Friday, July 26, 2013
Cheri - Epilogue
As I stated in the final chapter, I omitted the epilogue. The last chapter ended on a note of hope, and that's exactly where I wanted to leave it, however, I was watching a video by Lindsey Stirling, and it occurred to me that one of the magical things about Cheri is that she loves to play the violin (fiddle) and takes such joy in it. It inspired me to write an entirely new epilogue which I am posting here for you all to enjoy :-)
“Mama, what's that?” Princess Shurin – now six years old – asked her mother.
Chèri, Reiki, and their older children all looked up to see what she was referring to.
“That's her fiddle, silly!” Princess Leelee chided almost impatiently.
“What's a fiddle?” Shurin wondered curiously.
Reiki hummed in speculation. “When's the last time you played that?”
“Forever ago,” Chèri murmured to her husband sadly. She hadn't had the time since Shurin was a toddler and Chèri started helping her husband with his duties more. She gestured for the young princess to bring the fiddle to her.
As soon as Shurin was settled in her lap, Chèri kissed her cheek, and then held up the instrument. “This is a magical device that brings joy to all who hear it. When played with love, this fiddle could bring tears to an old man's eyes. It could make a new bride burst with happiness. It could stop a war!”
Prince Reiki snorted in amusement, not bothering to look up from his studies. “No it can't!”
“Yes it can,” his mother assured him. She looked around at her family, a frown tugging at her lips. The Emperor was busy working, her son and older daughter were both studying, she was helping her husband, and Shurin was obviously bored with the book she had been reading. Even Ran and Ko looked like they wished they were somewhere else on such a beautiful day.
A smile spread across Chèri's lips. “Hmm... why don't we all take a break. It's a beautiful day out; why not go for a palanquin ride?”
“That's a brilliant idea!” Emperor Reiki agreed immediately. Ko responded by sending a servant to have the palanquin readied. The Imperial family prepared themselves for an impromptu trip, then departed when everything was ready.
Chèri ordered the palanquin bearers to take them into Nortown. She tuned her fiddle as they went, humming absently. Her children stared out the veils of the palanquin with interest; no one could see in but they could see out.
The center of town was busy as usual. People went about their lives – selling food and wares in the market or buying what they needed to cook dinner. Children from the temple ran around playfully under the watchful eye of their priestesses. All in all, it was noisy and utterly different than life in the Inner Palace.
Chèri spotted several people she knew and felt compelled to call out a command to stop. “Stay here, my loves,” she bade her children, giving each a kiss on the cheek. Her husband smiled wistfully, knowing that she would be treated far more to her liking if the people believed that she traveled alone.
“Salya!” Chèri called out with a genuine smile.
“Lady Chèri!” Salya cried happily. “It's been ages since I saw you!”
“Lady Chèri!” The people of Nortown murmured, pleased to see her. Those that had been close to her back when she was a young woman living with her father circled around her so that she could hug them and greet them as if they were her dearest friends.
“What brings you here today?” They all asked, proud that the First Queen paid them a visit.
Chèri held up her fiddle as she slowly twirled in a circle, grinning wider than she could remember doing in a long time. “I just wanted to play my fiddle, and what good is playing without an audience?”
Word of this quickly spread, and soon there was an enormous crowd piled into the center of town. They gave her plenty of room, circling around her like children listening to a storyteller. The excitement made everyone chatter while they waited, but suddenly they all fell silent.
Chèri strode to the center of her “stage” and smiled at as many people as she could before closing her eyes. She took a deep breath and prayed that she remembered what she was doing. A moment later, she began to play one of the hauntingly beautiful tunes she had learned as a child in a foreign country. It started out slowly, almost heartbreakingly.
And then it picked up until it was as lively as a wedding celebration. She hopped in time with the music for a few seconds, but the urge to dance was too strong. She was light on her feet, dancing back and forth across her stage to the rhythmic clapping of her audience. A couple of women gathered the courage to dance with her, priding themselves on their graceful footwork.
The song went on and on because Chèri just did not want to stop. She was having too much fun! It was well deserved fun too!
The crowd parted when prompted to by the Imperial Guards. A moment later, Leelee was also dancing with her mother, but Shurin merely bounced and clapped a few feet in front of her mother. She didn't know how to dance yet, even so, she was determined to learn one day. She also vowed to learn to play the fiddle. Mama was right! It is magic!
The Emperor and his son remained in the palanquin because neither knew how to dance and neither liked the idea of being in front of so many people. Besides, it would likely ruin everyone's fun if they realized that the Emperor was among them. They would feel the need to drop to their knees and bow to him.
Reiki smiled as he watched his wife. With a love-filled sigh, he admitted to his son: “I fell in love with her at first sight. I wasn't sure at first, but the more I saw her, the more I loved her. When I discovered that she could play the fiddle and entertain a crowd, I was lost beyond all hope of recovery.”
Prince Reiki shook his head, grumbling: “I didn't need to know that.” But deep down, he liked hearing such things. In his studies, he learned about the past Emperors and their many wives. Hearing how his father had married for love made him think about the future and what kind of Emperor he wanted to be.
“Will I be allowed to marry for love?” The young Prince asked.
Reiki sighed a bit sadly. “Only if you fall in love with a woman from one of the Eight Great Clans. Not even I can change the law to let you take a common bride. Even trying would probably cause a war.”
Squaring his shoulders, the Emperor emerged from his palanquin. As predicted, those closest to him gasped and fell to their knees. Prince Reiki curiously decided to stand next to his father and watch as the entire crowd slowly stopped clapping and knelt to bow to their Emperor. Chèri was oblivious as she continued to play – lost in her own little world.
Emperor Reiki strode confidently to his wife, reaching her just as she finished playing her song. She panted from the exertion – her cheeks flushed from the bliss of playing her beloved instrument. She looked at him, her heart overflowing with her love for him.
To his delight, she flung her arms around him and gave him a kiss like she used to when they were first married. The crowd squealed in joy – gleeful to witness such a rare and spectacular event. Leelee and Shurin gasped in shock – they hadn't really seen their parents kiss before – and then clapped in relief and happiness that their parents still loved each other so much.
Their kiss continued for a long time, both so lost in it that they didn't even notice their audience. To them, time itself melted away, stripping away everything. They were left with nothing but their essence and a love that had withstood the test of time and was now deeper than either had thought possible.