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  • Writer's pictureSarah Northwood

Beyond the music-a short story

Beyond the music by Sarah Northwood ©


Alana's fingers brushed against an old, weathered sheet of music, its faint melodies whispering secrets of forgotten realms. The dust lay thick in the attic where she found it, filling the air with a heavy scent that made each breath arduous. Yet, as she held the fragile paper in her hand, something shifted within her. The inked lines seemed to pulse beneath her fingertips, vibrating with a dormant power.

Alana, the esteemed musician of her kingdom, felt a surge of anticipation. Music had been her life since she came of age seventeen years ago, leaving behind other interests and loves that now existed only as faded memories. She saw herself as the keeper of those memories, but at times, it seemed as if the memories held her captive instead.

Perhaps this relic held the same power. The rumours of its enchantment had spread throughout the kingdom, yet she had never discovered such a relic before. Determined to document this remarkable find, Alana prepared herself for the task at hand. To ensure the record's completeness, she realized she must play the music. Taking a seat at her beloved piano, worn by years of practice, she took a deep breath, feeling the connection between the depths of her being and her fingertips. With a mix of duty and daring rebellion, Alana began to play.

Alana's fingers danced across the piano keys breathing life into herself and the melody. The room shimmered with an ethereal glow which Alana so entranced didn't notice at first. Opening her eyes Alana saw a rift in reality opening up before her and yet she didn't stop playing. She couldn't. Her music acted as a key, unlocking a passage to a forgotten realm known as Sonoria.

No longer at the piano, the vibrant chords resonated with each note, guiding her through the portal of swirling colours and shimmering harmonies. The music playing on far below her. Alana stepped into the mystical land, feeling an immediate shift in the air—the atmosphere thrummed with an energy that seemed to embrace her very soul. The moment she crossed the threshold, the portal closed behind her, leaving no trace of the attic or the world she had known. Alana had arrived in Sonoria, a realm where music and magic were kindred spirits, where each had the power to change the other. She took a moment to soak in the enchanting surroundings, her eyes sparkling with wonder and anticipation for the journey that lay ahead.

Stepping onto the soil of Sonoria, Alana felt a mixture of fear and excitement. Despite seeing it for herself Alana still couldn't quite believe she was really in another realm.

For so long her only purpose had been to provide for her kingdom. Whilst it was an act of love on her behalf and devotion, Alana had barely even seen the sun in the last few years. Now here she was. It was tempting to do nothing. If she'd had the choice Alana would have gone back through the rift.

With no better plan in mind, she opted instead to look around and try to figure out what this new place might be all about.

She'd arrived in an open part of an old derelict city. Back home it had been evening. Here it was hot. The scorching sun high in the sky. Too bright for her to look at.

Walking, she saw in the distance a tall building. Perhaps she could get some much needed shade?

As she ventured deeper into the derelict city, the echoes of her footsteps seemed to mingle with a distant melody, guiding her towards a towering building in the center of the city.

Seeking respite from the scorching sun, she quickened her pace, her curiosity stronger than the temptation to retreat. Stepping inside, Alana was struck by the familiar stonework that mirrored her own kingdom. The building stood as a testament to a forgotten era. As she wandered through the shadowed hallway, her eyes adjusting to the dim light, Alana's parched throat begged for refreshment. She yearned for a cool drink to soothe her senses in this unfamiliar realm.

The melody grew stronger as she walked until she came to a door. Knocking, she waited for an answer. Her heart skipped a beat when a voice from within replied, "Welcome, welcome. Come in, make yourself at home."

Alana hesitated for a moment before turning the doorknob, revealing a spacious hall bathed in soft light. The creature that greeted her stood smaller than her, their age indiscernible. Yet, their voice resonated with a richness that matched the grandeur of the hall. The music within echoed loud and proudly.

"Welcome, I'm Evander," the creature introduced themselves with a warm smile. "You must be thirsty. Here, have some water."

Grateful for the offer of refreshment, Alana accepted the cup that Evander handed her. As she looked down, her eyes widened in astonishment. The cup began to fill itself with fresh, cold water, seemingly replenishing on its own. A sense of wonder and curiosity overcame her, as if this realm held secrets far beyond her comprehension. What a strange and Magical place.

Evander's eyes sparkled with a mix of gratitude and hope. "We are so glad you're here, traveller. Tell us your name?"

"I'm Alana. It's very good to meet you. Tell me, what is this place and how did I get here?" Alana inquired, her curiosity piqued.

"This is Sonoria. Or at least it used to be," Evander replied, a tinge of sadness in their voice. "As you can see, our home is not what it once was, and that is where you come in. It's no accident you came here, Alana. You must have played the music!"

Alana's eyes widened in realization. "It was the music that brought me here?"

