Chapter 8: The Gallery
“I’LL HAVE THE curried lentil soup and the green salad. Oh, and can I get an extra slice of bread with that?”
“Sure, no problem.”
Peggy smiled at the man across the counter and scribbled his order on her note pad. She was used to the extra-bread orders. This guy wasn’t a regular, but he knew all about the bread at the Queen B Café. The owner, Bea, was a wonderful cook and did all her own baking. People came from all over town for her homemade bread and pastries.
It was near the end of Peggy’s shift, and her feet were killing her. The hours of standing made her almost nostalgic for the constant bending of tree planting. She’d been working here for seven months, after school and on weekends, and she learned early on that Bea was a demanding boss who “ran a tight ship”, as she put it, and liked things done a certain way. But overall, Peggy had to admit that the Queen B was a pretty decent place to work.
At first, she’d taken the job because she hadn’t made enough from planting to allow her to move out on her own. But over time, the urgency she’d felt about getting her own place had diminished. Peggy was surprised, in fact, at how well she and her mom were getting along.
One evening, about a week after she’d come back from up north, the two of them were in the kitchen. Her older brother Michael was coming over for dinner, and Peggy was chopping onions for spaghetti sauce.
“So… Did you meet anyone interesting up at camp?”
Peggy felt her back stiffen at the question.
“What makes you ask?” she said warily.
Her mom shrugged.
“Nothing. Just curious.”
They worked in silence for a few moments. Then Peggy spoke up.
“Actually, there was someone. A guy.”
“Yeah,” she said with a bitter laugh. “I thought he was my soulmate.”
“Feel like talking about it?”
Peggy shook her head. “Not really.”
Her mother gently laid a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, sweetie. But you know, you should be proud of yourself.”
“It was a gutsy thing you did, going up north on your own, taking on a tough job like tree planting. You seem different since you’ve been back, like you really know who you are now. I think that’s just as important as finding a soulmate.”
Peggy nodded and went back to chopping onions. She’d expected her mom to try and cheer her up, to reassure her she’d find someone else. This quiet wisdom caught her a bit off guard. She wasn’t sure how to respond.
After that, things seemed to shift between them. The tension that had hung in the air for so long gradually dissipated. They began to share the house more like equals, and life settled into a predictable, though somewhat hectic, rhythm. Her days were so full, what with classes, homework, and shifts at the café, that she barely had time to think. After the turmoil of the past few years, that was just fine with Peggy.
Now something else had come along to upset her newfound stability – a letter from her father. He was going to be in town for a few days next month, and wanted to get together for dinner. Peggy was flabbergasted. Aside from a few tension-filled phone conversations, she’d had no contact with her dad since her parents split up.
With her brothers, Michael and Gabe, things were different. Though they’d gone to live with their father, they came to visit Peggy and her mom a couple of times a year. Last fall, Michael had moved back to town to go to the university, so they saw one other even more often. Now that they were grown up, she and her brothers were more like friends. They could laugh about all the things they used to fight over.
But between Peggy and her father, the estrangement was long and deep. She was wary of this new overture. What did he want?
“What should I do?” she finally asked her mother.
“What do you want to do?”
“I’m not sure,” Peggy replied. “I’d like to see him. But I wonder if there’s really any basis for a relationship.”
“Then why not go and find out for yourself? It’s only dinner. See how you feel about him.”
“I guess you’re right,” she said.
But as the days went on, Peggy was still torn about what to do. What would it be like, seeing him after all this time? Had he changed at all? Would she be strong enough to stand up to him?
Her indecision seemed to stir up other things, too – things she hadn’t thought about for months. She had strange, restless dreams. In one, she left Molly under the bed, like she’d done once when she was little, and she could hear the doll’s voice, calling out to her over and over. The next day she kept having the unsettling feeling that something was missing, there but not there, like a phantom limb.
She didn’t want to go back to those emotional ups and downs. She was done with all that. Why couldn’t things stay on an even keel, just for a little while?
Finally, her shift was over. Most weekdays the Queen B closed around five o’clock, and sometimes Peggy stayed late to help close up. Today, Bea waved her away, saying she could handle it herself, so Peggy said good-bye and left the café.
It was a beautiful early-spring day. She decided to walk home instead of taking the bus, and headed toward the old Textile District. Once the hub of the garment industry, it was now filled with cafés, interesting shops, and art galleries, and was one of her favorite parts of the city. She stopped a moment in front of a boutique to look at a dress in the window. As she headed for the door of the shop, something in the window of the gallery next door caught her eye. She went to get a better look.
