Some say that magic is a metaphor. That magic can only be felt when listening to music or when falling in love. It’s something deep that seems it should be anything but natural, but it happens every single day. I cannot attest to falling in love, but I know how playing the violin makes me feel. Perhaps that is called magic.
Kira, my violin, sat in my lap for the duration of the carriage ride to my home for the autumn. Whenever my parents fell asleep, I plucked her strings quietly, trying to pass the time. It was a shame her bow was lost at the hands of the movers. I walked away for one moment, and they’d already thrown both violin and bow into a box. Luckily, Kira sat on top and did not suffer any damage. The bow, however, had new plans to help warm us in the winter.
“As soon as we locate a tutor for you, they shall join you on the farm,” Papa said as we began to unload the carriage.
“Help as much as you can, but don’t neglect your studies,” Mama added.
“You’ll be tested every lunday after you join us in court,” they said together.
My parents always thought and acted as a unit. That’s why they were such a fundamental part of the court. Born in opposing sides of the country, they became the unofficial symbol for the post-treaty land.
Because of their dedication to peace, however, it was difficult to have a true home, but we made the best of it. They kept me away from their politics as long as they could, but eventually I had to learn.
“Oh, sweet Sonya, I always hate to leave you.” Mama planted a gentle kiss on the top of my head. By the end of the season, I’d inevitably have to hunch down for her.
“I know, Mama, but I’ll join you in a few days. And remember you promised I could get a new bow in the city.”
“Of course.” Her eyes grew misty as they always did when we had to part ways for a time.
Papa stood by the carriage and gave his customary salute and wave before beckoning my mother to join him.
These moments were ordinary. They happened so often it shouldn’t have mattered. But, nonetheless, my stomach flittered like the glowing bugs in the darkening meadows around us.
Once I got settled, the kind farmer—Artem, he told me to call him—allowed me to wander the nearby meadows so long as I stayed within eyesight of the cottage.
Eagerly I raced into the night, the light of the full moon guiding my steps and Kira on my back. The glow of the cottage faded behind me, and the glow bugs multiplied in number. I stretched my arms out wide to brush the tips of the long grass. As if by magic, thousands of the specks of light flowed from behind me to fill the darkness. This was already becoming one of my favorite homes.
My parents always tried to keep me from the prying eyes of the cities we visited, but I always stayed a close walk away. In this place, I was far. There was so much space. I hoped I could get away with at least a week of exploring before the tutor arrived.
Nearby, a tree stood alone in the meadow, separate from the woods that lined the meadow. Thinking it could be a great lookout spot, I skipped over to inspect it.
True enough, it had smooth bark and low-hanging branches. I planned to climb it as soon as the sun announced the morning. Climbing it now would end in disaster, after all. Sighing, I leaned against its cool trunk. After a long day of sitting and sleeping, I wasn’t ready to go in. I pulled Kira around to my front and plucked her like a lute.
Mama’s favorite evensong fit the night. With the silver light of the moon glistening on the trees, I strummed away, and I thought I heard someone humming along.
“Lovely” a low voice said at the end.
It was so quiet I could’ve dreamt it. I hadn’t heard anyone approach, but I still looked around. There were no dents in the tall grass, nor was anyone hiding behind my lookout tree. I couldn’t make out the lumps of branches high in the tree, so I backed away in case someone were to jump down.
“You won’t find me, especially not in that tree.”
It sounded far off. It had to be in the woods. The cottage was luckily close enough to run to should this voice come after me.
“I won’t hurt you. Actually, I wanted to share something with you I think you’d like.”
“And what’s that?” Already, Papa had taught me to be diplomatic. He said to first find out what a stranger wanted because you don’t always have to run or fight. Talking can do just fine sometimes.
“It’s just a trick I think you can do with your instrument. I know a little music myself.”
“It was you humming then!”
“Indeed. Silver Night is one of my favorite evensongs. Will you let me teach you then? I’ll help this first time.”
I squinted at the woods, looking for some figure, but nothing seemed to move, even wildlife.
“I suppose. I must go in soon though.”
“Quickly then. Look at the glow bugs around you. Internalize them. Close your eyes and feel the warmth of their light.”
The bugs seemed to be settling down, but the focusing on the few left did bring me a certain joy. I closed my eyes and began to feel a warmth, a pool of light, growing in my stomach.
“Good, now open your eyes and pluck your favorite note.”
When I did, I jumped back, for a blue light leapt off the string. About the size of a glow bug, it hovered in the space between Kira and my face before fading into nothing.
The voice began to laugh, heartily, and I noticed that I heard it more in my head than through my ears. Even through the laughter, nothing moved in the woods.
“Magic, little one. I knew you had it.”
“What? Magic is—”
“Alive and well. I can teach you more if you like. But not tonight.”
“Who are you?”
“I will be a mystery to you for a little longer yet, but I promise not to harm you or let any harm come to you while under my guidance. Now off to bed. You need rest after your first spell.”
The voice was right about one thing. Bed called to me, so I slung Kira onto my back and stumbled back to the cottage. I took one last look at the woods before stepping instead and wondered what secrets it held.
Hope you enjoyed the first of this series of magic and music. I’ll be updating every week, so be sure to keep an eye out. And let me know what you think in the comments! Until next time!
About the Author
Amy King is a music theory and piano instructor currently residing in the Chicago area.
She holds a Master of Music in Music Theory and Cognition from Northwestern University (June 2020) and a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance and English Literature from High Point University (May 2016), where she received the Outstanding Senior Music Major Award, which is awarded to one single graduating music student per year.
Amy has been teaching private piano lessons for 12+ years, taught classroom music theory for 5 years, directed choirs spanning ages 4–25, led and arranged for a university a capella group, and composed and arranged music for various soloists and ensembles.