Lisle moved to stand in front of where Ell settled her backside to the cavern floor, curling her twitching tail about her. Feeling anxious, Lisle stood as she saw the other Contracted doing, standing straight, shoulders back and arms at her sides. She felt Ell’s head just above her own, and had the incongruous thought of wearing her Guardian like some glorious hat and cape. A nervous giggle escaped her and she took a tiny step back to feel Ell’s warm solidity behind her. Lisle felt Ell’s chest rise and fall, and with each breath her comforting floral spice scent surrounded her tightly strung Contracted.
Lisle looked around the circle. Deloren and her Guardian, Loren were on one side of them with Bryllint and Gran Bryl on the other side. Ranged about the circle were all the others.
Lisle knew each of the Guardians from her time here in Guardian Mountain, but not all the Contracted. They must have been out in the world and returned for this special day. The thought caused Lisle’s roiling stomach to flip-flop like a landed swimmer.
She heard Ell gulping in what sounded like an uncomfortable swallow and realized that Ell was nervous too. Somehow, she felt better knowing that Ell shared her anxiety, and she leaned back a bit more, allowing one hand to reach behind to pat Ell’s leg.
The circle was silent but for the almost rhythmic clatter made by the multitude of flyer folk wings as they clung to the walls of the cavern. The circle of Guardians and Contracted, standing and sitting, straight and still, gazed at Lisle and Ell. Lisle had the panicky thought that they were waiting for her to do something. But what was she supposed to do? She had no idea. She cleared her throat, tense, and heard a similar rumble from behind her and felt Ell shift her weight from one foreleg to another.
Lisle prepared herself to say something, anything, just to end the agony, when Bryllint stepped forward, and in a loud, firm voice said, “I am Bryllint, Voice and Hands.”
Lisle relaxed, exhaling breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Then the Contracted on the other side of Bryllint took a step forward and stated, “I am Holan, Voice and Hands.”
It continued around the circle as each of the Contracted stepped forward in turn, till finally Deloren, standing on the other side of Lisle, stepped forward and stated, “I am Deloren, Voice and Hands.”
Then all were silent once again, waiting.
Lisle’s stomach clenched hard and she heard Ell drag in a huge breath and hold it. Now what? It seemed obvious that Lisle was to step forward and make that same statement. She knew she couldn’t do it without grinding her way through in fits and starts. It would be horrendous. They’d probably laugh at her or worse, pity her. She’d have to sing it. She could only hope that would be correct.
She lifted her foot to take that fateful step when she was halted by a deep rumbling coming from all around the circle. The clattering of flyer folk wings picked up in intensity then, the rhythm speeding up. Lisle listened closely and realized the Guardians were humming. Some were toning so deeply as to be almost inaudible, some higher, all flowing in harmony, each with the other.
Startled, she heard Ell join in from behind her, a beautiful sound that she hadn’t known that Ell could make. It was almost flute-like and yet far deeper than any flute she had known. It flowed into the harmonies of the other Guardians with a beauty that brought tears to her eyes. She forgot her fears and gave herself up to it, allowing herself to be carried on the wings of that wondrous sound.
The toning grew in intensity, filling Lisle with energy, tingling up her legs and arms, filling her chest full and moving up into her throat. She couldn’t stop herself and opened her mouth to join in the harmony. The song flowed out of her, high and light. An etheric descant that poured from her mouth, lifting to the very top of the cavern and cascading down again. Weaving in and out through the bass tones coming now only from directly behind her. Coming from Ell.
It was just she and Ell singing now. Lisle was so caught up in the song that it didn’t matter. Their harmony was perfect, low and high, weaving up and down and around each other. She didn’t have to think about it, she simply knew which note to sing to blend perfectly with Ell’s tones. It poured from her heart and out through her mouth and she felt as though her spirit filled all of the cavern around them. She flowed on this great river of sound until gradually, so gradually, the song wound down and drained away like water into the stone.
Lisle felt utterly emptied and deeply satisfied. She rested into the gentle swells of energy that moved through her and all around her, as Ell breathed quietly behind her. Then all was silent. Even the flyer folk held still.
Once again, the Guardians and their Contracted looked steadily at Lisle and Ell, waiting, expectant.
Lisle could not react. Ell was there in her mind and Lisle was captivated. She felt Ell’s warmth and her fathomless love. It filled her to overflowing, spilling out and around her, then filling her again and again. She gazed about the circle and realized that it no longer mattered what the others thought. They could laugh or pity her and it made no difference. She and Ell were One.
The words were there then in Lisle’s mind, pushing onto her tongue. She felt she might burst from the pressure of them. Almost without conscious volition, Lisle took a firm step forward and said, “I am Ellisle.” There was no hesitation, no stumbling. Then, clear and strong, “I am Ellisle, Voice and Hands. We are One.”
As she did so, she felt Ell’s head close to her own, graceful neck curving lovingly about her shoulders. Ellisle reached her hands up, one arm cradling Ell’s head, the other holding the long, sinuous neck that embraced her.
They held each other, lost in Oneness.
Each of the other Guardians and their Contracted remembered their own ritual, eyes closed now, their hearts meltingly one, unaware of the time which passed.
Deep within Ell’s embrace, Ellisle’s eyes drifted into the circle. There in the center of all the Guardians and Contracted, she saw something so startling as to shock her out of her dream-like state. Ellisle struggled up, pushing Ell’s head so that she too would look into the circle and see what Ellisle saw.
Standing in the center of the cavern were the translucent, ghostly figures of Fal and his Contracted, Tim, who looked about himself, eyes wide in surprise.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41
Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44 Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48
Chapter 49 Chapter 50 Chapter 51 Chapter 52 Chapter 53
Chapter 54 Chapter 55 Chapter 56
StoryTime Read Aloud