A Field of Stars

I peeked out from behind the curtains, trembling as I did. The venue was completely full. A few lamps installed along the sides of the seating areas and on the aisles provided enough light for the audience to find their seats, while also allowing me to get an idea of exactly how many people had gathered to watch. It was enough to make anyone anxious – and I, performing my role for the first time, was no exception.

By rough estimates, there were maybe 250 people in the hall. Some were seated, some were standing. It was obvious that those seated were those who were wealthier – with the exception of a group of seven girls seated near the front. The Syrens were wearing their best clothes for the occasion, but it was clear that they didn’t belong – the worn state of their clothing aside, the others around them were noticeably uncomfortable with their presence. They didn’t mind it, though. They just chatted with each other, their excitement almost visible in its intensity. Anneliese looked up, as if she noticed something, and turned her head to match my stare. She gave a little wave. I quickly ducked my head back behind the curtains – if she could see me, so could everyone else.

I was to be the hidden magician of this show – I would have no turn in the spotlight, even when it came to my light tricks for her final song. This was for two reasons: the first, because Rosalind was, ultimately, the star of the show. Hence why even Elysium’s accompaniment was given the dimmer light. The second was because Elysium wanted to keep my power a secret, as far as possible. It was alright for me to act as her assistant, but that was the only capacity in which Elysium was willing to let me be seen. She didn’t want to reveal that the light magician behind her shows was me. It was inevitable for me to be exposed during rehearsals, but our hired help were all provided by Bainel – who was in on the whole deception. She even paid a dummy sum to the Bainel Company as supposed payment for a light magician subcontract – payment that was sent back to her within a week.

When I asked her about why she was going to such lengths to conceal my abilities, she answered to the effect of having me hidden as a trump card. Part of it was concern that potential competitors might harrass me, or otherwise that someone with an eye on my magic ability would do the same. The other part was that she considered me to be a vital component of her combat potential, and was averse to exposing the full extent of her fighting force. Of course, that raised the question of why, exactly, she needed combat potential, but she avoided answering the question, giving me a vague remark about precautions and not being certain of anything. It was troubling, but there was nothing I could do about it. The daily sparring sessions made it very clear that she was training me to be a fighter, so it wasn’t like her desire to have combat potential was hidden. As for the reason, I trusted she would tell me once she felt it was necessary.

I shook my head clear of distractions as hired ushers dimmed the lamps, casting darkness across the entire hall, obscuring the crowd. I gulped, as the introduction of darkness meant that my role had begun, and the nerves flared up again. At that moment, I felt a squeeze on my hand. A gentle squeeze, one that reassured me and expressed complete faith in my abilities. Given the darkness, I couldn’t see who it was, but based on my placement on the stage, it was undoubtedly Rosalind. I took a deep breath and calmed myself, then nodded to nobody in particular. Rosalind let go of my hand and walked past me, heading onto the stage. She was perfectly capable of navigating in the dark, and so she swiftly took her place in the centre of the stage. Once I heard her footfalls stop, I focused my magic and lit a small globe of light above her head, the size of a pea, casting a pale light on her. It was barely enough to show her silhouette. Then, she began to hum. A single note, the starting note of her song. Her clear voice rang out within the silent hall. As she hummed, she began to spin on the spot, a move that I had seen her practice countless times over the last week. With each spin, I strengthened the light, making it grow larger and brighter, until it was the size of the wheel on a carriage, with the light properly illuminating her features. Then, she spun to a stop, her voice similarly pausing. In that instant, I sent the light upwards, near the ceiling, and increased its intensity threefold, casting a dazzling bright upon the stage, a light that enveloped her and made her sky-blue dress sparkle. Then she began to sing.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I managed to pull off our opening display without issues. The accomplishment gave me confidence, and my part for the rest of it was much simpler – at least until the final song. That still worried me a little, but we’d rehearsed that song countless times, until our coordination was perfect. I could perform the routine with my eyes closed. By all accounts, I had nothing to worry about, but I was still uneasy. It was undoubtedly the pressure of this being my first show, but I held strong. I resolved to play my part perfectly to the end. I wasn’t going to let Elysium and Rosalind down.

