You Can’t Jump the Track
Notes echoed harmoniously through the halls near her room. Her slender fingers carefully but proficiently picked out notes, and a steady stream of air filled the strange pipe instrument; from glossy lips. Her beautiful face was relaxed, with her eyes closed as if it took no effort to play what so ever. The tune was smooth, stead, and beautiful. Every part of it flowed together somehow. She’d memorized the tune because of the many times she had played it. But she was coming to the part that didn’t exist, at least not yet.
Every other time that she’d played the unwavering tune to the ‘end’ it hadn’t sounded right. Like something was missing. She’d played it over and over again trying to make the last missing part just flow into place. But every time she tried she came up short and her ears would scream in protest for the end of the song that never came. But this time there was no screaming it was like her fingers knew exactly what notes to play. She heard the rest of the tune in her head as if she had memorized it long ago and it was coming back to her, she played as it came.
As the last note trailed off, she could still hear the ending phrase of the song echoing in her head. Then she heard something real, something outside of her head. Words but not anything that went with the song.
“…play…Time.” The voice was feint, but it was there. She opened her bright green eyes and looked around for its owner but no one was near. “You can-save him.”
A shiver went all the way from the dark sapphire hair on the back of her neck down to her toes. The echo of the song was gone now and so was the voice. She held her blue pipe loosely at her side as she wondered who had spoken, and what they had meant by ‘Play time’ and ‘You can save him’. No one that she knew of was in danger.
Thunder and lightning struck outside just as something furry and wet brushed her hand and she quickly looked down. She laughed softly at what had made her jump.
“Aqua you scared me. How did you get in here anyway? Last I saw of you was down in the dinning hall at lunch.” She smiled. “And why are you wet, did you fall in the wash bucket again?” She said with the hint of a laugh. “Or have you been playing out in the rain?”
The creature’s small sky-blue eyes blinked up at her looking innocent but she knew better. Her pet was anything but innocent. ‘Possessed’ was a commonly used word by the kitchen staff around feeding time. Aqua’s mouth opened and she let out a small noise half way between a tiger cub’s meow and a wolf pup’s bark.
“Don’t give me that you trouble making Furwin,” she laughed.
In response to that Aqua jumped up on the girl’s shoulder and rubbed her wet body against her cheek. She was a baby, about the size of a big squirrel, and wouldn’t be getting that much bigger by the time she was full-grown. She was a Winged Furwin and full grown they only get to be about two to two and a half feet tall. They’re troublesome creatures as babies but when they get older they can be very smart and fun-loving creatures.
A swift knocking sound met her ears. Aqua jumped off of her shoulder as she called to invite the person in. The door creaked open and quick footsteps made their way toward her. When they stopped she glanced up. It was Garth Robinson, the prince’s guard and a good friend of hers.
“Oh, Robinson I’m so glad you came by. You know the song that I was working on? The one that I couldn’t find the ending phrase to.”
“My lady there’s something-“
“I finally found it. It was like it just came to me,” she said excitedly not noticing his shaky demeanor.
“That’s wonderful. But I’m afraid-“
She cut him off, “I was playing through it again just like I have hundreds of times already, and it was like I’d had the ending all along. I just knew what to play, it was… Here I’ll just play it for you.”
“My lady.” He said urgently.
“Do you want me to start at the beginning or just play the ending phrase? Oh I’ll just play the whole thing then you can hear it flow together.” She said not hearing the urgent note in his voice.
She brought the blue instrument to her lips, set her fingers for the first note, and began to blow. Playing the same harmonious tune she had earlier.
“Safira.” Robinson said in a dry scratchy voice.
This made her stop playing and look over at him. He took his job as a guard seriously and always addressed her as ‘My Lady’ unless it was something terrible. It was only then that she noticed how pale his face was and how shaky he looked. As if he’d just seen a ghost.
“Robinson, what is it? What’s happened?” She asked urgently.
“It’s. They were. There was an ambush.” He could barely get the words out. “He was trying to save… a hooded figure. I don’t know who but… Saf I’m sorry.”
He did not have to say anything else. From his stance Safira could tell what had happened. She let out a gasp and her pipe slipped from her grasp. It fell to the floor and shattered.
Safira tucked a strand of her curly hair behind her ear and raised the Voice of Time to her lips. It was three days ago that she had finished the song that she was about to play. But this was not what she had envisioned. She had wanted to play it for him not for his funeral. A tear fell from her eye when she remembered that he had never had a chance to hear it and now he never would.