It was a slab of stone, irregularly shaped, with stylized images of animals, trees, birds in flight etched onto it. Several of the images were similar to some rock drawings she’d seen up north. As her eye ranged over the etched symbols, Peggy observed that this artist had rendered the aboriginal motifs in a distinctive, highly personal style.
Then she saw it. A larger figure at the base of the rock, placed to suggest that it had given rise to all the others. This figure was clearly human, holding a slender tube-like object up to its mouth.
The Flute Player.
Peggy rushed over to the door of the gallery and went inside. There were several pieces of engraved rock, some on display pedestals, a few mounted on the wall. Like the larger piece in the window, they depicted familiar native motifs. But the Flute Player was the one image common to all of the pieces.
She went over to the small plaque mounted underneath the nearest piece to read the name of the artist, then moved along to read the next plaque, and the next. They all bore the same name: Gary Stonechild.
Her mind raced back to the sight of Jackpine in William Blake’s workshop, engraving the image of the Flute Player onto a copper plate.
“I can carve designs on this metal, as my ancestors did on rock,” he’d told her then. “It’s like this is what I was meant to do.”
What did it mean? She’d resolved all that, put it out of her mind. None of it had happened. It was all in her head. But she could see the images right here in front of her, as clear as day. How could they be the work of anyone other than Jackpine?
She started over toward the desk in the corner of the room, where a young man sat working. She felt dizzy, almost out of breath, but made an effort to pull herself together.
“The artist who made these engravings – do you know him? Is he from around here?”
The man was a bit startled by the urgency in her voice, but smiled amiably.
“Actually, I think he’s from a reserve up north. It’s nice work, isn’t it?”
Still struggling to deal with a jumble of emotions, all Peggy could do was nod.
“Would you be interested in hearing his presentation?” the man asked.
“The artist, Gary Stonechild. He’ll be here tonight, talking about his work.”
Peggy was dumbfounded.
“He’s coming here? Tonight?”
The man looked bemused at her confusion.
“That’s right. Tonight at 7:30. You should come. You’d find it interesting.”
“I’ll be here. Definitely.”
She stumbled out the door of the gallery, walking quickly, her stomach churning with excitement. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. It was almost 5:30. The presentation would be at 7:30. How would she manage to pass the next two hours? What would she do with herself? She couldn’t just go home and wait. She had to do something to contain the turmoil inside her.
It wasn’t only excitement she was feeling. It was also fear. Not that it wouldn’t be Jackpine at the gallery, but that it would be. That he would turn away from her as he had that day at the reserve, as if he didn’t know her, as if he had no memory of their journeys to Notherland.
Suddenly she recalled the sharp prick on her finger. Was it still there, in the side pocket of her pack?
She raced home.
The house was empty. Her mother wasn’t back from work yet. Peggy was relieved. She wouldn’t have been able to hide her frantic state of mind from her mom, and she didn’t want to have to explain where she was going in such a hurry.
She ran upstairs and took the pack out of the closet. She unzipped the side pocket, turned the pack upside down, and shook it. Something tumbled onto the floor. There it was. The knife. The engraving tool that Will Blake had given Jackpine. The tangible proof of what they’d been through together. All these months it had been sitting here, in her pack. She hadn’t even looked. She didn’t want to know.
She bent down to pick it up and saw that something else had fallen out of the pack and landed near the edge of the carpet.
It was the bone flute. The one he’d carved for her to play, the one that had carried them from world to world in their search for Mi. She picked it up and ran her finger along the worn-smooth surface.
In a flash it became clear to Peggy: Selling her flute had been a mistake, a terrible mistake. She had to get it back somehow. Right now nothing mattered than that – not even finding Jackpine again.
She picked up the engraving knife and tossed it into her shoulder bag along with the bone flute. She rushed out of the house and headed in the direction of Church Avenue.
“Sorry,” the man behind the counter said. “It’s been sold.”
“Day or two ago.”
The man shrugged.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t here.”
“It was only a couple of days ago. You must have a record of the sale,” Peggy insisted.
He looked at her and shook his head.
“I’ll never understand people like you. You bring in something to pawn and you’re so sure you’re ready to part with it. Months go by and suddenly you’re desperate to get it back. But all right. Let me look through the sales slips.”