As Rosalind finished her first song, I directed the light choreography according to plan. After four songs, Elysium walked on stage, wearing her usual butler outfit, violin in hand, at which I created the dimmer light above her. There was some applause and shouts of support as she took the stage, but it quickly died down – Rosalind was undoubtedly the star.

As they performed the song together, I continued to stick to the programme, performing only simply maneuvers with the lights, until they had performed three songs together, and were left with the final song – the finale, “Bound Rose”. Rosalind was supposed to address the audience at this point, so I dimmed the light on Elysium and made the orb above Rosalind the only source of light upon the stage. The audience, still clamoring and calling from the aftermath of her previous song, slowly quietened down as it became clear that she intended to address them. She flashed a dazzling smile at the audience and spoke calmly, her voice carrying across the entire hall, despite its size.

“Everyone, I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your night to come and watch my concert. It truly moves me to see all of your gathered here, in this time of darkness. I also know that many of you have come from other towns, just to watch me today. I am honoured, truly. This is the first time that I have held a concert in the night, and I am truly gratified that all of you have come to watch, despite the possibility of not having been able to even see me as I sang. Once again, for your faith and support, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

She took a deep bow, at which the crowd began applauding and calling out to her. She smiled and waited for the applause to quieten before continuing.

“I hope that I have been able to make your visit worthwhile – that my songs have been able to lift at least a bit of the burdens from your hearts. Unfortunately, our time together for tonight has come to an end.”

Gasps and sighs of disappointment issued from the audience. Even so, from the light that illuminated Rosalind, I could see many of them smiling. Even this reluctance to part had become a part of what it meant to be Rosalind’s audience.

“My next song will be the last one for tonight – a song that all of you know well. A song of binding, and a song of farewell. A song to remind us that though we may part ways for tonight, we are always bound together by the power of music – a song expressing the hope that, though we may be alone, nobody will be lonely. The hope that, like the chains that bind the rose, my song will latch on to each and every one of you, and help you shine brighter, help you strive against difficulty, help you bloom in the midst of adversity. For our last song, we present to you: ‘Bound Rose’.”

The moment she spoke the song’s name, the audience erupted into a frenzied cheering, chanting her name and shouting various phrases of support. Elysium had told me earlier that of those that had bought tickets, many of them had attended her concerts before – thus their behaviour was to be expected. But even those who were first-timers were swept up by her voice and joined the cheering – not a single member of the crowd remained silent. It was an amazing sight.

I quickly shook my head clear and extinguished the light above Rosalind. The crowd quietened slightly, but remained abuzz with anticipation. I focused my mind and went through the routine in my head. Elysium began to play the opening notes on the violin, but I did not illuminate her. Instead, I gathered light on the ground around Rosalind, making it seem like a cloud of light had collected, with Rosalind’s feet as its center. Then, a thin strand of light emerged from the gathered cloud, extending upwards into the darkness behind Rosalind. The strand pulsed once, twice, thickening each time, and on the fourth pulse, it erupted into the shape of a large, leafy tree – globes of light appeared on it like fruits, dangling precariously from their branches of light. They shook, and trembled, then fell. Just before they hit the ground, the tree disappeared, leaving only the glow beneath Rosalind’s feet. Then the globes hit the ground and bounced inwards, towards Rosalind. They bounced toward each other, finally touching each other and melding together, forming the giant rose that had appeared in my previous improvisation. At that moment, a smattering of tiny orbs of light appeared across the stage, like a sky full of stars. Rosalind glanced at me, giving me a slight smile that was slightly different from what she had shown the audience – this smile was one filled with warmth and faith, one reserved for her close associates. I returned the smile as she directed her gaze back to the audience. Then as one, she began to sing and dance, while I began to manipulate the lights, the two of us forming an otherworldly dance of a lone singer frolicking among a field of stars.