Lyrianne of the Song, Part 1
Hymns of Family, Part 1
Lyrianne gazed around the House of Flowers, the beautiful pink blooms of the sacred Sagewood and the warm currents of its living magic conflicting with her innermost thoughts. She tugged at her hair, the thin black fibers held loosely between her blue fingers as she traced the tips against her cheek. The strands caught on one of her scales until she tugged it free and lowed her arms, embarrassed at her own nervousness. She carefully approached one of the caretakers, an elderly gentleman deftly arranging a collection of plush chairs around a bubbling fountain dedicated to the Goddess Kambiara. "Visiting hours have ended." The caretaker kept his attention on his task, his back towards her, as he fluffed the cushions of the chair in front of him. His voice was curt, his words well practiced. "If you wish to confer with the prophets you will have to come back tomorrow." "I'm sorry, it's just..." Her voice floundered. She had held everything inside for so long that this attempt at conversation was enough to crack her defenses. Unexpectedly she felt her frustrations of the week all spilling out at once. "It's just Mama you see, I miss her so much but I just couldn't find the courage to--" "Lyrianne!" Her ear frills caught her father's voice, gentle and strong, bringing an end to her uncharacteristic outpour of words and emotion. He stood outside one of the visitor rooms on the outskirts of the temple, his green scales a pale backdrop for the multicolored patterns across his hide, the marks of a career spent escorting travelers through the Portal Exchange. He motioned for her to join him. She looked back sheepishly at the caretaker, but the man's features had softened. "The transitioning is a difficult time." He motioned towards the fountain, its gentle flow slowly shaping the stones of the fountain through the decades. "This is why we have Goddess Kambiara to look after us, to help us accept that change is part of living." "I just... I know it is a great honor, to be selected by the Goddesses." She paused as her voice cracked, inhaling slowly to regain her composure. "I just wish they had chosen... anybody else." "Emotions can be a difficult thing. But there is no shame in them. They are a gift from the Goddess Patheia, and to experience them is to draw closer to Her song." The caretaker's words were kind, understanding, and well practiced from repetition. Lyrianne nodded her thanks. She did not feel better, not exactly, but she no longer felt alone in her sorrows, and right now that was enough. The caretaker grinned at her encouragingly. "Go. Join your father. He's been expecting you. It's going to be okay." Lyrianne dipped her fingers in the blessed fountain, the water cool against her scales, and mumbled a quick prayer for her family before joining her patient father, wrapping her arms around him. He returned the hug, his strong arms grasping her firmly, yet tenderly, as she buried her face in his neck. "I was worried you had changed your mind." His voice was calm and measured, his smile mournful but resolute. "I had to come, Papa." She breathed in, her nostrils full of the comforting scent of his cooking spices, with undertones of the sagewood blooms from the temple. "I just don't have your strength." If anyone in her life embodied the teachings of the Goddess Xira, it was her father. Reliable and resolute, he was her rock and confidence, the one unchanging thing in a constantly changing world. "Nonsense." He pulled away then, firmly grasping her shoulders and shaking her lightly. He grinned when she returned his gaze, his first truly genuine smile since his wife's selection. "You are stronger than you know. And someday the world will see your strength. But more importantly, someday you will see your own strength." He looked away then, distractedly sniffing the air. "But come. Dinner's burning." He ushered her into the room. Lyrianne smiled at the sight of her father's portable heating rock nestled carefully on a table in the corner, her father now hunched over the large stewpot perched on top. He had never been much for breaking rules, but if it was the only way to cook for his beloved family... The air smelled of stew, thick, heavy, and full of beef. Mama's favorite. Lyrianne tentatively surveyed the rest of the room, its living walls of flowering sagewood mingling their scents with the slightly burnt stew. Her older brother A'drol and sister Nai'a remained deep in whispered conversation, sitting atop a pair of chairs against the