Song of Silence: Part Six
Weeks passed, and Desdamona and Sofia met to practise every day. It was the only thing that gave the voiceless little Draik hope, hope that she might be good at something after all. Her playing was improving steadily, but she refused to let anyone hear it until the day of the festival; she wanted to surprise them.
In the meantime, Sirius and Blossom practised their own skills, honing them for their own parts in the festival. Every day when Desdamona went out to the field to practise, she could see her brother turning loops and spirals in the air, free-falling to the ground then swooping back up again at the last second. He was becoming a very proficient flier, and Desdamona was sure he'd be the hit of the cloud and starry Draiks' aerial performance.
Blossom meanwhile was trying to determine her artistic expression of expertise. First she tried sculpture, the writing, then drawing, until she finally discovered her dormant painting ability, which her mother had predicted on the day she was born. Soon the cave was full of canvases of all sizes, some hung on the stone walls, some lay strewn about the floor, incomplete or scrapped, and Blossom spent so much time immersed in her paints that she more often appeared rainbow than white, and she was always asking their father to go with her down to Meridell market to get more supplies.
Every day as Desdamona watched her siblings grow into their predestined skills, she couldn't help but feel a pang of loss that she shouldn't be able to do the same. Playing the flute was fun, but it wasn't the same as singing, didn't feel like she was fulfilling her destiny or even doing anything particularly useful.
One day as Desdamona sat under her tree in the field, waiting for Sofia to join her as she always did, she began to wonder what it felt like to speak, to make words with your mouth. She thought about it for a moment, came up with a sentence, and opened her mouth slowly. She pushed the air out and tried to feel out the formation of the words with her tongue. It was harder than it appeared, and the faint whisper that carried her attempt sounded very little like what she was trying to say.
Desdamona was so focused on this new idea that she didn't notice Sofia swoop down and land behind her. She continued contorting her mouth in a vain attempt at making the words work when a voice behind her startled her.
"What are you doing?" Sofia asked curiously, coming up beside her friend.
Desdamona jumped, startled, and glanced at her friend a little sheepishly, I was trying to see what it feels like to talk, she wrote, I've been sort of wishing lately that I could sing properly, like I'm supposed to, and I realised I had no idea what it felt like to talk, so I thought I'd try.
"And?" Sofia asked, as if this were not an unusual endeavour at all.
It's harder than it looks, Desdamona admitted, I can't figure out how to do it right. She sighed and shrugged, Not that it matters anyway, it's not like I'm ever going to need to know how. She dropped her chalk with a click against her board and gazed at it sadly.
Sofia knew better than to interrupt her friend at times like this; trying to rationalise that her situation wasn't as bad as it seemed never got them very far, and usually only served to make things worse. She waited until Desdamona's eyes lost their hopeless glaze, and watched as she glanced toward her flute. Spotting this, Sofia smiled, "Come on then," she said, "We still have a lot of work to do if we want to sound good for the festival."
And so they practised for weeks and weeks, every day getting closer to their goal.
One day as they were wrapping things up, Sofia said, "Do you think you're ready to try it?"
Desdamona looked at her. Try what? she wrote.
"The song of the eventide Draiks," Sofia replied. "We've practised every other song in Neopia but that one. Seeing as it's the one we'll be singing for the festival, and that we only have three weeks left, maybe we should give it a go."
Desdamona looked down and studied her flute for a long moment, then finally picked up her board gingerly and sighed. I'm scared, she wrote.
Sofia blinked. "Of what?" she asked.
I don't really know, that I won't do it well enough I guess, Desdamona replied. It's bad enough that I can't sing, I don't want to mess up playing the most important song we have.
"You're not going to mess it up," Sofia replied gently. "You have as much right to be heard as anyone else, you deserve to perform that song just like the rest of us. Just give it a try, you've worked way too hard on this to give up now. I won't laugh, I promise, even if it goes terribly."
Desdamona sighed heavily, but picked up her flute gently and held it to her lips. She took a deep breath, and blew the first notes. They came effortlessly, as if her fingers knew exactly what to do. As she played, Desdamona felt a glowing warmth spread through her, starting at her heart. It enveloped her like a blanket woven from sunlight, and she closed her eyes blissfully, hoping the feeling would never go away. She had no idea what it was, but she wanted it to stay. Focused as she was on the warmth, Desdamona hadn't been paying attention to her playing, and soon found herself at the end of the song. She blew the last note, long and melodious, and when it was over she looked up at Sofia, who was staring at her, her mouth hanging open. Desdamona looked at her worriedly, the warm feeling ebbing away.
"That was... so beautiful," Sofia breathed, not wanting to raise her voice lest she break the spell. "I've never heard you play like that before."
Desdamona smiled shyly. Thanks, she wrote. You want to try it together now?
Sofia nodded. "Yeah," she said, still a little shocked. "I have to make sure my voice isn't going to spoil your music." She smiled playfully and Desdamona nudged her scoldingly.
Your voice couldn't spoil music if you wanted it to. She smiled.
They met every day for the remaining three weeks and practised until the day of the festival finally arrived.
