she could kick off the ground and skim the couch with her toes before being pulled back into her mother's embrace.
There was the brief hum of a fiddle and then a cheery tune filled the room. In the middle of a twirl, Linsan peered over the couch to see that her father had abandoned his work and picked up Katsaril, an old fiddle Linsan had named when she was three.
With the music no longer imaginary and the snakes forgotten, Linsan danced happily in the living room with her mother while her father played.
As far as she was concerned, that would never change.