outer wall. They snuck worried glances at the figure dozing peacefully in the bed, her chest rising and falling softly beneath the multicolored sheets, sagewood blooms lovingly woven into her white hair. Lyrianne felt her breath hitch at the sight of the Three Songs' newest Prophet, her beloved Mama, her blue scales covered in more multicolored swirls than even her Papa, results of an illustrious career as a Portal Guide. She remembered Papa's tales of how they had first met while working the portals, his awkward and shy attempts to engage her in conversation, her exasperated attempts to convince him to actually open up and talk. And now her fiery mother would forever remain at the temple, never more to participate in the everyday banalities Lyrianne had taken for granted. The morning walks and conversations after breakfast, Mama's pride bragging to the neighbors at Lyrianne's latest sewing creations, Lyrianne's failed cooking experiments and Mama's attempts to keep a straight face with her critiques... All gone now. Nothing but memories. She choked back a sob. A'drol and Nai'a looked up at the noise, breaking off their conversation and motioning her to join them. "You made it!" Nai'a gracefully bounded from the chair, wrapping her in a warm hug. Lyrianne closed her eyes for a moment, willing her stress to slip away, but to no avail. She pulled away, opening her eyes to read her sibling's faces. "How is she?" They glanced at each other before answering, their unspoken expressions already showing the words that were to follow. "You know she can't come home again, right?" Nai'a nervously tugged at her own hair, its reddish brown strands contrasting with her green scales. "Yeah... I know." Nai'a nodded before continuing. "They're taking great care of her here. She is a religious treasure now!" "But the healers have confirmed, the dementia is permanent." Her brother stood up as he delivered the news, wringing his hands. "She's going to slowly forget us, until only the Songs of the Goddesses remain. I'm sorry, I know you two were the closest of all of us." "Benefits of being the baby in the family." Lyrianne attempted a smile, but her heart wasn't in it. A'drol reached out and squeezed her hand. "We're here for you, Sis." His voice cracked a little with the words, his shoulders slumping as he looked down at their mother. "We're all going to miss her." There was a rustling from the bed. "What are you all standing around for? Someone help me sit up." Mama's bright smile belayed the sharpness of her words. She turned her head towards Lyrianne and her voice softened. "Oh Lyrianne, I missed you so. Come! Come! Tell your worries to your Mama." Lyrianne's heart swelled at the sound and sight of her beloved mother, more lucid than she had been for months. She carefully sat on the bed next to Mama and whispered a short thank you to the Goddess Kambiara for the gift of her answered prayer. "I missed you Mama." "I missed you too, My Little Lyric." Lyrianne smiled at the sound of one of her childhood nicknames. It had been several years since Mama had called her that. She cuddled in to her mother, basking in the flood of warm memories. "Do you remember what happens today?" Her mother looked at her expectantly. Lyrianne wracked her memories, shaking her head no when she came up empty. "It's your birthday, silly Lyrica!" Her mother's face burst into a triumphant smile, and Lyrianne's stomach fell. She searched her sibling's faces, finding only plastered smiles as they played into the ruse to avoid upsetting Mama. A'drol's eyes silently urged her to do the same. "Happy birthday, Lyrianne!" "The stew is ready!" Papa called from the corner, an array of bowls and bread now joining the soup on the table. "Is that stew burnt again?" Mama chided from the bed. "Only a little!" Papa shot back defensively, grinning wider. "Be a good boy and get your Mama a bowl." A'drol rushed to comply, whispering something to Papa as he scooped heaps of the thick, heavy stew into a bowl. "We'll have to have the birthday cake later," Papa apologized. "I forgot." "Forgot your own daughter's birthday?" Mama huffed incredulously. "Mama, it's okay. Actually... I asked him not to make one," Lyrianne lied. "With you here... I didn't want to be a burden. I'd rather celebrate when you come home." "Nonsense!" her mother huffed. "You only turn twelve once, My Little Lyric." "Mama, please..." "Okay, okay," Mama conceded. "You are as stubborn as I was at your age! But I'm still going to sing. To not sing would be an affront to the Goddesses!"