He sat in the dawn at top of a Shenkuuvian foothill, fiddle couched under his arm. In one hand, he held a bow carved out of dark wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl shining rainbow against the night-dark grains. Pure white threads curved the bow, iridescent, luminous. The fiddle itself, as the Lupe pulled it out and set it beneath his fire-mottled chin, was formed out of the same wood, the same silken thread. The tuning pegs were also covered with mother-of-pearl, and designs – flowing, almost like Maractite glowing against shadows – slithered across the wood, alive in the corner of the eyes.
Black hands gloved in flame pressed against the wood, held delicately the bow so that stand sat against shining strand, and, very carefully, gently, like a mother caressing her child's hair, drew out a single yearning note. His lips twitched; whether in smile or frown was impossible to tell, and coal-colored eyes closed, covered with eyelids of ash. He tilted the bow, touched it to the next string, sounded each tone in turn, single pure notes ringing out with all the emotion of a song: deepest note the sorrow of a child waking along; highest the ecstatic joy of a young girl learning to fly; mid-strings summer-sweet love and the crystallized fire of deep-set rage.
Then he nodded, satisfied, and began to play.
On the stage of a private theatre, a red Xweetok wove silk veils around her body, shooting teasing glances behind her with a twitch of her tail and glide of her feet across the warm wood floor. She couldn't see her audience; the spotlight glaring down on her with all the heat of a sun was the only light in the room. She knew there were at least five people watching from the breathing and shifting movements that filled the gaps of the laboring harpist's notes, but she didn't know who, or why they were here, or even why she was here, dancing with no heart and soul, but enjoyed despite herself.
Her eyes filled with tears and she looked away, automatically blending her motion into the dance: kneel and pull the golden veil across like a pair of wings; throw up the silver veil as iridescent snowy breath. A whisper of a violin caught her attention, and for a heartbeat she stilled. Then the silver veil landed, and the violin wove around the harp, strengthening it, giving her melody and strength and a soul to dance to, though she had none of her own.
She danced, eyes closed, unaware of the private wars being fought in the shadowed room before her, unaware of the revolution slowly sweeping the streets, unaware of any world but her own private pain, quenched for once in the beauty of a crying violin.
The sun rolled by overhead, burning down on the world. The Lupe just tilted his head up to meet its sweet rays, and his violin glistened, rose and maroon and dusk-blue almost showing in the ebony wood. The mother-of-pearl swept across the shadows, radiating light, and the cloud-white strings continued to sing across the wild world.
In the slums of Neopia Central, a rainbow Ogrin stepped up to a microphone and began to speak.
His red-furred hands were covered by black leather gloves, and he clasped them tight around the microphone as he crooned soft words of homecoming to the assembled crowd. His spring-green hips, visible between low-hung cargo pants and a tight, high-tied, exercise shirt, swung softly to the beat of music only he could hear. A violin played high and wild inside his head as he half spoke, half sung, words that had come to him in the middle of the night, when the violin had begun to play for him, drawing words behind its melodic phrase:
Move your body, clap your hands,
We are more than almost-rans.
We got beat but now we're back,
It's time to pick up all the slack.
We got heart and we got soul,
It's time to show them how we roll.
We got legs and we got hands,
It's time to reclaim all our lands.
There's no justice where we roam—
It's time to reclaim all our homes.
Violet eyes, violent eyes, opened above the microphone, and there was a moment where silence filled the square with the hiss of an unused microphone. Then, slowly, the crowd of bullies and victims, the homeless and diseased, the castaways and the ignored, the beaten and broken and bruised, began to roar.
Tears rolled across the Lupe's molten skin as he continued to play, swaying and dancing alone on his hill, violin unmarked by the fire that raged around his body, growing more intense as the music continued to build.
Inside the shelter of the bushes' thick leaves, a mottled green-and-brown Krawk curled up in a ball. The thick scales that lined his backside were all the world could touch, and even they were hidden, camouflaged against the shadowed greenery around him. A little green body sprinkled with white nestled in his arms, safe from the world. The camouflage Krawk could feel his daughter shiver, and held onto calm with the last vestiges of strength. He listened to the noise around them, the shouts and screams and cracks of stones hitting together, bitter noises of rage and fear finally let loose.
The park was safe. It always had been. He wasn't allowed inside anymore, but even the thick edges held some protective magic, for violence would not touch the bushes, nor fire, nor anything but safety and, most of the time, joy.
Soft strains of a violin filtered through the leaves, coming from the center of the park. The Krawk caught his breath, turned towards it. It was beautiful, reminiscent of a lullaby his mother had sung when he was his daughter's age. Slowly, the Krawk began to sing.
Watch for the waters in the night
Where the moon floats by, calm and bright,
Her soft words fall with starshine
To your heart, sweet child of mine.
In the darkness of the lake,
Your life is your own to make.
So chose your path with love and care
And find your heart, my child so fair.
So hush little child, your time will come,
With love and light and pure gold sun
Shining on your face so sweet,
Holding you 'till your dreams you can meet.
His daughter stirred, shifted, the truly innocent smile of a baby cresting along her jaw.
The sun sank behind the Lupe, casting his flame-scattered shadow on the slope in front of him. It bent and danced like the fire he resembled, whole body caught up in playing the dark violin shining in his blackened hands.
High above the streets, in the shadows of chimneys and skyscrapers, a yellow Shoyru watched the fires begin. She smiled to herself, a sad smile, and listened to the melancholy strains of a violin that whispered through the steel city, speaking of places beneath the earth where fire raged and consumed all that it touched. Black stone and red flame; obsidian sharp enough to cut even a Bori's back; hidden places that glowed with deep red eyes...
She closed her eyes and began to sing, weaving her voice into the melodies others had given the violin's dark song:
We cannot give of ourselves
Without giving our all;
Destroy what we can't save
As we forget to fly, and fall.
Sing a song of sorrow,
Tell a story love long lost;
We can't quench the fires
Except with broken frost.
Beneath her, she heard shouts and screams and breaking glass, and tears fell from her eyes as she whispered, to the falling strains of the violin, the final stanza of her song: "It isn't what you asked for, but it wasn't what you needed – sing a song of joy for me, and your words will be heeded."
She curled up, wrapping herself into golden wings, and cried.
The violinist heard the songs echoing back across continent and cold mountains. He didn't respond, not at first, but then, as his grip on the violin's bow loosened, introducing errors, screeches and stops and slips, he opened his eyes to the night sky, where the moon rose high above his head, and listened, truly listened, to the music he was playing for the first time all day.
What he heard broke his heart, and his music faltered and stopped for the first time that day.
As the final echoes of his song faded, the magma Lupe looked up to the stars, set his bow to the violin's strings, and began once more to play, but this time a gigue, full of light and joy, trying to set right all that he had done with his song of sorrow and magma pain.
A city set fire refuses to burn,
A dancer begins to heal her heart,
A father kisses his daughter's brow;
All performers know the power of art.
A musician plays dance and dirge,
A painter draws hunter and hart,
A writer shows all minds are one;
All craftsmen know the power of art.
It can draw you together or pull you apart—
All who create know the power of art.