While Medowin slept, and Laila kept house, Nine Trees went outside to the yard, to help with chores, a way to keep busy, and to help Laila, who still had her life to attend to, and had no intention of slacking off on the busy business of piemaking. He split wood, fed the chickens and goats, singing to himself the whole while and kept himself so busy that he was startled when Laila joined him, saying, “Come back in for lunch? The lady, your friend, is still sleeping.”
“No, she’s singing,” he said, looking to Laila. He dusted off his hands, and moved to follow her.
She, however, had stopped dead on the path back to the house and looked toward it, then back toward Nine Trees, saying, “No, she’s quite asleep. I’d hear her if she were singing.”
“Not that sort of singing,” Nine Trees said, turning pink at the ears. “I’m sorry. I have a feeling nothing of what we say for the next while will make any real sense to you,” he tells her, looking apologetic. “She doesn’t actually sleep — what she’s doing is reaffirming her knowledge of the songlore she holds, she–”
“Stop. Come in for lunch. Y’make my head dizzy with this nonsense,” Laila sighed.
While they sat, eating in silence for awhile, Laila looked increasingly uncomfortable, saying finally, “Try again. Maybe food has made my head more able to take it all in.”
Nine Trees took a deep breath in, let it out slowly, and then asked Laila, “How much of world creation do you know?”
“It’s forbidden for folk to know,” Laila said, watching him warily.
“That’s not what I asked. I need to know how much I should re-explain — it would be a huge waste of time if you already knew it,” he said, smiling, not unkindly.
“I don’t know how much I know,” Laila said, shrugging. “I know how I was told the world began, in the separation between the first inhale and exhale of all the gods–”
“True,” Nine Trees said, nodding. “Go on.”
“It came into being, and was given life. Each of the gods made life with their words, all of them, except for Sarad, who waited. He held his breath–” she went on.
“Do you know why?” Nine Trees interrupted.
“In Sarad’s name, would you stop talking over me?” Laila hissed. “I’m trying to tell you what I know!”
Nine Trees looked abashed, and made a gesture for her to keep talking, biting the insides of his cheeks to keep quiet.
“He held his breath because he was too busy watching his brothers and sisters. Raduli, who had gone first, made sound. Then name Oban, who made light. And all the rest, who made, well, everything else,” Laila said, waving her hands to illustrate glossing over such details, and moving on. “He was watching, and then the world was there, spinning, moving, full of rock and water, light and sound, fire and earth. And Sarad thought it was beautiful, but lacking. He reached down into the world, and he touched sound, and gave it life. And that was Medowin, whose name means song. But I don’t understand how that means she’s in my back bedroom, and I certainly don’t understand what it has to do with me.”
“She is song, yes,” Nine Trees began. “But she is also story, and verse, and the embodiment of word. She holds all the magic that song contains, and remembers every story ever made.”
Laila felt queasy at the scope of the concept, but waited, quiet, for Nine Trees to continue.
“She must remember them, so they can be legend, when the world ends, and is remade,” Nine Trees explained. “She is the keeper of all of them.”
“What do you mean when the world ends and is remade?” Laila whispered, her eyes wide.
“That part is abstract,” Nine Trees said wryly.
“How… how am I to be a part of all of this?” Laila asked. “A part of the world ending?”
“Ah,” Nine Trees said, nodding, believing he finally understood the young woman’s confusion. He tried to explain, “You’re no longer a piewoman. You’re not a part of the world ending, Laila.”
“What, am I to heal it, then?” she wondered, her eyes wide. “Do I bring peace to the realms, then, and stride across the world, banishing hunger and misery with pie?” she asked, the words half-scornful.
“No, you’re not listening,” Nine Trees sighed. “As I said, you’re not a part of the world ending–”
The more he spoke, the more Laila worried — something about his voice rang in her ears, echoed in her head, settled about her shoulders like a stifling pressure. It was Truth, and it was heavy.
“–you’re the one that ends it.”