“I can’t do it.” Fayrian backed away, her stomach churning. She didn’t want to leave Raven in the lurch, but the thought of going out there and facing the waiting crowd was impossible.
Raven smiled. “Yes you can,” he said encouragingly. “We’ve practiced this. You could do it in your sleep.”
How was he so calm? It was as though he did this every day. Which maybe he did. “Do you even get nervous?” Of course he didn’t. What a silly question.
But Raven nodded. “Of course I do. Every performer does. But you don’t have to let it stop you. Once you get up there, in front of the crowd, it will all fade away. Taking that first step is the hardest part.”
“Maybe for you.”
Raven stepped closer and gave Fayrian a warm hug. “You can’t tell me you would happily fight another dragon, but you’re too nervous to stand up and sing in front of your friends?”
“You don’t get it.” Fayrian hid her face in his shoulder, hoping she could soak up some of his confidence.
This was far more intimidating than fighting. Everyone approved of fighting. They’d trained her to do it, and they wanted her to do it. Singing was rebellious. It had been discouraged since she was a child. She’d been working too slowly overcome the stigma she felt about it, and while her lessons with Prince Verrian had helped, standing up in front of the whole lair?
In front of both lairs?
“This is the first celebration we’ve had with both Rian and Trima clans together,” she pointed out. “It’s very daunting.”
“Yes, it is.” Raven’s eyes were knowing. Fayrian couldn’t help feeling he saw more than she was saying. “And that’s exactly why it’s so important. Every dragon out there, and the humans too, are feeling on edge. Every one of them is wondering how long this truce will last. Especially Sarian and Ultri… Ultrian. What they really need is to feel good about something. We need to help them focus on the positive.”
His words made Fayrian feel a little better, like she was doing this for her clan, not just for herself. “Do you really think music will make any difference?”
Raven’s nod was decisive. “I do. Music has a way of touching the soul in a way nothing else can.”
It wasn’t that Fayrian disagreed with that. She just wasn’t convinced she was the one to do it. “Maybe Prince Verrian should be the one up there singing, not me.” The prince had years of practice. Even Raven had gushed about how brilliant his music was. Fayrian’s singing would be a poor second.
But Raven shook his head. “I don’t want Verrian up there with me. I want you.”
That drew an unwilling grin from Fayrian. “Yeah, but you’re a little biased. You know Prince Verrian would do a better job.”
Raven shook his head. “This isn’t about who’s the best singer.” He paused, for a moment, collecting his thoughts. When he continued, his voice was earnest. “All those dragons out there are feeling displaced. Some because they’ve been uprooted and moved to a whole new lair and some because another group of dragons have invaded their space. All of them are resisting this change. What we need to do is remind them some changes are good.”
“You think having Trima clan in our lair is good?” Fayrian asked dubiously. Where was Raven going with this?
Raven raised an eyebrow. “I think having a three-hundred-year war ended is good,” he pointed out. “Haven’t you spent all your time planning what you will do when the war is over? I bet they have too. And now it is. Now you get to do all the things you planned to do. And for you, that’s singing. When you get up there in front of them and sing, you’re not just entertaining them, you’re showing them now is the time for dreams to come true. That’s what we’re celebrating.”
His words lifted Fayrian’s heart up as though it could take flight. As though anything were possible.
The last week had been so busy and so full of changes, Fayrian had lost sight of the most important ones. “You’re right.” She kissed him, the touch of her lips against his sparking an avalanche of feeling. He was her dream come true, right down to his determination to help her embrace her love of music.
She wanted everyone to feel the same. “We may not have planned to have Trima clan here with us, but it’s a better ending to the war than any other I could have envisioned. We have to find a way to make this work.”
Raven nodded. “We do. And we have to convince everyone that this is the best option, and the best way we can do that is by making them feel good. When you feel good, everything is easier, even welcoming your enemy as your friend.”
Fayrian took a deep breath. “Let’s do this then.”
And when she stepped out in front of the two assembled clans, her determination to help her clan helped her keep the nerves at bay.
As the opening strains of Raven’s guitar echoed through the room, a hush fell over the crowd. All eyes turned towards Raven. Towards Fayrian.
Some expressions were nervous, some grumpy, some aloof, some resistant. A few were determined, and a few more were hopeful. Fayrian’s eyes were drawn to the back of the room, where Princess Sarian sat stiffly next to Utrian. The princess stared firmly ahead, not even looking at her new co-ruler. She was going to struggle with this as much, if not more than, everyone else.
Her brothers and sister sat beside her. Surrounded by their mates and families, they were already primed to look positively on this. Their smiles, particularly Prince Verrian’s encouraging nod, helped Fayrian feel confident.
She took a deep breath and let her own hopes and dreams for the future lift up her voice as she sang along with Raven. The sound echoed through the room, bouncing off the resistance of the clans, threading around and through them, drawing them together.
Fayrian saw shoulders relax. Dragons started to sway or nod in time with the music. They moved about in their space, loosening the strict gaps between Rian and Trima dragons. Smiles began to spread through the crowd.
It was working.
Oh, Fayrian wasn’t arrogant enough to think this would fix everything. The clans still had a long way to go. It would take time to fix three hundred years of enmity. But they’d taken the first step. And she would be here to help them take the next one and the next one. Hopefully, her own children would be born into a world without war.
That thought made her happy deep within her, and she turned to Raven and gave him a smile. For a few moments, she sung just for him, letting her gratitude for all he’d done for her, the world she’d never even known existed, but he helped her see, shine in her voice.
As the last strains of the song echoed through the cave, Fayrian’s heart filled with love.
Not caring what anyone else thought, she stepped closer to Raven and kissed him.
She wasn’t sure if the enthusiastic claps and calls were for the song or the kiss. And she didn’t care.
The future was bright, and Fayrian intended to grab it with both hands.