Everyone was anxious, but no one as much as Desdamona. She couldn't focus on anything for more than four seconds at a time, and couldn't bring herself to practise for nerves. She paced about the cave until her mother shooed her out the entrance, complaining she was getting underfoot.
"Hey, Dezzie." Sirius swooped down from the sky and landed next to his sister, who was picking blades of grass absently just outside the cave. "You wanna watch my routine and tell me what you think?"
"Thanks," Sirius said gratefully. "I'm really nervous I'm going to mess something up tonight. If I crashed into one of the other fliers in the middle of the performance, I'd never live it down."
Desdamona smiled. Don't worry, she scrawled. I'm sure you'll do great. Show me what you've got.
Sirius backed up a few paces and flapped his wings. "Okay," he said. "Here goes nothing!" He launched himself into the air and beat his wings furiously as he rocketed towards the clouds. Suddenly wrapping them around his body, he fell into a nosedive and plummeted toward the earth.
Desdamona gasped and clapped her hands over her eyes, peering through her fingers.
At the last second, Sirius spread his wings and tapered sharply off, his tail just grazing the ground as he swooped low, flapping hard as he gained momentum again. Back in the air, he performed a series of dizzying spins and backflips, and threw in a few plummeting helices for good measure. The finale consisted of a tight barrel roll that ended in a horizontal twist just before the landing. Sirius stood panting in front of his sister. "Well, what did you think?" he asked.
It was very good, Desdamona replied. I bet you'll be the star of the show.
Sirius blushed. "Aw, I doubt I'll be that good," he said, then added, "What about you? Can I hear what you've go so far?"
Desdamona smiled and shook her head. Nope, it's a surprise, you'll just have to wait, she wrote, and no amount of pestering or persuasion would convince her to change her mind.
Finally, after a whole day of anxious anticipation, the sun began to set, and the family took off toward the wide open field on the outskirts of town that was blazing with the lights of the festival.
Desdamona spotted Sofia immediately, just by the entrance where they had agreed to meet. She tapped her father on the arm and wrote, There's Sofia, I have to go.
Damien smiled. "Alright, have a good time. Your mother and I will be watching when it's time."
Desdamona smiled and hugged him, then ran off to meet her friend.
Sofia grinned as her friend approached. "This is so exciting!" she exclaimed. "Come on, I want to introduce you to the other eventides."
Desdamona's heart lurched in her chest at that, and she gripped her flute tightly in her hand. This was what she had been afraid of; what if the other eventide Draiks didn't like her? What if they thought she'd spoil the performance?
Sofia noticed the look of apprehension on Desdamona's face and smiled. "Relax," she said. "I already told them all about you, and they're eager to meet you. Come on."
Desdamona sighed with relief. At least that wasn't going to be a problem. Now all she had to do was get through the performance.
Sofia led her to a clearing behind a bright red and yellow big-top tent where a group of ten or fifteen eventide Draiks of all shapes and sizes were gathered. "Guys, I want you to meet my friend. Everyone, this is Desdamona."
The group turned to look at her, and all of a sudden Desdamona felt very small and shy. She tried to smile and waved uncertainly at them.
The Draik closest to her smiled back. "Hi," he said. "I'm Syrril. Sofia's told us a lot about you."
The warm greeting made Desdamona feel a little better, and she stood up a little straighter. Nice to meet you, she wrote.
Syrril nodded. "Right, why don't you come with me and I'll introduce you to everyone else."
Desdamona followed Syrril and Sofia through the group and met everyone, and the entire time all she could think about was how wonderful it was to finally meet pets who didn't draw attention to her lack of voice, it was the first time she'd even really been treated like normal, like everyone else, and she loved it.
Finally, after what felt like hours of waiting, a loud bugle sounded, and all the Draiks around Desdamona stirred.
"This is it," Sofia said excitedly, gripping her arm.
Desdamona's heart started to pound as she thought about what she was about to do. She gripped her flute tightly and followed the others through the fairground toward the enormous stage. She tried to slide into the middle of the group behind Sofia, but her friend and several others ushered her to the front. "So everyone can hear you," Sofia whispered, disappearing back into the crowd.
Desdamona swallowed anxiously as she stared out at the sea of faces. Near the middle of the audience, she could see her family, waving and cheering. Instead of making her feel better, it made her feel more nervous. She didn't want to let them down.
One of the older eventides stepped out to the front of the stage and raised his arms; he was the conductor. Closing her eyes, Desdamona focused on getting the first note out. She took a deep breath, and blew. Her heart pounded, but her fingers didn't stumble, and her notes didn't wobble. The warm feeling she'd gotten every time she'd played her song before glowed brighter than it had ever done before. Slowly it enveloped the anxiety, and all she felt was joy. Desdamona opened her eyes and looked out at the crowd of onlookers. She spotted her siblings, who were jumping for joy, and her parents, both of whom had tears in their eyes. It took a moment, but it finally dawned on her. After all this time, she finally understood what that warm glow was. It was her destiny. That day, the voiceless little Draik who others had thought would amount to nothing, let her heart sing out loud enough for all of Meridell to hear. She had a voice, and she had fulfilled her calling.