Liadan is ten, and her mother is laughing. It’s a loud laugh, even with Da’s shoulder in the way as he spins her around, big hands on her back, big voice filling their kitchen.
Bethany squirms in Liadan’s grasp, kicking at her ankles and glaring when her big sister does not move. Her grip is practiced and one-armed, the other slung more gently about Carver’s sleepier, sturdier shoulders.
Liadan knows what Bethy wants to do. She wants to run to their parents, join in the silly dance. A part of Liadan does, too, but Ma doesn’t laugh well with a big audience, and she worries that if they step too close the tune will stop, and they’ll start worrying again about the new mage lights Bethany makes when she sleeps, and how much flour they have, and whether it’ll last. So Liadan holds her siblings back, and hums along at a distance.
Her father has a hand cupping Leandra’s cheek, his thumb brushing just under her eye, and he’s singing the song he made up—the long one, the silly one with words that don’t quite sit—and Ma joins in with small, breathless snatches. shaking her head as Da sings about how lovely they were, in a place Liadan has never seen.
A damsel possessed of great beauty,
As she stood at her own father’s gate
Oh, the mages there did their duty;
To view them this maiden did wait.
Their gifts were far grander than dancing,
Their enchantments shone like a star.
And as they worked did come advancing,
A fate for the fair Leandra
With their sashes hung o’er their shoulders,
How careless they seemed for to ride.
And warlike appeared this young mage boy
With his glittering staff by his side.
To the Gallows next morning so early
This damsel she went so far
Because she loved him sincerely
Young Malcom fit fair Leandra.
Oh, as she conversed with the mages,
These words she was heard for to say,
“Oh I’ve a heart no one bolder,
To follow my laddie away.”
“Well come, come,” says Malcom, ”be steady
And think of the dangers of war.
An apostate’s life is not the kind one,
Wed me not, fair Leandra.”
“Your parents, you’re bound for to mind them
Or else you are for ever undone.
They will leave you no portion behind them,
So I pray you my company shun.”
Says she, “If you will be true-hearted
I have gold at brother’s in store.
And from now we no more will be parted,
I will be your fair Leandra.”
As he gazed on her beautiful features
Oh, the tears they did fall from each eye.
“I will wed with this beautiful creature
And shun cruel wars,” he did cry.
So now they’re united together,
And think of them where they’re afar,
Maker bless now and for ever,
Young Malcom and fair Leandra.