Salia gave a heavy sigh as she cut up the steak in front of her. For the last couple of evenings she had been having dinner with Lyrrekka’s family, then playing with Karilya until bedtime. It had been fun, but tonight there was a heavy lump in her stomach. Last night she had dreamed mummy came to get her, but when she had seen Salia having fun and friends with a dragon, she had yelled at her and left again.
“What’s wrong, dear?” Lyrrekka asked. “Per said you seemed unhappy in class as well. Weren’t your lessons fun today?”
“It’s not that.” Salia shook her head and forced herself to eat a bite of the steak.
“Hmm, and I know you like Kari. So what’s wrong?” She put down her own fork and hugged Salia. “I can’t fix it if I don’t know why you’re sad.”
“I don’t think you can fix it anyway,” Salia said.
“You’d be surprised,” Lyrrekka said. Salia felt a gentle brush on her mind and the dragon woman looked thoughtful.
“Of course, you miss your mother, and you’re anxious about how different things are now. I should have realised. I’ll see if I can’t find someway to help.” Her expression became determined and she rose to her feet. “Mia, make sure the girls finish their dinners. I’ll be back soon.”
“Of course, mother,” the goblin girl replied.
Salia stared after Lyrrekka as she left the room. What did she think she could do?
“Mummy will sort something out,” Karilya said confidently. “Mummy sorts everything out.”
“Well she’s very good,” Mia said. “But she had that ‘I’m going to butt heads with Gerian-mirian’ look on her face. That doesn’t always end well. Still he claims that he wants to keep you happy.” She tapped Salia’s plate meaningfully with her fork. “Now eat up. I’m sure she’ll be back soon one way or another.”
Lyrrekka still hadn’t returned by the time they had finished dinner, so Mia took them through to Karilya’s play room and began sorting through her games for something for them to play. Salia sighed heavily again; she really was not in the mood for play. She sat down in one of the chairs and pulled her knees up to her chin. Karilya gave her a long, thoughtful look and then slipped out of the room. She returned a few moments struggling with a strange, stringed, wooden thing which was nearly as big as she was. Salia stared at it curiously – it looked like some sort of musical instrument.
“Mia,” Karilya said. “This.”
Mia looked around at her and rushed over. “Careful, Kari! You’ll damage it.” She took it from her sister and laid it flat on the table, string side up. “You want me to play for you?”
“Yes, please,” Karilya said. “I don’t think Salia’s in the mood for fun and music is good when you’re sad.”
“That’s a good thought.” Mia sat down, put some pointed things on her fingers and began to pluck the strings. An obviously sour note made her scowl. “Give me a moment. You knocked it out of tune mauling it like that.”
Salia stared at it some more. It was definitely some sort of musical instrument then, but she had never seen anything similar played by the musicians at home.
“What is that?” she asked, curiousity finally getting the better of her.
“This?” Mia asked as she tuned it. “It’s called an ekandria. I don’t think speakers have anything quite like it, but I believe humans have a similar instrument called a zither.” She plucked at the strings some more and then nodded. “That’s better. Settle down and I’ll play for you.” Her fingers began to dance across the strings, producing a melody which invoked the sound of rushing rivers and birdsong in Salia’s mind. Karilya clambered into the chair next to her and hugged her.
“Mummy will sort something out,” she whispered.
Salia didn’t argue, but she couldn’t believe that. The only solution she could see was for them to let her go and she knew that wasn’t happening. She laid her head on her friend’s shoulder, closed her eyes and listened to the music.
She didn’t realise she was crying until she felt someone dabbing at her eyes. She opened them and found Lyrrekka had returned. She looked tired but also very pleased with herself. She held up a hand to Mia who stopped playing.
“This took some fast talking on my part and he’s really not happy about it,” she said. “But would you like to send an imp to your mother? I’m sure she’ll be relieved to learn that we haven’t eaten you, and you should have enough energy to do it – though I know it’s hard work for heart friends since you’re stuck in resting form. I can help you if you need.”
“I can do it,” Salia said. “Mummy taught me. But can I really send one? You won’t stop it?”
“You can, dear, and we’ll let your mother reply as well, if it makes you happier. You can send it before you go to sleep. That way you’ll have time to recover from the effort. Why don’t you think through your message while Mia plays some more for us? She’s very good, isn’t she?” She cast a fond look at the goblin girl.
“Yeah.” Salia closed her eyes and began to formulate everything that had happened into a message as Mia began to play again.