Emotionlessly she blew air through the instrument and stiffly moved her fingers through the notes. The song had sounded so elegant and beautiful when she had finally finished it. Now, playing it for his funeral, it sounded hollow like it was made for a funeral march. The cold sound echoed across the castle grounds as family and citizens wept for their lost prince.
Robinson had asked Safira to play it. He had been the only one that ever heard it and he thought that it was a good idea for everyone else to hear it. She couldn’t say that she agreed but she was playing without an argument. At first she had told him that her flute had broken when she dropped it so she would not be able to play but a new one was provided for her.
The Voice of Time, as it was called, was the most treasured instrument in the country, it was said in myth and legend that it had ‘magical powers. She supposed that she should feel honored just to be holding it let alone playing it. But for all it was worth, it meant nothing to her. She missed her own pipe, Oceans Echoes, which she’d carelessly dropped. The Voice of Time felt strange and foreign in her hands. It felt heavy, like a burden that took too much effort to play. She recalled the voice she had heard when she finished playing the song in her room. It had said ‘Play Time’ had it meant ‘Play the Voice of Time?’ She went through the song as well as she could, but it just didn’t sound the same as it had before.
She neared the end of the song. The last phrase, the one that had come to her just before the news of his death. This would only be the second time she played it and she hoped that she didn’t forget any parts. Carefully and slowly she went through the last piece of the song. Every note echoed louder than the last sounding as if they were traveling far away. She closed her eyes and tried to forget where she was and just play as if her were still there. It seemed to work.
The last part of the song sounded different. Like it wasn’t real, like she’d left it behind somewhere and she wasn’t hearing herself playing but an echo from another time. Tears seeped through her closed eyes and ran down her cheeks. She held out the last note of the song until she didn’t have the breath left to hold it any longer.
With her face toward the ground she opened her green eyes slowly and lowered the Voice of Time away from her lips. It felt cold to the touch even though she’d just spent at least ten minutes blowing arms air through it. She looked up through cloudy vision expecting to see his royal coffin being lowered beneath the earth, but there was nothing, just empty grass.
Her mind leapt, had it all been a dream? Then what was she doing standing in the middle of the burial courtyard. Sleep walking? A remaining tear fell from her eye. A dream that had felt so real that she’d cried in her sleep?
A noise met her ear. And something light rested on her shoulder. Aqua?
“What happened girl? Dreaming…” She reached to pet her but something was grasped in her hand already. The Oceans Echoes… no it had broken. She was holding the Voice of Time instead of her own instrument. It had been real. She was not dreaming. But if it had been real where had everyone gone? They were here only moments ago when she’d begun the song. Where was his coffin, his tombstone? What happened?
She looked around. Everything else was in place. The only thing missing was the funeral ceremony and all the guests. She turned to the gate and walked swiftly toward it, Aqua still on her shoulder. The gatekeeper gave her an odd look as she approached but she dismissed it. He opened the gate as she neared and she continued swiftly through. Just as she entered the castle gardens beyond the burial grounds the clock rang eleven hour.
Eleven… the funeral had taken place at sunset and now the sun was clearly visible almost directly over head. What was going on? She was walking toward the garden entrance to the castle when she heard voices. She turned and looked behind her. There was no one there. A door opened, she spun around and collided with someone causing Aqua to fall off of her shoulder.
“Whoa there. Why in such a… Safira? What are you doing out here I thought you were playing the Oceans Echoes in your room in the castle?” a soft voice said.
She couldn’t believe her ears. It couldn’t be… could it? She looked up to see the face of the person that caught her and gasped lightly.
“How- what are you doing here?” she managed to ask.
“What am I doing here?” he laughed. “Saf you crack me up sometimes.” He continued to laugh.
“But you were de- gone.” She said.
“Gone? No we haven’t left yet. Saf is there something wrong? You seem shaken up.” He looked concerned.
“You haven’t left yet…” she said more to herself, trying to figure out what was happening.
“No not yet we were heading that way though… Are you sure you’re all right.”
“Leave for where?” she asked ignoring his question.
He still looked concerned and slightly confused. “The trip we’re making for the peace treaty. Saf it has been planned for months. You can’t mean that you don’t remember.”
Safira was silent. That had been three days ago. Before Robinson had told her.
“What’s the date today?” She asked adding to his bewilderment.
He hesitated before answering her, “it’s the 45th of the 1st season.”