"Yes, and for a very special reason," Evander affirmed. "You see, the music was waiting for someone with your skills. We need your help to restore our city."

Alana's mind swirled with a mix of confusion and intrigue. "My help? I don't understand. How can I do anything?"

Evander's voice carried a gentle reassurance as they explained, "Your music possesses a unique power, Alana. It can breathe life into the crumbling stones. It can rekindle the fading spirits, and awaken the dormant magic that once thrived in Sonoria. With your melodies, you hold the key to our city's revival."

Alana's heart fluttered with a newfound sense of purpose. She had always believed in the power of music to change her mood and how she was feeling, but now she stood on the precipice of a grand opportunity. A chance to use her talent to make a real difference. To weave harmony and enchantment into the very fabric of this realm.

"I will do everything in my power to help," Alana declared, determination etched in her voice. "Lead me, Evander. Show me the way, and together, we shall restore Sonoria to its former glory."

Evander led Alana to the western part of the city, where the Forest of Rhythm awaited. With each step, Alana's anticipation grew, her eyes wide with wonder. The forest revealed a realm unlike any she had ever encountered, a testament to the vastness of the world beyond her kingdom. Though she acknowledged her limited experience, having spent most of her days immersed in her duties, the enchantment of this place felt like a long-awaited respite.

The forest's composition defied Alana's expectations. Instead of familiar wood trees, colossal spindly batons protruded from the earth, reaching toward the sky like musical tendrils. These batons, she noticed, were adorned with white crusty objects resembling piano keys. Each one emitted a soft glow, casting an ethereal light amidst the lush surroundings. Everywhere she turned, the forest was an explosion of peculiar objects and musical wonders, a symphony of the surreal.

The forest floor, where moss and leaves usually carpeted the ground, had transformed into a rhythmic landscape. The path Alana walked upon was composed of embedded stepping stone drums, their surfaces textured with intricate patterns. With each careful step, the drums resonated with harmonious vibrations, creating a symphony of beats that serenaded her journey.

Overwhelmed by the beauty and novelty of this extraordinary place, Alana turned to Evander, her eyes gleaming with delight. "What is this place, Evander? It's nothing like I've ever seen. I love it here."

Evander's smile widened, sharing in Alana's joy. "Welcome to the Forest of Rhythm, Alana. It is a place where the heartbeat of music intertwines with nature itself. Each element here possesses a melody waiting to be heard, a rhythm longing to be discovered. Finnian, the keeper of rhythm, will guide you further. Together, you will unlock the secrets this forest holds."

As they ventured deeper into the enchanting forest, the distant sound of melodies intermingled with the whispers of the wind. Alana's heart fluttered with anticipation, eager to explore and immerse herself in the harmonious realm before her.

Alana grasped Finnian's hand firmly, facing the enchanted forest with unwavering resolve. Her voice resonated through the air as she introduced herself to the mystical realm. "I am Alana, and I have come to share my music. Together, with your guidance, we shall rediscover our rhythm."

Finnian withdrew his hand, a tinge of defeat in his eyes. "Don't you understand, Alana? I have tried for years, but nothing I do seems to bring joy to this forest. I no longer feel like a musician.”

Alana extended her hand once more, reaching out to him. "I believe I know what's amiss," she declared. "You have forgotten who you are. In your quest to appease the forest, you've lost touch with your own joy and fulfillment."

A spark of realization flickered in Finnian's eyes, a glimmer of hope breaking through the gloom. Alana's words struck a chord within him, resonating with a truth he had long forgotten. He nodded, ready to embark on this transformative journey.

With a renewed sense of purpose, Alana guided Finnian through the forest, unveiling the magic hidden within each element. She revealed melodies and asked him to choose the sounds that resonated with his spirit. The once desolate forest came alive with their shared energy. Finnian leaped and twirled, his movements synchronizing with the clanging baton trees, the resonating drums, and the ethereal keys.

Together, they danced through the forest of rhythm, each step an affirmation of their rekindled connection to music. Alana's infectious enthusiasm and Finnian's rediscovered passion merged, infusing the forest with a vibrant symphony. The trees swayed to their rhythm, emanating harmonious melodies that echoed through the enchanted realm.

As the forest flourished in their wake, Alana and Finnian knew that their collaboration had brought forth a change that filled the forest with fresh power. They had not only awakened the forest's joy but also rediscovered their own purpose in the process.

Alana felt sad to be leaving the enchanted realm of the Forest of Rhythm behind. Still, for her and her companions the work was not over. They embarked on a treacherous journey toward the distant Meliodus Mountains.

The rugged landscape stretched out before them, its towering peaks piercing the sky like jagged teeth. Alana couldn't help but feel a mixture of awe and trepidation as they approached the formidable mountain range. The air grew thinner, and a chill crept into their bones, a stark contrast to the warmth of the forest they had left behind.