He opened a drawer, took out of stack of yellow slips of paper and began flipping through them. About a third of the way through the pile he stopped, pulled one of the slips out, and looked at it.
“This is probably it,” he said. “Silver flute, sold last Monday.”
Peggy could barely contain her impatience.
“What does it say?”
“It’s hard to read,” he said, squinting. He held out the receipt and pointed to a line at the bottom. “Here, you look at it and tell me what it says there.”
She took the paper. He was right. It was a barely legible scrawl. She tried to make out the letters.
“It looks like a W, then a B… L…” She stopped and drew a sharp breath. “It says ‘W. Blake.’”
“Well, there you go. Some fellow named Blake bought your flute.”
“How can I find him?”
“Should be some contact information on there.”
Peggy shook her head.
“No. There’s nothing but the name.”
He took the paper back and looked at it.
“That’s weird. Whoever sold it should’ve taken down an address or phone number. But they didn’t, so…” He shrugged and put the receipt back in the pile.
“What do I do? I have to find whoever bought my flute.”
“I don’t know, try the phone book. Though there’s probably lots of Blakes in there.”
Seeing that Peggy was on the verge of tears, he softened a bit.
“Sorry, dear. Wish I could help you out.”
She stumbled out of the store.
- Blake. W. Blake.
Could it be? As impossible as it seemed, could Will Blake himself have bought her flute? Was that why there was no address? Because Will Blake didn’t live in this time or place. He lived in London, England over two hundred years ago.
Suddenly, she could hear his voice in her mind, as clear as a bell.
You are a Mental Traveller, the one Jackpine’s people call the Flute Player. You have the ability to travel between worlds, to call new worlds into existence.
She didn’t have her silver flute, but there was something else she did have. She reached into her shoulder bag, pulled out the bone flute and raised it to her lips. There, standing outside the pawnshop with traffic speeding up and down Church Avenue, she covered the two holes in the bone and blew.
She lifted her finger off one of the holes and blew again.
Then she uncovered the other hole and blew.
She felt her legs go slack, as if she were falling to the pavement. But there was no pavement, no ground at all, under her feet. She kept falling.
The last thing she saw was a blue car pulling into the parking space just in front of where she stood. Then everything went dark.
She was standing in a field. Before her was a large zone of tall marsh grasses that led down to the bank of a river. A stone bridge leading to a wide avenue, dotted with buildings, spanned the river. The surroundings looked familiar. She been here before.
She turned to look behind her. At the edge of the field was a scattering of other buildings, lower in height and fewer in number than the bustling town, with its crowded streets and haze of chimney smoke, on the other side of the river.
She felt something tugging on her hand and looked down.
There he was, in overalls and cap, carrying his long-handled chimney sweep’s brush. Her old friend, the climbing-boy, looking exactly as she remembered him, except his face bore none of the wariness and suspicion of their first meeting. This time he gazed up at her with a warm smile, his bright eyes standing out against his soot-smeared face.
“It’s you!” she exclaimed. “But how…? What are you doing here?”
He said nothing, but pulled more insistently on her hand, indicating that she was to go with him.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “What’s going on? Where are we?”
Again he made no reply, and she wasn’t sure if he was ignoring her or genuinely didn’t hear her. But the grip of his hand on hers was so open and trusting, like a baby’s, that she understood she must simply go along.
He led her down a narrow laneway lined with brick buildings. They stopped in front of one, a slender structure of three storeys with a small plaque over the door. She almost gasped aloud when she read the inscription on the plaque:
13 Hercules Buildings.
Of course. Now she understood. As he had once before, the climbing-boy had guided her to the dwelling of William Blake, the poet and artist.
Suddenly she found herself in a large, airy room. She had no recollection of entering the house through the door, but here she was, standing in Will Blake’s workshop, the climbing-boy at her side, still clutching her hand. At the long table that ran nearly the length of the room, a stocky, white-haired man was bent over a thick metal plate, wielding what looked like a small knife. It took a moment for the man to become aware of their presence, but when he did, he looked up and strode toward them with his hand outstretched.
As intimidating as Peggy had found him in their earlier encounter, the sight of him now filled her with a warm affection. She held out her hand to meet his, then realized his fist was wrapped around a metal implement. At first she thought it was the knife he had been using to engrave markings on the metal plate. Then she realized it was something longer, an slender cylinder with rounded pads on one side.
Her silver flute.