The 45th. That was three days ago… no it’s today. Safira recalled how the end of her song sounded; like it wasn’t real, like she’d left it behind somewhere and she wasn’t hearing herself playing but an echo from another time. Was she really back to the day that he was going to die? How could this have happened? Faintly she heard it again, the notes of the song as if they were traveling some great distance to get to her. The 45th of the 1st was happening again. But that meant that she could warn him. She could save him.
“You can’t go. You have to stay here. You have to stay because- because.” She couldn’t bring herself to say he was going to die.
“Saf. Saf, calm down. What do you mean I can’t go? Why do I have to stay is something wrong?” he was holding her firmly by the upper arm and looking into her eyes.
She looked straight into his eyes and couldn’t believe that he had ever died.
“You can’t go. You won’t come back.” She said shaking her head slightly.
“What are you talking about? I’ll be back in a week. If things go well it could be sooner. What is all this about Saf? You’ve been fine with it since we planned it, why the second thoughts?” he asked
“Because…” she barely whispered.
How could she explain that she knew he was going to die? How could she tell him that she knew there was an ambush planned and when it would happen? How could she tell him that she’d already lived this and didn’t want it to end the same way that it had the first time?
“I just… I’m going to miss you. Couldn’t I just go along?” she pleaded.
“Saf you can’t. You have to stay and help your mother. Remember? You can’t leave her alone for a week.” The guard behind him whispered something in his ear, and he nodded.
“We have to get going if we are to arrive on schedule. Are you going to be okay?” he asked.
She nodded and whispered, “yes.”
“All right.” He smiled and kissed her on the head. “See you soon okay.”
She looked into his eyes and thought she’d cry.
“Okay.” She said quietly.
He gave her a swift hug and continued on his way she looked after him. What else could she do except follow him? She had to save him. Being here, and knowing what was going to happen, she had to do something.
She stood still. Aqua jumped back up and rubbed her cheek. She thought for a moment, watching him go. When he and his guards had gone out of sight Safira silently followed. They were heading to the front gates where there were sure to be horses waiting for them. Instead Safira turned and hurried toward the castle’s horse stalls. She wouldn’t ride after him in her blue and green royal robes; she’d never be able to stay out of sight.
Quickly she discarded her old clothes and dressed in black riding pants, a grey shirt under a leather vest, and brown boots. She hastily grabbed some string and tied her dark curly hair out of her face. And last, she grabbed a dark hooded cloak to put on over her clothes. It looked like rain.
When she left the changing room the stable keeper was waiting for her with Bluebird, the horse she always rode when traveling. Fortunately when she traveled it was to practice her bow and arrow skills and, assuming this was the only reason for her leaving, he had readily equipped Bluebird with her bow and arrow.
She thanked him before taking the reins and leading Bluebird out of the stable. As she walked outside she looked up. Clouds were beginning to cover the sun and it looked like rain would soon begin to fall. She hadn’t noticed that three days ago- no today. Leading Bluebird by the reins she walked straight to the gate of the castle grounds. She would not be simply permitted to go through this gate on sight. She would need a reason.
“My Lady.” The guard said acknowledging her. “What is your business outside the castle walls?”
“I wish simply to refresh my archery skills. Can you not see that my horse is equipped to do so?” she explained.
“Yes I can, I am sorry for the delay My Lady. Continue.” He said.
She nodded briefly at him and led Bluebird out the enormous gate. Once free of the castle walls she mounted and began riding through the city. After a few inquiring questions as to why Prince Zachary’s fiancé was leaving the city by herself, she pulled up the hood of the cloak and became invisible to everyone. They didn’t care about a hooded figure nearly as much as they cared about the prince’s fiancé.
Quick as she could, she made her way through the city crowds. Some people yelled at her for trampling their feet with her horse but she didn’t care. She had to catch up to him. She had to save him. When she was within sight of the outer city wall she urged Bluebird to a trot. There weren’t as many people here and it was easier to maneuver through them. Once she made it to the wall she put Bluebird into a canter and then a full out run. The wind on her face blew back the grey hood of her cloak.
She knew the path that the delegation was taking well. They had gone over their course many times to ensure the safety of the prince, but that wasn’t enough. The purpose of their trip was a peace treaty, but it was an act. They were leading the prince outside the safety of the castle walls so they could ambush him, kill him, and send a message that there would be no peace treaty, at least, not for a very long time.
