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"Cantique Noel"

Stories in this series

Le Luth Constelle (Siryn)
Misteltoe and Diamonds (Rogue/Gambit)
A Rosary of Bone (Marrow)

Christmas time again. This might be on OT on some of the places to which I am posting, but ... ah ... the set has to go together for some odd reason. It's to get the full picture -- an emotional picture more than anything else in this case.

Mon seul etoile est morte ... Mon luth constelle porte le soleil noir.
- 'Adversary', Julian May

Teresa fingered the strings of the lute in a desultory fashion, the notes drifting out from the balcony of Cassidy Keep into the shadowed evening. Identical snowflakes where once each had been unique. Although technically perfect, she knew that the performance was soulless. The fine gut would strum and thrum identically for a robot, a chimpanzee or a child, had any of them enough talent or enough fortune. There were no subtle intonations, no shades of meaning, glimmering blue-silver beneath the sound. No lorelei song to lure and charm. The sea that beat against the rocks of the islet was sirenless for the first time.

Her father had brought her to their ancestral home for Christmas in the hope that, surrounded by family and attended by memories, she would be able to convalesce -- spiritually and physically -- from the wound Feral had inflicted on her. The cruellest wound possible; one that had wrecked her voicebox, and stolen her music, forcing to rely on prosthetic strings and metal. She plucked a riff out on the strings, hating the echoing, hollow sound. James's Christmas present had not been a success.

Knowing her love for the somewhat archaic instrument -- and she had loved the lute when it could supplement her soaring soprano -- her friend had scoured San Francisco in search of one and sent it to her with her father. Although she knew it to be second-hand by its musty perfume, the richly-polished wood, cream-coloured and smooth, was still sound and its pitch was perfect. It was not its fault that it had no experiences -- had not known laughter, sorrow, desperation and love; the true notes of every composition -- and could not interpret hers.

Opening her mouth, Teresa tested the ruined vocal chords, praying for a Christmas miracle. She felt the air rush through her throat, pressed from her lungs through the network of bronchioles and bronchi, then out into the cool air where it condensed and disappeared. No broken squeak, or whisper, emerged, let alone siren song. Angrily, she plucked a chord, harsh, ugly and grating, before walking to the balacony.

Beneath her, the ocean stretched to touch the sky. An expanse of unbroken pearl, it called to her with the thousand tongues of dolphins and waves, mermaids and whales. If she jumped, she could sing with them, they promised. She would be Calypso in the navel of the ocean, charming sailors and princes with her voice, would again live among them.

She stepped onto the ridge, light slippers barely providing enough traction to keep her from slipping on the wet stones of the guardwall. Her red hair blew behind her, like kelp or seaweed in the tide. Her white nightdress, edged with ribbons, rippled like sea-foam in the breeze. Kicking off her shoes, lute clutched against her, Teresa let herself fall. The dark crag sped past as she plummeted to earth, a snowflake in a storm. Spray hit her face, deliciously fresh and salty where it landed in her open mouth. Underneath her, there was a confusion of whitelace as the water hit the rocks. Waiting until the last possible moment, Teresa pulled herself into the sky, buoyed up by the wind. The dolphins, waves, mermaids and whales called, but she was far above them. Too far for their petty charms to work on her.

Surrounded by star-spangled sky, she plucked an experimental note on the lute, hearing it ring from crag to rock to wave to wall in a thousand, tiny faerie-bells, stars of sound, each as unique as a snowflake. The coast rang once more with siren song.



1. Le luth constelle = the star-spangled lute. The title is taken from the prologue of 'Adversary' by Julian May. It's where Marc is identifying himself to the rebels and mourning Cyndia: "Ma seule etoile est morte ... Mon luth constelle porte le soleil noir" - "My only star is dead ... My star-spangled lute carries the black sun." I'm taking it more literally than Marc uses it, though, as he refers to Cyndia's ... attempt to put a forcible end to his plans for fathering Mental Man. The connotations there are somewhat ... uh ... ribald, to put it mildly. Not that that's at all relevant, just my unusual ability to waffle on about that particular series of novels.
2. Calypso was the siren in the 'Odyssey' who dwelt in, what Homer called, the navel of the ocean.


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