She looked at Will, gape-mouthed.
“My flute!” She managed to get the words out. “But I still don’t understand how you…”
Her voice trailed off. She could see that, like the climbing-boy, Will either did not hear her words or had no intention of replying to them. It dawned on her that these two beings in the room with her might not be Will Blake and the climbing-boy, but rather their essential selves, their emanations, as Will had often written about in his poetry. But even through the air of strangeness pervading the encounter, she could feel their affection and goodwill toward her, and she knew that she could trust them, and what was happening.
Will extended his fist and lowered the silver flute into her outstretched hand. As soon as her skin came in contact with its cool, smooth surface, Will, the climbing-boy, the workshop – all of it vanished.
Peggy clutched the flute as she felt herself falling again. After a moment the sensation of falling ceased, and she was in a dark place, her body curled in a ball, her arms coiled around the silver flute. She lifted her head and peered into the darkness. She had the sense of being in an enclosed space. Tentatively she reached out with one hand. There was something there, surrounding her. Something soft, like feathers.
The word came to her mind unbidden, but she knew immediately that this was what the soft veil around her was. As soon as that realization crystallized in her mind, the veil flew open with a loud whoosh! as two enormous wings lifted upward, hovering over her head.
She straightened up out of her crouched position, still clutching the flute. Now there was light, and she saw that she was standing on a pathway leading from a black wrought-iron gate a few feet away. There was a row of trees on either side of the gate, and bushes lined the pathway.
She turned. Behind her, on a massive pedestal, was the statue of an angel, with the figures of two small children enfolded in its wings. She reached out and touched one of the wings. Only a moment ago she’d felt it wrapped around her like soft feathers. Now it was hard stone.
Of course, she knew this statue, this place. She’d been here countless times before – Green Echo Park, the place she had transformed into an imaginary northern world when she was seven years old. But what was she doing here now? Why had she been transported back to this place of her childhood?
She’d recovered her flute. Now she needed to get back to her life, and to the gallery where she would soon find Jackpine. But how to get back? That was the thing about this mental travelling. She didn’t understand how it worked, not really.
She knew that it was the bone flute that had first set it in motion, catapulting her to Will Blake’s world. Now that she had the silver flute, she reasoned that playing the same notes on it should have a similar effect, returning her to her own time.
She lifted the mouthpiece to her lips and positioned her fingers on the pads. But something was wrong. Her fingers wouldn’t stretch the full length of the pads. It was because she was tense, she told herself. She lifted one hand off the flute and shook it vigorously. But when she placed it back over the pads her fingers still wouldn’t reach far enough.
This is ridiculous, she thought. I’ve played this flute hundreds of times.
She raised her hand again and looked more closely at it. Something about it was very odd, she couldn’t say what. Then it hit her.
Her fingers were too short. Her hand looked like it had shrunk in size. It looked like the hand of someone much smaller than she was.
The hand of a child.
Chapter 9: Waiting
HE WAS ALONE on the water.
Looming above him was the cliff where the ancient drawings had been carved into the face of the stone – the bear, the snake, the tree, the canoe, and the creature holding the tube-like object in its mouth, which he knew was known as the Flute Player. Looking out on the water, he could see the sheet of ice, its edge a short distance away, curving around him like a half moon. The waves breaking against the base of the cliff kept breaking the ice into tiny shards, which quickly melted and kept a small area of open water. But the days were getting colder and the sheet was growing larger. It was only a matter of time before the ice would cover the entire lake, locking its surface into frozen immobility.
Back at the gathering place where the Ones-Who-Are had congregated in great numbers, he had watched as flock after flock skittered across the water and lifted into the air. He had listened to their calls, which bade him Come with us! Come with us! as they began the great migration to the south.
But still he remained, until nearly all the Ones-Who-Are had gone, and he realized that his mate, Nor, and their beloved daughter must go, too.
It is time, father, his daughter had insisted. You must come.
She could not understand why he was so stubborn in his determination to stay behind. He tried to explain that the world that had given him life was in peril, that he had no choice but to do what he could to help. After a while, she came to see that there was nothing she could do to dissuade him.
As they prepared to leave, he spoke his thoughts to her.
You are One-Who-Knows-She-Is, and you must have a name. You will be called Gavrila.
He was pleased with his choice, for it contained the same letters as his own name and of their species name, Gavia. He was also pleased that he still recalled the female form of the name of the Angel Gabriel, whom he had encountered in the paintings of William Blake.
