The second Terran prospered for many years before his life came to an end, though the memory of him never left the hearts of the people of the Kingdom of Music and Magic. It would be another century before the next Terran would arrive, and when he did, he brought with him such vibrancy and wonder that every place he visited seemed brighter and more cheerful for having met him. His visits surprised the dwarven musician, but his laughter brought joy rather than scorn.
The energetic Terran appreciated the Dwarven villages and mountainous caverns, but he was no less eager to explore the rest of Tierney Ríocht. Together, they rode with centaurs across hills and through forests, all the was to the east, where the flowers grow as tall as trees and the mushrooms bloom in the daylight. Food was plentiful there, the fruit sweet and the waters clear. These were the fae lands, bright and colorful and full of play and magic.
The third musician was to be fae, a man tall and lean, one eager to complement his magic with song. The Terran who came to him shares many a wonder, fascinating all of fae-kind. His instrument was just as adored, for it could make music that was quick and joyful, but also songs that were slow and mournful. His talent with the violin seemed to have no end, a trait that he shared with the faerie he taught to play it.
Larsa was smiling as Tobias read that part of the ballad. “Wow, so your homeland has giant flowers?”
“It is the flower forest,” Tobias replied with a warm smile. There are trees as well, but a great deal of or livelihood and sustenance comes from the mushrooms and flowers.”
“Wow, it sounds really beautiful!” Larsa beamed. “Do you think we’ll get to visit there?”
“Larsa…” Stefan groaned, rubbing his temples.
“What?” Larsa asked.
“Ye’ve got tae focus, lad,” Killian explained. “Leila has other things she needs tae accomplish here.”
“It’s all right,” Tobias reassured Larsa. “It may be that our journey takes us through my homeland, and if it does, I shall be glad to show you around. For now, though…” he looked to Stefan and Killian, “our concerns are more for Lady Brielle than anything else.”
“Right,” I said, trying to also think things over. “She’s with the vampires now. And we’re assuming they won’t let her die. But then what happens?”
“We…” Jean-Marc began, “We’re not entirely sure. Without a cellist, we can only perform the first three minuets that were written specifically to sustain our world.”
I raised a brow at him as I listened.
“Don’t tell me that nobody else here can play cello,” Stefan scoffed before I could say anything. I hardly minded; I had pretty much the same question.
“Maili and Brielle taught others, of course,” Brom said, “but it is Brielle DeChanson who was imbued with the magic that allows her music to suffuse our world and help sustain it.”
“So it has to be her…” I said. “But she won’t stop playing because of her change, will she?”
“She has to be able to get out of bed first,” Aubré scoffed.
I thought back to the story that Sir Maël had told us about finding her and getting her well on her way to the vampire lord’s castle. “You think she’s still that weak? Didn’t Ingrid take her back to the castle where her master lives? He’d help them, wouldn’t he? You said they wouldn’t let her die.”
Aubré shrugged. “It depends on how much they can help her. She could be languishing on the verge of death for an extended time.”
“Are you serious?!”
He glanced over at me, hardly moved by my reaction. He said nothing.
“Come on!” I insisted. “There has to be a better explanation for–”
“For what?” Aubré asked, as though testing me.
“For… this struggle.”
“What’s your point in questioning me like this? You have creatures who are willing to let others die if it means they’ll survive. You don’t know who killed Moss, I was accosted by a satyr, and a vampire has Brielle on the edge of death. Your world is falling apart, yet some creatures are struggling to gain– I don’t know, power? glory? — rather than coming together to fix things.”
“You are a fiery one,” was the only reply Aubré had to offer, and I really didn’t like the arrogant way he said it.
“Enough trying to upset her,” Brom told him. “Leila, the answer to your question requires a bit more background. You see, when the silence at the beginning of the world was broken, and light flowed out everywhere, and many of the races and creatures you’ve met were created, a certain fact was forgotten.”
“Well, perhaps ‘forgotten’ isn’t the right word,” Sir Maël added. “It’s more that nobody realized it.”
“Okay…” I said. “What was it?”
“Where there is light–“
“There is also shadow,” Stefan finished for Brom. “There’s no avoiding it; where there is light, there is also darkness.”
“Oh…” I knew that. Of course I knew that foundational, philosophical fact. And like Brom had said, it was too easily forgotten. “So… Does that mean that the shadow creatures were made in the beginning as well?”
The others gave slow nods.
“There were unicorns and centaurs and pegasi,” Nikolai said, “but what most of us failed to see was that their darker counterparts had also been made. The nuckelavee and the kelpie, for example.”
“There are faeries and elves and mermaids,” Tobias added, “but also puka, selkies, and succubi.”
“Werewolves, vampires, djinn,” Evander noted, “who think nothing of harming the haltija, gryphons, or dwarves.”
“At first, they were saddened that they couldn’t come out of the shadows,” Jean-Marc explained. “Vampires especially, but there are others who are restricted to their environments and suffer for it. They wanted to be happy like the beings of light were, but many of them were feared, and their sadness grew into resentment. They are jealous and angry, while others cannot help their natures. Some do what they can to survive, and are harmless if left alone, but others are terribly aggressive, as you saw with the werewolves.”
I thought for a moment, then said, “It sounds like peace between the light and the dark isn’t entirely impossible. You’re going to have a hard time caring for Tierney Ríocht if you don’t come together at some point.”
Tobias gave me a wry smile, as though I’d just figured out a life-long mystery. “Thoughts like those, Leila, are exactly why the four of you give us such hope.”