by M. R. R. Arcega
This song is one I have never sung. This song, I sing from my heart.
I was the Singer’s man. In my youth I was known as Derezn. That name signified nothing, was nothing, until the Singer came to our tribe.
She was a stranger to us, and in the way of the Harun, we kept her at a distance. Wherever she walked, there would be at least a circle an armstretch wide between herself and the nearest of us, as is the Harun way.
The Singer was tall, like the rock tribe, but slender, like the silian tree. She walked on two legs, like the rest of us. But it was clear she was a stranger; the whole of her was like nothing that walked on this earth.
She sang her greeting in the language of the Lowlands, “I have come. I crave your welcoming.” Her lips made the words seem strange.
She asked if we had ever seen one like her – a man, tall and slender and pale like herself, but with hair the color of rulgit leaves. We said we didn’t. She thanked us all and made a request of us.
“I need to cross the Plains. I need a guide.” She said these simple words awkwardly, so new was she to the Harun tongue. The elders listened. Then they summoned me, still in my childhood years, and they said to me: “You shall be her ears and eyes.”
Like the Harun, the Singer had two hands, but hers were soft and the fingers were long and cool and thin like mist.
I was Derezn, signifying nothing, being nothing, until I took her hand.
While she was distrusted among the Harun, she was not hated. And when she sang our songs back to us, her otherworldly voice had a pleasing sound.
She meant not to stay among us. She learned our language and our songs, then it was time for her to go. The first thing she told me was that she had been roaming the world for two years, by Gandaran reckoning. This meant eight full years by the Harun way.
I was no stranger to the journey across the Plains, but she walked carefully, as if she had never been in another place in the world like it.
The Singer was not an easy ward. She did not yet know all our gestures, and sometimes she thought “danger” meant “come,” or “stay away” meant “time to eat.” Yet I dared not call her foolish.
Of course I knew of her, I had heard the legends of the Singer. But I loved her not, because her way was change, and change was not the way of the Harun. She knew even more than the wind-folk, or the monks of Halam, or even the citizens of Idevat, of change. She knew songs from many distant tongues, and though I did not know the words, I listened.
The Singer slept at night. She was like the Black Flower folk, who needed to sleep when the sun was not in the sky. It was then that I could be alone with my thoughts.
The Singer was known in Harun lore as a frightening thing, a creature of magnificence and great magical power. And yet, this strange thing I accompanied seemed nothing like that. She was thin and frail and strange. The only thing about her that rhymed with the legends was that she was unafraid.
She said that she was searching for someone. She said that someone had been very special to her. “Sibling of the heart,” she said in the Harun tongue.
But among the Harun the only siblings are the siblings you have from your birth-father, or your birth-mother. There is no other sort of sibling. So I asked her to explain.
She sang, “I shall tell you a secret. I came from another place,” and she swept her hand across the stars, “very far away.” She sang to me of her people. She sang that her people could change the world by music. They fashioned instruments that could control the wind, make the green things grow and the clouds part. Everyone cared about everything, for if you had power over everything, everything was your responsibility.
Only children didn’t care, she said. Only children sang as if there was no consequence.
And she sang to me of a boy whom she had known since he was born. While the other children went to school and honed their musical talents in all earnest, the Singer and this boy played together, dreamt together, sang together. They made things move and made things grow and made things die and adults hated them for it; they said the two children were bound to grow up careless.
He must be grown up by now, she sang to herself.
One day, he said he wanted to explore other worlds. For they were aware of other worlds but they were never allowed to wander into them. The adults of their world knew that in other worlds their songs would be powerless, and that some worlds were dark and dangerous, not like their own. But the Singer’s sibling took her by the hand and told her not to be afraid, and singing together they opened a door.
She continued to sing that where she came from, there were people born of different sets of parents, but were of the same mind about everything. They sometimes found each other, then they never let each other go. They were more than siblings, she sang, they were more than lovers, they were more than two different people. She needed to find the sibling of her heart, because without him she would not be complete.
But she had tried to use the Harun words and Harun words were not enough to explain her.
“I shall tell you a secret,” she sang softly on the eighth day of our journey, “I see him in my dreams. In my dreams we are children, and he says he will find me soon.”
I helped her cross the Plain. She was not made of hardy stuff like the Harun and the journey made her ill. “Let us rest,” she said.
We came to a forest by the plain, and there we sought shelter. The Singer was pale and silent. I had done my part by the Harun way and I was ready to come home, but I did not wish to leave her.
I had never explored this forest, though I had crossed the Plain alone many times. This was known as the woods of Ogyu among the Harun. And in those days we believed that if you strayed from the path that crossed it and ended at the domain of the Black Flower people, you would be captured by the savage folk of the woods, and you would never come home.
But there was no one on the path through the woods. And I thought I heard sounds of a village from afar, so I left the Singer and strayed from the path.
I was found by two savage hunters who had been watching the Singer and myself. I said in the words of the Lowlands that we needed help.
They said nothing. When they did not attack me, I walked back to where the Singer was. The hunters followed me. They silently observed her, and when they decided she was no threat, they unfurled their long limbs and twisted them together into a bed. Cradling the Singer between themselves, they walked, and I followed.
The Singer and I were treated well in the hunters’ village. When she had her voice again she walked to the edge of our pit-cage and sang “I have come. I crave your welcoming” in many tongues. It was only when she used the Black Flower tongue that we were set free.