With nothing to do but think, Alana began to wonder. How long had she been away? Would anyone be missing her back home? The familiar melodies of her kingdom seemed like distant echoes, fading into the winds that whispered through the mountainous terrain.

"Thinking about home?" Evander asked, breaking the silence that enveloped their group.

Startled, Alana turned to face him. "How did you know?" she inquired, curiosity dancing in her eyes.

Evander shrugged nonchalantly. "An easy guess," he replied with a mischievous wink. "It's only natural to long for the comforts of what we know. But remember, Alana, you are on a quest that extends beyond the borders of your homeland. The Meliodus Mountains hold secrets and challenges that await you. You have everything you need to do this, otherwise the music would not have entrusted our realm to you.

Alana's gaze shifted to the majestic mountains looming ahead. She couldn't help but feel anticipation and uncertainty. The journey had already tested her musical abilities, but what trials awaited her in this new terrain? She knew that she had to remain focused and trust in her instincts. It had been so long since she felt she could trust herself. When was the last time she'd even listened to her own heart? Now she would have to trust that the melody within her would guide her through.

As they pushed deeper into the treacherous mountain paths, the air grew colder biting against their skin. Her hands and face a vivid scarlet shade. A testament to the cold. The once lush greenery of the forest gave way to rugged cliffs and vast expanses of rock. Alana marvelled at the sheer grandeur of the Meliodus Mountains, their peaks veiled in mist, whispering ancient tales of triumph and peril but she couldn't help wishing for warmer clothes to keep the cold at bay.

Evander led the way, his footsteps sure and confident. Alana admired his resilience and wondered what challenges he had faced throughout his own journey. The mountain winds carried their voices, and the echo of their laughter intertwined with the melody that still resonated in Alana's mind.

Step by step, Alana continued on the unpredictable path before her. Despite her reluctance she was determined not to let her new friends down. She knew that whatever she discovered inside the Meliodus Mountains, she would be doing it for them. The mountain range held the key to unlocking Sonoria, and she was ready to face whatever obstacles lay in her way.

As they ascended higher, Alana felt her heart beating. Each beat working for the effort it took. The mountains beckoned her forward. She approached reverently, fearful of what lay ahead. She could almost hear whispering secrets, inviting her to uncover the ancient wisdom they held. The melody within grew stronger, intertwining with the melody of the mountains, creating a harmonious symphony of anticipation.

The journey through the Meliodus Mountains would be one of the greatest tests she'd ever faced. She took a deep breath, feeling the crisp mountain air fill her lungs. Whatever the challenges that awaited her she was ready to face them head-on. She mentally commanded her heart to slow.

Ahead, a rugged outcrop caught their attention, standing like a sentinel against the vast expanse of the mountains. It beckoned to them, its darkened entrance a gateway to the mysteries that awaited within. Evander pointed toward it, his voice carrying above the whistling wind.

"Inside there, that's where we need to go," he said, his tone a mix of determination and caution.

Alana's heart quickened, anticipation coursing through her veins. She took a deep breath, her eyes fixed on the foreboding entrance wondering if they would be swallowed up inside the mountain.

The melody within her swelled, its harmonies intertwining with the melody of the mountains. She knew that beyond that threshold, a pivotal moment awaited—a test of her musical prowess and her ability to see beyond the lies and illusions.

With renewed determination, Alana stepped forward, the rhythmic beat of her heart echoing the cadence of her steps. The Meliodus Mountains held their breath, waiting to reveal their secrets to the intrepid travellers who dared to seek

Alana and her companions ventured deeper into the mountain cave, delving into the very heart of the Meliodus Mountains. They arrived in a vast chamber where their footsteps resonated with the powerful melody, creating a playful symphony that filled the space. Alana longed for her piano, envisioning the exquisite resonance it would produce in this chamber of echoes.

Suddenly, a formidable presence made itself known, causing Alana to squint in its intense aura. Fear gripped her, but as her eyes adjusted, she recognized the figure before her—the guardian of the Meliodus Mountains. This encounter was the reason they had undertaken this perilous journey.

"Traveller, you have entered the sacred chamber of the Meliodus Mountains. All who dare to enter must face a challenge. Only those who prove themselves worthy can unveil the secrets within. Do you accept?" the guardian proclaimed.

Alana had no choice but to agree, her curiosity outweighing her apprehension. The guardian laid out the terms of the challenge, instructing Alana to play the music from the ancient codex exactly as written, without deviation or improvisation.

Perplexed, Alana questioned, "But how am I to play anything? There are no instruments here."

