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Strum. The note reverberated through her, as the note left the harp and entered the world. Strange. She heard something on it, something… different. Someone did something unexpected, and it was going to alter the course of the song.
Amor laughed to his friend.
“Ha! That's what you think, I'm going to catch it, just you wait! ja!” he spurred his horse forward, through the undergrowth and into the undergrowth, chasing the stag into the woods. Suddenly, a snake slithered under the horse's foot. For the split second everything froze, he thought he heard the echo of a note. A harps note. It sounded like a change. The horse reared, but he clung tight. It ran off, with him, until it reached a cliff. It danced, nervously, until loose stones made it trip. They both fell into the valley.
Koto looked up, surprised, as she heard a clatter of stones and a dull thud. Normally she heard only her harp and the trickle of water. A dying horse lay there, and a man. Injured, with several broken bones, but alive. That was the odd thing she heard. The man should have died, but he didn't, and he changed her song. she stood from her harp and crossed the green valley she lived in. He shouldn’t be here. Some might call it fate, but no, this wasn't in her plan. This wasn't fate, it was an accident. But the accident had woven itself into fate, and now it was.
What did she do now? She could probably just heal him with her harp, but that didn't work well. She could also kill him, but it wasn't his time. And in falling, he had become critical to fate. As did any who discovered her. But he was dangerous, too, because now fate was uncertain. Idiot!
She knelt and looked him over. He was being dramatic, he was fine. She slapped his cheek until he woke up.
“What are you doing here?”
“Wha… who are you? Where's my horse, and the stag?”
“Well your horse will be dead as soon as I get back to my harp, and I haven't decided what to do with you yet. I can't kill you, something about you is important. Idiot, you just had to wander in here and change fate! Don't you know fate is important? Don't you know to be careful? Do you see me playing my harp at random? Ugh, get up, I’ll sort you out soon. In the meantime, there's a house over there you can heal in.” she pointed to an empty spot in the meadow.
“Give me a sec already, I'm building it.” she returned to her harp and strummed. Ugh, she had taken too long, so many were waiting to die for too long. She felt at least 20 humans, and the horse, among others. She strummed again and a house sprang up. She got up and returned to him.
“How did you do that?”
“Not now. If you weren't important I'd kill you now, you only have 15 years or so anyway. So, I guess you can stay here for now, i'll take care of you in the meantime. But, under no circumstances are you to interfere with my harp, understood? I will not hesitate to immediately kill you.”
“Great. Now, go, I have to keep playing.” I go back to my harp and set it playing, rippling without me to guide it. I hate doing this. I go back to the house I just made him and roughly examine his broken arm. I can tell he's wincing, but he doesn't say anything. Good. I fixed him up enough.
“Alright, idiot, you'll be wasting about 6 months of your life healing. Don't you know how short human life is? You couldn't have just jumped off your horse and gotten a few bumps and bruises?”
“I didn't know! Wait, how do you know?”
“I'm fate. My name is Koto. Now, I need to get back before a war happens because I wasn't there to keep an eye on things. It wouldn't be the first time.” he nods, obviously confused. I roll my eyes. Idiot! But my irritation is wearing off. I go back to my harp and take control. From the corner of my eye I notice him limping out. I can't pay attention though, a king is sick and if he dies there will be a civil war, which isn’t what’s meant to happen. Oh, why is death so impatient? Why can't he just think ahead for once and let me do my thing? Finally, the king appears stable.
I turn to the man behind me, sitting on a stone by the stream watching.
“What are you doing?”
“Just watching. The music is beautiful.”
“Well thanks to you it almost turned really ugly. Do you realize because you distracted me there was almost a civil war?”
“Oh no! Can't you just stop it?”
I slapped my forehead. “It's not that simple.”
“Oh, ok.” I turned back to my harp and kept playing.
“I'm really sorry I interrupted you.”
“Well at least you apologized.”
“Can I help or something?”
“With the harp? Absolutely not.”
“No, I just meant not to be a burden.”
“Well you're so injured I don't see how you wont get in my way.”
“I know.” she waited for him to demand she heal him, and was pleased when he didn't.
“What's your name?”
He seemed surprised she didn't know. “Amor.”
“Alright. You can listen if you like, you won't be able to get anything out of it. But when it turns violent don't get upset.”
