Part 13

“Muse was a good friend of mine for a very long time,” began Joy.

“I remember her from when we were both young.  She was not unlike you; she valued her independence and was not seen out in public, much.  Mysterious Muse, I liked to call her.

“I liked to think that I was able to draw her out of herself, keep her from believing too much in her own enigma.  Oh the mortals, they like to make a great deal of how elusive and temperamental and shy the Muse is.  But you know, she was a person too, and I tried to make sure she did not forget it.

“I think she did, though, despite my efforts.  She withdrew into herself and for years no one saw Muse, not even me, her friend for so long.  I don’t think she was happy with life, not happy with her place.  I remember she used to say to me, before I stopped seeing her entirely; ‘It’s easy for you, you are Joy, it’s in your nature to be happy and content.  I’m given far too much towards brooding about things.  I cannot help it.’

“Then one day I saw her again, she came to visit me.  I was surprised, for it had been so long.  She looked fragile, insubstantial, and I feared she had allowed herself to fade.  We spoke of little, for I didn’t know what to say, and she offered no explanation for herself.  Then she stood up, of a sudden, and walked away.  I asked her; ‘Where are you going?’ and she replied, ‘Only the Mother knows.’

“That was the last time I saw her.  Soon after, there came a new Muse, bright and young and fresh from the Lake.  With her arrived Dream, whom no one had ever known, before.  But now I tell a needless story to the ones who already know it.”

Joy fell quiet.  Muse sat still and silent for a moment, then shifted and glanced at Dream.  “I have always thought that my predecessor lived so long and become so powerful that she could no longer be contained in her body, and so became one with the music of the earth.  That is what they all say.”

“Yes, those that didn’t know her well.  It sounds pretty, but she did not look so very powerful and great to me, the last time I saw her.  She looked tired and lonely, and a little confused, as if she was not fully here and did not feel she belonged where she stood.”

Wisdom spoke up: “And where she went is a mystery.  Perhaps she lingers in the fabric of the world, perhaps she faded and disappeared.  Perhaps her spirit was reborn in you.  Even I do not have the answers to that.”

“No one knows what lies beyond the here and now,” said Dream.  “Perhaps it is for the best.”

“I do not think I’ll share the old Muse’s fate,” Muse decided with a shake of her head.

“Perhaps not,” Wisdom allowed.  “But we all depart eventually, even if we do not die in the way that mortals do.  Wisdom, Joy, Muse, and Dream will live on, but not the same four who sit here today.”

Muse caught a knowing little smile creep across Dream’s face, before she nodded in agreement, and wondered at what she might be thinking.

They took leave of Wisdom and Joy later in the day, after spending a more pleasant time together, not discussing weighty measures of life and undeath.  Muse and Wisdom were both of them given to mulling over these things, but Joy and Dream had only so much patience for it.  When they took their leave, the shadows of twilight were just falling over the trees.

With the dusk and Dream’s beckoning came the dreamravens, emerging from thin air as tendrils of smoky dark and forming into birds the nearer they came.

“I don’t find these as frightful as you might think,” said Muse as they mounted their birds.  “I think I would like to see what other creatures you keep in the Forest with you.”

“Don’t you wish to return to your cottage?”

“My cottage will be there whenever I return to it, there is no urgency about it.”

“Very well, then, homewards we go, my pet,” Dream spoke to her bird.  It lifted off the ground, and Muse’s followed after.

Muse did not think she could ever become quite so pitiful as the old Muse, the faded Muse, who would turn her back on her dear friend and resign herself to a wasted-away half existence of solitude for no other reason than that she felt tired of living.

If Dream thought this was what she was doing, by refusing Love, she could not be right.  Love was not her Joy, Dream was.  She understood this now.  They were sisters, come from the Lake together, and however strange and awkward Dream had made her feel in the past, now was the time to embrace the enigma that was her twin.  Love played no part in this, and she was quite sure that he need not mean anything to her, for there was no danger from the lack of him.

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