After traveling at a full out run for a little while, Safira pulled back on the reins to slow Bluebird to a trot. They had planned to make good time and would be well on their way by now. But they had also planned to stop and give the horses a drink at the river every hour, and look at their progress.
She slowly made her way through the trees looking and listening for any sign of the peace treaty delegation. It was eerily silent for a wood full of animals and something didn’t seem right. The silence was broken a few moments later by hurried and hushed voices up ahead. Safira pulled back on the reins again to stop Bluebird. She dismounted and tied Bluebird to a nearby tree. She set Aqua on Bluebird and told her to stay there. A drop of water hit her hand; it was starting to rain.
She pulled her hood on once again, removed the bow and arrow from Bluebird’s saddle, and quietly made her way toward the voices.
“How long?” one of them asked.
“It looks like they’ve been here a few days sire. They are too many and too well armed to be an escort part.” She heard a second voice.
“Damn.” The first voice whispered. “They never wanted this peace treaty. It was a trap all along.”
Safira looked around the corner carefully. In a clearing all of the members of the delegation were hunched over a map and one of them had his finger on it.
“How many are there?” Zachary asked.
“At least fifteen, maybe twenty sire. I didn’t stick around to count.” Said the one with his finger on the map.
“And they’re just waiting there for us. Like a spider with a web.” He shook his head.
“Sire you know we cannot continue. We must go back and tell the king.”
There was silence for a few moments before he answered.
“You’re right. We cannot continue. This whole trip was to propose a peace treaty that we know they clearly don’t want. There’s no point in continuing. Pack up, we are going back.” He ordered.
Safira’s heart leapt. They were going back. He wasn’t going to die and she didn’t have to interfere at all. She could go back to the castle and wait for him, not having to worry at all. In fact if he didn’t die then she never dripped the Oceans Echoes and it never broke. She never had to play the song at his funeral because it never would have happened. And she wouldn’t have played the Voice of Time… and never would have come back in time. Meaning she wouldn’t be here right now. But she was.
Something wasn’t right. If they were going back and he wasn’t going to die why was she still here?
A loud blood-churning scream met her ears. Her eyes widened when she saw a body drop to the ground motionless and lifeless. Someone began yelling orders and soldiers rushed out of the trees at the edge of the clearing dressed in the army uniforms of the enemy. The scout had been wrong there weren’t twenty of them, there were more. And, being a peaceful delegation, there were only fourteen or fifteen of them. They were outnumbered and according to what she had already lived it wasn’t going to end well.
Steel clanged against steel as hateful sword met equally hateful sword. Safira stood frozen in place. Watching and observing but not wanting to. In the short amount of time it had taken for the battle to begin she had lost sight of Zachary. Her eyes rapidly searched the tangle of battle for him wishing and hoping.
It was disgusting. Some had fallen already, from both sides. Injured or dead it didn’t matter they were getting trampled by those still fighting for their lives. The air was becoming thick with the scent of blood and alive with the sound of screaming. They were ruthless in their attack not caring who or what they killed; some even stabbed their own.
A semi circle was forming on the other side of the clearing around three people. Once of which was Zachary. He was fighting with two enemy soldiers at once, a sword in each hand. His own soldiers were trying desperately not to let any more enemies get through to him. He quickly disposed of both of them using his nearly flawless swordsmanship but where they fell two more replaced them fresh and ready to fight.
The delegation may have been outnumbered but they made up for it in skill. Killing two, maybe even three of them before on of their own fell. But more and more of the enemy kept pouring out of the trees and where one fell two would always replace him. Safira didn’t take her eyes off of Zachary. He did not seem to tire, at this pace it looked as if he could kill them all. So how did he die?
Safira finally moved. She grabbed her bow and knocked an arrow to it. She took aim and released the arrow. It flew through the air and met its target in a matter of seconds. Struck in the back he let out a scream and fell to the ground. Silently Safira knocked another arrow to her bow and let it fly. It too, found its target. She continued to strike swiftly and silently from the shadows of the trees moving only when she needed to get a better aim.
Their numbers seemed to decrease, but slowly and the price and his men were finally beginning to tire. Safira knocked another arrow to her bow and aimed it at the soldier currently attacking Zachary. She took aim carefully because she did not want to miss. Just as she loosed the arrow someone yelled in her direction. She was now closer to the prince than before. Her arrow hit the mark and for a split second the prince turned and looked at her. Nothing else existed anymore. It was just her, him, and the soldiers that were trying to kill him.