Do not worry, he told her. I will come and find you in the gathering place to the south.
It was wrenching to bid them farewell.
He watched Nor and Gavrila flap their wings along the water, then soar until they became tiny specks in the sky. He made his way to the cliff, the one with the ancient drawings like the ones on Painted Rock, the gateway between Notherland and the physical world. There he waited, and struggled to keep faith that he was doing the right thing. Once before, his courage had failed him when Notherland had been threatened. He had stayed behind when Peggy and Molly went to fight the Nobodaddy. He could never forgive himself if he let it happen again. He had to go.
The area of open water was shrinking. Soon it would be too small to allow him to take flight, for Ones-Who-Are need a wide expanse of water to summon up enough speed to lift their heavy bodies into the air. He remembered another time, when he had first crossed over into the physical world, when the Walk-Uprights named Peggy and Jackpine had helped him take off by pulling him across the surface of a frozen pond. But there was no one here to help him now. One-Who-Knows-He-Is was alone on the water.
And the ice was closing in.
Chapter 10: Our Wondrous North
IT WAS AN ORDINARY ROOM, what people in this world called a living room, with a couch, a low table, several lamps and chairs. In one corner was a box with a screen, much like the one Mi had seen before, during her time of captivity by the Evil Angel. She shuddered at the memory, and was relieved to see that, for now, there were no pictures on the screen.
This was the realm of the Creator, the very house where Pay-gee had grown up, and where her imagination had first conceived of Notherland. Somewhere in these rooms, she would surely find the thing that had first sparked the idea of Notherland in the Creator’s mind, the key that would unlock the mystery of its origin, and enable Mi to bring it back into being.
But this place did not look anything like Mi had imagined Pay-gee’s house would look – not that she had ever given it much thought. The idea of the Creator having once been a small child like Mi, with a mother and father and brothers, spending her days in an ordinary house – all that was strange to think about.
Yet here she was, an unseen spirit floating from room to room, now hovering over a long table where the woman who must be Pay-gee’s mother was setting plates of food in front of two boys who must be Pay-gee’s brothers. At one end of the table, a plate of food already in front of him, sat the man who must be Pay-gee’s father. Across the table from the two boys sat Pay-gee herself, not grown-up Pay-gee as Mi knew her now, but a much younger girl, looking like Mi remembered her when Notherland was still a “baby universe” as Gavi liked to call it.
Mi watched and listened as they ate their meal. Their voices were a low murmur, and though Mi could not make out all the words, she could tell that they were talking about ordinary things – what they had done that day, how good the food was. There was an eager smile on Pay-gee’s face as she spoke of a test she had done well on at school that day.
So this is what life in a family is like, Mi thought. For the first time ever she felt a twinge of sadness that she herself would never experience such a life, never know what it was to have a mother or father. But she reminded herself that the Nordlings were like brothers and sisters to her, that Molly and Gavi were as close to parents as any child could want, that even now she was fortunate to be in the loving care of Nahawa and the other Songweavers.
She did have a family, she realized. Her family was Notherland, and her task was to bring it back to life.
Abruptly the scene changed, and Mi found herself back in the living room. She was no longer hovering just below the ceiling but was now close to the floor where, a short distance away, Pay-gee was sitting in one of the big chairs. She was watching the screen, which was showing pictures of various small creaturs in blue and pink and other bright colors. The creatures had rounded ears atop their heads and spoke in high, squeaky voices that Mi found mildly annoying.
She was glad when Pay-gee picked up a thin black box and pointed it at the screen, making the pictures instantly disappear. Then Pay-gee went and picked up something that was sitting on another of the big chairs. It was a small creature, with arms and legs that hung limply at its sides and a black piece of cloth tied around its head, covering one eye.
As Pay-gee held up the creature, Mi got a better look at it, and realized with a start that it was Molly. Not the Molly she knew, but Molly before Notherland had given her life, when she was still an ordinary doll with a blank expression in her one good eye.
“Uh-oh. She’s playing with it again.”
The voice came from behind Mi. It was followed by laughter as Pay-gee’s brothers entered the room.
“Sheesh, why don’t you throw that old thing out? It’s a hunk of junk.”
Pay-gee clutched the doll to her chest.
“She’s not junk. She’s a pirate!”
The boys burst out laughing.
“Oh, right, a pirate! Just because you put that rag over its eye.”