“Oh? What's going to happen?”
“I'm not telling you the future.”
“Oh, sorry.” she turned back to the harp and started playing. The consistent pattern was of him just sitting by the stream, listening. She almost enjoyed it, it felt less lonely that way. Of course, she knew better than to get attached.
She started to take breaks, and they would talk. She never told him a thing about the future, but he didn't pry, and when he did ask it wasn't intentional. A month passed. She enjoyed his company, she might even call them friends. Might.
She strummed her harp, listening close. It was time.
“No, don't distract me. You should go, you wont like this.” she pulled harder, the sound coming out ugly. Yep, it was time for the civil war. Death had claimed the king. She hated times like this, not because she cared, but because she felt alone. The harp was her friend, and when it's song turned harsh she felt a little lonely. She hated to have him go, but he wouldn't be listening in the near future. Maybe never, this war would last a while. He would heal soon.
“No, I don't want to leave you alone.” her back to him, she shrugged. But facing the other way, where no one saw, she smiled. Her heart warmed with gratitude. It sounded to her like a song, but no, not that one. It couldn't sound like l- no. it didn't matter anyway. She kept plucking the strings. She was glad she wasn't alone, for once.
Behind her, she heard something. She turned, surprised, and saw him humming with her. She returned her gaze to the harp but smiled. Her cold heart again warmed.
The war only lasted 4 months. The notes ending it were the sweetest she had played since he came. But he would only stay for a month. She didn't tell him she was sad to see him go, but she saw it in his eyes too.
She also felt something different. She cared about a mortal, but, no… it was something else. She didn't know what and she wasn't certain she wanted to know. Especially for a mortal. She made certain the notes she played that month were as beautiful as possible. The day came too fast. They knew he had been fine for a week, but she said he could stay 6 months.
“I know. Time to go.” she nodded. Time. so, so fickle. She called herself it's master, yet it flew by her.
“Please, koto. Let me stay?”
“Uhhh-” her heart screamed yes, her head no. “yes. But only for 10 years.”
“I… I don't want to be there, 14 years from now.”
“You don't know, do you? I bring death. Everything, death included. And death is impatient.” he didn't know how to reply. She didn't either.
“Ok. I still don't want to leave you, not right now.”
“Ok. it would be boring without you.” and lonely. And different. She returned to her harp, and he to his stone, now worn into a little chair for him. She smiled inside. She was so glad he didn't try to ask about the future, she could sense his confusion. He was 23. How would he die so soon? He didn't ask any of them though.
“Which cord will you pull? When I die, I mean.” he sounded so calm. She was glad for it. She pointed to one of them, carefully masking her emotions. He nodded.
Time was flying by. The first year had ended before she could blink, it felt like. And something in her kept changing and growing. She didn't want to admit it sounded like love, when the song was played. But not strong, not like some she heard. They were just friends. But the thing she valued most in a day was sitting with him talking for hours, when she had time. Time…
Suddenly, another year has passed. What? Where had it gone? Where was he going? She saw his life like sand in an hourglass, trickling away. He was leaving and he didn't know it. It killed her inside. She wouldn't say so.
“Where is the time going?” she asked one night.
“What do you mean?” he asked
“The years are so short. Has it already been two?” she asked.
“Yes. that's not very much.” he said
“No, no, of course not.” she turned her face away. He had forgotten, or rather, didn't see. How did he not see his time leaving? It was so obvious! She turned and stared into his eyes. Maybe he did. His eyes said he did, even if his lips didn't.
Besides, the time wasn't wasted. Every passing hour she got more attached, even though she knew she shouldn't. And honestly, she loved him. More than the last year. But she wouldn't tell him.
She blinked, and the year was gone. It was going so quickly! No, she wanted to stop it, pull it back and hold it down! She could… but she wouldn't. It was her duty. It had been 3 years already? Her love verified that. How could she love a mortal? She looked back down at her harp, at the string she would have to pull.
“Hey, you ok?” he interrupted her thoughts. Oh, she had stopped playing.
“Yes, of course.”
“Ok.” she knew he knew she was lying. She gasped as she turned her senses back at him. What was that emotion? That was new…
“What? Koto, you ok?”
“What? Oh, yes, of course.” it was affection and protectiveness, not love. Just friends.
“Did somebody just change destiny or something?”