Almost instantly, an ornate piano materialized, emerging from the very rock of the chamber. Alana marvelled at the sight, taking her place at the instrument. As she scanned the score before her, she realized its simplicity seemed at odds with the challenge set before her. Doubt filled her mind—why would such an uncomplicated piece be a test for any musician, let alone herself?

Sensing her hesitation, the guardian reminded her, "The piece must be played exactly as written."

Alana paused, feeling a deeper truth trying to escape. Closing her eyes, she immersed herself in the melody resonating in her mind, listening intently to the whispers of her own heart. With newfound clarity, she opened her eyes and began to play.

The notes danced beneath her fingertips, and Alana's skills brought out the essence of the music, but she couldn't help but infuse it with her own creativity. Her fingers seemed to possess a life of their own, intertwining the melody with her unique touch.

The guardian, noticing the deviation, objected strongly, urging her to stick to the strict interpretation. However, it was too late for Alana. Lost in the enchanting space where music and magic intertwined, she became untouchable, unreachable by the guardian's insistence.

As the music enveloped the chamber like ethereal smoke, the guardian's objections faded away, replaced by a smile. Alana's personal touch transformed the music into something beautiful, unmistakably her own. With the final notes, the guardian beamed.

"Well done," the guardian commended. "It takes great courage to forge your own path in life, especially when others insist you do it their way."

Alana breathed a sigh of relief, her worries dissipating. "I'm not in trouble, then?" she timidly asked.

"Not at all!" the guardian exclaimed, delight evident in its tone. "In fact, you may continue."

The guardian's ears wiggled with an enigmatic energy, and the chamber rumbled with a loud grumble. The rocks began to shift, unveiling a hidden passage.

Evander was the first to congratulate Alana, patting her shoulder and raising her hand high in the air.

"Well done, Alana, and well done, fingers!" Evander cheered, acknowledging her triumph.

Alana felt weary as they ventured into the passageway. Every bone ached and her body felt empty of energy. All of the emotional turmoil had exhausted her. Soon she began to realise that this feeling didn't emanate solely from inside her. The unsettling feeling had grown over her and her companions like a mist seeping into their hearts.

She could no longer hear the sweet melody inside her heard and instead felt a dissonance encompassing her whole being. Alana didn't know if her mood was responsible for the way she felt or if she felt this way because of where they were.

As soon as she realised this the sound of discordant notes clashing together like thunder hit her ears. There was something off about this place. The group moved more slowly now. Uneasily inching forward in the gloom.

Next the sound began to mesh with the torrent of gushing water. The group almost stumbled into the rushing water below as the passageway blindly opened up to an underground river.

The water was unlike any Alana has ever seen. As she gazed into the surface the thick silver liquid began to pulse. It's beat erratic and changeable.

Alana didn't know how but she understood that this was the river of time. Constantly moving. Ever onwards, Relentless. It was off beat and unforgiving. The darkened heart of Sonoria.

Alana noticed a narrow rock path which inched it's way to the right. It was impossible to be heard over the noise so she gestured to Evander and began to walk. The path grew wider, opening up to a moor of boats. Each one a different design. Some were inspired by music. The others felt like a memory, a glimpse of the past. A boat splashed in colours which looked like an old painting Alana had drawn as a child. Another reminded her of a cherished toy. The oars were soft and inside lay a carousel. There was no doubt these were meant for her. These boats were once her dreams.

Alana stood uncertainly unsure of what to do next. Which boat should she choose? The answer seemed obvious. Surely she should pick a musical boat? After all, Sonoria was the realm of music and magic.

This was the final challenge but how could she choose?

With her heart torn between the allure of music and the echoes of her past, Alana stood at the water's edge, the weight of her decision heavy upon her as she gazed upon the fleet of boats before her.

Amidst the swirling melodies of doubt and the memories that whispered in her mind, Alana hesitated, her eyes scanning the boats before her. Each vessel seemed to hold a fragment of her identity, calling out to different parts of her being. And then, as if carried by a gentle breeze, a realization dawned upon her.

In the canvas of her dreams and aspirations, Alana's gaze settled upon a boat that stood apart from the others. It's unconventional form abstract, blending a medly of colours.

 In that moment, she understood that her choice should reflect not just her musical duty, but the entirety of who she was—a vessel that embraced her flaws, her passions, and the pursuit of happiness.

Alana pushed the boat into the river, and as the waters received it, a profound serenity washed over the surface. The group boarded the vessel, with Alana taking hold of the oars. With each stroke, the water responded, mirroring her inner harmony and strength. The dissonance of the past gave way to a melody that resonated with variation and wonder.

Before them stood colossal doors that swung open as the boat neared. Stepping onto solid ground, they entered a magnificent great hall, filled with enchanting music that danced with beauty and grace. Alana knew in her heart that she had not only restored Sonoria but also found peace within herself.





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