Chapter Nine: Sing a New Song
A flute was played, not by Vok, but by Redlance. The rest of the musicians were brightly dressed Sun Folk. Drums were beaten, and several other instruments played, one with a sound like a desert sandstorm shut in a jar, another somewhat like stag hooves on hard ice.
Kahvi was not really concentrating on the music, though it helped to have it as a distraction. She was, finally, giving birth.
It had been a long two turns of the seasons for them all. But not in the way Kahvi had expected.
After his first, brief and disastrous attempts at taking charge, Skywise hadn't turned out to be like Rayek at all. He hadn't hovered - literally or figuratively - at her shoulder, warning of this and that being bad for the fawn or dangerous for them both. No. He had let her do as she liked, even if what she liked was to hunt bear. And every time, after she had returned to the Palace, with trophies, bruises or both, he had simply been there, quiet and nonjudgmental, offering her a cup of water and politely asking how her hunt had gone. Then he had gently but firmly suggested that Leetah and ShenShen take a quick look at his Recognized, just in case. And Kahvi, with her new-found realization that magic wasn't so bad really, never somehow found the words to refuse.
It had taken her a few eights of days to figure out that while she had been hunting, Skywise had been watching her through the Scroll of Colors. They had a huge row about it, but in the end, nothing changed. He would watch over her when she was at risk, yet would never forbid her anything her heart desired. It was not a perfect arrangement, but it worked.
Clever little silver fox...
It was her pet name for him now. That's how things were. All the huge and difficult thoughts and fears had just melted away one by one, like the snows of a white cold season when its reign had ended. They weren't lifemates, but they were definitely lovemates. Not exclusively to each other of course - that was one of the many qualities they had turned out to have in common. They argued, often and fiercely, about anything between – and beyond - ground and sky, but in the end made up the way lovemates do.
As time passed, they found another thing they had in common: by now they were completely weary of the company and care of ShenShen. The midwife was so enthusiastically full of helpful advice and suggestions and "you'd better" this and that - it was as if she was the one giving birth, the way she behaved sometimes.
There were, of course, many occasions when Kahvi considered leaving the Palace. But the memory of Venka's words had always stopped her at the last moment. The lass was right, confound her. Things would have been a lot easier if Kahvi had not hidden her from Rayek. Also, if she left now, she knew herself too proud to change her mind and come back anytime soon. Besides - whatever this new fawn turned out to be, Kahvi had a feeling it would have something to do with the Palace, with the new era of unforeseen magic that was unfolding. In such circumstances, Skywise sharing in the raising of the fawn would be more a help than a hindrance.
The flute sang on, the rhythm of the drum matched Kahvi's heartbeat.
One last push, and the child slid into the world with ease. A new instrument joined the music, somewhat like birdsong. The flute and drum and the rests of the instruments accompanied it beautifully. "Is it a girl?" Kahvi demanded. "Tell me right now, is it a girl?" She demanded of ShenShen, who was just wrapping the fawn into a soft blanket.
"It's a girl, Kahvi. It's a healthy, lovely little girl", Shenshen replied in a soft whisper, talking more to the baby than anyone else.
Kahvi breathed a deep sigh of relief. She reached for the little bundle and held her, and for a moment the world was just the two of them, mother and child. The baby was pale-skinned of course, and on her head there was the soft white fuzz of hair, so little of it that she looked bald. Her eyes were big and round and the same shade of green as her mother's. But that was all to be expected. What wasn't expected, though...
She was singing. What Kahvi had thought was a new instrument among the musicians was in fact the child herself, chirping and tweeting, not like any elf's voice ever.
"Only just born and already singing! I don't think there's ever been such a cub!" Krill exclaimed in awe. The musicians gathered around the little one, exclaiming and admiring. Kahvi looked smug and satisfied.
Krill and Kahvi had grown close during the pregnancy. Kahvi had enjoyed the wavedancer's company for many reasons, not the least of which was that Krill was completely uninterested in pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. It had been refreshing to have a companion who did not spend half the time talking to the bump in her stomach, in that gooey singsong babytalk voice some elves found appropriate.