“No, idiots like that don't come along very often. The last one was only a few years ago, there shouldn't be another for at least a century.” he looked down and blushed, then laughed. She meant to make him ashamed of himself. She couldn't help it though, she soon started laughing with him.
“Do I know him?”
“Clearly, all the idiots like that must have a club or something.”
“Well, it must be a one person club if i'm in it, there's only one idiot as funny and handsome as me.” he winked. She resisted a giggle. “Seriously though, are you ok?”
“Yes. I was just confused by something I felt.”
“Nothing.” her neck felt hot.
“Ok.” she kept playing. She felt someone's death more than most, it's ripples entered her valley. Someone Amor cared about, a relative. He would hate her if he knew. She should probably tell him. She checked the identity.
“How old’s your mom?” she deliberately avoided saying was.
“Ah, I don't know exactly, I haven't kept track since I came here. Why did something happen? Did she remarry?”
“Oh… I understand.”
“It's your job.”
“Thanks.” she smiled at him. She loved how relaxed he was. He went to his cottage to mourn. After a few hours she brought him some flowers and comforted him.
She blinked again, and 5 more years were gone. How? Where had all the time gone? And how had her love- for a mortal- increased? How was his unquestionable now? Neither brought it up. She wanted to scream and shout and throw a tantrum, demand more time, change things at all. Use the time they had, do something special while it lasted. But she couldn't change anything, she couldn't do anything! She hated feeling so powerless. Wasn't destiny supposed to be the most powerful thing in the universe?
Couldn't she do something? At all? One, small thing? Nothing had changed at all, nothing in all 8 years. She was so useless!
“Koto, what's wrong?”
“Oh, nothing. Don't worry about it.”
“Stop saying nothing. Something obviously wrong.”
“I just hate feeling so powerless!”
“Yes, it does. You matter.”
“I shouldn't say.”
“Oh, of course.” he thought wrong. As intended. She wasn't going to bring up his death. He didn't need to worry about it, or have it constantly loom over him.
And in no time, it was two years later. Why? Why couldn't time slow, for her? Wasn't she important enough? She turned to her harp, staring at the string she hated. Did she have to pull it? If she didn't, she would betray everything. Time would unravel. So would she. Did she care? Something was burning in her chest. Her heart. She loved him, she couldn't take him. She didn't care about hiding it from herself anymore. She loved the precios idiot and she didn't care if he was mortal.
Time didn't slow. Three years flew by, and it was time for him to go. She could tell he knew she wasn't going to send him away, so he brought it up.
“So… it's time for me to go.”
“No! I'm not ready yet. It was so fast!”
“Yes, it was. But you wanted me to leave now.”
“What about when I die?”
“I don't care. I won’t pull the string.”
“You need to! What will happen if you don't?”
“Time will be unraveled. So will I. I don't care.” he nodded, but she knew this wasn't over. She was finally able to relax, and not hold onto time. The next year was blissful, and it didn't pass her by. The day came that he was supposed to die. They both knew it.
“Koto. I won't let you do this.”
“What? I'm not going to kill you, I can't!”
“You have to!”
“No, I can’t, we can be…”
He looked down and sighed. “I knew this would happen. Koto, I love you.” she knew, but her heart burst with joy all the same. He walked up to her at her harp and kissed her. Time finally slowed, and the kiss felt like it lasted forever. “When I woke up, I thought I was staring up at an angel. I was terrified that I had died, because only an angel could be so beautiful. I love everything about you, and I always will. Goodbye.”
“What?” he walked past her, to her harp, and found his string. “NO!” She was too late. The note played and he fell to her feet, still and too silent. She collapsed and held him, her tears dripping on his motionless face. She leaned down and kissed him again, and didn't stop. But nothing changed, and it wasn't the same.
She couldn't believe him! The idiot got himself killed, why would he do that? She pulled him to her and hugged him, but he was gone. Forever. Why had she ever loved a mortal? Why had he clung to his horse? Why had he pulled that string?
She pulled back to when he asked her which string was his. He knew, then. He had an air about him, planning something, she just hadn't noticed. He knew she wouldn't be able to do it. She looked back up at the harp that had done it, time. She hated it! But she couldn't do anything.
She didn't know what to do but cry. How did so much power render her powerless when she needed it most? And now she was alone once again.