She pulled another arrow to her bow and raised it. Someone was running up behind him ready to cut him down. She loosed the arrow and it found the heart of it’s target. But Zachary did not turn to see what she had shot down. He looked frightened.
He can’t have known who she was, her hood was drawn and her face shadowed. But with sword in hand he ran toward her not looking at her but past her. She turned and at the same time drew an arrow to her bow. Behind her stood someone with their sword raised to kill. Before she could loose her arrow he snapped her bow in half. Her only weapon fell to the ground broken by his sword. Water fell into her eyes and it was only then that she realized it was pouring rain.
Lightning flashed overhead and lit up the sword that was going to cut through her flesh and bone. She shut her eyes tight and waited expecting the blow to come. But instead she heard the clash of steel. She opened her eyes and saw Zachary in a lock with the enemy soldier.
“Run!” he yelled at her.
His blade was slipping and it looked as if he was being overpowered.
“I said run!” he yelled again.
But she couldn’t move. She couldn’t do anything. She watched a split second longer before his blade was thrust down and he was hit in the chest with the enemy’s. He fell to the ground and lay unmoving.
The person that had killed him turned to her but instead of raising his blade to kill her he spoke in a harsh emotionless tone.
“Tell your king there will be no peace treaty. And take your prince as a sign of what is to come.” Then to his fellow soldiers he yelled. “Fall back! We are done here!”
Safira stared at his body and fell to her knees. Tears fell from her hooded eyes again as she realized what happened. She couldn’t save him; she couldn’t change the past, because she had caused it. She was the hooded figure that Robinson had told her about, and she had caused his death. She was responsible and she alone. If only she hadn’t come back. If only she’d never played the Voice of Time. If only she could tell herself not to come back.
But she could. Robinson hadn’t told her that he died yet, at least not the her in this time. If she could just warn herself there might still be a chance.
She stood quickly without looking at his body. She didn’t want to believe it, and she didn’t want to see it either. She left the broken remains of her bow and went to find Bluebird, her determination building. She had one last chance to warn herself not to save him. One last chance.
She rode Bluebird, as fast as she could go, back to the city. She had to beat the messenger that brought news of his death. Bluebird’s hooves beat against the muddy ground as the rain poured down in sheets. She hardly slowed down in the streets either; people had to jump out of her way, most cursing after her. She flew through the castle gate to the front doors, and dismounted hurriedly Aqua on her shoulder. Somewhere the clock rang four hour but the chime didn’t sound as it usually did, it sounded almost like… her song. The one she played at the funeral, the one that had taken her back in time.
Her stomach lurched. It couldn’t end now she just had to tell herself one little thing. It had to last a while longer. Soaking wet she ran as fast as she could to get her room where she would be finishing the song for the first time again. She took the stairs two at a time and almost ran over a servant. She reached her door and grabbed for the handle but her hand went right through it. She tried again but still couldn’t grab it.
She could hear herself nearing the end of the song. She tried again to grab the handle but still her hand passed right through. But that gave her an idea. Her idea made her stomach twist even more but she had to try. She took a deep breath and stepped right through the door into her own room. Aqua who was still on her shoulder jumped down and went over to look up at her twin.
As the last note ended Safira could still hear the ending phrase to her song. This was her only chance. But when she tried to speak it didn’t all come out.
“…play…Time.” Her voice was feint, she watched herself look around for her but for some reason she couldn’t see her. Safira tried again, “You can-save him.” Was all that she could get out.
Thunder and lightning struck outside as Safira watched Aqua, her Aqua, brush her past self’s fingers. The scene unfolded exactly as it had when she lived it; she was simply watching it this time instead of living it.
After the knock at the door Aqua jumped off of her past self and up onto her shoulder again and the song became louder in her ears. Suddenly the Voice of Time was at her lips and she was ending the song all over again at the funeral. As she ended the last note she realized something. The warning she’d just attempted to give herself was the exact same one she’d heard and it hadn’t made a difference. She breathed in as tears streamed down her cheeks but no one saw because they were mixed with the rain that was beginning to pour.
A/N: What do you think? Do you hate me for the ending? (everyone in my class did, ha) I know the grammer and punctuation is atrocious but I wrote this story a few years ago for an assignment in high school. I've been thinking about developing an actual storyline with it and would like feedback on the potential. If you leave me a review I will gladly return the favor on a story of your own.
Please and Thank You,