Now Pay-gee stood up and faced the two boys, a look of defiance on her face.
“Leave me alone!” she shouted. “It’s none of your business.”
A woman’s voice called from another room.
“Boys, stop teasing your sister.”
“Okay, Mom,” one of them called back. But they kept on snickering and started a sing-song chant under their breath.
“Garbage doll, garbage doll, garbage doll…”
“Shut uuupp!” Pay-gee yelled after them as they ran from the room.
Her mother’s voice came from the other room again.
“Peggy, stop that yelling right now!”
“But, Mom, it’s Gabe’s fault. He and Mikey were…”
“I told them to stop teasing, and they did. Now I don’t want to hear another word about it!”
Again, the scene suddenly shifted, and Mi found herself in another room just off the living room. It was smaller, but full of light, and in the middle of it was a large wooden structure on legs. On one side of it was a kind of ledge that ran the full length of the structure. Pay-gee was sitting in a chair on the same side as the ledge. Next to her was the man Mi recognized as her father. In his lap was a black case. He opened it and took out a long silvery tube. He lifted the tube to his mouth and blew over a hole in one end of it. A note sounded, a sustained musical sound that stirred Mi. It sounded like the bone flute, but much clearer and sweeter. This must be the silver flute that Pay-gee had spoken of so many times.
Pay-gee’s father held the the flute out to his daughter and placed her fingers along its surface. She beamed up at him.
“I can’t wait to play it.”
“Your fingers aren’t quite long enough, but they will be soon. In the meantime, you must keep up your piano practice. Now, let’s hear the new piece you’re working on.”
Mi thought she saw a look of anxiety cross Pay-gee’s face.
“I haven’t had much time to work on it.”
“Nonsense, you’ve had all week. Come on, let’s hear it.”
He lifted a sort of wooden plank that covered the ledge, and Mi saw that it was lined with slender rectangles in a tight, tidy row. Most of the rectangles were white, but some – the shorter ones – were black. This must be the piano that Pay-gee’s father had just referred to, and she recalled from her earlier journey in Pay-gee’s world that the black and white rectangles were called keys, though she found it strange that they looked nothing like other keys she’d seen.
Pay-gee lifted her hands, spread her fingers over some of the keys and pressed down. To Mi’s astonishment, a series of musical notes cascaded through the room, and as Pay-gee moved her fingers and struck more keys, different notes arose into a melody. So this piano was a kind of music box, Mi realized. But unlike the flute, which could only produce one note at a time, the piano made several notes simultaneously, as many as Pay-gee could press down at once. To Mi, it was a remarkable thing, like many voices joining in harmony.
Music filled the room as Pay-gee continued to play. At one point another look of anxiety crossed her face as she glanced up at her father. It was as if Pay-gee feared he would be displeased, a prospect Mi thought impossible, so transported was she by the music Pay-gee was playing. But the father only sat with his eyes closed, appearing to listen intently, nodding occasionally.
At one point there was a slight interruption in the music, when Pay-gee realized she had struck a wrong note. Her father opened his eyes and glared at her.
“Sorry,” she said in a hushed voice, and quickly resumed playing. But a few moments later, it happened again. This time, her father leapt out of his chair and slammed his hand down on the top of the piano.
“What’s the matter with you? You’ve had plenty of time to work on this piece.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy.”
“You should have it perfect by now.”
“I know, I know. I’ll go back to the beginning.”
She lifted her hands back onto the keys, but he jerked them away.
“It’s a complete waste of time, listening to someone who doesn’t care enough to take the time to practice.”
“I’m sorry! Please let me try again. I’ll do it right this time.”
“Don’t bother! You’ll never be any good!”
He stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Mi could only watch in astonishment as Pay-gee leaned against the closed door, tears streaming down her face. How could this have happened? Her father had been so loving only moments before. What had made him so angry? Mi wondered. Why would he say such harsh, hurtful things? Surely he understood that music, even sad music, comes from a state of joy, not fear.
And what about Pay-gee? She seemed so hungry for his approval, so consumed by her need to please him. Why didn’t she stand up to him, the way she had to her brothers and their teasing? It seemed to Mi, for reasons that she did not understand, that humans held their fathers in higher esteem than other beings.
It was distressing to witness this, the sorrow of the Creator laid bare. Mi longed to comfort Pay-gee, to sing to her and heal her wounds the way the Songweavers had for Mi herself. She wondered if she did begin to sing, would Pay-gee be able to hear her? But she remembered the OverSeer’s stern warning that she must not do anything to make her presence known in Pay-gee’s world.