Skywise leaned over, looking every bit enthralled by his new daughter. As he studied the tiny features, the lodestone hung low on its cord around his neck, and the fawn's little hands reached up for it, trying to grasp it, yet failing because it was hard to make her hands and eyes understand each other for the first time. Skywise laughed. The baby made a little frown, and started crying, ordinary newborn wails of dissappointment now instead of the sweet bird sounds. Kahvi sighed, unlaced the front of her tunic, and gave the child her first meal. "Knows what she wants, this one", Kahvi stated, looking pleased. Skywise wasn't sure if she meant the lodestone or her mother's milk, but in his heart of hearts he knew now that this little one could have anything from him, absolutely anything she wanted - even the lodestone, when that day came.
Around them, members of several tribes were celebrating the arrival of a new life. The Palace of the High Ones was at its usual location near the Holt of Cutter's tribe. Venka was visiting, with some Go-Backs accompanying her, and although Ember was absent, her tribe was represented by Yun, who would not have missed this for anything. Krill's presence was due to an experiment; the Masters of the Palace had wanted to find out if a Wavedancer could thrive away from the ocean, provided she had access to the Palace. This, of course, was part of the larger plan for elves to leave the World of Two Moons someday in the future. Krill had volunteered, and was doing fine so far, after almost two turns of the Seasons.
As the little newcomer rested, Kahvi looked up at Skywise. "You remember what we agreed, right?"
Cutter, Leetah, and various others leaned in to listen, wondering what this was about.
Skywise grinned and took from his boot a small but sharp brightmetal knife. "You win. It's a daughter. One brightmetal knife, as promised."
Kahvi took the blade and turned it around in her one free hand, studying how it looked in the light, then placed it in her boot for safekeeping.
Cutter looked incredulously at them both. "You two... made a bet... about the gender of your own cub?" He spluttered, shaking his head in disbelief.
Skywise and Kahvi both just grinned at him.
"I give up! You two deserve each other!" Cutter exclaimed, then turned to Leetah: "Surely you knew she's a girl?" He asked.
"Of course. But they were having such fun with it, I didn't want to spoil it for them." Leetah replied, calmly.
Yun laughed in delight. Others joined in, and merriment filled the Palace. Some rushed off to finish the last tasks in preparing a feast for the birth. Using the power of the Palace to strenghten sendings, the happy news was transmitted to the tribes and tribemates not present.
Kahvi was getting crowded by well-wishers curious to see the fawn for themselves, and though she bore it patiently, one who knew her could tell she was less than delighted with the attention. That was why Yun held back until things had calmed down a little, before stepping closer and taking a first good look at her sister.
The fawn was tiny and cute, as was to be expected. But Yun was enthralled by the song the little one continued singing now that her hunger for milk had been satisfied. Yun herself liked to play a flute sometimes, and certainly had the ear for a good tune.
What the fawn sang was not so much a tune or song, not one with structure of any kind. It was just one sweet sound after another. The feeling of listening to it reminded her of what it had been like in the Forevergreen - to hear new sounds one after another in no kind of order, birds and insects, even monkeys, each with their own way of making noise.
Some of those noises had been harsh. In the little one's song there was only softness and light. It felt like the perfect music for the Palace.
Yun asked if she could hold her, and Kahvi put the fawn in Yun's arms, then stood up and demanded someone bring her a bite to eat. Her tone was so commanding that at least three Sun Folk got up at once and darted off to fill the request.
Yun looked down into the leaf-green eyes of her sister. The fawn looked up, with a hard-to-read expression, then burped, with a bit of milk coming out of her mouth. Yun wiped the little one's face with the back of her hand, and smiled. Perhaps someday she could have a fawn of her own, she mused, with all the joys and troubles that came with one.
Somewhere outdoors, a wolf howled. The fawn's eyes went wide, then she opened her mouth and made a noise like a very small wolf cub might make, attempting a howl yet lacking the capacity of lungs for it.
Every single Wolfrider in the room turned their heads at once, and answered with howls of their own, which in turn were echoed by the rest of the wolfpack.
Whatever she would turn out to be, this little mystery in her sister's arms, she was certainly one thing.
She was very welcome.