She was here for one purpose only, to unlock the secret of Notherland’s origins. But as much as she had learned of the Creator’s life and world, she still had no clue how Notherland had come to be. What should she do? Where should she look next? She had no idea.
She was beginning to fear she would never find what she was seeking.
Mi peered through the window. Night had come on, it seemed, in the blink of an eye. Though she understood that time was not the same for her, suspended between worlds as she was, she still found it disconcerting to be transported so abruptly from place to place, moment to moment.
Now she was in another, smaller room, with a jacket draped over the back of a chair and shoes and other belongings scattered on the floor. The room was dim, lit by one small lamp on a table in one corner. Much of the room was filled by a bed, which Mi knew was the name of the soft surfaces humans slept upon at night.
Pay-gee sat at one end of the bed, huddled under the covers, reading a book by the glow of the lamp. Tucked in next to her was the doll who would become Molly, though Mi found it very difficult to think of that passive, inert figure as the brash, lively Molly she knew.
Mi was glad to see such a peaceful scene after the tension-filled moments she’d witnessed earlier in the piano room. But she noticed that Pay-gee kept glancing toward the closed door, and realized that beyond it, voices were rising from somewhere in the house. At first they sounded muffled and low, then grew louder, sharper. Mi could not understand any of the words, but she could tell that it was a man and a woman, speaking in angry tones.
Was it Pay-gee’s mother and father? Were they fighting? From the look of worry on Pay-gee’s face, Mi thought it very likely they were. She shuddered as she recalled her own unease the time she’d overheard an argument between Molly and Gavi, the two beings she loved most. Again, she felt a strong impulse to comfort Pay-gee. Though she knew she must not do anything to make the Creator aware of her presence, Mi felt it could do no harm to move closer to her.
Carefully, she inched toward the bed and hovered above it. Over Pay-gee’s shoulder she could look at the pages of the book she was reading. The page on the left was full of words, which Mi, of course, could not read, and on the right was a picture of a lake surrounded by tall pine trees. The picture reminded her of Notherland, and Mi felt a pang of longing for her lost homeland.
Pay-gee turned the page. Again, the one on the left was filled with words, but Mi was astounded by what was on the opposite page. It was a picture of a night sky filled with a luminous band of light, tinged in pale green and rosy pink. At some points on the band, the light stretched into tall columns that seemed to extend to the farthest reaches of the heavens.
It was the RoryBory, the great column of light known in this world as the Northern Lights, that illuminated Notherland and gave it its very sustenance.
Mi felt a surge of excitement. She couldn’t wait for Pay-gee to turn the page again, to see what other scenes from her world this book might contain. To her dismay, Pay-gee put the book down on the bed and leaned toward the window. She pressed her face against it a moment, then pulled the doll toward her and did the same with its face.
Mi peered through the window and wondered what Pay-gee could possibly be looking at in the thick darkness. If only she would go back to reading so that Mi could see more pictures! The book was lying on the bed with the cover face up, and now Mi could see it clearly. On it were pictures of icebergs and a large white bear, above which was another depiction of her beloved RoryBory. Superimposed over the pictures were words: OUR WONDROUS NORTH.
She had no idea what the words meant, but she supposed it must be the name of the book. She noticed a stirring over by the window and realized that Pay-gee was reaching over to pick up the book again. Still holding on to the doll, she leafed hurriedly through the pages, as if looking for something in particular. Finally she stopped and stared intently at one page. Mi peered over her shoulder.
On the page was a picture of a large rock with a smooth surface, on which had been etched some simple line drawings of various objects. Mi could make out a tree, some birds in flight, a canoe with two stick figures riding in it. The drawings reminded her of the ones on Painted Rock, the portal between Notherland and the world of the Creator.
A sudden thought seized her: Maybe this was Painted Rock!
Was this how Pay-gee got the idea to create Notherland? Did this book hold the key to its origins? Was this the very thing Mi had come here to find, the creation story that would complete her Story Cloth and give new life to Notherland?
Yes. It had to be.
Mi looked over at Pay-gee. It was difficult to leave her here, looking so forlorn. But it was more important that Mi return to the realm of the Songweavers and bring back Notherland as soon as she could.
For somehow she knew that this was what would help to relieve the sorrow of the Creator.